(This great story by a contributing author was quite an experience and one to reflect on for a long time. It’s amazing he survived.)
A Strong Wind was Blowing
I had met a guy named Erik and later learned that he had lost his job so I volunteered to take him fishing to help him put aside his problems for a little while. He suggested that we go to a lake close to where he grew up and that was familiar to him. We went to a small-secluded boat ramp, which had a long and narrow dock extending out to deep water.
After launching the boat it became clear how hard the wind was blowing. Trying to keep the boat still while worm fishing was impossible. I told him several times that he was welcome to trade places with me and run the trolling motor if he thought he could do a better job. He declined for about 2 hours and then asked if he could trade places. I showed him how to run the trolling motor, but after only a few minutes he gave up and said, “Let’s go home”. That sounded good to me especially since while trying to cast he had already hit me in the back of the head twice with a lead weighted bass jig. I motored back to the end of the long dock; he tied the bow of the boat to the dock, got out and went to the boat ramp. I got out, backed the boat trailer down into the water to load the boat and went back to the boat.
Here’s the rest of the Story
All of the above has set the stage for what Paul Harvey might say is “the rest of the story”. I untied the boat, placed it parallel to the dock, decided I would step into the boat and steady myself by the back of the boat seat. I leaned forward and started the motion of stepping in the boat. A very strong blast of wind came from behind me, which made me step faster than I had planned and at the same time blew the boat away from the dock. I WENT INTO THE WATER!
When I came up the wind was blowing the boat toward open water and probably toward China. I prayed “Lord, I need help”. In a millisecond I had to decide whether to safely swim the short distance back to the dock or swim after the boat. I swam as fast as I could after the boat and finally caught it. Then, I had to pull on the boat with one arm while swimming with the other arm. I finally made it back to the dock. I was exhausted! As I held to the dock, I slowly let my feet down and when they touched the bottom of the lake, the water level was just below my chin. By staying close to the dock I made it back to the boat trailer with the boat, loaded it on the trailer, drove the rig out of the water and finally sat down on the boat dock to rest. Erik said “I saw the big splash and yelled, Oh Lord, don’t let him drown”, and when he saw me come up, he said, “Oh, he popped up” Erik also said that he had a dry shirt and I was glad to put it on. While sitting in the sun I took a quick inventory and found that my hearing aids and my watch still worked and I still had my eyeglasses.
We didn’t talk much on the way home
We didn’t talk very much on the way back home except that Erik said, “The wind was blowing so hard that we really should not have gone out on the water”. I dropped Erik off, went home and backed my rig down the driveway. As I was getting out of the truck my wife came outside and said, “Where did you get that shirt?” I said, “We stopped at a flea market about halfway back and they almost gave this to me”. The shirt was faded and had seen better days. I could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t believe that story and that I would have to reveal the whole story to her quickly.
This experience prompted several things to consider as follows:
- Why didn’t we quit when we realized how hard the wind was blowing?
- If I hadn’t taken the life jacket off when I went after the trailer, I could not have swum fast enough to catch the boat.
- Not having the life jacket on, the possibility of drowning was very high.
- Since my heart rate was very high when I made it back to the dock, going after the boat could have been fatal.
- Was it time to sell the boat?
I’ll be reflecting on all that happened for quite some time. I did take immediate action and sold the boat. I’ve had 3 used boats since 1978 and after this happened I’m reminded of a saying concerning boat ownership, “The two happiest days of such is the day you buy a boat and the day you sell it”. Several months after the above happened, I noticed in the Birmingham News that the annual boat show was coming to the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center. It would not do any harm to just go down and look, would it?
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