Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2019 finalist, Isabelle Ling! Isabelle finished 5th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Dèlina’s Voyage on the High Seas” 

Dèlina’s Voyage on the High Seas
By Isabelle Ling, Grade 5

August 3, 1492
Today, the chef taught me to cook fluffy rice. And by fluffy I meant bland and dry. Little did he know that, as his apprentice, I already knew how to do it. My mère and I always cooked for my whole family together back home. After all, how can a 14-year-old girl not know how to cook? I signed up for chef’s apprenticeship only to avoid attracting attention from the boys. On deck a girl’s voice would end my dream to voyage on the sea within seconds. I also had my hair cut to about an inch or 2; this is the shortest I can stand while the sailors on deck think I am a “boy” with longish hair. Gone are the gowns and puffy dresses, too.

Ever since I was a child, I have always wanted to sail across the ocean to a new land, partly because I admire Captain Columbus. He was born in 1451 in Italy; not sure how he ended up here in Portugal. His goal is to find the Northwest Passage to the Cathays. So my pére let me go on his ship. In fact, Captain Columbus has three ships Santa Maria, Pinta, and Nina. I am on Santa Maria right now, the largest of the three. The voyage is funded by Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile who ironically happened to be enemies of Portugal. Captain first asked King John II of Portugal for money but got rejected.

Here on Santa Maria, we sleep on deck, but go inside and share our rough hammocks when weather is hard. I share my hammock with 2 boys, real boys. It’s not what you think. We don’t sleep at the same time– when I sleep, they work and vice versa. I tuck this journal, a special pen I am writing with right now and some clothes all inside a big unfitting pillowcase. Hope the two boys won’t have a clue as they are pretty dumb.

Before I left home père said, “Go live your dreams, Dèlina. I will be waiting for your safe return.” I was sad to say goodbye, but here I am.

August 21, 1492
So far nobody suspects that I am a girl, except for Albert who works at the crow’s nest lookout. His job is to stay up there to look for land. He is very obese so I call him Big Al. When Big Al asked for my name I stammered, “Dèl–Dèodat Lambert, from France.” I felt a bit guilty, but then I was telling part truth, as I am from France. He narrowed his disportionately small eyes, hesitated but eventually didn’t ask more questions. Now I should steer far far away from Big Al.

I wish he was the only problem I have on Santa Maria. Unfortunately, sometimes the sailors get into small fights, physically, over petty things, and soon everyone but me is piled on the wooden deck, flailing arms and limbs. I guess every real boy has his own way. I take no sides but I do look out of place. Also, storms can be harsh and a new one is brewing. I am afraid with one more storm, our puny ship will crack. Oh lord, hope land is not far away. This way, even if she cracks, I can swim to shore. Père taught me, pretty well. Oh no, chef is calling for me. Got to run.

September 5, 1492
We eat and drink a lot of different foods like vinegar, wine (NOT me as I don’t drink alcohol) olive oil, molasses, honey, cheese, rice, almonds, salted flour, sea biscuits, dry legumes, salted and barreled sardines, anchovies, dry salt cod and pickled or salted meats (beef and pork). Most of our foods are either rotten or dirty. I like clean rice with cheese and provisions. Sometimes I throw my yucky left-overs into the churning waters, and maybe they become treasure to some fish. I pray that no storms come, even though the clouds are nothing but gray and dull. I hope my food is worthy of a blessing to whoever’s out there. Sea God? If you are near please give us calm waters ahead.

September 12, 1492
It has been a long time since I have seen land and I sure hope that we hit land soon, lest the storms tear us apart! I was eating my cloppy soup and then, CRASH! My food in one direction, spoon in another, and bowl in the third. I guess bye-bye my supper. Most people are giving up hope of the thought of land, but Captain Columbus will not admit defeat.

September 13, 1492
Today, a weird sailor boy saved me. As I was serving lunch, one of the clueless bed mates came up to the deck, holding my journal. I was speechless, in fear and total shock. I was holding my breath trying to come up with some clever excuse when Big Al– certainly not helping– shouted, “I always know there is something fishy going on.” At that moment, I thought nothing would work better than the plain truth– I am Dèlina, not Dèodat. Before I could say anything, a voice came up, “It’s mine. I lent my storybook to him.” The sailors turned out to be mostly clueless and went back to their lunch. I let out a huge sigh of relief. Later that day the unexpected savior approached me. I thanked him and told him my secret because I owed him an explanation. Little did I know, my savior had a secret too. He, or I should say she, did exactly the same thing as I in order to sneak up on the ship. Our world is very unfair and girls only belong in the kitchen. Her name is Adèle. She has been faking as a boy since she was 7 just so she could sail on the seas. Strangely, she looked similar to me and I felt a very strong bond with her. She could be an older sister that I never had. That was silly nonsense, I thought, stuff and nonsense.

September 26, 1492
The thought of land is very dim, as we might even have missed it. As our food is running low, and all the chef does is fret about how low the supplies are and how he should have never signed up for the trip. When he does not feel like cooking, I would be the lucky one. And I mean it!

Cooking without a mentor telling me what to do and what not is quite fun! The good news is that there are birds flying above Santa Maria so there must be land somewhat nearby. Birds equal land. That’s what the old sailors say, right?

October 3, 1492
My friend Adèle, even though I have not thought much about her for days, decided to come up to me and mentioned how much we resemble each other. I was about to shut her up by saying, “What do you want from me as I am pretty sure I am of no use to you…”

Anyway, she said, “This might be the last alone time we have together. Some sailors don’t even get off this ship alive.” I immediately had a chuckle as I heard this before, from some stupid boys. Adèle continued, “So I have something to show you. It is one of my belongings, just like your journal book.” We twisted and turned through the crew on deck until finally Adèle showed me a small trapdoor. Her arm opened it skillfully and went inside. She pulled out a silver locket. My eyes must open wide. As she opened it, I took a good look– there was a picture of MY mère and père! Yes Mine!

“No way,” I gasped, “My lord! That’s my parents! How is this possible?!” We hugged and became inseparable. One thing for sure– if we get back home alive, mère and père have got a lot of explaining to do! Still, this is by far the happiest moment of my journey as living under disguise can be exhausting and with Adèle I am no longer lonely.

October 12, 1492
As we were about to have supper, Big Al shouted, “Land ho! Finally, the Cathays.” Everyone rushed onto the deck and looked out to where Big Al pointed. “Bright white sand, lush green forest, and sparkl-AHHHHHH! A-a-a brown person!” Everyone gasped. Big Al continued, “A person with brown hides of deer, also holding a weapon that could kill us all!”

Another voice shouted, “Who saw land, again?” Everyone looked back in shock and it was Captain Columbus. With no objection due to fear, Captain made clear he was officially the first to spot the new land. Captain Columbus said before that Queen Isabella would pay a handsome amount to whoever was first to find the new land. I could see Big Al shaking his fist at that Captain. Evil!

October 17, 1492
We came on shore for almost five days. As it turns out those people are even more terrible than we thought. The person whom Big Al saw holding a weapon offered to take Adèle out on a tour. Against my agreement, Adèle took it proudly as a great opportunity. When they came back there was no sign of Adèle. Oh my god! They either killed or abandoned her. Captain Columbus forgave them but I will not! I must figure out a way to sneak out and search for Adèle. If a person can grow “sea legs,” I certainly have forgotten my “land legs.”

The land is indeed quite beautiful. Its autumn scenery is nothing like home. Our initial trades made Captain smile from ear to ear. Too bad that the brown people do not know how to write and my pen is running out of ink. So this will be my last entry for a long while, unless more ink is on the way somehow. That’s okay, because any great work has to end. Lord, please send blessing for mère and père. If you feel generous, do bless me with fortune as I would need plenty to search for my sister Adèle and to stay alive through the coming winter.

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