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Monday, 7 May 2018

Our leader, a Somalian, walked up and down the boat trying to re-assure everybody. He had seen countless horrors in the conflicts of his native homeland and wasn’t going to let this get him down. He had us all chanting a song he had hastily composed in his head;

                     the water is not our enemy

                     we shall overcome

                     we shall not die

                     we shall see Europe

                     the water is not our enemy…

It was chanted all over the boat and it became the mantra that gave us hope. It might have also been a sort of prayer, sung in one voice, imploring the Lord God to show us mercy and rescue us from our plight.

The night was long and hazardous but we made it to daybreak, all of us. We were still taking on water. We were still aimlessly adrift and nobody had come to our aid. But all five hundred souls plus one had made it through the night. The ‘Plus-one’ had come about when one of the women had gone into labour and given birth to a healthy baby boy.

When the sun rose in the morning, its long golden rays seemed to calm the waves, like a mother would calm a distressed child. The snow and the sleet had also departed before daybreak and we were grateful for the sun to warm us up.

Despite our predicament we could still marvel at the beauty of the sea all around us. We had boarded at night and all we could see then was darkness. Now we could see the beauty of it. None of us had ever seen a sight like this before. It was awesome! Water, all around us, everywhere, further than the eye could see. All around us, the waves had settled down to a gentle rhythm of rising and falling m----s of blue and green. No longer did they threaten us, even Neptune’s horses had slowed to a barely noticeable trot.

Our leader was talking to us when we heard some of the women on the port scream. They were pointing excitedly at the sea. They had seen mammy water jumping out of the water.

A school of dolphins, not mermaids, had taken up station alongside the boat. Their presence was welcoming. We momentarily forgot our pressing problems to play with these creatures of the deep leaping out of the water, gracefully somersaulting in mid-air before diving straight back in again. They came close to the boat and the brave ones amongst us stroked them. It was as if they had come to say “we’re here to help you, you’re not alone.”

One of the lookouts shouted. Balanced on the roof of the wheelhouse, he could see a ship passing in the distance. Our leader instructed us to take off our shirts and wave them like flags and shout at the top of our voices. We must get their attention, he said. We all took off our shirts and waved them, shouting till our lungs nearly burst.

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