John R. Sikes
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Jason had just started dreaming about cruising in his new Mustang car he was going to buy when he was thrown from his bunk and landed hard against the bulkhead. At first he didn’t know what had happened. Billy Bob stumbled out of his room, holding his survival suit and told Jason to get his and come to the wheelhouse.
The ocean was nothing like Jason had ever seen. Waves were hitting the Wave Dancer, sending a groaning shutter from the bow right through to the stern. This worried Jason till Billy Bob and Uncle Buick both agreed as long as you heard and felt it, everything was ok; it was when the boat quit talking to you that you should get worried.
The boat was lifted high by waves, which had grown enormous in the short time Jason had slept. When the boat crested the taller of the waves, Jason had his first glance of the mainland. It looked like the water was boiling closer to shore. Uncle Buck told him this was because the currents next to the shore met ones coming from the open ocean causing the waves to become closer together and much bigger. Jason noticed that all of the sea gulls were flying way higher than usual. There appeared to be thousands of them flying in a circle so high they looked like tiny dots in the sky.
The first wave braking completely over the boat caught him off guard. It sent him bouncing all the way to the other side of the wheelhouse. When he stood up, he noticed some of the smaller fish not tied down had washed over the stern. He started to go try and save the ones still flopping around the deck but was told by his uncle to stay put.
“We can handle losing a few fish but your mom would be awful mad at me if I didn’t have you onboard when we make it back!” exclaimed Uncle Buck. “Just hang on to the boat with one hand and keep you're survival suit in the other. If I give the order to abandon ship and you say, "What?" You will be talking to yourself.”
It eased some of the fear building in Jason when he saw the look on his uncle’s face. To him Uncle Buck looked as calm as if he was taking a walk in the park. Uncle Buck had spent most of his life on the water and seemed right at home even when it was rough. He had even heard his uncle talk about never getting seasick but not feeling so good when he was on land. Even Jason admitted he slept better on the water than he did at home.
Night was falling as they approached shore. Waves seemed to come from all directions. The Wave Dancer was still cutting through the ones they were hitting head on, but waves smashing in from the sides of the boat were keeping the deck awash with foamy seawater.
The entire crew jumped when the gang way was ripped off the boat's railing. Cables that made up the rail sounded like rifle shots as they snapped from pressure of the water. Pieces of splintered wood still attached to the cable were banging the side of the ship like sticks on a drum. In a matter of minutes windows on the starboard side were shattered and seawater was flooding in. Captain Buck started shouting orders.
“Ivan, check and make sure all bilge pumps are running. Billy Bob and Jason, get to repairing the broken windows. You can use your bunk mattresses and lumber in the emergency locker. Try to stop any water coming onboard through those windows.”
Ivan disappeared down to the engine room and Jason and Billy Bob attacked the flood of water coming in each time the Wave Dancer was broadsided by cresting waves. Luckily the panes of the window were made of safety glass. Jason was thankful that sharp shards of glass weren’t sloshing around in the stream of water flooding in. Water was gushing down through the walkway into the engine room at an alarming rate. Shoving his mattress against the biggest hole took all the effort Jason could muster. Billy Bob slammed a brace against its back and wedged it to the floor.
“Take a hammer and nail the bottom of the brace to the floor. We will jam one on both ends to hold it in place,” Billy Bob shouted to Jason over the roar of the water.
They repeated this process till all bigger windows were plugged. With the wooden plugs they found in the locker they were able to stop some smaller leaks caused by the whipping pieces of gangway. Thankfully most cables had tangled up with rigging still attached to the ship lessening their destructive force. By the time they had slowed most of the water flooding inside, the feel of the Wave Dancer had changed. She had settled deeper in the water and now blue water was crashing completely over the boat.