A Vacation Misadventure

     In the story I am currently writing, I've got a pivotal scene while the characters are on a paddle boat. It brought to mind my own misadventure from my childhood regarding a paddle boat ride gone awry... 

     It all started at Homosassa Springs, Florida.  My family and I were on an extended weekend vacation with our family friends. During the day my sister Beth, and our friend Laurie and I would read our Nancy Drew mysteries as we sat by the pool and would make up “crimes” to solve to pass the time. On the third day over breakfast, they asked us if we wanted to drive over to a marina to rent some paddle boats. What I thought would be just a pleasant afternoon spent on the river turned into something much different. As we pulled into the parking lot Beth, Laurie and I commented to our parents about the island in the middle of the calm blue river. We asked the marina shop owner about the island and he told us there were monkeys that lived on it and that they used to be part of a wildlife zoo. I giggled with Laurie and Beth about the monkeys and said with more bravado than I felt that I hoped we would get to see them. Both of them nodded, we were excited to get underway with Laurie’s dad. My parents and Laurie’s mom decided to sit on a bench and watch us from the shoreline.

     When we pushed off from the dock, Laurie and I waved at our families sitting on a bench near the river. Everything was going smoothly, our boat glided past the island, where we glanced at the orangutans swinging on the trees. When we were halfway around the island, we yelled over to my sister and Laurie's dad and challenged them to a race. We began to peddle harder and the current was carrying us closer to the island. I attempted to shift the position on the turning handle to scoot farther away. To my shock I realized that it was stuck. We both tried to get the handle to move, our eleven and thirteen year-old string bean arms were no match for the ornery handle. We became nervous and tried to get her dad’s attention to tell him about the problem with our steering mechanism but they were farther ahead of us and couldn't hear. 

     As we were gliding along I saw the warning sign for the “Wild Monkeys” looming towards us. I also noticed these words in large black letters “Stay away they are dangerous!” I prayed the slight current from the wind would blow us away from the island. What happened next was a blur, as we crashed into the sign I saw several monkeys come to the edge of the water, barely four feet away! I yelled “dive” and pushed Laurie off the boat and dove in right behind her as the monkeys jumped aboard, with their teeth bared and their sharp claws extended, ready to grab us. We swam out away from the monkeys, and as soon as her dad and Beth saw what had happened, they furiously paddled over to us. We sat on the front of their paddle boat, shaking with fear, and thankful to be unharmed. A diesel motor cut through our nervous chatter, and as a small skiff came toward us with two people aboard, one of the men had a bat and a can of mace. After they heard our story, and checked to make sure we were okay, the men scared the monkeys off the ailing boat and towed it in. As our group neared my parents and my friend’s mom, they looked wary as they saw how wet and bedraggled we both were. We told them what had happened, and they all were thankful that the Lord helped us through this awful experience.  

     Ironically, the marina had a restaurant, and our parents decided to take us back that night for dinner. Dessert that night was something special, hot fudge sundaes. To our chagrin, they each had a plastic monkey on top of them. The next day, we took a boat ride to the Homosassa State Zoo. The captain announced that some wild Spider Monkeys might climb aboard during the ride. My heart was beating so hard it drummed in my ears. My mom comforted me when the monkeys leaped aboard, mercifully just playing on the boat poles and leaving us alone. I prayed hard for courage because my thoughts raced back to the previous day and the ferocious monkeys. I learned that fear can be a great teacher, but my faith in the Lord can help me withstand all the tumultuous circumstances life can bring. Including my short time spent near Monkey Island.   

Do you have an unusual vacation misadventure?  Please share it with me, I'd like to hear about it.