Sunday, September 25, 2016

The rescue that should have been – West River – September 24, 2016

Put-in at Cobb Brook
I lug my throw bag along on almost every trip, but I rarely take it out. Yesterday I should have. 

I was paddling the annual fall release on the West River (Ball Mountain Dam to Jamaica State Park1,500 cfs.) with the usual crew (Andy, Pat and Paul). We were on our third run, and the rest of the crew decided to hike up to the dam to run the first rapid – Initiation. I decided to pass, and found a spot about half way down the rapid to take some pictures instead.

David running Initiation
With 2-3 foot standing waves interspersed with rocks, Initiation is the biggest rapid on this section of the river. About a half-mile long, the rapid drops quickly from the dam dumping much of the flow into a pile of boulders on the right side about half way down. Most people catch an eddy on river right above the boulders, and then ferry to the left the finish the run on the left side.

I found a rock downstream that gave me a good view of the section below the boulders.  Dave came down first catching the eddy on the right. He just hit the left side of the boulders before styling the rest of the rapid.

Andy's long swim
After Dave, I watched as Paul and Pat hit the eddy above the boulders. I then saw Andy’s boat head toward the eddy. Andy was obviously in the water, but I didn’t see him until he bounced over the boulders into the nasty hole below. Fortunately, it flushed him out quickly, but he was now swimming down the middle of a long, fast-moving rapid.  Pat was in front of him chasing the boat, and Paul was behind him, but there really wasn’t much they could do. 

I watched helplessly as Andy floated not 10-feet from me. It was another quarter-mile before the end of the rapid, and I knew that Andy would be swimming the whole way. If I had my throw bag, it would have been and easy throw, and would have saved Andy the long swim, but I didn't.  Live and learn.

Heading to the take-out
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