One moment I was on the deck of our sailboat, the next in the ocean watching the boat’s light disappear into the distance. And the next day I discovered I was marooned on an island with a crazy old man who didn’t speak any English.
I disappeared on the night before my 12th birthday, July 28, 1988. Kensuke made me promise not to tell anyone about my story till ten years had passed. I promised, and because of that promise, I have been living a lie. But now it is finally time for the lies to end, for the story to be told. And so, I begin.
I was nearly eleven when the letter came and my normal life was changed forever. The factory where my parents worked was to be shut down, and my parents laid off. They looked for jobs, but there were none. Then my father got this crazy idea that turned out to be not so crazy after all. He decided we should buy a boat and sail around the world. Sailing was what we loved to do best, and it was better than sitting at home watching our money disappear. It was just crazy enough to work. We prepared and trained for six months, and by the time we set sail on September 10, 1987, we were ready. We were more than a family now, we were a crew, a team. We felt confident, sure that we could handle anything. Mom was the skipper, Dad the first mate, I was the cabin boy, and Stella Artois, my black and white sheepdog, was the ship dog and our greatest comfort when things got rough.
We went to Spain, the Azores, played soccer on the beach in Brazil, stayed in South Africa for a while to look at the animals, then went on to Australia to visit Uncle John and his family. But after we left Sydney, things began to fall apart. Storm after storm hit us, the rudder cable broke and Dad couldn’t fix it, and the stomach cramps Mom had been fighting for months finally put her to bed. Dad and I did the navigation, but we really weren’t at all sure where we were on that last night. It was late at night and I was on watch, Mom and Dad asleep below. Suddenly I saw Stella up on deck without her safety harness on. I called to her, but she wouldn’t come. Finally, I left the wheel to go and get her. She’d fallen overboard once before, and we’d nearly lost her. I picked her up, the boat veered, and we went overboard before I could open my mouth to scream. When I surfaced, Stella was nowhere to be found, and the boat was sailing away from me. All night long I trod water and tried to stay calm, but finally, exhausted, I drifted into forbidden sleep. When I woke up, I wasn’t in the water, but on a beach, with Stella licking my face.
I was alive. I didn’t know it then, but Kensuke had saved me. I didn’t meet him right away, but when I did all I could think was that I was trapped on the island with only my dog and a crazy old man who didn’t speak English for company. At least that’s how I saw it then.
This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart.