Oil Paintings of Florida


John Sterpe


Swept Away     page 4

John was saying something bout going to Marco Island to get a hotel room. He sounded pretty good for a guy who had just gotten washed off a beach. Mark was helping them out of the water. We knew they were going to be freezing so we started making room for them. When the guys came in the tent, we helped them get their wetsuits off. Somehow they had manage do find their wetsuits and get them on in the rush. I don't know how they would have made it without them. They certainly would have been in worse shape than they were. Dalia came over with a bag of dry clothes. The women had gotten guy clothes from Harold and Mike earlier and now the guys were getting the girl clothes.

So, there we were...seven of us in a tent meant for 3-4 people. The only way we could fit was for everyone to turn on their sides. To keep warm, we had to spoon. It was still raining but not as hard as before. Harold listened to the marine radio. It was predicted that the rain would be gone by 6AM. A couple of people were convinced we needed to call the Coast Guard as soon as possible. Harold just listened patiently. He said we'd assess the situation in the morning. He did try to call the marine operator but could not raise one.

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I remember having a very calm feeling. My stuff was already gone. It did not appear that we were going to be washed off the beach or die. The Johns were found and only slightly worse for the experience. Life was looking a lot better than before. Having let go of my tent earlier, I had no concerns now except for our safety. We laid there for hours. I don't think anyone slept. We held each others hands and everyone tried to make everyone else comfortable. Each time we settled down, someone, usually one of the Johns, started retelling their story or remembered a part they had forgotten and had to share it with us. Their adrenaline level was a lot higher than the rest of ours. We'd laugh until it almost hurt, quiet down, then start up all over again.
Around 5 AM, Harold and Mike went to help Mark start a fire. I couldn't figure, for the life of me, how they were going to start a fire with soaked wood, but I was too tired to ask.

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