A cloudless, sunny sky means only one thing through the eyes of a child: it’s an ideal day for an adventure. My family and I were spending our annual week on the island of Sunset Beach, North Carolina. All week my eight-year-old brother, Adam; my six-year-old cousin, Caleb; and my six-year-old self had been talking about how awesome it would be to take our brand new inflatable boat on an adventure to Sunset’s neighbor island, Ocean Isle. One morning we awoke to the sun shining brightly through the blinds and peeked out to see not even a whisp of a cloud in the sky. Instantly we knew that day was the perfect day for our long-awaited journey.
We sprinted down the stairs to find my dad leaned over a bowl of cereal and reading the newspaper at the kitchen table. The three of us plopped down next to him, and he glanced up with a smile.
“Good morning, kiddos!” he greeted us. “What’s on the agenda for today?”
Caleb, Adam, and I looked at each other and smiled. Then I turned back to my dad and said, “Dad, we have the greatest idea . . . ” and filled him in on all of our plans for our ultimate adventure.
After we finished explaining, he looked out the window, saw the same beautiful weather that had spiked the adventure in ours hearts, and said, “Alright, I’m in!”
“HOORAY!” we cheered, jumping up from the table. Then we ran up to our rooms, changed into our swimsuits, and lathered up with sunscreen. We met up with my dad downstairs and headed out to the dock behind our house. My dad had inflated the boat while we were getting ready, so it was down in the water tied up to the dock waiting for us. Full of excitement, we strapped on our life jackets and hopped into the boat one by one. The journey that lay ahead of us was certainly no piece of cake. It was about two-thirds of a mile to the end of the Sunset bay, plus a one-third of a mile trip across the inlet between the islands to reach Ocean Isle. My father and Adam were the power source of the boat, rowing with two sets of plastic oars.
“Here we go!” my dad exclaimed as we pushed off the dock, and we all cheered! We waved goodbye to the rest of our family who were watching us depart from the back porch of the beach house, and we smiled as my mom took pictures for our family album.
“So, what’s been everyone’s favorite part of the vacation so far?” my dad asked, as he always does multiple times on every vacation we go on.
“Everything!” I answered, never able to decide on favorites.
“The ginormous waves!” Adam added, referring to the especially big waves we’d been having at the beach this year.
“Yeah, me too! The waves are awesome!” Caleb agreed.
Adam and my dad had been rowing at a quick, steady pace throughout this conversation, so before we knew it we were almost to the end of the bay. Up next was the journey across the inlet.
The end of the bay was not new territory for us. We had been swimming in the Sunset Bay all of our lives and were very familiar with it. However, the inlet was a place into which we had never before ventured; my adrenaline spiked as we entered into the unknown. I looked all around, taking in the vision of vast open ocean to the right and narrow canals to the left, feeling as if I had entered into a whole new world. When I snapped back from my state of awe, I realized that the once chatty boat had gotten very quiet. A few moments later, Adam broke the silence.
“Dad, my arms are getting tired!” he whined. “It’s not so easy to row over here.”
“I know,” my dad responded. “There’s a bit of a current here making it harder, but we’re almost there so just hang in there with — ”
Before my dad could even finish his sentence, we felt a strong pull in the current jerk us, causing the boat to change direction and start heading out to sea; we were caught in a rip tide!
“Dad, my oar!” I heard my brother cry, the sudden jerk in direction causing him to let go of and lose one of his oars in the sea.
“It’s okay, Adam,” my dad said trying to remain calm. “Put your other oar in the boat; we’re gonna have to ride this one out for a bit.”
My dad realized trying to row right now was pointless, as the current was way too strong and trying to row against it would just be a waste of energy. Thinking things would calm down soon, we sat still for a bit until we could get back to our journey. I looked back in the direction of the bay, and that’s when it hit me just how far out we were getting. I started shaking, and then the tears started flowing. My brother wrapped his arms around me and kept whispering, “It’s gonna be okay, Ali. Please don’t be sad!” But no matter how hard I tried to calm down, the feeling of fear always won.
All of a sudden, a wave crashed into the boat. We were now sitting in about half an inch of water. Through my teary-eyes I looked up at my father and saw a look of panic flash across his face. My heart dropped. He started flailing his arms in the air and screaming for help. Adam joined in too while I continued to cry even harder and Caleb sat motionless, a look of fear and confusion upon his face. Finally, a glimpse of hope shined before us when we saw a boat headed our direction.
Slowing down his boat, the driver shouted at us, “I’ve never been out this far before and the conditions are too rough for me to be of any help to you guys. I’m gonna go find someone who’s more experienced to help!”
I thought I was scared before, but now I really knew what terror felt like. My brain instantly went into overdrive. We were out too far for a man in a motorboat to save us?! This was serious! Were we going to die? Was I ever going to see my mom again? Oh my gosh, what if there are sharks? The possibilities were endless. I hugged my knees tight, bowed my head, and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.
Off in the distance, I heard a faint motor. I popped my head up and saw a boat headed our direction once again. I was afraid to get too excited after the guy in the last boat wasn’t able to help us, but I crossed my fingers and wished that this time would be different.
As the new driver pulled his boat up right next to ours, he instructed my dad to grab his hand in order to pull our boats as close together as possible. Once we were close enough, we took turns climbing from our boat into his. As soon I climbed into his boat, I collapsed to the floor, still too shaken up to gain any composure. I closed my eyes and tried to take deep breaths to calm myself down. I breathed out and then breathed in… a really disgusting smell. I looked in the direction the smell was coming from and saw a bucket towards the front of the boat. I crawled up to it and peered inside. Inside the bucket were about a dozen dead baby great white sharks.
“Ah!” I screamed and jumped back as tears started pouring from my eyes once again. I may have been on my way to safety, but this confirmed my fear of man-eating sharks being right below us, which was certainly not comforting to know.
I felt my brother’s arms wrap around me and heard him say, “It’s okay, Al. Just a little bit longer til were home.” Then I felt his head jerk forward as he noticed the bucket of sharks in front of us.
Adam’s jaw dropped. “Caleb you’ve got to see this!” he shouted. Caleb crawled over to the bucket, and his face lit up.
“Where did you get these?!” my brother asked the boat driver.
“I caught them!” he answered proudly. “I’m a shark fisherman!”
“Woah!” Adam exclaimed, eyes still wide in amazement.
Seeing their excitement about the sharks made my fear begin to fade. If Adam and Caleb weren’t afraid of them, maybe they really weren’t so bad. After all, at least these were dead, so I knew they couldn’t do anything to me.
My dad and the driver attached our inflatable boat to the back, and once we were all safe and settled, the driver shouted, “Hold on tight! Here we go!” And the powerful boat darted forward.
We all sat silently on the journey home, reflecting on the day’s adventure. You could certainly say our long awaited journey didn’t quite turn out as planned, but oh what an adventure it had been. I couldn’t wait to get back to the house to tell everyone about it.