wrong boat or wrong technique/experience

My brother bought an OT Camper to use on the New River in southern VA. He says it’s class I and some mild class II but mostly just floating down and steering correctly. He’s made this trip a few times before in borrowed boats but now owns a used Camper.

First time out in the Camper they struck a rock upon launching and capsized. Knocked a hole in the boat and nearly drowned his wife. He’s cut up on his legs and is pretty bruised.

Does he have the right boat?

Or could it be the amount of liquid encouragement they had prior to launch?


Let it be known that Cyberiankhatru does not endorse the use of intoxicating beverages of the adult nature prior to launching a canoe on a freakin’ river.



Don’t think its the boat.
I’ve logged some miles in my Dad’s Chippawayan which is the same as the Camper. It’s flat bottom is long on primary stability as Mike says. I don’t recall ever getting it past that. Its pretty stable really.

Now that boat was purchased used and then used hard by my dad. Dad’s well deserved nickname was Moose. He was a walking gear durability test. My brother and I coined the term “moosified” to describe gear that had been ripped, cracked, mangled, mashed, twisted off, burned up or otherwise taken well past what a manufacturer would consider normal use. Despite his singular talent at testing gear toughness Dad never damaged the Chipawayan.

May your brother and his wife have speedy recoveries and get back on the water soon. Have 'em check out the condition of the hull, like Mike said, but maybe also suggest they ease up on the spirits until back at camp or home. See the “Dangerous Canoe” thread for some info. on drinking and sinking.

I just got back…
…from an old day fun fest day of “round robin”

racing with a bunch of great and knowledgeable paddlers.

Half way through the day we stopped for lunch and a chance to rest for the afternoon racing.

There was not one paddler there who would think of imbibing in the spirits either before or during the day.

I would paddle with anyone of these paddlers any day of the week, but hell would have to freeze over before I paddled with someone tipsy.

Tell them they are going to give the paddling world a bad rap which none of us want.



"…a few times before in borrowed boats"
Is the problem really that he hasn’t a deep enough reservoir in WW experience to treat class 1-2 conditions seriously?

Even if the ABS was brittle, that the boat was holed indicates strong current. I surmise that he was kneeling, or his legs would not have been cut up.

After 30 years, some of my most painful wet exits and recoveries still come when I wasn’t paying attention in easy rapids.

Holed the boat?
The Camper is a pretty good boat for novice paddlers on class I/II runs. Sounds like either the boat was old and brittle or they found some rebar or the like.

I’ve got nothing agains having a beer on the river but not if I’m doing something challenging.


Sharp Rocks?
To hole a camper and get cut up sounds like very fast water and a sharp rock. Royalex will usually slither over any round rock that doesn’t pin the boat. Even a head-on smack won’t hole a boat unless the object is sharp or the boat very weak. Getting tossed out of boat can lead to cuts if you get entangled in the hardware, but a royalex hull like a camper has very little hardware that can gash you badly. only the seat hanger screws come to mind as long and sharp enough to really cut open a leg. The large quarried rocks that are used as erosion protection at construction sites and boat launches can inflect the damage your brother sustained. And they are never where you expect them to be.

The boat may not be the best choice, but it is quite capable of handling class II whitewater if paddled well. Not too many drunks are going to make it down a class II stream at any flow in a Camper without dumping somewhere. Better they dumped by the launch than way down stream away from help.


Liveries in the Ozarks use Campers.
They are rock bashers and very forgiving. It doesn’t sound like they had any speed built up, so I suspect a brittle hull. Or they aren’t fessin’ up to the real story…or they can’t recall the real story…

more info has now been given to me…

– Last Updated: Jul-18-05 8:21 AM EST –

His wife may have already been indulging in adult beverages but my brother was only buzzed on cold medicine...actually he had no business out there to begin with being sick... the wife was in the boat and he pushed off the shore and smacked the submerged rock. the current spun him around and the middle of the boat struck the rock again (or a different rock I'm not sure) punching the hole. the wife popped out the front of the boat and he got cut up on the rock trying to get to her. he's real embarassed about it all and didn't want to discuss it. He goes with this group 2 times a year and it's pretty much a floating beer party once they get going. not smart but that's what they do.

It was the first time with the Camper but he had paddled it a few times on some local lakes and had reported the boat handled well.

So maybe I've answered my own questions about the fitness of the Camper for what they do and should not have posted. The answer I believe is the paddlers inexperience with water higher than they were used to.

I think I've pissed him off by asking you all this but if the boat isn't up to the water, then he needs to sell it and look elsewhere for a tripping boat. If the boat will handle it, then he needs to patch it up and paddle on.

Thanks for all the info and opinions.


Two Possibilities
Plaidpaddlers’ extra sharp rocks or even some kind of metal could have been what they hit, or Mike’s theory of a brittle hull – or some combination there of – sound like the likely cause of the hole.

Because of its fairly wide and flat bottom the Camper sits relatively high in the water. In a current, an obstruction that would hole a royalex boat ought to be making a readable sign of itself on the surface of the water. Most introductory canoe books will have instruction on reading water and some tips of safe launching technique. If your brother is still speaking to you, maybe you can direct him to some good reading or instruction.

We all have egos and nobody likes to mess up, but we all have messed up and will again. The best thing to do is keep learning so you can take good care of yourself, loved ones and friends and enjoy paddling to its fullest.