On hindsight, we should have heeded her warning, and our gut.
As we hoisted the kayaks over our shoulder and made to the water’s edge, the lady who had been watching us set up the boats called out, “Be careful out there. The current has been really strong. There has been three drownings in the past two weeks, the most recent just last night. A little Korean boy.”
It was most incongruous, with the scene of little kids splashing and yelling out happily in the water before us. And yet, as soon as we pushed off, I knew she was right.
The waters, while on the surface smooth with very small waves, seemed uneasy, restless. There was a strong current pushing us out towards the mouth of the bay. But even as we strove against it, I could feel my kayak being pulled in multiple other directions. And if I looked down at the waves instead of the horizon, I had the most discomfiting feeling of the waters pressing in on my boat.
Fleetingly, I thought, this isn’t much fun. Maybe we should turn around. But we had just launched. And there were swimmers out, and a couple of stand up paddle boarders. But, as we passed the paddle boarders, I heard one of them remark, “I’ve never seen rips like that before, it’s all over the place.”
We weren’t just swimming, we were paddling, and we had life jackets on. And Jeff gleefully pointed out the Maritime boat patrolling up and down the coast. So we just dug in and paddled up the bay.
I have no idea how strong the current was, but it took us a half hour to probably go up one km. We finally reached the little strip of beach off where locals say is a good snorkeling spot when we eyed with dismay the churning white water in front of us, swirling in all sorts of directions.
“What do you want to do?” Jeff asked, but as I started to answer that we might probably be able to beat our way through that, we heard cries from about twenty metres away. A trio of snorkelers were summoning us to them.
I paddled towards them, one of whom was a little girl, maybe about ten. As soon as my kayak was within reach, she, and her mother, grabbed onto the side of my boat, almost toppling me over. The man with them swam and grabbed onto Jeff’s boat.
It turned out that they had just gone for a leisurely snorkel by Little Beach, down by where we had launched, when they got caught in the rip tide that swept them up the bay. They needed help to get back to land.
And it seemed that we weren’t able to help. After we got them to hold onto the bow and sterns of the kayak instead, Jeff and I tried paddling furiously towards the shore. But as hard as we dug our paddles in, our kayaks seemed rooted to the spot. By now, a small crowd had gathered on shore, and people were yelling unhelpfully at us to go upstream, with the mother screaming behind me, paddle harder, harder.
We were not moving. If anything, it seemed we were getting sucked further into the whirlpool. After five minutes or so of struggling and getting screamed at, I lost my temper. I yelled at everyone to shut the hell up. Then I realized, gosh darn it, we can’t fight this. It’s not working.
So I let the current take us out, out towards the mouth of the bay, further from shore.
And the current finally relented somewhat. Eventually, we managed to go around the rip and everyone safely back to shore.
Which was when the three Maritime boats showed up.
I had more than enough of an adventure for the day, so we turned back around. And what do you know, after an hour struggling up the bay, we got back to our starting point in mere minutes. The woman who had called out the warning before was now splashing in the water, and called out cheerily to us. “Back so soon?”
We should have taken her warnings more seriously. I should have listened to my gut. The entire time I was trying to get the snorkelers back to land, I kept thinking. That could have been us. That could so easily have been us out there snorkeling today.