Oil Paintings of Florida

By

John Sterpe

 

 Swept Away 1999  The two Johns side of the story.

  John Sterpe says, well, I was sleeping in my tent, I remember seeing flash's of light in my closed eye lids, Then John Messina woke me up, it was around 1:00 AM. Hay John, he said a couple of times, John, water is lapping against your tent, I think you need to move it, I was like huh, what do you mean? I got up and looked outside, and WOW, there was water everywhere, we were on this strip of sandy beach with no place to go but to the highest ground. I was very much awake now, and John keep asking me, what's going on, what are we going to do, I felt a little guilty, being that I was on this island so many times, I found this place and felt responsible for taking the group here. So I said, we are going to move our tents and we are going to tie them together, the water keep getting closer, the lightning in the sky was like a spider web of flashing light, but the lightning was not touching down to the ground at this time. Right after we moved the tents, we had to move them again, this time we tied the kayaks to the tents too. So here are the two Johns, the tents are tied together, the kayaks are tied to the tents, the lightning was getting worst, now the wind is picking up, Hay John, what are we going to do said John M., well says John S. we are going to stay low, very low, and throw these chair away from us, why says John M. So we don't get hit by lightning, says John S. At this time lightning was touching down into the water a distance away, and there was this huge, great black arch in the flashing night time sky. We were running out of dry tent space, but John S. was staying optimistic, the camp fire was still burning, it must be the highest part of the beach, John M Says, John we are running out of beach, not to worry says John S, the fire is still burning, when that fire goes out, then we can worry.

Suddenly, poof, the fire went out , the water came up from under the fire pit we made earlier, now we can worry, lets get to the tents now, OK lets go, now what says John M. well, we look for our wet suits and put them on, it was getting cold and rainy and windy and all the stuff that comes with a storm. John M got his wet suit on, he had a good one, I put mine on so fast that it ended on me backwards, so I could never get it all the way on.
   So in the tents we were, holding onto the tent door and also onto the two kayaks, everything tied together, at least we were together, not really knowing what's going on with the rest of the group. Everything was happening very fast, Suddenly  we felt something move, it was like a warm rolling feeling under us, the two Johns look at each other, and say, what do you think that was?, gee, I don't know, but I hope it was the wind John S. says, if it happens again, I don't think it to be the wind, its probably to be the water, now John M. is starting to get very sentimental, he said to me, Hay John, I just want you to know that you have been a very good friend, we have had really good times together, you helped make a difference in my life, I realized he was saying his last good bye, and I said we are not going to die.


John Messina, heading out to Cape Romano

In memory of John Messina

  just then, that rolling under the tent feeling came back again, along with stronger gust of wind and rain and I am like, yep, that's the water alright, we are most likely going to start to float away, so when it happens, just hold onto the kayaks, a few seconds later, the next rolling feeling and off the beach we went, we are now in the bay, we are now on our way.

Around this time we start thinking back on other trips I took with John Messina, one of the trips I talked him into going, he would say, John, I don't have any gear so I really don't want to go, and I would say, don't worry about it, I'll take care of you, after we got to the place we camped at, John M would say, hay John I need this and that and other things, after awhile, I gave in and said, John your on your own, which surprised him, I just kept saying, your on your own. Its one of those inside jokes 

So here we were again out in the bay with all our stuff floating away, we would see tents going by, gee, John M would say, I hope no one is in that there tent, and then he said to me, what are we going to do, and jokingly I said, John, your on your own, we laughed in the mist of this total disaster, I said, this is going to make a great painting, oh god there goes another tent, there goes a cooler, we were wondering where we were going so I wanted to look out the tent door, so we both worked up the tent door while holding onto the kayaks, just for a little peak, when swooowoosh the wind got into the tent, so now what was a barge is now a barge with a sail, and we are peeking our heads around to see what we are going to crash into, behold is the land directly behind, into the mangroves we are entering, the wind pushed us into the trees, when we landed, we helped pull our selves as deep as possible into the mangroves, not knowing what was going on and we didn't want to be swept out to sea with the next tide, so we got into those trees and tied down in there. It rained, thunder, lightning, wind, all that kind of stuff that goes along with a storm, I got so cold, hypothermia was setting in, I still couldn't get that darn wet suit on right, I could tell John M. was doing alright, Hay John M. we need to get to Marco Island, and call  the rescue or someone, and I need to get a hotel to get warm, that was the closest place around, that's where my head was at, John M. said we should wait here, but we were considering it, now we started to wonder what happened to the rest of the group. John M his heart would sink every time he saw something campy  float by.

 The storm started to pass, its finally stopped raining, I kept thinking of Marco Island, and a warm bedroom, then in the distance, I saw a light, a voice of someone calling out from the mist, Hello out there, is anyone out there, are you guys out there, it was that  muscle man Mark from South beach, Hello we called back, We are here, we are OK, but  John S. seems like he's getting hypothermia,  John S,  yells out, Hello, we need to go to Marco Island, NO, says the voice in the distance, I am coming to get you, OK, as Mark kayaks up to my rescue, take John first says John, thanks John, boy this John and John stuff sure can get confusing.
   Boy it sure was good to see that strong and handsome man, he picked me up and swept me from my feet out of  the cold waters and the thicket of the muddy mangroves, took me back to what was left of camp, where all the girls helped me to what was now called the brick tent, the only tent from the group that held up, they stripped me out of my wet clothing and gave me what only dry clothing that was left on the island, girls cloths, but I was grateful they put there warm bodies to mine to bring warmth and life back to me, they did the same for John M. when he arrived at the brick tent. We all stayed in that tent like sardines, back to butt, back to butt, I think it was like eight of us in a three man tent. But after all it was the brick tent. As life came back to our bodies we told the stories of our adventure over and over. Somehow, the sun has arisen, Mark light up a blazoning  camp fire, I was the first out of the tent to find the warmth, to become dry. The other John soon followed. So this is the two Johns version, an experience that  changed our lives for ever, to bring us all closer , only a memory away.

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