Bumbling Canoeists Survive Disaster!

The Challenge: write in 140 characters or less your most terrifying incident with nature.

Sweetman can’t resist! Here’s my entry:
“Canoing Plum Island against the tide, horrific supercell blast. Trapped! Abandoned boat, ran/swam for safety under bridge, barely made it.”

I think it’s great but I haven’t yet been informed of my prize. I’m hoping for a 3 book contract but I’ll take a box of wheat grass. The contest was for a crunchy green living corporation.

Here’s the whole story in waaaaaaaaay more than 140 characters. You’ll be riveted and I’m sure you’ll cry, so grab the tissues now because I promise you won’t be able to leave your computer once you start.

Several years ago my father gave us his beautiful Old Towne canoe. Being the complete maniacs we are, we became Canoeists! We looked for every opportunity to drop that canoe into water. My father would be happy to know his canoe was getting so much use but I think he’d have provided some caution or at least a canoe safety handbook if he knew where we were paddling.

We were very enthusiastic bumpkins:

Local Yokels rescued from body of water 3rd time this week! (I'm on the left)

We took it into the ocean on the 4th of July to see fireworks. It’s a lake canoe, there’s no rudder and it sits too high to make it safe for the ocean. We completed the lunacy by taking our youngest son was with us! Thankfully we decided not to bring the greyhound, wisely concluding the noise of the fireworks might upset her. Unfortunately we had a blast! It was a calm ocean, the fireworks from Marblehead, Salem and Beverly were spectacular and we made it back to shore without incident. I wondered why the two sea kayaks escorted us back to our launch when they saw the canoe. I thought they were super friendly and that all humans on paddle conveyances stuck together in the ocean. They should have chewed us out for our lack of safety–it would have possibly shed some light on our canoe-buffoonery.

Let’s see, there was the evening paddle in the Ipswich River (appropriate body of water) at dusk (inappropriate time). No lanterns, no flashlights, no glow sticks. We didn’t need them when we left, who knew they’d be vital in the inky blackness while blindly paddling to where we thought we’d left the car? Not the Bumbling Canoeists!

We blundered into several minor mishaps that mainly had to do with bad canoeing etiquette and possibly wrecking natural habitat but here’s the mother lode:

Plum Island. A beautiful little piece of beach and marshland in the far northeast corner of Massachusetts. It has tidal rivers where the Bumbling Canoeists can plunk their placid lake canoe and wind around the turns and twists while bird watching for hours.

This was my vision of our perfect day.

Don't you just see yourself here? Nothing bad happens in a canoe!

Any reasonable human being who plans an outing on water would be expected to take a cursory glance at the weather before setting out, right? Especially when there were flash thunderstorms rolling through for the past several afternoon prior to this little caper, right? Even an idiot might think, “Hmmm, thunderstorms yesterday, I’d better check to make sure it’s going to stay sunny today before I take this canoe an hour away from dry land.” Well that day we entered the realm of Super Idiots! and took the canoe an hour away from dry land before we noticed the purple/black sky roaring in from the west.

You might not want to be on water when this weather comes rolling through.

All right all two of my faithful readers, here’s the warning: The following is laced with implied obscenity. When things get dicey, my language becomes salty (nearly every other word is the f-bomb). Said word gets repeated multiple times in panic mode. Just insert any number of f*%#s where you think they might work. Possibly where they make no sense because that’s what I devolve into when facing my death.

We put the canoe in at low tide which made for great paddling because the rising waters practically pushed us along. The salt marshes at low tide are amazing! They have narrow channels and the marsh grass towers over a low canoe so you feel like you’re in a grass tunnel fantasy world. It’s green and peaceful, you can’t hear anything but bird calls and running water. Mercifully for us, the tide rises quickly on Plum Island. We were level with the top of the grasses about an hour after we launched where we could see beyond our immediate surroundings and hear the distant rumbling thunder.

F&*%! F&@*! F%#*!!!!” I yelled.

My husband turned the canoe around in a second (alone, remember, I was doing the important swearing) and began furiously paddling back to land. The sky was black on the horizon. I swore a few more times before I realized paddling might get us there faster but we had a number of factors against us; the worst was trying to go against the rising tide which was like paddling up a swift river.

After a couple of minutes it was clear we were paddling to stay in place. With no dry land around, we were the human lightning rods in miles of marshlands.

“F%#@! We have to get the f*&#ing f&!# outta here!” were my encouraging and possibly last words to my darling husband.

Furious paddling on his part

Thunder went from distant rolling to a monsterous clap overhead as drops of rain started pelting down. We saw lightening bolt from sky to land which was immediately followed by an enormous thunder-clap. The storm was on top of us.

“We have to bail!” he shouted, as he is reasonable and realistic in desperate situations.
F%#@^, F*%$#, F&%$#! ” was my answer.

We pulled the canoe out of the water channel to where it was only about a foot deep in hopes that it would stay there if we lived to retrieve it and started running, sprinting toward the bridge that links Plum Island to the mainland.

Running for your life is an amazing thing. You are possessed with speed and endurance you never believed was in you. A vision of safety, like a bridge makes you even more incredible in your desperate attempt to save your life. I am a girly-girl in many aspects. If you asked me to jump into a dark channel of water of depths unknown, I’d tell you, “No Way!” because I am certain dark channels of water are breeding grounds for enormous spiders (my greatest terror until that particular moment in my life). I dived headfirst into those channels and swam like mad until I could run again because I didn’t want to get fried to death by lightening on the beautiful marshes of Plum Island. It’s a spectacular death to be certain, but it wasn’t on my agenda.

We made it. We Made It!!! To the amazement of a group of Harley Davidson motorcyclists, we emerged like Swamp Things from the marsh and sprinted to safety under the bridge. They were gobsmacked as you can imagine anyone might be when they see two people, wrapped in green seaweedy grass and covered in marsh goo rise from the bog, charge into their refuge. Their astonishment increased when we started laughing hysterically until we had to sit down.

Our death-cheat resulted in Unleashing the Furies once we reached shelter. Lightening popped every second, the deafening thunder was constant and it began to hail. If the Harley crowd had anything to say to us under that bridge, I didn’t hear it but from what I can gather by the looks on their faces when we showed up, they regarded us as something of a couple of Gollums and kept to their corner of the bridge.

The storm lasted about twenty minutes and moved off as quickly as it blasted in. The sky was blue and sunny as our Harley friends roared away without even a nod. We had to face the wade-and-swim back to the canoe. I was all for leaving it as an offering to Death for sparing us but the car keys were in there. I marveled at my bravery in diving into those dark channels because my swim/slog back to the canoe was a demonstration of the terrified dog-paddle-high-step march. It took quite a while. So did the paddle back to dry land which gave me ample time to reflect on mortality and how it hinged on an utter lack of regard for knowledge or instructions when we throw ourselves into our amazing adventures.

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About EF Sweetman

bees, baseball, beverly, ma, culture, manners, society, writing
This entry was posted in 1, bicycling, Blogroll, cautionary tales, essay, Observations, running, short story, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bumbling Canoeists Survive Disaster!

  1. Great story! Now I know why the wife will not let me get a canoe…. šŸ™‚

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