Float Trip

Hubby and I went on our first ever float trip this weekend, on the Black River, with a whole pile of people, friends and family of friends. After three days of solid rain, the river looked high and there was a noticeable current.

Our first capsize happened about five minutes after setting off. There was a bend in the river and a fallen tree that had already downed two canoes before Hubby and I landed. Float Trip Lesson #1: You will get wet. Float Trip Lesson #2: Bungee the cooler shut. It was a shock hitting cool water after warm air, Camo (the dog) was traumatised by the whole experience. After that, we figured what else could possibly be worse?

Most of the time you were paddling to steer, not to propel. Trouble is, the steering takes a bit of getting used to, and we ended up floating diagonally downstream several times. This was what led to the second capsize. A bunch of friendly Texans were smoking and drinking on the gravel bar and helped us tip out the canoe and get floating again (“We’ve got it honey, let it go, are you OK?”).

The first day ended with about seven miles floated, a major grilling session, lots of food, all was well. Other lessons of the day: coolers float, don’t drink the river, fruit is waterproof, keep putting on the sunscreen (learnt a little too late), and try to have a decent grasp of left from right before anyone starts yelling “Paddle left hard! LEFT!”

Day Two started with a wonderful cooked breakfast, and a goal of another seven miles. Camo stayed home, and we were down to four canoes, from Day One’s six.

Capsize number three was fairly mild, involving a collision with a tree on the bank, and me leaning away from the current instead of into it. Hubby and I sorted that one out ourselves. Capsize number four was the bad one. It happened a few miles past our pick up point, which all nine of us managed to miss. The river was deeper and wider and the current was stronger that day.

One canoe holding three people was already stuck on the fallen tree in the really fast current at the river bend. They were holding up OK until our canoe hit the tree. Their canoe flipped and went under the tree, leaving three people hanging on. Our canoe went broadside against the tree, then flipped and went under. Hubby went under the tree and got stuck. Really stuck. I remember the capsize, hitting the water, then I remember being clear of the tree and grabbing our cooler to stay afloat with the horrible realisation that I couldn’t reach the riverbed. There’s a blank in the middle of the memory, just after the capsize when David Lee pushed me around the tree, for which I am truly grateful. Thank you David Lee!

While this was going on, one canoe was zooming across the river retrieving two canoes, five paddles, multiple flat cushions, coolers, bags, water pistols, and the lawn chair. The other canoe was beached, and people were hauling stuff ashore and rescuing the three from the first canoe. I was part of the stuff hauled ashore, still attached to my cooler. We took a while to sit on the shore and recover from that one, munching on the food that had stayed dry.

After that, it was pretty uneventful. We found out from people on the bank we’d overshot the pickup point by multiple miles, and to head for a bridge a couple of miles downstream. It started to rain, and then we were paddling full time to get to the mythical bridge. One phone call and some waiting time, then we were in a truck, heading back along bumpy roads to the cabin.

Even with capsize number 4, it was still a great weekend, lots of exercise, swimming, time with good people, time outdoors, great food and gorgeous scenery. I think I’ll stay on dry land for a few weeks yet.