Sunday, August 02, 2009

Life & Death in the balance

The most memorable tale of the trip to Port A is definitely the day I was dumped in the drink for an unexpected swim in the briny sea.

Hubby and I love to go treasure hunting on St. Joe's island. We've taken our jet ski over there and brought back wonderful finds that I lovingly refer to as "nautical artifacts". Rope, nets, buoys, all sorts of treasures. Hubby can tell great tales of the times he's transported large shrimp nets and 4" diameter ropes back to the harbor. The harbor where it's nice and safe, with calm waters. The gulf, however, is temperamental. We've had excursions that are relatively mild. We had to abort one mission last year when we tried to go out during the build-up to Hurricane Dolly. You'd think we'd have learned by now.

The lure of those treasures calls to us and so we brave the sea. Wednesday was calm. Hubby went skiing outside of the jetty into the gulf and had no trouble. Thursday, we headed out together (picture me hanging on behind my beloved). We should have checked the weather. The winds were high and the sea was choppy. Very choppy. Big waves. As we got close to the island, I lost my grip and was dumped off the jet ski into the gulf. I was already a little scared but it didn't take long to become a lot scared. I lost my glasses when I went into the water. I could see the floaty device (attached to the earpieces, but NOT properly tightened up behind my head) bobbing a short distance away but I could barely make any headway despite my best efforts. I snagged my glasses just as hubby circled back for me. There was no way I was going to be able to climb back on to the jet ski while being tossed about, so he towed me to shore. Not before I removed my swim shorts, which were sliding down my legs. I'm glad my swimsuit bottoms stayed on. Picture me clinging with both hands to the handle (just below the "HA" in "YAMAHA") stretched out behind as hubby made his way to shallow waters. If he went too slowly, he couldn't control the jet ski. If he went too quickly, I wouldn't have been able to hang on.

I should mention, being towed as I was my face was right by the exhaust so breathing challenges included wave and fume avoidance. Needless to say I got my share of both.

We made it shore and I was ready to leave immediately. It's hard to focus on treasure-hunting when you're busy kissing the sandy shore. Hubby puttered with anchoring the jet ski but settled for dragging it to shore. By the nature of the jet ski itself it's not a good idea to lug a huge anchor and our little anchor proved inadequate in the face of the pounding waves.

I'm not sure how long we spent actually treasure-hunting. Maybe 15 minutes. Hubby soon waved me over and said "I'm a little nervous about the jet ski." Have you ever stood on the shore with the waves are washing over your feet and you sink in to the sand? The jet ski was getting "dug in" as the waves were pulling sand out from under it.

Fortunately my heart had settled a bit and I was ready to go because when hubby says "I'm a little nervous" it means it's time for me to be fully alarmed.

Getting back on the jet ski in the rough water was no easy trick. At one point Hubby suggested I drive because we both needed to board instantaneously so he could start/accelerate the jet ski without getting tossed back off. He began giving me instructions on how to crest the waves, navigate the swells, etc. I agreed to get my butt on the jet ski a split-second behind him, no problem.

I won't bore you with the details of the long ride back to harbor. The jet ski had taken on a lot of water and the engine strained to push through wave after wave. I clung to hubby and considered our options if one or both of us were thrown off. I prayed and prayed, thanking God for His endless mercy. He's proven yet again, "God watches over fools and treasure-seekers."

Later that day I realized the jade bracelet I picked up in China, the one I wear so much I forget I have it on, the one I noticed as I was backing the jet ski off of the trailor into the safe, calm harbor waters thinking "it'll be okay, not worth the hassle of trying to get it to Hubby," yeah, it was gone. No doubt claimed by the sea. Its absence is a souvenir. A reminder. A reminder to be grateful for all that I've been given. A reminder to focus on what's important.

Thank you, Lord, for keeping this foolish treasure-seeker safe.

Here's a girl who's grateful to be alive, standing on the jetty with the calm, safe harbor waters behind her:

Here's a hint of the choppy waters (Mustang Island side of the jetty at dusk).

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