A boat from our marina went out yesterday with a guest aboard. Turns out this guest had a heart condition and couldn’t swim. So when he reached too far for a dock line and fell in the water, he died. Several people rushed to assist, and even dove in after him, but it was too late. They saved him from drowning, but not from an apparent heart attack.
I’ve been searching for my reaction to this, but so far haven’t found one. I never met the man, and missed the whole hullabaloo.
People fall off of docks and boats all the time, but usually without fatal consequences. Mark fell in late one night after a few too many. By the time Bill happened to find him, he was quite blue. Then Bill fell in another day while docking his boat. Patrick saw it happen from the next dock over and came to help. All our kids have fallen in, except Rachel, but she will someday. Aaron fell in just a few weeks ago while trying to slackline between the boat and the dock. Back on H-Dock, falling in was almost a sport and there was an actual trophy and awards ceremony. When Mikey went in he knocked himself out and it took two guys to haul his sorry ass back onto the dock. Injuries are usually only to the person’s pride, but the barnacles can give some nasty cuts. I haven’t fallen in since I was about eight, but I still have the scars.
The major complication in this case was that the guy panicked. It didn’t help at all that the docks in that area are fixed and it was low tide at the time. I’m all for old guys and non-swimmers going sailing, but maybe he shouldn’t have been on the bow without a life jacket. The owners take their boat out duo all the time, so he didn’t really need to be on the bow at all. I’m sure they wouldn’t have allowed him to take that risk if they knew he couldn’t swim.
There’s an assumption, especially among boat people, that everyone can swim. If you can’t, you really ought to tell the captain. There’s no shame in that. I know of another case, where a guest, while wading from the beach out to the boat, waited until the water was up to neck to mention that he couldn’t swim. That’s annoying.
I think I’d sense more tragedy here if I’d known the guy, or if I’d been there to see it happen. But those thoughts would likely be tainted by emotion. The fact of the matter is that any of us can go at any time, even moreso a 79-year-old man with a heart condition. It might have happened tomorrow while he was brushing his teeth. Falling in the water was bad form, and his last moments must have been terrifying, but if you skip over that part, he was having a great day. And he died with the sun shining on his face. That’s not all bad.
So I apologize for not being sad and mushy about all this. My advice, if you ever fall in the water, is DON’T PANIC. And always know where your towel is.