Cheakamus River – August 12, 2017

Well, it happened. I was the first to fall out of my boat, so here’s my take on the day. This is actually two trip reports, one very serious, and the other, a more light- hearted version.

The first part of the trip was great. The river level was a little higher than expected, but not horrific, so the two tandem boats (Chriss and Rich, and Anetta and Geza) and four solo boats, Fearless Phil, Terrific Trish, Bubbly Bernard and Lucky Leigh all got on the water after our pre-trip talk. Phil assigned a loose paddling order with himself as lead boat and Chriss and Rich as sweep. The trip down to the lunch spot was over before you knew it. The large rock at Culliton Creek was hidden from above, and the creek had three branches coming in from the left. We ran river left and stopped for lunch on a sandy bit below.

Here’s where you get to choose your end version of the same trip.

Version #1

The second part of the trip became serious, with many dumpings, many swims and some scares. The dumping and swims, for the most part, were fine and participants were pretty much able to get to shore on their own as there were lots of large eddies. One swim was not. Trish came out of her boat below the “chute” corner, and Phil proceeded to head downstream to rescue her. He was unsuccessful and both boats and people disappeared around a curve to river right. We couldn’t see around the curve but thought, because he was so close to Trish, a rescue had been successfully completed. After waiting in an upstream eddy, the rest of us slowly made out way down, sticking close to the shore on the right. No sign of boats or people. Two boats (Chriss and Rich, and Leigh) ground out on the rocks at the top of a branch leading to the right, and the other two boats followed down the water on river left, taking out below.

Chriss and Rich started hiking downstream looking for Phil and Trish. Phil’s boat was trapped in an overhanging tree. No Phil and no Trish. Leigh stayed with the boats, watching the purple canoe trapped in the wood. Chriss came back up, but Rich carried on looking downstream. He finally found both Trish and Phil, who had successfully self-rescued and had made it to the end of the little island. Rich walked upstream with Trish and Phil to meet up the folks at the top of the island. Phil’s boat finally bounced itself free, and Leigh was able to get it out of an eddy while waiting for news of the swimmers. Trish’s boat was downstream and on shore, so we all paddled down to meet her. It was harrowing, and we were all glad to be together again.

For an interesting account of Phil and Trish’s excellent swimming adventure down the right channel, please come to the Christmas party.

The second incident occurred upstream of the takeout. Phil led the group to the right of a braid. By now the wind had come up and the solo paddlers were working hard to maintain their lines on the water. Phil went over at the bottom of the riffle – again into wood. Leigh followed and lost her boat in another piece of wood (but self-rescued) and Trish fell out as well but was able to swim herself and her boat to shore. The other three boats paddled to the gravel bar and got out. Bernard was the first to paddle down the left channel. The paddlers in the two tandem boats were trying to decide if they should or should not try to retrieve Leigh’s boat. Leigh yelled not to as it didn’t look safe. The boat eventually bounced itself loose and Trish borrowed a paddle (she had lost both hers in the two flips) and tried to catch the runaway. She vanished from sight, as had Phil. The tandems came down and met up with Leigh and Bernard. Leigh lay across the centre bag on Rich and Chris’ canoe and was gently paddled downstream. There was a little gravel bar and she walked downstream and around the point where Chris and Rich were waiting. Once again on the airbag, we paddled across to where the rest of the group was with the lost canoe.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We were only on the river for a short while after the last adventure before the take out.

Version #2

After lunch, all back in our boats, like little ducks, we followed Phil down the river. He carefully selected our route downstream and all went well, until a capricious river god decided to hide a large rock behind one of the tandem boats. Once the tandem boat located the correct path, the giant rock leapt up and flipped Leigh’s boat. Between the rock and a hard spot, she pushed the boat away so she wouldn’t become a pancake, and she found the paddle (which had been grabbed by the large rock). Free at last, the boat went one way and she went the other, but she was able to swim to shore by the time Phil got to her. The boat was grabbed and hauled by the painter to where it was reunited with Leigh.

We continued our downstream journey. Carefully Phil selected great routes, until disaster struck again. Trish missed a ferry after the chute, filled up with water, and the boat tipped before she could get to shore. Phil raced off after her, but both of them were out of site. The rest of the group stayed safe in a large eddy waiting. When no rescue news reached us, we continued slowly downstream. The river braided, and two boats paddled where the water went, and two boats grounded out at the top of the little island to see where Phil and Trish went. After an agonizing search, all were reunited again, and Phil paddled down to where Trish’s boat was and they waited until the rest of the group made it down to join them.

Phil then decided to test us to see if his pre-trip instructions were being followed. It seems most of us took them seriously as one by one. The first three boats flipped in the same spot. There were people and boats all over, and no-one close enough to grab any of the swimmers. Leigh’s boat decided to play with sticks, but became bored and left its new playmate. Trish had her boat, but had lost both her paddles so borrowed Leigh’s so she could chase the mango monster. Phil self-rescued a little further downstream. Since Leigh was left on shore with no boat and no paddle. Chriss and Rich kindly offered her a lift downstream (translation: face down on the centre air bag) to where others were waiting. All boats were now together with the exception of Trish and Phil. The entourage continued on until Leigh was asked to walk around the point on a little gravel island so as not to swamp Chriss and Rich. On the lee side, she was able to resume “the position” on the centre airbag. Chris politely asked her to put one foot on the floor of the boat, and then the other. (He was far too kind to mention the fact he couldn’t see over her back side unless she was able to get it closer to the keel!). On river left, all the boats were together along with Leigh’s boat. Once all were reunited, we headed back downstream a short ways to the take out.

Another day! Another adventure! Other than a few bruises, the most experienced paddlers proved that anyone can fall out of their boat, while the least experienced paddlers all remained upright! Wow! Good work everyone.


NOTE TO SELF: Keep the painted side DOWN!

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