A day when just too many mistakes were made.

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A day when just too many mistakes were made.

Postby slim » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:08 am

Al (Biggles) has already heard this story so bear with me on it. It is all about loss and humility.

A few months ago A mate and I hatched a plan to do a 3 day 2 night trip on the Mighty Clarence river. The starting point was to be the Gorge and the finish was Copmanhurst. The trip according to several canoeist that we knew was every bit of 3 days if you wanted to do a lot of casting for the big wild river Bass that live in these waters. In the end a clash of schedules meant that the trip was postponed until the week after Christmas.

Taking two cars we drove to Copmanhurst and left Tony’s Navara at the free local camping grounds. These are a great reserve for camping and a great point to leave the car for 3 days in relative safety.

We loaded up his Venus11beside my 2 week old outback onto my X-trail and drove the 35km to the Gorge. We unloaded the yaks on the waters edge and then parked my car a good distance from the water as the area had been experiencing a lot of rainfall. We could see how much by the fact that the Lillydale bridge was almost underwater. With casual manly bravado and extreme naivety we reasoned that surely an extra metre of water would smooth the rapids out as all of the dangerous bits would be a metre further underwater. Mistake #1.

We took some pictures of all the set-up we had, some of the car, some of how we had the gear stowed, but also some of the first set of rather large and angry rapids. Tony joked that when they recover our bodies at least the paper will have some good pics of us, jinxing bastard.

We had talked about portaging the rapids on the scenic drive to the Gorge. We both reasoned that it would be the safe thing to do. We had worked out that with my Hobie wheels would mean I could pull my yak and carry the arse end of his Venus without any dramas. After all my Outback was brand new, been in the water twice before. I could have bought up my Quest but you know, this one could carry so much more and the bad rapids we would simple walk around not hurting the mirage drive. Mistake #2.

My wife for Xmas gave me an inflatable PFD. I even took it up in the car with me. I said to Tony should I take it or will it just shit me too much. We both agreed nothing could go wrong as the rapids didn’t look that bad from the road, the outback is like a battleship so I cant possibly fall out and anyway I last fell out of the Quest on a wave at Woody Head 11 months ago, so I wont need it. Mistake #3.

We hit the water and the current was a lot stronger than either of us expected. Tony threw his lure under a tree and on the second cast nailed a 35cm bass. Good start. I was busy adjusting eskies and getting comfy to worry about fishing at the moment. After all I had 3 days left. Within 30 seconds of launching I was being swept along at a very fast rate and the first rapid was looming large and loud. I thought I want to get out and walk around like we had planned, but there was no where to get out and like a flash I was past the point of no return. The first big pressure wave smashed into the front of the yak and water slammed into my shoulders. I am not too sure how we both got through unscathed but we did.

The current kept ripping us along so I had locked the mirage drive up and was just using the paddle and rudder to steer. Easy as we thought, though hard to catch a bass on a beetle spin doing 12 knots. The second set of rapids approached and the difference in height of the river was amazing, the water just seems to step down 2 feet. We slid down it without even getting wet, the old smoothing out effect we reasoned. Then it dawned on me that I should get a pic of what it is like to show all of this forum, how cool would that be. Major mistake #4

I grabbed the camera and hit the 3rd rapid. Extremely confident in the yak and my ability to just get swept down like a leaf safe from all harm. So as I was looking through the view finder on my camera, a large boulder appeared through the lens. Too late to remember that “items may be larger and closer than they appear” warning label. For about 1 second I was hung up then the world went watery. I popped up still holding the damn camera and my Yak but I was being swept down the rapid at a very fast rate with my feet getting whacked by the rocks under me. In my panic I was trying to put my feet down to stop or slow my very painful journey.

Meanwhile poor Tony has been watching all this occur from just behind me. There is nothing he can do. He did to his credit turn into the current and try all he could do to help me.

Eventually the inevitable happened and my shin got stuck between to boulders. With the pressure of the current and me still holding the yak I was no totally submerged with no chance of escape. I fought as hard as I could but had no chance. Somewhere in my tiny brain however I knew not to let that bloody floating chunk of yellow plastic go and after nearly 2 minutes the yak changed tack and I popped up like a cork. I survived the next few hundred yards of battering rapids to spill out into a large slow pool of deep water.

After Tony pulled me to the shallow edge I was able to regroup and stop shaking. I then realised my Yak was still upside down and somewhat lighter. Missing were two rods and reels, knife, stringer, beers, water, camera, X-tool, sunglasses, tackle box, net, $400 worth of lures, but not my life.

The yak had copped some damage, but nothing too bad. I was bleeding pretty well and was very sore. My head was lumpy my shin was pretty bad but I had survived.

All of this in the first 20 minutes of a three day trip.

2 Km later we came across 6 cans of goldies and 1 lure.

We made the call that the trip was a write-off and to just paddle like crazy and get down to Copmanhurst ASAP. Just past Lillydale bridge, the half way mark, Tony was flying down a little rapid when an eddy spun him around in a flash and just sucked him straight down. He popped up off his yak but made it safely to the pool at the bottom of it. With that went the last of our water. We made it to about 3 hours short of our destination when a lack of water and lack of food took over and forced us to camp and boil a heap of water.

The next morning we headed for the finish. We even stopped and caught a few bass to 42cm. We saw a platypus and had a perfect morning of paddling. By lunchtime the yaks were loaded and we were on our way home.

In the end the damage to the hip pocket was around $1400. One of the rods is irreplaceable but the rest of the gear will slowly be renewed. Funny feeling but, for the first time ever, I just couldn’t care about losing gear that meant the world to me, I walked away when I really never should have left the bottom of the Clarence.
Kayaks are Pandoras Braclets for men.
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slim
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Re: A day when just too many mistakes were made.

Postby Yakyakker » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:02 pm

Hi Slim,

Very glad to hear that you made it home safely - that was a close call.

I used to casually kayak down small rapids without a PFD or helmet and carrying fishing gear too, though luckily I learnt my lesson when I had a PFD on and was on a specific white water kayaking trip without fishing gear.

Rule number 1 I learnt at the safety training for the Avon Decent a few years ago was that you should keep your feet up in all circumstances if you fall out in moving water (be it rapids or just a fast flowing river). Somehow I also let my feet dangle down, where one leg was trapped in a rock crevice and I was dragged underwater, still hanging onto the end of the kayak luckily. The force was so great that I could feel my shin coming very close to fracturing before the river released me. This happened at the very end of a 30km trip of rapids, within 30m of my parked car, when you are thinking 'I'm safe now'.

After white water kayaking a fair bit with several scary experiences, and realising the power of even a moderately flowing river, I'm much more cautious now when fishing moving water (even in a strong tidal flow).

Thanks for sharing the story, it was entertaining and educational.
Paul (Tuckers).
Yellow Hobie Adventure 'Achilles II'.
Green Finn 4.25m sit in 'Aaaarrrrr'
http://yakyakker.wordpress.com

I love yaks.
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Re: A day when just too many mistakes were made.

Postby T-curve » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:29 pm

Woah Slim :shock: , thats no good fella but glad your alright dude. Mother nature can be real nasty at times and some of our larger rivers are no exception. Ive seen my local like that in the past and i tend to head to the estuaries for a change...lol

Heres a few pics from the past !!

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Cheers
Adrian

Tarpon 100


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Re: A day when just too many mistakes were made.

Postby Buj » Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:11 pm

It's a relief to hear that you and Tony made it down to Copmanhurst, Pete. Your story highlights the humility that nature can beat down upon us and is a wake up call for many of us, including myself.

To lose $1400 worth of gear or my life...I know which choice I'd make.

Many thanks for sharing your experience with us...it's actually prompted me to look into some whitewater kayaking tuition out at the White Water Stadium in Penrith, Sydney's West.

Any other members, in Sydney, out there keen to be part of a group booking?
Regards,

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Re: A day when just too many mistakes were made.

Postby Yakyakker » Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:59 pm

Hi Buj,

Great idea - They would probably teach heaps of useful paddling and self rescue techniques that could be used also in flat water or the ocean. The beginners course doesn't go down the rapids I don't think (the rapids are really hard core at the stadium, you wouldn't want to go down them on a fishing kayak).

I've been rafting there, it's great fun but definitely the wildest water I've ever fallen into (and spat out at the other end half drowned!).

Afraid I can't join you as I live the other end of the country, but it gives me an idea to organise something similar for some of the WA anglers (there's lots of good instructors over here too).
Paul (Tuckers).
Yellow Hobie Adventure 'Achilles II'.
Green Finn 4.25m sit in 'Aaaarrrrr'
http://yakyakker.wordpress.com

I love yaks.
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