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Old 04-24-2006   #1
Roy's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 682
Close call on Bailey Sunday

Since I'm posting this is in the hope that others can benefit from my experience, I'll start out with "lessons learned":

1) Always, always, always wear a river knife someplace easily accessible when kayaking. I've paddled over 15 years with them and never used one in a real emergency until yesterday. Sometimes you wonder why you keep replacing them when they fall out every few years, but if I didn't have mine yesterday, I doubt I'd be typing this today.

2) Kevlar rimmed skirts are really hard to cut. This didn't even cross my mind when I initially made the purchase, but I won't be owning another one.

3) Bad things can happen very quickly during a swim. Better to stick it out, take a few knocks and get the roll than to bail.

Here's the rest of the story...

We're coming into the first significant IV after SuperMax. I think people call it Trash Can. I've done this run at least 20 times and am pretty much unconcerned, but get flipped in the manky stuff and end up swimming. Current is taking me towards a big rock on river left, so I "assume the position" to bounce off feet first. I hit the rock and go under and around the right, where the current is, and then YANK!!! Something's got me by the waist and I'm stuck underwater in a lot of flow. I managed to get my feet on some rocks and push up to get an air pocket, so I can breathe, but I'm stuck, I can't see what's got me and there's a shitload of water pouring over my shoulders and occasionally head.

Somewhere between the YANK and scrambling for footing, my skirt got spun around backwards, which is what had me confused. I didn't think "skirt" when trying to figure out what could be pulling me from behind, so it probably took me about a minute or so to figure out what was snagged. There's probably a couple hundred pounds of water pouring down on my back, so it's REALLY tight on front (I've got a ring of bruise across the front of my waist) and I'm not sure I can slide out of it. In any case, doing so would mean surrendering my foothold, which is my air, so that's the last thing I want to do.

So I pull out the knife and go at the skirt. I had lost my last knife in the river late last season, and thank God I replaced it before my first run this year! I got a Bearclaw, because of the blade shape. It's curved blade looked to me like it would be ideal for cutting rope, which I expected to be the most likely use. What I hadn't really paid much attention to was the finger hole right below the blade. This is a GREAT FEATURE in a river knife! I spent at least 10 minutes stuck there and I don't know if my numb hands could have held onto a normal knife handle that long with the river blowing on me like that.

By now, I can see Jeff on a small cliff river right offering to throw a rope, but I'm waving him off, because that would just occupy my hands that are cutting a skirt. Ture is on river left, he can't get any closer than rope distance either. I start to realize that I'm the only one who's going to be able to free me. The rock is too tall to get anything but a rope to me and nobody would be able to stay where I was without being tied in, in which case they'd be just as screwed as I am. I can't feel my hands and I'm getting really tired fighting the current. If I relax, my head goes under. And the damn skirt ain't cutting! It's really hard to see what your doing, since it's all under water and the current's blowing my hands all over the place. It's more shielded from the current in front, but the thing is SUPER tight around my waist due to the current and I'm not wanting to slice into a major artery in my gut. I keep working at the sides in the current.

Eventually, the blade finds good purchase on a thinner section of kevlar on the side and goes all the way through in one slash. It wasn't like "I'm getting closer...almost there...", more like "this aint working, but what else to do?" and then all the sudden it worked. The thing cut in one swipe and I was instantly blown downstream for an exhausted, bumpy, but very relieved class IV swim.

Soooo, what to say? Thanks to Ture and Jeff for all their help. Thanks to Red (local fisherman) for giving me a ride out at Deer Creek. See above for lessons learned. Keep a knife handy. Bearclaw's a good choice. I'm in need of a skirt and it won't have a Kevlar rim. Also, if anybody comes across a Woody Creeker paddle in the North Fork of the South Platte, it's got my name and contact info on it. Loads of river Karma and fine beer for its return.

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Old 04-24-2006   #2
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 373
Roy, Glad to hear you are OK.


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Old 04-24-2006   #3
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 207
Damn Roy! Glad your ok, that sounds like a nightmare! And this is the day after your wedding reception if I'm correct. Are you going to tell the wife about this? I'm surprised we didn't run into you, we took out around 2:30ish.

Was the pull hook on your sprayskirt what got caught? Do you have any idea how it got caught, what it wedged on? I'm assuming this the large boulder on river left at the bottom of the rapid which forces you to move right?

This is a good example of how bad shit can happen even on a run like Bailey. Damn.
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Old 04-24-2006   #4
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 272
holly sh!t Waaa!! got my heart pounding just reading that. Great to hear you stayed the course and your experience will change my next knife purchase for sure. Thanks for the post and see you out there. -trev
"I would drag my balls across broken glass just to hear her fart into a walkie talkie" -Jay Drury
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Old 04-24-2006   #5
Roy's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 682
Thx Steve, me too!

Yonder, I couldn't see what was caught or what it was caught on, but I think it was the rubber rim, not the grab loop. I say this because it instantly released me when I cut through the kevlar/rubber, and the tunnel was still around my waist.

The new wife knows, but she doesn't need to be pointed to this thread, if you know what I mean. I still plan on boating. Do I know you, yonder?
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Old 04-24-2006   #6
Phillips's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorasta
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 843
Hey Roy glad your OK! Way to keep your head in the game. I have a kevlar skirt as well and have never once thought about the problems it might cause in a swim. Where did you get hung up? Was it in the slot drops below trash can? Anyway, really glad everything is OK.

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Old 04-24-2006   #7
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
Thanks for the writeup, I am glad you are OK. I am not familiar with the knife you mentioned. Is it a blunt tip or a sharp tip? I always wondered if I could cut a skirt if needed with my blunt tip knife, but I have never tried.
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Old 04-24-2006   #8
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 207
Dave Evans here.
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Old 04-24-2006   #9
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,404
I always carry a knife but in my vest pocket. Never envisioned this scenario but it makes sense that the skirt could catch on something. I may have to rethink my knife choice and location. Thank you for the post and nice job on keeping your head.
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Old 04-24-2006   #10
Roy's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 682
Deepsouth, here's the knife. I got it at Confluence:

Mine's the 2510, so it has a "teardrop" tip (somewhat pointy, but it's dull). You can get sharp tip one (2515), and maybe that would have helped stab thru the kevlar, but you also have more opportunity to cut yourself with that one. Pick your poison.

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