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Wet Exit -- Doggy Style

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2005, my husband, Pete, and I decided to go kayaking, our boats were only a month old and we were anxious to use them. I paddle a sit-in kayak; Pete's boat is a sit on top and has a place that our dog, Seamus, could sit. Since he was still a pup at the time we thought we could train him to ride with us. We bought him a lifejacket and took him out for his first boat ride.

We drove over to Armand Bayou near our house and got ready to launch. Did I mention that Seamus is a Chihuahua/Pit Bull mix and looks more like the Pit Bull? Or that he weighs 45 lbs? Or that he is a big mamma's boy and follows me everywhere? The poor dog stood there shivering in the cool morning air, looking bug-eyed at the life jacket wondering what in the world we were about to do to him.

We finally got the boats to the water and a PFD on Seamus and ourselves. It took some convincing to get Seamus to get onto the back of Pete's boat. We finally achieved that by launching the boat and paddling around to a low fishing dock were he could just step onto the boat. It still took some pushing and shoving and sweet talking to convince him that we were not crazy and that this would be fun. Pete paddled back around to the boat launch so that Seamus could watch while I launched into the cool bayou waters. This seemed to settle the poor dog down since he was dancing around on the back of the boat and barking at me wondering why he couldn't ride with me. Seamus kept watching me so I tried to stay as close to the back of Pete's boat as possible without actually hitting him. I also did not want to encourage Seamus to try and walk on the bow of my boat.

We made it around the first bend/fishing dock and were headed towards the Bay Area Blvd Bridge that crosses the waterway. Our spirits rose as we began to think that this might be easier than we anticipated. We kept up a steady stream of praise for Seamus hoping that our praise would be enough to keep him calm. I was not comfortable with the close proximity of the boats so I let a little distance get between us. Not much mind you, but enough that Seamus did not like it. He kept turning to look at me and evidently he had enough. The next thing I see is Seamus sliding off the side of Pete's boat. Oh Great! He swims over to my boat and swings himself around while trying to get traction with his front paws on my cockpit rim. Concerned that he could pull my boat over I thought I could mitigate that by helping him. I reached over to the left side and grabbed hold of the handles on his PFD and lifted him into my boat while his paws are splashing water all over the place. Unfortunately I overcorrected on the tilt and felt the boat going over to the right. I leaned back to left, but it was too late, Seamus' weight had shifted and carried the boat over. All I remember seeing was a 45 lb pit bull sliding across me and trying to brace on the cockpit and over we went. As I was going over, Pete claims that I screamed "oh, *@#$" I don't remember that part. I do remember him saying, "WET EXIT" while trying not to laugh.

I can honestly say, in the cold water, my brain was not functioning well. When I came up for air I had a moments panic, my concern was that this particular bayou is filled with alligators. You don't often see them near the bridge and it was getting cold, so they were not very active, but I was worried just the same. I was also thinking that Seamus might try to get out of the water on top of me and push me under again. When I surfaced I realized that he had already swum back to Pete's boat. Pete used his paddle to push Seamus away until he calmed down a little, and then pulled him up on the stable surface of the sit-on boat.

So there I am, my first swim from my kayak in cold water, floating next to an upside down boat, Pete asking me if I'm ok. My mind started functioning again and I ran through all of the things you are supposed to do; right the boat, use your paddle to get back in, etc. I looked over and realized how close we were to the shore and all I could think about was getting out of the cold water. I had amazingly held onto the paddle during the entire episode. Knowing that Pete would take care of my boat I went to place the paddle of the bottom of the boat so I could swim to the shore. Then realized the silliest part of the situation was that I had just purchased a paddle leash, which was attached to the boat, but forgot to use it. Paddle in hand I began the short swim to the shore line, no easy feat when fully clothed in blue jeans, sweater, tennis shoes, and PFD.

I walked out of the water, mud squishing deep around my ankles. Pete yelled, "Are you ready for him?" I yelled back for him to go ahead. Pete threw Seamus back in and he swam to me. Seamus thought that it was great fun and came out of the water smiling and shaking water all over me.

I trudged back to the truck I unzipped my PFD and was totally shame faced when I saw my cell phone dangling from it's lanyard around my neck-completely ruined. (Ironically, the cheap hat I was wearing never got wet.) Meanwhile, Pete had paddled over to my boat, righted it, grabbed the tow line and went back to the launch.

When Pete arrived at the launch we began looking for some dry clothes in the truck and were able to come up with a relatively clean towel and a t-shirt. Pete stood between me and public view while I peeled off the wet clothes, attempted to dry off and put the t-shirt on. I was lucky that the Park Ranger that drove by didn't come over and ask questions and that there was almost no traffic at 7:00 a.m. I crawled into the truck wrapped up in the towel and turned the heater on full blast. I stuck Pete with loading the boats alone. Later that day we went to a boat shop and bought a dry bag for extra clothes.

Although it was a trying situation we had a great time, even if our time on the water only lasted about 5 minutes. It's easy to laugh at yourself after the fact, and of course Seamus thought it was a blast - even if he won't go near the boats. We laugh whenever someone says 'Wet Exit'

Lessons Learned:

  1. Use your paddle leash
  2. Don't take the dog paddling if he's too big for your boat
  3. Leave the cell phone in the car or waterproof box
  4. Keep a set of clean, dry clothes with you at all times.
Submitted by: Dawn Gemmill - League City, TX

For more great stories: See the Archive!

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