“Let me get this straight. You want me to intentionally fall out of a boat?” Dan asked, with a stupefied expression on his face.
“Uh huh!” I nodded my head enthusiastically in agreement. I suppose that there were better ways to explain my plan for our Tuesday night, but he got the general point.
Our church was offering a class on basic kayak rescue skills, and I thought it would be a fun marriage building date to learn how to rescue each other from the chilly waters of Lake Washington. Dan took a little bit of time to warm up to the idea, but he knows that it’s next to impossible to talk me out of something when I get my heart set on it.
So, last night we drove to the north end of Lake Washington in our waterproof gear, ready to spend the better part of the evening in the water, trying to get back into our capsized kayaks.
We’d only been in kayaks once before, and that was in the tropical waters of the Mayan Riviera, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, on our honeymoon (6 years ago). We mistakenly assumed that we knew how to paddle a kayak, based on this limited experience. Once we showed up at the dock and took one look at our rental kayaks, we immediately realized that not all kayaks are made alike. These new kayaks were about twice the length of the ones we’d used in Mexico, and we had to sit inside of them. They were also incredibly unstable, making for some challenges getting afloat without tipping over.
Eventually, we were on the water and drifting in random directions. It took me awhile to figure out how to move consistently in one direction. I kept going in circles, and for some reason, paddling backwards was much easier than forwards. Dan was much more of a natural, and he made it look easy. We joined the rest of our group, and it wasn’t long until somebody needed to be rescued. That somebody was me.
Long before we’d received any instruction about what to do in the event our kayak capsized, my kayak tipped over, and I went under with it. Thankfully, freeing myself from the belly of the boat wasn’t as challenging as it looked. I had visions of floating upside down, sitting in the boat, until somebody came and put me and my boat aright. However, I managed to slide out and pop back up next to my capsized boat. Our instructor now had a nice demonstration model to use. I got a nice trial by fire, and I managed to get back in my boat within about 10 minutes.
Slightly humiliated, but glad to be floating atop the water once more, I paddled back towards the group to listen as the instructor told them about how to perform a kayak rescue. Feeling like the pro, who had just successfully undergone that task, I started messing around in my kayak, trying to figure out how to paddle more effectively. Soon, there was somebody else to rescue. Once again, that somebody was me.
This next rescue attempt went much faster, since I’d already done it once before. By then, the class also was getting pretty good visual instruction on how a rescue looked. Once I was back in my boat, Dan and I paired up for some practice rescues. It was his turn to fall out his boat, so I could save him.
Like a trooper, he willingly leaned over the side of his boat and capsized himself. Soon, he was back topside, floating beside his boat with a big grin on his face. I grabbed his boat and paddle and helped empty the water out of it. We then balanced his boat while he climbed back into it. Miraculously, I didn’t capsize myself in this process. Otherwise, we’d have 2 Letinskys in the water, needing two separate rescues.
The experience confirmed a few valuable truths:
1. If you fall out of your boat, get right back in, and keep paddling.
2. Love is willingly falling overboard for the one you love.
3. Pride comes before a “sploosh” (Proverbs 16:18).
4. Life is better in pairs. Why? You never know when you’ll need a rescue.