Longboat Key – February 16, 2013
There is a problem when a seventeen foot kayak and a thousand-foot freighter are the only two boats in Tampa Bay and the problem is not with the freighter.
Wind rushed across the bay from the northwest, pushing up waves and sending all the little boats scurrying to their holes, but I wanted across that bay and the dark black clouds didn’t seem to have any teeth.
Sometimes you have to go stand on the edge, stand there and dangle your toes over it. It’s scary, but it makes the world feel big.
Just don’t slip over.
Three miles from shore, in six foot seas, I saw the wave. It loomed above the rest, steep and long, thick with water, rising up like a wall, and I knew it would sweep me off that edge.
I couldn’t outrun it, slip past it, or hide. I could only watch it come as blood drained out of my face and left me pale and frozen in time, the wave hanging over me for an eternity.
“Hold on,” I thought. “You’re going to flip. Stay calm.”
Then all thoughts fled as the top of the wave broke and rushed toward me. It sounded like fabric ripping apart.
I felt the boat sink low beneath me, dropping in a pool of gravity before rising sideways up the face, a sliver of yellow against a the blue-white sea. I leaned toward the foam, bracing against the water, feeling the boat slip out from under me, feeling gravity pull me down as the wave crashed over the top.
Chaos. Everything shoved sideways. Foam spilled around my waist and over the deck. The boat spun in the wake and shook off the water. I shoved myself upright somehow, bracing the paddle against the surface, clinging to that edge, fighting gravity, holding on by my fingernails in the middle of Tampa Bay.
An hour later I was across somehow, slipping into the inter-coastal, happy and alive, soaked through, watching the edge slide outward as it always does when you’ve sat there long enough for your world to expand.