You never know what will happen around this island. There is always some sort of drama playing out and this past Sunday was no exception.
I had just returned from a kayak tour through the mangroves, had the gear all cleaned up and just sat down with AJ from Kayak Kings Key West along with some of the Cow Key Marina crew to rest up and relax when we noticed that across the channel there appeared to be someone swimming in the shallows. It was very odd as he had no boat/kayak/paddleboard around him. The water there is out of the channel and pretty shallow but said person appeared to be having difficulty moving about. The tide was going out at the time and he appeared to be not be making any headway against it, repeatedly trying to stand up and falling back down again. AJ went out on one of the docks and called to the guy to see if he needed help.
“Yes.”, he replied, “I need to get out of the water.”
About that time a guy on a jet ski came by and saw the person in distress. He pulled up beside him, and tossed him an extra life jacket along with a rope. The guy could not put the jacket on, it was later learned that alcohol was involved, a lot of it, so rather than have the guy lie on the jacket and bring him to the marina, the jet ski guy towed him over to more shallow water around the corner from the marina and left him there in about 6 inches of water. And then took off.
At this point AJ and I knew we would be getting wet so we rigged up some kayaks and paddled out to the guy. When we got there he was floundering in the shallows, unable to stand due to the thick mud, and alcohol. We repeatedly tried to get him into the extra kayak we brought along but he was unable to pull himself in. Finally, I jumped in, into mud up to my knees and came around behind, and pushed his drunk ass into the kayak.
“Stay there and don’t move!”, we both said. And he promptly passed out. AJ towed him back to the marina whilst I called 911 and arranged for an ambulance to be there when we got back. By the time I got there, two Monroe County Sheriff Deputies were on the scene and sirens from the EMT’s could be heard. When the rescue crew got there they walked up to the guy and said, “Hi Frank, how are you doing?”. Apparently, Frank has had dealings with these folks before.
Well, they got Frank upright and onto a gurney, and shuffled him off to the emergency room to dry out and sober up. But while they were there, another guy came swimming in looking for Frank.
“Have you seen Frank?”, he asked.
We pointed out that Frank was safe and in the ambulance. Since the guy apparently knew Frank, although he said he didn’t, the Deputy got a statement from him. Near as we can tell, Frank was hanging at the beach along Cow Key Channel just north of the bridge, where many urban outdoorsman hang out. Getting good and drunk, and being that it was really hot out, Frank decided it would be a good idea to go swimming, so he did, not taking into account that alcohol and an outgoing tide don’t mix very well. Hence, that is how we found him. His friend, jumped in looking for him and wound up at the marina.
Since the tide was still going out, I offered the friend a kayak ride back to the bridge where all this started and he agreed, thanking me profusely all the way for saving Frank from certain death. And seriously, had AJ and I not gone out there, Frank would have died. Anyways, as I was paddling the friend back I noticed that there was yet another person in the water on the other side of the channel, floundering in the mangroves. I called to him to see if he needed help and he said he was looking for his friend, Frank. I said Frank was fine, could he swim back ok. He assured me could, as soon as he found Frank. Alcohol was involved here too.
So, I paddled the first guy back to the beach and went back for the other guy. He was now unsure he could make it back so I hauled his drunk ass back into safer and shallower waters and he thanked me profusely for saving Frank and himself. Once I was sure he was ok, I then paddled back to the marina, totally exhausted.
A quick thumbs up to the Monroe County Sheriff Department and the EMT’s who showed up in a very timely fashion and took care of business very efficiently. As small as the island is, it’s not always easy to get around with the traffic. Good job guys and we thank you very much. And if Frank ever sobers up enough, I’m sure he will thank you too.
A big thumbs down to the jet ski guy who apparently couldn’t be bothered with helping a drowning person back to dry land. Why he did what he did is beyond me. Bum or no bum, it was still a human life in the balance. There were plenty of other boats coming through the channel and he could have gotten some help. A tragic situation was narrowly avoided.
So, AJ and I managed to keep a couple of urban outdoorsmen from drowning. We are kinda hoping that maybe Frank is a reclusive millionaire, who will sober up and shower us with extravagant wealth, but I pretty much doubt it. Quite a day for just a couple of simple kayak guides.