MaroonedPeople might say I possess a restless spirit. “Always a’going,” as Osa Johnson remarked of her husband Martin in I Married Adventure, a book I read, re-read, and dreamed over as a hillbilly kid growing up in Oklahoma’s Cookson Hills.

For much of the year after I returned stateside in 1991 from deployment to Operation Desert Storm, the first war in the Gulf, I lived aboard my 17-foot sailboat Gandalf in The Anchorage harbor at Key West, Florida. One morning as I looked up into a clear blue sky, I felt the old urge to be “a’going.” Within the hour, Gandalf’s sails filled with a gentle breeze as I set out to explore the Caribbean.

I sailed throughout the rest of the day and through the night, navigating by the stars. Yesterday’s mild wind grew brisk with the arrival of a gray dawn. Dark clouds bunched into thunderheads on the eastern horizon. Lightning stabbed out of them while thunder rumbled. By noon Gandalf and I were cornered by a raging storm with no land in sight. Whitecaps slashed across Gandalf’s bow. I battened hatches to prevent raging seas from swamping the little boat, then roped myself to the helm to keep from being washed overboard. I hoped to find refuge somewhere in the Dry Tortugas before another nightfall.

To my great relief a patch of green and sand appeared unexpectedly on the horizon. A small island. Saved!

I maneuvered my sailboat to the lee side of the island, feeling a bit like Robinson Crusoe as I tossed out both bow anchors to ride Gandfalf into the wind. As nightfall threatened, I quickly inflated my rubber raft, stuffed survival gear into a waterproof bag, and rowed the raft ashore on heavy seas.


I trusted no cannibals were lurking on the island. So far, all I had seen were pelicans and gulls who were also seeking refuge from the storm. Squall lines of heavy rain threatened to engulf me within minutes. I realized I might be in deep trouble were this squall the leading edge of a hurricane. But in my travels, I had managed to survive other awkward and dangerous circumstances.

I scouted the sandy perimeter of the little island, then plowed into the underbrush to quickly erect a tarp as partial shelter. A nearby gull shrieked at me. I laughed and shrieked back at him.

In silence then, we two hunkered down to ride out the storm as buckets of rain poured down.

Charles W. Sasser is a professional writer and author of over 60 published books and thousands of magazine articles. His book Patton’s Panthers has been contracted by Hollywood for a major movie.