Angel in a Canoe


by Sandie Maldonado


My husband and I moved up to Canada in 1982. It was a very difficult time for us simply because we had no friends or family. The phone never rang and we never had company. Coming from a small town in Ohio, knowing everyone and always having something to do, the change was simply horrible. But, after a few years we did meet a couple "Felix and Sue". We became instant friends.  Another few years went by and the four of us decided to rent a house boat up in Northern Ontario for a week. This was our first vacation after 11 years of marriage.


When we arrived up north, we immediately decided that the men should become the Captains and thereafter they spent 7-1/2 hours learning how to work this house boat that slept 10 people. Once the men were finished with their instructions, we immediately set out on the Lake - one of 7 [lakes] we would travel through. My husband, Henry, and Felix and Sue all had a few beers and were bathing on top of the boat when we all decided to go down the slide on the back of the boat into the water. This was our second mistake -- the first one was having a few beers without respect for the water. Sue is a very small woman - approximately 100 pounds and 5' tall. Felix is not much more. My husband Henry is approximately 6' tall weighing in at 240 pounds.


Everything was wonderful - we would slide into the water and swim back up to the boat. After about an hour of doing this I was tired and decided to go in and make some tea. Please remember that this house boat is separated in the middle by quarters with a kitchen, table, bed, etc. The front of the boat was separated by doors, and directly after the doors, was where the captain would sit on the right hand side facing the front with doors and windows separating him from outside. You really could not see from the front of the boat to the stern in the back where the slide was.


Shortly after my kettle was boiling I heard Felix yelling "get the life preserver" - not just yelling, but screaming. There was Sue and my husband, Henry, a few yards from the boat and unable to swim back.

I ran out the back and Felix jumped in the water (without a life-jacket on). Felix soon realized that he could not help Henry and Sue, because they were too far away from us. At this point, Henry is holding Sue in the water where the undertow was taking them away - far away. It is approximately 6:30 p.m. at night and there was no one else around. Felix just keeps looking at his wife and best friend and doesn't know what to do.


At this point I ran to the front of the boat and started screaming "God help us please - help us anyone. Can you hear me? They are going to drown." Right then I looked down at the side of the boat (remember, I'm at the front of the boat) and there are two men in a canoe. Their first question was "do you need us to start the boat?" - remember I had not taken lessons - Felix was crazy and wouldn't take his eyes off of his wife and didn't think about starting the boat.


All of a sudden this man is in the boat, starting it, and we are next to Henry and Sue in the water grabbing them up and saving their lives.


Henry told us later he was just about to let Sue go as he had no strength left, because of the undertow. I was watching all of this from the front of the boat and proceeded to go to the back of the boat, and when I turned around the canoe was gone and so were the men who saved their lives. Everyone thought I started the boat, and Felix never saw anyone drive the boat. He only knew it was started and that his wife and friend were going to live.


Two Years Later:


My friend Sue's father had passed away when she was nine years old. Sue and Felix decided to move to Coe Hill, Ontario, two years after the above incident. In helping Sue move her things out of her mother's house one day, Sue was in her mother's bedroom (I had never been in her mother's home before), and she asked me to help her with something. When I walked in the room I saw a large picture of a man on her mother's dresser and I began to cry and scream at the same time.


"That angel was not for me or Henry, because Henry could have swam to shore alone if he had let you go. That angel was your father! And your father saved your life! The man in the wedding picture with your mother was the angel in the canoe!"


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