I knew that it would be a long trip, my father had told me so, but at the meager age of twelve I could not even begin to imagine how long two months on a boat would be. "Two months," I thought aloud to myself when my father had told me, "two months isn't so long." Yes, it's true, two months doesn't feel so long when you are happy and free, feeling the bright warmth of the summer sun on your skin, seeing the cerulean sky with puffy alabaster clouds far above your head. However, the Atlantic voyage from Ireland to Canada was not as pleasant as the summer time in Ireland was.
Rather than playing tag in the fields with my brothers and neighbours, people were cramped together like tiny sardines in a can, unable to move without crashing into one another. The living quarters for each person were incredibly tiny and disheveled. The ship itself emitted an odour more foul than any I had ever experienced, a mixture of urine, fecal matter, hot bodies, and salt. The waves knocked the ship around in the water, rocking it back and forth like a kite in a breeze. At first this motion had made me nauseous and I had thrown up several times by the time that the sun set for the first time on the ship.
I quickly found that being above deck was far more enjoyable than being below. At least above deck you could hear the wind in your ears and smell the fresh sea air. If you opened your mouth you could even taste the salt of the sea that had infiltrated everything, even the sky. I can remember leaning forward over the guard rail, the metal bar felt cold and damp against my palms, I watched as the choppy grey waters passed by the walls of our ship. When we were boarding the ship it had seemed enormous, it had been the biggest thing I had ever seen. When this very same ship was placed on the Atlantic it appeared to be no more than a row-boat. With endless waters and nothing else to be seen, our ship may as well have been the only thing on the planet.
On the twenty-ninth day of our journey I, along with every other passenger, was forced below deck by a storm. You may think that you have seen a storm, know what a storm feels like, that you have experienced a real crisis inflicted by mother nature, but you are wrong. Where the sea had previously been calm it was now a raging wall of water. Waves rose up like walls around us only to immediately fall on top of our ship. We were tossed around in the ocean like an insignificant grain of sand in a lake, a fluffy white dandelion seed riding the updraft. The gentle whistling breeze had transformed into the deafening roar of a lion. Silence fell over the passengers and crew alike as the storm raged on above us. We sat in utter stillness as the tempest above threatened to consume us all without leaving a trace. Some children cried out in fear, only to be comforted by mothers who were no less anxious. Each silently prayed that we would once again see the sky painted crimson red by the rising of the sun.
The storm raged on through the night. After what felt like a lifetime, our prayers were answered. The ship suddenly stopped lurching around, the wind grew quiet. I returned to the upper deck. For however chaotic the sea had seemed during the storm, it had become just as still. The tsunami type waves were now completely gone, the waves flattened against the surface of the ocean. In our entire journey, the water had never been so still as it was that morning, and the sun had never shone so bright.
I spent most of the next day leaning over the guard rail, watching the ripples and cuts in the water made by our ship. I imagined a bigger ship, one so large as to make the waves that we had experienced during the hurricane. Such a ship would surely be made someday, as people tend to like to grow bigger and bigger.
Before I knew it, I had spent ten days leaning over that very same guard rail. I can remember my mother saying that we may as well be on Noah's ark, forty days and forty nights at sea. She complained that we had been on the ocean for so long, but she had no idea how little water was left for us to cross. Before we had boarded, my father had explained that our voyage would take between forty and sixty days, depending on the weather. While the one storm that we had endured had been a particularly rough one, we had encountered only one. While I watched the sun set on the forty-first day on the ocean, I noticed something. It was small and dark at first, but quickly grew larger as we neared. A light suddenly became visible, the Halifax lighthouse. I watched as the sun set on my old life, as well as the life I had had on the sea, and I eagerly awaited my new beginning here in Canada.