July 6, 2014
Lake St. Catherine, VT

Celebrating the 4th of July on Lake St. Catherine has been a long tradition in my family. While I have been to the NYC Fireworks as well as Daytona Beach Fireworks, at the lake has been a constant since 1978.

I’m not the only one who is drawn to the lake for the 4th of July Weekend. Hundreds of others migrate to the lake, either to visit their own homes, rent a lake home or visit the State Park Beach and Campground. This weekend was no exception.

While the 4th started off with a Bang, it was not from fireworks but a major storm which rocked Poultney, Vermont’s Electrical system on July 3rd. We measured 46mph wind  gusts coming off the lake and those gusts took down many trees and along with them, our power lines. All of Poultney was disrupted  and long term power outages were what we all had to look forward to. By the 4th of July morning, we were not expecting power to be restored till the night of the 5th.  My brothers Motorhome Generator provided both our house and a neighbors house with power to keep our frigs running. The power company worked hard through the night of the 3rd and right through the 4th to get everyone back up quickly. The large town parade was postponed.

Aside from having to clean dishes and yourself in the lake and lug buckets of water to the toilet to flush, most of us could not tell we were without power as we simply spent all day outside playing. Power was restored by the evening of the 5th.

Fast forward to this afternoon when I took my friend and her 5yr old son to the state park via our boat to play in the waves and do some fishing. I beached the Pontoon boat on the shoreline and secured it (for the second time, due to high winds working against me efforts to keep it beached) We were all enjoying the afternoon when I put Lexie back in the boat to get away from all the people and I was going to wash down the exterior of the boat. As I’m wiping it down a head pops up over my side and there is Lexie trying to get away from a child who is in my boat.

Now I am a friendly guy, but this kid was full of gravel and I asked him to wash off his hands. He looked at his hands and then proceeded to wipe them off on my leather boat seats. I kept my cool and suggested he go play with his brother who was – or so I thought – fishing with their father right next to the boat. The man, overhearing me, as was my intent, informed me he is not his kid.

OK, so I have a stray boy who tells me he is 5 on my boat chasing Lexie. I call for my friend to help. Her son, also 5 comes over to me and she goes off in search of this child’s parents. Now I’m watching two 5 yr olds. The difference between them is amazing. One can speak clearly to me, knows his phone number, address and what state he lives in. The other, this stray boy, well he has no idea what his phone number is, his last name, his parents name, where they live-work-camp or anything.

OK, so right now you are all saying, cal 911. Perfect, except that there is no cell service in this location. My friend return from looking for the lifeguard for the beach, a park ranger or anyone of authority. There is NO Lifeguard, there is NO Park Ranger and the only store- an ice cream shop, has no phone service and the person with the two way radio is out of the building. In other words, there is NO ONE to call in case of an emergence such as what was happening or worse -if someone was drowning, had a heat stroke or heart attack.

By this time, I have been with this boy for 20 minutes and my friends son has him locked in conversation. She returns having struck out yet again. There is simply NO ONE out looking for a little boy. We are not sure what to do next so my friend goes out again yelling up and down the beach – IS ANYONE LOOKING FOR A LOST BOY. Finally she gets a bite. An elderly woman looks around and says yes, I’ve been looking for him. Now this was actually complete BS because my friend had seen this woman and the rest of the people she was with. No one was looking for a lost boy. Regardless, he found the Grandmother and we reunited him with her. She was furious, but I think it was mostly because she was scared. She never knew he was gone.

My message could end there, but it doesn’t. As I had mentioned in the beginning, this was my second attempt to beach the boat. Despite my best first attempt and an anchor deployed to help against the high winds, my boat broke free of the beach and began to quickly float away. Simply someone shouting “Your Boat” alerted me to go after it. It had already gone quite a distance despite dragging an anchor. I pulled my prescription sunglasses off and holding them in my right hand, I dove in and began a very fast Front Crawl. After recovering the boat and re-beaching it, my friend commented on my swimming ability.

Later that night, I went inside and saw on the news that they are looking for a missing swimmer in New England. When I did a search for the story, I found numerous stories of swimmers who went missing on July 4th or July 5th, 2014.

This always shocks me. See, I can swim. While it might be part natural, its also because my parents insisted I take lessons if I were to be around water. I am also very familiar with rip tides, currents and the power of a wave. I respect water and it is out of this respect that I come to enjoy water. From SCUBA Diving to Sailing, Fishing, Kayaking and yes – swimming.

So parents, I have two messages for you tonight.

1) Who is watching your kids? Are they capable of performing the task?
2) Does your child know  your phone number and address?
3) If you and your child are going to be around water, do you and your child know how to swim? And I don’t mean swim as in a leisurely swim, but know how to perform a rescue swim. Are you both comfortable in the water?

Parent’s I don’t think I have to explain just how bad this could have ended today. We were experiencing very strong winds, a tough surf, white cap conditions. There were many many people around and no one knew who he belonged to. Luckily for the boy…he wandered onto my boat and because of that, he is home tonight.

Please take a moment and discuss the safety and importance of staying close –  with your child.

And one last thing, don’t assume that because you are on a State Park Beach, there is someone watching. You and only you are responsible for you child.

Happy 4th of July ALl

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Larry Jensen, Founder of Wonder of Wander. A vagabond traveler exploring the world. Follow me as I take you to some amazing places and meet interesting people, all on a shoestring budget. If you like my stories, please donate below. (Click the "P" for Paypal)

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