In my last post, “I Know I Shouldn’t Say But,” I made mention that a short while back I fell out of my boat while fishing. In the comment section I was asked how it happened. That got me to thinking. Because I have several outdoor enthusiast who follow my blog, maybe it’s a good idea to relate what happened to me. A lesson could be learned.
I have only fallen out of a boat twice. Once many years ago while fishing with my brother-in-law and the other just a couple of months ago. I was a young twenty something the first time and had the help of my brother-in-law to get me and boat to a shoreline which was just a short distance away. And other than the initial embarrassment, a good laugh was had by all. In contrast, my last unintentional dip was at an old sixty-eight years of age, with no help to get me to a shoreline, and the shoreline was much further away. And a good laugh was the furthest thing from my mind.
I fish alone quite often. It’s not that I don’t have fishing buddies. I do. But I am one of those rare characters who enjoys his own company and the solitude that comes with it. This particular day I was fishing a local reservoir for smallmouth bass over a submerged ridge some 300 yards out on the water. Being late Autumn, there wasn’t a boat in sight. Anyway, I had just caught the biggest smallmouth of the year, which was well over four pounds, and I wanted a photo. Having a camera that has delayed shutter, I decided to move to the rear seat to pose with the fish and set the camera to take the photo on the front seat.
I own a mini 12 ft bassboat that is a little tipsy. For that reason whenever moving around in the boat I always hold onto a seat for balance. In this case, while moving from the front to the back seat, I had the fish in one hand and the camera in the other. For whatever reason I lost my balance, and by the time I dropped the fish and camera, the only thing I was able to grab was air. Over the side I went. Uprighting myself, I suddenly realized that my water-soaked clothes and heavy jacket were holding me under, and I needed air…now! In one desperate lunge I shoved my hands above water and immediately felt the upper edge of my boat. In one frantic jerk, I pulled my head above water. While gasping air I looked around. In my limited view of the surroundings I could see no boats. And there I was in the water, and, of course, my life jacket was in the center storage compartment in the boat which might as well have been on another planet for all the good it was doing me.
While deciding what to do next, a new fear filled me. My fingers that were desperately holding onto the side of the boat were losing their strength and their grip. And I knew that if I lost my hold on the boat my clothes would take me under, and I would never make it back to the surface again. Almost in a panic I began shuffling along the boat toward its rear. Once there I threw a leg over the whale tail fins on my outboard motor, threw myself up and wrapped my arms in a death grip around the motor. And I was not going to let go until someone found me or I drifted to a shoreline, which ever came first. It ended up being the latter. After over an hour and a half in the water, a slight breeze finally pushed me into a shoreline where I could slip off my outboard and onto the blessed bottom of shallow water.
Lesson learned? What in the hell ever made me think that a life jacket stored away in my boat would be of any help if I fell in? I mean, I have been fishing alone for some 30 years with this wonderful feeling of false security! Of course my reasons for not wearing my life jacket were simple. It is hot and it is cumbersome. One of my friends suggested purchasing an inflatable life jacket. They are light and easy to wear. But once I saw the price of $125.00, I said, no way. Is my life worth $125.00? Obviously my decision back then relfected that it was not.
The very next day I went to my local sporting goods store and purchased an inflatable life jacket, and wore it on every remaining fishing trip I made before the weather turned bad. And from now on I will never get in mine or anyone elses boat without it on. In closing, all I can say to those who enjoy getting out in a boat. For God’s sake, wear a life jacket. Especially if alone. Hey, with Christmas coming up, put an inflatable life jacket on your wish list. I am quite sure a loved one would be more than happy to put it under the tree. Bottom line, unlike me, please don’t learn this lesson the hard way. In my case, if I would not have found the edge of the boat with that one desperate grab from beneath the water, I would have became a lifeless body slowly sinking to the bottom. Very scary!