Kayaking on the Hudson

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Whitewater Fever: Part III (conclusion)

Whitewater fever: The conclusion

We had hiked up the stream and found a cement pylon (a bridge support) that was about 2/3 of the way across the river.  The pylon created a nice calm pool on one side where we could put in our kayaks.  Then we would paddle around the pylon and down the stream.  Danny went first and immediately got stock on a rock in the middle of the stream.  I used my considerable kayak experience and decided that the best course of action was for me to ram Danny’s kayak and knock it free.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, Justin and Danny had no kayaking experience and so trusted me completely when it came to all decisions kayak related.  Of course, I could not have been more wrong and instead of knocking Danny free, I ended up pinned, upside-down in the river right next to him.  What happened next could not have been choreographed better if we had rehearsed it.

I reached down and popped off my bomb-proof spray skirt which had previously been holding me in the kayak.  At that exact moment, Danny made up his mind to get out of his kayak and try to help me.  Instantly, my kayak filled with water and became a 500 pound torpedo.  Now it did knock Danny’s boat free and both kayaks took off downstream at an amazing speed.  My plan had worked, sort of, but there was no time to celebrate.   Instinctively, both Danny and I lunged forward and grabbed the carry handles at the back of our respective kayaks.  Now, had we been standing and well-braced, I am sure that we could have held those kayak in place.  As it was, the kayaks continued downstream dragging Danny and me behind, over the sharpest rocks I have ever have felt, screaming and laughing all the way.  We couldn’t help but laugh.  It was just so ridiculous.

About 50 yards later we reached a small pool and managed to wrestle the kayaks into submission.  All of our gear was gone.  Paddles, water bottles, sunscreen and anything else that wasn’t tied down was sent rushing down the whitewater.  If hadn’t been for Andrea waiting at the mouth of the stream, we’d have never seen any of it again.  At least it gave her something to do while she waited for us.

When I finally caught my breath, I realized that the rocks had cut me to ribbons.  My hand was cut in several places and my leg had a cut so bad that one year later, the scar was still clearly visible.  But no matter.  We looked at each other and realized that this whole time, Justin had been waiting behind the pylon, completely oblivious to our plight.  So we turned up stream and yelled “O.K. Justin, you can go now.”  Justin swished down through the whitewater with no problem whatsoever.  As he soared past us, he gave us a look that said, “What are you guys doing sitting there?”  He did pluck my paddle out of the middle of the stream on his way down.

Stupid idea?  You bet.  But it was fun and I learned from it.

See you on the water,
Don Urmston
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