July 10, 2009
We plan to get underway today, but are in no big hurry. We had a great dinner with friends Peter and Katherine, who came in on DUTCH TREAT, last night. Bruce and Peter decided to get a power walk in and I decided to sleep in. I knew Katherine, an artist that paints daily, would be wanting peace and quiet somewhere to paint. Well, it is time to be up, and I keep watching the clock, telling myself, “Ok, in two minutes you have to get up.” Then I look at the clock again and it has been seven minutes, but now it is an odd time, so three minutes and it will be 0845 and, “you HAVE to get up.” I am now all but harassing myself to get UP. And just about the time I am convinced, I hear my name called out, and I knew it was Katherine. When I heard her the first time, I thought it was a singsong sort of “Oh, Angie I have a cup of coffee….come and get it”. Then I heard her again and it was not the sound of a song, it was the shout of distress and then again. I assumed she was running down our dock with a cut hand or something, so I grabbed on my robe and ran topside, stepped out on deck and there was no Katherine standing there, and yet she is still calling my name “Annnngeeeeee” and then I heard her “HELPPPPPP ME”. Oh, dear God, I knew what happening. I called to her asking where she was, and she answered she was in the water at the end of her boat, that was stern-in to the dock. This is NOT the first time I have heard the call of help from a person is in the water. I remember like a flash what we had to do the last time to save a person in the water, so I immediately grabbed a line and personal float device (PFD), and ran to where she was.
She was holding on to the dock at the cleat with one hand, and holding her very large art back with the other! Her first words were “Take my bag”. I grabbed hold of it and was shocked that it was so heavy I could not lift it out of the water. Oh, I knew I couldn’t get Katherine out, but to not get the bag – that was very full and then full of water, too. She was SO determined to save the bag that I knew I had to “save” it before she would let me save her. I uncoiled the extra line from the dock line, looped it through the bag handles and then recoiled the line around the cleat. Katherine actually had to push up on the bottom of the bag, as I literally could not hold it by myself. Whew, now we could deal with Katherine. The biggest enemy of falling into NW waters is time and temperature of the water. This morning it was 52 degrees F, we found out later. I knew I had to get her out quickly. And I knew I couldn’t do it alone, and there was no one in sight to call. I left Katherine in the water and ran back to our boat. I grabbed our marina receipt to call them, as I knew there were harbor guys about but there was no local number available (which has now been addressed). I didn’t have any other phone numbers quickly so I picked up the VHF radio and called the Coast Guard. I know how to speak on the VHF radio, but I have to admit I didn’t follow all the proper words – my mouth was totally dry, I was just desperate to get back to Katherine, and they wanted to know what color of shirt she was wearing and what color her hair was. I told them and then said you have to call me on a cell phone. I can’t stand here, I have to get back to her. He immediately got my phone number (which thank goodness I gave correctly, as I had actually grabbed Captain’s phone, not mine. They called back immediately, and I am running down the dock looking like a crazed woman – barefoot, long hot pink robe, and nightgown streaming out of it, back to Katherine. The Coast Guard was talking to me, demanding answers this entire time, and I am just trying to think what I can do next. Meanwhile, Katherine with some super human strength had worked her way around about two hundred feet of dock to a ladder that is meant for the very purpose of saving someone who falls overboard. She couldn’t get it down, and with all I had I couldn’t get it loose, and by then people started coming from who knows where, but no one could get the ladder down. At this point I got a line around Katherine and got her hands through the PDF. She had been in the water probably more than 15 minutes at this point, and there was just no way she would be able to hold on much longer. I could hear sirens in the distance, and I started hearing a very shrill whistle from the sea wall. I looked toward the whistler and saw he was waving toward us, and I realized there was someone on the water looking for us – help was on the way! They literally got there JUST IN TIME. One of the harbor work boats that has a drop down bow pulled up with two harbor workers and a Harbor Policeman. The policeman and one of the workers lifted Katherine onto the lip of the boat, and then got her safely on the dock. By that time there were all sorts of uniforms on the dock. I was still trying to finish up the call with the Coast Guard. Next thing I knew Katherine had gone to her boat to get out of the wet clothing, get into a hot shower, and start warming up. All the paramedics and police were standing by, in the event she needed to be taken to the hospital. I went aboard to just make sure she was okay. Once she was out of the shower, in dry clothing, and wrapped in a blanket, a paramedic came aboard and took her blood pressure and pulse. They were within normal bounds enough they let her decide if she wanted to go to the hospital and she declined.
Once Katherine was in the shower I finally had time to call her husband, Peter, and his phone rang just next to me. Neither husbands had taken their phones. As the cavalry was leaving the marina, Peter and Bruce were walking down the docks back to the boats. They both speculated on what brought all these emergency vehicles and people down to the dock. Bruce commented that he knew it wasn’t me, as I was still in bed. (Ha!) As one of the people was passing the men, Bruce asked if everything was okay, and the person said, “She is cold, but she will be okay”. So, as they approached DUTCH TREAT they first saw me, and I looked – well I looked like I just got out of bed and bit bedraggled, I guess. And their first thought was that it was me, but then they saw Katherine, with the wet hair bundled in fleece blankets and then we really got their attention.
I can’t even imagine what all went through Peter’s head, but it wasn’t good. He was mostly speechless and for those who know Peter, that is hard to believe. He seemed only able to say “Oh, Katherine,” again and again. I felt it was the same helpless feeling I was still experiencing.
I am so grateful help arrived when it did. Thank you to everyone who helped. I was a bit brusque with a lady that was walking down to help. I remember thinking “why isn’t she running???” and I actually said out loud, “Can’t you run??” I never heard her response, but turned out that she couldn’t. I apologized later and she forgave me, as she said I was a bit stressed (ya think?). I remember telling the Coast Guard that if they couldn’t spot Katherine and her green shirt just look for a hot pick robe. I heard the fellow repeat while he was writing “hot pink robe…..”. Oh yeesh, why don’t I wear clothes to bed?!?!?!?! I don’t think any of the rescuers knew I was the one that had called. I can only imagine them wondering about the crazy lady in the bright pink robe. Too funny…now – but not then.
Katherine is a beautiful, strong, and determined woman, and I know she was very instrumental in getting herself saved. She is pretty sore and stiff from hanging on so long, has a few scrapes and cuts from the sea life under the docks, and in the horrible, beyond yucky water, for as long as she did, but she is alive and that is what is most important.
Oh, her bag? Well, that was the first thing Katherine asked of the cops on the dock, “can you get my bag, please?”. I know they knew there was little to be salvaged, but if it made the lady happy it was simple enough – but it took two men! And the contents? Mostly all ruined – but Peter is moving heaven and earth to replace her favorite things.
I was reminded amid all this drama just how powerful adrenalin is. In general I can never walk barefoot but I was running up and down the docks, on the boat and back, and I had absolutely NO PAIN. It was the same adrenalin that had Katherine hanging on to the bag with one hand and the dock with the other. To think it could have pulled her under, and for the life of me, I don’t know how she kept it up as high as she did. Also, the adrenalin helps you react and not think, because you would be distracted thinking the unthinkable. However, sooner or later the adrenalin backs off, and then it is like falling into an abyss. All the thinking starts and all the what ifs, and could haves and should haves, and it is a huge roller coaster of emotion realizing that Katherine was saved and I helped. This is the second time I have been instrumental in saving a life, due to someone falling into the water in a marina. The first time was plenty traumatic, but he was a stranger, and it still took days to not be overcome with emotion out of the blue. However, this time I was on my own for awhile there, and it was my very dear friend. Regardless, you just CAN’T think in those terms. I was more prepared to assist Katherine due to our first experience, and I know even more now – though I hope never to need the experience.
Katherine has related her experience on her blog. You can read it at http://katherine-artandmusic.blogspot.com/ .
We have all gone on our separate ways now, but plan to hook up again in the near future. Though we are all well for the most part, we are all changed.
And that is what happened – At Home Today – in Bremerton.