by FrankenDuf 👻
An account of a man in stricken sailboat. 994 words
|I saw a boat on the river. It was only a glance as I was driving 50 miles per hour over a bridge on the way to the boat ramp to go for a paddle in my kayak. It just didn’t look right. I sped up a bit as the boat ramp turnoff was another mile up the road, but it doubled back a half mile to the ramp. I made quick work of getting the kayak in the river.
There was a lot more current than I expected so going up stream would require a great deal of work. I loved paddling in the Mills River. It snaked its way through a wooded area full of birds, an occasional alligator and Spanish moss lazily swaying in the breeze.
I would have called off my paddle with this much current, but it was only a half mile back to the bridge, and I wanted eyes on what it was I had seen.
Before the last bend, I could already see the bright white and dull black hull of the boat ahead of me. It was a sailboat. Its mast and lines tangled in the trees near the shore. The keel was missing, and the boat was bouncing a bit in the current as the water rushed through the now buoyant hull.
I paddled a bit upstream to get a better view. I could not see inside the companionway, so I called out. “Hello. Anyone in there?”
“Help. Oh my god, help,” called out a man from inside the vessel.
“Okay, okay,” I replied as I paddled to the stricken boat and the fast running current pushed me down stream. I powered back to the boat and grabbed the stainless steel railing on the back. As soon as I came to a stop, the water started cresting over my kayak and threatened to swamp me. I let go and paddled out and further upstream to get ahead of the sailboat and try to figure out what to do.
“Help,” he cried. “Help, I don’t know how much longer I can…”
“I am trying to get to you. Are you injured?”
“Yes, my leg. It might be broken.”
I needed help. I hadn’t passed any other boats or even seen a fisherman by the shore. I grabbed my phone in its dry case and was grateful to see that I had a few bars. I called 911 and told them where I was.
“I’ve called for help. I’m in a kayak and I am not sure if I can help you from here.”
I had never felt so helpless.
I paddled back up to the mast and saw a line that was in the water. Could I tie the kayak off and get to him? Would I flip the kayak? Would I cause the sailboat to take on more water? The questions were rapidly firing off in my head, and I had no answers. I wished help would get here soon.
“I need help, I am going to drown. I can’t hold myself up much longer. Help,” he cried.
“I called 911. Okay, I am going to try to get to you, but I might make the boat move and make things worse.”
“I will drown before they get here, so you’ve got to help me,” he said.
I could hear his desperation. What if I caused the boat to move and he drowns or do I wait for help to arrive and he drowns?
I was getting tired from paddling, so it was now or never. I made my way back to the mast and grabbed the line. I paddled up stream and worked to tie it to the back of the kayak. Before I could let the line out, the current spun me around and slammed my body into the mast. The force nearly knocked me over. My arm was sore, but I was okay.
“Hang on, I am coming,” I called out.
The cicadas were so loud and really getting on my nerves. I wanted to concentrate and all I could hear was that incessant screeching.
The bow of the kayak was bumping on the rear stainless railing. I needed to be closer. I turned back and retied the line, but this time I slowly let out the slack. I had to get the bow off the railing so I adjusted myself until it was free. The kayak quickly slid alongside of the boat and the water started coming in. I grabbed the railing and pulled myself out of one boat and onto another.
“I’m here,” I called out.
I fought to keep my footing on the boat and stuck my head into the companionway. The old man was laying on his side holding onto the lever of a side window trying to keep his head above the water as it pressed against him.
“Are you pinned?” I asked.
“No, but I can’t get up. My leg is hurting bad.”
“I’m coming in. You might go under if the boat shifts.”
“Just hurry, man.”
I swung my legs into the opening and dropped into the cabin. The water was nearly chest deep. I leaned forward and grabbed his shirt, then I hooked my arm under his. As I pulled him back, he cried out.
“Just go. Get me out of here.”
I pulled him along the side of the cabin to the doorway and got his feet under him. He grabbed the sides of the companionway and I helped push him upward, but he struggled to stand on his own. He held on to the wheel at the helm as I climbed out to help steady him.
I could hear the whine of a boat motor. I looked over my shoulder at the approaching rescue crew.
“This man was trapped and has an injured leg,” I said to the paramedic. As he climbed on board and began working, my fear finally subsided.