IT had been a terrifying experience and one that Kate Furnivall would never forget. But the care of her rescuers helped to ease the trauma of it all. And when, by chance, she returned to Appledore to appear at the annual book festival in 2009, she showed her gratitude by donating her festival fee to the village's lifeboat station.
The near-disaster happened while she was holidaying in the coastal village with her husband and two sons.
She was giving her elder son Edward, who was 5 at the time, some rowing lessons in an inflatable dinghy when things went horribly wrong. She said: "I am ashamed to say that I was unaware that the tide had turned and I hadn't realised that the wind was off-shore. We spent some time rowing happily up and down parallel to the beach only a few feet away from the sand, but after a while I realised we had been swept further out, so I took the oars and tried to row us back in.
"To my horror, the harder I rowed, the more we drifted out into the current. I realised we were in serious trouble. I started waving and shouting but by then the boat had been carried quite a way out.
"It all happened with frightening speed. I kept rowing hard, soaking us both with splashes from the oars, but it made no impact and we were well out in the estuary.
"My overriding concern was for my young son, who was very cold.
"When the maroon went up, he thought it was a firework. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.
"Even now, my skin tingles and my heart rate rockets as I recall the sight of that maroon arcing through the pale blue sky. The word relief doesn't even come close to describing what I felt."
Within minutes a fishing boat appeared and threw a line for Kate to hold her boat steady.
She added: "Then a yellow helicopter whirred into sight and hovered over us while a man in bright slicks sat in its doorway ready to jump if we needed him."
Moments later the lifeboat arrived and the crew hauled Edward and Kate, plus the inflatable boat, on board.
"My son's teeth were chattering uncontrollably as his fear at last hit him and a young lifeboat man wrapped him up in a warm blanket," said Kate.
"Everyone was so courteous, so caring, so helpful, which made me feel dreadful.
"I wanted them to shout at me and tell me how stupid I'd been. I will be forever grateful to them."
It was earlier drama in her family's life that led to Kate becoming a writer. Her mother was the daughter of a White Russian who escaped from St Petersburg during the Russian Revolution in 1917 by fleeing across Siberia to China. She then spent some of her childhood in Tientsin in Northern China and Kate's imagination was fired by her mother's tales of acrobats in the streets, thousands of songbirds in cages and black snakes in bathrooms.
As a result, she became obsessed by research into her family's and Russia's history and eventually penned her highly-successful novel The Russian Concubine and its sequel The Concubine's Secret.
Now Kate, whose novel White Pearl, was recently shortlisted for a Romantic Novelist Association award for Best Historical Romantic Novel, is preparing to talk about her latest book Shadows On The Nile at the festival on October 2.
It, too, is a romantic tale which takes place against a background of violent political unrest in 1932 Egypt, shortly after the opening of the Tutankhamun tomb caused a worldwide storm of interest.
It is bound to be another special occasion for Kate, who now lives in Devon, when she returns to Appledore.
Tickets for the Festival, which runs from September 27 to October 6, are on sale at the Appledore Book Festival's Box Office, Docton Court Gallery, 2, Myrtle Street, Appledore, EX39 1PH. Phone 01237 424949 or visit at www.appledorebookfestiv al.co.uk.