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Red Sky at Night with JB Cornwell | Stick in the Mud
Article courtesy of JB Cornwell

I think it was the Summer of 1980. We lived in a partially restored old farm house plus five acres and farm buildings on a south facing slope a few miles west of St. Bonifacius, MN. I called it Sunnybank. From a glassed in porch we had a distant view of Lake Waconia, about 5 miles south, where this adventure took place.

Son John, 14, and I were fishing Lake Waconia. It was a windy day so we were parked in our 1966 Boston Whaler Sakonnet on the north side of the island, sheltered from the wind. We were catching a lot of drum and a few nice, pan sized walleye on ultra-light spincast gear with night crawlers on bare hooks. We would toss them to a nearby weed bed in about 10' of water and let them sink slowly. We did lose a few due to our 4lb test lines and rudimentary drags. Those were probably big drum, but we talked about the big walleye that were making off with our terminal tackle.

Out on the main body of the lake there were a few sailboats, including a small catamaran that was very fast. As it zinged by not many yards away from us its wake sizzled like rain. It was up on one hull, with the two occupants hanging from the rigging on the high side. It was very pleasant to watch and looked like great fun. It had to be exceeding 30 knots at times.

The cat zoomed back and forth for a while, then the helmsman made a mistake and she got knocked down. As the mast hit the water one of the sailors was tossed into the sail, driving the mast and sail under water. The boat continued over until completely capsized, with the mast pointing straight down into the lake.

We idled over to see if we could help.

The two sailors were standing on the bottom of one hull, trying to right the boat to no avail. She remained inverted.

Several other powerboats gathered at the scene, offering a lot of advice and little assistance. I asked the boater how we could help. He asked if we could run a line over the inverted hulls to the far hull and give her a pull abeam. I said, “Sure” and disconnected my anchor from the line and tossed him the end. He attached it to something on the far hull and waved.

I took up the slack and gave the Whaler a little throttle. The cat moved sideways and showed no inclination to begin righting. I gave a little more throttle and the cat slowly . . . very slowly. . .began to tilt toward upright as well as sliding sideways to follow my boat. Soon she was on her side, with the mast and sail at the water surface. Gave her a short burst of throttle and the mast lurched upright. I cut my throttle and shifted into Neutral as slack developed in the towline/anchor rode.

“Well, that is that”, I thought. Wrong.

With my line still attached and both sailors in the water the wind grabbed the cat's sail and started to move her off, dragging me behind.

One of the other powerboats picked up the sailors and pulled up abeam the cat. The sailors transferred to their boat and loosed the sail so that its unmanned voyage was terminated. They disconnected my line, tossed it in the lake and sailed off without comment. I guess they were just too busy (and embarrassed) to think about thanks.

(JB Cornwell writes from "The Hideout" in Whitt, TX, and is also an expert moderator, instructor, and fountain-of-knowledge in the Boating Forums, where he may occasionally share a yarn of his own.)

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