Friday, April 24, 2009

my first kayaking trip: part of the story

I met with the other interpreter for the show I'm doing this week and she asked me: "So how was your kayak trip last Saturday?" And I realized I hadn't told her the story, yet. When I was done, she said something like, so what is it with you and trying to leaving me hanging with shows?

A couple or so years ago we were interpreting a show and I was scheduled for an all-day job locally. That job canceled but there was another one available in Southern Oregon. Per the policy of the hiring agency, I had to either take that job or forfeit all pay, despite it being a last-minute cancellation. I explained my dilemma of interpreting a play that night and that I couldn't make the drive down to the job and back in time for the play (it was about five hours each way). The agency decided to fly me down for the job, with a rental car provided, and I would be back in plenty of time.

Plenty of time if I didn't miss the plane. More accurately, if the plane didn't leave 5 minutes early. Who's ever heard of a plane leaving early!? But it did while I was dropping off the rental car. I spent the next couple of hours on the phone with the agency, with this same other interpreter, with friends, trying to get this all arranged. There was only one other flight from the very small airport up to Portland that day and it would only leave me with something like 30 minutes to get to the theater. I generally arrive an hour or ninety minutes before a play to get ready and centered before we begin. I also had the opening character of the play, which was an old man talking to a dead stuffed goat. It turned out because a friend agreed to pick me up at the airport and drive me to the theater and drop me at the door (he's a speedy driver and I knew he could do it). I arrived about five minutes before the beginning of the play.

So this time I, well, suppose, I could have drowned or been injured and unable to interpret for a while.

Back to the kayak experience. I sent an email to my partner's step-father after the kayaking trip. He is a very experienced paddler and guide, on whitewater, rivers, sea kayaking, rafting, and so on. I told him earlier that I was getting into kayaking and wasn't that something! So I wanted to share my first adventure with him. Below is what I sent him. He was concerned, which is very sweet, by what happened. But after I told him what the leader did, how she prepped me, and how the situation was handled, he said everything was done right (he thought I should have started on something easier, but I'm fine about where we were).

My email:
I went on my first whitewater kayaking adventure on Saturday and it was, well, an adventure! I purchased a Sevylor Tahiti professional self-bailer. I think it was not the right boat for me and that was a factor in what happened.

We were at Crabtree Creek, which is listed as a class 1 to -2. It is considered good at 600 and it was running somewhere between 596-611 earlier that day. ...

I had fun - but ended up in the creek three times; two I tipped over and one was just an "oops" getting back into the boat near the end of the trip - just leaned over backwards too far going butt first into the boat, just after the person helping me said "now don't go leaning back too far and falling in" - I was only in the water probably less than 30 seconds and we were really near the shore - that one not a big deal.

The first was just a few minutes out; I considered just going back to the car to wait - but decided to hang in there. It was scary, but someone I was with got the boat, someone else got me - I was probably in the water 3 minutes or so. I switched boats with someone who was using an inflatable canoe, double-seater, after that - it was definitely more stable and I did okay - no spilling over. A while later the leader of our group asked if I wanted to try my kayak again and I said yes. Ooops. A little while after that there was what felt to me like a sharp s-curve and there was a debris snag at the coming out final curve. I know some of it was I was not in the right place coming into the curve and to get out of it... and probably wasn't paddling strong enough and all of that -- but I collided with the snag and got trapped and my kayak tipped and I went in - again. The water was much swifter and current stronger -- now that one was very scary. The leader of the group told me to let go and I trust her completely, so I did. I won't bore you with the details 'cuz I know you know the stories. I was definitely in the water longer (maybe 6 - 7 minutes), obviously someone did get to me. The leader tried to get my kayak (which was dangerous for her to try), but couldn't - it was bent nearly in half by the current and stuck good in the debris. Luckily she did manage to get my "dry" bag (not a good one; hence the quotes!) which had my keys in it (lesson learned: keep keys in PFD).

So - I lost my kayak on the first trip out. But I'd already been planning to get a different one, although was hoping to get something back by selling that one. It really wasn't a good one for me at this point. But I'm not complaining - I'm still here, my Blackberry got wet and is history but I had insurance on it and my replacement will arrive tomorrow; I only have one bruise.

So -- I'm looking around at other options. I still want an inflatable. The leader said a hard shell one would have probably cracked and I could have been injured on that same snag. And hauling around the inflatable is definitely easier. I will probably also get different paddle; the one I bought (at the recommendation of where I got the kayak) is a little too feathered for me right now and not enough pull.

I will go out again. I am already scheduled for a lesson and little low-level trip out of Ridgefield on mid-May. I will probably just use one of their kayaks.

2 comments:

  1. oh, no! it sounds like you had a rough day your first time out. i think you did great to get back on that "horse" and try it again. i hope that means it can only get better from here!

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  2. Rough? Yep - and, despite the combined 9-10 minutes of fear, wet, and cold - I had a blast! Two days ago I bought a new boat. I have two kayak trips planned (5/16 and 6/20). I'm hoping to get in another one or two before I go to Colorado for most of July! Then more later in the summer and early fall. But I think a class 1 or -2 will be tops for me!

    And I figure that I've already had a scary experience - was lucky that at least two members of the group are very experienced, and that I know one pretty well and trust her completely. Many lessons learned and the fear of falling in is gone - was good to get that out of the way right up front! Not minimizing the potential danger of hypothermia or getting banged up - but sometimes the fear of something can become bigger than the thing itself.

    And I'm still hunting for those waterproof pants. What I bought helped in terms of being another layer to hold in body heat - but nothing in terms of water protection when it's pouring over the edge of the boat and when I'm IN the creek/river. My work start time was delayed tomorrow by a couple hours. Maybe I'll trek on down to John's Landing area and see what the boating store down there has.

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