Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted August 12, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
Tarpon fishing with Captain Jeb

The Squall

by Sally Law


"Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in morning, sailor's warning."


Sanibel Island, off the western coast of Florida. Summer of 1989.

August was my family's usual vacation time before school started. Although extremely hot, we oftentimes chose the Florida coast to recreate.

This was our first trip to the white sands of Sanibel, which had many things to offer, including deep-sea tarpon fishing.

My husband, Jackson, had a birthday approaching and I thought a fishing trip would be a great way to relax and spend some quality family time.

I rummaged through a few flyers from our hotel check-in and made the call. Captain Jeb's Deep Sea Tours sounded perfect for our family of five. Our three sons were four years apart in age and loved to fish just like their dad.

I, however, was a certified landlubber. I could do just about anything for a short period of time, or so I thought.

Dear reader, always listen to that voice inside of you. You know the one I'm talking about. The voice that says, "don't go in there! Don't buy that humongous television or the ridiculous hat that a monkey will most certainly grab from your head!" That voice.

I heard the voice as soon as we boarded the small, ill-equipped fishing boat with our young sons in tow.

We took our places and strapped on our life jackets right away. I cuddled our youngest, Robert, on my lap.

The voice screamed when I continued to notice the lack of safety features, mainly overhead covering and extra floating devices. The sinking of the Titanic also came to mind.

Everyone was so excited--everyone except for me. The voice just wouldn't leave me alone.

We motored at slow speed until we reached the end of the harbor. As soon as we passed the last high-rise condominium, there it was: the blackest, most foreboding sky I had ever seen to the north; to the south, blue skies and sunshine.

We naturally headed south at full speed, skimming over the top of the choppy water and away from the approaching storm. Captain Jeb said we would most likely outrun it.

Our seafaring host turned on the sonar, searching for a place to drop our fishing lines. But it did not amuse for long as the electricity from the storm rode the waves with us. After twenty minutes, we still had the squall on our stern.

When I finally allowed myself to look behind, the clouds appeared as black fingers etched in red, creeping across the sky. It was going to grab us... I was certain of it.

The angry waves grew higher and higher, spilling into the boat as we began to rock and roll. Lightning bolts came down all around the small vessel, zapping the water.

I felt this was the end, so I'd formed a survival plan. I took off my belt and strapped five-year-old Robert to my waist. It was now raining so hard I could hardly see to do it, but I did. The temperature inside the storm was cold; and we all began to shiver, me more than anyone. The boys began to cry hysterically as the rain and wind pelted our flesh.

My eagle scout husband spoke loudly into my ear. "If we capsize, I'll take Alan and Michael; and you tread water with Robert. Just keep your heads above the water. I will come to you, Sal." I nodded in agreement.

My family was now huddled in a ball with Captain Jeb at the helm. Honestly, I think I went a little bit insane, trying to save my family from certain death. A lifejacket and a belt tied to my youngest son sounded so insufficient.

For some reason, a story from the Bible came to me, the one where Jesus was asleep in the boat and was awakened to calm the tempest. The disciples had responded much like I had, and thought for sure they were going to die.

After that, I prayed for my family to be spared, then hung my head over the edge, taking a moment to release the contents of my churning stomach. I felt better and continued to comfort my crying children.

But as fast as the storm came, it left; the black clouds blowing out to sea. It was blue and tranquil by the time we made it back to shore. I couldn't believe how quickly everything had changed, and the waters were peaceful once again, just like the story from the Bible.

One thing is for certain: when that internal voice speaks to me now, I listen. It's pretty accurate.

True Story Contest contest entry



Photo: Law family archives.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2024. Sally Law All rights reserved.
Sally Law has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.