A compelling post on Facebook is but the tip of a boating rescue last Saturday on Lake Minnetonka involving good Samaritans, quick-acting Hennepin County Water Patrol deputies and a recovering boater who thought his solo outing gone awry might be his last.

The timing is unmistakable: the dawn of another Minnesota boating season amid mercurial spring weather, while legislation builds to spread boater safety training to some adult operators. And the lesson: Difficulty comes for the most experienced, too, so always be prepared on the water.

Tonka Bay Marina helped level the message this week from its Facebook page when it shared the tale of "Jack D" and his runaway Boston Whaler on Smith's Bay in Orono. (The water patrol declined to release his name.)

By his account, he is a "well-experienced" boater who in rough conditions made a near-fatal mistake: Forgetting to wear a lanyard connected to an engine kill-switch device.

Personal watercraft users are required by law in Minnesota to use engine cutoff-switch devices. However, users of all boats under 26 feet must use links to kill-switch devices in federal waters, like Lake Superior, the Mississippi River and Lake Mille Lacs.

The boater was running his new 21-foot boat and its 200-horsepower motor April 23 and practicing turns when an already windy morning picked up. He said he made a sharp left at about 35 mph into an unexpected wave. The impact threw him from the boat, which he hit before landing in the water.

"The boat and myself were totally capable of taking on the wave, except I wasn't holding on good enough. When in bad weather, which I have piloted through countless hours, I situate myself much better. With the quick change of weather I simple [sic] wasn't in the best position to deal with it."

With no one steering it, the outboard motor sent the boat into circles — what the boating community and law enforcement call the "circle of death." Boaters thrown from a vessel risk getting struck by the spiraling craft.

Watching the scenario play out, Jack D. said he inflated his life vest, got clear of the boat but still found himself struggling in 40-degree water and the volatile churn from the boat's wake.

"It was hell," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Hennepin County Water Patrol received a 911 call at 12:25 p.m. about a boat without an operator. It was spinning in circles at full throttle, said county sheriff's spokesman Andy Skoogman. Patrol boats were on the scene in 10 minutes.

They received a second 911 call about 20 minutes later — someone had spotted a person in the water about 400 yards from the runaway Whaler.

Two patrol boats worked in tandem to pluck the boater from Smith's Bay and corral his uncontrolled vessel.

Tonka Bay Marina owner Gabriel Jabbour provided line to water patrol deputies as the scene played out. Rope eventually jammed the propeller, and the vessel straightened out and ran aground on its own onshore, Skoogman said. One of the patrol boats was slightly damaged.

By Jack D.'s account, he was at least 200 yards from shore when he saw a water patrol boat near his own.

"Somehow, I managed to push up out of the water and wave both my arms and screaming. They saw me! They came over and dragged me out of the water. … They saved my life, I don't know if I would have made five more minutes."

Jack said he thought he'd been in the water for about an hour.

"I can't believe I survived, and don't think I would have lasted much longer."

The boater, who was transported by a waiting ambulance to a nearby hospital, referenced the physical and emotional bruises in his post Sunday.

"Bottom line there were multiple ways this could have been worse; I could have been knocked out, broken bones, not (somehow) able to swim in that cold water for an hour, not able to scream and wave at the sheriffs, not have the hero sheriffs out there looking for me.

" … Use your safety gear, don't under estimate [sic] the risk. I have piloted boats in horrible conditions for hundreds of hours, I'm a safe pilot, this happened to me. It can happen to anyone."

While the victim was experienced, Skoogman still encouraged the public to get educated on boating safely and also how to properly wear life jackets.

"We were able to do it with very minimal damage to property and anyone getting seriously injured, with the help of others," he said.

Jabbour knows Jack D. — "a great guy … also a learning moment" — and is storing his boat for him for now.

In 50 years on Lake Minnetonka, Jabbour also knows the deputies who patrol Lake Minnetonka. He praised their actions last Saturday.

"I think the water patrol are heroic," he said. "Underestimated."