A busy summer’s end: Audible Available

2017 irma.JPGI’ve been crazy busy since hurricane Irma hit Florida.  I participated in the largest evacuation in history as the east coast, west coast and most of our state was threatened with the strongest recorded wind, peaking at 180 mph.  Facing a monster storm on the east coast, we fled with two cats and a dog in our single engine piper and flew to Helen, Georgia.  Although air traffic was busy, the highways were gridlocked and many friends took all night to arrive at our safe house in the mountains.  The east coast was spared as the cone shifted to the west coast with the initial landfall after the keys, Marco Island.

carlAfter making the best out of our spur of the moment evacuation trip, I flew out of Atlanta for a pre-planned trip to California.  I visited familiar places and found some new favorites. I bonded with my father, got to know my grandparents through photos, clipped newspaper articles and we visited their graves.  We had road trips and explored Palm Springs, San Juan Capistrano, Temecula, and then after dropping off my dad I spent a few nights in Santa Monica. While hiking in Topanga Canyon,  I noticed the mountains  were extremely dry and the memorable waterfall and flowing river nonexistent.  A week later devastating fires broke out in many parts of California.  Overall a fun, rewarding trip, but the homeless population is out of control.  That’s a subject for a separate blog post.

A few weeks later I arrived back in south Florida to my intact home housing hurricane evacuees, one couple with roof damage and mold issues and another from Key West with no job to return to and hoping to make money fishing in Broward County.  I welcomed our displaced family and went about getting back to normal.  Whatever that meant with my travel schedule.  Five weeks later they still reside at our home.irma

Business trips and writing schedules continued and at the end my audiobook is complete. It’s for sale on audible.com and iTunes.  Overall, I’m very impressed with Emma Lysy and her performance of Breakfast In Bimini.  If  you are not an audible member you can join at this link below and receive a complementary copy for free.

http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B076BM4KSW

If you are a audible member then send me your information including email and I can send you a promo code for a free download to my audiobook in exchange for an honest review. You can reach me at http://www.sierramichaels.com or comment in the section below.

Happy reading and I hope you enjoy the audio version of Breakfast In Bimini.  I think you’re enjoy the adventure!

audible

 

 

Hurricane Matthew and South Florida

Most of the United States has four seasons, while south Florida has three. A dry pleasant winter and spring, a hot humid summer and a windy season when most are experiencing the turn between summer and fall. Currently, we are at the height of hurricane season. The recent threat of hurricane Matthew awakened many Floridians to our susceptibility of location, the sub-tropics.  We keep our eye on the weather channel daily and plan accordingly.  A disturbance off of Africa or in the Caribbean may soon become a category 1 to 5 in our neighborhood.

When Matthew formed we were in the Bahamas, keeping our eye on the storm and dismissing any real threat until it arrived at our door.  We boarded up and left the small Bahamian island known as Bimini, and flew 50 miles west to Fort Lauderdale.  Within a few days the tropical disturbance turned into a category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour. Bimini and South Florida were in the cone of death, or more politely the cone of concern according to the local news channel.

hurricane-matthew-pic3As it tore though Haiti and the outer Bahamas we realized within 24 hours we were still in its direct path.

“Are we boarding up? Tomorrow should we bring out the shutters?” I asked as we analyzed the path of Matthew.

“Yes.”  My husband answered, “It doesn’t look good.”

hurricane_matthewA full day of preparations inside and outside as we gathered our crew for a safe haven during the hurricane.  It continued its path right towards Fort Lauderdale for a direct hit from the eye of the storm.  I started to doubt if we should stay for a cat 4, and they were forecasting it might increase to a category 5 by landfall.  I imagined our roof might blow off and our lives in danger in such high winds.  I was anxious.  I envisioned my small dog getting sucked out of a window and I made a mental note of where my snorkel, helmet and dive gear were located, just in case.

We watched constantly on the weather channel.  Then the hurricane jogged north as the cone of death followed its projected path.  Two hours out from a direct hit and it turned. Relief and cabin fever followed. We were lucky enough to have electric and movies available.  Our young helpers, twenty-somethings, entertained themselves by camping in an empty bedroom, playing board games by candle-light even though we never lost power.

The morning after seemed like a hurricane hangover.  No visible daylight through the hurricane shutters, no idea of time, exhaustion from the preparations, but we were spared from devastation. I’ll take that any day.  We again watched the weather channel.  The Space Coast and Jacksonville were now in the death cone.  Still a category 4, it was just cruising north, 30 miles off the coast of Florida.

hurricane-freeportMatthew came closest to Cape Canaveral, Jacksonville and eventually hit land just south of Charleston.  Many people were effected by this strong hurricane in Haiti, Cuba, Florida and the Bahamas.  Freeport, Nassau and Andros were the worst hit islands with no word yet from Andros.  I only hope for the best for our neighbors to the north and east.  I respect weather and I’ll never mess with mother nature, she is the ultimate one in charge.

Discovering the deep south. My neighborhood.

I’m a nomad, a vagabond at heart and my travel experience reflects this passion I have for culture.  About ten years ago I settled in South Florida, the place I currently call home.  It’s as far south as you can go in the U.S., yet it’s has a northern city feel at times with Miami and Fort Lauderdale dominating the east coast of Florida. A common saying is, “we are so far south it feels as if you’re in the north.” That’s culture wise, not weather related. Recently during an early morning jog, I felt like a stranger visiting my neighborhood, a sort of out-of-body experience as I noticed the sights and sounds reflecting a southern lifestyle.

This particular August morning was extremely steamy. The sun had not yet fully risen, so it wasn’t a double kick of intense solar heat.  The humidity just drenched me in sweat when I was strolling and preparing to run, as if a bucket of water gushed from my inner body through my pores.  My right hand constantly reaching up to wipe off the excess sweat while making my way to my starting point, the five-mile track surrounding the local general aviation airport.

The streets were eerily quiet.  No rush hour in this neighborhood.  I wondered if everyone was still sleeping until I saw a few teenagers walking to school.  They were also soundless with a slow sleepy gait among the few scattered students.  Crossing guards sporting bright yellow vests stood at the busier streets, holding up stop signs when the lights changed in order to help the children traverse safely.

“Good morning, Ma’am,” the older gentleman greeted me as I hurried past to my destination.

I smiled.  “Morning.”  I somehow forgot to add the good over the past decade, and made a mental note to actually emphasize the “good” prior to “morning” next time.  Perhaps the yogi in me shining through, I silently giggled.  Life is good, and I must say it during my greeting for now on.

I smelled bacon lingering through the neighborhood, a particularly strong smell for my vegetarian nose.  It was mixed with a slight sulfur smell of the nearby ocean and the dankness of humidity. I was jolted by the brief refreshing smell of Jasmine while passing a blooming bush.  I took a deep breath and grinned.

One corner in particular stood out as very southern, with a large Baptist church on one corner,oak tree a neighboring empty lot across with an associated church thrift store and a few pre-schools.  An abundance of empty land dedicated to church and the people they help.  Not really a sight you’d see in the city, but a community staple in the south.

 spiderOak, Banyan, Palm and Pine trees flanked large single story homes built in the fifty’s and sixty’s.  It was as if the trees weren’t sure if they were northern or southern with the palms and giant oaks living side-by-side. Banana spiders the size of the palm of my hand waited in complex webs spread between some of the trees. Its long black and yellow legs stretched out, flaunting a huge yellowish brown abdomen. I quivered at the thought of running into her web. Birds sang, crickets chirped a simultaneous rhythm while frogs croaked a deeper bellow, all creating quite the symphony.

fec railrway

I picked up my pace to a light jog. The Florida East Coast Railway hummed by with a clack, clack, clack, a squeal of the wheel flange scraping against the rail, and a long, loud tooooooot . Paralleling Dixie Highway, the almost forgotten railway system is a symbol of our industrial past.

Southern Florida is indeed a mix of north and south and I’ll take these southern roots any day as long as I have my northern comforts, occasionally slipping into a true love of everything the deep south has to offer, even the unbearable inescapable tropical, wet air.

The song from the movie, Singing in the Rain , flooded my blissful mind.   

Good Morning
Good Morning
We’ve talked the whole night through
Good Morning
Good Morning to you
Good Morning
Good Morning
It’s great to stay up late
Good Morning
Good Morning to you

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=J0j3-tmQLjg

Indigo UFO mystery

blue lightOn a warm, clear Florida evening while noshing kabob’s on the patio overlooking our canal, my husband and I, both pilots, noticed a few odd objects in the sky.

He pointed to the east, directly above the ocean. “Those two flashing white lights on that plane, isn’t normal.”  He paused for a kabob nibble, “It looks like the UFO I saw a few years ago while flying back from the Bahamas”

The white lights seemed to flash and hover as a distant projectile climbed while releasing a liquid spray. “What’s in front of the well-lit aircraft? Spewing blue liquid, like Windex?”  I pointed in the same direction. “It’s barely visible, but do you see it?”

My husband, Brad, and his sister sitting next to us at the table, both gazed to the east.  “It’s dumping something,” I insisted.

The sister squinted, also witnessing a spray.  We all watched the lights.  The dimmer object with a blue trail climbed into the into the darkening sky, the blinking white flashes faded.

Brad’s sibling motioned up, across the canal. “Is that the moon behind that cloud?”

A brightly lit cloud loomed above.  “I think so,” I nonchalantly answered.  Within a few minutes the cloud turned indigo blue.  Lower diaphanous, cotton-colored clouds passed below.

“I don’t think so,” My husband raised his voice and stood to examine  the mysterious, hypnotic blotch in the sky.  “It’s not moving like the other clouds.”  He turned toward the disappearing lights in the east, then back to the indigo glow.  We all reached for our iPad’s and iPhone’s to take pictures of the unidentified object.

His sister started tweeting and researching, I googled and posted on Facebook and my husband called the news station’s weather department.  We all chose our preferred means of communication.

My nineteen year old nephew ran though the back door, newly arriving home from work.  “Did you see the UFO?” He excitedly called out.

“Did Brad tell you?” I assumed.

“No, he’s on the phone. “I saw this blue cloud while driving home.  It looks like a Nebula.

“You watched too much star trek,” I unintentionally mumbled aloud.

He brought out his cell phone showing me his picture, comparing it to the ones we shot.  He was animated, talking Trekkie lingo. Brad’s sister called out locations of other tweets spotting a mysterious blue glow, ranging from Miami to Nantucket.  She then picked up a story on a possible rocket launch from Cape Canaveral.  Brad sent pictures to David Bernard, our local CBS weatherman.

A rocket launch would explain the strange lights and blue spray we saw, but what about the blue glowing non-moving cloud ?  We discussed the possible reasons.  Rocket fuel? After burners?  Did something go wrong, or blow up?  “Rocket’s never launch to the southeast,” Brad added with conviction.

The 11:00 news displayed his sister’s UFO picture from her tweet with acknowledgement.  They confirmed it was a military rocket launch from the cape in a joint effort with Australia for communication relating to Homeland Security.  Named the Delta IV.  My nephew insisted it had something to do with spying on the United States.  I sighed, internally laughing at his youth and imagination.

The following day we relayed the story to one of our employee’s and his response was, “Yeah, military launches always head to the southeast.”

“But what about the indigo glow?  Apparently the exhaust plume from the rocket formed a cloud of ice crystals 280,000 feet above the earth.  Which would explain why it seemed to loom over us.  Or so they say?

Continue reading

East coast flying

Weather can often be a problem flying  in Florida, especially during the summer.  So my husband and I patiently waited for afternoon thunderstorms to dissipate prior to departing for our 10 day trip across the eastern US coast in our Cessna 182.  A trip that would take us to the Carolina’s, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, and everywhere in-between and above these states.  As dangerous weather cleared and our deadline hour approached we decided it was a go for our first stop at Oak Island, a random destination.

As expected we were in the clouds in instrument conditions for about a half hour then a clear blue sky exposed its calm beauty and smooth air as a welcomed relief.  With hubby navigating with his new iPad and aviation applications and me flying, we decided to land in Hilton Head, North Carolina for the evening instead of  pressing on to Oak Island.  The sun was quickly setting and we didn’t want to risk landing at an unknown airport at night without prior arrangements.

Well rested, I eagerly set out for my morning run along a level hard sand beach that didn’t tilt or slide into the ocean.  My ankles and body thanked me.  I passed horseshoe crabs that screamed prehistoric ancestry as they drifted onshore lifeless and archaic looking.  What do these things look like when they’re  energetically exploring the ocean I wondered.  Are they ever really full of life or do they just look like colossal  roaches that scour the sea.  When I returned to my hotel ninety minutes later the beach swarmed with pale-colored mid-western teens and families celebrating  Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of summer in the U.S.

After a quick shower and chiding from my husband for my blissful long run we waved down a passing taxi to escape the mass migration into Hilton Head.  Heading in the opposite direction to Washington D.C. we stopped a small airport on the border of North Carolina and Virgina known as South Boston County or William Tuck where reasonable fuel prices endured. 

Upon landing I immediately sought out a  bathroom where I encountered the only structure at the airstrip, a worn down trailer flanking a self-service fuel tank. Hurrying into the dilapidated structure,  four older men stared at me. 

I pointed to the bathroom, “is this the ladies room?”

With widened eyes they answered in unison, “yes ma’am.”

Without touching anything  I swiftly relieved myself and returned to the entrance. 

“You fly in alone?” one of them asked.

“Nope. Me, my husband and dog.  We’re just stopping for fuel.”

After some small talk a lovely elderly pilot handed me a bowl of water for my pup.  I took pictures of the quaint landing strip and off we went to the D.C. area.  Weather was excellent and the controllers were amicable for once.  Upon landing I realized I’d left my cell phone at our last stop, Tuck airport.  I frequently called my phone and the listed number for the rural airport all weekend to no avail.  I knew it was sitting on the wooden porch attached to the trailer. In fact I had a picture of it on our iPad that my husband took of me and my pup in the country, it sat in the corner of the deck.  If only someone would answer my phone, I was lost without it.

A familiar Maryland countryside greeted us with winding roads, endless acres of farmland spotted with mansions, horses in the distance and an occasional deer crossed our path.  The lowering sun danced through Maple and Oak trees and I heard riffle shots in the distance that made me cringe.  In no time we were relaxing at the farm with family and canines, sipping wine and catching up.

Since it was Memorial Day weekend we decided to visit Gettysburg the following day.  At the ticket counter an Abe Lincoln look-alike described various tours. Choosing the self-guided auto tour we popped in a CD and followed marked signs and numbers.   

At the first stop a lady knocked on my window, “Are you doing the auto tour?”  she asked bending down to my level as I rolled down the window.

“Yes,” I answered while turning down the CD.

“Can we follow you, we’re sort of lost?”

“OK, but I’m not sure if we know what we’re doing,”  I answered, not wanting to be responsible for someone else’s historical experience.

“It’s got to better than our attempt,” she quickly muttered.

I smiled, increased the CD volume and listened to stop number one’s narration that lasted about ten minutes.  Within this time the family wanting to follow us left. I was slightly insulted and didn’t understand my unwelcome feeling.  Arriving at the second stop we realized that we unknowingly listened to the first stop at the entrance. The stranger must have concluded that we were more screwed up than her family’s auto tour venture.

The rest of the two-hour history lesson went as planned with an occasional error playing  the CD at the wrong stop.  We viewed ridges, valleys, thousands of statues and learned an important part of American history.  A well spent Memorial Day, although half the population in the vicinity evidently shared our unique idea.

Our trip included two high school graduations where my husband and I were the best dressed.  Apparently, jeans and shorts are the norm at graduations nowadays.  I still like dressing up for important events so in my mind everyone else was wrong in their too casual approach to such an unparelled achievement.  My phone was also found by another pilot and sent back to me during our stop in Ohio.

Our flight back to Florida included a harrowing yet rewarding flight over the Appalachian Mountains as we were squished between a low cloud layer and  mountain tops. I felt like a marshmallow in a S’more crammed between two graham crackers. We couldn’t climb above the clouds due to known icing conditions and a decent below our average altitude of 6,000 would’ve left us dangerously kissing terrain.  A bit of moderate turbulence enlivened our ride and over three hours later we arrived at a quaint island named, Oak.

Pumpkin Season

For me the first sign of fall is not a change in the weather, especially here in Florida, but the sudden ubiquitous appearance of pumpkin flavored and scented goods.  I had a pumpkin smash from Jamba Juice today and it was like drinking a pumpkin pie.  It was delicious, but far from the healthy drink I intended to buy for lunch.  Sure the orange squash itself  is full of vitamins, but the amount of sugar in their yogurt flavored smoothy outweighs any health benefit.   Oh, but the pure pleasure of drinking sweet pumpkin for lunch was blissful.

So why does the pumpkin represent the onset of fall?  And is pumpkin an all American vegetable?  It did originate in the “New World” and according to Archeologists variations of squash and pumpkins were cultivated along rivers and creek banks along with sunflowers and beans. This took place long before the emergence of maize.  Native Americans used the sweet flesh in numerous ways: roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried. They ate pumpkin seeds and these seeds were also used for medicine. The blossoms were added to stews. Dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour.

But the use of the pumpkin didn’t stop there.  The hard shells were cleaned and dried then used for bowls and storage containers.

Native Americans introduced this important food source to the Pilgrims since pumpkins stored well and lasted through the winter months.  The Pilgrims cut the top off  scooped the seeds out, and filled the cavity with honey, cream, eggs and spices. They then placed the top back on and buried it in the cooking fire. When it was blackened they lifted it from earth then scooped the contents out along with the cooked flesh of the shell.  It was like a custard and not too far off from my pumpkin smash from Jamba Juice, minus the extra sugar.

The pumpkin season seemed to arrive earlier this year along with new innovations in incorporating pumpkin into awkward places.  Take pumpkin peanuts for example.  Should a peanut taste like pumpkin or a peanut. What about pumpkin beer or coffee.  And the traditional pumpkin pancakes, bread, muffins,scones, ice cream, cookies and cheesecake.  Pumpkin shower gel and candles are abound at Bath & Body Works. I could get “pumpkined out ” before Thanksgiving even arrives.

Pumpkin pie is and always will be my favorite pie.  I’ll have another seasonal Jamba pumpkin smash, but I’ll skip all the other innovations and patiently wait for the pie on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

MAYDAY MAYDAY

 Here’s a short story I recently wrote.

“MAYDAY, MAYDAY.  We need to talk.” My husband said while frantically switching radio frequencies between Miami Departure and Miami Center, trying to reach anyone as our altitude decreased. I was concentrating on flying the airplane, but at 1200 feet we would impact the water within minutes.  We lost our engine at 4500 feet and after setting the best glide speed at 75 knots I tried to restart the engine.  I checked the magnetos, fuel selector, and fuel pump.  Nothing but eerie silence filled the air. “Fly the airplane, you can do it” I said faintly to myself.  Talking to air traffic control was my least concern but a very real one for my husband, Luke.  He was solely concentrating on how we were going to be rescued, while I was focused on surviving the crash into the Atlantic Ocean. I frantically reviewed everything on my checklist again and prepared for the ditch.

My husband made one last feeble attempt to reach Miami, “MAYDAY, MAYDAY.  This is 8547 Whiskey going down fifteen miles northwest of Bimini.  MAYDAY.” Luke released control of the radio.  He reached for a life vest and placed it around my neck and then secured one around his own. “I love you baby,” he said with sincerity.

“Me too.”

My mantra was “just pretend like your landing on a runway,” over and over I tried to convince myself—as Luke was counting down our altitude. “Fifty feet to go.  Hold on.”

I stalled the airplane just a few feet above the water for a hard but upright landing.  I already had the door unlatched so I immediately released my seatbelt then swung the door open.  I glanced over at Luke who was right behind me with our red life raft in his right hand.  My leap into the ocean was filled with relief that we landed safely.

I pulled the cord on my life jacket and started kicking my legs as we bobbed around in the vast Gulf Stream struggling to release the life raft. It was caught in the door. As we worked to get the raft untangled I noticed blood streaming from a gash at my husband’s temple.  Not wanting to alarm him, I stayed silent. Not only could his injury be more serious than it looked, it could also attract sharks.  In the Gulf Stream there are several types of sharks including the deadly Oceanic White Tip Shark.   Thoughts of the wreck of the Indianapolis crossed my mind, one of the most gruesome shark encounters mankind has witnessed.

Luke freed the raft from the wreckage as I watched him. “How are we doing on getting the raft opened?” I asked with a slightly shaky voice.  “Do you need help?” Luke was still struggling with the raft as his blood dripped into the water.  “Honey, what can I do?”

He grunted.  “I got it. But, I think…I think it might have a tear in it.”  The raft slowly unraveled.  The sides expanded as the middle sank.

I looked over at our Cessna and saw only the tip of the tail above water.  “There goes the plane,” I mumbled. The ocean’s expanse seemed more vast and looking over my husband’s shoulder so did the fin I saw coming towards us.

“Sweets jump into the raft, NOW!”  He hesitated afraid to lose the buoyancy of the raft.  “Honey a shark is heading towards us.  Now please.”  I jumped onto the side of the raft and Luke dove onto the other side.  Our bodies were out of the water but we didn’t know if the raft was going to hold us. 

A ten foot shark slowly circled the raft. “That’s a White Tip,” Luke said with conviction as he moved closer to the inside of our inflatable boat.  Our raft resembled a donut. The sides were completely inflated with a big hole in the center.  Blood from my husband’s head continuously dripped into the Gulf Stream.

“Sweets.  Why don’t you lie on your back and let your head rest.”  I said, hoping that his blood would coagulate.  “You’re bleeding a little.”

“A White Tip is about to bump us and you want me to lay down.”

I shimmied out of my shirt and gave it to him.  “At least put this over your head,” I said as I leaned over and handed him my shirt.  He balanced himself with his legs and one arm while tying the cloth around his head.

I looked at the donut hole and noticed only an inch or so of water covered the bottom of the raft.  “So should I lean inward if we get bumped?” I asked as I tilted into the raft.

“HOLD ON,” he shouted.  I hugged the boat like an infant being taken from its mother.  My body completely enveloped the rounded edge of the raft.  The bump felt like a strong push, not enough to dislodge me into the water.  My husband apparently did the same.  I relaxed my grip, and for the first time since the accident smiled at Luke.

He grinned back.  “Why are you smiling?” 

“Because we are still both on the raft; we are still alive—and I think we are going to live through this.”  He looked around for the shark’s fin.  I wondered, “Do you think ATC heard our Mayday?”

His grasp on the boat relaxed a bit as he took turns looking at me and the ocean.  “It’s possible that they heard us and we didn’t hear them.  Hell anything’s possible right now.  We filed a flight plan and notified customs.  They should know we are missing by now or at least in the next few hours.”  I noticed his face turn grim again.  “The shark is back.”

“Did he bring friends,” I said trying to make light of our situation.  “The hole in the bottom of the boat is not that big, should we try and sit inside?” I inquired.

His eyes followed the fin in the distance.  He quickly glanced at the center of the boat then back into the water. “It’s too risky.  Oceanic White Tip’s are known for attacking from the bottom and it could easily bite through the thin rubber layer.”  He glimpsed at the donut hole again then at me.  “And our weight could increase the water flow.”  His eyes darted around looking for the shark as I noticed his grip on the raft tighten.  The concern in his eyes made me tense and copy him. 

I scanned the Atlantic Ocean and noticed its deep violet color radiating light with the reflection of the sinking sun.  The waves were gentle and peaceful allowing me to relax my body and mind.  I closed my eyes and tried to pretend like I was on my raft in the pool when I realized I was thirsty as I tasted the salty air.  Dried salt water left a sticky residue over every inch of my body and stiffened my clothes. I suddenly craved fresh water.  A craving I realized I couldn’t satisfy.  Trying to forget about my thirst, I looked around the ocean again for any signs of the shark or life in general.  A flying fish whizzed by just feet above the water.  I smiled and my lips cracked with dryness.

I turned to my husband, “Sweets, why don’t you relax a bit and rest your head.  I don’t see the shark.”

“That concerns me even more,” he said as he repositioned my shirt on his head.  “Is my head still bleeding?” he asked.

I couldn’t tell with the dark brown color of the shirt so I suggested, “why don’t you dip it in the salt water and put it back on your head.  Salt water heals.  That’s the best thing right now along with you resting.” 

Luke rinsed the shirt in the center of the boat, wrung it out and tied it back on his head. He placed his head down facing me and sighed. “You know with the wind direction we won’t hit land, not in the Gulf Stream… not until Africa.”

I grinned.  “I’ve always wanted to revisit Africa. Did you figure out how to turn salt water into fresh water yet?” I said sarcastically.  “And I can learn to like fish.  You’re such a great fisherman; I know you can provide for us.”  He snorted.  “Seriously, rest your eyes and we’ll take turns looking for the shark.  Just lean inwards in case we get bumped.”

I continued to scan the vast ocean for any signs of life, staying alert for sharks and even for possible vessels in the distance.  I let my feet dangle but I still had a firm grip on the raft.  I tried to stay positive but thoughts of dying in the ocean crossed my mind.  Thoughts of sharks, dehydration and starvation, drowning and losing my partner forced their way in as I determinedly pushed them back out.  I’m a survivor I reminded myself.  I pictured Luke and I back home having a beer at the end of the day and concentrated on good thoughts of a long life together.

The sun was lower in the sky and I figured we had a good hour left of sunlight.  A Marlin jumped in the distance and I was awed with its beauty.  I was getting tired but I refused to close my eyes.  Luke had to rest with his injury, not me.  If only I had an energy drink, I thought. 

The quietness had developed a slight buzz in the background, an unnatural sound of a distant engine.  The sound was moving closer so I called out to my husband. “Honey, are you awake?  Luke, I hear an engine.”  He lifted his head and looked around.  I followed his gaze.

“It’s a helicopter!  I can tell by the sound.”  We both stared at the sky straining to see what was creating the noise. As the buzz became louder and I could recognize the distinct hum of the blades spinning.  A black dot on the horizon quickly came into view.  I sat upright and began waving.  Luke did the same.  “It’s a J-Hawk,” he called out with enthusiasm.  “That’s what the coast guard uses.”

“Do we have a flare?” I asked.  Already knowing the answer would be no—Luke didn’t bother to answer.  I fumbled around in the side pocket of my khaki’s for a small mirror that I usually carry on me.  I pulled it out and faced it towards the sun in hopes of creating a reflection.  Luke continued to wave his arms as I flashed the mirror. 

The crew of the J-Hawk were in sight, with one wearing a mask and snorkel.  A basket was lowered to our raft.  Luke grabbed it and lifted a VHF radio while continuing to hold on waiting for instructions.

“Captain, this is Coast Guard.  We are unable to follow normal procedure and send a man in to help you. We are watching a large White Tip circling your life raft. It’s too dangerous for our rescue swimmer to jump into the water.  I’m going to need you to follow my instructions very carefully.”

“I’m ready,” Luke shot back.

“We can only take one at a time.”  The voice said from the VHF.  “It’s best if you help the female into the basket, then we will send it back down for you.”

“Come here baby.”  Luke called out.  “Crawl along the outside of the raft.”  I inched along the border as he grabbed me and helped me into the basket. 

I sat in the basket looking down into the ocean.  The blades from the chopper were spraying my husband and the shark was aggressively closing in on him.  “Hold on baby,” I shouted.  “He might bump again.”

Within minutes I was safely in the helicopter and the basket was lowered back down to pick up Luke.  I suddenly realized I was topless as one of the men put a blanket around me.  I squeaked out a thank you and focused on Luke.  “He’s injured and might need a hospital.”  I held my breath then glanced down and saw my husband on his way up.  The shark was still circling.

I threw my arms around my husband as the Coast Guard helped him into the aircraft.  They removed my shirt from his head to look at his injuries and began first aid.  “Let’s go to Jackson Memorial,” I heard one of them say. 

“How did you find us?” Luke asked. 

“We were on a routine patrol mission looking for human traffickers and drug runners when we got a call to be aware of a small plane that went down off of Bimini.”

“So I guess they heard my Mayday,” Luke said with satisfaction.

book two excerpt. Bimini

I have a question for readers and writers alike.  I’m beginning my second book which spans several time periods and locations.  It starts in first person, but most of the book will be in the third person.  I’m thinking about putting it all into third person.  Any thoughts about the two?  Below is an excerpt in first person of my second book, unedited.  I’m sure it will change by the time I’m finished.  Any feedback is appreciated.

 

I ordered big fluffy pancakes and Luke opted for an omelet with cheese, a side of bacon and hash browns. Luke is over six feet tall with a muscular frame so he can afford a large meal.  On the other hand, I have a small frame and the pancakes would just sit in my belly for the rest of the day.  I would probably only make it through one of the pancakes, especially since I didn’t run this morning.

“Service in the Bahamas is slow,” he said gazing into my eyes.

“Can we walk along the beach while waiting,” I implored. 

“Sure.”  He signaled the waitress to let her know of our plans to return in a half hour.

We strolled hand in hand around the marina admiring the crystal clear turquoise water.  Jellyfish pulsated in unison as they clustered in small groups.  They were transparent pink with design similar to a four-leaf clover in the center, except more rounded than clover-like.  Some floated upside down exposing their tentacles while taking in salt water to the rhythm of a heartbeat.  So gracious.  A long Barracuda swam through the jellies.  Completely opposite the jellyfish’s grace, the Barracuda was clumsy and vicious looking.  His smile exposed his big teeth as he seemed to stare at me.

“That Barracuda is staring at me,” I said as I gawked back.

“It’s harmless.  The locals here eat them.”

“Yuck.”

We crossed over to the beach and I immediately started looking for shells, a collection hobby of mine.  Most of them were just pieces of shells, but I still rummaged through hoping to find a nice souvenir from our morning stop in Bimini.  The wind was lightly blowing from the southwest. As I was searching I stumbled upon a wooden statue.  It stood about two feet tall and was very primitive looking.  It was in good shape with only a few small barnacles clinging to the crevices in the statue.  It obviously had landed in Bimini from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

I ran over to Luke standing near the rocks jetting into the sea.

“Look what I found,” I said, keyed up and slightly out of breath as I held up the statue.

His eyes widened. “Wow.  That’s quite the find.”

I handed him the statue.  “Where do you think it came from?”  I asked, curious about his reply.

“Well it’s a southwest wind.  So perhaps Cuba.”

I took the statue back to examine.  “It doesn’t look Cuban.  Look at the eyes and nose.  The features are more African.”  I tilted the statue forward towards Luke.  “And there’s a large hole at the base of his head.  Like it was attached to something.”

He glanced at the top of the statue.  “Perhaps it was part of a ship or something.”  He smiled.  “You’re the archaeologist.  Research it.”

I lightly kissed him on the lips. “Do you think breakfast is ready yet?”

“Let’s find out,” He grabbed my hand and I proudly carried the statue back to the restaurant.