Ski Safe – A Cautionary Tale

This is a true story from Little Lake Joseph a few years ago .The names have been changed.

Friday is here at last and Dad should be arriving at the cottage soon. He promised me that he would take me water skiing as soon as he arrived. Mom has made Dad’s favourite dinner but she says it will wait until after the water ski.

I am 11 years old and have two younger sisters. Last Sunday was the very first time that I was able to get up on the water skiis and go all around the bay without falling. I have been trying and trying for the whole summer and I feel so very proud that I can do it – and at least sooner than my sisters. It would have been dreadful if they succeeded in skiing before me because they are only 3 and 4 years old.

I hear the car tires crunching on the gravel on the driveway and I run to confirm that Dad has arrived. I help unload the strawberries he picked up for Mom and wait until he has given everyone a hug before I blurt out, “Can I get the boat ready for my water ski?”
“Sure, you get the skiis, the water ski rope and the life jackets ready and I will be down at the dock in just a few minutes,” Dad says.
Away I go and get set to show off. Lisa and Debbie, my sisters, have their lifejackets on and Lisa is getting her new camera ready to record my water skiing expertise. The boat starts no problem and – much to my surprise – I pop out of the water on my first try and am standing pretty solidly on my skiis. Dad gives me the thumbs up. Lisa, Debbie and Dad are watching and cheering. It feels great to be the centre of attention. Dad is motioning for me to try to cut out over the wake. I get close but then choose to stay directly behind the boat. I don’t want to fall. Everyone’s eyes are on me.

Except, up ahead I see a boat house. I see where the boat is headed and I try to scream. No one hears me and no one sees where they are headed. I am still holding on to the rope but I am sinking in the lake. The boat has stopped completely. Dad, Lisa and Debbie have disappeared as the boat hit the dock and boat house head on. They have been thrown under the bow and I cannot see anyone.
I can stand up on the bottom of the lake because I am so close to shore. I can hear Lisa and Debbie crying and screaming. I hear another boat coming from across the lake. The people ask me if I am OK and can I get to shore.

“Yes.” I whimper. Dad is going to be so mad at me for wrecking his boat with my desire for a Friday night water ski. But that is the least of the worries of the people converging on the scene from other cottages. The boards from the dock have pierced through the bow of the boat. One has hit Lisa in the head and she is bleeding. Dad is unconscious but breathing says a strange man trying to assist Dad. The wood of the boathouse that has been hit is making very creepy creaking sounds.

“We have to get them out of here before the roof comes down,” says one of the men. He lifts Lisa and Debbie onto the sandy shore and a lady is helping stop the bleeding on Lisa’s head. Both my sisters are crying. The lady asks their names and where our cottage is. “Over there,” I point. “My Mom is there making dinner.” “Do you know your telephone number?”

It is confusing. People call my mother and tell her there has been an accident. Eventually, I hear Dad speak. “Darn kids and their water skiing,” he says.

When water skiing, the law and common sense require that there be two responsible people in the boat. One who is focused exclusively on driving the boat safely. The other should be focused exclusively on the water skier and know the hand signals that the skier will be using. One boathouse destroyed. No one seriously injured. Everyone caught up in the pride and excitement of a newly skilled water skier. The driver was not paying attention to the boat’s path and it is questionable whether the two sisters were old enough to really be communicating with hand signals with the water skier.

Be safe on the lakes. Know the laws.