Winter is a difficult season for small-craft sailors. The skies turn gray, the winds are chilled and whitecaps cover the lakes.The first weekend of December this year was different. The skies cleared, and the temperature was hovering at 80 degrees. It was time to go sailing.Because it takes two hands to rig and sail my 17-foot O'Day Daysailor, I needed a first mate. My fellow lawyer Cliff MacKenzie was usually up for an adventure. We planned a sail on Benbrook Lake for a Sunday afternoon. It all sounded so routine.Once we were out on the lake, it was smooth sailing. A stiff wind moved us back and forth across the lake at a spirited clip. After a few hours, the day was fading and we turned toward the dock.The trick to turning a sailboat, or "coming about" in sailing jargon, is a turn of the rudder, adjustment of the sail and a swift shift of all hands to the opposite side of the boat. The tiller was turned sharply and the sail tightened. Then things went bad, really bad.An unexpected gust of wind and a slip of foot kept the crew from this routine maneuver.Everything after that seemed to happen in slow motion.The boat tilted violently, water came pouring in, and Firefly was going down. Being rudely dumped into the cold water got our attention.With Firefly upside down, we scrambled to get on top of the capsized hull. There we were, standing on the bottom of the boat, 200 to 300 yards from shore. Waving our ball caps and flailing our arms didn't seem to get anyone's attention. With the sun going down in an hour, it was tick, tick, tick.The informal vote on my offer to swim to shore came up a tie. I tightened my life jacket and started my swim. Flashbacks from the movie Titanic came to mind, but eventually I made it to land.The park ranger and Army Corps of Engineers volunteer who arrived on the scene were attentive to my condition, but I was more concerned about getting my first mate off my crippled sailboat before it sank. The Benbrook Fire Department scrambled to get its rescue boat, and soon everyone was safe and secure on dry land.I was told to call the Army Corps of Engineers office the next day to make arrangements for retrieving the boat. When a salvage operator quoted me $1,700, I thought to myself: All I need is a scuba diver and a boat. I'm the type person who believes that rank amateurs can often do for themselves what professionals with years of experience and training do for a living.I called a local dive shop, and Jimmy at DFW Scuba said he knew a dive master with two Jet Skis. This was my type of improvised salvage team.The next day, I met Kristie Shafer at Mustang Park. We jumped on her Jet Ski to check out the wreck. Firefly had drifted about a quarter of a mile but was still upside down and was now crashing on the rocks along the dam. My exploratory swim around the boat found that the mast was loose and probably dangling somewhere below the boat.We decided to just hook up the bruised and battered hull to the watercraft and drag it to a beach. It was unnerving that such an unconventional salvage came off so smoothly.We all realize that things could have turned out much worse. Safe and sound was a good outcome.I owe a big thank you to the park rangers at Lake Benbrook, the Benbrook Fire Department and the Army Corps of Engineers volunteers and professionals. Thanks also to Kristie for taking on this unique salvage project.Firefly needs some tender loving care, but look for us on the lakes in the summer -- when the water is more inviting.Richard Gladstone, a longtime sailor, lives in Bedford.