Going Overboard for Father’s Day

This Father’s Day was broken up into three distinct parts.  First there was the part where we took the girls and Uncle Bob to Austin Java for a nice breakfast.  This was the part before the whole family had all fallen into Ladybird Lake.  Then came the part where Bob left for Corpus Christi and the rest of us went canoeing on Ladybird Lake, tipped the canoe, and the whole family fell into Ladybird Lake with all our clothes and possessions.  The third part was when we and ruminated on everyone falling into lake, who reacted which way, what it meant for our upcoming boating trip to the Pacific Northwest, and so forth.  The discussion also touched on whether this was the best Father’s Day ever or the worst.

We had decided to finally go canoeing on the lake for Father’s Day.  Everyone liked the idea.  After breakfast with Bob, we all geared up in sunscreen, water shoes as available, and hats as available.  Claire did not have good water shoes, so she wore her waterproof pink and yellow Crocs sandals.  I got to wear my cowboy hat, which I had purchased late last summer as the “perfect sun hat” since it was light, waterproof, and has good sun coverage all around.

Being the honorary father of the day, I picked Zilker Park Boat Rentals for our put-off point since I always liked that little shady spot just downstream from the Barton Springs Pool.  Thinking we were being overly careful, we left our cell phones in the car, and I left the car keys in a little plastic box at the rental dock.  (You know, just in case.  Not that anything would happen.)  On the canoe, we took only a small bag with Molly’s diapers, wipes, and some bottled water.  The dock guy gave us all oars, including one for each of the girls.  The instructions were to keep the girls sitting on the floor in the middle of the canoe.

We rowed down the stream to Ladybird lake, then upstream toward the Mo-Pac bridge.  It was great.  The weather was warm but pleasant, the kids were having fun.  We counted turtles, dodged a seaweed-like stringy plant growing on the water, and just enjoyed the day.  We looped under Mo-Pac bridge feeling relaxed and confident and headed back to the springs.  Kit and I took off our clumsy life jackets but left them on the girls, just in case.  By now Molly was sitting on Kit’s lap and “helping” row the boat.  I had to row a little harder to make up for Molly’s “help” but sort of enjoyed the physical challenge.

Then it happened.  If you ask Molly, she dropped her oar.  From my perspective, I would swear I saw her throw it clear of the boat.  It does not matter, really.  Molly’s oar went over the left side of the boat.  But the missing oar did not in itself cause the canoe to tip over.  It was the fact that we all suddenly reached to grab the oar at exactly the same time that tipped the boat.  It did not take much.  The boat just tipped to the left and spilled us all out into the green lake, full of turtles, fish, weeds, birds, probably snakes, and now two adults and two kids.

Kit, who cannot swim and was not wearing a life jack, was initially panicked, especially for Molly, who was in the water next to her.  Kit managed to tread water with floating by her in her little life jacket.  It was briefly pretty scary for Kit and Molly, our two non-swimmers.  Claire, who had a life jacket and could swim, was as cool as a cucumber.  She just floated around with a small grin on her face.  Kit said I seemed panicked, but I do not remember that.  I remember thinking, hmm, did that just happen?  Are we really in the lake now?  I guess we better do something about this.  The water feels refreshing.

Within what seemed like 10 seconds, a gaggle of lake-goers showed up to help.  They were mostly on kayaks and those flat boards that resemble surf boards.  A dad with his own family showed up and let Kit and Molly grab onto his board, which was as stable as land, as he said.  He helped calm Kit and Molly.  Claire used the board as a base but would sometimes shove off to swim around just for fun.  A kid 20 yards aways yelled, “Is this someone’s cowboy hat?”, waving my hat in his hand.  We were still missing one of Claire’s sandals and the diaper bag.

Meanwhile, another dad was helping me out with the canoe.  He knew exactly what do to with a waterlogged canoe, and I just followed orders.  I swam the bloated canoe over to the edge of the lake, maybe 20-30 yardsaway.  There was no “shore” per se, only a less deep area near the tree-choked edge where we could touch the bottom.  I got my footing either on loose rocks or maybe turtles.  I never got bit, so I am guessing they were rocks.  The water weeds were thick here, and I was swimming around in them up to my shoulders.  It reminded me a little bit of the garbage compactor scene from Star Wars.  The other guy said I should just flip the canoe over to dump out the water, and then flip it back over.  This was not as easy as it sounds, and it took all my strength.  We flipped it twice before it was lake-worthy.  When I loaded back into the canoe, the helper guy looked at me and make an “ick” look on his face.  I was wrapped in those long green water weeds, which I had to unwrap from my arms and torso.

I paddled the canoe back to the family, who were still surrounded by friendly helpers.  I was instructed to stay in the boat as ballast while Kit and the kids loaded up.  Their spirits were good now, having calmed from the initial shock.  Claire was happy as always.  The girls were lifted into the canoe, and Kit had to pull herself in, which would later leave terrible bruises on the backs of her legs.  Someone had produced our diaper bag, which was full of soaking diapers and now weighed about 50 pounds.  Someone else had found Claire’s missing Croc sandal.

From there, we said our thanks to our helpers and paddled back.  I told the canoe rental guy we tipped the boat when our kid dropped her paddle.  He said, “Did you all reach for it at once?”  He reduced our rental fee to half since we “were out of the boat for some of the time.”

There was a discussion on the way home that this demonstrated the importance of water safety and life jackets.  If Molly in particular had not been wearing a life vest, we probably would have been diving down to pull her up from under the green water.  And we were lucky that Ladybird Lake is nice and warm, something like 70 degrees, where you could swim all day if you wanted to.  When we visit Anacortes, Washington in a couple months, the water will be much colder and more dangerous.  You cannot necessarily doddle in the cold water waiting to be rescued.  We would also learn after the fact that canoes are notorious for tipping, and a kayak would be a better choice for stability.

Still, it was a great Father’s Day, probably the best ever, and definitely the most memorable.   Plus a little kick in the rear over water safety is a good thing too, maybe a blessing in disguise.


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