Oil Paintings of Florida


John Sterpe


Swept Away    page 2

The next day was more of the same. It was just about as perfect a day as you could ever want. I found more varieties of shells than I ever had before. We watched the pelicans feeding close to where we were swimming. We tried to identify the other birds that landed on the beach periodically. Mark and Dalia came over for dinner that night. We watched the moon rise again, then talked for hours around the campfire. There were more clouds this evening. They seemed to increase as the night progressed.
I was exhausted when I crawled into my tent around 10PM.
About 1a.m., I was awakened by light flashing behind me. It was lightning; I had to verify it, for some reason. When I stepped out of my tent, John M. was already up. The tide was full and was much higher than normal due to the full moon. The bayou was overflowing, the water
was almost in John's tent. The kayaks were halfway in the water. The back of John S's. tent was in the water. We woke him up to give him the good news. The creek that ran from the mangrove to halfway across the campsite was full of water. About this time, Harold and Mike emerged from their tent. Harold had the marine radio to his ear and was listening to it intently.

Before_the_storm_2.jpg (62018 bytes)

  Katie and Barbara were up by now. I moved my tent just above and parallel to Harold's. He had moved his earlier in the evening because he thought the wind might cause him a problem later. I secured everything very well. Rain always makes me anxious when I'm camping so I was
determined not to let this bother me. After all, the rain would soak into the sand readily and my tent didn't leak so what could go wrong?
 Katie and Barbara and the Johns moved their tents to higher ground. We moved the boats into the woods behind Harold's tent. Two of the boats were tied on each side of John M's. tent
We listened to the radio for a long time. Storm and tornado warnings had been issued for almost the entire Gulf Coast. While we stood looking into the sky, the storm moved 180 degrees. The lightning was flashing but there was no thunder. It looked as if it might go completely around
us. As the sound thunder became audible: that notion began to vanish. The thunder got even louder and the wind kicked up in a big way.
  A very familiar chain of events started happening. If you've lived in Florida for very long, you come to recognize the pattern. The rain started as I headed for my tent. The first big gust of wind flattened the tent. I fiddled with it for thirty or forty seconds before the rain really started coming down. Already soaked, I ducked into
Harold and Mike's tent. The hell with it, everything was in dry bags in my tent, anyway.
  I changed into a shirt that Mike gave me then sat and peered through the top of the tent door to see what was happening. Sleeping was out of the question because of my anxiety: I was watching as much out of boredom as anything. I could see the rain pouring down when the lightning flashed. I could just discern the other tents. Harold and I had spent a night like this before in Highlands Hammock (Halloween 1997). Squall after squall passed through that night. The tent didn't leak then: so I wasn't concerned about it now.
The wind and rain cranked up another notch as I looked out of the tent again. The next thing I saw I just couldn't believe. My tent was washing right in front of Harold's tent. It was not floating by, it was being washed away. I started to speak. I knew the words weren't going to come out normally. All I could think of was ," I'll never hear the end of this". I got it out anyway. " Oh, my God, there goes my tent".
As I said it, I unzipped the tent door and went chasing after it. What was I thinking?

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