I Learned About Boating From This: Getting Back in the Boat

This boater endured injury and pain, and offers a message of wisdom for the rest of us.
Boater breaks femur
The terrible tumble felt like being in a washing machine. I sheared the ball off the top of my femur! Tim Bower

My ski pals and I decided to go water-skiing on a late but warm (72 degrees F) October day on Rose Lake in Minnesota. While waiting for them to arrive, I spent an hour wading in the water, removing docks. Upon arriving, my pals inquired about wetsuits. I said we would hop-start from shore and wouldn’t be skiing aggressively, so a dip in the water was not likely.

I made two crosses. Then I realized what was wrong: My feet were numb from spending time in the 50-degree water! I could not feel my feet, and I did not have my back foot properly seated in the pocket. I was basically maneuvering with just the front foot. And then I broke a cardinal rule: I looked down—and then went down. The terrible tumble felt like being in a washing machine.

The pain was incredible. I sheared the ball off of the top of my femur! There was absolutely no way I could get on the swim platform, so they towed me back in. Once to shore, I could sit on the lake bottom. But between the shock and the cold water, my core body temperature was dropping. We tried rolling me onto a stand-up paddleboard to use as a litter. That proved too painful. A submerged a lawn chair worked. I transferred to that, and my pals carried me out to await the ambulance and my eventual hip replacement.

Read Next: More I Learned About Boating From This Tales

I learned a lot from the event about the challenges of getting an injured person out of the water. When you write about safety, perhaps you can plant the seed for people to think about how to get people out of or off the water when they cannot get in the boat?

The worst part? The orthopedist said no more water-skiing! I am married to a doc, and she is insistent that I follow orders. Still, I was blessed with 52 years of slalom-skiing and own bragging rights for being the oldest skier on the lake. 

Jim Rich
Canyon, Minnesota

[Getting a victim who cannot help themselves back into the boat is an important topic, and we have written about it. Go to boatingmag​.com/back-aboard.

Also note that the old adage of “dress for the water not the weather” applies. Had Jim been wearing a wetsuit, shock and hypothermia risks would have been minimized. Boaters not planning on getting wet can wear wool and a tight-fitting cap when the water is cold. Both will help retain body temperature, even if you are immersed. —Ed.]

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