Karma had nothing to do with it.

It's Red Cross National Lifejacket Day and we asked Women's Post Marie “Mings” Nicola (aka @karmacakedotca) to share with us her tales of sea squalls and lifejackets. Check out this guest blog:

The time that I felt the most afraid was also the time I felt the happiest I had on a lifejacket...

Most people are surprised to hear that I come from a family of sailors. Truth is, I grew up on my family’s sailboat “Zahra”, a CnC, Ontario 32, custom built for my dad in 1978. When I was 7 years old, my parents decided to take us on a family vacation sailing the Atlantic Provinces. 

My memory of the night we met the storm is blurry. I remember snapshots of events, one of which was getting dressed in rain gear, putting on my harness and snapping on my orange lifejacket. We were on our way to our next port of call, a marina to dock over night while we continued on our way to Labrador. Night fell and the heavens opened up.

In a matter of moments, the rain went from gentle storm to incredible sea squall. The water was as black as the night and the waves were bigger than the mast on our sailboat. I was harnessed to the boat while my father navigated and my mother pulled down sails, secured the boom and somehow kept my sister and I calm. At this point, nothing was visible, only the water we floated in and the rain that fell.  

I realized that everything my father had taught me about sailing relied on having trust in your instruments. Our boat was incredibly seaworthy, but if the worst happened, we were secure in our lifejackets. Even in the darkness I could see my sister’s jacket reflecting what light there was available. I remember checking my life lines over and over, my lifejacket was on tight, my whistle in the pocket, my harness secure and my rain gear zipped. 

After what felt like an eternity, my father was able to navigate us to safety. I remember hearing the fog horns calling for us in the distance and storm lights flashing; red means starboard, green means port.

 Once docked, it took a while for everything that happened to sink in; until it did we just sat there strapped in, lifejackets done up. It’s not a story I ever really talk about, but it’s also the one event that changed me a little bit forever. Now it’s like second nature, when I get into a sailboat, I usually reach for the first lifejacket available.

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