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Marooned In The North Woods

by Roger Keough  
1/12/2009 / Events


What's the matter Dad, are you losing your nerve?

Sitting in the bow of a sixteen foot rowboat, my father was partially protected by a canvas as the waves spattered him. He yelled at me, "We'd better turn back."

As I sat in the stern seat, handling the outboard motor, I responded to his question by intimidating him with my question, "What's the matter Dad, are you losing your nerve?"

We were on Lake Nippissing, near North Bay, Ontario and we were heading toward the Manitou Islands, nine miles across the lake from our vacation cottage at Calendar, Ontario.

Arriving at this grouping of five islands, we commenced fishing in the lea of an island, not realizing the wind was becoming stronger and consequently creating large waves beyond the island. Mid afternoon we headed for our cottage only to realize we were facing huge waves which we could not negotiate in our small boat. So we went to the beach, out of danger of wind and waves to wait for the elements to subside before returning home.

The wind did not diminish and late in the afternoon we realized we would need to spend the night on the island. We gathered tree branches, dragged them to the beach to make a place to sleep. The boat was pulled up on the shore and we started a fire. Surely the people at our cottage site would be out looking for us, but darkness descended and we were alone.

During the night rain started falling, so we turned the boat over and crawled under it until the rain stopped. September was upon us, and with the benefit of the fire we were able to get through the night..

Saturday dawned bright. Surely, we could return to the mainland today. Contrary to normal events the wind continued to blow strongly. Over in our cottage my sister and her girlfriend must be wondering what happened to us. They walked down the road to the next set of cottages and asked a worker if their regular boat had gone across the lake yesterday. The answer was, "No, the lake is too treacherous."

My sister told him some men from Waltonian Inn went out to the islands yesterday. His response, "They probably drowned." Her retort, "They were my father and brother", to which he remarked, "Oh, they probably went to one of the islands."

We gathered some damp wood and tried to make smoke signals but to no avail. The wind continued and we finally conceded that we would spend another night on the island .knowing we would eventually be able to return but we knew the girls would be very worried.

Sunday mid day, I was lying on our makeshift bed and heard a motor. A yellow two winged airplane was circling the island. We waved; the plane pilot shook the wings and headed back to North Bay. Three hours later, he returned, holding a white bag, he dropped it near to us. We recovered it, and found a Toronto newspaper, a can of corned beef, a large chocolate bar, a pack of British Counsel cigarettes, a package of matches and cigarette lighter. A note said, "We know where you are, we'll be out to get you as soon as possible."

Three hours later a large yacht loomed into view and shortly came to our location. We loaded up our equipment and were taken back to our base. There the local residents welcomed us. Shortly afterwards two men from our hometown in New York State arrived. They had been called because the girls thought we had drowned .

I have reflected on this event for years and only recently realized what trauma my youthful remarks to my father had caused. One of the ten commandments in the book of Exodus tells us to Honor Our Parents. I realize, lo these many years later that my lack of honoring my father's words could very easily have resulted in our death.

I appropriate Hebrews 1:14 to our safety. Speaking of angels, the writer says, "Are they not ministering spirits, sent forth for those who are the heirs of salvation?" My father was a dedicated Christian. I perceive he was deeply in prayer while I, a somewhat rebellious young man didn't think about such things. Thankfully, some years later, I came to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and He has created a new heart in me.

I am retired and a widower, 87 years old. In good health, living in a Senior Citizen's apartment complex. I have 3 chidren and 11 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. During my working years I was a sales representative for a tool manufacturing firm.

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