I feel pretty stupid for not respecting the sea.
I was anchored about 80 yards from George's Island in Boston Harbor when I decided to swim to shore. Even worse, I encouraged my 15 year old son to do the same. Swimming to the island was easy for my son and moderately difficult for me. I had to slow down and catch my breath as I was approaching the beach. However, on the way back to the boat
after having lunch and touring the island with friends and family
, it was a different story. The current
, which can hit 2 knots in the channel, was in full flow. After noticing that my brother-in-law was having trouble rowing the one man inflatable
out to the boat
, I told my son to account for the current
by aiming well upstream of the boat. He scoffed at the suggestion and jumped in. He ended up about 15 yards behind the boat swimming directly into the current. He had to really work
to get to the boat, but he's on the swim team and trains almost every day, so he made it without too much trouble. When it was my turn, I took my own advice
and ended up relatively close to the boat, but as I approached the current got stronger, and I was a little winded. When I stopped making progress...panic set in. I thought about swimming back, but that was a long swim and I was very tired. I decided to give it one more try and if I couldn't make it, I would float/swim back to the island. So I changed to the back stroke and gave a few good kicks. (I had been doing my version of the doggy paddle.) That made the difference and I was able to grab the dinghy
. I was really shaken up for having lost
control of the situation.
What we did right.
1. We took turns going out to the boat. My son and I watched my brother-in-law dinghy
out to the boat (he had a life jacket on), so that we could provide assistance or direct assistance to him if he got caught in the current. And when my son swam out we had a person on shore and a person on the boat to do the same.
2. We recognized that the current had picked up, and we attempted to adjust accordingly.
3. None of us had been drinking.
4. Before we began the swim out, we made note of several jet skiers hanging around next to the beach and we were ready to call them for assistance if necessary.
What we did wrong.
1. I was ignorant of how strong the current was in that area.
2. When I did become aware of the current, I did not respect it.
3. I was not wearing or trailing any kind of flotation device, nor did I require my son to have one!!!
4. I panicked when it became clear I was no longer making progress. If I was clear minded, I would have stopped swimming into the current to conserve energy, and asked for assistance. I did not even think of the life sling which could have been easily thrown to me.
5. My brother in law and son were watching and ready to throw me a flotation device, but as is often the case they did not recognize I was struggling.
Under these circumstances I think it rather unlikely that I would have drowned, but had some other event occurred to compound my error, (a cramp, a large wake, a distracted observer), it could have turned out much worse.