The Lifesaver

Sailboats on Lake Pepin

The boat bounced up and down cutting through the waves. White sparkles of sun reflected briefly on the water and disappeared as quickly as they came bouncing and dashing away from the boat. My arm dangled down into the water and cooled me off some. I wanted to dip inside the lake to cool my back where the sun had left its mark.

Maiden Rock

I walked from bow to stern using my bare feet to balance. Dad stood holding the rudder, his white Navy cap covered his head, but I could see that the sun was burning his shoulders too. Mom sat with her head resting on her propped up hand, staring off towards the bluff that was known as Maiden Rock. The straw from her hat was uneven, and some pieces were coming undone. She reached up to grab the one that was tickling her face, and broke it off. The piece landed in the water and was swallowed up by the lake. Little green pieces of algae buried the straw piece in one blink of an eye.

“Dad, can we go swimming?” I asked.

I could see the wheels turning in his mind. Never a quick answer was to be heard!

I looked to where Mom’s eyes were pointing, and I thought about Maiden Rock. I felt so sad for the Indian Maiden.  Her father planned on forcing her to marry someone who she did not love. The Maiden loved another, so she flung herself off of that very tall bluff and fell to her death. It was a sad name for a rock.

“What do you think about using the lifesaver? I could tie a rope to it, and you could go for a ride on the back of the boat. Do you want to try it?” Dad asked.

“Sure!” That sounded great to me.

“Here, you man the ship, and I will find the lifesaver and the rope.”

It wasn’t a very windy day, so the idea of hanging onto the lifesaver sounded like a great one. It seemed like waterskiing, but not really. The only thing that was the same would be that I was travelling behind a boat!

Bowline - A Knot!
Bowline – A Knot!

Dad dug out a rope and lifesaver. He tied a large bowline to hold the lifesaver in place. He pulled the rope tight to make sure that the knot wouldn’t give and he threw the lifesaver behind the stern of the boat. We watched it splash into the water and bob along on the waves.

It would feel so good to be in the water too, I thought.

Dad got the ladder out, and placed it on the stern of the boat and in the water making sure that it was taut too.

“Jump in!” he said.

He pulled the rope and lifesaver closer to the boat.

“Hold onto the lifesaver.”

I climbed down the ladder step by step, getting cooled off along the way, and I grabbed for the lifesaver. I held on tight.

“Okay, you can let go now,” Dad said.

Mom looked at me too, her white long-sleeved blouse covered up her milky white skin.

I let go of the ladder and the distance between the boat and me grew farther and farther apart. I never saw the boat from far away while it was sailing along. She was a beauty. I wished Dad could see her too. Her sails were taut, and she was clean after just getting a swabbing down earlier in the day.

The water splashed over me, but it was too quick, the way the Karisan glided away from me. The wind was a little stronger than it felt when I was on the boat. The rope held for a while. Then it snapped a very loud snap.

Mom steered the Karisan, and I saw Dad’s face change when he heard the snap. His mouth was a perfect O.

I must have looked frightened.

“Don’t panic,” he yelled. Mom turned around too. She held the top of her hat in place. I think the wind picked up!

They went along and they were travelling farther and farther away, going towards Maiden Rock. I held onto the lifesaver. I tried to swim to them, but there was no way I could reach them.

“You’ll be okay! Remember, you’re a good swimmer,” Dad reminded me.

I tried to calm myself. Yes, I was a good swimmer. Dad taught me everything I knew about that.

What if a speed boat came along and didn’t see me, I started to wonder. The blades would cut deeper and deeper, I worried because I heard about those things happening.

Dad got up on deck by the mast, and he let the jib and the mainsail down. Karisan was no longer moving farther away.

I let out a long breath and started swimming towards them, still holding onto the lifesaver. I got closer, but I felt a little shaky.  Little spouts of water splashed into my mouth, and I spit it out quick.

Another sailboat glided along, and I could see that the sailors aboard saw me too. I kept going, and when I reached the ladder, I climbed up into the boat, my body feeling like a weight, and not as light as it felt going in.

Dad reached out his hand to me and I held it tight.  His hand felt warm, and now feeling warm felt good.

“I think the wind picked up,” he said.  “You are a good swimmer.”  Dad patted my back.  That’s what Navy guys do.

I was glad to be back on deck with the other mates.

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12 thoughts on “The Lifesaver

      • I’m a big Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, and she was born in Pepin, Wisconsin. Maybe someday I’ll get there! I’ve been to her homestead in Mansfield, Missouri!

      • I also like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pepin is a very cute town. We used to spend a lot of time at Lake City which is on the Minnesota side of the lake. The town of Pepin is across the lake, and I went there a long time ago. The Mississippi River runs through Lake Pepin. It would be a great place for you to visit. There are a lot of eagles down by Wabasha, so you should stop there too when you visit.

        The thing that I like about Laura Ingalls Wilder is that she didn’t start her writing career until she was older. That’s inspiring to me!

        If you visit, please let me know! It would be nice to meet each other face-to-face.

  1. Wow..what an intense story..You sure had my attention..
    I sure loved those days on Lake Pepin with you and your mom and dad.
    Thanks for the memories.

  2. Hey girl!! I am so glad you wrote a sailing story! I can picture it all…your Dad’s expressions etc… I imagine your Mom went down below and had a glass of wine after that:). Such good memories!!

  3. What a great story-scary for me-I don’t swim!!! I do remember being on the sailboat from Lake City with your family. It was fun. Your dad knew I didn’t like water and
    I believe he tried to scare me by turning so the boat leaned really far!!! We live along the Mississippi River north of Maiden Rock. It would be so much fun for you to visit Lake City and Pepin etc. and us as well. We would love that. I’m sure things have changed but not too much. They are just small towns along the river, but
    great touristy places to visit. You are a wonderful writer, I could picture it as I read it.
    Great job.

    • Thanks for stopping by! That does sound like Dad – he did like to scare people. No need to worry though, he would have jumped in to save you, if needed!

      That would be great to visit you. That would make for a nice drive some summer day! We will have to make plans to do that. 🙂

      Thanks for the words of support. So sweet of you.

  4. I can’t believe that there you were a little girl on Lake Pepin! That is a huge deal at our house where Laura Ingalls Wilder shares the shelves with authors like Dickens and Bronte.
    We have been there several times. The first was when my girls were little. They wore sundresses and filled their pockets with pebbles from the shore just as Laura did so many years before.

    I have to say that the lifesaver idea seemed like a great one to me. Glad it all ended safely.

  5. Thank you. I love how you took your girls to visit the shores of Lake Pepin! My family made a lot of fun memories there. Our oldest daughter’s name is Laura not only because I like that name so much but because I like how Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her Little House on the Prairie!

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