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The Four

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As day was breaking, and we could still hear the birds singing their morning songs, we loaded all our gear in the Morgan 39 (power boat), ready to leave the dock. As we pulled away the morning songs gave way to the hum of the diesel engine....ah what a wonderful smell of the hint of diesel and salt air intertwined to start a relaxing day of offshore fishing.

Cruising through the mangrove lined channel, we are heading for the bay that leads us past the last hint of civilization, as we exit the pass for a 40 mile trip to the azure blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It is there that we will begin true rejuvenation of body and spirit as we reel in large groupers and snappers, enjoy a few cold ones, and begin concocting our great fishing tales of the day. 
Well, the cooler is full with the days catch, and it's time to head back to civilization. We have about a 2 1/2 hour trip back. Looks like a storm brewing about halfway between us and land. The weather report was very good for the day, as a good fisherman always checks the reports prior to venturing offshore. Storms are normal during the summer months in Southwest Florida, so with the favorable weather report, we are not overly concerned.

Wow....we are approaching the storm, by now very wide spread, and we see the water from the churning sea being blown sideways, maybe 40 to 50 knots! As we get closer we throttle back a little until we decide the direction of what looks to be a monster of a storm. To our good fortune the storm is headed out...and we are headed in, so not to much of a change in our heading. We are now in the thick of it, smashing into the giant waves, and then down hill to the next set! we are taking water over the bow down in between waves - four of us on board with plenty of skill to ride this one out.The waves seem to be 10 to 15 feet, and the wind is about 50 to 60 knots now! 
The front hatch cover has just ripped off completely and is sitting between the hatch and cabin!! This is a miracle - 60 knot winds and the hatch hasn't moved from it's resting place! The big problem here is the boat diving down the waves and taking water over the bow with an open hatch! Springing into action Captain Morgan (yep you guessed it....he built the boat) told me to take the wheel, at which point he makes the dangerous journey to the bow to save the hatch cover. While he is holding on for dear life and putting the hatch cover back in place, I direct my father and brother-n-law down below to hold the hatch cover from inside.

Captain Morgan has made it back to safety, and now we can stay afloat while we continue to ride out the storm as we head for shore. After about another 45 minutes the seas finally begin to subside, and we see the pass about 5 miles ahead! It was truly one of those times when there is no time for worry or being scared. If it has ever happened to you in any type of situation, then you know the feeling I am speaking of. We are back now and the local news and coastguard are reporting on the freak storm that came from the Atlantic, crossed the state in South Florida onward into the Gulf of Mexico, with 20 foot seas in which 24 plus boats were capsized. We just said WOW -we were in that. Our fish tales for this trip were pale in comparison to the monster storm tales.

Author of this article,
Gary Vanderpool
 
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