Despite spending 30 years kayaking Lake Ontario, Cath Hastie says she hasn’t seen that many accidents on the water.
“There aren’t that many that come up. I have seen three people thrown out of their boats by the waves – literally the wave will hit the bottom and they’ll pop out. I have seen one canoe with two people in it be thrown about my height into the air, just because of the waves … that’s Lake Ontario,” said Hastie, noting that most often when she has seen a boater fall out of his or her craft, the incident has happened close to shore.
But earlier this month, Hastie witnessed the lengthy rescue of a kite surfer whose kite became tangled after entering the water about 300 metres offshore of the Balmy Beach Club.
Two Beachers – one an 80-year-old paddler – proceeded to haul the kite surfer and his kite back to shore from where he was stuck.
“I got to the beach 7-ish (in the evening) and the canopy of the kite surfer had already ditched and he was already in trouble,” she said, noting the paddlers were already in the water helping him. “You could just see basic little shapes it was so far away.”
The rescue took well over an hour, she said, and left the 80-year-old paddler – who wishes to remain anonymous – exhausted after towing the kite boarder to shore behind his kayak.
“He took his required float line and he tethered the guy and his surf board to that, and he paddled them in,” he said.
She said the paddler noted when he got to shore that if this had happened at the beginning of the season – before he was conditioned from paddling every day – he might not have been able to pull it off. The second good Samaritan worked with him, carrying in the surfer once they got to shore, as well as the heavy, water-laden kite, brought in using his canoe.
“The waves were not calm at all,” said Hastie. “It almost didn’t have a happy, wonderful ending.”
Of the 80-year-old paddler who led the charge to help the kite surfer, Hastie said “he’s the kind of guy you want out there. He’s aware of his surroundings, and when he sees someone in trouble, he knows the law of the sea – you’d better get in there and help.”
She said the incident is a reminder that “we’ve just got to help each other” and that it is important to be aware of the people around you.
Speaking for the paddler, Hastie said she believes one thing that could be done to help make that area of the beach more safe would be to have a full-time Harbour Rescue Boat stationed near the club. She said that even if the station was not manned at all times, a locked boat that the Toronto Marine Unit could access by road would be preferable to the status quo.
The main marine unit is stationed near the Harbourfront on Queens Quay West at the bottom of Rees, with sub-stations at Bluffer’s Park, Centre Island, and Humber River. A volunteer outfit, Toronto Search and Rescue, is stationed at Ashbridges Bay.
The Toronto Police Marine Unit was not able to provide full comment by press deadline but a spokesperson said that they did not receive any calls for this occurrence.