It was a dream trip that took a year to plan, but almost as soon as it began, it nearly killed Jack Juusola.
The owner of two Canadian Tire stores in Kamloops travelled to Tahiti with his wife and 16 other franchisees about a month ago for a trip that would include one week of catamaran sailing.
Juusola and his wife were excited to return to the coral reefs of the South Pacific.
They've been snorkelling enthusiasts for decades, having dived in 30 different countries. But they never expected the activity could turn so bad so quickly.
Five days into the sailing trip, the couple was with three other swimmers off the island of Bora Bora, which was supposed to be off limits to watercrafts. "Out of nowhere" a powerboat raced through the group, said Juusola.
"I just felt this great big whack on my legs and thought 'Holy God, what the heck was that?'" he said.
The boat's propeller had hit him.
He said he didn't feel pain but raised one leg and saw that his fin was gone and his little toe was severed almost completely away from the rest of his foot.
Lifting the other leg, he saw numerous slashes from the thigh down.
The most serious laceration was below his knee where a chunk of bone was missing. The blow also cut through several tendons.
Juusola was bleeding severely, the boat hadn't stopped and the group knew sharks were swimming not that far away.
They frantically waved to a catamaran a few dozen metres away and soon Juusola was onboard and on his way to a clinic on Bora Bora.
The medical staff had no way of treating his serious injuries so he was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital on the island of Raiatea 45 kilometres away.
"From there on the care was superb," he said. "The doctor said 'You're a lucky guy, I think we're going to save that toe.'"
The three-hour operation seemed to go well but Juusola would remain in hospital for five days to ensure infection didn't set in.
Then it was time to go home.
Once in Kamloops, he immediately went to the Royal Inland Hospital's emergency room for an examination. A few days later an orthopedic surgeon had good news for him.
"He looks at it and he said 'You have had amazing care. They've done a superb job. In fact, we're going to get you out of the wheelchair and put walking boots on you,'" said Juusola.
"To be able to be walking now without the aid of crutches is fantastic."
Meanwhile, the police tracked down the powerboat driver, who said he was navigating through the proper area.
Juusola knows that isn't true since a map guided the swimmers to their supposedly safe area. But he declined to press charges.
"I don't want to stay in Bora Bora and go to court there."
Juusola is determined not to let the experience deter him from doing what he loves. The couple intends to get back in the water during a trip to the Philippines in the spring.
However they are taking a few lessons away from the close call. They'll look up more often when snorkelling and have a dinghy nearby to ensure increased visibility for boaters, said Juusola.
He's also walking away with a lot of gratitude.
"I turned 68 on Friday," he said. "I made it!"