|Marine Survey Masters |
Houston, Texas, USA
Serving The US South East
Daniel R. DeHart, SAMS® AMS®
Principal Marine Surveyor and Insurance Adjuster
I guess my first near death experience that I can recall, also involving boats, happened when I was 18 and here is that story.|
When I was a senior at St. Thomas High School in 1964, it was in the fall, I remember I came home and mentioned that we had studied about Pages in Washington in government and wondered what it took to become one. At the time, mom was married to Bob Grobe, good friends with then senior US House of Representatives member Albert Thomas. He phoned him in Washington, and to make a long story short, about two weeks later I found myself in Washington, DC as a Page in the House of Representatives. That is another story to be continued...
So, come Easter of that spring, Mom flew me back home for the holiday. At the time, Joe was working as a yacht broker for some firm that sold boats out of the Houston Yacht Club on North Galveston Bay and he offered to take Ken and I for a sail on one of the demo boats. We met him at the club and started out in a Lone Star 16' day sailor, the first time I was ever on a sailboat, I do believe. We made it around to Kemah, about a 10 miles sail from the Houston Yacht Club. We had lunch at a restaurant on the Kemah Channel and started back after lunch. When we were leaving out the Kemah Channel we noticed there were dark clouds ahead and many boats were coming in. I seem to recall we were the only one's going out. Now that I look back at it, that was an ominous sign. Needless to say, Joe either did not check the weather, or if he did said it was nothing to worry about and off we went.
About 30 minutes later, while under leisure sail in the bay, it struck. I will never forget the wind shift and gusts of wind. The sails were ripped off the boat as if they were made of paper. The wind was howling and rain felt like BB's hitting us. Joe had us all put on our life jackets and start bailing with buckets because the water was starting to come over the sides of the hull. He re-assured us that if the boat swamped, it would not sink because it had floatation built into it. He turned out to be correct on that one!
I remember we emptied the ice chest overboard and tied a line to it. Then we tossed it overboard as a sea anchor to keep us pointed into the wind. But, in just a matter of no time the boat swamped. We were sitting in the boat, which was swamped and Joe said to get out of the boat and float in the water, hanging on to the sides. So, we did.
We rode the storm out. I will never forget how scared I was, thought I was about to die. It seemed like it would never end. When it finally did, it was night. There we were, in the middle of Galveston Bay (the ocean to me at the time!), swimming in life jackets beside the boat. It was so cold, being only April, the water temperature was not very warm.
I recall that we discussed that we were OK now, we had survived the storm, and it was just a matter of time until someone pickup us up. Joe said his wife at the time would surely call the police, which it turns out she did do.
I remember that as we shivered in the water, we could see ships passing in the distant ship channel and what we thought were searchlights further out into the bay, but none near us. Education about Hypothermia was not very common at that time and I do not recall our discussing it, but we knew that it was not a good thing for us to possibly sit there all night like that. We could see the shoreline in the distance, so either Joe or Ken decided we should get behind the boat and swim, pushing it toward the shore. This probably saved our lives by getting us ashore and the act of swimming probably warded off the effects of hypothermia to some degree.
We swam and swam for what seemed like hours. Finally, we felt bottom and walked ashore. It was the wee hours of the next morning I think. We knocked on a door and we must have been quite a sight to the person that who answered the door. They knew immediately who we were, saying that they had seen on the news that there were rescue boats searching for three brothers missing in the storm.
I seem to recall they drove us to the Houston Yacht Club where the search effort was based. We walked up to the police cars, etc., and said something to the effect "I think we might be the people you are looking for". I think some of our families were there and we had a joyous reunion.
The next day, the headlines in the Houston Chronicle read "Three Brothers Safe on Capsized Boat". Front page news, first and only time I have ever rated that. Of course, the story was wrong, the boat did not capsize, it just swamped. I saved the article, but have since lost track of it. I presume the boat was recovered. Joe may have been fired for it, something that often happened to Joe, unfortunately.
When I flew back to Washington and went to work a few days later, I was surprised how many congressmen knew of the incident and congratulated me on my survival. It may have made the congressional newspaper.
So, once again, I had to thank my lucky stars.
Sadly, in the same storm, another boat foundered and three souls, also brothers, were lost.
Installed October 30, 2014 Last Revised October 1, 2020 - Hosted and maintained by Don Robertson