Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In the Blink of an Eye

Sunday morning, I got one of those calls. My phone rang at 5:10 AM with some number that I didn't recognize. I got my fingers to work just enough to answer the call. Sean was on the other end of the line, frantic: "Come here now, we've been in an accident. We're ok but the boat sank. Please hurry." That's all I got. I jumped up out of bed, threw on a sweatshirt and pants, let my mother-in-law know that something happened but everyone was ok and then ran out the door. I was shaking and scared and calling the family that would know what to do with a sunken boat. It was so early I figured that something happened at the boat launch and that it probably wasn't as bad as I kept thinking in my head. I was wrong.
I got to the boat launch where Sean and his Dad were waiting for me. I expected Sean to jump out and hug me or make a smart remark. I didn't expect to walk up to the door of the car and see them both sitting in their underwear, silent, wrapped in blankets and sobbing. These are tough, men's men... they don't cry, certainly not where someone might see them.
Let's back up a little bit here... Sean has been running boats on the Columbia river for 20+ years. There are only a handful of people that know that river better than he does. We have a big 23' boat that was built for the super heavy currents out there. Friday night we slept on the boat, anchored on the river, as we have done many times over the last 5 years. I'm that confident in his ability to keep us safe out there. After getting them calmed down and warmed up (and giving them the only things I had in my car: two sweatshirts, 2 towels and a sleeping bag), we drove out to where it happened.
Someone left an unmarked bouy in the water in the very best fising hole on the river. For those that know the Columbia River, they were just below Bonneville Dam fishing at the Oak Tree. The guys pulled up on the inside of the bouy to drop their anchor. The bouy that was left had no tag line marker. When they got close, that unmarked part of the line grabbed on to the propeller, spun the boat around and sucked it under. From the time that the rope grabbed, to the time that the boat was completely underwater was only about 10 seconds. Sean grabbed life jackets and then he was underwater. His dad and Shelly (our dog), got trapped under the boat top. Sean tried to swim back to help but the currents are just too strong out there. Once the pressure equalized underwater, the winshield popped out and they were able to swim out, it was about 30 seconds before Sean saw them come up. The boat seat floated up and they held on to that, floating down the river about 3/4 of a mile until someone saw them and picked them up.
We called a recovery team that came out and got the boat out of the water. We're very aware that we could have been recovering bodies and not just a boat. Sean is heartbroken. He feels like he almost killed his dad, even though this was not his fault. He lost his beloved boat and all of his fishing gear. These are just things and will eventually be replaced, but the scars will always be there.
Today, we're hugging a little tighter and savoring the everyday things. His friends are calling to tell him that they love him. That can't be easy for those guys. The people he is on the river with all the time are pretty scared, if it can happen to us it can happen to anyone. I can't tell you how many people have said to us "But, you know how to run that river." That river doesn't care who you are, or how good you might be...

The Unmarked Bouy (you can see the anchor ball, but not the tag line):
See those boat in the distance? That's about where they got picked up:
The salvage crew:
Finally getting the boat up:








After it was all over:

18 comments:

Karen said...

I can still feel the fear in your voice Sunday morning when you called me at 5:15 am. We are all so grateful the outcome was not worse...I KNOW how much the boat means to Sean and his family and all the memories they have shared. Hugs to all...Mom

Nichole said...

Glad that the boat was all that was lost. Sending prayers and hugs your way!

Colleen said...

Oh, wow... that's just stunningly frightening. I'm so glad that your husband and father-in-law are okay. I hope you are all relaxing and taking some time to de-stress.

Hugs!

Brandy said...

omgosh lindsey - I am so glad that everyone is ok. What a super scary thing to happen.

Amie said...

Oh my gosh, so terrifying. I'm so glad you're all okay! Big hugs.

Sheila said...

oh my!!! How scary!!! The really scares me, because there are MANY times we take the boat out, anchor up and sleep out there all night! SO glad to hear everyone is ok...the boat, fishing items...all replaceable! You husband and father-in-law NOT replaceable!!

Lyndsay said...

Oh my goodness how terrifying. I'm guessing those were the worst 30 seconds of Sean's life. I'm so glad that everyone is okay, but sorry you guys had to go through that. No phone call is ever good at 5 in the morning.

Mickey said...

Reading your blog gave me chills and goosebumps. What a terrible experience it was for all of your family.Thank god everyone is safe today!!I am going to think about this everytime we get in our boat and run up the river. It really is true, no matter what your experience navigating the river, there are some things that are truly out of our control, and in God's hands. So glad Sean, his dad and the dog are safe at home. Give them a hug from us!!

Corinne said...

Thank God everyone is OK!

Amanda said...

How scary. Glad everyone is okay!

Laura said...

Thinking of you all and very grateful everyone is ok. Breathe! & Breathe again. Love to you.

Holly said...

what a harrowing and amazing story. i am so glad your husband and FIL are ok! *huge hugs!*

Melissa said...

Wow, extremely scary :(
SO glad that they made it out and found safety...take care :)

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

what a terrifying story!!! I absolutely HATE phone calls in the middle of the night; it's never good news :( I'm so thankful that your husband, his dad and the dog are all ok. Sounds like they sure had someone watching over them.

Julie said...

Wow! So glad it turned out okay. Scary.

Melissa said...

Oh my gosh Lindsey, I'm crying. Thank God everyone is alright.

natalee said...

oh my I'm sending prayers my friend

Ashley said...

Wow! I am so glad everything is ok!