September 29, 2021, Expedition and Adventure On The Water.
Captain Brad stood at the helm of the 24-foot pontoon boat. Waves crashed into the port side of his vessel and the cascading spray coated his face with a cold stream of water. He had every faith in the boat staying on top of the four-foot swells rocking his world. The doubt in the back of his mind was getting it on the trailer.
His day started out well enough when he launched the Triple Or Nothing. He was confident that the afternoon would be a good one. Despite the forecast for wind and wet weather, he knew the triple hulled vessel could handle almost anything. It was a cool way to end a great season on the water.
He picked up another Brad at the Naramata Wharf and their job was water safety for Expedition Canada.
Expedition Canada is an adventure race that covers over 400 km of terrain in the beautiful Okanagan. Originally scheduled for the end of June it was delayed due to covid and is taking place this week. It’s a grueling 2.5 day to 4-day race across the top of the mountains and on the surface of the lake. Competitors climb, bike, run, and paddle their way to a series of checkpoints.
The race would have been very different in the heatwave of this past June when it was originally scheduled. Now the weather has a much different effect on the race and the racers. On this fall day, the weather had a pretty challenging impact on the event. A wind erupted and they had sixty km per hour gusts. Paddling seventeen-foot plastic canoes became a challenge beyond what anyone expected…
Even driving the 24 foot pontoon became an adventure.
The water was rough and the athletes were battling four-foot waves that crashed the shores on the south leg of the lake. It was a challenge ensuring the race was safe.
Hoodoo Adventures was putting on the race and they had contracted Luxury Lake Tours to provide a boat to ensure the athletes were safe on the water. Brad was the captain on the first leg of the adventure race.
The adventure company had their guy named Brad on the water asisting with safety. The day started out choppy but then a storm blew up as the afternoon went on.
It was a perfect storm.
With surging waves, the worst-case scenario unfolded.
The veteran boaters watched the lead canoe surge over a towering wave, its bow hitting the crest of a big roller. Their timing was off and water rushed into the canoe.
It happened in an instant.
The canoe capsized and the two paddlers were in the lake before they knew it.
Gasping for breath they grabbed the boat and held on tight as the water crashed over their head.
Captain Brad turned the Tripple or Nothing towards the struggling men. Safety Brad reached down into the water and grabbed the first oarsman and helped him climb aboard. At the back of the pontoon the captain flipped the ladder down into the water and the other paddler grabbed on and climbed on to the back deck of the pontoon.
Safe on the Triple or Nothing the men went about gathering their gear and their canoe. Captain Brad kept the boat steady while the other guys reached down off the front platform of the boat and grabbed the swamped canoe. With a group effort the seventeen foot plastic canoe was emptied of its watery load.
The racers then put their boat back into the lake and climbed in. They were soaked but determined to finish the paddle Onward, they continued their search for the checkpoint.
The racers wanted to paddle their canoes to the checkpoint, it had already been decided that they wouldn’t cross the churning waters of the lake. By the time darkness set in the wind had steadily increased and the water on the lake was rolling over the bow of the pontoon.
The two Brads discussed the safety of it all. With rolling waves crashing around them and another swamped boat it was decided that the time had come to bring all the small canoes in.
Brad the safety guy got Captain Brad to pilot the boat to the nearest dock. The waves crashed around them and the plastic canoes were struggling to stay on top of the cresting water.
Quickly Brad edged up to the dock.
“Hey what are you doing on my dock!” a woman voice shook the darkness. She emerged from the shore, her blood boiling at the interruption of her waterfront lifestyle.
“Sorry but I have an emergency here. I need to get our canoes off the water.” Safety Brad replied trying to remain calm in the face of this strange lady’s hysteria.
“What are you doing on the water right now anyway? This is private property. Get off my dock!” She brought her phone out of her pocket and began to try to film Brad as he walked to the shore.
In the meantime, more canoes were filling with the rushing water. There were two men in the lake swimming for all they were worth. They turned to captain Brad and yelled for rescue.
“Just stand up! You’re in four feet of water!” Brad hollered to the soaked boaters.
After a few minutes of struggling, one canoeist decided to try to stand. He smiled and shrugged as the waves washed just past his waist. Quickly they grabbed the canoe and headed to shore.
In the meantime, the exchange between safety Brad and the upset sixty-some-year-old woman had escalated. Brad walked away and headed off her dock. “Sorry mam but this is an emergency. I will deal with you later.”
“Help, police!” she screamed. “He assaulted me.”
Brad watched the whole thing from the boat and was shocked to hear the woman accuse safety Brad of assault. All Brad had done was put up his hand in front of her phone as she tried to record him. There was no sign of assault or even any contact.
‘It takes all kinds,’ thought Brad as he circled around and started calling the canoes to head for the shore.
Two hours later the winds still rocked the lake between Naramata and Summerland. Captain Bard dropped safety Brad back at the Naramata Wharf and headed across the rough water to the Summerland boat launch. His day was almost done, all the paddlers were safely on dry land.
It was time to get The Triple or Nothing home.
Except the rolling water wasn’t ready to let captain Brad off so easily.
The intrepid captain approached the exposed boat launch.
Fear and anticipation surged through his veins. He managed to secure the pontoon to the dock as the waves rolled through the darkness into the stern of the boat. He knew it would be tough but he didn’t want to rouse Barrman to come all the way to Summerland to help him get the boat out of the water onto the trailer.
He backed the trailer into the launch and hoped he could master his vessel enough to get it onto the rails of the trailer.
Up and down rose the water as it crashed unmolested into the shoreline. Brad pulled the boat onto the trailer and leaped toward the bow. He reached his feet to land on the dock.
He just missed.
Pain shot through him as he just glanced off the dock and smashed his knee into the front of the trailer.
It felt like a hammer landing on his kneecap. He swore silently to himself as he watched the rail of the trailer float into the launch.
It was time to call for help.
“Hello man… sorry to call but I can’t do this alone. You need to bring a few screws as well. ” Captain Brad grimaced as he felt the pain of injury and defeat. The lake had won this round but he was sure with Barrman’s help they would win the battle.
He hadn’t seen Okanagan Lake this rough this year and his blood raced with the challenge. Blood that was slowed by fourteen hours on the water.
A long thirty minutes passed when Barrman pulled in and hopped out of his truck. They strapped and screwed the rails back on and Brad backed the truck in.
The two friends yanked and pulled and got the boat back onto the trailer. Water surged around them and the boat hammered off the rails of the trailer. Just when they thought they had the boat on the trailer it fell apart.
It was getting cold and getting late. But what could they do?
Brad pulled the trailer back out from under the boat and Barrman fastened it back to the dock.
“Ok let’s do this slowly.” Barrman looked in his toolbox and found some screws that worked to hold the trailer together – sort of. It was late and the water was winning. They knew it was the last chance to tie the trailer together and bring home the Triple Or Nothing.
“Ok, Brad pull hard and start cranking. I will hold the back end.” Barrmans face grimaced as he pulled on the rope attached to the rear of the pontoon boat.
The wind pushed hard on the two friends. Brad barely felt the icy chill of the late September waters. He cranked hard and fast and pulled the boat to himself. Barrman held on tight and then Brad leaped from the water and climbed into the driver’s seat of his truck.
“Hold on man just about there!” Brad’s voice echoed into the night.
“Go, go go!” Barrman held the rope tied to the back of the vessel. He was afraid the wind would rip it from his grasp.
The truck pulled forward and the boat stayed on the trailer.
“Woohoo! We did it, brother.”
Barrmans voice reached Brad’s ears like a magical melody.
He high-fived Barrman and they laughed at the success of their efforts.
‘We conquered that storm,’ Brad thought to himself. ‘The next few days of this race should be easy.’
It was a moment of connection in life as the two friends overcame the elements and managed to pull their boat home safely. It was one o’clock in the morning and day one of the race was done. It felt normal conquering the watery foe they could see and feel. The next few days would be easy… They hoped.