SPLASH! Gurgle
by Doug Day

Upsetting? Perhaps to some - for me, it just "dampened" my spirits a bit. It all started so simply......

I needed my sailing fix. Haven't been out in over TWO weeks, you see. My wife had a family reunion in El Campo on Sunday, and we were going down on Saturday evening to spend the night and visit. I talked her into letting me take the nymph and sneak out Saturday afternoon to Lake Texana about 15 miles farther down Hwy 59.

Got there, dropped the family off, and down the road I went. I was planning to go to the state park and launch but saw a sign for a public boat ramp on the way and pulled in. No one else was there as the ramp was basically too shallow for most boats. Too much mud buildup. No problem for me - throw the boat in the water, paddle out and drop the leeboard.

It was great sailing. Wind was steady at about 10-12 mph out of the SSE. The lake runs north/south, so I just settled in for a nice reach across the lake about a mile away. It was a blast! I sailed it over and back a couple of times, working my way slightly south so I could have a nice run back to the ramp to end the day. And then.......

Let me set this up a bit. This is the first time I have had the boat out on a lake big enough to actually sail for a while without having to tack almost immediately. So I got comfortable, stupid, and very, very, wet.

Looking back, this is what I think happened. It was over pretty quickly - at least the initial getting wet part. I was sailing west, and had the sheet pulled in pretty tightly, giving the boat a slight heel. I was sprawled across the center seat (next change after adding floatation) and was relaxing holding the sheet in the same hand as the tiller. A pretty big gust came along and pulled the sail hard, also pulling the rudder and causing the boat to steer to windward. My initial reaction (as the gust was pushing) was to lean farther back. Anyhow, when the boat steered into the wind, the sail depowered, and some guy I resemble was WAY out of position.

SPLASH! Gurgle. Sppptttthhhh. Insert favorite curse word. As always, I was wearing my PFD and actually had it all zipped up and on right. I am a believer now. First check - I am not tangled up in anything, drowning is not imminent - yet.

To make matters more interesting, I was almost dead center in the lake and not a soul in sight. Ok, can I pull it back over? No - not with mast in. Unstep mast - boat flops over. Check inventory - leeboard, oar, rudder, where's my rudder? Swim over, get rudder.

Now, the nymph does float full of water. The stern and stem both sit up nicely - two inches above the lake. Center rail just kisses the water. Bailing is not an option. My thoughts at this time are something along the lines of "Well, shit."

I decided I would crawl into the boat and lash everything together. Just call me Huck Finn. Whoops, sitting in boat is not an option - boat just keeps going down and becomes real unstable. Hmmmm..... Shove rudder and leeboard under mast step for more floatation, lay down on back with rump on seat - we're ok - boat back to level and everything accounted for. Now to get back to shore.

Anyhow, to make a long story short - I maintained this position for the next hour or so and carefully paddled the remains of my pride and boat back to shore. Never saw a soul. The only real worries I had were if a thunderstorm headed my direction - abandon ship time.

Loaded the boat, went back to the hotel, and had a really interesting story for the reunion crowd.

As this is my first knockdown, I would be interested in any tips from other swimmers, I mean, sailors out there. Other than the obvious "Don't".