"My dream of starting the National Center for Cold Water Safety began with a terrible tragedy in 2010 - the deaths of two young women who were kayaking in Maine."
- Moulton Avery
The water was calm and the weather was gorgeous and unseasonably warm on May 16th, 2010, when Irina McEntee,18, and her best friend Carissa Ireland, 20, launched their kayaks for a short, round–trip paddle between Peaks Island and Ram Island in Casco Bay, Maine. It was a trip that Irena had made many times before, and her parents actually had a view of the paddling route from their house on Peaks Island and saw both girls land safely on Ram.
However, the weather suddenly changed while they were on the island, and when they attempted to paddle home, the wind was gusting to 22mph. It overwhelmed them and blew them out to sea into much rougher conditions where they capsized in brutally cold, 48F (9C) water. Although they were both wearing PFDs (Lifejackets), the only protection they had against the water was shorts and lightweight shirts.
At the time they died, Irena and Carissa were almost exactly the same age as my own two daughters, and it was obvious to me that neither they nor their parents had any idea how deadly an unprotected immersion in cold water can be. I’ve been reading about tragic accidents in the great outdoors for over fifty years, but this particular one picked me up and shook me like a rag doll.
Rationally, I knew that their deaths weren’t my fault, but emotionally, as a father, I couldn’t shake the haunting feeling that maybe if I’d done more to promote cold water safety rather than quitting the field at half-time to raise two daughters of my own, Irina and Carissa might still be alive.
I wrestled with that feeling for a long time before finally deciding that I couldn’t live with myself if I walked away and went on with my life as if nothing had happened. That’s the crucible in which my dream for a National Center for Cold Water Safety was formed.
Advice From A Friend
Before his death from an aortic aneurysm in 2012, Eric Soares, co-founder of the Tsunami Rangers and a long-standing advocate of cold water safety, gave me this very encouraging piece of advice:
"Moulton, If you just get the ball rolling, people will come out of the woodwork, as if by magic, and help make your dream come true".
He was right. People did come out - not only to support the Center financially, but also to help us spread the word about cold water safety - not just here in the United States, but around the world.