Monday, August 06, 2012


by Robin

Part 1 - Scalloping

Part 2 - The Storm

Here it is... the long-awaited part 3.  I think, subconsciously, I was avoiding reliving this segment of the night most all.  Refreshing my mind on part 2 brought out feelings that were beginning to fade. The nausea.  The fear of darkness.  The fear of the sea itself.  I'm back on the boat, rocking side to side.  I can see glimpses of land and twinkling lights but I cannot rush there.  The next six hours were a lesson of patience in suffering.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. - Romans 12: 12

We spent the next 30 minutes to hour with getting resettled.  I think the 'Vomits' were done.  I wish I had Jack's gift of never being sea or air sick.  I guess he compliments me in this area, for I am very weak from the kryptonic rocking.  He, on the other hand, is like a sweet baby being lulled to dreamland by a mother in her favorite, worn rocking chair. 

The boys were in the cuddy with the fan.  Jack had tried the cuddy but needed air and space, so he too opted for a bean bag positioned by the cuddy door yet in front of the chairs.  I'm not sure if he was trying to escape the light of the glow sticks or merely chose not to be between the bait cooler on the left, the slushing ice in the food cooler to my right or near center where Captain finally peed after the storm passed.

By the way, Captain was praised for releasing urine on the deck when asked.  I would have preferred it in the back by the drain, but hey, he did what we asked. My blessed Tiki-man, who had no problem with peeing on the deck earlier in the day, chose to hold it in.  I grabbed my bean bag, thowing it down any-which-way and plopped on it.  I laid there, head almost comfortably propped against the food cooler and looked up at the stars.  I tried to think of other things but I was constantly reminded of the cool breeze.  Through all of this, I had forgotten that I was wearing nothing but my bathing suit and a white tank top. I was so hot in the cuddy with my orange life jacket on, that now, it was noticeably cooler without it.  And I was wet.  It was a miracle that Jack was able to put his hands on my light fishing jacket the first few seconds he began to look for it.  Really, don't take that lightly.  It was a miracle as much as the lightening passing over us.  LOL. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about here.

I offered to take the first shift of staying up all night so Jack could grab a couple hours of sleep. Tiki jumped in my lap and I put him under my jacket so we could stay warm together. I tried to find constellations.  I tried to rewind our day and how it ended up until this point.  I even tried to think about how I would sign (language) all this to my friend & mentor at Tuesday night sign class.  I could see all the signs and non-manual markers being played out in my facial expressions.  Earlier, we had seen a boat going by and I wanted desperately to follow it, thinking it may be our friends.  Then, I was glad we didn't since it continued  past the port entrance.  From time to time, my thoughts were interrupted with short snorts of Jack fighting apnea.  It was pretty easy to pass the first hour or so.

I began to fight sleep eventually.  Part of me wanted desperately to sleep.  I didn't trust anything like the winds and anchor holding.  Silly how I could trust God so much hours earlier with my life, but I couldn't trust Him enough to sleep like Jesus did.  I pulled my head up over the sides of the boat, checking north for the power station lights and south for the St. Pete/Tampa lights. I could barely hold myself up and the nausea would kick back in and I'd have to lay back down again.  I flipped onto my right side, feeling snug in the bean bag.  I was nauseated but I had small comforts like my dog and my hood to warm my head.  At some point, Captain jumped down from Jack's lap and he came to check on me.  I could see it in his eyes.  He was as confused as I was.  Why could he be on dry land?  Where were his blankies?  Please make it stop, Mama.  Sometimes he would stand and sometimes he would prop up against my head and shoulders.  He did his best to keep contact but the rocking made it hard for him to do so.  I begged him to lay down but he wouldn't.  You have to understand Captain.  Since he was a baby, whenever he wanted Mama, he had to be right under my chin.  It's like he survived only if he could look up and see Mama right there and feel my presence with my breath.  He was terribly out of sorts and apprehensive, like me. 

Other hours, I spent praying for all the people I knew.  I would compartmentalize friends by association and then pray for them.  My parents, especially Dad in his recent surgery.  This church.  That church.  Homeschoolers.  Immediate family.  Extended family.  Friends with health issues.  Friends. with. health. issues.  It gave me  pause.  Something else deep to ponder.  God had allowed cancer to come back to a friend of mine.  Sweet lady.  She was facing her own storm.  I never once weighed whether one storm of life was better than the other, but I could never figure out why God chose some to have cancer and why mine was to end up in the ocean, in the darkness, rocking back-n-forth.  I don't remember how I ended this conversation with God.  I am thankful for the mere moments that God gave me rest. 

Other hours, I remember thinking that I would memorize where the stars were over each side of the boat.  I had stars in triangular patterns to the south.  They'd go up & down, left and right.  But at any given moment, instead of popping my head up to see the lights over land, I could look up at the stars and know we were holding anchor.  It worked most the time except the couple times the winds had shifted.  In the end, the eastern winds would prevail, making the stars sit in the right positions.  Sometimes, I could hear a wave break and roll right next to the boat.  I could not see them, nor did I want to see how high they were but I could hear them.  After hours of this, I was able to not even have a heart flutter over it.  They seemed as natural as my own heart beating. The only thing that did not seem natural was that we had gone from small wind gusts to steady gales as we passed 3am. 

The winds gave me other things to think about.  I was thankful I had unwound all the hundreds of feet of rope.  How handy it was to have it flow right out and give me a perfect scope for riding up and down with the waves and keep the anchor down.  God has prepared us for that moment of need before we knew we had a need.  How many times had He done that and I never recognized it?  And as comforting that was, my mind would still take a detour and land me in a pit of adrenalin.  What about that frayed spot in the rope right near the anchor chain?  Oh no.  Would it unravel before we would see daylight?  Would God have an angel down there holding it together, under the sea?  How could I be sure until we either set adrift or pulled it up at morning light. 

We were probably rounding two o'clock when I thought I smelled fire.  My heart raced, again.  I sat up and looked at my land points.  No fire.  Looked at the back of the boat.  No fire.  Gee, the batteries weren't even on.  I couldn't figure it out and eventually, I convinced myself it was the smell of thawed squid in the cooler next to me. As much as I wanted to be worried, exhaustion and nausea forced me back down. (The next day, I would find out that Jack had smelled it too, so it wasn't my imagination.)

My mind was surely playing tricks on me.  Part of me hated the adrenlin rushes from fear, but part of me loved that it woke me back up.  From time to time, the dogs would move and wake me up fully.  At some point, my body hurt from laying in one position and I moved to the other side.  I memorized those stars, which seemed to be have pairs of bright ones together.  Oh, it felt good to change sides.  When I changed sides, Tiki had to move.  At one point, he began to gag.  Poor little guy, he was sea sick too.  This time, there was also enough room for Captain on the bean bag.  I think that's was the first time he was able to sleep.  Or was he having only mere moments of rest, like me?

I had prayed and thought of my kids.  They did not complain through all this.  They were so brave, except for that small moment of panic about dying.  Who could blame him?  We all thought it.  He handled it with grace sufficient for any child. Being bold, brave and praying for all of us decision-makers. And my teenager, never a word came from him.  Only obedience.  I've always thought this child had the most amazing giftness of meekness.  Strength under restraint.  Always showing a smile and being completely unwavering in faith.  Sometimes I think he teaches me more than I could ever teach him. And Jack.  How he was my knight in shining armour the entire time.  He would do anything for us.  He always puts our safety first.  Well, maybe second, because his love for us is incredible.  I don't know what would happen to him if anything happened to the rest of us.  His heart would crumble into a thousand pieces.  Even though I hated staying there the whole night, I knew that his loving care for us was paramount. It influenced every part of his decision-making.

At some point, I noticed the stars moving through the sky.  Everything was a little off.  The bildge pump turned on and pumped out water.  Wait.  That's wrong.  We're taking on water?  I heard the waves breaking by the boat.  I felt a splash come over the side.  Talk about a wave of fear setting back in.  I sat up instantly, checking our position.  All that was good, but whoa....... a waved rolled up very close to the side of the boat. Ok, the panic was back.  I woke the entire boat back up.  My youngest, our time keeper, said it was 4:30 am.  Yes, it was almost dawn.  I was READY TO GO.  I convinced Jack that we needed to go, now.  He scrambled to his feet, putting his mental check list back in order and turned on the batteries.  He cranked it up.  I ran to the front and tried to pull anchor.  Jack moved the boat forward so I could have an easier time of pulling in line but when it came to pulling the anchor, I could not do it.  Jack came forward to help me, but the wet line slipped out of our hands.  It was no use fighting the wind, and the darkness.

By then, the "Vomits" were back.  One by one, the boys came out of the cuddy and took their turns.  Even I did.  Our youngest, Mr Bold, refused to go back below.  He needed air inspite of hanging his head down.  My eldest sat on his side of the boat and began singing hymns as Jack and I layed back down on our bean bags.  I knew the entire line-up of music.  We had rehearsed all of them at home.  I'd sing and signwhile he played his guitar.  While reality said we were still in the dark, I could close my eyes and feel like we were still in his room, with the lamp on, going through it, chord by chord.  He sang every word, every line.  He moved to the next one, knowing every word, every line.  In the past, we have joked that he has such a hard time carrying a tune; but now, I heard it as God hears it.  A perfect heart bringing a perfect melody as a sweet offering to the One who holds everything together. It was a desperate plea and praise in harmony together.  At one point, I tried to join him as much as it hurt to sing through the nausea. I wanted so badly to praise my Savior but it seemed more enjoyable to hear him sing. 

Jack said this would be the longest hour of our lives and it was.  After we were done with songs, we made somewhat a competition out of guessing when the sun would rise on the west coast of Florida.  It seemed so important at the time; but for the life of me, I cannot remember who was right or when it came up.

At one point, I noticed the stars were fading.  Black turned to gray as a backdrop in the sky.  I couldn't wait any longer.  I didn't have panic any more, but renewed strength with every lighter shade of gray.  Jack and I got to our feet.  We started the engine, which never sounded more wonderful to me.  I remember thanking God as I scurried to the front.  The rope was retrieved, foot-by-foot.  I felt like I was never going to get it all in.  How many hundreds of feet did I let out? When we were finally dead-center over the anchor, Jack had me tie the line off on a clete. He pulled it out with the force of the engine pulling it. And when it was free, so were we. As I went to stow it all away in the anchor locker, my hand ran over the frayed spot.  I had my answer.  The angel had held it all night long without a single sign of wear.

It seemed like a blur that everything was secured and we were slowly cruising into the waves toward port.  My renewed strength disappeared as I sat in my chair.  I could not even pick my head up.  I had both my arms grasping to rails & chairs to prop me up.  The adrenalin, which had become my friend, was gone. 

The closer we got to shore, the less ther waves were.  The kids were on each side of the boat, each holding a dog.  Jack kept trying to get me to lift my head.  I could do it only long enough to see that the sun was already over the horizon.  When did that happen?  I waited all night to see it crest and when it happened, my head was down.  Sometimes,  I'd bobble to the right to see how many miles were left.  It all that running in circles the night before, we were only 3.5 miles from our original fishing spot.  We had 21 miles until we pass the party island.  Sporatically, I called out the miles remaining to the kids, but truthfully, it was for my own self-encouragement.  Jack would laugh at me to stop.

One by one, we flew between channel markers.  We passed the power plant, which gave me light through the night.  We rounded a couple corners and flew 25 knots to Pete's Landing.  Jack had the boys and dogs walk with me to find the truck & trailer.  Tiki finally peed after an amazing 14 hrs of holding it. Exhausted but alive, we found ourselves giddy about whether or not there would be a ticket for having parked there overnight.  I imagined pulling out tears & telling our tale to any cop who dared to ticket me. Who could  ticket this pitiful being? 

The marina which had been so full of life the afternoon before, was now totally peaceful.  No ripples in the water.  People walked by silently.  Parking spaces were open.  Loading the boat was as routine as breathing. I don't remember it. While I was waiting for Jack to come out of the boat and drive us to breakfast, I remember looking down at myself, now properly clothed with shorts, and wondering.....  Hmmm, my white tank had a tye-dye effect to it now.  Pretty blues & greens, and brown.  Funny, I don't remember that there before. 

And then, it hit me.  I could not contain my laughter.  I probably looked like a mad (crazy, not angry) , frizzy-haired woman.  How hysterical that I was wearing my own vomit that had been pushed back by the gusts and now decorated my shirt.  How proud I was of myself the night before for keeping my vomit in until I could reach the sides of the boat ,and here I was still wearing it.  I laughed more. The irony of it all.  Was there any pride left in me? I don't think so.  I was completely humble and broken. 

I sat in the suburban, unsure if I was enjoying the air conditioning.  It felt too cold. I thought to call the hotel we made reservations at for the upcoming night.  It was only 8 am, but it was worth a try to see how early we could get checked-in.  As I dialed the number, the kids were teasing me about pulling out the sob story....... and I did. They were at full-capacity that night, but the first person to check out of a "doggie" room, they'd have the maid clean it for us and call me. 

So, we headed to Denny's for breakfast......

To be continued.... (part 4 will not be as exciting as the rest but should complete the story)