Sunday, September 11, 2011

Toasting a Canoe on the Soucook River

 The plan was to run a section of the Soucook River, a nice little stream that we've been on many times in the past.  It was a week or so after Hurricane Irene ran through so the water levels were up making for a good run. 

I'm not sure if the writing was on the wall but somehow things went wrong!  The first omen was that I went to the wrong takeout.  Scott called me saying where was I?  Duh!!  A few minutes later I was at the right place.  I had cut a piece of ash so Scott could make new carry handles and a thwart for his Bell.  There were no carry handles as they had basically rotted off!  Was that the second omen?  New wood for an older hull? 

We finally got on the river and this section is beautiful.  Some nice rapids, away from the road most of the time and the current was up, the gauge reading at just under 6'.

Nice little set of rapids

Scott playing around
Nice section of the Soucook

We were about half way into the trip when "it" happened.  I'm not sure how it happened but Scott ran into a submerged tree and flipped.  Shit happens to all of us who spend time out on the rivers, it's a given!  It was next to shore but the current was pretty swift and even hanging onto some weeds I couldn't keep my canoe there long enough to be of any help.  At one point the Bell was length wise and pushing into Scott's leg and I thought for sure he was going to be in a world of hurt.  I beached across the river and tried to figure out what I could do next.

The canoe was now pointed downstream but was hung up on the log I think by the seat.  I don't know how he did but Scott was perched on the log trying like hell to lift the boat up and back off the log but it was a losing battle.  I thought if I could get over there I could help lift and waded in.  Holy Shit, it was deep, way over my head and the current was hard enough that I drifted downstream and almost away from the canoe and damn the water was a lot colder than I thought.  I wasn't being of help so far and made my way back to the shore.  In my boat I had one short painter tied on and two hunks of rope that I tied some gear in with.  Before we put in I had thought I should bring a long piece of rope but decided against it and it was sitting in my car!  It also occurred to me that my throw bag might have come in handy but that was packed away at home!

I tied the three lines together and wading in waist deep I threw the other end to Scott and he somehow tied it onto the boat, I believe to a rope that held his float bags in.  Between Scott pulling and lifting the hull and me just a bit upstream and pulling we got the boat free...almost.  Scott pulled himself to shore and we started hauling on the rope trying to pull the boat in but it was still hung up!  The line that held the float bag in was tangled in the tree now.  Scott swam back out and asked if I had a knife.  Nope, no goddamn knife between the two of us.  I'm not sure how he did it but he got it off and despite all my efforts the boat started taking off dragging me deeper into the water.  At this point Scott was coming back across hanging onto the rope and got some footing.  With a lot of effort we managed to get the canoe back to shore.

It sure was a mess.  The thwart was hanging off just one side but miraculously the seat was still in place and Scott was able to still paddle it.  The gunwale had an interesting twist to it from where the thwart had ripped out!  Scott thought at least one float bag was trashed, probably holed somewhere. 

By now the sun was setting and we could see the almost full moon and although it was a beautiful and warm day out I was soaked and getting cold.  Gee, no dry bag with a change cloths!  I really don't like being wet and cold but there wasn't a damn thing I could do except paddle like hell to try to keep warm.  My teeth were chattering and I was shaking.  I don't know how Scott's hands felt but mine felt like a couple of lobster claws from hanging onto that thin line. 

Finally at the takeout we loaded up Scott's beat to hell Bell and drove to my car where I did have a dry set of cloths in the trunk.  A quick change and then back to pick up my boat and gear.

Ok, lessons learned:  have a long painter and a throw bag, pack a knife somewhere on your body or in your gear, have a dry bag with spare warm cloths in it, don't leave home without them.  All of these items would have come in more than handy cause you just don't know what kind of a mess you can get into even on a familiar river!  In the long run neither of us were in a dangerous situation, we just wanted to get the canoe off the log.  My canoe could have handled an extra passenger if worst came to shove to get to the takeout but that would have meant a return trip and maybe more damage to the hull if left to the currents.  Like I said, lesson learned, be prepared! 

More to the story!  Scott posted on FB that he was able to twist stuff back into "useable" shape and with the ash he has can make new thwarts and carry handles.  Good deal!  Too many miles on that boat to give her up!  

No comments:

Post a Comment