At a party years ago I met a man who had the swarthy good looks of a pirate, complete with the red beard, blue eyes, and dangerous smile. I learned he had just been rescued after being shipwrecked and adrift at sea for three days. This was interesting, but I had been intrigued from the moment I laid eyes on him. He was a man’s man with a quiet capable air about him. And he couldn’t stop looking at me.

Our mutual attraction was instantaneous. From my cousin Keith, I learned his name was Walter. In retrospect it seems fitting that our first meeting involved water. Within a couple of hours of laying eyes on each other, we were swimming with other party-goers in a nearby Everglades drainage canal that had a strong current. It was too much for me and Walter reached out and with strong arms, grasped me and began swimming me back to a submerged rock in the middle of the canal on which we then stood together. Though we had barely exchanged first names, he very boldly anchored me close to his body as though he were claiming me as his own.

This mariner I met was an adventurer and a survivor. He was a simple man with no pretenses; he knew what he wanted and he went after it with a single-minded purpose. He was exciting and wonderful. We spent three years having fun off and on his boat, hunting fish with Hawaiian slings, and living in the Islands. And then we married.

Since then, our adventures with our three sons have become a source of entertainment for our friends and family, who are often more content to experience stormy seas and alligators from the safety and comfort of an overstuffed chair (and I can’t blame them).

I am not quite sure how I was lured from my own comfort zone into this life of kaleidoscopic thrills and chills, but I think it all began at that party nearly thirty years ago when Walter asked me a pointed and simple question. With casual chivalry, he knelt on one knee as I was sunning in a lounge chair and asked, “Are you married, engaged, or in love?” He looked steadily into my eyes as his mouth widened into an irresistible grin. And in that moment my life was changed forever.