As host and executive producer of the long-running “Survivor,” Jeff Probst knows a thing or two about adventure in the wild. In "Stranded," Probst recounts an intrepid tail of jungle survival that will thrill young readers. Here's an excerpt.
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It was day four at sea, and as far as eleven-year-old Carter Benson was concerned, life didn’t get any better than this.
From where he hung, suspended fifty feet over the deck of the Lucky Star, all he could see was a planet’s worth of blue water. The boat’s huge white mainsail ballooned in front of him, filled with a stiff southerly wind that sent them scudding through the South Pacific faster than they’d sailed all week.
This was the best part of the best thing Carter had ever done, no question. It was like sailing and flying at the same time. The harness around his middle held him in place while his arms and legs hung free. The air itself seemed to carry him along, at speed with the boat.
“How you doin’ up there, Carter?” Uncle Dexter shouted from the cockpit.
Carter flashed a thumbs-up and pumped his fist. “Faster!” he shouted back. Even with the wind whipping in his ears, Dex’s huge belly laugh came back, loud and clear.
Meanwhile, Carter had a job to do. He wound the safety line from his harness in a figure eight around the cleat on the mast to secure himself. Then he reached over and unscrewed the navigation lamp he’d come up here to replace.
As soon as he’d pocketed the old lamp in his rain slicker, he pulled out the new one and fitted it into the fixture, making sure not to let go before he’d tightened it down. Carter had changed plenty of lightbulbs before, but never like this. If anything, it was all too easy and over too fast.
When he was done, he unwound his safety line and gave a hand signal to Dex’s first mate, Joe Kahali, down below. Joe put both hands on the winch at the base of the mast and started cranking Carter back down to the deck.
“Good job, Carter,” Joe said, slapping him on the back as he got there. Carter swelled with pride and adrenaline. Normally, replacing the bulb would have been Joe’s job, but Dex trusted him to take care of it.
Now Joe jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Your uncle wants to talk to you,” he said.
Carter stepped out of the harness and stowed it in its locker, just like Dex and Joe had trained him to do. Once that was done, he clipped the D ring on his life jacket to the safety cable that ran the length of the deck and headed toward the back.
It wasn’t easy to keep his footing as the Lucky Star pitched and rolled over the waves, but even that was part of the fun. If he did fall, the safety cable—also called a jackline—would keep him from going overboard. Everyone was required to stay clipped in when they were on deck, whether they were up there to work . . . or to puke, like Buzz was doing right now.
“Gross! Watch out, Buzz!” Carter said, pushing past him.
“Uhhhhhnnnnh,” was all Buzz said in return. He was leaning against the rail and looked both green and gray at the same time.
Carter kind of felt sorry for him. They were both eleven years old, but they didn’t really have anything else in common. It was like they were having two different vacations out here.
“Gotta keep moving,” he said, and continued on toward the back, where Dex was waiting.
“Hey, buddy, it’s getting a little choppier than I’d like,” Dex said as Carter stepped down into the cockpit. “I need you guys to get below.”
“I don’t want to go below,” Carter said. “Dex, I can help. Let me steer!”
“No way,” Dex said. “Not in this wind. You’ve been great, Carter, but I promised your mom before we set sail—no kids on deck if these swells got over six feet. You see that?” He pointed to the front of the boat, where a cloud of sea spray had just broken over the bow. “That’s what a six-foot swell looks like. We’ve got a storm on the way—maybe a big one. It’s time for you to take a break.”
“Come on, please?” Carter said. “I thought we came out here to sail!”
Dex took him by the shoulders and looked him square in the eye.
“Remember what we talked about before we set out? My boat. My rules. Got it?”
Carter got it, all right. Arguing with Dex was like wrestling a bear. You could try, but you were never going to win.
“Now, grab your brother and get down there,” Dex told him.
“Okay, fine,” Carter said. “But he’s not my brother, by the way. Just because my mom married his dad doesn’t mean—”
“Ask me tomorrow if I care,” Dexter said, and gave him a friendly but insistent shove. “Now go!”
* * * * *
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Vanessa Diaz sat at the Lucky Star’s navigation station belowdecks and stared at the laptop screen in front of her. She’d only just started to learn about this stuff a few days earlier, but as far as she could tell, all that orange and red on the weather radar was a bad sign. Not to mention the scroll across the bottom of the screen, saying something about “gale-force winds and deteriorating conditions.”
The first three days of their trip had been nothing but clear blue skies and warm breezes. Now, nine hundred miles off the coast of Hawaii, all of that had changed. Dexter kept saying they had to adjust their course to outrun the weather, but so far, it seemed like the weather was outrunning them. They’d changed direction at least three times, and things only seemed to be getting worse.
The question was—how much worse?
A chill ran down Vanessa’s spine as the hatch over the galley stairs opened, and Buzz and Carter came clattering down the steps.
“How are you feeling, Buzzy?” she asked, but he didn’t stop to talk. Instead, he went straight for the little bathroom—the “head,” Dexter called it—and slammed the door behind him.
Her little brother was getting the worst of these bad seas, by far. Carter, on the other hand, seemed unfazed.
Sometimes Vanessa called them “the twins,” as a joke, because they were both eleven but nothing alike. Carter kept his sandy hair cut short and was even kind of muscley for a kid his age. Buzz, on the other hand, had shaggy jet-black curls like their father's and was what adults liked to call husky. The kids at school just called him fat.
Vanessa didn’t think her brother was fat—not exactly—but you could definitely tell he spent a lot of time in front of the TV.
“It’s starting to rain,” Carter said, looking up at the sky.
“Then close the hatch,” Vanessa said.
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
Vanessa rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine. Get wet. See if I care.”
He would, too, she thought. He’d just stand there and get rained on, only because she told him not to. Carter was one part bulldog and one part mule.
Jane was there now too. She’d just come out of the tiny sleeping cabin the two girls shared.
Jane was like the opposite of Carter. She could slip in and out of a room without anyone ever noticing. With Carter, you always knew he was there.
“What are you looking at, Nessa?” Jane asked.
“Nothing.” Vanessa flipped the laptop closed. “I was just checking the weather,” she said.
There was no reason to scare Jane about all that. She was only nine, and tiny for her age. Vanessa was the oldest, at thirteen, and even though nobody told her to look out for Jane on this trip, she did anyway.
“Dex said there’s a storm coming,” Carter blurted out. “He said it’s going to be major.”
“Carter!” Vanessa looked over at him and rolled her eyes in Jane’s direction.
But he just shrugged. “What?” he said. “You think she’s not going to find out?”
“You don’t have to worry about me,” Jane said. She crawled up onto Vanessa’s lap and opened the computer to have a look. “Show me.”
“See?” Carter said. “I know my sister.”
Vanessa took a deep breath. If the idea of this trip was to make them one big happy family, it wasn’t exactly working.
Technically, the whole sailing adventure was a wedding gift from her new uncle, Dexter. It had been two months since Vanessa and Buzz’s father had married Carter and Jane’s mother, but they’d waited until the end of the school year to take a honeymoon. Now, while their parents were hiking Volcanoes National Park and enjoying the beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island, the four kids were spending the week at sea and supposedly getting to know each other better.
So far, the sailing had been amazing, but the sister-brother bonding thing? Not so much, Vanessa thought. The weather wasn’t helping, either. It looked like they were going to be cooped up together for the rest of the day.
“Is that the storm?” Jane said. She pointed at the large red mass on the laptop screen.
“That’s it,” Vanessa answered. On the computer, it seemed as if the oncoming front had gotten even bigger in the last few minutes. She started braiding Jane’s long blond hair to distract her.
“It’s just rain, right?” Jane said. “If this was something really bad, we’d already know about it. Wouldn’t we, Nessa?”
Vanessa tried to smile. “Sure,” she said. But the truth was, she had no idea how bad it was going to get.
None of them did.
Excerpted from the book "Stranded." Copyright © 2013 by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts. Published by Puffin Books, an imprint of the Penguin Group.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive