| GULFPORT, Fla.
GULFPORT, Fla. As Hurricane Hermine lashed out at Florida’s Gulf Coast, Maia Marksberry got as close as she could to the fury, gripping tightly to the side of a floating dock.
As blinding rain hammered down, and waves crashed over her, Marksberry reveled at the sight of jumping fish and stingrays.
"All the creatures were having a blast," said the 42-year-old longtime sailor, who feels most alive on the water. "We were just hanging onto the boat cleats like a bucking bronco."
Hermine carved a destructive path across Florida, with one feared dead as trees and powerlines toppled, then weakened to a tropical storm plowing toward the Atlantic Coast.
Sitting at the edge of Boca Ciega Bay in Gulfport, Florida, joined by a handful of people that she had just met at a bar's hurricane party, Marksberry had scores to settle with the sea.
In 2008, she was living along Galveston Bay in Texas when Hurricane Ike destroyed her home and everything in it.
She ended up homeless. Just within the last month, she got her own place again, moving to a small waterfront city in the Tampa Bay region that calls itself the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico.
"I had some peace to make with the Gulf last night," said Marksberry. Even though she has sailed into some powerful storms before, she said: "It was a wild night."
As Hermine blasted in, marking the first hurricane to hit Florida in 11 years, Marksberry's ex-boyfriend bashed his shin on the dock and left. But she stayed out, watching the waves bash an unmoored sailboat into a fishing pier.
Around midnight, as the storm neared landfall in northwest Florida, she left for bed so she could get enough sleep before leaving for work in the morning.
"I would have loved to stay all night," she said.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by David Gregorio)