By Torre DeRoche

It’s a black night and the wind is vile. The waves must be twenty feet high. We’re tipping, staggering, flying down each angry wave and my stomach keeps bottoming out like we’re in a plummeting elevator. Our little boat, Amazing Grace, isn’t so amazing right now, nor is she graceful. She’s tumbling like she’s hammered on salt water. Our lives are in the hands of a drunken boat.

Boom! A wave collides with the fiberglass. Who knew water could sound like a bomb explosion? These bombs are hitting every minute or two – a horrifying bang, followed by a sharp lurch sideways. My body rolls in my small bunk and I’m thankful for the canvas lip that keeps me from flying sideways. I wait, trembling, praying for Amazing Grace to come back upright. The angle seems too steep. What is our tipping point, anyway? How far can we keel over before we tumble sideways and get swallowed by the jet-black ocean?

Boom! Gear explodes out of cupboards. Out here, gravity has it’s own rules: heavy things are light and light things are heavy. A cupboard door flings open and cans of food pop out to waltz around in a psychotic dance choreographed by the sea. Plant soil has scattered everywhere but who cares about the mess? We’re going to die.

Something worse is on the loose. I can hear it banging, up on deck. At the marina, we stashed two five-gallon jerry cans under the upturned dinghy, one full of water and one full of fuel. Bad idea. They’re smashing around with the waves, leaking their contents. I know this because the smell of fuel is thick. We’re going to die—I know this for sure. What I don’t know is whether we’ll burn to death or drown.

Boom! Another wave-bomb hits – a clean uppercut to a staggering drunk. We’re definitely going to end up rolling. A wave connects and washes the topsides with fire hose pressure. Oh shit – Ivan is out there! I remember the words of my sailing instructor: “If someone goes over the side, there’s really only one thing to remember to do … wave goodbye.”

I try to call out to Ivan but my mouth is quivering and my whistle comes out flat and airy. I lick my lips and try again. “Wheee-wooooo.”

No reply. He’s been swept overboard! My throat closes up in panic. “Wheee-wooooo! Wheee-wooooo! Wheee-wooooo!

Wheee-wooooo,” I hear him call faintly above the wind.

He’s still on the boat. I breathe again, but now my head is spiraling out of control. My liquid innards are suspending and sloshing to the same rhythm as the turbulent ocean. I dash to the kitchen sink knowing I won’t make the toilet in time. Vomit comes out of my nose as well as my mouth this time, but there is little left in my stomach by now, just warm, sour fluid that burns the soft tissue in my nostrils.

“Are you okay?” Ivan yells above the sound of the wind and the waves.

“How much longer?” I say.

“A long time, baby. We’re only 250 miles away from Los Angeles. Still five days until Cabo San Lucas, maybe longer.”

I’m trapped in this floating coffin for FIVE MORE DAYS?

This is an excerpt from the memoir Swept – Love With A Chance Of Drowning. Watch the book trailer here >>

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One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching.’ – Unknown Source


Writer’s Bio: Torre DeRoche once faced her fear of the ocean by voyaging across the Pacific Ocean aboard a humble boat with a man she met in a bar. Read more about her upcoming book or follow her via Twitter.


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16 Response Comments

  • Kim  April 3, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Holy crap, that IS scary! Sounds horrible. Glad you both made it!!

    • Torre DeRoche  April 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm

      How do you know we made it? 🙂

  • jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World  April 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Sounds like my worst nightmare. Glad both of you made it.

    • Torre DeRoche  April 3, 2011 at 10:03 pm

      Mine too!

  • Debbie Beardsley  April 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Oh gosh, another riveting scary story. I can’ t imagine being at the mercy of the unforgiving ocean! Glad you made it through safely.

    • Torre DeRoche  April 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks, Debbie. The ocean is ruthless.

  • Katja  April 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Torre, I am *so* looking forward to your book coming out!

    On a side note, vomit coming out of my nostrils was one of my least favourite experiences ever. It’s only happened once, and I hope not to be repeating it anytime soon. I’ll be avoiding stormy oceans, I think …

    • Torre DeRoche  April 17, 2011 at 1:03 am

      Thanks, Katja. I was 99.9% certain that I was going to barf up an intestine during this sailing experience. Unpleasant 🙁

  • The Rhythm Method  April 17, 2011 at 2:33 am

    This is an amazing piece of writing. Must have been terrifying rolling around in the belly of a drunken boat.

    • Torre DeRoche  April 17, 2011 at 2:46 am

      Thank you, Karen. It was absolutely the most terrifying experience of my life — one of utter helplessness that dragged out for days and days.

  • sue  July 12, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Hi Torre, just finished reading your amazing journey across the Pacific Ocean in record time. Enjoyed it immensely. I am 54 and love sailing with my husband out of Adelaide….not quite as adventurous as you or Ivan but understand that feeling of exhilaration when you are riding the crest of a wave in 20 knot winds and pummeling along at 10-11 knots heeling over. Look forward to the next book.
    Enjoy….Sue Beaufoy

    • Torre DeRoche  July 17, 2013 at 10:21 am

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Sue! So glad you enjoyed the read. Happy sailing. x

  • Ty Gregory  October 5, 2013 at 5:30 am

    Yes, scary! Good writing. I am just in the process of buying a boat myself.
    Scare me more why dontcha?

  • karen webster  September 24, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    The book was mesmerizing, I truly felt your fear, so much so I’ll never ever go sailing again. However, I’d like very much to see some of the pictures you took while on your way to Tahiti & other ports. Have you had any children of your own yet?


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