Adventures on big water.

Adventures on big water by Anna Mandalentsis

As a single mom for many years, I searched out crown land camping because free is always better when you’re poor. Found a gem of a lake, outside Algonquin park we will say. Spent 4 summers going there with my 2 young kids. I knew the lake well. All sites are boat access only.

Fast forward to last year. Met a fellow, single dad. Was into camping. I proudly introduced him and his kids to my special island gem.
A few days into our 10 day trip, the chainsaw broke. Because I knew the area I opted to make the trip to the mainland to get it fixed and I would return quickly.

Getting the chainsaw fixed, I thought ohhh I’ll surprise them and come back with ICE CREAM because it’s unheard of in the backcountry.
Felt like such a champ, getting the chainsaw fixed in my booty shorts and coming home with ice cream to boot.

As soon as I got back to the boat launch, I could see the sky getting black. It’s a 20min boat ride to the island. I thought I better step on it. I knew weather on this lake could get unpredictable fast.
I’m going full throttle through the channel… thinking yes, I’m going to make it. As soon as I got out of the channel and hit open water, the whole venture went sideways.

4ft waves and heavy winds. I was going fast, in my tiny 14ft fibreglass boat. As I’m going I’m thinking shit I better slow down. But no, I wanted to get back to the island before the storm and before the beloved ice cream melted. About 15mins into my ride, I hit a wave, followed by the most opportune gust of wind. Blew me sideways, and, my engine flew off the back of the boat and sank right to the bottom of the lake. I’m in the middle of big open water, in high winds, and big waves. I’m yelling f* f* f* so upset with myself. Think fast, grab the oars. That’s right folks, paddles were on the island. So I had these big old splintery oars. I’m paddling my heart out.

I see the island and kept eyes to see if anyone would see me, I could use my whistle. Oh but yeah, my whistle was in my bail bucket that was tied to my engine bracket, and now sat at the bottom of a 100+ ft lake. Screamed f* a few more times. Watched my position in relation to the island. Could see I was making progress. But I was drifting further to the side of the island. As I’m paddling, I’m shaking. Calling on any and everything in the universe to help me keep paddling. At this point, I had been paddling for about 20mins. My hands hurt, my arms hurt, but I was determined to get to dry land. All I kept thinking is girl, you can crush this, your a beast at the gym, you got this.

Finally, our camping group came to the side of the island facing me, and they realized I was paddling. And they realized there was no engine on the back of the boat. My boyfriend got on the paddle board, and paddled out to me. I’ve never been happier to have help in my life. He paddled for 5 mins, said I don’t know how you did this, then with his life jacket on, tied the boat rope to him, jumped in and swam back to the island, pulling the boat as I continued to paddle. Took us 15 more mins. And as soon as we landed, the rain came.

Everyone’s crowding around me asking what happened. I gave them the ice cream, told them to eat it and I would tell them when I was done. I sat there, had the most satisfying beer of my life even though I could hardly lift my arms to drink it through the tremors of my exhausted muscles.
I’ve never been so happy to be in so much pain on dry land.
While I lost the engine and almost my life, I made it back with a fixed chainsaw and semi melted ice cream. And I was alive.
We were stranded, but that was something I’d deal with tomorrow.
That night, in grand universe fashion, the sky was crystal clear and the lake smooth as glass. Like the lake saying f*** you Anna and your cockiness. I took a pic.

A coworker of mine was familiar with the lake and I knew she had a pontoon boat. I asked her to come save us, and she did, 3 days later at my request.

I will never ever ever forget that experience. I grew up on the water, and I’ve been in some tricky situations, but nothing has ever shook me like this. I’m actually quite scared to go on big open water again. At least right now…. since then I’ve spent more time backcountry hiking lol good ol dry land.

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