Nathan Ward’s (the winner) recollections:
It was Labor Day and I wanted to take a few friends sailing in my Thistle—there was an approaching storm but I thought we had an hour or two of wild wind before the storm arrived and my crew, who had never been sailing before, all agreed we should go out.
After reaching back and forth across the lake in some very strange oscillating breeze, my overconfidence got the best of me and I decided to put the fourth person sitting on the bow tank with the jib down. No problem, right?!!
We were by the bridge when a hard shift hit and auto tacked us onto port. I was slow to alert my crew to what was happening . . . as they stayed on starboard just a little too long the boat heeled, heeled, turned, and capsized! After I was certain that everyone was OK, I assured them that we could float for as long was needed. We tried repeatedly to right the boat, but because the floatation tanks were completely full of lake water, this was impossible. The boat wasn’t sinking, but it wasn’t totally floating either.
Lucky for us Don Bacharowski, Jeff Jones, Stephanie Bahr, and Dave Stetson all came to the rescue in two HSC rescue boats. Jeff traded places with my crew who can’t swim. My other 2 friends got on Dave & Steph’s boat. And they begin the slow tow back to the club ramp. BUT, my boat didn’t really want to float at all, to which the photos will attest. PLUS the boat towing us sputters, then stalls. . .
Meanwhile, some Good Samaritan, likely driving across the bridge, had alerted the Westerville fire department to our predicament and a heavy rescue truck stopped on the bridge. As the firemen notice the stalled towboat, the officer in charge radios to confirm that a city power boat is on the way, while a medic scrambles down the riprap to the shore, where Don calls to him from the still-running rescue boat to assure him that what he’s seeing is, and I quote, “not normal per se, but under control.”
If that’s not enough excitement, remember the approaching storm I mentioned? Now the tornado-warning sirens start going off. We can see the dark sky approaching quickly. It was scary to watch the cloud formation as it rotated toward earth. Luckily it did not form a tornado. However, we learned days later that a small tornado touched down in Galena.
As we neared the dock, Hoover members greeted us with lots of help! Marty S. convinced the water rescue unit, that was now waiting at the top of the ramp, not to launch their boat and thanked them for their efforts. Finally, the remaining operating Hoover rescue boat headed back out, under the darkening sky, to bring in the disabled skiff with the rest of my friends. As they reached the mooring dock, the tornado sirens were still howling mournfully to serenade the various groups putting ALL the boats away.
All in all, it was a legendary day for my friends. Their first experience sailing was a wild one that they will not forget.
As for my Thistle, and me, I was not banned from the club like I thought I would be and my Thistle is now for sale. I’m happy to make you a deal!
Much gratitude to everyone that assisted in our rescue, and puts work into making sure our members are always safe. —Nathan Ward
Thanks to Stephanie Bahr for the photos.
Honorable Mention 180 Degree Award
This skipper was sailing a borrowed Thistle downwind under spinnaker. He called for a jibe, but the pole work was late, and the boat capsized. They righted the boat — but it went right back over. Nothing too unusual here, you may say, but the “Rest of the Story” revolves around the fact that during the capsize, the skipper wet his pants.
No! That was worded very carefully – to be clear, the skipper was in full command of his plumbing throughout the incident. Instead, his complaint about wet pants referred to the crew’s performance, which he felt, despite coping with an unfamiliar boat in heavy air, had not met his high standards. Hoover’s Roving 180 Degree Nominator, Ann Jones, says this skipper explained to her that he applies the following test: “A skipper should never get his pants wet above the knee during a capsize, if both crew members are doing their jobs properly.” This time, the water reached his waist when both crew executed an agile walkover, but then slipped off the unfamiliar centerboard before they could stop the boat settling sideways into the reservoir.
For reminding his crew that they should aspire to the highest standards and that a dry skipper is a happy skipper, Honorable Mention goes to Jeff Tyndall!