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It was a choppy afternoon on the lake and Jimmy MacDonald from Albany was paddling in a kayak.
As MacDonald tells it, he drifted away from his wife and step kids because he was taking pictures with his new smartphone “and not really paying attention.”
As he tried to make his way back, the water got choppier, and he paddled harder before he tipped over and lost his paddle.
He was in about 30 feet of water, his ill-fitting life jacket coming up over his head, and he was holding onto the kayak with one hand and his new $1,400 smartphone with the other.
He says people — other kayakers and canoeists — were passing by in the distance, but the former amateur boxer’s pride wouldn’t let him scream for help. So for several exhausting minutes he kept trying to right the kayak.
“That’s when I said, ‘Alright, I think I might die today. I think this might be it.’ I prayed to my lord and savior Jesus Christ for help,” MacDonald said.
Greg Barrett is a captain for Tiki Tours.
“A lot of things aligned that day,” Barrett said.
He typically pilots partiers, but not on this day.
At first Barrett saw Jimmy’s paddle and then one of his passengers said they heard a call for help.
“So as soon as I turned the boat towards him, I realized his life preserver had been in the upper portion of his head, and he was, he was hanging on for dear life,” Barrett said.
They got to him. A deckhand and the passengers pulled him on board.
And here’s where it gets interesting — Jimmy is a drug counselor and a recovering addict.
“How funny is it that I’ve been sober for seven years and I get saved by a tiki bar?” MacDonald laughed.
And not just any tiki bar — it was a bar full of priests and seminarians from the Paulist Fathers, a Catholic retreat on the lake.
MacDonald prayed for help from above and it arrived in the form of men of the cloth on a floating bar.
The priests and seminarians who were on board have no doubt that a higher power played a role in them being there exactly when MacDonald needed them.
“We’re missionaries,” said Chris Malano, a second-year seminarian. “For us, that day, that was our mission to be present and to help someone in need.”
That someone in need says he’s committed to continuing to help others drowning in addiction.
“I just take that as a sign from God that he’s got me here for a real reason,” said MacDonald.
An account of what happened that day first appeared here.