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The War of 1812
Ghost Ships of Lake Ontario, Part 2



Ghost Ships of Lake Ontario, Part 2
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   2.44

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    foremast, helmsman, leeward, pried, stilled, towing, afloat, overboard, spitting, port, opening, propel, crashed, directly, coughing, normally


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Ghost Ships of Lake Ontario, Part 2
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     August 1813
 
2     "Help me with the sheets, Lewis!" Ned called to another sailor. The two men scrambled to loose the ropes that controlled the sails. The storm roared around them. "Put your helm hard down!" Ned yelled at the helmsman. The Scourge tilted dangerously sideways.
 
3     Through the howling wind, Ned heard screams. It didn't take long to figure out the source of the cries. With the ship's listing, everything had skidded to the leeward side of the ship. Some of the men were crushed beneath heavy guns and gear.
 
4     The water now reached Ned's chest. He let go of the ropes and climbed up toward the foremast. Heavy rigging whirled through the air, driven by the fierce wind. One rope, the jib sheet, slapped Ned's arm as he climbed. Ned cried out at the blow. He came close to losing his grip. He gritted his teeth and held on, wondering if his arm were broken.
 
5     Finally, he reached the gunwales on the upper side of the ship. There was his gun port. Minutes earlier, he thought, he had been sleeping on the deck beside it. His bed was now nearly straight up in the air. Ned wondered what had happened to Tom. Just then, the ship lurched. The deck tilted a bit farther. Ned knew he must climb. He had to get up, away from the water swirling into the ship.
 
6     He tried to put a foot on his gun to hoist himself up. He felt nothing but air below. The heavy gun had shifted along with everything else. Ned felt himself falling. Desperately, he stuck out his arms. He stopped, wedged in the port hole. He had been inches from falling into the dark depths of the ship. He pried himself out of the opening.
 
7     Still, lightning blazed across the sky. Thunder boomed and crashed. Water rushed into every opening in the ship's skewed deck. Muffled cries filtered through the roaring of the wind. All around him, Ned saw men clawing their way topside. He felt a moment of panic. He was no swimmer. How could he save himself from the raging water?
 
8     Ned searched frantically for the sweeps. These large oars were normally used to row the ship. One of them might keep him afloat, he thought, when the ship went down. Soon, he found the big wooden oars. He struggled to free them from their fastenings. All at once, the sweeps came loose. Instantly they fell away from him into the black water.

Paragraphs 9 to 17:
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