26 August 2008

Shoo-Fly in First Daring Rescue of the Year

02 June 2008: Well, not really all that daring…. Charlie W. and I were fishing on the Housatonic River on Monday, 02 June at about 4:30 in the afternoon when we spotted two kayakers “heading out to sea.” Apparently these fellows had spotted a small school of bluefish and had decided to go after it…even if that meant paddling out into the middle of Long Island Sound. In doing so, they’d forgotten two important factors: 1] the tide was also pushing them out, and 2] the wind was blowing at their backs at about 25-30kts. [it was howling]. This meant that their ride out, following the school, went very nicely; however, when they turned around to head back, they were a lot farther out than they had planned to be, and tide and wind were directly in their faces.

Charlie and I fished around the mouth of the River for a while, whilst keeping half an eye on these two intrepid paddlers. It was easy to see that all their efforts were accomplishing nothing; in addition, it appeared that they were constantly having to rest their arms, which was not helping the situation at all. So, Charlie and I figured we’d better go check on them and see if they wanted a ride back to the lee of the land. We didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes when one offers help, it’s welcomed. Other times, especially when dealing with males, it’s seen as an affront to their manhood and to their powers of decision making. So we idled up to them, managed not to call them a couple of lunkheads, and asked if they’d like a lift. Their response was, “wow, that would be really sweet,” and “we were paddling like mad and getting nowhere.” Indeed. Charlie and I were amazed at how poorly dressed these guys were for what they were doing. The water temperature was 55 degrees, but they were in cotton shirts…one guy had shorts on. The other chap appeared to have a wet suit on, but only had himself into the bottom half of it. We also noted that one paddler had a cooler mounted on top of the kayak and the other had an open can of Busch beer in the cup holder of his boat. The pair didn’t seem inebriated, but booze on boats [unless you’re a passenger on a luxury liner, isn’t smart]. Also, alcohol will not prevent hypothermia, no matter how much boozy antifreeze one consumes. We got the pair into our boat—one on the right side and one on the left—and had them hang onto the bow painter of each kayak as we slowly motored back toward shore. Of course, while we were motoring in…and what we were doing had to be patently obvious to people in other boats…two idiots went past us full bore throwing wakes…one of which hit us so hard that it knocked the kayak loose from the grip of one paddler, so we had to stop and catch it. Eventually, we got back by the breakwater where the kayakers could be out of the wind and away from the worst of the tidal flow, and we got them back in their boats. The guy with the cooler offered us a beer as a reward [we declined]. Then the two paddled over to the breakwater and clambered up on it…apparently to rest for a while.

Charlie and I fished some more, and later, after the wind had finally dropped, we saw the pair heading back up river to the boat launch…but by this time the tide had changed…and they were paddling with it. All-in-all, Charlie and I had lost probably a half-hour of fishing time to bring the paddlers back to safety…but it was worth it. Don’t know if either of the two realizes it, but if we hadn’t watched out for them, and if no other boat had come to their rescue, they could have spent a very uncomfortable night out on Long Island Sound.

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