Thoughts on swimming, mortality, etc.

Nothing like a late night swim to bring ones self face to face with ones own mortality.

Last night the ice slabs were pounding the bow of the boat. Every ice slab contact is a boat shuddering, sledge hammer force that causes you to pause for a second to listen for the sound of running water. I put on my boots and parka and went out to push away the piece of evil that was currently percussing on the hull. I’ve done this dozens of times; a 2×4, lean into it, sending the ice off into the night for my neighbours to deal with. So with typical male macho gusto, I leaned in to it – getting the momentum of the ice moving away from the boat, then pulling back to admire my work … ooops.

There is a point of no return, I know, because I found it.

Eager in its attempt provide tangible proof of evolutionary theory, Darwins hammer reached out and tapped me lightly on the backside. I stepped out … my mind screaming “noooooo” and began to dance. It was a slow motion number, composed primarily of a pirouette with arms wheeling but catching nothing. With the ever so coherent thought ‘I can’t believe I’m going in …’ I stepped sprightly away from the safety of the dock.

So there I was, gazing up through the gloom, the pale yellow haze of the surface of the water some 3 or 4 feet above me, experiencing this ‘shock and awe’ of my own creation and wondering what to do next. The cold hit as I was kicking to the surface and reaching for the dock. The cold was heart stopping.

Looking down at the water from the dock you don’t really get a sense of how far above the surface of the water the top of the dock really is. Looking at the dock from the water level will change your perception perceptibly. There was no way I was going to be able to heave my waterlogged, and shall we say fleshy frame, back up onto the dock. I hollered for help, wondering if anyone would hear me, my mind instantly snapping back to the problem of how to get back onto the dock. That’s when it hit me – the tangible realization that I was indeed mortal. The exact thought did not have any words, but was composed of the emotional realization that I was actually in a position here where I might not make it. It was all very new and rather stunning – this whole mortality thing.

Something just touched my back! I spun around to find the slab of ice, that evil beast of monstrous proportions coming back to sniff at its thrashing victim. Then in an unbelievable act of silent benevolence it presented its own back as a scalable surface, a stepping stone to that cliff towering above me that was the dock. I clamored up onto the the ice and gingerly stood up. Experiencing the joy of rebirth and with new found ease and grace I stepped back onto the dock. Taaadaaaa. Ya, I meant to do that…

Now I have the shakes.

Shamefaced and embarrassed, I scuttled back to the safety and warmth of the boat. Ahhh – heat, the smell of lake water and the gentle sounds of ice slabs grinding the hull. Home, sweet home.


  • Anonymous

    S’funny, I had one of those waking-up-to-my-own-mortality experiences too, on May 2nd last. Serious reconsideration of the whole event led to the inevitable conclusion that one must tiptoe through the tulips more deliberatly. And, indeed the consternation expressed by one’s loved ones confirmed that that event wasn’t to be repeated. Hope your dear ones have expressed similar concerns.

    Forty Ford

  • andrew

    Phew. Just reading your account made me shiver. You all be careful.

    Spring’s nearly here 😉


  • Anonymous

    At first I laughed, you tell it so well, then I stopped to think of what could have been!!
    Next time tie a rope around yourself first!!

    Auntie H

  • Ellen, John & Sophia

    Aaaahh!! You scared me to death, T! I remember, vividly, the way Boston Harbor took my breath away in early April. Your water had to have been far colder- it reminds me to be John’s spotter when we’re in the same predicament in the future. So glad you’re safe and sound.

  • Walkabout

    I’m a Live-aboard in Sarnia Ontario and had a similar incident a month and half ago. I had been on the bow pushing ice away and was stepping back onto my finger a’midships as thats where my plastic begins (mast to stern cover) when my foot touched the dock and slipped out from under me. I was doing a gymnastic routine of Olympic grace trying to grab a life line before I ended up swimming and in the end was able to do just that. Now being of “fleshier” proportions myself I ended up partially separating my left shoulder in my effort to stay dry. Should have just accepted the bath mother nature was offering! I placed a ladder in my slip up against the dock for just such an emergency in the fall as there are only a few of us White Sailors here.
    Glad all ended well for you.

    God Speed and Fair winds
    Matt Hevron

  • Hudson


    Got your note. When I started reading, I said to myself, “Ice? Why does he have ice?”. Then your latitude dawned on me. Mines 17.2 N. M’God, I haven’t thought about ice for a while now. Glad you’re OK.


  • Anna

    What a great story! Not great that it happened, but great that you survived and at least made the best of it by writing a fantastic post.

  • Jill

    Greetings from St. Croix,

    Great story, glad you survived … Made me think of the movie Open Water2, yikes!
    I live in the Caribbean, just started reading your blog – hadn’t realized
    you were in a cold climate until reading this entry (I’d only read one other entry prior to this one) Living on a boat anywhere that’s not warm and tropical is hard to imagine .. You guys are tough! Best of luck to you, and thank you for sharing your adventures.


  • Jacob

    I like the way you told that. Freaked me out. As Cutter wrote "jacklines", got to remember that when I start living on my boat someday.

  • Sarah

    My in-laws live on a canal boat here in the UK, and last year (October/November time) I recieved a text from their youngest, 11 at the time, telling me he had fallen in a lock but he was ok now…. Turns out, not only did he fall in the lock, but he went through the sluices!! Luckily, he came out of it with only a few scrapes and a bump on his arm. Talk about heart stopping!

    Usually I would put this down to him being a pain in the backside, and messing around, but in this instance him and his step-brother (also 11) were helping with the lock and it was a genuine accident, just like you falling in.

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