Column: Not quite lost at sea

John Browne
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I almost disappeared when I was 14 years old.
The Canadian Red Cross holds its Water Safety Week in June, so this is a good time for a cautionary tale.
My family had a summer home in Topsail in the 1960s and we spent a lot of our summer days on Topsail beach.

That’s where I learned to swim. I wasn’t a strong swimmer, but I could tread water like an otter.

This particular sunny day, my brothers and I brought an old yellow, U.S. Army surplus rubber dinghy to the beach for some fun.

A some point during the afternoon a little girl lost her beach ball in the water. The tide had taken it too far for her to retrieve it.

We saw the dilemma but then, as we often did, we fought over who was going to rescue the ball and return it to the kid.

Eventually, I won the push and pull on the dinghy and started after the beach ball that, by this time, had opened up a lot of water on us.

Try as I might, I couldn’t paddle fast enough to catch it. The ball appeared to be moving toward the horizon twice as fast as I paddled.

With my head down I worked the small aluminum paddle left side, right side with all the energy I could muster.

By this time people on the shore were shouting at me to come back, but I ignored them.

The water darkened the wind picked up and it got a lot cooler. Things were changing. The tide was stronger. I finally gave up and watched the ball disappear in the horizon.

I rested by arms on the side of the dinghy for a few moments, head bowed.

I could barely hear the muffled voices from the shore now but I looked over my shoulder and was shocked to see how far I’d actually gone. The people on the shoreline were nothing but dots. I felt a little queazy.

I turned the dinghy around and started back to shore, not really confident I’d have enough strength to make it.

As I crawled out of the dinghy a man said gruffly: “You went too far. You could have been swept away.”

I was too exhausted to answer and besides he was right.

Some would say I’ve been out to sea ever since.

To sum it up, wear a life jacket on the water and don’t fight with your siblings when there’s a little girl’s beach ball floating away. Oh, yeah, and remember what happened to Wilson in the movie “Cast Away.”


Here’s some interesting dates that softball guru Bill Barron — who will soon celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Joy — passed on to me:

• June 5, 1973: Senior league recorded its first official tie game, a 6-6 10-inning contest between the Kentucky Fried Colonels and the Guards.

•  July 1, 1978: City of St. John’s introduced the user pay system for all summer outdoors sports facilities.

•  June 9, 1981: Ron Power became first pitcher to record 1,500 career strikeouts.

•  June 18, 1986: Bev Crummell became the first and only female to umpire a senior league game.

•  June 4, 1989: Senior league played its first game outside the overpass with a doubleheader in Dunville featuring Stokes Canada Games taking on Silver Dollar.

•  June 7,1995: Senior played its first game at Caribou Softball Complex.

•  June 29, 1996: Ed McDonald of the C.B.C. Iron Workers became the first player in provincial junior championship play to hit for the cycle, doing so in a 14-6 win over Waterford Valley


A couple of weeks ago in British Columbia marked the first time Canada wore its new uniforms designed by Under Armour. The kit features a lightweight shirt with “no grab” panels, intended to make them harder to grab hold of. There also is a “grip technology” on the stomach and back which aides in catching and securing a ball. It hasn’t improved Canada’s play on the field as yet, although the loss to Scotland Saturday was basically decided by the New Zealand ref with a controversial call late in the game. Canada lost to Japan the previous week. On a positive note, Conception Bay South’s Ciaran Hearn played very well in both matches... This will be Paul Ring’s 60th consecutive year in a shell on Regatta day... NLSA technical director Dragan Mirkovic predicts Chile will win the World Cup, or so I’m told... Alyssa Armstrong, who played on the St. John’s U18 which won a national silver medal, will compete for Cape Breton as a freshman midfielder in the AUS conference this fall. She joins fellow Newfoundlanders fourth-year Taylor Ryan from Labrador City and third-year Laurianne Sutton of St. John’s on the varsity squad... The England-Italy game June 14 brought in a record audience of 2.8 million viewers, making it CBC’s highest rated FIFA World Cup group stage match ever... Best World Cup jerseys: 1. Portugal; 2. Germany; 3. U.S.A... Does anyone really believe that the Canadian Soccer Association has any clue how to get our country back into the World Cup?... Brazil has the best looking female soccer supporters.

Organizations: U.S. Army, Kentucky Fried Colonels, C.B.C. Iron Workers CBC FIFA Canadian Soccer Association

Geographic location: Canada, Dunville, British Columbia Scotland New Zealand Japan Chile Cape Breton Labrador Portugal Germany Brazil

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