One night in 2003 or 2004, three friends decided to visit the Old Bank Bar in Lake City. Coming from Pepin, on a windless night, they decided to take the speedboat rather than the sailboat. Burgers and fries and beer, oh my! Sometime long after midnight, they left Lake City and headed back to Pepin, throttle wide open, the only boat on the flat lake with the full moon rising behind them, the only sound the scream of the engine.
Then suddenly, silence. The engine, with no warning, came to an abrupt halt, and the boat slowly did the same. The three sailors looked at each other and shrugged. Now what? Captain Dave, with his almost-useless-on-a-powerboat crew at hand, tried the various things one does to restart an engine. At one point they even held up the tattered canvas cover to see if they could catch a breeze. No go, they were stranded.
“Who can we call to come get us?” the crew asked.
“No one. Let me take a 20 minute power nap and then we can make a plan.” and with that the Captain curled up on the back bench seat and was quickly lightly snoring.
The crew sat back and attempted to enjoy the stunning evening on the lake. No wind, a full moon, and the gentle motion of any boat on water soon lulled them into thinking everything would be fine. Off in the distance they could see the lights of Deer Island. Everyone’s safe, we’ll figure it out.
Twenty minutes later their Captain was awake and ready to go. A paddle was located, and the wooden cover from the floorboards where the skis were kept was quickly determined to be a second paddle. The Captain tied the bowline around his chest and into the water he went, swimming and pulling the ski boat behind him, headed for shore.
The crew paddled, and the Captain swam, and that’s what they did, for three hours. All offers to switch places were refused as he felt this was his boat, his responsibility, and he was the hero of this story. As we neared shore it occurred to the crew that while we might arrive on shore about 5 a.m., we were still three miles from town. It was decided that we could call one person who we knew would be up at 4 a.m., and would keep the Captain’s secret.
Sure enough, they landed around 5 a.m. and their friend was there with a pickup to cart them the remaining distance to town. When the Captain made it back out to the boat later that day the trouble was found, the boat had run out of gas! Now the crew and chauffeur were REALLY sworn to never tell the tale, as the Captain was too embarrassed to admit to the public that the great sailor had made such a simple mistake.
Fifteen years later the story can now be told, of the Captain who swam for 3.5 hours without a break, to make sure everyone in his boat was returned to shore safe.