Sailing, Sailing, and a Boating Accident


In my lifetime I’ve paddled, rowed, trolled, pontooned, canoed, and boated, but I’ve never gone sailing. It always looks so serene. (Or… maybe I don’t have a clue it’s really hard work, but the idea still appeals to me.) Wind-driven bliss.


These shots were taken during an outing with my son, including a stop at Slippery’s Tavern in Wabasha, MN featured in the movies “Grumpy Old Men” and “Grumpier Old Men.” Yup, there really is such a place.


Apparently the local Hot Rod Association was having an outing, too. This roadster was my favorite. :)


Hot Rods

Although the “new” Slippery’s doesn’t resemble the one in the movies, it was fun sitting on their waterfront veranda watching boats go by.

Slipperys Tavern veranda

Which reminds me… please be safe! You don’t want to end up at the bottom of the lake like I did.

(Say what?!)

When The Man Of Few Words and I first moved here, we were anxious to launch our newly-acquired (albeit ancient) boat for our first-ever outing on Lake Eufaula.  Bear in mind the lake is huge, it’s rife with obstacles — rocks, trees, etc. — plus it’s very deep at some points.

After a delightful day of fishing we headed for home (not fast, mind you — we had a teeny, tiny Evinrude.) We also weren’t wearing life jackets, being ol’ sea dogs ‘n’ all.

Did we have them on board? Yes. On? No.

Along came a wake from a cabin cruiser across the lake, slowly and as insidiously as “Jaws.” One minute I was hugging my hubby, the next I was underwater!

Besides the shock of realizing that I wasn’t in the boat anymore, there was disorientation to deal with. “Which way is up?!” Thankfully, I remembered the Jacques Cousteau shows I watched as a kid (funny the things that enter your mind when you’re drowning) and I did what his divers did: Follow the bubbles.

The force from the swell and physics involved swatted me out of the boat like a ping pong ball and catapulted me 20 feet under. (I know this because after I stopped spinning, it took 4 or 5 strong lunges to reach the surface.) Thank God I can swim.

Then I waited for Russ to come and get me — only he didn’t.

Unbeknownst to me, the steering cable had snapped and the throttle broke off in his hands. There he sat hundreds of yards away while I was treading water in the middle of a very large lake. (Which I can attest is nothing like treading water in a pool.)

After shouting and waving frantically at him to throw me the “floatie” — the floating seat cushion — he did, but it was a long way off. I started swimming toward it aware that I was smack dab in the middle of a “water traffic lane” without a colorful, buoyant flotation device to alert folks to my presence.

Basically, I was a sitting duck.

I swam faster.

By then, I was getting tired so I flipped over and back-stroked in the direction of my beloved and the boat hundreds of yards off. (Incredibly, I bumped into the “floatie” on the way there with my eyes closed and grabbed it like it was manna from heaven.) To me, it was.

When I finally reached the boat, Russ hauled me over the side and we quickly resolved the issue “why didn’t you come get me?!” (Never assume.) Then as we stared incredulously at each other wondering “what the hell just happened?” the pain of my injuries and hypothermia set in.

Prior to that I didn’t realize that my body hit the boat when I was pitched out. My entire left side was bruised and my ankle was swollen and throbbing. It was a miracle I could swim at all. The sun was also beginning to set and the temp was dropping rapidly.

Following a long, slow trip back to the landing several miles away with me shivering uncontrollably in a damp beach towel (which I wrapped part of around the broken throttle handle to keep from cutting my hand), Russ had to maneuver the boat motor between his legs. It was the only way he could steer.

Thankfully, we finally made it back to shore.

Moral of the story:  Wear a life jacket! Old sea dogs can learn new tricks, but we’ll never go out on the lake without wearing life jackets ever again!

Which brings me back to sailing. Have you tried it? Whatever your water craft preference is, be safe! It’s much less painful than being sorry.

Enjoying the prospect of wind-driven bliss with a life jacket,

~ Kim

20 thoughts on “Sailing, Sailing, and a Boating Accident

  1. Wow! I’m glad you’re okay…yes the water is beautiful but it is also dangerous! I had something similar happen when I was a kid. We were boating near our cabin in Northern Canada when the motor propeller hit an underwater rock. The motor flipped right over into the boat and my sister (4) and I (11) were thrown around in the boat. Luckily the motor didn’t hit my dad and we stayed in the boat but got banged up a bit.We were wearing life jackets but they weren’t done up.

    I have been sailing. River yachting on the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. It isn’t peaceful, well not the kind I did. It was a lot of work because we had a tiny yacht just large enough for our family. A lot of rope pulling and ducking and very little lounging in the sun :) And wayyyy too many rules!

    • Thank you for giving me your honest perspective on sailing. I suspected it wasn’t as “easy” as the movies made it seem. (LOL!) And oh my gosh (!!!)… your boating accident. It was bad enough getting thrown out of a boat — I can’t imagine the potential horror having a whirring, whizzing propeller comin’ at ya… very glad you survived to tell the tale!

  2. Dear Kimby,

    I like sailing and here in Sydney, one can charter sailboats and sail around the harbour with a group and a skipper so we can concentrate on drinking the champagne and tucking into the oysters :)

    • The view from the harbor must be magnificent — an exhilarating perspective, especially while drinking champagne! Thankfully my “adventure” didn’t divert me from enjoying boating and one day I really do hope to experience sailing. Thanks for the glimpse!

  3. My family used to have a catamaran when we lived in the tropics, and we used to spend a lot of time snorkelling on the great barrier reef. When the wind wasn’t too high and we were sailing (no motors at all) we used to jump off the front, float through the middle of the boat, and grab on to a floatation device on the end of a rope toed to the back of the boat. Then we’d haul ourselves in. Which was all well and good, until one time the wind picked up and it became harder to pull myself back in. And then the inevitable happened. my bikini bottoms started sliding off. I realised I coud either let go and catch my bikini, or the bottoms would come off and I’d have to haul myself back on to the boat bare-bummed. I chose to let go. Thankfully there were no steering issues and they were able to – eventually – turn around and come and grab me :)

    • Jas, I’ve only puddled in the ocean a time or two and it’s an entirely different set of parameters with swells and tides and undercurrents tugging at you. How frightening! I didn’t have to make “the decision” you did, but it’s evident you made the right decision. The only thing I lost was my glasses!

      • Yeah. Sitting in the open water waiting for them to come back was not the nicest experience, but I’m still convinced I made the right decision, given I was about 17 and a whole bunch of my friends were on the boat – I would have never lived it down :)

  4. AAA! So scary! Thank God you’re OK! I once thought I was going to drown as I was in the middle of a lake and had exhausted myself to the point all I could do was float on my back and gasp (I had swum to the middle, chasing after an inner tube that the wind had carried off, not realizing how far of a swim it might be to catch it). I really thought I might die. So I can imagine your panic and relief once you bumped into the life preserver! My friend brought me a floaty and I swear it saved my life!

    • Veronica, my conclusion about this whole incident was that it wasn’t my “time” yet… blessings kept me afloat! Sorry to hear about your scary adventure, too — glad you’re still here to tell the tale!

  5. I see sailboats and I imagine serene afternoons on the water, but boating isn’t for me. I know how to swim, but I really don’t like it and I get motion sick on elevators, not to mention in boats. I’ll just have to stick to the shore and watch the sails as they pass.

  6. Kim! I can’t even begin to express how scared I was as I read this!! I mean I know you and Russ are just fine, but to think of how close both of you came to a tragedy…in the blink of an eye…God was right there w/you!! xox

    • Ally, this was definitely one of those experiences that made me count my blessings. Thanks for your caring comment, xo. We are alive & well — and we know Who to thank!

    • Thanks, Sue Ann! Sounds like you’re reveling in that unhooked hiatus! Sometimes it takes stepping away to see how everything fits. Happy Summer. Happy Gardening. Happy Writing! Happy “Independence” Day!

  7. How awful. I’d be scarred for life from a boat after that incident. I’m glad your alive and well, minus the bruises. Have an Awesome 4th of July Kim.

    • Dawn, it’s like riding a bike (or a horse) — ya get back on and remember what NOT to do next time. I was a lil’ skittish the first couple of times back on the water, but now I’m like a dog hanging its head out the car window. More, more, faster, faster… WITH a life jacket. ;) Hope you have a great holiday, too!

    • Thinking about it now (5 years later), it does make for a humorous story, Isabelle, but at the time, it was damn scary! I’m glad it gave you the giggles — actually, I smiled as I wrote it, thinking about all the blessings I’ve been granted since then (that I would have missed due to my own stupidity, yikes…) Sometimes I’m a slow learner, ha! Perspective is everything. Hope you feel better, love!

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