Water Spouts

Months ago, we had a “weather event” during a beach party.  I’ll start by saying that I still don’t quite understand the mechanics of what is actually going on here.

We were out at what we call Blister Beach.  It’s an uninhabited cay ~3miles out on the southside of Exuma.  It’s very isolated, and we come here a lot with dogs and kids.  This was to be a totally normal picnic in store. And yet…

Behold, the phenomenon of the water spout (and Jo…who is possibly the best natural-disaster model).


I wouldn’t know how to explain what happens inside a tornado.  We just don’t have them in my native California.  …But water spouts are essentially water tornadoes.

The surface of the ocean begins to violently rotate, while a fresh-water spout begins to descend from a spout in the clouds overhead.  (What? Right?)  If you are close by, as we were, a water spout will be accompanied by “frequent and dangerous lighting” according to the NOAA.  And yeah, that’s true.

We survived, but I can’t help but wonder about how people reacted to these before there was science.  Because even WITH science, there is not one single video in all of YouTube that explains water-spouts.*  I turned to OpenLibrary.org and found some old texts about this.  You can read this one, in its entirely, online. Now.

Sailors and seamen of old have explained water-spouts as sea serpents or dragons…or just a crazy AF weather formation that you don’t know how to respond to.  But one popular response for those at sea was to make the shape of a cross, using two black-hilted swords.  If you were European, you’d recite the Gospel of John.  My favorite strategy is to just shoot cannon balls at it.


(Our experience wasn’t quite so dramatic.)


And now let me share what WE did!  ***Keep reading to learn about what you’re supposed to do.***


According to my research, we did really bad survival things and are probably lucky to have survived.  (Welcome to Exuma!). As much as I googled, I couldn’t find advice for a situation specific to ours, so I pieced this together from various kayaking and boating sites:

  • Get to shore, if it’s safe.
  • Move away from the water’s edge (our dogs actually wanted to move further inland but we called them back to us.  Guess we should have followed their advice.)
  • If there are trees, avoid any trees that are standing alone.
  • Spread out from each other!  (This did not feel natural to us, so it might be the hardest to follow in the future.)
  • Crouch down with just your feet on the ground and become the smallest target possible.  Hang out near smaller trees.

I’ll also add that this was the *coldest* I have probably ever been in my life.  The rain that fell on us among the circling lighting was frigid!  We got so desperate we risked electrocution by jumping in the warm ocean between lightning bouts. So basically: I would grab any canvas or waterproof cover you can, and use it to protect yourself.

Anyway, we’re all obviously glad to have survived.

* Please.  I want to understand this phenomenon.