Spending time with Chuck

by : Charles wheeler

I have been waking up thinking about something that happening to me and my son Chuck. I have decided to write it down while it’s on my mind.

Chuck was seventeen, we had him when I was seventeen, a child dad . This was not a good combination I thought I knew it all ,he knew he did. Needless to say we had not been getting along very well for quite a while.

My wife told me, honey you need to find a way to spend more time with Chuck. Well I have not been spending very much time with him the last few years. Honey he will be grown and gone before you know it, I said ok. Chuck is my oldest son. I have seven children, fourteen grand kids and Five great grand children.

So I have decided to start spending more time with Chuck now the question is, doing what?

We tried golf, he tried to hard and all we did was argue. Then we tried fishing but the rest of the kids wanted to go along. That was ok, but it was not what I wanted. How to spend time with Chuck.

Two weeks later a friend of mine ask me to go sailing with him that Saturday as he needed a crewman.

He had a real nice sailboat a Catalina 22. The rules were that he had to have two people on his boat to race. His normal crew had something to do and couldn’t sail that Saturday so he ask me. I told him that I had never sailed on a sailboat, he said that was ok. He would show me. I ask can I bring my son Chuck along? He said yes no problem. We went, Chuck nor I knew anything about sailing and we a great time.

On the way home we talked about a lot of things. One thing that was brought up was ,why don’t we get us a sailboat, then we could learn to sail together.

The next week we looked in the paper (bet you thought I was going to say internet, there wasn’t any internet back then) the paper.

SAILBOAT FOR SALE the ad read. Dad let’s go look at it. First we called had it in the paper for $850 said that would take $600 cash. We went to look at it.

It was a Dolphin. Not to bad, a two person sailboat 5 years old and in good shape. We got it.

Chuck was very proud of that boat. We joined the sailboat club to go racing (fours hours to go three miles) Breaking the speed records. Chuck got some books from the library about the racing rules. The next week he told me. Keep going dad we have the right-of -way and he yelled starboard boat. Yea we are doing ok.

The last race was November 15th It was cold and windy about 35mph. The race was to start at 1pm. We got out to the lake at 11am. Got the boat unloaded and got the sail up. The wind was blowing about 35mph and boat was pulling hard. Chuck was going to park the car but I told him to come on. We would sail the boat to the dock and come back and park the car. He said let me get the life preservers, I said no come on let’s go we will be right back.

As we got under way, damm this wind must be blowing harder than I thought. Thrilling but a little scary if you know what I mean. In just minutes we were quite a ways out. I tried to turn around but a nearly turned the boat over. The only way that I could turn around was to go across the lake to the other side and get out of the hard wind. Man what a ride the temp was 45 cold but exciting we were right on the edge.

We got turned around no easy feat and headed back. We have decided to put the boat up we didn’t want any more of this. Cold wet and a little scared. A gust hit us. What am I doing in the water. It’s ok Chuck will come back and get me. I heard Chuck yell stay there dad I will go and get the boat. We were both in the water and the boat was moving away from us. We both tried to swim after it but we could not get close to it. The waves were one to two feet high, the wind just moved the boat away from us.

I looked around it was two miles to land that way, and two miles that way. Four miles that way and that way. I always thought when I heard of someone drowning how could anyone get in that kind of trouble. Now I know.

Chuck we are in a lot of trouble. We may be ok if we can survive for 30 or 45min. I think that the crew will be out to put the racing pylons in place. They will surely see the boat with the sail down it the water, and know that there is a problem.

I read somewhere that if you are in an emergency like this stay away from each other Chuck was trying to hold me up. I pushed him away. I told him we are in a lot of trouble and we will have to save ourselves.

I can float and Chuck can tread water but it is so cold and the waves are so high. I must remember to keep the top of my head down under the water and wait until a wave goes over my head then take a breath. It’s going pretty good oh man it’s cold. Cough- Cough where did that wave come from. Chuck are you ok. Chuck, sorry dad thought I heard you but the wind. I didn’t know .Yes I am ok. Dad- yes, are we going to make it. I have not seen any boats on the lake. Do you think that I should try to swim to shore. No let’s wait and see if the crew comes out. How long has it been, 20 minutes dad.

It goes on and on. It seems like hours float, tread water, see if Chuck is ok, float again.

I am floating, I here a boat motor. I know that we have made it. I heard my son holler throw me something that floats and save my dad, he is up there. I relaxed I was saved I saw the boat getting dimmer and dimmer as I started to sink. All at once a hand hit me in the chest I grabbed it and he pulled me from under the water.

On shore waiting for the ambulance the guys told me they saw the Dolphin floating into the dam. They thought that it had broken loose from its mooring. So they launched their boat and went after it, but when they saw the sails in the water. They knew it was an emergency, standard procedures. Head up wind that’s were the boat had to come from and hope that you are time to save whoever is in trouble.

So that’s what they did then they went tearing across that lake. When they saw my son he told them give me something that floats And save my dad. He is that way. They said they did not see me. Then there he is.

He just went under quick hold my legs. He reached under the water and touched my chest and grabbed me, he said he thought that something broke his arm is was grabbed so hard. He had a black bruise on that arm for a week

My son made a quick recovery. The doctor told me I nearly didn’t make it. It was a good thing that I had quit smoking the year before or I probably wouldn’t have. We were in the water only 45 minutes. It seemed like hours.

Chuck and I have sailed for years since then. We have had many boats over the years and had many sailing experiences. But none like this.

Chuck and I haven’t ever said anything about this. But I thought that I should write this down before I forget it Because it’s been 28 years and my memory is not what it use to be.