Ok. These pictures tell a story of confidence and one of WTF just happened?!? I had a near miss with death. I want to share this story for anyone who goes out fishing or camping alone and loves being in a canoe or boat and who feels THEY DON’T NEED A LIFE JACKET ON AT ALL TIMES!!! Yesterday, I almost lost my life. I’m 44, father of three young boys and married for 20 years. When I was hanging onto my upside down canoe, out 150meters from shore, in colder water than I thought, MY LIFE AND FAMILY PASSED THROUGH MY MIND. The day before I had spent a couple hours with my Dad, ran into one of my sisters on the street, had a phone call from my brother and mother ALL IN ONE DAY?!? So out there on the water, not being a good swimmer, the thought had occurred to me that I had said goodbye to them. It’s morbid but this is the type of shit that goes through your mind hanging on for dear life, SCREAMING HELP! HELP! HELP! With nobody around anywhere!
I was on Canal Lake. I pitched my Canoe in at the car park off Centennial Rd. The road was closed due to construction on one end of the bridge, but I went anyway. One of the major mistakes I made was, after realizing my middle seat wasn’t complete, I put my portable seat at the back, loaded the Canoe, took a selfie and headed out to get me some pike! As I paddles out towards the underpass, to the east side of the lake, I should have returned, because it was obviously more difficult paddling from the rear. BUT NO... I had get them pike! Off I struggled through the underpass. There was a bit of swirling current at the mouth of the underpass, which made my journey a bit more difficult, but I punched passed it and aimed beyond it towards the middle of the lake, east side.
The Canoe was gently spinning clockwise and I leaned slightly for my anchor to place it in the water and then “NO! NO!” The Canoe spiked upwards and over throwing me into the cold water!
After the initial shock and stupid stress of seeing ALL your gear randomly sink all around you, I scrambled to the Canoe and held on. But I was felt really heavy. I was wearing 2 hoodies, t-shirt, pants and rain boots, that were filled with water and became anchors of themselves. I struggled a bit and luckily they came off and found there way to the bottom to meet my gear. “Ok. Ok... Now I can kick my feet! I’ll just kick and hold on to my life line and propel us to shore...!” NOPE! I couldn’t move the Canoe at all. The anchor was of course on bottom where it belonged and attached to the Canoe. If I were in my right mind and not in a panicked state, I could have unlatched the rope from the end of the Canoe, but in these moments, unless you practice for this kind of nightmare scenario, you only think of these things in hindsight.
Now that I couldn’t move the Canoe and being father from shore than I could swim and not being a confident swimmer, I began to panic and simply shout “HELP! HELP! HELP!” I knew that the bridge was under construction, I prayed they would hear me over the machinery?!? There wasn’t any reason for anyone to drive down the road to where I was because the road was closed. “HELP! HELP!”
This was the moment that I thought of my 3 beautiful boys and wonderful wife. This is the moment when there is nobody else to talk to but God. I prayed a prayer of serious desperation. It was getting colder and the Canoe was more and more a Titanic. “Oh my God a truck! Help! Help! Help!” I began to wave my one free arm. The truck stopped! “Oh thank God!”
The man came down the side of the road to the lake and started shouting to me, “do you have a life jacket on!?” I shouted back, “yes!” I wasn’t too sure if it was good enough for me. Because of all my clothes I was much heavier than usual. I was getting much colder and not thinking clearly.
“Forget the Canoe, swim to sure! Just get out of the water!” It dawned on me. “If I stay here I’m going to die!” I got pissed off, I guess to build up courage? I punched the Canoe and said “fuck you mother fucker! Go soldier boy! Go!” I didn’t want to orphan my children and widow my wife! I let go of the Canoe and began to do the frog! (That’s all I knew how to do.) I really took me all the power I could summon to make it to shore. My mouth was so parched, I resorted to sipping and spiting lake water. My life jacket barely seemed to keep me afloat.
Half way there, I panicked again. I couldn’t feel my legs kicking.
At this point you have to make that almost angry decision that it’s all or nothing. You have to push through the pain or the numbness and JUST MAKE IT THAT LAST 20 METERS OR YOU WILL NEVER SEE YOUR FAMILY AGAIN.
When I was in clear victory, 2 meters from shore, I was delirious “I think I see a pike!” I shout the my humble saviour reaching his hand out to mine. I grabbed ahold of it and could barely stand. The man pulled me up and had me sit on a rock! “I AM ALIVE!” But I wasn’t out of the woods yet. “I could hypothermia?! Maybe a heart attack?” The man gave me some water to drink. Got me in his truck. I met his wife. Nice happy, older couple. He drove me to my van. And when we exchanged numbers and talked briefly about him trying to save my Canoe for me if he could, he saw I seemed ok and wished me well.
His name is Bill Cook. Lives in the Kirkfield area? I prayed and God sent you down that road! And why? It was a Dead End?! But if not for you hearing me yell for help, if not for you telling me to swim, I may not have had the courage to try! You broke me out of my panicked state of mind and stood there as my beacon of hope! May God bless and keep you and your family safe! Thank you Bill Cook, whoever you are!
I sat down in my van with the doors wide open. I was still huffing and puffing when the OPP arrived. They told me a lady had called it in. They asked me to remain with them until the ambulance arrived?! “Oh shit. Ambulance?! Fuck. I must be in a bad way...” I felt a little dizzy and cold. I found some extra coats in my van and put those on. I called my wife and blurted everything out to her as I passed back and forth hoping the ambulance would get there and the medics would tell me I’m all ok!!
They tested my blood pressure and temperature and all was good. I signed off and I was free to go! Man was I hungry. I sat in the sun, at a MacDonalds on highway 48, wiping the tears from my eyes, eating my hamburger!
It was the best damn burger I think I’ve ever had!
I lost 2000$ worth of all my favourite gear! All gone to the bottom of Lake Canal.
But I lived to see another day! I gave my wife and kids a hug. I hugged my Dad and brother who heard over the phone of what happened and came to see the almost dead man. And drifted off to sleep on the couch.
“Thank you Lord for being with me today and sending Bill Cook down a closed road to save me!”
WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET AT ALL TIMES IN THE BOAT