Sailing, Sailing, and a Boating Accident

Sailboats

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.

Sailboat

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.

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

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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