Keeled Over

by Kit Riley
Colorado, USA

Keeled Over

My wife and I were in Oklahoma for business this summer, and stayed over the long Fourth of July weekend with Kay, my wife’s best friend from grade school, and her husband Don. She and her husband are avid sailors. They have a large sailboat on Lake Texoma, so we decided to spend the holiday on their boat.

Unlike drought-choked Colorado, Oklahoma was green and lush, so while most of the Colorado Fourth of July fireworks shows were canceled, there were plenty of patriotic displays for us to see around the lake! We had a great time and then slept well gently rocking on the waves.

The next day we planned just to relax and eat some good Southern cooking, but the radio interrupted our plans. Over the marine band, we heard a boat calling the Coast Guard for help. It wasn’t just anyone — it was a good friend of Don’s! They had run their boat aground and needed help off the rocks. The Coast Guard is happy to rescue people, but they don’t pull boats off rocks. Don grabbed the radio and asked his friends if they wanted him to come. The relief in their voice was enormous — “Please!”

Don and I jumped into his speedboat which was tied up in the next slip and headed to the scene. I drove as Don got some supplies ready, such as a heavy anchor rope. When we arrived we found indeed they were hard aground about 20 yards from the shore. As I slowly circled their boat, Don closely watched the depth finder to figure out the deepest part of the water so we knew which way to pull them, then tossed over the rope. But despite the big V-6 engine on the boat, we couldn’t budge them.

By that time, dozens of boats had surrounded us so everyone could watch. One of them was a big “cigarette” racing boat, and they offered to try with their bigger engine. They gave a good yank — and pulled the “D” ring out of their hull! That sailboat was REALLY stuck!

It was getting dark and time was running out, but Don got an idea. He asked his friend what he thought, and in desperation he agreed. Don got a rope attached to the very top of the sailboat’s mast, and the cigarette boat tied up again to a different spot. I turned the wheel over to Don for this delicate and dangerous operation: Don pulled on the top of the mast to “keel” the sailboat over to the side, then the cigarette boat pulled hard on the front — and the sailboat suddenly shot free from the rocks to deeper water.

When his friend was in need, Don didn’t hesitate to instantly drop everything, including his dinner, to offer help. And not just that, but he stayed calm and deliberate so he could come up with an ingenious solution to save the day when pure brawn couldn’t — the kind of friend I like to have!

Originally published as HeroicStories #341 on Sep 26, 2002

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