We’re not afraid to die… if we can all be together

By Gordon Cook and Alan East

A Brief introduction to the authors:

Gordon Cook :-

Gordon Cook (born December 3, 1978, in Toronto) is a two-time Canadian Olympic sailor. He sails for the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. He is the son of Stephen Cook and Linda Cook. He had a great interest in writing stories too.

Alan East :-

Alan was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in 2003 and has gained extensive experience as a litigator, manager and legal trainer. In 2004 he co-founded and managed a niche legal practice specialising in Criminal Litigation and Prison Law gaining higher rights of audience in criminal proceedings and working as a Duty Solicitor.

Background to the text

Written by Gordan Cook and Alan East, the story revolve around  a 37 year old businessman who is the narrator of the story. He has a wife named Mary and two children, Jonathan, aged 6 and Suzanne, aged 7The narrator prepared to replicate around the world Tour made by Captain James Cook 200 years ago. The narrator and his wife had used all their leisure time from the past 16 years developing their ceiling talents in British seas. They professionally built  Wavewalker (boat) which was a 23 m, 30 tonnes wooden ship and loaded it with all the essential items required for a distant voyage. They tested it in the severest weather feasible.

The whole family started sailing from Plymouth, England on July 1976. The initial phase of the three-year-long journey was from Africa to Cape Town. It was pleasant. While heading east, along with two newly hired crewmen, strong waves hit them and their survival became a question. The story tells us about how they fought each day and survived till the end.


The narrator and his wife plan a voyage around the world just like famous Captain James Cook. They have been preparing and perfecting their seafaring skills for the past 16 years. They get a ship which is 23 meters long and weighs 30 tons wooden-hulled, named Wave Walker. They test it in the rough weather for months.

In July 1976, they all start their journey from Plymouth, England. They sail from Africa to Cape Town which was quite a pleasant journey. Before heading East, the narrator hired two crewmen, Larry Vigil, and Herb Seigler, to help them tackle one of the roughest sea – the Southern Indian Ocean.
They encounter strong and alarming waves during the second day. By December 25, they all manage to reach 35,000 kilometres east of Cape Town. The family, somehow, manages to surpass the bad weather and celebrates Christmas together.

The weather changes for the worse and on January 2, the big waves hit them. They try to slow the ship down by dropping storm jib and hit a heavy mooring rope in a loop across a stern but it doesn’t help much. They carry their life-raft drill, attach lifelines, done life jackets and oilskins.

Later, in the evening, a vertical and huge wave strikes the ship and the narrator is thrown off from the ship. He accepts his ‘approaching death’ and starts losing consciousness. When the ship is about to overturn, a huge wave hit again and turns it right back. He suffers injuries in ribs and mouth. He grabs the guard rail and sails into the ship’s main boom.

He instructs his wife Mary to guard the wheel as he realizes that the ship has water in the lower parts. His crewman starts pumping out the water. The narrator goes to his children’s cabin and checks on them. His daughter, Sue, informs him about a bump on her head which he ignores because his major concern is to save the ship.

The narrator does water-proofing on the gaping holes. This makes water to deviate on the right side. The hand pump gets blocked due to debris and electric-pump gets short-circuited. However, he later finds a spare electric pump and connects it to drain the water. They all keep pumping the water all night long. Their Mayday calls are not answered as they are in the remotest corner of the world.

Sue, on the other hand, has now a swollen black eye and a deep cut in her arm. On being asked by her father about her injuries, she tells him she didn’t want him to worry as he was trying to save them. After 15 hours the situation gets under control. The narrator decides to work in rotation and rests. The water levels are controlled but the leaks were still there, below the waterline.

The ship is in bad shape now. It is not in a condition to reach Australia, and so, they decide to reach the nearest island, lle Amsterdam, a French Scientific base. As their supporting engines were also damaged, the chances of the ship to reach the destination are low.

After pumping the water out continuously for 36 hours, they took a sigh of relief. Only a few centimetres of water were left to be pumped out of the boat. They hoisted the storm jib as the main mast was destroyed. They ate their first meal in two days, some corned beef and crackers. The weather soon started changing and again the black clouds took over by the morning of January 5. His son, Jonathan, told him that he didn’t fear death as long as they were all together. This filled him with determination to fight the sea.

The struggle continued and the narrator tried his best to protect the weakened starboard side. The same evening, the narrator and his wife sat together holding hands, thinking that their end was near. His children continuously supported him which gave him moral support to keep going.

The Wavewalker sailed through the storm and made it. The narrator then calculated their exact position by working on the wind speed. While he was brainstorming, Sue gave him a card that she had made expressing her love and gratitude towards the family.

He instructed Larry to steer the course to 185 degrees. He said that if they were lucky, they could hope to find an island by 5 pm. He dozed off and suddenly got up around 6 pm. He believed that they didn’t make it and was disappointed. His son came and informed him about how they reached the lle Amsterdam Island and he called him ‘best daddy’ and ‘best captain’.

They reached the island with little struggle and with the help of inhabitants. The whole team, the family and two crew members never stopped trying. Their struggle and hard work finally saved them.

  • Notice these expressions in the text.

Infer their meaning from the context.

􀂕 honing our seafaring skills                   􀂕 pinpricks in the vast ocean

􀂕 ominous silence                                   􀂕 a tousled head

􀂕 Mayday calls

  • Honing our seafaring skills– This refers to the effort by the narrator and his wife to enhance or to sharpen their seafaring skills.
  • Pinpricks in the vast ocean- This phrase expesses the insignificance of two small islands in the vast ocean.
  • Ominous silence– Unpleasant or threatening silence, indicating that something bad may happen.
  • A tousled head-
  • Mayday calls– it is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice-procedure radio communication.

Understanding the text

. List the steps taken by the captain to protect the ship when rough weather began to check the flooding of the water in the ship.


1. In order to protect the ship from rough weather, the captain decided to slow it down, he dropped the storm jib and lashed a heavy mooring rope in a loop across the stern. Then we double-lashed everything, went through life-raft drill, attached lifelines, donned oilskins and life jackets.

2. Larry and Herb started pumping out water. The captain stretched canvas and secured water proof hatch covers across the gaping holes. When the two hand pumps blocked and electric pump short circuited, he found another electric pump, connected it to an out pipe and started it.

QNS 2.Describe the mental condition of the voyagers on 4th and 5th January.
On January 4, the voyagers felt relieved after 36 hours of continuous pumping out
water. They had their first meal in almost two days. Their respite was short-lived. They faced dangerous situation on January 5. Fear of death loomed large. They were under great mental stress.

QNS3. Describe the shifts in the narration of the events as indicated in the three sections of the text. Give a subtitle to each section.

The text has been divided into three sections
Section 1:
Disaster Strikes -This part describes the narrator’s desire to go sailing around the world, the preparations they made and the start of their journey and the coming storm. The family celebrates a wonderful Christmas. However, by the New Year the sea becomes rough and the next evening an enormous wave wrecks the ship and injures the narrator and his family members.

Section 2:
Survival Attempts and Searching for island-This section describes the frantic efforts to save the boat from flooding and the display of heroism by all in the face of disaster. Near the end of this section, the efforts of the narrator to navigate to some nearby islands for safety is mentioned, which the narrator terms as finding ‘pinpricks in the vast ocean’.

Section 3:
Victory of the spirit -This part describes the triumph of the spirit and seafaring skills of the narrator as they reach an island safely. Fittingly, the narrator is given the title of ‘The best daddy and the best captain’ by his son.

Talking about the Text

QNS1. What difference did you notice between the reaction of the adults and the children when faced with danger?

Ans: There was a huge difference between the reaction of the adults and the children. The adults lose their hope at the end and wait for their fate of death. On the other hand, the children were hopeful and gave the narrator moral support. With the support of his children, Jonathan and Suzanne, he decided to find out the island at any cost. The children showed maturity. His son expressed courage as to how he wasn’t afraid to die if they all were together. His daughter made him a card expressing her love and affection towards her parents and wrote a beautiful message. She had a bump on her head still, she didn’t let it become a hurdle for her parents who were trying to save the ship.

QNS2. How does the story suggest that optimism helps to endure “the direst stress”?

Ans: Optimism is to see hope in the dessert. Without optimism, it is impossible to overcome difficulties. The family fought with the sea with great optimism and determination which ultimately saved them. Again and again, on being attacked by the sea, they didn’t stop trying which helped them get to the shore of the lle Amsterdam island.

When the son of the narrator told him, “we aren’t afraid of dying if we can all be together — you and Mummy, Sue and I”. This showed the maturity of the children and how they played an important role in motivating the narrator who had almost lost hope. Sue, his daughter who made him a card showed how she was proud of her parents and didn’t even care of her injuries which were in a severe condition. With the struggles and efforts, they finally made it to the destination.

QNS3. What lessons do we learn from such hazardous experiences when we are face-to-face with death?

Ans: Life is never about being merry all the time. We are constantly tested and how we tackle every problem and overcome it is the ultimate lesson. Such hazardous situations teach us how we should react towards them. We must never lose hope and keep trying and success will be ours. In some situations, one must keep calm and think logically. No matter how bad the situation is, there is always a way to get out of it. The significance of being extra careful and to make sure that the situation doesn’t get worse is required at such moments.

QNS4. Why do you think people undertake such adventurous expeditions in spite of the risks involved?

Ans: The spirit to experience unique elements of nature, undaunted passion, and willingness to accept challenges drive people to take up adventurous expeditions. The people who involve themselves in such activities are very well aware of the risk involved in them, but still, they do not hesitate to try it out.

Thinking about language

QNS1. We have come across words like ‘gale’ and ‘storm’ in the account.

Here are two more words for ‘storm’: typhoon, cyclone. How many

words does your language have for ‘storm’?

Answer: There are several word for stop in Hindi few which are as follows:

Aandhi, toophan , jhnjha etc.

QNS2. Here are the terms for different kinds of vessels: yacht, boat, canoe,

ship, steamer, schooner. Think of similar terms in your language.

Answer: Jahaj, nauka, dongee.

QNS3. ‘Catamaran’ is a kind of a boat. Do you know which Indian language

this word is derived from? Check the dictionary.

Answer:It is derived from a Tamil word Kattumaram.

QNS4. Have you heard any boatmen’s songs? What kind of emotions do

these songs usually express?

Answer: I have heard boatmen’s song for several time .Thee songs generally revolve around the desire to meet the loved ones as soon as possible, or the excitement to reach the destination.  

Working with words

QNS1. The following words used in the text as ship terminology are also commonly used in another sense. In what contexts would you use

the other meaning?


 Knot-  A joint made by tying together the ends a piece or pieces of  a string, rope, cloth etc.      

          Stern- Severe or showing disapproval

          Boom-  a loud, deep, resonant sound.

          Hatch- emergence of young ones from egg.

          Anchor– one who presents or coordinates a programme.

QNS2. The following three compound words end in -ship. What does each

of them mean?                                                       

ANS- Airship a large aircraft without wings, used especially in the past, consisting of a large bag filled with gas that is lighter than air and driven by engines.

 Flagship-the best or most important thing owned or produced by a particular organization.

 Lightship a moored or anchored boat with a beacon light to warn or guide ships at sea. 

QNS3. The following are the meanings listed in the dictionary against the

phrase ‘take on’. In which meaning is it used in the third paragraph

of the account:

take on sth: to begin to have a particular quality or

appearance; to assume sth

take sb on: to employ sb; to engage sb

to accept sb as one’s opponent in a game,

contest or conflict

take sb/sth on: to decide to do sth; to allow sth/sb to enter

e.g. a bus, plane or ship; to take sth/sb

on board

Answer: In the third paragraph, in lines “…we took two crewmen to help us tackle …roughest seas”, the word took on means to take somebody or hire somebody.

Things to do

1. Given on the next page is a picture of a yacht. Label the parts of

the yacht using the terms given in the box.

Bow       cabin     rudder     cockpit
Stern      boom    mainsail    mast

Thinking about language

1. Variety of terms for a particular item in different languages.


  • Ship 

                Kappal- Tamil


                Hadagu- Kannada

  • Sea

                    Kaṭal- Tamil


                    Samudra- Kannada

  • Seafaring


Samudrayana- Telugu


2. English words derived from Indian languages.


Bangle comes from the Hindi word bangri.

Dacoit comes from Hindi word dakait (robbers).

Catamaran comes from Tamil word Kattumaram(tied wood)

3. Linking language to music (boatmen’s songs).


The folk songs sung by boats man are common in states where rivers form an integral part of the topography especially Bengal, Orissa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu. He is the one who guides across the river. It is the simple and profound nature of these songs which make them true and unique.

Working with words

1. ‘Ship’ terms as homonyms.


Kingship; The state or position of being a king.

Kinship: close relation or blood relation

2.  Compound words with ‘-ship’ with different connotations


(a) Authorship: The state or fact of being the writer of a book, article, or document, or the creator of a work of art.

(b)Brinkmanship: the art or practice of pursuing a dangerous policy to the limits of safety before stopping, especially in politics.

Consumership: the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.

Dictatorship: government by a dictator.

3. Phrasal verbs    

Answer: A phrasal verb is a verb that is made up of a main verb together with an adverb or a preposition, or both. Typically, their meaning is not obvious from the meanings of the individual words themselves.

Some examples from the text are:

Hung on: (page 2 Ncert) continued doing  ; narrator continued on the wheel.

Building up:( page 4Ncert) to increase in number ; the clouds began  building up behind us.


Voyage – a long journey by sea or space
Honing – sharpen, improving
Seafaring – regularly traveling by sea
Honing our seafaring skills – improving the skills required to travel by sea
Wooden-hulled – a watertight body of a ship

Gales – A very strong wind
Mast – a tall upright structure on a boat or ship

Atrocious – bad; of a very poor quality
Jib – a triangular staysail set forward the mast in a ship
Knots – a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, used especially of ships, aircraft, or winds
Enormous – a very large size
Lashed – to hit with a lot of force
Mooring – the ropes, chains, or anchors by or to which a boat, ship, or buoy is moored
Loop – a shape produced that bends round and crosses; bent
Stern – the back part of a ship or a boat
Donned – put on, wore
Oilskins – heavy cotton cloth waterproofed with oil

Impending – about to happen
Ominous silence – unpleasant or threatening silence
Aft – near the stern of the ship
Frightful – very unpleasant or shocking
Crest – reach the top of a wave

Deck – a floor of a ship
Torrent – a fast moving stream of water

Capsizing – be overturned in the water
Hurled – throw with a great force
Taut – stretched or pulled tightly
Boom – pole that controls the angle and shape of the sail
Scrambled – climb; claw one’s way
Hatch – door

Starboard – side of a ship which is on the right side when one is facing forward

Forestay – a rope to support ship’s foremast
Dinghies – a small boat for recreation with mast or sail

Keel – steel structure along the base of the ship

Sextant – an instrument with graduated arc of 60 degrees for taking altitudes and navigation
Caricatures – picture of a person; cartoon

Anchored – moor a ship to the sea bottom
Offshore – situated at the sea some distance from the shore
Ashore – on the shore of the land
Optimistic – hopeful and confident

Categories: General


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