It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. It was supposed to be a fun trip. Time to get with friends and to get in some kayaking on Lake Tahoe before the summer ends. It was breezy that day, but Carson City is always windy in the afternoon so I didn’t think too much about it nor did I think too much the effect it would have on the Lake.


The day started off with a lot of promise. The sky was blue, the Sweet Williams were in full bloom, and we had plenty of Vermont cheddar in the fridge. And, it seemed as if I had finally exorcised my kayak-loading demons. For once we were ready before we were supposed to meet up with our friends, Fergus and Eunice O’Connor. Fergus is a wholesale distributor and Eunice works the graveyard shift at the Campbell’s Soup factory, in charge of quality control on the Cream of Potato line.

Driving Out

As good as things seemed, true to form, we couldn’t get out of town without having some problems. One of our back ratchet tie downs had become unhooked from the receiver hitch. So we pulled over into the Taco Bell parking lot a spent about 10 minutes figuring out why one of the kayaks was leaning forward causing the back ratchet tie down to become unhooked. We soon figured it out and indubitably I was to blame. Earlier in the day when we had loaded up the kayaks I had discovered afterwards that I had incorrectly laid down the cam straps on the driver’s side. Instead of bugging Tammy again for more help, I took the initiative and lifted up the ends of the kayak and re-looped the straps through the racks and looped the straps through the wrong part of the rack.

Out on the Lake

Once we fixed the straps, the rest of the drive to the Sand Harbor boat dock went on without any issues. When we got out on the water the waves were unnaturally big for Lake Tahoe, but this was to our advantage going out. It was like riding a little rollercoaster out there on the waves. We were having so much fun that we went further than we had gone before, making it almost to Hidden Beach near Incline Village before deciding to turn back.

As we decided to turn back, I began to notice that I was having a hard time staying balanced in my kayak. It was taking a lot of hip motion to stay balanced and I quickly realized that it was inevitable that my kayak would flip. So I started heading to shore so I wouldn’t have to swim too far if I did plunge into the lake, which I promptly did.

Getting to Shore

I am guessing I was about 300 feet from shore when I started to swim. There was no way I was going to be able to get my big body back into the kayak giving the size and frequency of the waves that day so I started swimming and pushing the kayak in front of me. About half way to the shore, I got the brilliant idea that I should flip the kayak right side over. That was a huge mistake. The waves soon filled up the kayak with water and it started to sink. It now took much more effort to push the kayak in front of me and continue swimming, but eventually I made it to the rocky shore.


Surveying the straight drop form the road to the shore, I knew I was not going to be able to hike back with the kayak. Feeling a little daft and punchy, I decided the only thing I could do was kayak back to Sand Harbor. Resigned to my fate, the next thing I had to do was somehow get my kayak turned over so I could prop it onto a rock and drain it. After some unmanly efforts at lifting the kayak, I was inspired to use the waves to help me flip over the kayak. Lo and behold, once I got the kayak parallel to the waves, after about the third wave, I was able to flip the kayak over and then hoist it onto a rock to drain the kayak of the remaining water.

At about the same time I was draining out the kayak, our friends had made it back to where I was. They had not realized that I had flipped over and asked if I shouted or had made any noise when I plunged into the water. In hindsight that would have been a good idea, probably bordering on a smart, having just recently taught my cub scouts to make noise when they find themselves in trouble out in Mother Nature.

Meanwhile, there was no sighting of my wife. When we had decided to turn around, Tammy had made out like a wildcat, getting out way ahead of us. As I would find out later, she wasn’t doing this to show off or be anti-social, but was doing it out of desperation. She had an acute case of motion sickness from the waves. Eventually, though she realized we were no longer in view behind her and, bless her heart, despite feeling ill she doubled back to find us.

Making it Back

Back in my kayak, the group once again headed out into the waves of Lake Tahoe. My strategy this time around was to kayak near the shore and go in a zig zag so I would hit the waves straight on instead of sideways and fill the stern with water. This strategy worked to a degree but I still managed to get water in the back of my kayak. In hindsight, I am one-hundred percent sure that I had not completely drained my kayak the first time around. Soon again I was starting to feel unbalanced so I heading for a little cove for my inevitable plunge back into Lake Tahoe.

kayak-tahoe-pic-2However, this time I was closer to the shore and I could walk the kayak to the shore. Dripping wet, pushing an upside down kayak I walked toward the little cove and as I got near the rocks, I looked up and realized I had just inadvertently walked into the background of a couple’s wedding pictures. I am sure they will cherish that picture forever.

I finally ditched the idea of trying to kayak using a kayak stroke and switched over to the canoe stroke. That seemed to work a lot better but travel was slow. Getting back to Sand Harbor without any more incidents, I noticed all the color had drained from my wife’s normally sunny face. She immediately dropped face-down onto her towel in an effort to get her world to stop moving up and down, she would later tell me she had thrown up twice waiting for me to get back into my kayak. Oy vey! Did I feel like a major putz when she told me that.

The rest of us were likewise happy to be ashore after being on the water for nearly three hours. In our ecstasy, we decided to eat are well-earned food. No sooner had we pulled out our sandwiches then were we attacked by a hoard of voracious yellow jackets. Unable to eat in peace, we finally threw in the towel and decided to just pack up and go back to the safety of our homes.

Happy to be home, I am thankful for many things after my kayaking fiasco. Simple things, like being thankful the shore wasn’t further away, being thankful that my Dad taught me to swim even if it was when I was older, and being thankful for patient friends and a patient wife. I am also thankful for good days as well as the bad days because the bad days are when we learn the most about our limitations. And lastly I am thankful that freshwater sharks in Lake Tahoe is a myth.