No kidding, take a class

Posted by Ken Campbell January 9, 2010 1 Comment 718 views

According to Seattle police, the two men who were pulled from the Sound a few miles south of the West Point lighthouse had been drinking. Huh, no kidding. Didn’t see that one coming.

According to first responders, the two men, 36 and 28 years of age, had downed a few tankards of ale while watching the Texas/Alabama game on Wednesday night, and then decided that it would be a capital idea to clamber into their kayaks for a night crossing from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. This is a 3 – 5 mile stretch of water (I’m not sure exactly where the paddlers started), and the route crosses an active shipping lane. Currents can be strong and the entire passage is exposed, offering little protection from the wind and weather. The men wore PFD’s, but other than that token nod to safety, were clad in whatever beer-stained jerseys and blue jeans they already had on.

At 2 a.m. a call came through to 911. The senior paddler’s phone was still dry and functional, and he was calling to request assistance. His partner had capsized and was in the water, hanging onto his overturned kayak. A search was started immediately, involving personnel from several different agencies. When the Seattle fireboat Leschi arrived, the paddler in the water had been immersed for about 45 minutes, and his hypothermia had progressed to the point that he was barely able to speak. Both men received medical treatment before being released.

OK, here’s the deal. This incident has less to do with kayaking and a great deal more to do with essential judgment skills. When it comes to alcohol-fueled adventure, I am not about to throw stones – those who know me would quickly see the hypocrisy in that tactic – but I like to think I have developed some ability to learn from past mistakes, both my own and those of others. With that in mind, here’s a list of the top five things that I’m taking away from this event, which could have ended much differently, and turned out to be much more tragic.

5. Keep your cell phone dry. You never know when it will save your life.
4. Tell a firefighter “Thank You” the next time you see one.
3. Dress for success, whether it’s at work or in a kayak.
2. No matter how you may be feeling at the time, it is unlikely that you will drink your way to better judgment.
1. Lots of people fall out of kayaks… the smart ones know how to haul their carcasses back in. Make your parents proud; take a class.

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