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After capsizing canoe, they did the right things

It was a Lake Superior churn that was good for "nailing the lakers," Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson said of the lake trout fishing on the morning of July 17. It wasn't good for canoeing.

Charlie and Teresa Evans from St. Cloud, Fla., would find that out when they capsized in their craft shortly after 11 a.m. that Saturday past Cove Point along the shore near Beaver Bay.

Aside from questionable judgment in even going out on the lake, Johnson and other responders say the couple did everything right.

"If you try to swim to shore you end up with one or both not making it," Johnson said. Save your energy, he said, besides, "it's easier to find a canoe than two people bobbing in the water."

He said paddling with their feet to help them into shore was a good practice. They weren't overexerting but were "doing something to help" themselves.

Locating the couple proved to be a challenge because of all the activity on the lake. There was a fishing tournament going on outside of Silver Bay Marina a few miles up the shore. The original fear was that a motorized boat had capsized way off the shoreline.

The Evanses were just a few hundred yards from shore.

"We just knew someone was capsized," Silver Bay Rescue Squad member Rod Lampton said. "We didn't know it was a canoe."

Searchers eventually learned that the couple had left from Cove Point Lodge and headed northeast. They slowly tracked up the shore until hearing they were on some rocks near the next resort area, Windsong Cottages.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Matt Miller patrols the lake and responded to the emergency call. "They're alive because they did everything right," he said after mentioning that waves 1 to 2 feet should discourage anyone from going out in an open vessel like a canoe.

"This is not just another lake," Miller said. "It's not like the ocean. It's not like an inland lake."

Danger can come quickly on Superior, he said, with ever-changing conditions. He said the lake in the Cove Point area had warmed to about 60 degrees by that Friday but the wind shift put it in the 40s by the time the Evanses went in.

"Take the extra steps and know the type of lake and conditions you are in," Miller said.

Wear a life jacket. Know where you are headed. Tell others where you are going. Stay with the craft. Carry a protected cell phone.

"Respect the lake and have fun," Miller said.

The Evanses were on their way to Lake View Memorial Hospital in Two Harbors about 90 minutes after they capsized. They were there for just a few hours. They suffered some lingering tingling from the cold and some scrapes and bruises.

"We both thank God for sparing our lives and hearing and answering our prayers," Charlie said.