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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wrong Moves, Right Outcome

Another October trip…another tale to tell.
On our 3rd or 4th annual gathering, one of our paddlers decided to branch off on his own...with no notice to any of his fellow paddlers. He paddled into the mouth of Bowmans Creek, by himself, and started to paddle upstream and out of sight of the rest of us.
For those not familiar with that stretch of the Susquehanna, the stream enters on the right side of the river just below the Tunkhannock PFBC ramp. There is – or was the last time I paddled there – a large deposit of gravel where the stream entered the river…and a steep drop-off and deep hole right there. In years past, we would ALWAYS catch & release a significant number of smallies at this hotspot.
Anyway, as Chuck was behind us when we made our first pass along the edges of the drop off, we did not see him paddle upstream. We made several passes over this spot and were still catching fish when on the third or fourth turnaround, we noticed something bobbing in the current as it flowed from Bowman’s Creek into the mainstream of the Susquehanna. It was a paddle; not a very good sign.
We snagged the paddle as it drifted by and turned our attention, and my kayak, toward Bowmans Creek. As we entered the stream’s main channel, we spotted Chuck along the bank, dragging his kayak...and looking kinda waterlogged. 
As we got closer, in addition to being very wet, we noticed he was missing his paddle and looked as if his forehead has been scrubbed with a Brillo pad. It was a very bright shade of pink...approaching red.
Once we handed Chuck his paddle, he proceeded to tell us what happened. As he headed upstream in perhaps 3 feet of water, he maneuvered his kayak around a large tree -with lots of branches - that had recently fallen in the creek and stretched ~20 feet out from the shore. At some point he stopped to take a few pictures…and did not notice how far downstream he had drifted while shooting pics. When he decided to turn his boat around, he found himself immediately next to the fallen tree…and perpendicular to the direct of the current. Before he could react, his kayak flipped over and he was getting a stone facial on the bottom of the stream as the current rocked his boat that had become pinned against the tree.
I won’t say much beyond the fact that Chuck was very, very lucky to survive. He was by himself, pinned upside down in ~3 feet of water against a classic “strainer”,  in a swift moving stream in a kayak with a rather tight cockpit.
I can’t recall exactly what he said he did to extricate himself from that predicament, but I will tell you that was his last October trip with us. I did catch some flack from his spouse the next time we met about my almost killing her husband, to which I believe Chuck replied that he had made all the classic mistakes; paddling alone on a stream he was not familiar with, not notifiyng anyone where he was going, and getting too close to a strainer.

'Nuff said.
Unfortunately, we had some other paddlers go for an unplanned swim a few years later. I’ll spin that yarn in my next post.

October 2007 - Somewhere on the Susquehanna

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