Wear your life jackets

K

kfallscody

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Mar 23, 2009
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148
Location
Klamath Falls, OR
I know that most of us have our life jackets with us in our boats but very few of us actually wear them. I know I was one of them, figured I was quick enough to get it on if I ever needed to. I learned this past weekend that I was VERY wrong, a mistake I will never do again.

It was a lovely Saturday so my girlfriend, her son and myself all decide to go fishing. I had caught a nice sized trout out of Klamath Lake 2 weeks earlier and we wanted to go for another round of BBQ fodder.

I was launching at a place called Eagle ridge. The ridge sticks out like a finger into the lake roughly 2 miles long. We were going up the west side of the ridge in my 12' boat. The water was slightly choppy, since it was a little windy but not bad, certainly nothing that gave me any concern.

Well as we got closer to the point, the worse the waves got. It was at this point I had my GF put her life jacket on just in case. I ended up having to point into the waves for a few minutes, then point back towards shore since I didn't want to be that far away from the shore. As we got nearly to the point, white caps were all around and I was going into the waves as we are getting farther and farther from shore. I knew we needed to go back to the boat ramp as the waves were just too much for my little boat. I spotted what I thought was a good time to spin around. I pushed the tiller handle away from me to make the turn but just after I did so, a wave came over the rear port side putting a good deal of water in the boat. I reach for my bailing bucket and a second wave comes over and pulls the stern under water.

It was at this exact moment I realized I had no life jacket on. I said something like "f@$* we are sinking". My GF said "what?" and the boat started to roll. I reached for my life jacket but was unable to get it before the boat spun. As it spun my GF and her son were flung to the side thankfully. However the boat spun over smacking me in the back of my head, top of my shoulder and pushing me underwater. At that moment everything went brown and cloudy looking, as the water was quite cloudy. When I popped back up I could hear the boy screaming, GF nearly hyperventilating and waves crashing all around. They were both floating though, with their heads out of the water for all but the highest waves.

I realize at this point I won't be able to tread water for long with my clothes and shoes on. I grab the keel on the boat and try to pull myself up, only to have the boat flip over on me, making a complete 360 degree spin and ending upside down again. I try a few more times but the boat just wont stop spinning on me. At this moment I accept the fact that I could be dead soon. The thought of my GF and her son watching me die must have gave me more adrenaline because I found it easier to tread water again. I reached again for the keel, pulled myself up. As the boat started to spin I grabbed the edge and pulled as fast as I could and I was up on it.

Now that I was up on the boat, I remembered that you are better off staying with the boat. I call for my GF and her son to come to the boat. I first pull her son up on top, then her. At this point I realize that we are most likely going to be okay and the wind/waves are slowly pushing us to shore, which is about 300-400 yards away. Knowing there is a campground not to far away, we start yelling for help. After a few minutes of that, I know that nobody can hear us. The campground is on the other side of the ridge from us and unless somebody is driving up the road very slowly with the windows down, nobody will hear us. I look around for the waterproof box that has the air horns in it... it is floating away. It might as well be a mile away because there is no way I can get it.

Another round of large waves come and try to spin the boat. It is all I can do to keep it balanced upside down and hold onto my GF and her son. I am not sure about how much time it took but it seemed like forever. Fighting the boat as it wants to spin with every wave. At this point I hear a sound.. a magic sound I will never forget. It was the sound of a boat coming around the point. I wave my one arm, since I dare not let go with both arms and start screaming... he turns towards us.. he has spotted us.

Let me tell you, I don't know if I have ever seen anything as beautiful as that boat. He pulled up close to us but since the waves were so high, he couldn't get to close as the two boats would smash together. We needed the boy to get out first so I had to do one of the hardest things I've ever done. I grabbed him and we slid off the boat, my GF leaning opposite of us so the boat didn't spin on us. OF course doing so made her son start screaming again and panicing. I had to haul him to the other boat where the guy grabbed him and pulled him up and out of the water. Next was the GF so I swam around to the other side of my boat to hold the edge as she slid down and off it, so it wouldn't spin on her. She swam over to the guys boat but she was spent, couldn't pull herself up. The guy had to grab her under her armpits and drag her up into the boat.

Since they were both safe, I got back up on top of the boat. I am not about to give up on my boat yet, since I know I am probably safe. So I figure I can ride it to shore which is about 150 yards away now. I ask them if they can go get my stuff which is floating away. They grab one of my floating cushions and bring it back to me, just in case I need it and off they go to get the stuff. After what seemed like an eternity, I hear the sound of the top of my outboard scrapping rocks. I slide down and my feet hit ground. I flip the boat over and then realize I have nothing to bail with. It was not long after that, that they had returned with my cooler to bail the boat out with. I work hard to bail it out, all the while the water is smashing my boat against the rocks. I get all the water I can get out, then climb into the boat. They throw me a rope which I tie to the bow of my boat and off we go, to the boat ramp.

It was at this point I started to feel things again. I was cold, my body shaking. I can't remember what I reached for, but I reached to my left and felt a poke in my shoulder. I look down to see one of the 3" rapalas I had rigged up stuck into my shirt. I look myself over, see the other 3" rapala I had on the other pole stuck in my pantleg. I notice I am bleeding from both of my hands but nothing serious.

The whole time we are being towed back, I am thinking in my head.. why didn't I turn back earlier? As the "captain" I am responsible for everybody on board. My choices and actions put the people I care for most into this situation. The gravity of this... realizing I endangered both of their lives hit me hard and I cry for a while. I look up a while later to see the boat launch so I compose myself. I ask for the what was probably the 15th time if my GF and her son are okay, then coordinate how I am going to get to the dock. Once I am to the dock I tie the boat off and step onto the dock, glad to be alive. The other boat comes around to the other side of the dock, he throws me a line and I tie him off. They put the boy on the dock first, then my GF steps over. I finally accept, at that moment, that we are okay.

We start unloading all of my waterlogged crap out of his boat and putting it on the dock. They got my waterproof box that had my phone, camera and airhorns in it. A lot of good the airhorns did me in that box... I won't be making that mistake again. I throw the GF the truck keys(thank god they were still in my pocket) so she can get the heater going and heat both of them up. However before she can get there, a bunch of the people who were camping there come over and grab them both up and take them into their trailers.

I start to drag my stuff off of the dock and to the truck. I squat down to grab an armload and the other end of the rapala that was stuck in my pant leg, finds it's way into the back of my pants.. so I am stuck squatted down. Luckily it was just the pants, not the skin. I reach for my pocket knife.. nope, it's gone. I ask the guy who saved us for a knife, he hands me one and I cut myself free of both rapalas. I go about loading all the crap into the truck.

The friends of the guy who saved us show up to go out for the evening. That is why he was coming that way, to pick up his friends to head to the other side of the lake. Before he leaves, I told him I could never thank him enough. I shake his hand, gave him a hug and asked for his address. He asked why and I told him so I could pay him back somehow. He told me to not worry about it, that he has good karma now and any boater who would not do the same is a pretty bad person.

He gets in his boat with his friends, I untie them and watch as they back away, turn, then head off. Knowing that guy most likely saved our lives, I watch until they go around the point and vanish from my vision, skipping across the waves all the way.

I get the truck, back the trailer into the water and haul the boat out onto land. I pull the plug, and tilt the boat up to get 95% of the water that remained out. I tie the boat down for the trip home and then go find my GF and her son. My GF has on dry clothes, as does the boy. He is laughing as the ladies are tickling him and giving him candy.. he is fine. They offer me some clothes but I feel fine. There is no wind really and the sun is out warming me and drying me out. After talking for about half an hour we get in the truck and head off back home.

--Continued below---
 
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K

kfallscody

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Joined
Mar 23, 2009
Messages
148
Location
Klamath Falls, OR
Once I get home and jump in the shower, I notice bruises across my chest and stomach. I assume they are from the keel of the boat digging in as I was pulling my GF and her son up on top. As of now they are VERY dark blue and purple and extend nearly all the way across my chest and stomach. A small price to pay though and I much rather they be on me than either my GF or her son.

So the moral of this very long story is.. wear your life jackets!!! I won't be going on another boat without one on. I'll most likely get one of the auto/manual inflatable ones, so as to be less restrictive to movement. I will also have a whistle and air horn tied to the life jacket.

After it all, I figure I lost nearly a grand in equipment. Rods, reels, tackle, fish finder, gps, trolling motor battery. That is assuming both my trolling motor and outboard still work, that is yet to be tested. A small price to pay though for being alive.

So in closing, WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKETS. Do not count on your "cat like" reflexes to get the life jacket on. From the time that first wave put a bunch of water in the boat, to the next wave sinking the stern was less than 2 seconds. I doubt anybody can get their life jacket on in less than 2 seconds. PLEASE.. do not be like me.. do not be overly confident. Just wear the damn thing. If your life jacket is not comfortable enough to wear 100% of the time you are in a boat, get one that is.. PLEASE.
 
S

SNDSLGR

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Mar 21, 2009
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Pacific NW
Wow what a story!! Glad you are all ok, thats all that matters... all that other junk can be replaced!
 
Irishrover

Irishrover

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Kfalllscody,

Thank you for posting that event. There is no doubt how right you are. Glad all turned out without serious injury or loss of life.
 
M

mgdguy

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Oct 25, 2008
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Gresham, Oregon
WOW...if your retelling of that event doesn't hit home for each reader, I don't know what would :clap:

Hug that GF and boy, and tell him HE learned a life lesson as well - from your mistake. It's the first thing I do with my boys when they see daddy f*ck up - "See son, THIS is why do don't do *THIS* ;) :lol:

I'm glad your story had a happy ending :)
 
A

ArcticAmoeba

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Jun 5, 2008
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God. I'm glad you guys made it out fine. I have seen first hand, what can happen to those without the concious ability to think under pressure. The self-inflatable life vests are you best bet. They are comfortable, and easy to wear all day. Thanks for the heads up, and thanks for sharing your experience. They are not easy to re-tell.
 
Raincatcher

Raincatcher

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Safety first!

Safety first!

kfallscody;
Thank you for your breathtaking post. It is one of my greatest concerns and am so glad that you are all ok. :pray: :clap:
The only thing I feel the need to add is that the water is so cold right now that bank and wading fisher folk should also have a pfd on in case of slipping. Too many have slipped into the water and not come back to fish again.
Be safe.
Barb
 
P

PDXKush

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Apr 19, 2009
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NOPO
Glad you are safe bud. Safety First everyone.
 
S

Seon

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Mar 25, 2009
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Lake Camanche
You're one lucky man. 12' boat, 3 people on a windy day... well it's good to read that all of you are well. Good advice on the PFD, I wear mine always and this certainly enforces it.
 
D

Dweller

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Jun 4, 2008
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Beaverton, OR
I am very glad to hear everyone is ok. Thank you for posting this. I have thought to myself many times that I could just grab it if I needed it... this proves to me that I am wrong in that thinking and will always be wearing it from here on out.
 
M

Mokai

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Dec 19, 2006
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on the river
Wow, what an intense story. I am glad you all survived to fish another day..Thanks for your willingness to share your experience with us all...
 
K

kfallscody

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Mar 23, 2009
Messages
148
Location
Klamath Falls, OR
Thank you all for the kind words. The story is one I wish I never had to tell but I figure since everything ended fine, I needed to tell it. If just one person decides to wear their life jacket because of it, it is well worth it.

I spent about an hour and a half at one of the boat ramps earlier today talking to people. Asking if they wore their life jackets or if they just kept them in the boat. The ONLY people that actually wore them were people who were, I'd say, 40+ years old. Everybody younger just had them in the boat. They all said that they were good swimmers and didn't need them, or they could get them on before they needed them. I had to relay my story and let them know how I was just like them and am lucky to be here today. A few of them put on their life jackets, most of them shrugged it off and didn't take my advice.

I didn't want to come off as the crazy guy who is out to save everybody, just wanted to convey some hard learned knowledge. It is easy for all of us to over-estimate our skills and abilities. Putting on your life jacket in 2 seconds or less is not an ability most of us have though.

So take it for what it is worth.. a free story. I really do hope though that you all with think twice before just tossing the life jacket in the bottom of the boat and actually put it on. :)

Oh and before I go, I wanted to say that somebody found my fish finder floating in the lake nearly 24 hours after this incident. He brought it back to the boat ramp and asked everybody if they had lost a fish finder. Well the people that helped us remembered us and suggested it was probably mine so he left his phone number. My GF and myself went out there yesterday to return the clothes they let us borrow and I was given the number. I called him up and got it back and it still works! Hummingbird makes good products! :)

-Cody
 
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K

kfallscody

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Mar 23, 2009
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Klamath Falls, OR
Good, I hope more people do so. :) As I said above, if you can't wear your life jacket 100% of the time, get one that you can wear. I won't be having to worry about treading water in pants and shoes ever again, I can tell you that much! :)
 
K

kfallscody

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Mar 23, 2009
Messages
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Klamath Falls, OR
Not sure what it was but I am certainly very lucky. There is not a day that goes by that those events don't pop into my head. Nearly a year later I am armed with more comfortable life jackets and a new 19' boat. I know you can't take all of the risk out of boating but hopefully I took a big chunk of it away :).
 
G

GraphiteZen

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Mar 21, 2008
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Corvallis, Oregon
Wow. That is a very important story you told. You may feel you screwed up not heading in sooner but you did well with the events that became of it! You obviously learned a lesson that in the future will keep more than one person safer!
 
M

mosd

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Mar 17, 2009
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junction city, oregon
last week almost got a ticket for not having a fire extinguisher (cause my boat is over 16 foot and is motorized), type 4 throwable, and whistle. glad the OSP marine patrol was cool bout it but warned me for all three infractions it would have costed me over 500 bucks and reason i didn't have it all was that it was all in my other boat and at last min descided to go for a boat ride in the big boat, nexted day i deffantly had all that stuff...
 
C

Coastal

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Feb 1, 2010
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North Bend, Oregon
That is the only time I've actually got choked up reading something related to fishing! Ok, seriously, that really pulled on my emotions - I am thanking God everyone is safe after that extremely unfortunate experience.

I live on the Oregon coast and every year people die who are around the water (in boats, on jetties, on beaches, and so on), mainly because of underestimating the power of the ocean, and overestimating their abilities. I am particularly careful mainly due to stories like yours and others who are brave enough to recount what happened, showing how an unlikely scenario can be come deadly, and real, in seconds. Thank you for educating us.

I only have an inflatable raft, and use it for fishing the lakes and sloughs around here - but I wear a life jacket almost all the time when I'm by myself, and 100% of the time when I have my kids or other passengers with me - knowing that I may be in a position to rescue others, or be incapacitated myself. You just never can tell. Here's to being safe and alive!
 
K

kfallscody

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Mar 23, 2009
Messages
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Klamath Falls, OR
Good man! Let me tell you, until you try to tread water in full clothes(shirt, pants, shoes) in rough water.. you have no idea just how hard it is! I am a bit of gym junkie and consider myself to be in decent shape(lift and run a lot). I estimate I was almost exhausted from treading water in 5 minutes. The life jacket relieves you of this task to let you focus on everything else.

Had the boat actually sunk to the bottom instead of floating at the surface, I am not so sure I would be alive today. Luckily the bench seats in my little boat are full of foam so there really was no way it was going to the bottom.

I have to say I have ran this whole thing through my head at LEAST a few times a week for nearly a year. In all this time I have thought of many things I could have done different. I have done the "what if" thing to exhaustion and it all comes down to a few things. I didn't wear my damn life jacket for one.. had I just been wearing that the story I would have told would have been much less urgent. I didn't turn back soon enough and I overestimated my abilities and my small boat. There is no plate in my boat, was that way when I bought it but afterwards I looked online and most 12' boats have a weight limit of 400-550lbs. That is total weight.. people, gear, motor, etc. Well I weighed in at ~270 then just by myself, count my GF, her son and gear, we were pushing more like 700+lbs.. GROSSLY overloaded. That combined with the rough water... is no wonder that happened!

I will have to worry less about this soon though as we just purchased a 2009 Bayliner Discovery 195, a 19' play & fish boat which is MUCH larger and MUCH safer. Maybe I can learn to relax a bit on the water again.. and to enjoy it. Yes, I have gone fishing in boats since the accident but my mind is constantly on the what if.. and never on the fun or fishing.

So as usual I have rambled on too long. I will just say again what I have said several times... PLEASE.. wear your life jacket. That way you don't have to worry about any o this :)
 

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