We have survived a horrifying, life threatening experience and I am only now able to write about it. I can
FRONT OF ME” off of my worst- fear- ever bucket list. Been there, done that.
going overboard and we could lose everything.
first time in my life, I came to the shocking realization that there was a good possibility that I might actually
end up in the water.
Gary struggled on deck and managed to tighten the straps as best he could, then crawled back into the
cockpit. Only a few more waves and a few seconds later, they had stretched again and we watched in
I unzipped the dodger front window panel so I could see him and hear him better, but the waves kept
slamming me in the face. Then I watched in horror as the wooden structure supporting the mast on the
forward deck collapsed and everything came crashing down upon Gary. He crumpled under the massive
same time I was frantically thinking of how I could possibly save us if he wasn’t.
To my amazement, he began struggling out from under the masts. I will never forget the look in his eyes as
he attempted to stand and looked back at me through the blood running down the side of his face. It was a
the Coast Guard, but I’m jumping ahead.)
I kept screaming over and over again “CRAWL TO ME BABY! YOU’RE OK! JUST CRAWL TO ME!”
If he tried to stand in his weakened state, he would surely be knocked overboard by the next wave. I was
This is where his hard head came into play. Yes, it was cracked, but it was still hard. He kept attempting to
stand up, repeating “I’M OK! STOP WORRYING! I JUST NEED TO GET MY STRENGTH BACK!
I’M OK! CALM DOWN!”
Stop worrying? Seriously, Gary? Okey dookey! Piece of cake! No problemo! I’ll just go on down below
and start chugging bourbon. You just take your good old time and let me know when you are BACK IN
THE COCKPIT INSTEAD OF OVERBOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A lifetime later, he did finally struggle into the cockpit and I determined that he was not in shock or about to
go unconscious. Hopefully. My next thought was that we needed help. If the masts did go overboard, and
damaged the hull, we could sink. We needed to call May Day May Day May Day. Captain Gary disagreed.
“If I’m going to die today, it will not be at the hands of the Coast Guard!” I quickly convinced him that we
needed help standing by if the situation worsened. We placed the call.
After running through all the bureaucratic Coast Guard b.s. several times, they established an ETA of 35
minutes. We were then hailed by Tow Boat U.S., who heard my transmission with the Coast Guard. He
advised he would be there in 5 minutes. How could that be? I asked “Could you repeat your ETA, Tow
Boat U.S.?” “FIVE MINUTES” he replied. We looked behind us, and there was our hero! It was so
comforting to have help within reach!
The mast continued to surge forward and aft with each wave. Luckily, it landed on the forward port lifeline
and wedged itself on our swim ladder on the starboard side, which prevented it from sliding off into the
water. But we had no idea how long it would remain on board.
Gary and the Tow Boat Captain discussed options and decided to head several miles into shore for
protection from the wind. There, Gary was able to secure masts with a line tied around the winch, hoping it
was strong enough to keep them from rolling overboard.
Next he decided we should head back to First Buffalo Marina, the place we were originally going to have
the masts stepped. The gash next to his eye continued to bleed as a huge knot formed. We advised the
marina of our distress situation, and they assured us help would be waiting at the dock.
It wasn’t until after the situation was under control and we were headed to safety that the Coast Guard
arrived, about an hour later than their promised ETA. They came along side and Gary advised that he was
Apparently, this aroused the suspicion of the nearby Border Patrol agents. They came rushing alongside
Tessa, Gary gave them a thumbs up, said he was OK, and advised where we had come from and where we
were now headed. At this response, the Border Patrol agent thought it appropriate to gun it and scream
away, creating a wake that could have easily sent the masts plunging overboard. We both screamed in fear
We continued our slow progress toward safety, and were shocked when the Coast Guard boat reappeared
along side, this time with the Border Patrol agent standing on the bow, screaming that they were boarding
“I am the Captain of this vessel, we are in a dangerous position here, and I DO NOT WANT YOU coming
alongside or boarding us at this time. Follow us to Buffalo!” Gary replied. This really got the power
hungry Border Patrol’s adrenaline flowing. He screamed “YOU MUST COMPLY! WE ARE BOARDING
IMMEDIATELY” as they surged alongside and began boarding.
So, Gary has just narrowly escaped death, we are still in a dangerous, potentially life threatening situation,
he is injured and struggling to get his vessel to safe harbor with masts precariously hanging sideways across
the deck, and they decide this is a good time to conduct a ROUTINE SAFETY CHECK! Could this really
Gary blotted a towel against his bleeding face while I scurried around down below complying with their
demands. Once they concluded that Captain Gary had properly posted the ‘Garbage Management
Procedure’ and complied with all other vital safety requirements, the Coast Guard guy thanked Gary and
said to me “I hope this hasn’t soured your opinion of the Coast Guard Ma’am.” At my wits end, I replied
angrily “Just get off our boat!”
We made our way ever so carefully back to First Buffalo River Marina, where Kathy the office manager
advised an EMT would be waiting at the dock. But Dennis Adams is not just an EMT. He was Gary’s
He calmly took charge upon our arrival, which was just what I needed. He evaluated Gary’s condition and
at first wasn’t sure he needed to be rushed to the hospital. Something we were trying to avoid since we have
a mere $5000 deductible on our personal insurance. Ten minutes later, after helping us to secure our
injured Tessa at the dock, he reevaluated and told me “Get him in the truck. We’re going to the Emergency
Several hours, x-rays, and ten stitches later, Gary was patched up. Dennis, this man we had known for five
minutes, waited hours for us while entertaining and cheering up other emergency room patients. His
calming comfort unleashed my pent up fears, and I sobbed in the backseat as he drove us back to Tessa.
Oddly, I wasn’t embarrassed. It already felt as though we were family, and it was OK to just “let it out” like
he suggested. After a quick dinner at his favorite KFC, we got Gary back to Tessa and determined it was
time for him to rest. My instructions were to wake him every two hours to be sure there was no concussion.
This wasn’t the last we were to see Dennis. Bright and early the next morning, he was again there to take
charge and supervise the removal of the masts. He doesn’t work for the marina, but considers himself more
of a friendly consultant. We all inspected the masts and were relieved that there was only cosmetic damage,
nothing structural seemed affected. Gary couldn’t keep himself from participating, but soon began to show
signs of exhaustion. We suggested he stretch out for a little nap, which evolved into a six hour one. While
he slept, Dennis took me to pick up Gary’s prescription and to do some provisioning. Then he and his wife
Debbie took us out for a fun, get-your-mind-off-your troubles dinner.
As we climbed into our bunk that night, Gary commented that he doubted he could sleep after sleeping all
day. I suggested he just close his eyes and see what happens. He was immediately snoring, and slept all the
way through the night.
A few days later, once I was finally able to look at my injured Captain without crying, we were relaxing in
experience some kind of life changing, renewed love and appreciation of each other. But I could not love
you or appreciate you any more now than I did before. You & I, we’re just same old, same old.”
He smiled at me through his swollen, stitched up eye and said “So that’s what we are , huh, just same old,