It was a pristine day on the water at Becher Bay (also known as Beecher Bay) when Michel Desjardins hit the water for his daily paddle and a fish Tuesday morning.

“Weather conditions were fine, it was not windy, it was sunny,” said Desjardins.

“It was perfect!”

But the situation quickly turned around.

“I got a huge bite! The canoe was going one way, and the bite came the other way, so I turned around to see what I could do and set the hook,” said Desjardins.

“And as I turned, a slight wave hit.”

The rush of water pushed Desjardins into the cold waters of the Salish Sea near the small set of Bedford Islands, well out of the safety of the bay.

“We heard a mayday call over the radio, and we weren’t very far from it,” said Jackie Cowan with the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, who was doing training nearby.

But this call was anything but practice.

“And so immediately we kicked it into gear,” said Cowan.

The crew, aided by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, located Desjardins within half an hour of him falling in the water.

“But I was sopping wet and cold,” said Desjardins.

“I’m glad I wasn’t in it that much longer.”

Although Desjardins was near a set of small islands, the mainland was a five-minute swim away. And in shock, while towing a boat, the swim was likely impossible.

“We don’t have a lot of time, we have cold water in this area,” said Cowan.

“You have one minute to get your breath under control. Ten minutes before you start to lose the use of your arms and legs.”

But what saved Desjardins, was the fact that he was prepared.

“For me, the primary thing that perhaps saved my life was the radio,” said Desjardins.

And experts agree.

“People don’t realize things can happen in an instant,” said Cowan.

“It can be a rogue wave, it can be a storm that comes up that’s unexpected. If you have a radio you can communicate to the people that can get there to save you in a timely manner.”

An unexpected lesson, but one that echoes for everyone on the water as true boating season begins.

Kori Sidaway