I had to take a step back this Saturday and instead of giving you my usual Saturday Short, I am going to bore (or scare) you with a Saturday long and tell you of the life threatening experience I shared with my family on Lake Michigan yesterday...
It started out as a beautiful sunny summer Friday and since my husband and I both had the day off, we decided to go out to his dad's boat on Lake Michigan. We had just been given the okay from the head hancho to be able to use the boat without them being there. Skies were blue at noon, not many clouds and so we went from the marina to a boater's beach about a 45 minute drive from where we started. It was a great day at the beach, being able to anchor the boat a few yards from the shore. The kids made sand angels and buried each other in the sand and were able to jump off the back of the boat and almost touch the bottom. I was able to lay out in the boat and get my long awaited summer tan.
About 2pm I hear on the radio that a storm was going to ruin rush hour for Chicago moving east. I let my husband know and he put on the weather warning radio on the boat which honestly, gave no warning except for Michigan City - which was way east - and St. Joseph's - which was way south. We decided we would leave soon but not be in a hurry. I would say at least another hour went by before we started pulling up anchor and getting ready to head back. I can't tell you the timing exactly but let's say it was going on 4pm and clouds were coming in but you could still see skies behind them. We figured we would be in for some rain we would pass through and be done. My husband is an experienced boater and I had every confidence that there would not be a problem.
We started on our way all smiles and laughing about our hair blowing in the wind, I was wishing I had brought my camera to capture the hilarity on video. Little did I know what other entertainment we had in store for us. About 15 minutes into the 45 minute ride home, the rain started to move in..no big deal a little rain right?
The wind picked up quickly making the waves pretty strong and the rain started coming harder at which point the kids were told to get under the front seats for protection. With the waves tossing them around in the front, they bumped the cushions off their shelter which collaped on my daughter. This was the only time she cried. I went up to try and put things back together and I must say it was at this point where - pardon my french, but - the shit really started to hit the fan. I looked at the horizon, now basically black with lightning touching the water and the waves were out of control, rushing in over the front of the boat at this point. I think I might have lost it a little here as I grabbed my purse (my purse!) and tried to get under the cushions with the kids. The waves made that impossible so I quickly put on my life jacket and gathered the kids to the floor in the middle of the boat (close to dad's feet). I didn't want to look again but a compartment in the front came open that had to be closed and my husband went up and told me to take the wheel. I can't really say I saw too much with all the rain in my eyes but as he was heading back to the healm, a big wave came in and he hit his head, straight on the window between the front and back of the boat. I saw him hit his head and then the floor and my heart just sunk. In that moment that it took him to get up, I thought about our inevitable demise if I really had to actually take over driving. I can drive a boat but not when I can't see and the swells are 10 feet! I know it was not an easy feat and thank god he wasn't bleeding or knocked out.
As the kids and I sat shivering with the rain pelting us, David in the tornado drill position trying not to lose his lunch and me holding onto both their life jackets for dear life, we all kept our cool. There was no crying, no screaming and no yelling through the waves crashing into the boat. They both told me they were scared and I admitted that I was too but that we would be okay no matter what happened. I think they realized that screaming and crying was not going to help the situation. I would let out a yell like we were on a ride when the big waves hit mostly because I was trying not to freak out and dad kept telling us we were almost there when we asked and to think of it as an adventure. I think that was the best thing he could have said to the kids at that point. I did some heavy breathing almost like I was in labor and just kept telling the kids it was gonna be okay whether I believed it or not, I think just repeating it helped them stay as calm as they could be.
Rhiannon at one point told me, "It didn't take us this long to get to the beach," and that she wanted her Dora blanket and David started praying. The next half hour seemed to last a lifetime and I know there was a point where we got completely turned around heading back the way we came from. My husband tried to keep the shoreline in view which would lead us to our destination. I don't know how he did it but he got us back. The storm went past, it was still raining when we got to the marina but the storm was definitely over. The waves subsided significantly and even though we were all soaked to the bone and a little jostled, we were alive and well. We were able to get the boat docked pretty easily and quickly, got everything closed up and on our way home by six.
I know my husband is the only one that knows the true danger we were actually in and I am so grateful that he was behind the wheel and able to keep his cool. He did admit he may have lost it for a moment and to hear him tell the story really makes me wonder what kept us afloat. He gets choked up telling it and said it was the worst boating experience he's had in all his years of boating - he went so far as to say it must be what hell is like. He's got a nice lump on his head where he hit it, I'm finding bruises in places I didn't know existed and we are all a little sore today but alive and well. It wasn't our time..it could have been, we could have been another Lake Michigan statistic but we made it somehow through faith and perserverance. A day we will never forget - that's for real! Grateful we are able to live to tell about it!!