Friday, August 20, 2010


It was the labor day weekend we will never forget. Early in the morning we packed our car with all our camping equipment and headed to Lake George for our yearly camping trip with our young sons and our collie, Chipper. We did not plan ahead as usual because one of our sons had a cold and we did not think he would be well enough to make the trip until the last minute

When we arrived at the marina we learned all the large boats were taken.  Based on the amount of equipment we took, we had to make two trips to the campsite. But first we had to  take our rented motor  boat to the ranger station to pick our favorite campsite on Glen Island. Our preference had to be level because of our small children and not too far from the mariner. Unfortunately the rangers said all the campsites on Glen Island were full. The only safe camp site available was on Long Island, a much deeper and wider part of the lake. Reluctantly, we took it and ventured out with our map in hand to proceed to find it.

Once there, we unloaded our boat taking out our tent and food, which we purchased in Grand Union supermarket in Bolton Landing near our marina. My husband pitched our tent on the platform provided, while I set up my kitchen. I always liked to be organized and know where everything was. I looked for wood, to build a counter top for my portable gas barbecue, and work area. Being the modern camper, I made sure we had our portable toilet although a clean out house was provided, a gas stove and lantern. We took plenty of rope to tie our food up in the tree to prevent raccoons from taking it. I enjoyed playing house and setting up my hollywood kitchen.   The campsite provided a picnic table, fireplace.and a dock.

While playing house, my husband went back to the marina to bring the rest of our camping equipment which included a large screen tent around the picnic table provided. I enjoyed exploring our new campsite and meeting the surrounding campers by walking on a man made path through the woods.

Our campsite was lovely and safe. It felt like we were on a private island with no visual campers around.  Unfortunately  it was too far away from the Marina and Glen Island. Previously we always made it a point to reserve a safe campsite on our favorite  island which was Glen Island. months in advance.  Making friends with other campers on the island was fun, however we each went our own separate way with our families.
The weather was delightful. The lake looked like glass with hardly any waves. Swimming in clean water was a delight for me as I detested chlorine pools. I loved our rubber boat taking short excursions around our campsite. Every day, we took our rented boat back to the marina for a day of fun in town. There were so many theme parks and restaurants. Some times we would come home late in the dark, using our flash lights to see where we were going. It was frightening to me, but we always arrived safely at the camp site.  We usually hung a marker like an old sheet on one of the trees to identify where we were..

The long weekend was always too short, as it was time to go home. We brought some things back to our car the day before to lighten the boat for the second trip. However, we should have made two more trips, but decided to chance taking the remaining equipment and clothes with us for our final trip back to the car.

The last day started out beautiful, however as the day progressed the wind was picking up.   We heard the boat knocking against the dock from the wind. Fearing the worst, we decided to bolt quickly. I told my older son to put on his life jacket as we entered the boat. I was in the process of zipping up my 4 year old with his life jacket as the boat charged ahead.  My husband saw the white caps getting bigger as the wind progressed.  He feared the worst thinking it was not such a good idea to continue on the widest part of the lake.  He started to turn the boat around heading back to shore. Within a few minutes we were in water. All our equipment, my purse, everything was floating in the water. I felt I was dreaming and wanted someone to wake me up. Holding on to my younger son, I can still hear his young voice crying "Mommy, Mommy"

The boat turned  upside down and became very slippery as I could not hold on. Yelling for my older son who was about 7 years old, "where are you?" he excitedly said he was riding on Chipper's back who was swimming in the water. He did not understand nor was he fearful of what to expect. He thought he was on a great adventure having the time of his life.

As we .were trying to hold on to the boat, the waves were turning into larger white caps, pushing our hands off the boat, I have never seen the lake look mean and nasty. The clouds in the sky turned dark gray.  My husband and I looked at each other with disbelief that this was happening to us. I said, "this is not our end yet. We have our whole lives to live"

Where were all the other campers we wondered? It seemed everyone cleared out of the lake earlier. "Who was going to rescue us? Usually the rangers come by with their boats to check on the campers. Where were they? What was to become of us,"  we feared.

Finally, it seemed like an eternity, a man came by with his boat to help rescue us.  He was on the other side of the lake and witnessed what happened.  However he said he would not take our dog Chipper. While in the water and at the mercy of this man, we were bargaining that we would not get onto his boat unless he promised to take Chipper. He agreed, promising he would go back for him after he rescued us.

He took us to a nearby campsite and gathered whatever he could find floating in the water. He brought back our duffel bag full of clothes. One side was all wet but the  other was dry. We changed our wet clothes into dry ones, still shivering from the cold. My husband went back with the man with the boat to get Chipper. I thought for sure he drowned because we could never get Chipper in the water to teach him how to swim.. My husband helped Chipper into the boat and we were all a happy family again.

All our other equipment, tents, stoves, etc all gone. Our money, my gold watch which was supposed to be at the repair shop and never got around to do it was all lost. The insurance company would not honor our claim because the loss happened in a boat.

A man came by to offer us money to get home. He took out a wad of bills, asking if we needed $100. $200. etc. My husband said $50 would be fine. The man gave us his card, a name I will never forget. Skyos was our hero. He took us back to our Marina. Still shivering, we went to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner and the long drive home. We quickly sent him the money he loaned us with a thank you note.  We never did figure out what caused the capsize except perhaps the plug from the boat might have loosened up.

The moral of this story is never underestimate the lake. river, ocean etc.  No matter how calm and friendly,  it could be your worst nightmare.

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