A swim coach's advice saves the day during a scary boat trip.

Source : http://www.highlightskids.com/Stories/Fiction/F0798_swimlesson.asp...

"At least you're on the swim team, in case we need to swim."The lone sailboat bounced across the choppy water, racing for the darkening, pine-covered shore more than a mile away. Katie shivered as she scanned the black clouds billowing over the mountains. She glanced at her older brother, Rick. “You think we have enough time?”

“Of course, of course,” said Rick, pushing back his tangled blond hair. “Only a few more minutes, then you can impress everyone tonight with your tales of adventure on the high seas of Lake Tahoe.” His voice barely carried over the wind.

The boat lurched heavily, and Rick’s half-eaten sandwich slid off the seat beside him to the deck of the boat’s cockpit. He ignored it, using both hands to steady the tiller. Above them, the straining sail emitted an uneven hum.

“Just get us back before the storm hits,” shouted Katie. She fastened her windbreaker under her life jacket as a peal of thunder rolled across the water. The shore still looked much too far away. She wished she’d voiced her doubts earlier when Rick had casually dismissed the threat of a storm. But Katie was only in sixth grade, and sixteen-year-old Rick wasn’t about to listen to her.

“At least you’re on the swim team.” Rick flashed a quick smile. “In case we need to swim.” Katie had a new swim coach this year, a soft-spoken man named Mr. Fleet. Katie soon discovered that he had some strange notions. She remembered the first workout of the season, when Mr. Fleet insisted that the team jump into the pool again and again, trying to enter the water without a splash. He said that gracefulness in the water, letting the water help you, was the key to success.

A powerful gust of wind tipped the boat’s mast dangerously close to the water.

“Hold the tiller,” Rick yelled, “while I take in some sail.”

The tiller’s taped handle, rough on Katie’s palms, bucked and jerked. Rick took a tentative step forward as the boat pitched sharply. He managed to move another step while grabbing for a handhold. Suddenly a huge gust of wind roared over the boat and tore the tiller from Katie’s hands. Katie stared helplessly at Rick as the boat swung into the wind, the sail flapping uselessly.

“Just sit tight,” Rick yelled. “I’ll be right there.”

Drops of rain began to pelt the deck. Another violent gust of wind roared over the boat, throwing Katie off-balance and splintering the mast near the base with a sharp crack.

Katie saw the mast and sail collapsing toward her head.Katie pitched backward into the icy lake. As the cold closed around her, she saw the broken mast and sail collapsing toward her head. She was thrown deep into the water, then her life jacket pulled her up into a tangled mass of lines and sail that blocked her way to the surface. Stunned by the sudden dunking, Katie floated just below the surface, clawing feebly at the fabric of the sail that trapped her.

A great tiredness settled over her, and her thoughts drifted to the warm, aqua-blue water of the swimming pool where her team practiced. Katie saw an image of Fleet with his watchful eyes and confident, fluid movements.

She punched at the fabric above her head as the cold drained her energy. She knew she had to act quickly. The weariness in her body grew heavier.

The image of the swimming pool returned. Relax with the water. Let the water help you. Mr. Fleet’s calm words echoed in her mind.

Katie grabbed again at the sail above her and pushed hard, but this only forced her down into the water until her life jacket pulled her up again. The sail remained like a sheet of ice, trapping her.

Above her and to the right Katie saw a small patch of water opening and closing as the wreckage shifted. She struggled toward the opening, her lungs feeling as if they would burst. She was just inches away when her windbreaker snagged on a line. She couldn’t move.

Relax with the water. Mr. Fleet’s words were unhurried, comforting. All right, all right! thought Katie. Forcing herself to relax, she allowed her body to drift while she worked to free the line. With her last bit of energy, she broke loose and thrust her head up through the opening.

It was the sweetest breath of her life.

“Katie? Katie?” Somewhere Rick was calling. Katie saw the boat, stable in the water, with the mast and sail a great tangled mess dragging off the side.

“Katie, over here!” Rick stood on the deck looking down at her, gesturing wildly. Katie dog-paddled to the hull of the boat.

“You OK? I couldn’t see you in the water.” Rick’s face looked thin and drained of color. “You were down there a long time. A long time.”

“I’m OK,” Katie said.

“I really messed up,” Rick said in a subdued voice.

The rain was easing off a bit, and the clouds arching across the sky reverberated with color. I’m alive! Katie thought. All at once she was filled with energy.

“Thanks, Mr. Fleet,” she said softly. “Thanks.”