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Barefoot in a boggy loch: The worst place to lose your car keys

After searching in the shallows of Loch Linnhe for hours, Kevin saved our vacation.

Lynda Cranston

Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

At sunset we stood on the dock at Loch Linnhe. The Highlands rose at the water's edge, low-lying clouds formed a collage of pinks and mauves.

We were in Scotland to celebrate my parents' 40th anniversary. Eight adults – parents, kids, spouses – all in an oversized van. We had arrived at Fort William on the west coast. Next stop: Isle of Skye.

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One last look at the loch, then back to our B&B. I took the van's key from my pocket. Somehow it slipped from my hand and onto the dock. It bounced once, dropped through a gap and into the loch below. I stared into the water, speechless.

"I dropped the key into the loch."

"You what?" asked my father.

I said it again, louder. Everyone's mouth fell open.

We stood there like lost sheep. Until my mother calmly suggested we call the rental agency.

It was late, but a rental agent answered. I explained, expecting an easy solution. The only other key was in … London, England. If I could get to Edinburgh – four hours away – the key would be there in two days.

Two days? Days we were planning to spend on the Isle of Skye. And then on to Dornoch, east in the Highlands. The schedule was tight. There was no room for error.

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I didn't sleep that night. In the morning, I booked the train to Edinburgh.

But my family had been on a boat tour of the loch, and the captain had a suggestion: "Look for the key when the tide goes out."

Tide? Little did we know that Loch Linnhe is a tidal sea loch – low tide was at 6 p.m.

That afternoon I was back at the loch. My sister Mary and her husband, Kevin, came, too. We took off our shoes, the water was frigid. Kevin, the hardy one, offered to go in.

The water was clear but the loch floor was littered with stones, shells and unwanted trash. "Needle in a haystack" came to mind.

Head down, Kevin walked the dock's perimeter. No key. He widened the search. Thirty minutes passed, then an hour. Still no key. The sun would be setting soon. That tiny, single key could be anywhere in a loch 50 kilometres long.

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Kevin was now way out, the water almost waist-high. "Forget it," I called out.

But he carried on. I sighed and sat down. Another half hour went by.

Then Kevin reached into the water. He pulled something out and held it high.

"I found it," he shouted.

We leapt up and down, shrieking with delight. People stared. I'd never been happier.

We ran to the van and drove to the B&B, honking the horn over and over. The others were at the door, waving and whooping. We celebrated with whisky.

The Isle of Skye? We never made it, though we continued our trip east into the Highlands, van and all.

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