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LOST AND FOUND

Sometimes the sea taketh away, and sometimes she giveth back.
By Toby Lapinski
Tags: general
LOST AND FOUND
After spending 361 days on the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, the lost-and-found Hobie Vantage seat was in great shape and fully functional.

Despite the great expanse that lies before us when we gaze out on the ocean, Mother Nature (or whomever you want to pin the blame upon) has a way of sometimes kicking back both our trash and treasures that are given to the sea. There are times when we would rather the discards stay lost at sea, like when all manner of waste washes up on an otherwise pristine beach, but when something treasured or hard-earned is lost and then found it is looked upon as a gift and should not be taken lightly.

What follows is the account of a sequence of events that spanned roughly one year. Beginning as a casual night fishing and ending in a hard-hitting loss, the wave of emotions of this experience run the gamut from fear to heartbreak to joy.

The night began rather uneventfully as I joined my friend, Chris Wahl, for a few hours of kayak fishing. We set out around 10 PM and began trolling live eels up and down a likely stretch of shoreline. Neither of us had any experience kayaking this spot (mistake #1 perhaps?) so we took it slow and remained as mindful of the GPS and fishfinder as possible.

The first pass down the beach produced some tired legs from pedaling against the current along with a short hit each to show for it. We compared notes and doubled-back to make a more deliberate pass over the area where we both had the earlier hits. This time I struck pay dirt as a medium-sized striped bass engulfed my eel. The hook was firmly lodged in the fish’s mouth and required some assistance from my pliers to extract. After releasing the small bass I briefly contemplated putting my belt with pliers, Boga-Grip and dive knife attached to it in a more secure spot as opposed to being simply tossed behind the seat, but the thought quickly passed (mistake #2?)

The next few passes over the “hot spot” failed to produce a bump, so before the tide switched to the incoming we decided to make a dash for the point east of where we had launched. Our hope was to arrive around low slack and use the west-moving current of the flood to push us back towards our home base once we had thoroughly fished the area. I reached the point ahead of Chris and decided to change out my nearly-dead eel for a fresh, lively one. Rather than drift on past where I intended to fish, I slowly pedaled to keep my Hobie Outback in place so that once the eel was hooked I could immediately begin my drift.

Before I knew what was happening I was tossed from the kayak and found myself floating in the dark sea.

The wind was increasing and the current seemed to change earlier than expected so I was beginning to get pushed back west at a good clip. I was just about ready to cast out my eel when it happened, seemingly in slow motion. I felt the kayak begin to lean to the port side so I made a quick lunge in the opposite direction thinking that I had somehow lost balance and simply needed to right myself. Having been distracted by the chore of changing out the eel I had turned sideways in the current and struck a just-barely-exposed rock broadside with the hull of the kayak. Before I knew what was happening I was tossed from the kayak—rod still in hand—and found myself floating in the dark sea. It was a surreal experience as fear, tranquility and shock ran through my body in ever-changing waves. I kicked back to the overturned kayak and attempted to get on top of it. I still had the eel rod in one hand—my brain wouldn’t allow my hand to let go of it—so this proved to be somewhat difficult.

As I struggled to climb onto the overturned craft with one hand, I noticed the paddle was floating nearby so I kicked over to retrieve it before again trying to get on top of the upside-down kayak. With both the rod and paddle in hand I could not get up on the kayak but I was able to keep hold of it while I drifted along in the current. Every few seconds my dangling legs would bump into a rock and a few times I was momentarily pinned in the dark between kayak hull and rock. I could see Chris off in the distance and I began to yell to him for assistance. In the moonless night and building seas he was unaware of my predicament. I later found out that he thought all my commotion was from battling a large striped bass (oh if it had only been so!)


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