This morning Eli was out in the cockpit with Zakary and Teyauna. Zak as always was harnessed onto his safety line that runs from the inside of the boat to the cockpit. He has some freedom to roam but not too much. Zak as always was playing with things and doing what he likes to do best. He loves to play with water and he LOVES to see the reaction he gets when he throws things into the water. This time he had his little stuffed doggie and thought it would be fun to play his “throw it in the water game” to watch someone scramble to rescue it. Well, Eli was the one watching and after seeing that Zak had thrown his stuffed animal into the water, he decided he would do the big brother thing and go after it.
Eli jumped into the dinghy without telling anyone and Teyauna of course wanted to go with him on the rescue mission and jumped into the inflatable boat as well Eli however does not really have any experience driving the dinghy so he pulled out the oars and started paddling away from the boat in an attempt to rescue the stuffed animal. That’s about when I heard Zak hollering at Eli from his perch inside the cockpit looking out on the scene. He was pointing at what he had thrown in as if to say, “Go get it for me Eli.”
Eli was paddling frantically as the current was quickly blowing the stuffy further and further away from the boat. Within a few seconds of surveying the scene I could tell that Eli would be in big trouble if he continued on his paddling course toward the stuffy now floating 200 feet away from the boat. I called him back and asked that he leave the animal in the water and return to the boat. He reluctantly turned the boat around and tried his best to come toward the boat but kept being blown away. It was as if his efforts were not getting him any closer to the boat. He was paddling hard but not moving any closer.
The oars kept slipping out of the holes in the side of the dinghy and as he readjusted them, turned the boat away from us. For ten minutes we all sat on the boat coaching him on how to get back to the boat. He was standing up paddling with all of his might pushing the oars forward (rather than sitting down and paddling backwards). As he dipped one paddle in deeper than the other or missed with one paddle on one side, the boat turned to the side. He moved in a zigzag like fashion.
Finally in desperation he started up the motor as he had seen us do in the past but the handle was too hard to turn and he ended up motoring perpendicular to the boat before motoring further away and cutting the engine. In desperation he again put the oars back into position and continued to row toward us as best he could.
In the meantime Teyauna seemed rather oblivious to the predicament they were in and seemed rather content to just flop herself over the front of the dinghy to peer into the water while Eli got more and more exhausted. She found everything rather amusing as she enjoyed her ride on the water.
We didn’t want to swim the 100 to 200 feet to the dinghy due to the swimming notices that are in the Pago Pago harbour warning people not to swim in the water. It is tested regularly and is not deemed fit for even swimming in. The tuna factory dumps all sorts of things into the water as do many of the locals. It is more like a swamp than a harbour. I guess we could have launched the kayak but when it was suggested by a desperate mother, I suggested we wait a little longer. Eli was not yet tired and if he had to struggle to get back to the boat, it may encourage him to be a little bit more cautious in the future. Especially since he had not anticipated the strong current pushing him away from us.
It must have taken at least ten minutes for Eli and Teyauna to paddle back to the sailboat and Eli was absolutely exhausted from the effort. It was a hard paddle but he eventually got the hang of how the oars worked and how to keep a straight coarse toward us. Eli may be a little more careful going out in the dinghy in the future.
Teyauna was just happy to go out on the little boat and go for a ride. She loves to go with anyone that is going anywhere, whether on land or on the water. She just likes to join others in the “fun” they are having.
Zak on the other hand lost his little stuffed doggie. Not sure if he learned much of a lesson from the experience himself. At 19 months old he still seems oblivious to the panic and concern his little self can inflict on the hearts of his parents. I think it will take a lot more lost items before he figures out that they don’t all come back.