Johnny Savage was just hours into another embarkment of fun and fishing out of Isla Mujeres, the famed Island of Women just off the Mexican coast of Cancun. He was mating for Capt. Eric Bingham on the private vessel Anhinga, a beautiful Jim Smith-built 56-footer. Seas were tailing and light, things looked as though it would be a smooth transition from Key West. The two had settled in with hopes of arriving before sunset. But things changed in an instant. Fear, frustration, isolation. Thoughts of suicide would dance in their minds, interrupted by their faith. The Anhinga had been hit by a strange wave that broke the vessel in half, sending her to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in an instant. The pair lived to tell about their ordeal and Savage has just released a book, “Lost in the Stream“, that goes into great detail of a mariner’s worst nightmare.
Resembling or suggesting isolation, dangerousness or uncontrollability.
The Anhinga had been hit by a “rogue wave”, a powerful force of nature where, seemingly out of nowhere, a larger swell hits an object – often causing severe or catastrophic damage. What happened to Savage and Bingham checked all the boxes of a catastrophe. Well, all but one box – the two lived to tell about their ordeal. It was back in1998, and the two were to leave the southernmost tip of Florida before sunrise in hopes of spending the entire trip in daylight. “Nothing ever happens during the day,” wrote Savage, then a 26-year-old full of piss and vinegar who was living a self-proclaimed ‘rock star life’. “Bars and partying at night, mating on million dollar yachts, fishing and surfing all over the world,” said Savage, now 50 and a safety compliance officer. It was going to be another such trip until Mother Nature threw a wrench into things, creating one of those serious “oh crap” moments. “It seemed to happen in an instant,” Savage said. “Everything was fine until we saw the wall of water.” Boat builders like Jim Smith take great pride in their vessels, with making them safe a major priority. But when Savage heard the sounds when the wave hit, he knew something was terribly wrong. Think of the sound when a tree splits during cutting. In the blink of an eye, the two were in the water – searching frantically for something to help them stay afloat. An empty cooler would do, at least for a while. Savage’s surfboard would prove invaluable. Then the strangest thing happened. “We both started saying the Lord’s Prayer, right out of nowhere. We hadn’t said the first thing to one another about faith and religion.” As items stored in the boat eventually started to float to the surface, Savage would get on his covered surfboard that earlier had risen in an effort to look for items that might help save the duo. Two of vast importance were the life raft and the emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB). Neither would be found and an approaching storm seemed to signal the pairs’ demise. Doom was in the air.
Complete trust or confidence in something or someone, most often associated with a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion.
At one point, Savage – now married to Samantha Savage with three children from previous marriages – pondered suicide. He would expel all of his air, slide off the surfboard and into the abyss. There, every attempt to breathe would fill his lungs with water until the soul left his body. It had to be, he figured, a better way to go than being eaten by a shark. But something strange tugged him out of the funk, engulfing him with the desire to live and help save his captain. Savage was raised in the pews of Blackwater Baptist Church and always possessed a certain amount of faith. This time, though, The Lord clearly had a stronghold. “He took me from being crushed by our situation to crying out for His Divine intervention. We wanted to be saved.” Just why, Savage didn’t know at the time. As his years mating and then becoming a successful charter fishing captain in his own right, the memories of that fateful day ate at him. “People started asking me to share the story. I spoke at church groups, schools, at the docks, anywhere. It was therapeutic.” His often tearful and gut-wrenching talks reached few – until another guiding hand from God. “Eric and I don’t want any glory from this,” Savage said. “But the Holy Spirit told me to tell my story. The biggest thing out of this is the way it’s touching people. It’s touching them in different ways.” He hopes his talks, and especially the book, will help with the turmoils of life we all are feeling these days. “If it saves one soul, it’s been worth it. I want to help give people hope to fight through whatever it is. No matter who I talk to or who reads the book, my audience is always going to be hope.”
“Lost in the Stream” is available on Amazon.
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