When Your Boat Starts to Sink

by Russ Hill on August 15, 2013

The clouds appeared to be thinning and the lightning seemed to have stopped.

The teenagers who had just unloaded from the SUVs pointed to the improving weather in their lobbying for heading to the water.

I hesitated but told them I’d drive down to the ramp and see if the lake had calmed down enough for me to launch my boat.  The water certainly wasn’t glass but the white caps were gone.

So, I backed the trailer into the water and we headed out for a little fun before the sun finished setting.

My boat wasn’t the only one our group launched.  We had two in order to handle all the teenagers who had come on this church youth trip to one of Arizona’s largest lakes.

The boys strapped on the wakeboard boots and tried to stay up in the bumpy water.  The girls took turns clutching the handles of a tube behind the other boat.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying the relaxing summer evening.

Gradually, our boats headed further out into the lake.  The wind started to get stronger.  And the waves got bigger.

I’ve learned through hard experience how damaging the wind can be to watercraft.  The loss of my first boat in a violent storm taught me to respect and even fear the elements.

As the wind strengthened I decided we needed to get to land.  I turned the boat back toward the area we had come from when suddenly water began to pour over the bow of the boat.  I accelerated slightly but the rollers were taller than the bow.  A few waves crashed over the front sending water gushing into the boat.

I immediately became nervous.

I recalled my many conversations with boaters and boat mechanics after I lost my first boat in that horrible storm a couple years ago.  They all had told me the same thing.  “Point your boat into the storm.”  “Steer directly toward the waves.”

This time I decided to do as they had advised.

And yet another wave came crashing into the boat.

I briefly wondered what to do.  And, made a decision:  Accelerate.

I grabbed the throttle and pushed it all the way forward.  I doubled down on the strategy others had preached to me.

Our wakeboard boat soared above the waves and was now skipping along the top of the rollers.  The ride was anything but smooth.  The boat was battered as it jumped off a wave, started to fall, and suddenly bounced off another wave.  The ride wasn’t comfortable but the water was now all safely below us.

It all happened so fast.  Within minutes we were back safely near the ramp were the wind was calmer and the waves were ripples.

The other boat eventually made it back to shore safely.  But not before its passengers had a harrowing experience of taking on hundreds of gallons of water, spending more than an hour using a large jug to remove the water from the boat, and having to search (successfully) for four passengers who floated away when the waves had overpowered the boat.

We were lucky that night.

I’ve learned that when the storms come and the wind beats against you the only way to not sink is to point directly into the waves and accelerate.

It takes courage, strength, and faith.

But it is the only way to survive the storm.

To all who are being battered by the brutal winds of life I say what those marine mechanics preached to me.

At the very moment when you feel paralyzed by fear or unable to move due to exhaustion do not give up.  When it feels like the waves are going to sink you point yourself right at the source of your turbulence.  Grab the throttle and push it forward.

That is the only way you can take control of your situation, get yourself above the waves, and make it safely back to shore.

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