Sunday, August 2, 2015


Growing up in Florida, especially on or near the water it is second nature for us to be on a boat. I was taught at a very early age how to drive a boat and how to navigate the water ways in the proper way. "Red right return" was something that went through my mind as I was learning to navigate through the channel markers. I learned also to use a compass to travel off shore to favorite fishing grounds and return home safely. Safety was part of the learning process and required before leaving the dock. We were required to know the boating rules and regulations and make sure our boat was equipped with everything needed. I must have been around 10 years old when my two sisters and I were given our first jon boat by our mom and dad to use on the Suwannee River and shore line of the Gulf of Mexico. Our little boat was powered by a Johnson 9.9 motor which we were taught to start, run and maintain. We had our tool box equipped with tools that would come in handy just in case and taught how to use these tools. I can remember being checked by FWC for safety equipment and always proud that we passed every inspection!

That little boat had many miles put on it from the river and Gulf of Mexico waters, but even more than those miles were many wonderful fun memories! As we got a little older daddy felt confident enough for us to take the "big" boat out by ourselves. Daddy taught us to water ski behind this same boat, fish off shore in the Gulf of Mexico, went scalloping and many other family outings on the Suwannee River and Gulf waters. I remember taking my friends up the Suwannee to visit Manatee Springs, water ski on the way back and stop along the way just to jump in and enjoy the cool fresh water. The first time I took the boat out into the Gulf of Mexico to go fishing I had such a feeling a pride knowing that I could do all of this on my own, and even better came home with fish to clean and cook! There is something to be said about going out on the boat throwing that line out and feeling a tug at the other end while learning to respect the waters, wildlife, fish and mammals that call the blue waters their home.

I cherish my childhood memories out on the water and wanted my children to experience the same.
Both of my children were out on the boat before they could walk and continue their love of boating and fishing to this day. I have vivid memories of my kids holding onto the T-Top frame while running off shore and could hardly wait to get their fishing line into the water first! It is a passion, it is a way of life, it is a gift that we as Floridians who have been blessed to live so close to so many fresh and salt water bodies of water love. My children learned just as I did how to respect the boat, learn how to navigate it safely and appreciate the gifts of Mother Nature.

Through all of these years of boating I have experienced firsthand some fierce storms. Before radar was available and affordable for everyday boaters we were taught to watch the weather and know the signs of the storms. It is never 100% predictable however, and on July 4th many years ago I was out Scalloping in the Gulf of Mexico out of Steinhatchee, FL when a storm came up just to our south. It was a very fast and furious storm moving quickly towards us. In the time it took us to get everyone back into the boat including my young son at the time, pull our anchor and head towards the dock the storm had consumed us and hundreds of others. We were able to make it back to the dock with only minor injuries from the rough seas and strong winds the storm kicked up, but there were 5 people killed in this storm. It is a hard reminder that Mother Nature deserves much respect. I remember holding on to Chris with every bit of strength I had, I knew that within a blink of my eye things could change for the worse for us. As soon as we reached the dock we turned to help others behind us dock their boat and get others onto shore safely. The search and rescue went on for days looking for all the boaters who were unaccounted for during this storm, a grim reminder that we are human and that the force of the winds and water are far more powerful than we.

As the mother of a son who has a passion for fishing, the last week has been heartbreaking for me watching the search for the two 14 year olds #findPerryandAustin out of Jupiter, FL. It started off as just another summer day for these two young men heading out to catch some fish just as they had so many other days before. I continue to pray for Perry and Austin, their family, friends and countless strangers who have given their time, equipment and money to search the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from Florida all the way up to North Carolina. I too would find every resource possible to search if it had been my son. 

We as a people can not judge or second guess others situations, because they are not our own. These boys had the skills to take their boat our fishing and from understanding their experience and knowledge had the correct equipment on board. Mother Nature does not take exceptions for anyone, we can just continue to hold out hope and keep Perry and Austin in our prayers for a safe return to their family and friends.