How NOT to Run a Rapid – MA, CT

Some of us are cautious kayakers and some of us aren’t.  Those that aren’t are well aware of the watery consequences of their bravado. It’s hard to narrow down all the times that resulted in swimming, but I will have to start somewhere, so let it be the Ten Mile into the Housatonic River.  Generally a fairly easy Class I-II stream, but there’s this one spot.

It was cold and wintry when we first decided on this paddle.  I will gloss over the fact that the first time through, both of us swam. One of us is of a more conservative nature, and thought to portage the second time around. In other words, we had our own Darwinian experiment.

He almost made it.  Good control through the tough part and then, well, a too quick turn perpendicular to the flow of water and the rest is history!  Notice that he did try to lean away from the on-coming water, but just not fast enough.

Recently, we were paddling the stunningly beautiful Deerfield River in the northern Berkshires.  Zoar gap is quite famous, a narrowing of the Deerfield River that can get up to Class V in the spring, but is usually a III in flows of 800-1500 cfs.

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There was another problem. This time, it came right at the beginning of the run.  A quick turn from the eddy into very fast water, led to a immediate capsize. Never one to miss out on adventure, my friend decided to ride it out. Just seconds later, as he was ambling down the rapid, holding onto the kayak, and it hits a partly submerged rock creating a dramatic explosion.  He does the right thing, letting go of the boat and proceeds in what I would call a dapper manner looking as though he’s in a kayak. Nice move!

Just after this display of kayaking prowess, another friend heads down doing everything right.  He is upright and even in his kayak! Unfortunately, he takes in a lap-full of water with the first wave. While this would be no problem if we actually had white water spray skirts, we don’t.  We have the equivalent of mom and pop just-splash-us-a-wee-bit-because-we’re-not-made-for-the-big-stuff spray skirts and they do what mom and pops are know to do when the demands are great ie cave.

He manages to run the rest of the rapid, but when he turns just a tiny bit to pull out in the eddy, the weight of all that water is too much and down he goes.

The lesson? Unexpected swims should always be in gorgeous locations!

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