“Uh oh, Michael’s going in!” Haidee and I watched as Michael executed a perfect specimen of a capsize in the solo canoe, on a drop he’d already been over multiple times already today.
Till this point, there’d been no capsizes during our couple of hours pottering around on the Ikushunbetsu River slalom course. We’d spent a couple of minutes before getting on the water today discussing what the plan of attack would be if someone capsized. But with the water levels at 14-cumecs, almost 50% higher than the usual 10-ish cumecs, however, we were now scrambling to make sense of where the submerged red canoe would now end up downstream. Michael had already swam to the shore, and was following the canoe on foot down the bank.
“Quick! We need to get downstream to get that canoe,” argued Haidee, as we bobbed in our canoe at the relative safety of an eddy on the side of the river. This would, however, require dropping down the second larger drop of the course – one we’d avoided thus far because of a less-than-ideal backwash at the end of a very short tongue. A few counter arguments were proffered, but we decided to give it a go.
In the haste and rush, however, Haidee and I underestimated the power of the water, and executed our own text-book capsize, having not leaned enough downstream as we tried to eddy-in to the main stream.
This was our first properly unintended capsize of our lives, and later we quietly patted ourselves on the back for slipping out of the Northwater spray deck with little effort at all.
Our unintended departure from our canoe did, however, mean that now we had two canoes in the water, and while I managed to swim to the shore before the large second drop, Haidee was promptly swept over.
Later, recounting the ordeal, she said “I was happy to have a really buoyant life vest – I went under, then popped up, and then went under again, before ending up downstream.”
Meanwhile, once I saw Haidee was out of danger and swimming to shore, I sprinted downstream to hopefully retrieve our canoe before it went around the final bend and further downstream where the river gets much steeper. As I was running along the riverside walkway, I saw Michael gazing with a perplexed expression across at the red canoe – it was submerged on the other side of the river, pinned on some rocks near the bottom of the second drop.
“That’s going to be an interesting job getting that free,” I thought.
Paramount on my mind was how I was going to retrieve the white canoe. It was floating nonchalantly down the river, mostly in the middle. It was already past the downstream bridge. Unless it came closer to the river right side where I was, it was going to be gone further downstream.
Mercifully, it started drifting towards my side of the river. I jumped in up to my chest and was happy to find the stern painter line. I unraveled it, held onto the end, and let the canoe swing around to shore. An infinitely more bothersome retrieval had been averted.
As I was pulling the white canoe up onto shore, I heard a piercing whistle sound. It was Haidee, notifying us that the red canoe had come free. I noticed Michael had already run up and over the bridge, and was on the other side of the river. Following his gaze, I saw the red canoe was floating down the river. It was much too far across for me to do anything about, so I was more or less resigned to the fact that we’d now have a rather interesting downstream retrieval on our hands.
Once again, however, the currents worked in our favor. The canoe drifted towards the river left side, and came to a civilized stop, ready for Michael to get it, and drag it up the bank to the road.
Later, we took stock of the damage. Our white canoe had avoided any damage at all, while the red canoe had obviously seen some very strong water pressure. The aluminium gunwales at the front of the canoe were bent, and there were a couple of spots of fairly large gelcoat damage. It was all cosmetic, however. The keel line was straight, and the flotation tanks were still well intact – nothing a bit of elbow-grease with a hammer and some gelcoat repair wouldn’t fix. Testament to Novacraft’s ToughStuff material.
Overall, it was a relatively low-consequence learning experience for Haidee and I – if not regarding decisions processes, at least we’ll be making sure our eddy-ins are more on point!