The last few days have been filled with recreational activity on the Mississippi River here in Winona. With the house filled to the brim with relatives and friends, it doesn’t take long for someone to say, “Hey, why don’t we take the jet skis out on the water!” Or, “Please pull me behind the boat on the tube.”
At first glance this seems pretty reasonable, but rivers are not lakes. Rivers have currents and the Mississippi river is now extremely high because of the recent record rainfall in the upper Midwest. High waters mean floating debris, including logs that float just beneath the surface. The swift current presents its own hazards, making it difficult to steer watercraft. The solution was to find a suitable place in the “backwaters”, or the areas not on the main river channel.
Then there is the issue of driver experience. Jet skis, or “personal watercraft” are boats powered by an amped-up water pump. The motor sucks water through the bottom of the craft and blows it out the back of the boat for propulsion. These are fast boats without any braking mechanism or even a rudder; a little experience is necessary for safety. With the exception of my daughter, our “crew” had no jet ski experience.
In the old days we used to pull people behind a boat on an inner tube. These tubes have a hole in the middle and it takes quite a bit of torque to get them to plane out on the water. The old-style inner tubes have been replaced by flat devices with no hole in the middle. These are easier to pull, but can become airborne, throwing the rider into the water with tremendous force.
When I was young the thrill of the ride was paramount. Now that I’m older I enjoy the activities but am more aware than ever that even one split-second error of judgement can lead to injury or a fatality. Friday evening, as we pulled all the watercraft and tubes out of the river, I knew that my silent prayer had been answered, that nobody in our group will be seriously injured or killed as a result of our activity. Weekend over…thankfully….prayer answered!
I hope you are enjoying a fabulous summer weekend over Independence day! And for those who struggled to win our independence, my everlasting gratitude.