kayak. I asked if she was OK and where
her friend was. She said she was in no
danger and urgently pointed toward the
shore. I maneuvered my boat cautiously
in the indicated direction, looking for any
sign of the second kayaker.
Minutes felt like hours as I moved
slowly forward, squinting in the dying
light for the young woman. Then I saw
her, with her head barely above the water.
She had been trying to swim for shore
and had gotten fatigued in the current. I
pulled up alongside the struggling swim-
mer. She was clearly exhausted. She tried
to yell, but it came out as little more than
a whimper. Unable to get her up and over
the high side of the boat, I got her around
to the stern of the boat, having previously
cut the engines. The lower transom made
it easier to get her aboard. Hardly able to
speak, she collapsed in the bottom of the
boat. After making sure she was OK, I
headed back to the upturned kayaks.
With the second woman safely aboard,
I tied the semi-submerged kayaks along-
side my boat and motored slowly back
to the harbor. The two young women
were tired and shaken but otherwise
unharmed. I was grateful; things could’ve
turned out so much worse.
TowBoatU.S. is not an emergency-
response service. In this case, it was for-
tuitous that we were out on the water, and
able to partner with the U.S. Coast Guard
to effect this rescue.
Michael Windham, a former member of the
U.S. Coast Guard, is now a TowBoatU.S.
captain in Clear Lake, Texas. Windham
received a meritorious service award from
BoatU.S. for the rescue.
Magazine to watch
a video on self-rescue techniques.
■ Wear a life jacket, and be sure it has
a whistle or signaling device attached
■ Learn kayak self-rescue techniques.
■ Stay together.
■ Stay with your boat. You’re easier
to spot, and the boat can be used
■ Don’t try to swim for shore. It’s often
farther than you think.
■ When kayaking far from shore,
remember the sea kayaker’s rhyme:
Less than three there should never be.
■ Put your cellphone in a waterproof
bag and tie it to your life jacket. Better
yet, invest in a portable, waterproof
VHF radio, particularly for when you’re
kayaking in open water.
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