“It was just about the most bizarre thing I have ever seen,” said Caroline Clark, who was tarpon fishing in the Pass on her boat, Witness. “He didn’t have any lights, and he was definitely struggling. It was getting pretty dark out. The poor guy obviously didn’t have any idea about the dangers of the area.”
The kayaker, who was fighting against outgoing tide in Boca Grande Pass, was lucky that Capt. Willie Mills was coming in from a fishing charter.
Mills was heading in with his customers on the Tracy Lynn, and managed to spot the struggling man.
“We were within 150 yards of him when we spotted him,” said Mills. “There wasn’t much light left, and he was really hard to see. We got him up on the boat and took him and the kayak back to the beach.”
The gentleman, who had been fishing off of the beach, lost his rod and reel (and a nice bonito) to a shark. He jumped in his kayak, hoping to retrieve his rig with a second rod and reel that he had with him.
That’s when things got hairy.
Chief C.W. Blosser, with the Boca Grande Fire Department, cautions against going out into the Pass in an unpowered craft.
“I, personally, would NOT do it,” he said. “It’s rough most of the time. We’ve had to go out there several times to rescue someone who was just exhausted. I’m glad that there was someone out there to save him.”
According to Mills, so was the kayaker.
“He was very happy to get back on the beach,” he said. “I’m just glad we found him. If it had been much darker, there is no way we would have seen him.”
Mills dropped the man off on Gasparilla Island.
“He was a very lucky man,” said Clark. “It was pretty horrifying. It makes you wonder how you can prevent things like this, but there are signs all over the beaches warning people. I’m still pretty amazed. I didn’t see any sign of a life jacket on the kayak with him.”
There is a long history of people underestimating the currents in Boca Grande Pass. All too often, the story ends in death. This time, fortunately, there was a happier ending.
If you ever find yourself caught in a current, whether in a kayak or swimming, you should either move at an angle to the current until you escape it, or float with the current until it dissipates. Fighting against a current, especially one as strong as the tide going through Boca Grande Pass, is a recipe for disaster.
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