Sailing Against the Currents

February 27, 2011
By , Solon, OH
It was one of the hottest days of the summer, at least it felt like it working on the rooftop with black shingles all day. When the work crew and I finally finished replacing the rooftop of a fairly large house, I headed home to finally relax on the weekend. After eating and taking a shower my best friend Steve called me. His family owns a very nice sail boat they were about to go out on the lake and just relax. So I thought, what better way to start off the weekend then watching the sunset after a long day? I quickly gathered my belongings, got in the car and was already on my way to Mentor Lagoons.

By the time I got there the food was already prepared. We Hungarians admire great food, we all love to cook and we definitely love to eat all the great food our culture has to offer. We all gathered around the picnic table and began to eat; there was everything from Goulash Soup to Chicken Paprikas. It was around 6pm by the time we all finished eating and were about to head out to the lake (Lake Erie). The temperature cooled down a little bit, but it was still around the low 90s. By the time it we were about to go, only six of us wanted to go, so we headed out, the rest decided to stay behind, while we were onto an adventure we would never forget.

As we were heading out from the harbor we saw that everyone that was out on the lake was staring to come back into the harbor. As we got out on the open water we realized that there seemed to be a storm on the Canadian side of the lake. Rudy, Steve’s step dad, and the captain of the boat, being a professional sailboat racer when he was younger, convinced us that a little wind will only make matters more fun. As a result we decided to head a little north. The winds started to pick up, but the water was still calm, an ideal scenario for someone who loves sailing. At first, we thought the storm was headed west, towards downtown; but after we sailed towards the storm for a good 7 minutes, Rudy realized otherwise. The storm was still far away, but it seemed enormous, thick dark black clouds moving at massive speeds. When Rudy realized that this could turn out bad, he quickly turned around and we were headed max speed towards the harbor. As the storm drew closer, I realized this wasn’t an ordinary storm, as a result I got out my phone and started to record this massive monster.

As I was recording, Rudy told me to put the phone away, because in less then a minute the storm will catch up. I didn’t believe him at all, the storm seemed way to far away, and I was not about to put my phone down, it looked way too cool. About twenty seconds later a huge wave out of nowhere swallowed the front half of the boat. The boat is a Catamaran; it’s a racing sail boat with two parallel hulls, one on each side. Catamarans are very stable sailing boats that conquer a lot of big waves, but this particular one made it look like a toy. All of the sudden I realized this wasn’t going as planned, we were still more than a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the harbor and the storm’s strong winds already caught up with us. Once the strong winds grabbed tight into the large sail, we picked up great speed, around 25-30 miles an hour, which is particularly fast for a sailboat of that size. As we were around 200 yards form the entrance, which had steel walls on both sides, the storm finally fully caught up with us. Winds that felt like hurricane winds were way too strong and nearly impossible to steer to boat on course. As Rudy was trying to steer boat on course, I heard a loud snap, it was the steering paddles, and they gave up the fight with Mother Nature and snapped off. The only thing that was steering us now was this monster storm, there was nothing to do. Just as we entered through the entrance, the boat was headed straight towards the steel walls. All six of us saw what was about to happen and yet we couldn’t do anything. Many people say that right before your death, your life memories pass through your mind. Well, I either didn’t have any life memories or that myth is false, because the only thing that was passing though my mind was that I was about to die right there. I grabbed onto the post the held the sail as hard as I could and I was just waiting to see what happens. Many would close their eyes, but I decided at least I want to see my own death. Still going about 25 mph, we were about to hit the steel wall, everything in my mind just slowed down, frame by frame, step by step. I saw the left hull hit the wall first; a huge spark went up along with a loud crash sound. Then I was waiting to start flying, but all I saw was how the left hull is practically disappearing, it was only after it was compressed about half a yard before the energy transferred back to me. Although I was holding onto the pole as hard as I could, it meant nothing, the force ripped me right off and I was finally flying forward. I felt that I was completely in the air, helpless to do anything but looking at my destination, head on, onto the steel wall. But, miraculously I caught onto some ropes hanging off the front sail and I landed on the very front of the boat. We all were ok, but the storm wasn’t even close to being done. Rudy didn’t panic, and he knew what he had to do. He got out the anchor and threw it into the water, and then turned on the small motor to somehow get away from the wall; else the waves would have kept hitting us against the wall repeatedly. We drifted into the harbor and then turned around to face the storm; I was in control of the engine speed. I put it up max, but the winds were so strong we were standing completely still. Along with the winds, came harsh rain. But this wasn’t any ordinary rain; at first I thought it wasn’t raining at all, but hailing, it felt like someone was repeatedly whipping my back. I thought my skin will be punctured any second now. After about 30 seconds, the storm started to fade and we were able to slowly steer towards a dock.

As we got to the dock I saw everyone showing up, just as in the movies, once everything is over the help comes. Coast guards, with their rescue boats, came on water, about five police cars were showing up along with an ambulance, but gladly no-one had to go ride in the ambulance. We all got through with minor burses and one person had a sprained wrist. The officers tried to get our information, but we were still in a shock, I couldn’t even remember my own address, but they didn’t mind, and I didn’t care, I was just glad to be alive. The coast guards later told us that, this storm we had just survived was the biggest storm in three years, with wind speeds reaching up to 60 mph. We stayed at the coast guard station until people from our dock came to drive us back, it wasn’t until then that we realized just how red everyone’s back was from the strong rain, it looked like everyone had rashes on their whole back, but that was the least of our problems now. I was ready to go home and get a good night sleep.
After such a long day, I got into my car and was finally headed home. Every time I drive, I either have my ipod, cd, or the radio going, but without realizing it, I was driving in dead silence. I couldn’t pay attention at all to driving; I just kept replaying the crash in my head, figuring out just how I didn’t fly into those steel walls. As I was replaying this is my head, I saw that a cop was behind me and pulled me over for speeding, apparently I was going 85mph, but I didn’t even realize. He asked me why I was speeding and where I was headed, I told him briefly what happened. He went back to his car to process my information, when he came he told me to pay attention and handed me my $150 ticket, and I was on my way to the court next week, since I was younger than 18. Usually my parents would have been really upset for the ticket, but after I told them about the boat accident, they were glad I even got home.

As for the boat, there was more than $10,000 of damages, but boats can be fixed, while lives and memories cannot. I found my phone inside one of the hulls, took out the memory card and put it into rice as soon as I could (rice is supposed to drain the water out of electrical devices). The video was saved, but only 20 seconds of it, after the wave hit, the video stopped. As for me, I will remember this night for the rest of my life, so I don’t need the video. I like to do many extreme things, and thus had many close death events, but this one is definitely on the top of the list, it was bad day, but it could have been much worse, replaying the event in my head, I realized just how lucky we were, that none us got seriously injured of maybe even killed. That day made me realize just how short life is, and because of it I want to live my life to the fullest, trying out everything I want and able to do, because you never know when it can all be over.

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