Several years ago, I took a Beginner kayaking course with Ultimate Watersports at the Hammerman area of Gunpowder Falls State Park (Maryland). Tagging along was my older brother Vince. During the class, we learned the basics; kayak nomenclature, paddling, safety and most importantly, the "self rescue". As we practiced our new found kayaking abilities, most of this took place in shallow water along the beach. This allowed us to focus on the tasks without having to be concerned with treading water. As the course progressed, a final test was for everyone to practice a "self rescue" in deeper water. I was sitting in my kayak, with my brother in his, positioned between my craft and our instructor.
As I volunteered to go first, I rolled my kayak, pulled the spray skirt underwater and swam out of the boat to the waters surface. As I tread water, I grabbed my kayak and paddle to ready it for the climb back on board and insert myself into the boat, to successfully complete the rescue. As I steadied the kayak and proceeded to insert my paddle into the rear bungee cords for stability, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, something white approaching. As it drew closer, I realized that it was the white under belly of a large water snake that was swimming towards me in the upright position. Kind of like Cobra style! Being one who has a difficult time watching a snake show on TV, I immediately began to panic as the slithering beast approached!
At this time, I grabbed my kayak from my vulnerable position and tossed it towards the snake. With a large splash, the kayak re-directed the snake in one direction as I swam feverously in another direction. The splash now caught the attention of my instructor who thought I had panicked because I was drowning! As he approached, he could see that I was rapidly swimming away from my craft and asked, "What's wrong?" I told him I was being attacked by a snake and pointed in the direction of the reptile. The instructor just laughed and thought I was kidding to amuse my fellow students!
Now, I noticed that the snake had re-directed its path back towards me. Using my best profanity as eloquently as I could, I hollered at the instructor to intercept the approaching snake. The instructor paddled over to cut off the snake's path and at this point, it tried to climb on board his craft! Splashing it away, the snake now approached all the other students who were watching my "rescue". At the site of the snake, all their craft began to disperse as they quickly headed for the safety of the shore.
Mind you, I am still in the water and watching this event unfold at surface level, keeping an eye out for other slithering reptiles that may be accompanying my "friend"!! And my brother, he did not offer an ounce of help, as he too is not that fond of snakes! He stayed very comfortably in his kayak, safely away from the action with a large Cheshire smile on his face!
Not knowing what to make of the splashing departure of all my classmates, the snake redirected its path, in the upright position, towards a floating log for a rest. Needless to say, we moved our "self rescue" test to another part of the river, well away from our watery friend! Apparently, the snake was swimming upright to land onto something (me!) for a rest, after crossing the river.
Today, Vince and I still laugh about this event and tell the story over and over again to the amusement of anyone who wants to listen! However, now we have added some embellishment to the story. Our three foot water snake is now the Anaconda of the Gunpowder that was looking for a tasty morsel! And I, the hero that fought off its deadly attack!!!
Written by: Mike Calva - Fallston, MD
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