Seperated from boat...what to do?

While paddling the leisurely Comal River in south Texas (normally a toobing river), and expecting only flat, slow water, we came upon a man made ‘chute’ that funneled the entire river into a 10’ wide concrete channel, obviously made to thrill the toobers. There was a lifeguard at the mouth of the thing and I backpaddled while asking the guy “is this safe for yaks??”. He responded “no problem, go ahead”…I terminated my decision to port around the thing and down I went. All went well until I exited the chute in a huge wave of foam, which I found that my boat (blackwater 10.5) quickly filled and rolled me out. Didn’t think I needed a skirt for this trip. Anyway, boat is now floating on it’s own in the current, I’m swimming to the nearest eddy. Had a nice girl in a tube not grabbed and held the thing, I would have been in for a hike trying to catch the boat and may not have been able to! No harm done, it was fun, but could have been different.

So, in a surprise situation like this, besides braining the lifeguard, what should one do to stay connected to the yak?

Change your pNet name to “wetter”

How tight is your fit in the kayak? I’m not familiar with the boat in question, but if you have good thigh braces and a snug fit, you should be able to stay in the boat in most circumstances, especially if you can roll.

That said, you did say you weren’t wearing a sprayskirt, so that’s a problem right there, especially if your boat doesn’t have bulkheads or float bags. You’re pretty much destined to have an out of boat experience if that’s the case.


Wayne is right
Once the boat is swamped you are not in control. Spary skirts or air bags to keep the water out of the boat are the answer.

BTW, this should be a good lesson to you about relying on someone elses opinion of a runnable waterway. The lifeguard had probably seen lots of other boats run this successfully. You are the best judge of your limits and your boat’s abilities.

You are the best judge of your limits and your boat’s abilities.

wet exit

– Last Updated: Aug-13-07 9:12 AM EST –

yes having a roll and wearing a sprayskirt are good ideas before attempting white water, but if you are forced to wet exit the boat the best thing to do is to be wearing your life jacket and try to hang onto the boat (sometimes easier said than done). if you can stay with the boat try to swim it to shallow water (once below the rapid), or if this isn't an option, attempt a paddle float reentry if sea kayaking (again, easier said than done other than in dead calm water). try these things out in a lake or calm stretch of water so that you'll have a good idea of how difficult it can be before you're forced to attempt them in rough conditions. hopefully if you're ever forced to exit the boat again in rough conditions all you'll lose will be some gear. last thought, try to evaluate all the conditions before pressing through. no shame in portaging around something beyond your skill level. i've done it myself. -harry

boat control…
My first inclination was to port around the chute. I got the impression after the lower lifeguards laughed at me, that rec yaks get clobbered on the exit, so I almost feel ‘set up’ here. So, configured as I was (the drink/food barge) I should have listened to myself and ported…or at least beached the boat and gone for a look. I broke lots of rules here.

(changing my name to “wetter”…old joke…hmmmm)

Why were you surprised?
The first thing you should do before running a river is to find out what is there. Things like chutes, low head dams, rapids, etc. are typically indicated on river guide books. Or get information from others who have already run the river. Or paddle with someone who has experience on the river. But never paddle alone on a river you don’t know and haven’t found out about.

Things to practice

– Last Updated: Aug-13-07 10:11 AM EST –

Regardless of whether you had a skirt on, if the boat has floatation front and rear you should be able to stay with it after a capsize in some level of conditions. I can't tell with the Blackwater 10.5 - no bulkhead up front but maybe there is some foam I am not seeing.

If there is, the next question is whether there is enough room in the front for you to be able to securely hook a leg into the front of the boat (actually you just wet exit up to the side and leave one leg in). If your leg is a whole lot longer than the length of front deck, you probably will have more trouble. Yeah you can sacrifice on hand to the boat and one armpit or hand to the paddle, depending on how calm things are, but it's hooking in with the leg that keeps you attached to the boat while you actually are doing the exit.

The last part is simply practice. Lots of it - so that you automatically hook a leg and place your paddle in a secure position as you come out of the boat. That can happen on flat water - just so it's a habit to wait and come out of the boat the way you want rather than being flung. Or if you don't have a roll, try to learn one. It'll build the same kind of habit.

If conditions at the end were big enough and your purchase on the boat limited enough, it may not have been possible to stay attached in this particular situation. And it sure doesn't sound like a great place for something like a long paddle leash to the boat.

It sounds like the lifeguard up top may not have understood the diff between the boat you were in and a fully equipped WW boat. While the guys at the bottom may enjoy seeing rec boaters take a swim, it'd be pretty irresponsible for a lifeguard to actually recommend that someone go down that chute without the right setup.

if tubers can go through it…
odds are that a kayak can go through it as well. It sounds like a fairly innocuous chute and with lifeguards present and with you hopefully wearing a PFD, there probably was minimal danger. If the lifeguards had sent you into a lowhead dam or something, then you have a right to be pissed. Yes, it sounds as though this section of river wasn’t suitable for your skill level but perhaps the lifeguards have seen dozens of other kayakers run it before safely.

I would like to nominate Dr. Disco and Schizo for a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lifeguards …
One thing to remember is that often the head lifeguards are 20 year old kids.

Problem in a kayak … no problem for me ha ha ha!

Decision making

– Last Updated: Aug-13-07 1:08 PM EST –

Recreational kayak
Loaded down as food/party barge
38 inch x 21 inch cockpit
No skirt
No floatation
On unknown river
Seeking advice from person(lifeguard)whose kayaking skills are unknown & who has no knowledge of your kayaking skills.
Paddling over unscouted ledge/shoal/drop
Hits standing wave
Abandons boat

Poor decision making leads to natural consequences.
Great learning opportunity.
Funny story too.

In most "flat water" capsize situations, it is best to hang onto your boat, and paddle. The boat provides you with additional flotation, makes you easier to spot, and lessens the chances the boat, or other gear will be damaged or lost.

Also, the chance of the boat/other gear endangering another person's safety is lessened.

Stay upstream of a capsized boat, even in flatwater. Be ready to adapt to the situation; improvise, keep your eyes open for opportunities, and exploit opportunities by swimming aggressively to safety. Swimming with a boat in whitewater presents additional concerns. There are times when it is best to let the river have the boat; you can buy a new boat. I can attest to the fact that allowing yourself to get downstream of your boat, and getting run over by it at the base of a class 3 drop is "not" beneficial to your health.


P.S. If I were you, I would ignore the review one paddler posted, stating they had used their Blackwater 10.5 in class 3 & class 4 whitewater.
I would however like to see photos of a paddler in a Blackwater 10.5 doing class 4.

Old joke . . . .
But I still laughed. Good one cockney . . . .

A kayak hitting tubers would be a danger

– Last Updated: Aug-13-07 3:03 PM EST –

to the tubers.

A group of us from the Dallas DownRiver Club went through this tube chute (Comal River Tube Chute at Prince Solms Park in New Braunfels, TX) last December during the off season when the park was closed (no tubers, plus it's too cold for ordinary swimmers without wetsuits or hydroskins).

This isn't just an ordinary's a man-made, long narrow winding curve with high concrete walls, designed for tubers. Running the chute in a canoe or kayak is like being bounced around in a pinball machine at high speed. There is some turbulent water at the chute exit with big eddies right and left.

The ride is fast through the chute and you tend to bang the sides of the chute. Whether or not you get dumped exiting the chute, once you get past the turbulence and get out of the eddies, it's just a big pool without any hazards--no trees, fast current, rocks or strainers.

In the off season when we ran it, we got out and scouted it. We went through one at a time and got out of the way before the next person went through. I was in my Wenonah Sandpiper solo canoe with floatation bags in place.

In summer it would be chaos. You would have to avoid hundreds of people in tubes and there are so many people that you could walk from tube to tube and never touch water.

It isn't that difficult to hold on to paddle and boat when you go swimming. A line on the boat helps and it amazes me how many paddlers don't have a rope attached to the boat for lining, etc.

I don't know what the policy of the park and life guards is during the summer tubing season, but in my opinion, based on what it was like without any tubers in the pool below the chute, allowing boats to go through this chute with the massive summer crowd swimming and tubing in that area, it would be dangerous to have a kayak or canoe come shooting out at relatively high speed with a lot of people swimming and tubing right in front of you, unless you were paddling an inflatable kayak.

Once you're out of the chute, it's such a large, relatively calm area that there is really no way to lose your the boat. Many areas are shallow enough to stand up in and there are several exits with concrete steps and sidewalks surrounding the area. That's because the tubers run the chute over and over again. Beyond the large pool, there is a ledge with a 3-4' drop and a small chute to the side and the Comal continues on towards the confluence with Guadalupe.

google image search
Found this when I googled the location, since I was curious what it looked like.

You are lucky

– Last Updated: Aug-13-07 2:14 PM EST –

to have had this happen on such a tame stretch of river. On the Guadalupe you could have really been in trouble. There is no shame in carrying the kayak around rapids you are unsure of. Get a spray skirt and attach a length of rope to both bow and stern of your boat. Keep the ropes coiled on the deck not floating in the water behind the kayak. They will make it easy to recover the kayak after a spill. Learn from your mistakes and be better prepared for the next river trip.

Yup, that’s the place…
there weren’t too many tubers there when I went down it, and I waited until I was alone and the chute was clear. The Guadalupe was closed due to flood stage waters and this chute was 3-4 ft. higher levels/volume than normal…meaning it was hauling!

I was able to keep my boat from hitting the sides and did just fine until the exit.

My boat is stuffed full of foam in the bow and stern, so it floats as well upside down as well as right-side up and doesn’t ship much water. I simply got blasted out of the cockpit and didn’t think to hang on. Hanging a leg inside would have been the answer.

I’ve been a diver for decades, taught it for a while, and should have known better than to take some kid lifeguard’s opinion of the danger, as well as not go a have a look first.

It was fun, I’ll probably do it again with a skirt and a bit more practice, next time. (i have a skirt, but not on the boat that day, duh…)

All the above advice is exactly why I love this forum…there’s some serious experience here, thanks!

As a whitewater open boater, I am a veteran of many swims. I also kayak. I would be reluctant to “hook a leg” in any overturned boat in moving water. Most open boaters use painters (lines) on the ends of their boats. Most kayakers use grap handles, carry toggles, and/or perimeter deck lines to be able to hang onto the boat. A painter would be OK but you would need to keep it stowed under a deck bungee.

If you come out of the boat in moving water you need to hang onto your paddle, move to the upstream end of the boat, and hang onto the boat using either a painter, grap loop, perimeter line, or carry toggle. After a half dozen swims or so, this becomes reflexic. You do not want to get between a water-filled boat and an obstacle in the current. You are usually better off leaving the boat upside down (if that is how it is after your exit) until you are in an eddy or calm water. As soon as you have your paddle in one hand and your boat in the other, look downstream for obstacles, eddies, buddys with throw ropes, etc. If your hands are big enough, grab your paddle and boat in one hand so that you can use the other hand to swim for an eddy, grab a buddies boat, or take a throw rope. If you are on your own, you will need to look for a safe eddy downstream and swim aggressively for it. If you let go of your paddle or your boat or both, try to see where they are going, obviously, and try to swim to the side of the river that your equipment is going to wind up on, if it is safe to do so. Remeber never to swim for lost equipment if it puts you in a position where your life is at risk. It might be a good idea to practice a few wet exits in safe, moving water under controlled conditions with help at hand.

Don’t know about kayaks…
Don’t know about kayaks, but I also question the advisability of “hooking a leg” inside your boat if you capsize…most especially in whitewater. How do you keep your boat downstream if you have a leg hooked in the cockpit of the boat?

The one time my leg ended up hooked into the cockpit/bilge of a boat(the boat is question was a whitewater canoe)was accidental.

I did not hook my leg in the boat on purpose; rather, the toe of one of my water shoes accidentally got “hooked” under a Yakima foot brace when I capsized.

I struggled to get myself free before going over a class 3 rapid. I did get loose, but the boat ended up behind me, with no time to adjust it’s position. The boat caught up to me when we both went over the drop & hit bottom. It slammed into my back, and then slammed into my helmet.

As a result of prior planning; a throw rope, thrown by a paddling buddy positioned downstream, dropped right on top of me.

I was on shore in 20 seconds.