Tuesday, May 26, 2015

overboard

At the Deep Water Bay 500m dragon boat races on Sunday, several boats were knocked over by waves, adding extra excitement to the event. Later in the afternoon, yet another boat that had just finished a race got nailed by a large wave and proceeded to fill with water and slowly flip over. People who were watching from shore clapped with amusement as the paddlers flailed about until it became clear that four of the paddlers could not swim. I am happy to say that they were all rescued by members of their team. It seemed that the people on the shore either didn't know that there were people in trouble, or they did know but could/would not offer aid. I also stood by with the other onlookers for a few moments until I spotted a young woman swimming poorly and went in for her. I grabbed the paddle that she was using to float on and hauled her to shore; it was nothing amazing, unlike the two men who towed their teammates all 100 meters to safety. Of course we had to emerge over a group of rocks so by the time the ordeal was over, my feet were sliced to ribbons and I had ripped off the toenail of my smallest toe.

This is not the first time that I have noted how many people who live by water do not know how to swim. Worse, many non-swimmers don't let their inability stop them from entering water without personal flotation devices. I'm talking about life jackets, not pool toys. A few years ago I watched the lifeguards in Shek O rescue four women whose overloaded, inflatable lounger had inexplicably flipped over when it had encountered a wave. It amazes me how stupid people can be with their lives. If I could not swim and I knew that boats were tipping over in the waves, I would put on a PFD. I would not bank of the probability that my boat would not be one of the minority of boats that flipped, because the penalty for being wrong would be too high a price to pay.

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