Sunday, June 18, 2006

Let's just say, my story includes the Oceana County Sheriff's Search & Rescue Boat....

Now that I have your attention.... There are so many titles I could go with: More Water Adventures with the Chapmans or My Ode to David Crowder's "Rescue Is Coming" or Adrift on the Lake or My Rescue at Sea....or You Had to Be There.

I went to Michigan this past week for one last family vacation with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews before they leave the States. We went back up to my parents' property (cabin coming in '07) to camp, off-road, jet ski, etc. (much like I did three weeks ago for Memorial Day).

We pretty much hung around camp and the beach from Monday through Wednesday. My brother and sister-in-law came up on Thursday and that's when things got interesting.... We got the jet ski out and prepared for some fun on the still very cold water of Lake Michigan. Day 1 (Thursday) of jet skiing was pretty miscalculated stunts, no flips off, the water was pretty calm, we had some good rides out.

Day 2 (Friday) my brother Jason rode the jet ski south on Lake Michigan to meet up with us at the dunes where we off-road in Jeeps, dune buggies, etc. I did one round on the jet ski and then did another round in the Jeep. I got back to the beach as Jason was finishing up on the jet ski. The lake was really choppy on Friday as the wind was blowing steadily north (make a note of that, north). I decided to take another spin on the jet jacket, hop on, off I go.

I make my way south of where our group is staked on the beach so that I can tear back easily once I fight the waves down there. Well, as I'm cutting back and forth, the jet ski quits. I thought I stalled it, so I try to start it up again. Nothing. I look up the beach to see if my brother is back yet...he's not. So, I try to start it again nothing. My family (sister, dad and nephews) are on the beach and see me but don't think anything of it. Jas comes back out to the beach and I motion for help. I wasn't too far out and over a sandbar so he put on his life jacket to swim out and help.

But that wind blowing north...yeah, it was still blowing. Except it was more northwest because I was floating away from the beach. My sister told me later that our dad thought I would just float back towards them and closer to the beach. On any other day when the wind's blowing toward the beach, that might have worked. Last Friday it was not. So, Jason is trying to swim out to me, but I'm moving faster than he is...I can't get off because I can't tell how deep it is, and if he couldn't help me, I might not be able to get back on. So, as I get farther away and he gets too tired to swim, he yells at me, "Just stay on!"

At this point I'm leaving the beach area of the dunes. I see my dad jump in the dune buggy to go out and find help with the park rangers. My uncle and his friend Bob come back to the beach from their ride in his dune buggy and he calls 911 on his cell phone (obviously, I find all this out later since I'm floating north hundreds of yards out in the lake). My dad gets about no help from the park rangers as they don't have any kind of boat to be used for rescue, and when they decide to call "Central," they tell them that someone else called 911 already (my uncle).

So, I see my family standing there helpless on the beach, trying to find help, get a hold of help, and I'm just floating...farther away from them, from the beach, from any sign of life. I can't remember many moments in life where I've been deeply scared but this definitely is one of those times. My brother continues walking along the beach keeping me company. Though I'm too far away to talk to him, just the sight of him keeps me calm. As long as I could see him, I was OK...although he was getting smaller and smaller with each minute. By the end he was all of 1/4-inch tall, just teeny-tiny. We figure I was a good 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile out in the lake.

There I sit. On the jet ski, floating out in Lake Michigan. Remember, this lake is don't just look across and see Wisconsin...all you see is water. And all I see is more water between me and land. The water is darker, the waves are getting bigger and I'm all alone. Needless to say, I prayed, "God, you calmed the seas. Jesus, you walked on water. Please, please, turn this wind inland." Nothing. "God, I'm getting farther away and I'm all alone. Help me." Nothing. (God lesson learned, coming in separate blog.)

I have no idea how long I floated; my family said it was a good hour from when the jet ski first quit. So I can barely see my brother on the shore anymore. He's asking people in the houses on the shore if they have boats, jet skis, anything. Nothing. He did find a lady with binoculars and they could see that I was still sitting there. We decided if it had been a Saturday or Sunday or even a holiday weekend, there would have been other boats or jet skis out to help, but this Friday afternoon we had nothing.

About that time, I look north and see what appears to be a boat with a flashing light on top coming my way. YEA! I'm saved! When my brother sees that, the lady gives him a ride back to camp since the family has no idea where he's at now.

So the boat is coming my way but they're heading closer to shore than out to where I am, so I start waving my arms. I've floated much farther out than originally reported. They see me and turn my way. What relief! As they get closer and swing around, I see that it's the Oceana County Sheriff's Search & Rescue boat. Not that I care who it is, I just want to get out of the water.

They make a couple passes to pull up beside me but it's so choppy that they end up throwing me a line and pulling me to them, rather than running me over. After they get me aboard (I practically leapt aboard, I was so happy to not be on that jet ski), they circled around to hook the jet ski up and take us to the lovely port of Pentwater.

As we turn and head north (the direction I had become so familiar with), we pass my parents' beach area and see little tiny people all standing out there. I was wondering if it was my family and come to find out, it was. Once they saw me drifting away, they loaded up the Jeep and dune buggy and left the park. My dad sped into camp, towing my sister in the dune buggy, unhooked the buggy and jumped back in to check on help. My mom and sister-in-law Charissa were not with the party at the dunes so they had no idea what was going on. From that point, everyone headed to the beach to keep an eye out for me as I floated that direction. Fortunately, the boat found me by that point and the family just watched me head to safety several miles north.

Once we got to Pentwater, headed up the channel to the dock reserved for the sheriff's boat, my feet had thawed a bit and I lamented the fact that I hadn't put any sun screen on.... Reaching the dock, I saw mom and dad, Jason and my nephew Zack all standing there waiting on me. I get ashore, turn in my police blanket and wait for my brother and dad to look over the jet ski. They get into the engine and get it started but think it's really low on fuel and with all the waves, it wouldn't start because there was no good balance. Lucky me.

This adventure makes me the first Chapman to be rescued by claim to fame and my gift to the legacy. It's a rather funny story, but only because I wasn't hurt or hanging in the 50-degree water waiting for help. The fact that I was just sitting there, floating, makes it funny. Of course, while I was out there...not so funny...much more scary. Never a dull moment with the Chapmans...makes you want to join us, doesn't it? We now have water rescue under our belts, so you can feel that much safer with us. And my brother's decided that the second jet ski he's wanted would be about more than would be a buddy system for safety, too.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Water Adventures

For those of you not on's a blog I'm just now posting for you. Sorry!

There's one thing you have to understand about the Chapmans - you haven't truly had an adventure unless someone has some kind of "accident." They can be accidents to your physical person (rare) or to your vehicle (more common). Some are near death, while others are only bruisers (or require minor vehicle repair).

My first accident of the off-road season came Saturday afternoon. It was a multiple bruiser. And it wasn't so much off-road as it was on the water. My brother owns a SeaDoo and over the last year, it's become one of my favorite Michigan outdoor activities.

The Chapman thought-process goes something like this: safety as an afterthought, you will ultimately have more fun the faster and more out-of-control you do things. And since in my mind the accident-versus-injury ratio of the jet ski is lower than the same ratio behind the wheel of a 4-wheel-drive Jeep speeding over a mountain of sand, I feel a little safer getting a bit crazier on the jet ski. Now, if you could multiply that thought-process by 10, you would get my brother's take on jet skiing.

I'm a bit more cautious when I have a rider with me on a jet ski. My brother Jason is only that way when it's NOT a Chapman sitting behind him. Well, since I am a Chapman, he held nothing back on our last ride out (after our individual rides) Saturday afternoon.

When you ride with the waves, you can really get some speed and open it up. Easy enough to hang on. When you run against the waves, you get some height. Also, easy enough to hang on - just pay more attention so you know when to brace yourself and plant your feet. There were a few moments that Jason forgot I was shorter than him, so when he caught big air, I caught even more.

After a time of racing around, Jason decided it was time to try a stunt. The particular stunt he was going to try involves doing a quick 180-degree turn, letting off the gas so the waves you were running pull you in the direction you were going before jamming on the gas to continue plowing forward. Forgetting to warn me, he pulled the stunt successfully but I wasn't hanging on for dear life. When he jammed on the gas to go forward, I was still going backward. (Keep in mind that it's the end of May and the water of Lake Michigan doesn't warm up until July or August; they said the water was only up to about 45-50 degrees this past weekend.)

My parents were sitting on the beach watching and said that my flip off the jet ski was like nothing they'd ever seen before. And the ice water of Lake Michigan in which I found myself was like nothing I ever felt before. The shock of that cold water sent my body and brain into almost immediate shock. I could barely catch my breath or move the water was so cold. Justice came in the fact that my ejection from the jet ski caused my brother to turn and he flipped off as well. All I could think about was getting out of that water and fast! Thank God for life jackets because I couldn't move for the cold but I had to swim. I got to the jet ski and climbed on probably quicker than I ever have before, and Jason wasn't far behind me. We got to shore and my parents threw towels at me and a sweatshirt at my brother (he had a wet suit on). I get cold pretty easily but not like was ridiculous.

I'm still finding bruises that I think are related to that flip or other rides on the SeaDoo. Fortunately, we had better luck on Sunday afternoon. Jason warned me before the stunts, so I held on tight. No flips.

Not to scare anyone off, but you really should come have an adventure with the Chapmans.

Some updating...

Just fyi...I updated the links on the left that lead to my fellow bloggers, stories I've written and bios I've done. Most recent story posted is about Shawn McDonald on Christian Music Today, Christianity Today's music connection.

Shawn McDonald story