I
write this for two reasons: a) so it won’t happen to you, and b) so
if it does, you know what to do.

On
March 24, several of us were paddling the Middle Tellico. Beautiful
day, sunny and 70 degrees. We got to Bounce-Off Rock and I was
paddling in the middle of the pack. I went too far left and bounced
off, subsequently finding myself upside-down. No problem! I have a
“bomb proof” roll! It turned out that day to be a “bum
proved” roll. I set up and tried twice to roll, but to no
avail! I was on an eddy line, plus sloppy in my attempts. Still no
problem! Lots of folks around. Eskimo rescue! Well, I hit the
bottom of my boat, waited, looked up for shadows. No one. I tried
again with the same results. It turned out no one could get to me
where I was. Again, no problem! I pulled my loop and bailed out,
feeling stupid and embarrassed. This is where most of these stories
end.

I
was getting my boat downstream of me, making sure to keep my feet up
to avoid entrapment. In doing so, I was on my stomach with my head
downstream. My spray skirt caught on a rock and in the blink of an
eye I spun to the downstream end of the rock, watched my spray skirt
stretch out and found myself lying on the bottom of the river, throat
full of water, knowing if I coughed it would be all over, unable to
reach my spray skirt.

Jesus
came up, tapped me on the shoulder and said “Time to come home.”
I laid there for about twenty minutes (5 or so seconds in real time)
when my fruitless struggles produced a happy accident. Totally
ragged out, I laid back to try to gain strength for another try when
the 350 cfs current filled up the underside of my spray skirt,
building inside pressure and washing me out of it.

About
15 minutes later my boat and lungs were cleared of water and we were
on our way down river. But I will never forget the lessons I
learned. If ever out of my boat in strong current, I’ll be a “river
whore”. I’ll keep my skirt up, relax, lay back and enjoy it.
Happy boating.

From
the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club newsletter.

by
Phil Haynie
Reprinted in The Eddy Line, July 1996