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No fish is worth risking your life for - a Guest Blog

Blog by: David Coulson , CO 6/13/2012

Mark, aks JCricket, a long time Fish Explorer member contacted me a few days about posting his story of a boating accident several year ago.  Due to the length I opted to post it as a guest blog.  My only hope is that everyone reads this and encourages their fishing/boating friends to do the same.  As Mark points out in his story, no fish is worth risking your, or someone elses life.

Hey folks,

I am a little torn in writing this, but I think it would be better to share than allow another person to have to deal with it. I thought about writing this blog after I read about the guy who lost his life at Clear Creek reservoir.

Back in April of 2008 at Jackson Lake, I was involved in a boating accident. Here is a link to a fish explorer thread on the instance.

I was the driver of the boat on the day this accident happened. I learned a lot of things that day. I could go into philosophical points about the meaning of life or the value of our friends. That would be beyond the scope of what I think needs conveyed though.

One thing I learned though, accidents happen FAST! I mean REALLY fast. You will NEVER have time to react to an accident when it is a serious issue. So, if you are on a boat wear a life preserver - ALWAYS!!!!!!!

If you are on my boat you will have a life preserver on or you will not be allowed - period - NO DISCUSSION ON THIS - EVER!

Next is the stupidity part. I had a 15 foot, extra deep fiberglass boat. I thought it should be able to handle pretty much any wave that Colorado could throw at me. And, I think it pretty much could. However, couple the big waves with stupidity and a fatal accident can happen in a flash.

On that day, my son was trapped inside our boat. It sank - mostly. It was 45 minutes before the boat could be retrieved and my son pulled from the craft. The fireman estimated my son had been completely submerged for approximately 25 minutes. It took them almost ten more minutes to get his heart beating again. He did suffer some brain damage from it, but he has made a near complete recovery. The doctors did tell us this was nothing short of a miracle.

So what caused this accident? There were several factors, no single one was responsible.

First, I had put the boat together in a rush in the previous days to get it ready to go fishing. I had just acquired a new kicker motor to try out. It was an electric start motor. I didn't take the time to move the batteries to the front of the boat when I installed the motor. I had both my 75 hp, and my 8 hp motor on the transom. I had three batteries, two gas tanks, and a cooler towards the back of the boat. I had it terribly misbalanced. I was an impatient idiot, in a rush to get my boat on the water rather than taking the time to set it up right.

Second, and maybe more importantly, was my belief that my boat could handle the waves. Normally it would not have been a problem, I would have been right. But, I learned that day, just because your boat can handle the waves, doesn't mean you should try and tempt fate.

The wind had been blowing all day. We pulled up to the dock to load the boat. While I waited for the truck and trailer a huge wave came up and slammed me into the dock. I started to panic. I didn't want to destroy my boat. Also, this wave put about 10-15 gallons of water in my boat. I decided to back up. I backed up without thinking just as the next wave came up. Now I had about 50 gallons in my boat. I swung it around to head back to the dock and a third wave came in and the boat swamped. With the misbalanced load and extra weight of water it sank transom first. It took less than 10 seconds to capsize and sink.

My son was sitting in the front seat next to me. He had his life preserver on. I had the Bimini top up too. When the boat sank it sank transom first. The Bimini top and closed windshield made a cage around my son. With his life preserver on he could not swim down and get out of the boat. I tried to help him get the preserver off but I ran out of time before the boat was under the water. He managed to crawl up into the closed bow where a small air pocket was trapped. I am certain that it was this and the extra cold water that day (about 42 degrees) that saved his life.

My advice to you folks is this:

First, if you do not know what you are doing with a boat - don't get one. You need real life training from folks who have lots of experience. You need to spend time on a boat and learn how to handle one before you get one. My stupidity and inexperience nearly cost my son his life. I still wake up at nights and I have panic attacks daily from this. I can't imagine what I would have done if my son had died.

Second, if there is any chance what-so-ever of waves, wind, or other peril get the @#%&@#$$ off the lake. There is no fish alive that is worth taking a risk over for yourself or a loved.

To summarize, know what you are doing before you ever take a boat out. Second, always, ALWAYS, wear a preserver. And lastly, never ever take a risk, no matter what - wait for another day, and if you can't do that then give up fishing all together. It is never worth the risk.  

Lastly, I sincerely want to thank all of the folks who helped save my son's life that day. There were many (maybe 20) bystanders who pitched in and helped with getting the boat out of the water. If you had not helped, my son would have surely died that day. To you folks I owe everything!!!!!!!!!!!!

Be careful out there folks.......................

Blog content © David Coulson
Blog Comments
Coloradomrg, 6/13/2012 12:14:09 PM
Thank you for sharing your story.
skiman, 6/13/2012 12:54:15 PM
Mark... Thank-you for telling your story. I'm glad your son has recovered, and as I have come to realize first hand, Angels come in all shapes and sizes. Good Fishing! Ski
Kentucky, 6/13/2012 2:12:22 PM
Wow, great advice. Looks like you had someone watching out for you and your son
dbbasser, 6/13/2012 5:01:17 PM
So true it can happen in the blick of an eye....Glad this story had good ending.