Every year we have a family scalloping adventure just before the summer ends. I have a great extended family and my inlaws all love to swim and snorkel in the Gulf. If we actually get any scallops, well, that's just icing on the cake. The important thing is the fun and togetherness.
Last year, I had taken the boat out to the marina the day before to scout out some scallops and do a little shake down cruise. I left the boat at the marina dock that night...I also left the little depth finder on. All night long it dutifully read the depth at the dock until the boat battery ran down.
The next day, all the inlaws are there with multiple boats, eager kids, and lots of anticipation. It takes a little while for a couple dozen people to
load 5 or 6 boats and get going, but finally we were ready to set sail.
I turned the key...nothing. I turned it again in disbelief....nothing again.
I looked at the depthfinder...the switch was ON.
Ever get that sinking feeling where you know you have screwed up royally and everyone else is about to know it? ...Never? Well, I have and it is not fun.
So you are thinking this must be the stupid part...no, forgetful maybe, but not really, really stupid, ...
The family boats are starting up all around me, my kids are happy and getting in the boat...and I have killed my boat battery. My motor is noticeably silent among the happy chatter and rumbling outboards.
Katie noticed and said, "What's wrong Dad?"
"Don't worry, I can fix this." I looked in the drywell for the rope and handle that came with the outboard motor. This is for starting it when the battery is dead. (How did they know?)
The pull rope was not there. I had cleaned the boat and left it in the garage.
"Don't worry, I can still fix this." I grabbed a piece of pink rope and cut a couple of feet, knotted one end, wrapped it around the manifold, pulled hard on the rope and Brrrrummble! I was in business!
"Katie, you can call me Mcguyver!"
"Never mind, let's go scalloping."
Our family flotilla ran up the coast till we found the scallops. We anchored and snorkeled for some time before deciding to move to a new spot.
My battery had not recharged on the short boat ride, so again I wrapped the pink rope around the manifold and again I pulled the rope.
Okay, here's the stupid part...In my haste to get going, I carelessly wrapped the rope around the fingers of my left hand.
This time, when I pulled on the rope the motor pulled back. Ideally, the rope comes off the flywheel as you pull...not this time. As the motor started, it snatched the rope back. In an instant it cut through the my ring finger...bone included.
I clutched the injured hand to my chest and looked down. The last section of my finger was dangling by a thin flap of tissue. I pressed it against my t-shirt to stop the bleeding. Whoa...I just cut my finger off.
My wife, the RN, (you see how well I planned this marriage thing, I knew that a medical professional would come in handy considering the things I like to do) said, "What did you do?"
I kept my finger covered, "I just cut my finger off."
I uncovered the finger. She looked. It dangled and dripped.
"Oh, my God", and then the neatest thing happened. She instantly went from concerned (although dubious) wife to Super Nurse the Commander of the Ocean Sea.
"Emma, wrap some ice in that t-shirt and give it to your Daddy!"
"You, (me) sit down before you faint."
"Chuck, pull your boat over here. We have to go in NOW!"
"Katie, throw up OUTSIDE the boat please!"
"You...I SAID SIT DOWN BEFORE YOU FAINT!"
I was in a wee bit of pain and was fighting off some interesting tunnel vision as my t-shirt continued to redden. My stupid male was coming out.
"I'm okay, I can stand."
My brother 'n law Chuck pulled his boat up and I stepped carefully aboard as did my wife and another brother 'n law, Gene. They made me lay down and Chuck opened up the throttle for the 10 mile ride back to port. The afternoon seabreeze had kicked up a chop and each wave jiggled my very sore finger. I remember Chuck apologizing each time we hit a wave ...as if they were his fault.
At the marina, we hopped in the car for the hour long (we are pretty rural) ride to the hospital. Chuck took his boat back to bring people in, Gene went along with us in the car.
At Shands hospital in Gainesville, I walked into a Saturday night emergency room full of people with the sniffles. The nurse took one look at me, bare foot, bare chested, a blood soaked T-shirt around my hand, and moved me to the front of the line and into the exam room.
She looked at my finger, gave me some Ibuprofen, and said, "I'm gonna ask you one question...Why in the hell didn't you call an ambulance?"
She obviously didn't understand the reality of rural EMS. Ambulances are few and hospitals are far apart. Our county is 1118 square miles...about the size of the state of Rhode Island. There are 3 ambulances on duty at any one time. They are stationed about 40 miles apart.
I looked her in the eye.
"No one is going to die of a heart attack because I have tied up an ambulance for a cut finger." She shook her head.
They put me in an examination room, gave me a morphine drip, and a young doctor cleaned the wound and sewed me back together.
There was follow up therapy, an operation to screw the fractured bone pieces together, and lots of bills to follow.
All because I forgot to turn off the depth finder.
Postscript: For Christmas that year I was presented with a portable charger/jumper cable thingy.