Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Don't Do What I Did

One beautiful summer day, back in 2011, I went kayaking with a friend on the North Fork. Both of us were inexperienced, but it was a beautiful morning and we were ready to go!

We put on our lifejackets, hopped into our double-seated kayak, and pushed ourselves off the shore. That’s all there is to it, right? Brimming with confidence, we kayaked through the bay for about an hour. The warm summer sun glistened upon the water, we felt a calm, cool breeze as our vessel glided along, and we saw various bird species soaring through the air above us.

Off in the distance, I thought I spotted an inlet leading to the ocean. “Let’s go out to the ocean!” I declared.

With a goal in mind, we started paddling faster. Upon reaching the “inlet,” far from our starting location, we discovered it was a dead end. Our vessel was also becoming harder and harder to navigate; our investigation revealed that the water was quite shallow in this area. (We can’t claim to be great detectives — we could feel the bottom of the kayak scraping against the rocky bottom.)

Every so often the kayak would stall, and we pushed off the bottom with our paddles. We didn’t sense any reason to be alarmed. But after another period of clumsy navigation, we realized the water level had dropped to a frightening low of around one foot. We were no longer kayaking. Instead, we were awkwardly maneuvering the vessel through sloshy mud at the speed of a sloth. We finally admitted the obvious: we were stuck!

“Let’s try getting out and dragging the kayak to deeper water,” my friend suggested.

Upon exiting the vessel, we discovered that the bottom of the bay was a thick consistency akin to what I imagine quicksand is like. Hoping to head back to our starting location, we awkwardly dragged the heavy kayak about 20 feet. Realizing it must be low tide for a majority of the waters we had covered, we gave up and got back inside the kayak.

Already covered in mud, we debated our options, as we didn’t have our cellphones on us. Perhaps someone would rescue us? “Help! Help! Help!” we screamed while laughing hysterically.

We must’ve been quite a spectacle, but it didn’t matter because no one was around. We were too far out for anyone to hear us… the laughing stopped and we started to worry. I imagined us appearing on the television show I Survived.

We knew it was time to switch places with the kayak: we had no other choice but to drag the vessel and wade through the sludge beneath us. Every step was challenging. Our feet sunk in the muck deeply, engulfing and yanking on our water shoes. It was nearly impossible to wade through the suction-like sludge and keep our shoes on, so reluctantly we decided that going barefoot was our only option.

Pointy seashell shards cut into the bottoms of our feet and legs with just about each step we took. As we knew it was going to be a long trip back, we paused to take much-needed breaks every so often. Those rests were not a respite as dozens of green flies swarmed about and bit us while we sat in the kayak.

Hours upon hours passed. The sun was beginning to set, we were drenched in mud, badly sunburned, and ached from so many open cuts.

It took us around five gruelingly long hours to make it back to shore safely. We learned lots of lessons that day:

  1. If you are an inexperienced kayaker, ask questions before venturing out.
  2. There is no shame in joining a guided kayak tour with a professional leading the way.
  3. Pay attention to the tides and don’t venture out during or close to the time of low tide.
  4. Wear an emergency whistle around your neck.
  5. Bring extra water and sunscreen.
  6. Take your cell phone.
  7. Let someone on shore know where you’ll be and when you expect to return.

We’d have never slopped through mud for five hours if someone was looking for us!

by Melissa R. Walsh

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