Nothing makes me happier than a day at the beach, especially when I get to frolic amid the crashing waves on Pelee Island’s east shore. The sound of distant waves, audible from my porch, always beckons me to come and play. But early on we were warned of Lake Erie’s strong undertow and signs are posted around the Island advising visitors of the possible danger, even on seemingly calm waters. The southern tip of the Island is one of the worst spots for dangerous currents. It was here that we helped rescue three men from the powerful grip of Lake Erie.
Venturing out one day to hike the trails at Fish Point (the large sand spit at the south end of Pelee Island) we grabbed a set of binoculars as we left the house. We took our time wandering through the forest before coming out to the sandy beach. It was here that we first noticed a Seadoo and a kite boarder out on the calm side of the water. The spit was especially long that year and the weather, hot and steamy so once we made it to the end, we sat to have some water and cool off.
Looking out over the water to the horizon line, I suddenly spotted what looked like someone in the water. Realizing the Seadoo and kite boarder were nowhere to be seen, I grabbed the binoculars and took a better look. Sure enough, what I saw was a person bobbing in the water at such a distance that I could just barely make him out even with the binoculars. He was holding up his board in a signal for help. We quickly leapt to action with my husband Rob running back to the car to call 911 while I stayed back with the kids and kept my eye on the individual in the water.
While we waited for Rob to return and first responders to show up, I approached a passing tourist out for a leisurely stroll and informed him of the situation. Ironically enough, he had just started training in a search and rescue program. He was able to start up a nearby Seadoo and was soon putting his training into action. He managed to pull two individuals out of the water and bring them to shore as well as tow a third on his Seadoo. The water kite was nowhere to be found and was probably on its way to a distant shore.
As the first two people were deposited on the beach I quickly gave them my water. Having been in the lake, treading water for about an hour, they were parched and exhausted. The one, a fifteen year old autistic boy, was especially in distress and I held his hand to keep him from fleeing. The Island EMS and volunteer fire fighters soon arrived on the scene as did a forty foot cutter, dispatched from a nearby Ohio marina.
Looking back, I still shudder to think what could have happened to those men if we didn’t spot them when we did. I’m happy we were there to help in their rescue. Having always heard stories of accidents on the water, we suddenly had one of our own to pass on in warning. The moral of each story is always the same. Never mess with a Great Lake.