Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chasing Storms

Commercial Fisherman have the good sense not to chase storms, but sometimes are the prey.

I've been on a boat once, out of sight of land, at night, with a storm heading towards us. It wasn't a good feeling. I was fishing with my uncle back in the early 70s in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of St. Petersburg. We were on my grandfather's last boat, The Bluefish, which thankfully was also the fastest boat he built.

We saw a storm heading towards us and took off away from it. When we looked back it was heading in a new direction, the same as us and closer than before. We changed course a couple times before outrunning it and heading back to shore without ever putting the nets in the water.

Another Cortez family has a sad history of losing two family members to storms, seventy years apart.

John B. Kight, who was married to my grandmother Edith's first cousin, Mattie Wilson, drowned on January 11, 1918 when a freak Winter Tropical Storm hit south Florida. He was fishing off the coast of St. Petersburg. His body was recovered and he was buried in the Major Adams Cemetery in Bradenton.

His great nephew, Paul Stephen Kight was lost on November 5, 1988 when Tropical Storm Mitch struck the Key West area. Fourteen foot waves swamped the 39 foot "Kar Free" fishing boat he was on 68 miles offshore and Paul and another Cortez fisherman, Donald Atkins drowned. Atkins body was recovered several days later but Paul was never found.

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