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Racing to Safety

It was a beautiful day in June and I was paddling my 17' Perception Eclipse on the St. Lawrence River. The family was back at camp doing the weekend chores of mowing & spring cleanup. I figured I would take advantage of the glorious sunshine & relatively calm waters of the River and head out for an adventure. I paddled along the shore of Grindstone Island - "our island" - wanting to explore the bay adjacent to us; knowing that there is a lovely sand bottom beach, in which I can get out into the water of about a foot in depth to look for beach glass & other River treasures.

I was moving at a decent clip and checked to make sure that both ways were clear, as far as the eye could see, before making my way across. I had enjoyed my exploration for about an hour and was in a deep state of calm & quite relaxed. Feeling a bit guilty I decided that I should get back to help the family so I got back in my vessel and started to make my way back home.

I was about half way across the channel when I heard the distant rumble of engines. I looked to the North end of the channel and that is when I saw THEM and remembered…


What could I do? I couldn't paddle forward as the FIRST of the 30-plus foot cigarette/race boats turned into my bow and I couldn't paddle back; as I had another group of boats heading right towards me! I braced my legs in my thigh braces, said a little prayer and hoped that I was actually seen!

The first boat that went by must have been going around 80-plus miles/hr and the wake that it produced was at least a 5' wave. I held on and hoped for the best. After the leaders passed by, I paddled as fast as I could, nosing my way into the onslaught of waves. My heart was racing, my boat was taking on water and I was soaked by the time I got close to shore. Some onlookers from the shoreline were watching quite intently, making sure I was going to be alright. I gave them a wave once I got myself out of the path of the boats and felt I was out of harms way.

After I emptied my 'yak of water, I was still bobbing to and fro in the wake of the powerful boats, I felt the awesome power of being watched over; it was almost a mystical sense... until I looked up and saw a helicopter hovering over me! At first I wasn't sure exactly what he was up to; until I realized that he was photographing the poker run event. As I paddled for home that sense of peace was broken as I thought, OMG… I hope he didn't happen to take any pictures of me in my frantic state - I was only wearing my bikini! I have yet to see any photos posted on the internet.

Written by: Dawn E. Lewis - Liverpool, NY

For more great stories: See the Archive!

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