Last Sunday morning, my 10-year-old daughter Emmie and her friend sailed out to sea on inflatable fruit.
Her friend's mum and I were chatting on the beach while our daughters played on oversized floaties I’d picked up from Kmart. Cheap and cute, there was a huge pineapple and a bright watermelon, and the girls were floating on them in the crystal clear water off one of Magnetic Island’s beautiful bays.
I didn’t realise that I’d just placed them into danger.
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I thought I’d brought them something fun to play on, and had no idea these floats should only be used in pools. On beaches, bays or open water they catch the wind and can be easily, and rapidly, swept out to sea – with our kids, friends or loved ones on them. And that’s exactly what happened.
A few minutes after the girls had entered the water we heard them yelling to us, but while they seemed a little far away they were still in the bay, and it was pretty shallow. We didn’t worry.
“Oh they’re fine,” we rolled our eyes at each other.
“Kick harder,” I yelled to my daughter as I saw her legs flapping in the air. It looked like she was pretending to try to get to shore. We kept an eye on them but we weren’t really concerned. We knew we could reach them if we swam out.
A tourist boat pulled up on shore next to us and the owner offered to go and get the girls.
“I think they might find it tough to get back,” he said, but we thanked him and said no. They were fine, we thought.
Five minutes later as the girls sailed out of the heads and the pineapple float blew off in the wind, we changed our minds.