Rescue off Victoria Park turns into tongue-lashing

Police, ambulance, rescue boat rush to young canoeists, some not wearing life jackets.

Nigel Armstrong
Published on June 17, 2014

Four young canoeists struggle ashore off Victoria Park Monday after strollers on the boardwalk thought they were in need of rescue. Police, ambulance and the fire department's rescue boat responded but the group got to land on its own. The two boys in the group did not have PFDs and police had choice words for the whole escapade.

©THE GUARDIAN/Nigel Armstrong

A rescue turned instead into a tongue-lashing off Victoria Park Monday.

Four young canoeists got an earful from police as they wearily made their way ashore near the tennis courts.

Two young men and two young women caused a stir for evening strollers on the boardwalk about 6:15 p.m. when 911 calls started coming in about tipped boats and people in the water.

Cst. Steve Gallant of Charlottetown Police Services was waiting on the sea wall as two boys gingerly walked to shore in bare feet across mussel beds, and two girls in life jackets paddled one canoe, pulling the other on a rope behind them.

It was low tide with a biting north wind blowing off shore.

The four stood sheepishly in front of a growing collection of emergency personnel and onlookers.

Behind them the roar of outboards and a towering wake subsided as the fire department's fast rescue boat sped to the scene, but was not needed.

"What were you doing?" snapped Gallant as the group assembled around him.

The faint answer was not audible to onlookers watching from the boardwalk.

"Where are your life jackets?" he said to the boys.

"We lost them," came the not-too-convincing reply from young expedition leader who later told The Guardian he was from Cornwall.

"Don't lie to me," snapped Gallant, more than once.

The boy later told The Guardian that the group was testing out a new-to-them plastic canoe-like paddle boat.

The girls were in an older, traditional fibreglass canoe, the boys in the new small plastic boat.

"I don't like it," said the boy. "It kept filling up with water."

The boys decided to get out of the new canoe, get under it, lift it up to drain the water out, then flip it back upright. No problem in the shallow water of low tide, they thought.

It became a bigger problem when the soft bottom and depth took them by surprise, finding themselves able to touch bottom but too deep to lift the canoe up over their heads.

Tired from the effort, they started walking to shore while the girls towed the sloshing canoe.

The young man insists it wasn't too cold.

"After the initial shock, it wasn't too bad," he said.

Gallant had a different perspective.

"You have the police here, you have the ambulance, the deputy fire chief is standing there, the rescue boat is there," said Gallant. "This is costing at least $2,000."

There wasn't really room for an answer, as police started getting names and particulars from the young people, including the name and phone numbers of their mothers.

Meanwhile the crew from Island EMS took them over to the truck, gave them sheets to dry off and warm up, and check them out before sending them back to load up the canoes and drive away.