The Paddleboat Adventure

My daughter mentioned that she enjoyed boating, particularly in a paddleboat. So today we (me, my wife and daughter) packed a picnic lunch and went down to The Lake Ridge Marina. We had a really nice lunch, with a cool breeze blowing across the water. The ducks and geese were quacking, fisherman were relaxing, and all was right with the world.

So we finished lunch, and went to rent a paddleboat. We had to put on those huge life jackets. Erica asked why? And I explained it keeps us safe in case of a problem with the boat. Little did I know.

The boats were three seat models, so Laura would sit in the back, and Erica and I could sit up front and paddle. Erica wanted to steer. So we got going pretty well, got to explore a cool outcropping of the shore across from the docks. Then we examined what looked like a beer keg and a styrofoam cooler floating in the lake. It’s hard work doing all that pedaling! So Erica and I took a break and we just floated free for a while.

We were getting near the shore, so I pedaled backwards to get away from the shore. After about a minute my wife said “Michael, I’m getting wet” very calmly. I turned around to see the back of the boat filling with water! So we started going forward again, which slowed down the water coming into the boat. A few minutes later Erica said “What’s that noise?” We were hearing an odd crackling noise. Turns out Laura’s cell phone got baptized and shorted out.

I figured we should start back for the dock so I started pedaling again. The problem now was the boat would only go to the left. No right turns. And we couldn’t go straight. So we did a few circles while I tried to get the boat to change its direction. No dice. Laura then said again, there’s more water coming in. So I got my phone out and said “Gee, what’s the number to call the dock?” Erica noticed the front of the boat had a phone number written on it, but the ink was faded. I tried one possible number and woke someone up, sorry about that. I tried another possible number and got the dock. I’m glad we got through to them, because the next call would have been a fun call to explain to the 911 operator.

I explained to the guy that we were in the blue paddleboat at the mouth of the lake, and we were taking on a lot of water, plus we couldn’t paddle in any direction other than circles. They said they would come out and retrieve us. I said ok. I explained to Laura and Erica that we would be ok, but let’s not rock the boat too much. Then the water started spilling over to the front seats!

I had Erica move to the very front of the boat, where the pedals are. We moved our bags up there, then I moved closer to the front as well. That helped, but there was still a fair amount of water in the boat. I had Laura and Erica start bailing the boat with our water bottles. I used a plastic sandwich container, and we all started bailing. That helped a lot! About 2 hours later (probably in real time 10 minutes 🙂 the two guys from the Marina showed up in their rowboat. While they were getting closer you could tell they were a little amused at having to do a rescue. But when they got to our boat, they were amazed, and said they’d never seen a paddleboat fill with water before.

They came alongside and tried to get Laura into their boat. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get her balance, so the paddleboat swamped again. That scared Erica, so we got her into the rowboat, then I got into the rowboat. We bailed the paddleboat out again, then we started back to the dock with Laura in the paddleboat. We went back quite slowly, and got back safely. Erica now says she’ll never get in another paddleboat again.

The guys at the Marina theorized that some fishing line got tangled around the paddles, which was why we could only do circles. They had no idea why the boat kept filling with water though, they were rated at 550 pounds of cargo, and we were around 425 pounds. Luckily too, they didn’t charge us for the boat rental.