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Kayaking 101

Posted Nov 06 2008 11:41pm

My last weekend in New Hampshire was a rainy one. Not quite as much rain as last spring in southern NH, but enough rain to destroy roads, flood houses, and generally make a mess. I drove around on the second day of rain trying to get pictures of a nearby river, but all the roads around it were closed due to its flooding. The next day, I went to work and probably had the coolest call ever. Wait, time for a little more set up. There is a river in our town that is considered “running” at 6,000cfs (cubic feet per second) and “very high” at 11,000cfs. While I was at work that day, it was running about 25-30,000cfs. Needless to say, that’s ridiculously high and fast.

We were still at the hospital after a call when our next one came in for a river rescue. Not only a river rescue, but one involving three kayakers. I must admit I was pretty excited. So excited, I drove to the staging area in about 3 minutes. The details were limited, but apparently some kind citizen had seen two overturned kayaks floating down the horribly swollen river, and a third kayaker that had managed a self rescue on the far side of the river. We started the call out at a local park that would normally be a pretty good put in for the river. I couldn’t see anything. We moved further down the river to where the fire department was launching their rescue boat. I still couldn’t see anything. Judging by the speed of the river, I could only guess that the boats and their former occupants would already be in Massachusetts by that time, if they were there at all. It was about then though, that a state trooper had spotted two guys walking along the highway, looking very wet. I could barely believe that they had survived. So we drove up to meet the trooper and our victims.

We came upon three shivering, soaking wet, what I would like to call “village idiots.” They all went out on a river that is easily class III, wearing only what they happened to have on when they came up with this genius plan. This did not include dry suits, wet suits, splash jackets, or even one life vest between them. Oh yeah, it was also April in New Hampshire, which means the air is still quite cold, and the water is even colder. Local ponds are just barely shedding their icy shells. The vessels they chose for this well planned voyage were a trio of recreational kayaks. Well, at least they weren’t in an inflatable dingy from wal-mart.

All three refused any treatment but we inundated them with blankets, towels, and advice anyway. I asked them where they put in and how far they got out of pure curiosity. The first guy told me “about 20 yards.” We all shared a good laugh, I reminded the ‘kayakers’ how lucky they were, and off we went.
Last year, the river got to 75,000cfs. I sorely wish I had seen that.

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