A Sunset Cruise Engagement

By: Terry Gibson


Even after three-plus decades of fishing, my heart climbs into my throat every time I get ready for another boating and fishing adventure. This mix of excitement and anxiety is almost painful, especially when I have company along. But Monday night’s “fishing trip” brought that feeling to entirely new levels. I needed to land the most important catch of my life.

For nearly three years, Teresa Sepko and I have shared the helm through new and sometimes treacherous waters. Had I never met her, I know that this captain would have wound up high and dry on a sharp reef. Thanks in large part to her beauty, wisdom and companionship, we’ve been sailing along pretty smoothly on meaningful routes and on course for ever-more adventure. It was time—past time—to make the ultimate commitment.

Choosing the right ring is obviously a lot harder for an angler than picking the right fly or lure out of the tackle box. So I sought help. I’m fortunate to know a jeweler that I trust, and to have some close married lady friends to ask for advice. Choosing the ring could have been the hard part, but those great friends made my anxiety seem silly. (It still never went away.)

I thought that picking the waypoint in space and time to propose would be easier. Teresa loves to dive more than anything. There’s an old wreck in about 25 feet just north of the Jupiter Inlet. It usually holds sea turtles, goliath groupers and some permit on it--perfect witnesses in our book. My buddy Mike volunteered to put a treasure chest in it the night before then take us out the next morning. I really wanted to propose underwater. But between three hectic schedules, and a persistent groundswell, trip after trip was postponed. I didn’t want to propose to a seasick lady, and I worried enough about my shaking hands let alone trying to put a ring on her finger while bouncing up and down in the surge.

I was complaining about the weather etc. to my friend, Sharon, who gave me some pointed advice.

“Look Terry, you’ve waited long enough and I know you well enough to know that you procrastinate whenever you’re unsure of yourself. Just take her someplace nice and ask her.”

Teresa recently had some time off from the hospital. It was of course too rough to propose underwater. Maybe I should have waited until the weather cooperated, but that ring was burning a hole in my pocket so I thought about other venues. We are both native Floridians and we love this place more than all the many places we’ve traveled all over the world combined. When it hit me Monday afternoon, I was looking at a Highwayman painting in the downstairs bedroom. The Highwaymen were among the greatest of Florida landscape painters. No one captured and honored the beauty of the Treasure Coast as well as they did. We wish we could afford to collect more of them. The painting is a sunset scene of wetland to the west of the Indian River Lagoon, which is half a mile from our house in Jensen Beach. I walked outside and took note of the wild cloud formations forming to the west and realized that we would see a sunset so glorious that it would have inspired the Highwaymen to paint.

I suggested that we take our new puppy, Kuno, for his first boat ride. Teresa was game. I made up some nonsense about running out to get ice before I hooked the boat up, and went straight to the store for ice as well as a bottle of Pinot Grigio and a bottle of champagne. We launched about 6 pm. The pup loved it, and his exuberance put a huge smile on her face. Meanwhile, my heart pounded against my throat. I stopped in a cove where we often fish and told her I just wanted to watch for a second, see if anything was feeding, before we wet a line. She went to the bow with the pup, and Kuno promptly jumped overboard. Teresa retrieved him quickly, and I thought twice about tying the ring to his collar with some monofilament. Kuno passed out immediately after that anyway.

So I poured her a glass of wine and put sleeping Kuno in her lap where she sat behind the throttle. I asked her to take the helm while I retrieved my camera, muttering something about getting pictures of the pup while he’s still tiny and cute. I’d hidden the ring in my Pelican case, and was fumbling with the clasp on the tackle box where I’d hidden it, hoping she wouldn’t look back at what I was doing. When I finally got it open, I walked around the console, sat next to her, and heard myself blurting out something like, “I have a question to ask you.”

She said yes, and the diamonds sent sparks of fire across her finger in the sunset light. We watched the sun ball set through the cabbage palms along the lagoon’s west side, and pointed the bow toward the rest of our lives together. I promised her that we would renew our vows once per year underwater.

If you’re in the same “boat” as I was the last few weeks, I won’t be much help with ring selection. But I promise that you can’t go wrong popping the question while cruising a Florida waterway at sunset. Pick your spot, and inquire about boat rentals. Besides the Indian River Lagoon, some of my favorite include Pine Island Sound, Blue Cypress Lake, and just about anywhere along the St. Johns River Feel free to ask for other suggestions or for more specifics. Your bride and you will never forget that evening’s sunset.


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