I don’t go sailing often, but when I do, it always turns into such a lovely adventure. I remember one summer when my family had just gotten a new sailboat and had tried so many times to take it out for its maiden voyage, but something always came up.
Then there were some days when no one was busy at all, and we got so far as loading everything into the car and hooking up the boat to take it down to the docks, but before we could get anywhere, it would start pouring. The whole family would groan and then grab as much as we could carry and try to run it back into the house without getting too wet while my dad put the boat back into storage. And then, finally, we got a beautifully clear day where no one had anything better to do. So we decided to go sailing.
We all kept our fingers crossed as we hooked the boat to the car and loaded all our food and towels and everything into the car. When no dark clouds appeared in the sky and no urgent phone calls came in for either of my parents, we zipped out onto the road as quickly as we could and headed for the docks.
When we arrived at Big Bear Lake where we liked to sail best, we got the boat into the water easily enough, then set about getting all our beach bags into the boat itself. Once the boat was fully loaded and the whole family was on board, we cast off from the docks and began our sailing adventure.
At first, it was quite nice out on our brand new boat. It had been quite a while since we’d had to sell our last one, so this chance to get back out on the water was very welcome. The sun was shining, and there was a light breeze in the air that made it quite pleasant to sit out on the deck.
We played a few games and took a dip in the water, at which time my brother chose to wage an epic splash war with me. I had almost forgotten how much fun we always had on our sailing outings when suddenly my mother was calling for both of us kids to get back in the boat. She looked serious, almost scared.
Both my brother and I quickly swam back to the ladder and climbed up onto the deck. When we turned around to see what had made her so anxious, we saw a huge shadowy shape moving through the water. Our eyes popped open wide as we watched it swim just a little bit too deep for us to make out exactly what it was.
When a fin appeared to break the surface of the water, we were shocked to discover that there was, in fact, a shark swimming through our lake. The strange thing was that, now that it was closer and we could see a little better, the shark seemed to be thrashing about in the water rather clumsily, rather than cruising along as menacingly as we would have expected.
That struck my dad as odd, so when our curiosity got the better of us, we all decided we should maybe get a closer look. My dad steered the boat over toward where the figure seemed to be having some difficulty. When we reached it, it was easy to see what exactly the problem was. The poor shark’s left fin had a nasty chunk taken out of it, blood leaking into the water, and in addition to what must have been quite a bit of pain, it was also causing the shark to have quite a hard time swimming. My family has always been a sucker for animals, so it was pretty clear from that moment that we were going to have to figure out a way to help the poor creature.
My dad got the boat as close to the shark as we could. My dad was sure to inform us that bull sharks like this one had been known to attack people and that we were going to have to be incredibly careful in how we handled it. My brother managed to get ahold of its dorsal fin, attempting to hold the shark in place until my dad could get our makeshift muzzle around its mouth. My mom was already on the phone with the Aquatic Animal Control Center, which was just a mile from the lake itself, and as soon as she hung up, she assured us that there would be some people from the Center meeting us at the docks.
It was my job, once we’d reeled the shark a little closer, to wedge a strip of a towel into the gap of its injured fin to try to stop the bleeding. It wasn’t easy, and I could feel my hand shaking a bit as I reached toward the large, frightened shark, but I managed to place the towel into the wound as gently as possible, and it stuck. From there, all we had to do was get the shark into the shore.
Just as they’d promised, the members of the AACC were waiting for us near the docks and rushed to meet us as soon as we pulled the boat in. They came well equipped with a truck that carried a large tank of water where they’d be able to transport the injured animal. We helped them get the shark into the tank, listening closely to their instructions, and just like that, they were hurrying off to take care of the creature. It wasn’t the adventure we had been expecting when we finally got our boat in the water, but it had certainly proven to be quite a wild ride.