When guerrilla soldiers strike Santiago's village, they shoot at everyone in their path. Dos Vias is on fire, and the night glows red. "Take the cayuco and sail to the United States of America. Now go!" Santiago's uncle Ramos tells him, and Santiago , twelve, and his four-year-old sister, Angelina, flee. With a map and a machete, and very little food, Santiago and Angelina set sail in their uncle Ramos's sea kayak, built for just such an escape, but not for a sailor who is only a boy. Santiago heads for the United States on a voyage that will take them through narrow channels guarded by soldiers, shark infested waters, and days of painful heat and raging storms. Santiago knows that he and Angelina probably will die trying to make the voyage, but they certainly will die at the hands of rebels or government soldiers if they do not try.