Monday, February 09, 2015

Adventures in Winter Kayaking.

Forgive me for my absence.  Really have I a million things to share. I just am having a harder time getting myself to actually write anything. 

Newest adventure first -  
How do I create the suspense I want for this post?  Well, there you are- you are warned that it really should be suspenseful, but you already know the outcome..... 
If you have read any part of this blog, you would know that I like to Kayak.  I'm not just a summer and it's warm and there is nothing else to do person.  I am a - lets plan this for weeks on end and go every Saturday that the temperature will even sort of allow you to be out on the water.  I like the temp to be somewhere above 38 degrees F, without a ton of wind;  that about covers my expectations. 
Saturday, January 31st,  fulfilled my preferences and after testing the air at 7:00am, I was ready to hit the road and get some kayaking done.  My only other caveat is that I prefer to go with other people.  I know it's not a great idea to go alone, especially when the creeks are up and it is cold outside. This weekend, my normal crowd planned an outing and I was thrilled to tag along. 
Most of the day was fabulous.   The sun finally came out from behind the clouds;  the birds were flying or swimming as they are likely to do. Some turtles even came out to soak up a few rays from the weak sun.  We had done about 8 miles of the 12 mile trip when I had 2 choices of direction I should take. 
Instead of just taking the simple route of beaching my craft and walking around the huge log that crossed the entire creek.  I changed my mind in the middle and tried to get all the way across to the low spot of the log that ran just under the water.  I had waited just a smidge too long to change directions.  Of course I was sort of sideways across the creek, trying to make it to the far side. 
That log created a lovely blockage and caused the river the speed up there to go under and around it.  I hit the log with the flat side of my kayak.  I'm not even sure if I had hit it head on that it would have made much difference.  I would have wound up in the same situation. 
I was almost to the end of the log to go over the low side.  Sadly I pushed down with my paddle on the upstream side of the log and leaned.  OOPS- of course this is your first instinct to do anyway- so almost everyone does this at least once.  My lovely kayak that had kept me from dunking for over a year; gracefully tipped into the on coming water and schloooopI got pulled under with the current. 
This wasn't the first time I had experienced this phenomenon.  I did this once long ago on a whitewater trip in West Virginia.  There is video proof of that adventure.  None of this one. 
I found myself in the water.  Not quite upside down, but disoriented, never the less.  I opened my eyes and found the light and properly swam with the current to the far side of the log.  I could not go any farther I would find, because I was tangled in my many cords coming off the kayak.  (I'll be rethinking my paddle leash after this incident.)    
The log had two lovely fist sized stumps sticking out on my side of it.  I was able to grab those and pull my upper half mostly out of the water.  I noticed the cords and paddle basically holding me there at this time.  My buddy, who is usually the really crazy one, shows up to help drag me to shore.  It took us a few minutes to disengage me from my tangles. 
I realized about this time that the water did not feel nearly as cold as I expected it to be in January.  Also, the current was rather strong and it felt the need to steal my cheap rubber boots right off my feet.  My buddy got me to shore and I crawled upright and started peeling off the many layers of wet clothing.  I looked up to see the other two guys crawling out on the log to disengage my boat from the log. 
I was certainly cold, but surprisingly did not feel like hypothermia was happening to me.  I pulled off my neoprene neck wrap- as I hate the wind on my neck - and found my chest under it was still sort of dry.  Oh how I love neoprene now!  I'm sure by keeping my chest mostly dry, I was more capable of continuing to function. 
It took a bit to dislodge my boat.  The log and current were doing a great job at holding it hostage. I peeled off all the outer layers and was working on my socks when Boyscout came over with his canoe and picked me and my wet clothes up and took me to where the other guys had managed to wrangle my boat to the shore.   
My kayak is very open inside and it was completely filled with water.  They had to turn it over then set it up on end to get most of the water out.  My extra clothes, in the dry bag, were still attached, so they threw that to me and I started layering on new stuff.  My giant Irish wool sweater and other coat were lovely to find.  My head sock had gotten wet, but some clean socks and some outer wear pants  were great to help hold in what heat I had left.   
I was missing some gloves and shoes; as the current ate my boots.  Boyscout once again came to the rescue with both gloves and soft boots to survive the rest of the trip. 
Later when we took inventory, I had only lost my boots and my Garmin.  I still had glasses on my face. My water bottle and seat cushion had been rescued, along with everything else attached to the boat.   My phone, camera, lunch and 1/2 skirt were all still there and properly connected.  
Garmin is being great and helping me with a replacement at a discounted price.  My Fitbit survived the dunk and continued wetness in my shirt until I got home.  After syncing it and checking the time - it looks like I went in about 1:40 in the afternoon.  The Fitbit then shows I started walking again at 3:15, which means it took an hour and a half to dislodge my boat and paddle the last 4 miles. My buddy W.. really turned on the speed to help me keep warm and get out pretty quick. 
I am pleased to say that this experience, while a little hair-raising, has not deterred me from planning  other winter kayaking trips.  I am thinking long and hard about going out on Trammel creek coming up, but I may not go because of lack of boots and not from abject fear.
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