Hartford the whitewater collie trying to tell us with his stare to not be overconfident.
Mean old nova bend flipped our 14' raft the other night, Wed. July 25. Both of us survived the estimated 150 m swim, managing to drag the overturned raft to shore with out left hands while simultaneously swimming for our lives with right arms. Went through a couple waves at/under water level and then somehow wound up on the river bar side of the raft clinging to the line and struggling for land. Dog who was in the bow was able to self rescue to the same gravel bar on river R just below the rapids, about 100 m above where we finally made it. we barely made the lower end of the bar as the river surges to the L bank and almost sucked us with it. Were nearing the choice between a much longer swim with the boat or letting go and making it to the bar sans gear.
Keys included tight fitting fleece and wool tops, well snugged whitewater rated PFDs and thin quickdry pants for me and shorts for my lady. If we had been bogged down with heavy clothes we would have never managed to get the boat and ourselves
to shore in the 60 seconds? or so that it took. Also came out wih oars (tethers indispensable) cooler and dry bag intact. Only lost the hand pump which, foolishly unsecured, didn't stand a chance, a pair of sunglasses, and a hat.
Got pretty banged up on rocks and cobbles once we felt bottom, for a while it was just a cold gray bottomless beast out there. Then bump bump, ouch those rocks hurt when multiplied by 50 bumps and that is your sweet salvation from cold gray river.
Good humbling experience on a stretch we've had several clean runs down. Basically a vortex opened up on the backside of the third or forth big wave and slammed us sideways in the trough, no time for the oarawoman to right us. The next wave flipped us like a pancake as we were lifted out of the trough.
Had a more detailed writeup relating positive and negative lessons learned and a few more story details but it got lost in cyberspace. Short version is be safe and respect each run. Came away with our gear and many bruises but surprising clean rescue (except for our silt impregnated bodies and gear)
Be cautious this weekend and always. Don't think there have been any whitewater deaths. yet this year in AK? Don't be one. Make the choice before you depart to be humble.
Glad you're still with us to report.
1) Drysuits, drysuits, drysuits...
2) You might consider an intentional flip sometime, and practice a self-rescue getting back on the upside-down raft and flipping it back over yourself. Depending on your tube diameter you might need to rig something to get onto your raft when flipped, but imo this would be a better self-rescue procedure than trying to swim-tow to shore.
I second what Jomama said.
Drysuits are not only great for when you are swimming, but they also will give you more options in rescue situations. Due to its proximity to where I live, I frequently run Eagle River. Although I have very little chance of going for a swim, I always wear my drysuit. Every year (sometimes multiple times) I come across some unfortunate soul(s) who needs assistance, and I am glad I have a drysuit.
Definitely get out there and practice flipping your boat. I like going to a lake. It is pretty fun and a good work out. When you do flip on the river, it becomes second nature to get back on your boat, secure your line, and yank it back over. You may already know this and have one…. I use a piece of webbing with a carabiner on the end as a flip line. This line is secured in the pocket of my pfd. Some people wear them around their waist, and others prefer them secured to their boat. I would get one for your lady too. It is a good multiuse tool for different rescue scenarios. Also works as a fantastic dog leash.
Stoked to hear you are ok, and nice job rigging your boat for a flip. Hope you are back on the river soon. The river has a great way of humbling all of us.
Thanks for the humble report. There's always something for us to learn from somebody else's experiences. My only swim this year so far.
Good report and nice responses guys... lots to always look back on, learn and re-learn.
Rescued a baby moose calf 20-30 years ago that swam the same stretch and miraculously came to a lucky rest just shy of same gravel bar. Went out and grabbed the little newborn up and brought it up-river back to Mom. Mom Moose was unhappy then likely thankful for our assistance.
That pic is too funny w/ two cling-ons a big man... looks like a stretch near B. Vista CO.
Close Brian. Clear Creek just west of Denver Yeah, that guy made me look small. Does anybody rent dry suits for private trips?
Thanks for the comments. I like the thought of dry suits, but not the price tag. As most of our floating does not really resemble nova bend, I think that while it would be nice, it is probably not a logical investment at this time. Too many hobbies and expenditures in the works. But soon, once we've got a bit more expertise, it is on the list. Typically we only hit the king mtn stretch of the mat on sunny evenings, but certainly dry suits would increase comfort.
I was surprised that cold and exhaustion did not really enter the equation while swimming or after, though 60 more seconds submerged would have changed that I suspect. Were able to warmup adequately by pacing a couple of laps on the football field length gravel bar, and, while certainly not on par with dry suits, I thought our clothing was quite appropriate and performed well (except my pard wore rubber boots, not so ideal for swimming though both stayed on her feet!)
Regarding our decision to head for land, rather than righting the raft mid current, I think we made the correct call. It was reinforced by the dog saying "Seeya" and heading to the bar fairly soon, but, given our location in river, I think most of you would have elected to bailout as well. Just a hunch. Trying to right an overturned boat on that stretch given speed, depth, turbulence and trajectory towards the opposite shore well away from the perceived safety of being "highway side" were factors in our decision to bail for the bar. Often I think that your initial hunch about what to do in an urgent situation is correct and there is something to be said for committing to a course of action rather than waffling as precious seconds pass.
I like the thought of a couple of webbings/biners at the ready on PFDs, would have been nice to clip the dog to the raft after the flip and get his help towing to shore! I bet he would have towed faster than the two of us humans managed together.
Neither of us was able to grab the bowline, so having a line at the ready on-person would have been very reassuring as a redundancy.
We've intentionally flipped and righted the raft previously but it was not easy and I appreciation the suggestions as more practice is surely in order.
Further suggestions? Or more specifics on your preferences/riggings to increase success after an upset?
Thanks all for the feedback.
Not trying to question your decision making...you made a decision and it worked out. With that said, in your first post, you mentioned you barely made it to shore with your gear. I've got way too much invested in my boat and am not about to chance giving her up to the river if I can help it. You can often get assistance from the river when floating perpendicular to the current by waiting to attempt your reflip as you are rolling up a wave. By the way, I haven't been on that stretch of river in some time, and I think the last time I did, I was probably not wearing a drysuit either. They are expensive but a necessity if you want to run the fun stuff.
Originally Posted by andweav
Might have been a bit of drama added, do not think we were truly swimming for our lives as stated. It's been fairly engrained in me to stay with the boat. Just thought it worth mentioning that we went through the thought process out there.
I expect given the proximity to the road that we would have recovered the raft further down stream somewhere, though you never know. Upside down with oars dragging I reckon it would have hung up in the braids a few miles below.
Not that we wanted to go that route, but I thought it educational to mention that the consideration was there.
Nice thought about using the waves to help flip the boat back, though might have taken a bit of dumb luck to go along with skill.
And I more meant any suggestions in your own boats' rigging to help in case of a flip.
That "dumb luck" has worked for me in a couple scary situations as I floated on an upside down boat through some rowdy stuff...basically use the river to assist....if possible.
Originally Posted by andweav
It sounds like you did pretty well in rigging your boat for a flip...only losing a pump and whatnot. Were you guys camping or just daytripping? It is definitely a lot harder to right a boat loaded with mulitday gear; you need hero strength and a big eddy. If you are just running short whitewater runs, go light...ditch the cooler and bring only the necessities. Flipping a 14' unloaded raft back over is not all that difficult. I don't use these, but I know people who do. Here is a link to some flip bags with instruction on how and where to install them: