In The Lee of Hurricane Mathew
In The Lee of Mathew
The offshore winds, from the outer rings of Hurricane Mathew, were whipping the waves into a delightful lacy froth. It is unusual for gulf waves to breech the 5-foot range, but today they erupted in white spume upon the white sands of Bonita Springs Beach.
We had just finished dinner at “Doc’s,” a venerable beach bar that is iconic to the region. In season, you would have to park in Iowa and be parachuted in here, because of the competition for the few parking spaces available. It was a good time to sit in this airy and comfortably shaggy beach bar, on the Gulf of Mexico. Three couples from Sweden, with their young children, sat next to us. Listening to the plaintive squawk, from the blond little monsters, was amusing as we enjoyed the ocean and sandy tableau.
The high definition television above us flashed a continuous array of pictures from the Daytona area, where Hurricane Mathew was now visiting with vigor. All you can do is say a prayer for those in its path and hope that they found shelter. Southwest Florida was chock full of east Coast visitors these last few days. Many East Coast visitors were riding out the storm, in the relative calm and safety that we have here in the lee of the hurricane.
Afterwards, we sat on the beach and watched a delightful water ballet. A young wind surfer, who must have been possessed of considerable upper body strength, was sailing back and forth on his board. The thin rectangle of sailcloth stretched, at a forty-five degree angle, some fifty feet above his head. With deft maneuvers of his arms, he angled the highly-decorated and emerald green sailcloth, so that it caught the wind and propelled him at speeds of up to fifteen to twenty knots across the tops of the roiling green waters of the incoming tide. Back and forth into the headwinds, it was a lesson in the use of wind power that any sailor who has ever tacked into a head wind, to make way, would be impressed by. This lad could maneuver. On occasion, he would sail ten feet into the air, looking for all the world like the dare devil ski boarders from the Winter Olympics. His crash into the frothy sea was controlled and elegant to watch. Like birds in flight on a windy day, his movements appeared effortless.
The winds were brisk but even they could not forestall the debilitating effects of the 90-degree temperatures on the beach. Anyone sitting here for an hour today would be burned to a crisp. Those of us with fairer “irish skin” could only stay half that long.
The deeply pungent aroma of salt and iodine was pleasant to the senses and refreshing to the sinuses. And the ever-continuing array of waves, rolling inexorably onto the sandy shore, is a mental palliative. The hypnotic array of motion is relaxing and mesmerizing in its appeal.
Several of the younger set were rolling in the unusual surf, squealing as they were upended by the powerful surf. It is the endless appeal of summer and surf that captures anyone whop steps out onto a beach. We arose reluctantly and made our way to the car, catching one last glimpse of the roiling waves and breathing one last breath of the salty iodine spray. It was a lovely glimpse of nature’s benign power and a nice way to end the day. And for those left in Mathew’s path, we will say a prayer and hope that you are warm and safe from the ugly ferocity of a fickle Mother Nature.
Joseph Xavier Martin