My Travel Horror Story: the Jet-Ski Honeymoon

by on October 4th, 2015
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It was a wonderful day in August 1997 when my husband and I got married, spending our special occasion with family and friends. At the time my husband had just started a new job so he was only able to get a four day weekend off of work. That meant we would take a short honeymoon just after getting married, then take the “real honeymoon” later on.

At the end of the evening following the reception my husband and I spent the night at a local hotel before leaving for Rend Lake Resort in southern Illinois for a one night stay before going to our new home together. Our plan was to relax by the pool at the resort, rent a jet ski, come back for dinner and enjoy our honeymoon. Things did not go as planned and we ended up having this story to tell.

My husband and I rented a two-seater jet ski at 7 p.m. for an hour that evening. We zoomed across the water, speeding towards the shore opposite of the resort, not realizing at the time that Rend Lake is the 2nd largest lake in Illinois, so we only made it to the middle of the lake. My husband drove for a while, then we switched so I could drive. After 45 minutes of playing on the water it was time to head in and we headed toward the resort. I steered the jet-ski towards our home shore and suddenly the engine died. I tried starting it, my husband tried starting it, and I tried again with no luck. We laughed about it and kept trying to get the darn thing started. Nothing.

Boats were passing us by as it was now dusk and even though we yelled “Help!” from our vessel and waved, no one seemed to hear or see us. We looked in the seat compartment for something to send a signal like a flare, flashlight or a whistle but found nothing. There we were – a pair of newlyweds on their honeymoon, stranded in the middle of a huge-ass lake, wearing only life jackets and swimsuits, it’s getting dark and we are stuck.

Darkness had set up on us completely and the current had sent us to the opposite side of the lake upon the shore. We threw different options back and forth. Should we try to swim across the lake? Should we hike through the wilderness and try to find someone for help? Do we stay put and yell until someone finds us? My husband and I decided to sit tight on the jet-ski for a couple of reasons. Rend Lake has very little shore developed and we were in the wilderness. If we tried swimming across the 2nd largest lake in Illinois, hypothermia might become an issue, let alone snakes and other critters.

Minutes turned into hours as we sat shivering on the jet-ski and getting covered in mosquito bites. There was nothing remotely romantic about this adventure so there are no juicy details. We were cold, itchy, ravenously hungry, tired and lost.

We saw rays of hope which were search lights coming from boats emerge a few hours into our absence being noticed from the resort. That raised our spirits and we thought for sure we’d be rescued soon. Despite our yelling and hope, a search boat did not find us until 3:30 a.m.

My husband and I got on the boat shivering uncontrollably and had blankets handed to us. We also had our driver’s licenses handed to us. Why? Officials had retrieved them in case they needed to identify bodies. That’s when we noticed the body bags on the floor of the boat. We learned that the Department of Natural Resources, the Sheriff’s Department and Illinois State Police were all involved in the search and rescue effort.

We thought we would be headed back to the resort when we hit another problem. The captain of the boat had turned off the engine upon our rescue. The problem was they had been searching for us for so long that the search light had drained the boat battery. So that meant we had to wait for another boat to come give our boat a jump and THEN go to the resort.

Finally we reached the boat dock at 5:00 a.m. with a small crowd of people waiting to see if we were dead or alive. We walked off the boat and people just watched, with a reporter coming up to ask if we wanted to share our story. I said no thanks.

We made it back to our room and both got in the shower as we were both freezing still. Again, no typical honeymoon activity there either! After 30 minutes of warming up, the next thing we needed was food. The only thing available was the vending machine so we ate candy bars, chips and drank sodas. Then we slept and slept.

The phone rang about 11:00 a.m. and it was a manager of the resort. He asked how we were doing, apologized for the incident and told us to go to the restaurant when we were ready to eat what we wanted, and that our stay was taken care of. After a massive meal, my husband and I packed our bags and got the hell out of there.

Our families couldn’t believe the ordeal we went through and for a while I don’t think my husband and I could as well. A few weeks later a friend of mine sent me a newspaper clipping from the front page of her local paper – about two honeymooners stranded on a jet-ski at Rend Lake. Couldn’t believe that either!

So for our tenth anniversary we thought it would be funny to go back to Rend Lake Resort to celebrate our victory through that ordeal. Not much had changed or been updated at Rend Lake Resort, except that they don’t rent jet-skis any longer.

Personal Experience

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