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Kayakers cheat death

When vessel assist captain John Aydelotte saw the overturned kayak, his stomach knotted.

“That’s not a good thing,” he said.

After seeing that the kayak was empty, he breathed a sigh of relief. His keen eyes scanned the crystal-clear waters for any sign of the boat’s passenger. On the horizon, a motion caught his eye. He spied another kayaker waving his paddle in the air, trying to get his attention.

“I could see dolphins and stuff all over; it was optimum conditions to find a person,” Aydelotte said.

Lisa Alexander’s kayak had overturned in the ebbing tide that was reaching speeds of up to six knots. Unable to reach her kayak, Alexander said she rode the current to the beach, but the ride was not smooth.

“I calmed down after a while,” she said after she reached land. “I went through some whirlpools and things — then I screamed.”

Deception Pass State Park manager Jack Hartt said that Alexander and her paddling partner, Thomas Leyrer, were saved by the safety equipment they both were wearing.

“They were dressed and equipped for the conditions,” Hartt said. “It could have been a tragedy without the equipment. Luck always favors the prepared.”

Aydelotte had to pick Leyrer out of the swirling water because Leyrer’s attempts to rescue Alexander were unsuccessful.

“She capsized and I tried to get to her,” Leyrer said. “Then I capsized and I couldn’t roll over because I was nervous and excited about her being in the water.”

He said that because of the stress of the situation he quickly ran out of breath and was unable to struggle back in to his kayak.

“I did a re-entry roll and by that time she was back on the beach,” Leyrer said.

Hartt said that stretch of water can be especially dangerous if paddlers are not prepared.

E-mail Erice Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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