Hirsch wrote: I turtled in the Clabber Creek Rapids after being flipped backwards losing some gear and receiving about 3 minutes of genuine scare.
Jeez, Paul...............another man of few words. You know "we women" can't pass up an opportunity for a long monologue of drama and suspense when expounding upon OUR version of how we see situations!
I'm taking the ball and running with it! Granted, the outcome could have been much worse in many ways .......but we sure did have an adventure, didn't we??!!!!
I LOVED NW Arkansas..........I'd have no problem spending a whole summer up there on the lakes and rivers. Truly gorgeous and not that far...........
First stop: about a ¼ mile downstream from Rush Landing to walk the large sandbar in order to scout the rapids ahead that were mostly out of view. There we made our way around the bend and as far as we could through the forest above the riverbank to check out the Clabber Creek rapids around the corner. Not being able to completely view the other stretch of rapids on the other side of the island, we opted the chute on the right. Back to our yaks! I hung back and watched Paul as he rounded the corner to enter the rapids and then gone from view. Admittedly, I had a bit of adrenalin pumping upon the first sight of the rapids and haystacks once I positioned myself for the run, but it was not like I could turn back! (Hey, I’m from Texas! WE don’t have many rapids on the rivers I do!!) It was a ride! Especially when having to correct my tracking when getting caught in the deflection current of the island and feeling the yak beginning to broadside at the very beginning, lol. My loaded down WS Commander 14 handled the rapids like a champ and only afterwards did I realize that my drybags, which were tightly packed in the bow, probably aided immensely in shielding/shedding the water that came over the bow! Little water entered.
Coming out of the lower section of the rapids I glimpsed a patch of red bobbing way downriver, and then Paul’s bright blue shirt bobbing in an eddy to my left several yards from the bank. No way for me to stop here -- only enough time to see and confirm with him that he was alright and have him verify back that he wanted me to try to catch up to his yak. Seeing he wasn’t far from the riverbank and in fairly calm water I felt confident in the choice to dig in my paddle and take pursuit. (Despite the seriousness of the situation, I couldn't help marveling at the current and speed of progress ...and wondering what it'd be like if I was in my long, narrow, 18' marathon yak).
It was at least half a mile in the swift current before I caught up to and was able come alongside of his overturned yak and force it closer to the bank. Eventually, after repositioning my yak to the inside, I was able to get a hold of a trailing drybag with one hand while grabbing at overhanging branches to slow our progress..... and finally guide this little flotilla of mine to a stop. Only by wrapping my leg around a small tree, and holding his yak stable in the rushing water with my other, did I have a hand free to somewhat tie off both yaks, retrieve his loose gear bobbing in the water to pile in my yak, and attempt to upright his. THIS, I found interesting!!! Once, on the Colorado River, I’d turtled my Srchr and have never forgotten how I saw the guy upright that 18’ wooden marathon yak with a quick flip of his hand on the stern. I’d thought at the time it was totally “amazing”! Hm-m-m-m……would it work now???? Could I do it? I pushed his yak forward and, with one leg still wrapped around the tree, I reached over with both hands, grabbed hold, and VOILA! --- it easily flipped upright!!!! Full to the brim of water – but it flipped! TOO COOL!! (My lab lesson on water displacement, lol).
Now what to do? Hoping Paul is indeed okay and making his way through the wilderness along the riverbank, I called out several times. I need to get these boats stabilized and feel an increasing need to make my way back upriver worrying about Paul. With only the bow lines tied off, the swift current remains a force to be dealt with as it pulls both sterns broadside unless I keep one hand on his yak and one leg wrapped around the tree to keep us parallel to the bank. Even if I could stabilize both yaks, the riverbank is too steep and overgrown which prevents any possible way for ME to drag out fully loaded yaks. Hm-m-m-m. I have a pump I can reach....I have extra cording I can reach.......... maybe lighten them up, lash them together and anchor bows/sterns to tree's....
I briefly let go of his yak to reach for my pump stored in the stern. Shit! (Shit-shit-shit!!) The stern of his yak is pulled loose in the current and it broadsides and flips over again. (Shit-shit-shit!) Okay. I got this. Grab the pump, drag yak back, position and RE-FLIP. (Hey-hey! I’ve got this flipping down pat – “Flippin’ Firefly”!! , lol!) Minutes later I’m getting frustrated from pumping and getting the water level down a couple inches in the cockpit -- only to have it refill in a second when I let his yak (which is submerged to the combing) lose balance and tip a bit for the water to rush in.
Finally (!!), I hear Paul answer my call and hear him make his way through the overgrown brush! Yay-y-y! He’s okay. I’m okay. Relief. While Paul is pumping we assess the situation (this is when I find out the hull of his yak is open and doesn’t have a dry hold – therefore holding GALLONS and GALLONS of river water!!!). He’s relieved to find his large drybag of bedding, etc., and bag containing wallet and important things, had been rescued and put into my yak; but he’s lost all his water for the trip, his paddle, his Stetson hat, ……… heavy loss. Thank goodness he still had his water filter and, thank goodness I decided that morning to haul my big ol’ heavy cooler for this trip after all --- and it actually held a few bottles of water I’d froze other than my additive soft drinks, iced tea and the crushed/block ice. (Note: BLOCK ice is GREAT for multi-day trips!!!!)