The tragic death of Maeve Kennedy, 40, and her son Damian, 8, who went into a canoe to retrieve a ball in a quiet inlet and ended up in the treacherous openness of Chesapeake Bay to some may seem inexplicable. How was it they weren’t able to row back to shore rather than losing control of the canoe? Like many things unless you’ve experienced something like that you may not understand.
I remember when Grace Kelley who became Princess of Monaco died in an automobile accident at age 52. Prior to marrying Prince Ranier in 1956 she had been an actress in Hollywood for only six years starting at age twenty but her career was remarkable. Reading about her accident I did not understand how driving off the road would have caused her death. I suppose at the time I never heard the word “corniche” which is defined as a road cut into the edge of a cliff. Nor had I ever driven on a corniche. But when I did I easily understood how driving off it would toss one down a hundred or more feet off a steep cliff.
Reading about the plight of Maeve and her son Damian I immediately understood how they were overcome by the forces of nature.
My house is on a small marsh (picture at top)into which the waters of Buzzard’s Bay flow in and out twice a day under a bridge. We have a canoe at the marsh’s edge which we can use only when the tide is high. It is one of those canoes that used to be used at Norumbega Park in Newton (click on picture to below for better view ). I’ve had it for many years. It is large and made of some type of fiberglass that makes it both heavy and indestructible.
Last year I went out with my five-year old grandson Matty when the waters were sufficiently high. After a little difficulty we had it floating. I got in first and as I moved to the rear seat I was reminded how unstable a canoe can be. It responds to every little movement. Matty got into the front seat. I reminded him he had to be as still as possible.
It was a nice sunny day. A slight wind was coming out of the southeast as it usually does in the afternoons during the summer. After paddling around near the house and getting used to it we decided to paddle over to the bridge. It was about 300 yards from where we were. The closer we approached the bridge the more open the area became and we could feel the steady wind blowing at us. The canoe became like a sail following the push of the wind. No matter how we tried or the direction we turned in it carried us back pushing us up against a small island pinning us there. When we dislodged ourselves and tried again the same result happened. We finally gave up and turned around and headed back into the quiet of the smaller section of the marsh.
For average people in a canoe you have no chance against a wind. Once it captures you it takes over your direction. Fighting against it quickly tires you out because you have to continue the fight knowing once you rest every inch you gained is quickly erased and you are pushed further and further. Even switching the paddle from one side to the other gives the wind advantage. Fortunately for me the wind pushed me back to safety; had it done otherwise there would have been no way to fight against it.