When You Least Expect It

boat accident

Accidents happen. I didn’t expect it that day. It was a perfectly clear morning on the Chesapeake Bay. The water was smooth, like a mirror. We had been fishing earlier that morning. Had a great catch too! The boat reeked of bait and other fishy offal. Our friends were coming down later, around noon, to go boating and water skiing. We had to clean ship.

Somehow, after offloading our fishing gear and taking on brooms, brushes, and detergent buckets, and then traveling out away from shore a couple hundred yards, the gas line came loose from the engine. At once the smell of gasoline was thick and before we knew it the bottom of the boat had about an inch of gas sloshing around.

Just a couple of weeks before my good friend had gotten blown up in his boat. They didn’t know exactly how it happened. He just found himself and 2 crew floating in the water many yards away as the boat burned to the hull and sank. He received 2nd and 3rd degree burns.

With this in mind we managed to reconnect the gas line to the engine and began moving forward with the bilge plug open to flush out the gas. Yeah, I know, not ecologically sound. But at the time it was the best that we could think of. After a 1/4 mile or so the boat drained out and our speed had increased to take care of the last few pools in the bilge. During this time I went as far into the bow of the boat as I could to get away from the noxious fuel-air mixture. If an explosion blew up in the back, I didn’t want my body over the top of it.

The smooth whining of the engine suddenly stopped and the boat leaned forward and slowed down, down, down. Fast. “Ahhh!” came out of my mouth in another person’s voice. And off the bow I went, right in front of the oncoming propeller as the boat lurched on again with new vigor. The problem it seems was an air bubble or gap in the fuel stream that once passing restarted the engine anew.

Got out of that one by the skin of my teeth. I woke up under 12 feet of water and couldn’t see. Needed a breath. My sight started to clear and my dangling left arm had long stringy things hanging out of it. I saw some light in one direction and used my feet to paddle that way. It was the surface! I was alive. A quarter inch here or there, or second more, who knows?

The arm took internal and external stitches to fix the muscle and connective tissue damage but fortunately the prop didn’t cut any major nerves. The prop and motor transom also split the back of my head open on impact. That probably knocked me out under water. The doc stitched that up too and it seems like there is no long-term damage, though I might not want you to ask my friends that.

In many ways, every day from that point on are a blessing. That day might have been my last. It taught me: Hold on tight, Be really aware of your surroundings, Go for the gusto, be grateful for every second.

Holding on

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