It’s a yearly event –usually on Father’s Day. My son rents a pontoon boat on Lake Sonoma and up to twelve family members pile on for four hours of recreation. Usually we head right and go under the bridge, but this year we decided to avoid the jet skiers and so turned left.
Five children ages 13 down to 15-months and six adults settled in while we sped atop the bottle green water of the lake that, when full, has a surface area of more than 2,700 acres and 50 miles of shoreline After 30 minutes or so we found a cove and tied up to one of the bony-naked trees sticking up from a previous life before the construction of Warm Springs Dam in 1983.
We swam, ate our sandwiches and chips, swam some more, ate brownies and watermelon and thoroughly enjoyed being together. The weather was perfect, hovering in the 90’s with a lovely breeze keeping us from feeling too warm. These are the moments when it seems like life can’t get any better.
After awhile we decided to unhitch and go a little further since we hadn’t seen that part of the lake before. As the waters narrowed (relatively, since the lake is broad at every point) we began to pass large rock outcroppings where some swimmers were perched, ready to drop back into the lake. Friends on the opposite side of the shoreline were cheering them on.
We slowed our boat as we passed by the daredevil divers, not wanting to cause any extra wave action. It was then that my daughter spotted a woman halfway across who was swimming in the direction of the rocks. The women raised her hand apparently in greeting, but my daughter didn’t think she looked quite right so kept her eyes on her as we went by.
Then my daughter heard her say ever so weakly, “Come back.”
Obvious now, the woman had misjudged the distance across and was not going to make it. As we frantically turned around –not a speedy process for a pontoon boat –the woman turned onto her back in an effort not to sink. I recalled seeing a sign at the marina listing the number of drownings at Lake Sonoma this year so far. It read “0” but this woman was ready to change that. If she sank she would disappear quickly beneath the murky green water where the current would quickly alter her location.
As we threw her a seat cushion, several of her friends had dropped into the lake and were streaming toward her. Gathering it under herself she affirmed she was okay. We told her we would be back in a few minutes to retrieve the cushion, giving her enough time to make it back to shore.
There are so many “what if” scenarios that can alter or end a person’s life. What if we had chosen to go right instead of left when we began our trip? What if we had lingered an extra 10 minutes at our swimming cove? What if my daughter had not been alert enough to keep her eyes on the woman, even after she had apparently just waved in a friendly manner?
Fortunately, we did turn left, our timing was precise, my daughter was alert – and the sign at the Lake Sonoma marina still registers “0“.