So Near and Yet So Far!
2007 Chili Run
by Gina Johnson, GCA Training Chair
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 K-1’s. 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 our 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. Thank you 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.
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 da
y on the river!!