I Learned About Boating From This: Capsize, Rescue and Lessons Learned

I Learned About Boating From This: Capsize, Rescue and Lessons Learned
Rescuing capsized boaters
This boater’s quick action saved lives.
Tim Bower

I live overlooking Lake Owasso, north of St. Paul, Minnesota. One early-spring morning, it was sunny, bright and 55 degrees. I looked out and saw an aluminum fishing boat upside down, with two people sitting on the hull.

I knew that I had to swing into action to perform a rescue. Ice-out was only two weeks prior, and the ­water was cold—probably around 40 to 50 degrees F. I ran out to my boat lift and cranked down my 17 Sea Ray. I did not wait for the blower to operate. I just headed over to the upside-down boat at full speed. Mistake No. 1: An ­explosion would have meant that I would need rescuing.

I arrived to find an older couple trembling with cold. Here I made ­mistake No. 2: I did not give them life jackets. Cold water saps the ability to swim. Instead, I just had them transfer to my boat via the swim platform. I asked the gentleman if he wanted me to tow the boat over to the launch area. Here I made mistake No. 3: I agreed to the tow. I should have taken them to shore to warm up in their car and retrieved the boat later.

Read Next: Getting Back in the Boat

I idled back to the dock towing the boat. Here I made mistake No. 4: I fussed around with the ­gentleman to prepare the boat for reloading on their trailer rather than getting the couple to their car to warm up. The lady was shivering. Finally, I got the boat on the trailer and returned home.

All were safe at the end, with only loss of their fishing gear. In retrospect, I made another mistake: I failed to call 911 to get the sheriff out to assist. Their office is about a mile and a half away.

Peter Rhode
Roseville, Minnesota

[Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia. Hypothermia can be deadly, and warming a hypothermic person is the priority once they are out of the water. Dress for the water, not the weather, and don wool clothing and a hat when boating on cold water. —Ed.]

Wanted: Your Stories
Share your boating mistakes and mishaps so that your fellow boaters might learn from your experience. Send us your first-person accounts, including what went wrong, what you’d do differently, your name and your city, to [email protected] and use “ILAB” in the subject line. If your story is selected for publication, we’ll send you a $100 West Marine Gift Card!”

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