That Sinking Feeling

While I was at home for the 4th, I offered to take the jet ski out and fill ‘er up with gas before the lake filled up with ba-zillions of boaters.  I zipped up my life fest, hooked on the key, climbed aboard, and started the ever attractive gyrating necessary to get the vehicle off the lift.

I didn’t know where the closest marina would be, so I headed to the good ‘ol Smith Mountain Dock and Lodge on the other side of the lake, in our old hood.  As I got closer, I decided to branch off and go visit a tiny little cove, way off the main channel, where I use to sneak off to when I needed to be a loner.

It’s a magical little stretch of river called Bull Run.  There aren’t many houses visible from the water, just one lone barn and some cattle.  The banks of the river slowly close in as you work your way back and away from the higher trafficked areas.  Somehow the breeze is always warmer and the water a little smoother back in those coves.  It’s a tiny little watery slice of isolation heaven.

Until your jet ski starts taking on water and the engine stalls out.  In that instance it’s a backwoods, wilderness hell.

So of course that’s exactly what happened to me.  Suddenly every single wake was threatening to topple the jet ski.  I managed to get the engine started again briefly, but it died again long before I made it anywhere near shore.  The water level climbed up my legs.

Fortunately for me, someone built a water ski course way back on a stretch of Bull Run.  There were several ski aficionados that had come to the lake for the holiday weekend and we’re tooling around in search of the course.  I waved at a boat passing by.

They waved back…and kept right on going.

Oh yeah.  People are friendly in the South.  Everyone waves at everyone.  Everywhere.  Normally it’s endearing – slightly less so when the water is approaching your knees.  A new tactic was needed.

Another boat came in to view.  I tried to stand but the jet ski was losing stability with every gallon of water it gained.  My frantic gyrations and dramatic leaning only elicited more waves.  I flopped back onto the seat and tried to stay upright as we bounced about in the boat’s wake.

Then I saw a slow moving pontoon boat pulling some tubers (no, not sweet potatoes – though Thom swears those are the devil’s tuber).  Anyway, I resumed my waving.  They all waved back (of course) but continued weaving back and forth, whipping the inner tube from one side to the other.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) my sinking status was becoming more and more visibly apparent, so the driver started moving towards me as I flashed him the international symbol for cell phone.  (Shaka to the side of the head, of course.)

“Well, hi!” said the pontoon driver.  “I believe your sea doo is sinking.”

“Howdy,” I replied.  “I’m pretty certain this bad boy is going down.  Any chance you have a phone on you?”

“Well sure I do!  Who can I call for you?”

Wow.  Good question.  Damn cell phones and their handy dandy contact lists…I couldn’t tell you my parents’ phone number if my life depended on it.  Oh wait…

“Well, let’s try my Mom’s cell phone.”  I yelled the number across the lake.

“No answer.”

“Do you mind trying a long distance number?”

“Not at all!” he drawled with remarkable warmth.  My peeps.

I shouted Rocco’s number out even louder as our vessels started to drift apart in the current.

“Who should I ask for?”

“Oh that’s my husband, Rocco.”

“That wasn’t your first call?”

“Well see, it’s my dad’s boat.”

“Oh, right.  Good call.  Still no answer.  Hang on a minute.”

By this time his tubers (still not the potato variety) had climbed back on board the boat and reeled in the rope.  The driver started the engine and putted back towards my sinking jet ski and away from the river bank.  As I twisted around on the seat to face them, my last straw of balance disintegrated.  I suddenly wished I’d chosen a life vest that fit a little better rather than the one that looked cool.  The driver cut the engine as they drifted along side our two bobbing forms.

“Should I try one of those again?” he asked as he leaned out over the side of the boat and peered down into the neck of my life vest in search of the top of my head.

“Let’s try another one.”  I rattled off Thom’s cell number.

“Who am I calling now?”

“My brother.  Just in case he answers with something obscene, I apologize in advance.”

Now I have no idea why he of all people was the only one to actually answer his phone, but I’m damn glad he did.

“I got him!” the driver shouted with genuine excitement.  “Hi Thom.  This is Mark.  Your sister seems to have run into a bit of engine difficulty out here on Bull Run just past marker number twenty.  Could you come get her?”

Mark was quiet as Thom set off to find an authority figure.  Meanwhile I tried in vain to pull my vest back down around my waist so I could see what the hell was going on.

“Well, that’s a good twenty minutes away,” Mark was saying to Thom.  “We’ll see you then.  You’ve got my number now.”

Did I mention this pontoon boat had seven other people on board that were looking at me with a mix of curiosity, anger, and boredom?  Well it was.  And I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable.

“Ok great!” I hollered from deep inside my vest.  “Ya’ll have a great weekend!  I’ll just hang tight till they get here.”

“Honey, we can’t leave you here,” cooed a woman I believe to be Mark’s wife.  “We’re Southern!”

So they tossed me a rope.  I tied some knots and tethered the boats together.  I swam around and climbed up onto the back of the boat.  Mark’s wife snatched a towel from one of the younger passengers, threw it around my shoulders, and offered me a beer.  Ah yes, my peeps.

“Really, I’ll be ok.  Maybe you could just tow me over to that bank and I’ll just wait for my family to get here.  I just hate taking ya’ll away from your lake time!”

“Are you kidding,” Mark joked.  “Now we’ve got something to talk about tonight over dinner!”  He twisted his head back over his shoulder and nodded towards the jet ski.  “If that thing sinks, we’ll be talking about it all weekend!”


  1. Oh, the trauma, girl! It was about a decade ago that you thru me off the back of a sea doo on the very same lake.

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