The Canoe Trip that Became a Disaster

He’d always wanted to do it, I thought it was romantic – it  nearly cost me my life.  Our newly married son and his wife invited us to come canoeing with them on the last day of their honeymoon.  We’d gone canoeing on our honeymoon, now they wanted to do the same, so we agreed and headed North. My husband had always dreamed of canoeing that certain river – it had just enough white water to make it exciting, yet we would take the 3 hour tour to keep it short enough for the 2 of us women to handle.

We set off with great expectations! The weather was co-operating with us: deep, blue sky filled with fluffy, white clouds, soaring above the beautiful pine trees along the sheer banks of the river.








We had our cooler in the middle, ready for snacks to keep us going throughout the afternoon, a camera in the pocket for those special moments we were looking forward to, and to commemorate this special day together.  We enjoyed stopping from time to time to pull up to a bank or sandbar and appreciate the beauty around us.








About an hour and a half into our journey, we hit one of the S curves in this winding river at a deep spot, where the water was churning.  Our canoe bumped into a batch of trees that had fallen into the water, and we quickly realized that we were not going to be able to keep from overturning.








The picture above had been taken earlier, never realizing that the same kind of churning would nearly kill me.  I have no memory of anything after seeing the canoe swaying –  I knew we were going over.  I don’t know if I passed out, or if on the way over hit my head on the fallen trees, but when I came to, I had taken in a lot of water, was under water, trapped under the canoe, mouth full, nose full, unable to breathe, unable to find the air space that is supposed to be under the canoe.  My life jacket restricted me from diving down and out from under the canoe, and the attempts to find the edge of it and try to lift if up enough to get out just did not work.  The rapids kept swishing me around, dunking my head over and over again, and due to the depth of the spot, there was no way to get my feet on anything. I do not know how long it all took.  All I know is that I finally realized that for some reason, no one was coming to help me, I didn’t know what had happened to my husband, I couldn’t hear anything but the swirling water around me and I couldn’t get out from under that canoe – I was not going to last much longer.

My entire life, my worst fear of how to die was to think of drowning. Now here I was, realizing that the end was about to come.  A peace came over me, as I realized that for one thing, it would happen quickly and the torture would not be prolonged, and secondly, that as I realized I was about to go be with Jesus, that I was ready to meet Him!  What comfort in knowing that!!

All of the sudden, the boat was flung off of me, and my husband was shouting, “Grab the tree, Barb, grab the tree!” But, even though I bobbed up into air, I had so much water in me that I could not get any air!  My head started to drop back under water, but my husband, with one hand, grabbed my life jacket and lifted me out of the water to the tree.  We hung on for dear life, and I was able to get a little air into my lungs!  I asked him, “What do we do now?”  He said, “Just hang on until we figure it out.”

Meanwhile, behind us, a large group of canoers and kayakers were all stopped, and one of the kayakers had flipped over and she was screaming for help.  Across the river, not knowing it was more than just a normal flipping of the canoe, our kids were busy rescuing everything they could – the canoe, the paddles, the cooler, etc.  It was total chaos!  My husband told me that we were going to have to get up on the trees, climb across them to land.  How we ever did that, I do not know.  We had both lost our glasses, my sandals were gone, items in our pockets weighed us down, but he got up on the trees and waited for me.  It was so scary, walking, scooting, crawling across those trees over the churning water below, after the traumatic experience we’d just come through, but we made it!  We got to the bank, and walked down to shore, thankful that we weren’t at a sheer bank, that we had a place to climb to…  My son was there, having rescued my shoes,  to help me.  However, that left our daughter-in-law across the river alone, with 2 canoes to get over to us.  My husband tried to swim across to help her, and he got caught in an undertow that started taking him down river!  That terrified me, thinking that after all of this, he’d end up smashed against some rocks!  A shallow spot stopped his descent, and he came back over to the shore.  Our new, very brave daughter-in-law was able to get both canoes over to us.  We got back in, accessed the damaged, then when I didn’t think I could do it and was ready to call and ask for rescue out, found out that there was no rescue, that we’d have to paddle our way down the rest of the river for another hour and a half! Somehow, with my being near-sighted and my husband being far-sighted, we managed to do it. He would tell me on which side to paddle, would calmly tell me to stay calm while going through a rapids, or if we bumped and the canoe would begin to tip, and he kept me going.  We stopped and my son gave me his shirt and hoodie to wear for warmth – without those, I’m not sure I could have functioned.

We lost many things: 2 pairs of prescription bifocals, some of our food, due to water damage we lost the camera, but the SD card still worked, providing the pictures above! My husband, who is diabetic, had 2 glucometers in his insulin kit, (which the kids had miraculously saved!) that were waterlogged and ruined, and my husband’s cell phone was ruined.  What we kept? My cell phone was in a Ziploc bag, and totally fine, the SD card in my husband’s phone still worked, his wallet stayed in his pocket, as did his keys!!!  Some of the other boaters found our Rubbermaid container of carrots, which he munched on the rest of the journey, and then, wonder of wonders, at the very end of the journey, the kids rescued our bag with medication and carbs, that had made it through so many S curves and rocks, and had landed on a fallen tree and attached itself! My husband was able to eat some soggy chips for the carbs he was needing before tossing them, but all of the meds were fine!

When we got to shore, we were able to go change into dry clothes, then head to where the kids were staying.  We put everything into the dryer while our son cooked us a warm supper and our daughter-in-law got us afghans and pillows to keep warm, and kept her father-in-law supplied with fruit until dinner was ready.

Afterwards, we still had a 4 hour journey home.  The horror of what had nearly happened was the topic of our conversation in the car.  I found out that my husband had been thrown behind the fallen trees when the canoe went over.  He saw that I was in trouble, but had to get out of there before he could grab the canoe and throw it off of me!  He also rescued me by grabbing my life jacket and getting me to the tree, all with one arm!  As we discussed it, he told me that if I had been under for 20 more seconds, I would have been gone.  I told him that I knew that, under the canoe – that it was going to be over very soon.

That happened 5 days ago.  I have a bruise on my head, one on each upper arm, and more bruises keep appearing, who knows from where.  We talk about how we think they might have gotten there.  We both have dizzy spells, and those tend to freak me out, as it feels like I am back fighting the current under water again.  My husband’s shoulder is hurt from hurling the canoe and lifting me. My back is in rough shape, and today, I am not much good for anything.  However, we realize how fortunate we are for things to have turned out the way they have, and that it will just take some time for the bruises to go away, the pain to heal and the emotional part of it all to settle down again.  We are thankful to be together, and more appreciative of each other, too.  I am grateful that my son did not have to see a different scenario take place that day.

God was with us through it all.  We stopped on the way home and picked up a pair of reading glasses for my husband and a new glucometer.  (My glasses were my sunglasses, so my other ones were in the car.)  The next day, he was able to get his replacement phone, and when he called the eye doctor, who was booked up into October, to see when he could get in, they had a cancellation that very morning!!! When putting everything back together that had been laying out to dry, my husband put one of the glucometers back together, and it worked, too!  God has been in it, showing us His tenderness, His concern, and His care.  How I love Him! How I serve Him!  How much He means to me!!!

Let me leave you with these thoughts:

Always be as safe as you can. I’m not sure if I would have been able to get under and out from the canoe if I hadn’t had my life jacket on, but it probably helped save my life, since somehow I got knocked unconscious. Never be afraid to look ridiculous – put it on – wear it!

– If on the water, please use consideration for others.  We were upset with kayakers who thought they owned the river, and would not move out of our way on that fast river, making us afraid of going over again.  We were thankful for those who found our carrots and tossed them to us to fortify us for the rest of the journey downriver.

Have a plan. I was so thankful for the dry clothes and 2nd pair of glasses in the car!  Only take on the boat what you absolutely can afford to lose if you’d end up losing it.  We take more than most, due to my husband needing food to keep him going.  (Some of it floated, due to packaging – a good tip to remember when choosing those items for your trip.)

– Lastly, be prepared to meet your Maker!  I do not intend to live the rest of my life in fear, or not experiencing things, worrying about death or dying.  However, it is obvious that accidents can happen, that’s why they are called, “accidents!”  Your life could be snuffed out in an unexpected moment and you need to be ready for eternity. That peace that ran through my mind and heart as I realized that I was about to see Jesus face to face, proved to me that what I believe is real.  I am ready to go whenever He calls me home.  I do not live for the here and now, but for what comes after.  I’d like you to join me there when your day comes, too!

Matthew 24:37-44

37 When the Son of Man appears, things will be just as they were when Noah lived. 38 People were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day that the flood came and Noah went into the big boat. 39 They didn’t know anything was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man appears.

40 Two men will be in the same field, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 41 Two women will be together grinding grain, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 42 So be on your guard! You don’t know when your Lord will come. 43 Homeowners never know when a thief is coming, and they are always on guard to keep one from breaking in. 44 Always be ready! You don’t know when the Son of Man will come.

I shall see Him for myself.
I shall see Him for myself.
He is Lord, every tongue shall confess,
in the beauty of His holiness;

I shall see Him for myself.

I shall walk the streets of gold,
tell a story that’s never been told;
that is where I shall take my rest,
in the beauty of His holiness,

I shall see Him for myself,
for myself.

Behold the face of the Lamb
that was slain to redeem mankind
and to return again, return again.

I shall,
I will,
I shall,
I’ll behold His face,
behold His face.

I shall behold Him,
I shall behold Him,
face to face, with Him I shall reign.

It was the day the world went wrong
I screamed til my voice was gone
And watched through the tears as everything
came crashing down
Slowly panic turns to pain
As we awake to what remains
and sift through the ashes that are left

But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams
we have this hope:

Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning…
in the morning, beauty will rise

So take another breath for now,
and let the tears come washing down,
and if you can’t believe I will believe
for you.

Cuz I have seen
the signs of spring!
Just watch and see:

Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning…
in the morning…

I can hear it in the distance
and it’s not too far away.
It’s the music and the laughter
of a wedding and a feast.
I can almost feel the hand of God
reaching for my face
to wipe the tears away, and say,
“It’s time to make everything new.”

“Make it all new”

This is our hope.
This is the promise.
This is our hope.
This is the promise.
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that’s been made
out of the ashes…
out of the ashes…
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that He’s made
out of the ashes…
out of the ashes…

Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of this darkness… new life will shine
and we’ll know the joy is coming in the morning…
in the morning…beauty will rise!

Oh, Beauty will rise
Oh, Beauty will rise
Oh, oh, oh, Beauty will rise
Oh, oh, oh, Beauty will rise
Oh, oh, oh, Beauty will rise

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4 Responses to The Canoe Trip that Became a Disaster

  1. Nichole says:

    I am extremely grateful that you both are okay. Love you guys 🙂

  2. leaplady says:

    This story began “a 3 hour tour” made me think of Gilligan’s Island! We know how that turned out! Blessings and thanksgiving to our Father! So good to read, so good to ponder and such good reminders for all of life! God bless and thank you for sharing.

  3. Dorothy Downey says:

    Very interesting, article, Barb, and I am so thankful you both are all right! God is so good to help us in the time of need! He isn’t through with you and Clive yet. You have lots of His work to do!

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