The
21st Chili Run was held at MOE on the Cartecay on Monday, January 1.
We had 10 boats in our group and a variety of skill levels. Trish
Rogers, Tom Keller and Shari Heinz were in kayaks. This was Shari’s
second time in her new kayak! Allen Hedden and Gaby Schlidt paddled
their tandem Caption. Edward Stockman, Chuck Fatheree, Big Dave
Soltis, Doug Ackerman, Haynes Johnson and I were in solo canoes.

The
weather gods had been kind and given us lots of rain on Sunday. The
river level was about 3 feet, which is about 1 foot higher than I
consider a “good” level these days. (Other folks in our group
consider this a “good moderate” level.) The eddies and the rock
gardens tend to disappear at this level and there are lots of little
play holes.

We
bopped along to S-turn with no problems. S-turn was definitely on
steroids and Trish and Shari portaged on the right. Everyone had
great runs, but finding the tongue through the bottom wave train was
a challenge. I slipped down the left side of the bottom chute and got
a boat full of water from the cresting wave at the bottom. A kayaker
from another group asked Allen if the surfing wave was friendly at
this level. Allen responded that he had never surfed that wave at
this level!

Whirlpool
is always exciting at 3 feet. Years ago, Haynes hopped in the hole
and couldn’t get out. He eventually parted company with his boat
and the hole spit out the Encore several minutes later. The large
rock framing the left side of the chute had water pouring over most
of it and the chute had developed a hole on the left, along the side
of the big, sloping rock.

Trish,
Shari and I were in the eddy above Whirlpool discussing running and
portaging options. We watched boaters shooting across the current at
the top of the rapid into the eddy, peeling out and running down the
chute. We watched to see if we could see helmets at the bottom.

Shari
decided to portage on the left. Trish was still considering what to
do. I peeled out, eddying out at the top and had a great run through
the chute. There was an enormous whirlpool moving counter-clockwise
below the hole and it was a challenge to get into the eddy on the
left.

At
this point, we had been joined by other groups. I heard that Brent
Coleman, a Swift Water Rescue Instructor who taught us years ago, was
on his way through the rapid. I was in the eddy on river left, behind
the rock with the water overflowing down the face. I was watching the
kayakers coming through and looking for Trish. I looked down and
realized that my boat had slipped into the edge of the hole. I
paddled hard and braced harder and was flipped on my off side.

I
was under water and wishing I had my big, fat, ugly high-float pfd,
instead of this cute cutaway one. I got a breath, looked around for
the canoe and saw it behind me, still in the hole. I abandoned my
poor boat and swam for it. Thanks to Tom Keller for coming to get me.

There
is little more frustrating than watching your beloved canoe being
bounced and flipped in a hydraulic 14 feet away from where you are
standing and knowing that your cell phone is in the dry bag that is
being pounded. What we needed was a nice friendly raft to bop my boat
out!

Unfortunately,
there weren’t any nice rafts on the Cartecay! Thank you to the
kayakers who tried to get a line on the boat and to the guys who
tried to get a rope under the boat. There was no luck with these
attempts. The chute was open and people continued to run down,
keeping an eye on this bucking bronco boat of mine. Trish decided to
portage.

Luckily,
most of the boaters watching the fun didn’t know who I was or whose
boat it was. I liked the anonymity! I asked Brent for help and he
commented that he wasn’t wearing a dry suit. I offered him mine,
but I think the drop bottom zipper put him off! Brent was waiting for
his friend, who would provide the safety belay for Brent’s plan for
boat retrieval. As Brent was finishing his setup, Allen Hedden came
up with a plan that would not put a person at risk.

Allen’s
plan was to take Haynes’ Probe 12II, use a throw rope tied to the
stern as a safety line and slide the boat down the chute and into the
hole, hopefully displacing my boat. Simple, and it worked! My boat
was unhurt and very clean. The agitation in the hole had loosened the
cap on my nalgene water bottle and it was empty. My cell phone
survived in a zip lock baggie, but my extra “dry” clothes were
soaking wet.

Lessons
learned:

1.
Probe 11’s are a favorite snack of hydraulics and their paddlers
need to pay attention.

2.
RETHROG is still the guideline for rescue: Reach, Throw, Go. Never
put a person at risk to rescue stuff.

3.
Make certain you have your phone number and name written in your boat
in case you have to abandon it because you did something dumb.

4.
Don’t trust a dry bag to stay dry. Put your stuff in zip locks
before putting it in your dry bag. You can always test your dry bag
by filling it, closing it and running it through the washing machine
(no soap!).

5.
PADDLE WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE SMARTER THAN YOU ARE! My thanks to the
boaters who helped reunite me with my boat and to Allen Hedden, who
has been teaching me stuff since 1987.

An
enormous Thank You to Jay Syrmanski and those who made chili for the
Chili Run. I sampled most of the 15+ pots of chili and they were all
terrific. The Sock-em-Dog version even warmed me up. Denise Keller’s
spiced pecans and cranberries were fabulous. A great day on the
river!!

by
Gina Johnson, GCA Training Chair

From
“The Eddy Line”, February 2007