Almost serious mistake today

Today my wife and I made a serious kayaking mistake that could have been fatal. We have paddled the quieter section of the Rockcastle River many times. This section has long pools followed by class I+ (borderline 2’s at higher flows) rapids. Due to a recent storm, today the flow was twice the usual CFS. The current very strong. However, we had, on at one occasion, paddled the river at a much higher level.

There are several places that gravel islands in the river seperate the flow, with rapids on both sides of the island. We had ran this section so many times we didn’t bother scouting, even though we could not see what was around the bend. In the middle of one of these rapids there was a serious strainer across the entire river. My wife hit the log and her kayak filled with water. (she wasn’t wearing a sprayskirt) Her kayak then turned upside down. Her foot was twisted and stuck in the upside down kayak. After some time she freed herself from the kayak, got the kayak loose and floated downstream without her paddle.

My kayak went under the log and lodged upside down. I was able to get my sprayskirt off and wet-exit. After swimming to shore, I had to swim across the rapids, hike upstream and free my kayak while my wife was getting the water out of her kayak. I was able to retrieve her paddle and we made it home safely.


And …
Always wear a spray skirt. And even in class II go from eddy to eddy. You should be able to see the eddy you intend to catch and the next eddy below that. If you can’t then defintiely scout. Glad you escaped. You are quite right. Even mild WW that you have run many times can present unexpected hazards.

Yep… it’s strainer season
You were lucky, thank whoever it is you thank for that. With frequent storms, lightning and high wind and water new strainers can pop up out of nowhere overnight.

Just one more thing to keep in the back of your mind.

Glad things turned out good…
…for you guys.

Thanks for posting.

It is a good lesson for all of us.



Always expect strainers
but, seriously, “always” scouting rapids for which we cannot see the end… is an impractical piece of advice.

It would be better to say, don’t enter any part of a rapid where you cannot see a way to eddy out, spin and ferry, land and portage, or deliberately dump and hop out and swim or wade.

The point is to have escape options solidly in hand. Always scouting is time-costly, usually no safer than the options I listed above, and will leave you out til after dark. If I had always scouted the (usually unfamiliar) rapids where I could not see the end, I would probably have broken an ankle clambering in the brush.

the more time to think the more danger
Yes I agree with the above post. Weirdly enough the more one thinks about a situation, the more one is likely to get caught in something. This is not to mean don’t think, rather, understand the need to think is THE SIGN you don’t have the options you should ALWAYS have.

Otherwise you are talking about “dumb luck” rather than “crititcal leadership judgment and decisions”.

Thanks for the post, a good reminder to me to stay alert, regardles of prior experience or advanced skills.