Friday, July 10, 2009

My Worst Nightmare

Ever since my husband and I started boating, I have been afraid of falling into the water between the boat and the dock. Stepping off the boat with a line or stepping onto the boat with a line gives me a little rush of anxiety. It's gotten better in the last three years, but it's always lurking.

This morning I lived my nightmare. While my husband and our boating friend, Bruce, were off on a walk, I planned to paint from the seawall in Bremerton. Bruce's wife, Angie, wasn't stirring yet on their boat next door, so I was quiet as I packed my gear.

You can see from the first photo (of Bruce) what kind of a step I had to take from the boat to the dock. I was carrying my art bag and a board and I definitely was not balanced. I tripped on the line and fell into the water, between the boat and the dock.

The water was only 52 degrees and I sucked in a mouthful of it in shock as I fell. All the way under. The sun looked green from the murk beneath. It took me a while to get back to the surface. I was still holding my art bag. Why that was a priority when my life was in danger, I still can't tell you. In it were my camera and pastels. Valuable to me.

My first cry was faint. Angie barely heard me. Then I got a lungful of air (after I stopped sputtering and coughing) and screamed "ANGIE! HELP!" Over and over and over and I looked around to see where there was a ladder to help me get onto the dock, which was between two and three feet over my head.

Angie saved my life.

I worked my way, hand over hand, about 200' to get to the ladder. By then, Angie had a line around me and a flotation device for me to hold onto. I was cold. We could not get the ladder to drop down (it had been rammed by a boat and was jammed in an up position). I felt myself getting colder and colder. My voice was quiet. It was hard to hold on. Others came and tried to release the ladder but none could.

Isn't that exactly the stuff of nightmares? All of these people around but no one could get the ladder down. And there was no way for them to pull me onto the dock.

But, Angie had called everyone she could think of and at the same time the marina workers came in a boat and the fire department EMTs came on the dock. They got me out.

Minor bruises and scrapes but I'm fine. Thanks to Angie. I am so grateful that she heard my cries and got help. The marina has few boats and fewer people in it today. I shudder to think of what could have happened.

I was in the cold (disgusting) water for about 15-20 minutes. It took me four hours to warm up.

Casualties of this event: my cell phone, my favorite camera, a Dakota box full of pastels (you can see the contents of my bag on the dock in the second photo and a close up of the pastel mush in the third), my tennis shoes and probably my white tee shirt (stained green with something I don't want to identify) and tan shorts (ditto).

I have cuts on my legs and a few bruises. My arms and shoulders ache from holding on for so long.

But, you know what? Something happens when you live through your worst nightmare. Something good, I think. I'm sure it will come to me after I take a long nap.

Angie says that when a person saves another person's life, their souls are bonded forever. I don't mind one bit. Thank you, Angie. I will always be grateful for what you did today.


Celeste Bergin said...

Oh my gosh, Katherine! Good Lord! I am so glad you are alright. What an ordeal! Thank goodness your friend heard you and I hope you get that ladder fixed. Well, you missed painting today and things were ruined, but you lived to tell the story and for that I am very grateful indeed! Give Angie a high five from me. I bet you are shook up. I am glad for the happy ending and you should have a shot of something strong in a hot chocolate. {{{{{{{Katherine!!}}}}}}}}

bullwinkle said...

Glad you made it out to tell about it. Could have been much worst. Kudos for your friend, Angie. Like Celeste said, have a shot and continue to live the good life.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Thanks, Celeste. The director of the marina came to talk to me immediately after the accident and she ordered an inspection of all of the ladders. The Coast Guard also took a report. I can do without that kind of excitement.

Today I'm okay, but sore in my shoulders and arms. Thanks for your comments!

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Bullwinkle (John) thanks for your well wishes! You're right, it could have been much worse. I had a chance to talk to one of the other helpers last night and she said that right before the boat arrived she could feel me letting go of her hand. It could have been worse.

I'm sure I'll be pretty cautious for a long while, but the good life sounds pretty good. Thanks.

Sharon James said...

Hi K,
I just heard from mom about your fall, so of course I went to your blog for the details. I'm so glad that you're okay!! How scarey! I shudder to think what could have happened, not that this wasn't bad enough. Thank goodness Angie was there to help, and all of the others that stepped in.
So, of course, I tried to call you on your cell to check on you personally when I remembered that your cell was a "casualty" of the fall. Please know that we are all thinking and praying for you here.
I love you so much, and am so glad you're okay!

Carolyn said...

I am so relieved to hear that you are OK, but feeling like I might have a nightmare about what could have happened. That is sooo scarey. Hope you're warm by now and the bruises and sore muscles are healing. I also thank Angie for saving my friend.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Sharon! Thanks for your concern. I just got a replacement cell phone so you can call me. Love you, too.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Thanks, Carolyn! Angie and I can hardly look at one another without crying. It's been a tearful day and I am very sore. Brushing my hair is over-rated.

Jan Smith said...

Well dear friend....I am so very THANKful that you are alright. You know I care and you know all those that do. Jeff dove in to the water in Astoria when another coastguards man did exactly what you did and went under, but did not come up. Jeff could have lost his live as well.....God was with him as he was with you. Be Safe Jan

Carrie H. said...

Good Grief, I just heard about your big splash with danger. I'm glad you're ok. All that stuff can be replaced, you can't(be replaced). Can you please go get one of those jackets that is a flotation device permanently built in? Then we won't worry.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Thanks, Jan for your comment. I know that my story could have had different ending. I'm glad that it didn't!

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Hi Carrie! Your years of boating with you father give you a special understanding of the situation. I'll look into the jackets!

Kimberly Kent said...

Oh Katherine! When I read about this in the blog I thought about the sad loss of your pastels. I had no idea it was almost a loss of YOU. I have that same feeling when stepping on and off boats, but falling between the boat and dock is the worst.
Angie gets an e-hug from me and count me in on the work party to replace your pastels.

Maeona said...

I read about your pastel misadventure in the minutes and came here to see how your pastels were and found there was much more to the story! Hugs hugs hugs hugs....oops hope all those hugs were in places that didn't still hurt.

Anonymous said...

Well, you are such a good writer that I was entertained by the story of oyur horrific ordeal; everything else that we plein - air artists complain about pale in comparison. I always wanted a good story to share, but not like this one!!!! your safe, smooth sailing from here, Maria Anderson

B Boylan said...

Wow Katherine, that sounds like it shook you up! What really matters most is that you survived and are safe! Hug your family and be grateful to the bone. The other stuff can be replaced, but you, my dear cannot!

G. Lindwood said...

I just read about your mishap between the boat and the dock! Horrors!! Your description of the event gives me shivers. Your guardian muse was surely watching over you that day. It's so good Angie and the rest were there to respond. I'm sending you and Angie a big hug over the internet.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Thanks for your comments!

Kimberly, thanks for the hugs and for your offer to help with the pastel making!

Maeona, yes, it was a tough situation. My bruises are all gone now and the cuts are just scars. I agreed with you that my wet pastel box was kind of beautiful, in a smelly way.

Maria, there's usually a down side to having a good story. But, the up side is that I survived. It's a pretty good up side, I'd say.

Brenda, you're right. The experience did shake me up. I think that I had to face my wrong ideas about my invincibility. Life is fragile. Handle with care.

Gretha, I'll pass the hug along to Angie. I think that she suffered the trauma of being the rescuer and still is thinking about what she could have done better to get me out of the water. One day this will fade from memory but it's still pretty fresh. I've discovered a whole lexicon of watery figures of speech, though.

Life is good. Very good. I won't forget that!