Monday, June 30, 2014

Flatwater Training - June 29, 2014

We had a great day for the RICKA Flatwater Training Class at Stump Pond.   This two-hour class was taught by Jim and is for new paddlers interested in learning more about equipment, basic strokes and maneuvers, and wet exits/recoveries.  I coordinated registrations, and have to admit that I lost track of who would be attending.  In the end, I was surprised when nine people showed up - I was expecting four.  We had four successful wet exits/recoveries, and one aborted first attempt – me when I got back on my boat only to flip over again taking Dan with me.  Dan got back in fine, and so did I on my second attempt.


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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Manville Dam – June 28, 2014

It was a beautiful morning, so I decided to go down to the Manville Landing for a short paddle.  We will be here next week with the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club.


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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Albion to Manville again – June 24, 2014

We had 13 boats – 11 kayaks and 2 canoes (thanks Earl) for our Blackstone Valley Paddle Club trip on the Blackstone from Albion to Manville.  It was an uneventful trip except for one swim at the first drop below the Manville Dam. It is unusual for me, but I never even took out my camera.  Thanks to Earl for taking this picture.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Albion to Manville - June 21, 2014

 Up the Blackstone Canal
It’s the first day of summer, so I had to get out to paddle.  Unfortunately, I had stuff to do at home, so I couldn’t go far.  Frank and I ended up scouting the trip we will do Tuesday night with the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club – the Blackstone River from Albion to Manville. 

It was a beautiful morning when I arrived at the bike path in Albion.  Frank was already there, so we got our gear together and headed up to the put-in above the Albion Dam. 

Below the Manville Dam
Although you can’t see it from the put-in, the Albion Mill Village is one of the best preserved of the Blackstone River’s original mill villages.  The first mill was built here in the 1820s, and was expanded several times after.  The Valley Falls Company constructed the main section of the current mill in 1908. 

We launched from the put-in above the Albion Dam, and paddled up a through a washed out section of the 1828 Blackstone Canal before entering the Blackstone River.  From Albion, it’s a short paddle upstream to the old Manville Mill Village. 

Running the last drop
Manville is one of the oldest industrial sites on the Blackstone River.  Industrial activity started there in the late 17th century when the Wilkinson family established a foundry on the site – Unity Furnace.  In 1811, the Unity Manufacturing Company was established to manufacture cotton cloth. By the 1920s, the Manville Mill was the largest textile mill in the United States with over 5,000 employees.  It was significantly damaged in 1955 during the floods resulting from Hurricane Carol, and completely destroyed in a fire a few weeks later. 

The water was shallow as we approached the Manville Dam (1 foot, 200 cfs on the Woonsocket gage), but I was able to paddle up the first drop, through the piers, and up to the Manville Hill Road Bridge.  From there, I carried up to the dam to run the easy rapids below the dam.  It should be a nice run with the paddle club on Tuesday.

Albion Mill - c. 1874 and 1909
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Monday, June 16, 2014

RICKA Meting on the Water - Nipmuc River/Harrisville Pond - June 16, 2014

Heading upstream
It was a beautiful day today – sunny and warm – so I rushed through dinner to get out to paddle at the first RICKA Meeting on the Water on the Nipmuc River in Harrisville.

The Nipmuc River is formed at the confluence of Round Top Brook and the Chockalog River. It flows south about 3 miles into the Clear River, which eventually flows into Harrisville Pond.  The river was low but runnable – 3’, 10cfs on the Harrisville gage.

Back down around the beaver dams
I arrived at the Harrisville Fishing area at about 6:15, and everyone was just getting ready to launch.  The group included one canoe and twelve kayaks.  Frank gave the safety talk and we headed upstream. 

The Nipmuc has some of the cleanest water in the state, and usually we see lots of wildlife.  Beavers are especially active on this section of the river, and we carried over four beaver dams before we decided to turn around.  The run back downstream is always quicker that the trip up. 

After paddling back down, we headed out into the Harrisville Pond before heading home.  Great night on the water.

The crew takes a break
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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dead River Weekend – Day Two – June 8, 2014

Grand Falls
After a fun night around the campfire, the morning started late for us on Sunday.  Most of us enjoyed a nice breakfast at Riverdrivers before packing up and bringing our boats to the shuttle.  We were still at the campsite at around 9:10 when Kelly came down to tell us that the shuttle was leaving – that got us moving. 

Once at the put-in, we decided to take the short walk to see Grand Falls before getting on the river. It would be a mellower run today with a release of 2,400 cfs, and another 350 cfs coming from Spencer Stream for a total of 2,750 (class II/III). While the waves in Spencer Rips were still 2 – 3 feet, the rapids that followed were significantly smaller than on Saturday.

Mine Field
We stopped for lunch at Hayden’s Landing, and then ran Hayden’s, Gravel Pit and Enchanted Stream before eddying out on river right above Elephant Rock.  I went through the slot first to see if I could get some pictures. The big hole above Elephant Rock that had filled my boat on Saturday was gone, and I made it through fine.

The next major rapid was Mile Long – my nemesis from the day before.  The waves and holes were smaller, but it was still a long, challenging rapid.  Just like on Saturday, I filled my boat about half way down, but this time I was able to get to shore. After emptying my boat, I was able to pick my way through the remaining rocks and holes. 

Andy running Elephant Rock
As we approached Upper and Lower Poplar, I didn’t see much of a difference from the day before.  The waves were a little smaller, but these were still significant class III rapids.  Upper Poplar went quickly, and we proceeded to the final rapid of our trip – Lower Poplar Falls. 

In Lower Poplar, I took the far right line, but the rest of the crew went middle right.  Paul and Jon went a little to far left and had to blast through the big hole at the top.  Jon flipped in the hole as he had the day before  but at the lower level, he was able to roll up and continue down the rapid.

We gathered at the bottom of the rapid both sad and relieved that the run was over.  With just one short swim on Sunday, the run had gone much quicker – about 5 hours.  We headed back to the cabin tired after two great days on the river. 

The crew minus Kelly
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Dead River Weekend – Day One – June 7, 2014

Our cabin at Riverdrivers
I did my first Dead River weekend last year with Mike, Earl and Tommy, and it was so much fun that I decided to go back again this year with Andy, Paul, Pat, and Jon. 

The Dead is a classic New England whitewater river with 14 miles of continuous rapids. Releases are controlled from the Flagstaff Lake Dam above Grand Falls.  Releases can range from 1,200 cfs (class II) to 7,000 cfs (Class IV+). Last year I ran an 1,800 cfs release.  This year, I would be stepping it up by running a 3,500 cfs release (class III) on Saturday, followed by a 2,400 cfs release (class II/III) on Sunday. 

I arrived at Andy’s house at around 10:00 on Friday for the six hour drive up to West Forks, ME. We arrived at our cabin at Riverdrivers (formerly known as Webb’s Campground) at around 4:30 and began to unpack.  Paul, Pat and Jon arrived a couple of hours later.  We lit a fire and settled in for the night in anticipation of a great weekend. 

The shuttle bus at the put-in
We awoke early on Saturday and began to pack up our gear for the shuttle. Old-time whitewater paddlers will remember the Webb’s Shuttle Service then run by Ed Webb.  In those days, the 20-mile shuttle down dirt logging roads was done on the back flatbed trucks.  Today, the trip is done in the relative comfort of an old school bus, but it is still a long, bumpy ride.

When we arrived, the put-in was busy with rafting companies and boaters getting ready to launch. The release was 3,500 cfs, with another 450 cfs coming from the Spencer Stream for a total of 3,950 cfs – a solid class III. We hooked up with Kelly, Wayne and Andy and headed downstream.

The first major rapid on the river is the Spencer Rips – a short but intense rapid with 2 – 3 foot waves that sets the tone for the rest of the trip.  As I bobbed my way down the rapid, I saw Jon up ahead of me flip, and then quickly roll back up again.  I knew that it was going to be a fun and busy day. 

Jon running Spencer Rips
It turned out to be a fun level for kayaks, but I found it challenging in my canoe.  Water from continuous 2 – 3 foot waves can quickly swamp an open boat.  Big water paddlers in open boats often solve this problem by installing small battery powered electric pumps. Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten around to getting a pump, so I had to avoid the big waves as much as possible.  Since I was also the only open boater in the group, I was forced to read my own lines, which turned out to be great “read and run” practice. 

At this level, the rapids came at us fast and furious, and we did have a few swims along the way.  Everyone got a chance to rescue boats and paddlers – except me.  By the time I reached the bottom of most of the rapids my boat was full of water and I was looking for a place to bail.  I really need to get a pump!

My only swim was in a long rocky rapid known as “Mile Long” - you can guess why it has that name.  About half way down, I went over a rock into a hole filling my boat with water.  Now it’s possible to paddle a swamped canoe, but it’s difficult.  My options were to try to bail out the canoe while bouncing down the rapid, or try to work my way over to shore.  I decided to paddle over to shore, and got about 15' before I dumped and took a swim.

Andy running Gravel Pit
Once in the water I grabbed my boat and tried to swim to shore, but in the fast moving water, I wasn’t making any progress.  Looking downstream I could see that I was approaching another set of rapids, so I abandoned the canoe and assumed the safe swimming position - on my back with my feet downstream. 

Swimming through rapids is something that I try to practice, but it doesn’t match the real experience.  First, I swam though a series of “haystacks” or standing waves where you breathe in the trough, and hold you breath as you go through the wave - breathe, glug, breathe glug, breathe, glug. If this continues long enough, it can be though to get catch your breath. Fortunately, it was a short set of haystacks. 

After the waves, I could see a horizon line downstream indicating that I was approaching a rock with a hole on the other side.  I tucked into a ball as the pour over pulled me down into the hole.  When I came out the other side, I swam hard toward shore.  Fortunately, Pat had been working my boat toward the same spot.  It was just a short time before I was back in my boat, but the two most difficult rapids remained – Upper and Lower Poplar. 

Jon in Lower Poplar
Upper Poplar is a short but intense rapid filled with rocks and holes.  After Upper poplar is Lower Poplar.  The river turns right as the water tumbles down the left side in huge wave trains and large holes.  I took the sneak route to the right and made it down fine.  Unfortunately, Jon flipped in the large hole at the top, and after several unsuccessful roll attempts, he ended up swimming the rapid.  It was a long and nasty swim, but we got him back in his boat, and continued downstream to our cabin. 

Day one was complete.  It had been a tough day with six of our eight paddlers swimming at least once, and a total of nine swims in all.  The run took us six hours.  Still, it was a lot of fun, and we were looking forward to another run on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

River Bend Farm – Blackstone Valley Paddle Club - June 3, 2014

I made it to my first Blackstone Valley Paddle Club trip last night at River Bend Farm.  We had about 20 paddlers – half went up into Rice City Pond, and the other half did the river/canal loop.  I did the river/canal loop with Ranger Chuck.  Nice trip.


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