It’s a long story, but this trip was, partly, an extended test drive of the 2019 Nissan Leaf electric car – story about all that here. We’ll let you read about how we got to the lake in that post.
Suffice it to say that we arrived very late on the Friday night after driving from Sapporo City after work. By the time we’d got the tent set up in the dark, it was almost midnight by the time we snuggled into our sleeping bags.
The day broke calm and beautiful. It appeared that we were the only campers with a canoe. We scoffed down some breakfast, loaded up the barrel with picnic gear, and headed off.
We’d woken up late though, and by the time we got on the water at around 10:30am, there was already a stiff breeze blowing. Nothing strong enough to whip up waves, but strong enough that we headed straight for Benten Island to start some sheltered island-hopping. With a number of islands to check out, this kept things interesting. Here and there, we’d see old tortured tree stumps from when this vast low-lying valley system was flooded. According to the information office, this water level was a little lower than normal, but ‘fairly normal for this time of year’.
The relatively low-lying white-birch forests on the lake-front were quite picturesque.
After about three hours of pottering about the islands, we stopped in on a beach on the spit south of Kitao Island (also marked as Hokudai Island). With not a soul around, I tried flying the drone for some bigger-picture photos of the area. It was my first time flying the drone, so it took a bit of figuring out.
After lunch we pushed on to return to the campground. The original plan was to paddle around the northern end of Kitao Island, but when we got there, it was very much still attached by a low, narrow spit. With silty mud on the lakeshore, we decided to paddle south around the island, rather than pulling the canoe across.
The final southward push back to the campground was a long and hard slog. The afternoon wind had picked up. We spent about 1 hour paddling hard against a headwind. We were very happy to see the sheltered cove of the campground.
I sent the drone up for another round of photos. This time, we launched the drone from the canoe, and paddled around in circles for a bit.
Then, “return to home initiated,” declared my drone’s flight controller app. The sudden loss in battery had been unexpected, as I was just about to reach out and pluck it out of the air. Instead, the little red drone careened skywards, before flying to above the spot we’d launched it from: about 15m out from the shore, on Lake Shumarinai. We hastily started paddling the 100m to where the drone was executing a slow, controlled descent for its landing – into the water.
It was a race against time.
I had more or less given up hope. “Well say your goodbyes, Haidee, that drone is going for a swim,” I said between straining against my paddle.
Haidee had never even touched the drone before this moment, let alone caught it in mid-air. So ideally I was wanting to get in position so I could somehow catch it at the end of its emergency landing.
As we approached the drone, now only 30cm above the water still descending, it was Haidee who was in prime position to save it from a watery grave. There was no time for us to maneuver the canoe for me to make the catch.
The drone was now only 15cm above the water. Water was starting to splash up, caught in the rotor’s fierce windy backwash.
As if she’d been doing it for a life time, Haidee did the heroic deed. She reached out, deftly sweeping her hand under the spinning rotors, and executed a perfect underhand two-finger pinch of the underside of the drone.
“What do I do now?!” she exclaimed, still grasping the buzzing beast. I suggested she flip the drone upside down, as I’d seen people on Youtube doing. This did the trick. The drone shut off, and disaster was averted.
Today was the first time I’d flown the drone. I’d bought it a couple of months ago to capture some bigger-picture photos of us canoeing, but till today never got round to spending the time to get used to using it somewhere without other people around.
Definitely a trial by fire! (Or almost water).
With the excitement and adrenaline still flowing, we returned to our campsite, had showers, and settled in for another peaceful night at the campground.