Stranded at Sea

I didn’t notice that the engine had caught on fire. I was preoccupied with making sure my stepsister threw up directly into the ocean and not my lap. Our family vacation had been interesting thus far. After volunteering at an orphanage in Honduras, we decided to head to Belize for beachside fun and relaxation. The orphanage was rewarding, but we were all severely sleep deprived. I’m not a fan of spiders, and it seemed like every time I closed my eyes, they made a beeline for my face. Honduras was not without its rustic charm, but I was eager to find an actual hotel and sleep in an actual bed.

The boat hardly seemed equipped to take us all the way to Belize, but whatever. We were excited and adventurous and my father, stepmother, stepsister and I climbed aboard. Several hours later we were hot, exhausted, and half of us were severely seasick. The engine caught fire right around that time. I looked up to see billowing smoke pouring out of the top of the boat, crewmembers valiantly trying to put out the flames. They were successful, but now we had no engine.

I have no idea how far we were from land, but it seemed we were in the middle of the ocean. My stepsister started to cry. I calculated our survival expectations. The boat was extremely small, about 15 passengers in all. Most of them were elderly, and therefore useless to help in an inevitable attack. I figured it would be a matter of days before we would have to start fighting off sharks, giant squids, and pirates. Unless the pirates looked like Johnny Depp, in which case they wouldn’t have a hard time convincing me to come aboard.

I kept my gaze to my left, where the rest of the passengers were. The sky was bright and sunny, and the water looked nice enough to swim. The captain was trying to radio some help, but was apparently unsuccessful. My father and stepmother started bickering about who was hogging the sunscreen. That pirate ship could show up any moment, now. I was ready.

Suddenly, everyone turned to the right and gasped. I turned slowly to see the sky turning furious and scary. Heavy, black clouds covered an orange sky, throwing lightening toward the water. It was quickly filling up the entire sky, and it seemed like we weren’t going to be lucky enough to escape it. Judging by our previous luck on this vacation, everything made perfect sense by my calculations.

Normally, I love thunderstorms. If we were on land and I was sitting on a couch with a blanket and tea, I’d be very excited. Stranded on a boat with no engine, my fighting parents, my puking stepsister and the cast of the Golden Girls, was an entirely different story. The sky to the left was perfectly clear. As I typically do with problems, I chose to ignore the sky to my right and focus on the left. I stared into the sunny sky. We’d be fine. Everything would be fine. Nothing was wrong.

The rain came softly at first, the waves gentle and nonthreatening. Suddenly the sky exploded with thunder, rain and lightening, right on our heads. I probably didn’t mention that the boat was open and had no roof. The old ladies pulled their plastic hats over their heads (why do old ladies always have those plastic bonnets?) and we were left defenseless. I made a mental note to ask my grandmother where to get those handy plastic hats.

Time has a way of becoming elastic in emergencies. I don’t know how much time passed. We might have been out there for a few minutes, a few hours, or a few years. I might be several years older than I think I am. Nothing is certain anymore. A gleam of hope burst through the clouds as a boat appeared to be approaching us in the distance. Everyone cheered, I remained positive that it was a mirage or that we were all hallucinating as a result of the insanity that accompanies certain death.

The boat was actually the Coast Guard, and they showed up with three smaller boats to escort us all to safety. We climbed aboard and I immediately fell asleep. I have no idea how long we were in the boat, so I never did find out how far from land we had been. When I woke up, we were on the sunny beach of beautiful Belize. No clouds, no storm, no sign that we had ever been stranded at sea, except for our soaking wet clothes.

Belize was spectacular. We slept in hammocks, played with fiddler crabs on the beach, and got horrible scorching sunburns (always a sign of a good vacation if you’re pale and sickly). If I had the opportunity to go back to Belize, I would go in a heartbeat. However, I would recommend flying rather than sailing. I would also recommend a plastic hat in case of emergencies.

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