Surviving The Storm

boat in a storm

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami

I remember the day clearly. I was still in high school at the time, and my stepfather and I had taken our 25’ boat 32 miles off the coast of Galveston, TX, to a place called the Buccaneer rigs for some deep sea fishing. It was summer then, and the weather often unpredictable. But the forecast was clear and the water flat – a perfect day to venture offshore.

It’s a good 3 hour trip to the Buccaneer rigs, so when you go, you plan for the day. And at 32 miles out, you are far enough from the shore to make for difficult times if something were to go wrong. You always plan for the worst – plenty of fuel, food, water, extra batteries, life vests, satellite radio – all the things you might need if you ended up stranded or with engine problems. But that day things were going well. The engine was running as it should, the waves offshore at 3-4’ chop, and the sun was shining.

We made it to the rigs shortly after 9 am, and took in some trolling for amberjack and kingfish before the day got too hot. We had a few strikes early on, but only one Jack Crevalle made it to the boat. They are great fish to fight, but not so good to eat, so we let it go and motored up to the rig for some mid day snapper fishing. As my father edged us close to the structure, I took our 10’ stainless steel rig hook and latched us on. Then, we let the tide drag us until the rope was taught and we began dropping our lines.

For the first hour or so it was fantastic. We were getting several good hits and we found ourselves consumed with the task at hand. So consumed, in fact, that we hadn’t noticed the dark wall of clouds approaching from the West. We first noticed it when we felt the cold breeze that typically precedes one of these summer thunderstorms. Then, the sky turned black and the rain started. And in a matter of minutes, the wind had picked up with such an intensity we were scrambling to put away our gear and batten down the hatches.

And that’s when it happened. I looked up to see the rig we had been so closely tethered to nearly half a mile away. I scrambled to the front of the boat to pull up the dangling rig hook, only to discover it had been nearly straightened by the force of the wind. That’s when we knew we were in trouble. The waves were now swelling with ever greater intensity, and the boat was quickly being thrown about as the wind whipped into a frenzy. We weren’t going to ride this out – our only choice was to turn the boat into the storm and head as quickly as we could for shore.

By now the waves were 10-15’ in height, and the wind was screaming. The rain came down so hard it felt like rocks pelting our faces. The boat was moving as quickly as it could, but with every wave we hit it was with such force I thought I could hear the fiberglass cracking. Lightning struck on each side of the boat – not once, but in constant flashes. I was scared to death, and so was my stepfather.

We went on like this for what felt like days, although I suspect it was only hours. Slam, crack, pop. Waves overcoming the front of the boat and rolling over the back. I shook. I dreaded. I panicked. I prayed. I knew for sure this was the end, and there was no way I would make it out of this. But the only way to survive was to face the storm head on and muscle through it. And so we did.

Somewhere, somehow, and at some point the rain started to subside. It wasn’t all at once, but you could feel things were improving. You couldn’t quite see the shore or even the horizon, but you could tell the clouds were starting to ebb. We pushed forward until we found ourselves back in the safety of the bay with the harbor in sight.

The funny thing about life is it follows this same pattern. For the most part, its enjoyable. Things happen, yes, but the good often outweighs the bad, and the bad isn’t enough to set you back. Most days…

And then come the storms. They often come out of nowhere. Life seems to throw them at you when you are least expecting them. And I’m not talking about the little storms, I’m talking about the big ones. The ones that take the wind out of you. The storms that hit you to your core. The ones that you can’t overcome in a day, or a week, or sometimes in a month.

For whatever reason, I’ve seen friends hit by these personal storms lately, and I’ve even had to endure a few of my own. They aren’t fun, and at times it seems like the storm will never pass. But in fact it will. Not without pain and struggle, but if you push forward with determination, point towards the safety of the shore, and power through it, you will find your way to the safety of the harbor.

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