There was a swoosh, a rush of foaming water, and the back of our kayak sank beneath the surface. “We’re sinking!”
I shouted. Makayla was in the back and already had water up to her chest. I buoyed Kelsey out of the center where she was sitting with me, and Makayla half jumped, half swam overboard. A second later the entire kayak capsized, and the three of us bobbed like corks in the reservoir. (Thank you, life jackets!).
Ten minutes earlier I had been lazily paddling along with Emma enjoying her first kayak ride. Ominously, we saw a huge, dead snapping turtle in the reeds that could have taken off someone’s toe. “Wow, there really are large creatures lurking in the depths when you’re swimming here,” I thought to myself. I pulled back into the boat launch after almost an hour of Emma cheerfully splashing her hands in the water, playing with the petals of water lilies, and paddling right up to the base of Salmon Falls.
“Ready to go home?” I asked Katy who was giving Makayla and Kelsey swim lessons by the boat ramp.
“The girls really wanted to go in the kayak,” she said. “Maybe you could just take them for a few minutes?”
And so, unaware of what was about to unfold, we unloaded Emma, and helped Kelsey and Makayla climb in.
“I’m getting wet,” Makayla said shortly after we left.
“You’re fine,” I said without turning around, like anyone whose been alerted to countless false emergencies, not knowing a more literal translation would have been, “The water just came past my knees."
After we capsized, I flipped the kayak upside down where it floated with only the keel above the surface. Makayla held onto the side, and Kelsey held onto the end, and I swam and kicked in the back, pushing us towards the boat ramp where Katy and Emma could be seen playing in the distance.
A man and his son came down and started playing in the water, and I thought of the countless times we’ve gone to the reservoir by ourselves, and here we were emerging fully clothed, dripping wet, and emptying our sunken vessel in front of a stranger looking like we had absolutely no idea what we were doing.
Only it wasn’t a stranger. “Joel Waechter!” he said, removing his sunglasses and hat, and I recognized Will, who I’d gone to high school with and hadn’t seen in 15 years.
I'm less proud of me that it happened at all, but immensely proud of Makayla and Kelsey. Neither panicked, both helped swim, and both remarked throughout the day, “What an adventure!”
Joel and Katy
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on JUNE 30th!