Well, with the Christmas Race clashing with Exams, and over the last several years copping a horrid headwind, we decided to move the event and also move the location for the Social Marathon on our calendar. Well, we picked the middle of August – because it didn’t clash with anything, and usually the wind is not too bad.
We also picked a nice 24km section of the river where we could run the event in either direction depending on the predicted wind direction. Both ends have reasonable Parks, Facilities and BBQ’s – The Locations are – The Long Island Reserve at Murray Bridge and the Woodlane Reserve at Woodlane.
It was a great plan, but in the end we only had a few entrants by the cut-off date so we made an executive decision to make it a social event – cancelled our safety boat and got paddlers to “buddy up” then paddle the distance and share a BBQ lunch at the other end, as all the paddlers who nominated are quite experienced.
Then the weather reports also predicted we would have some wind as well, and the direction dictated that we should head upstream. As it turned out, the wind was quite strong – between 20 and up to over 35km/h, probably gusting up to 40+ but at least it was at our backs the whole way.
Given that there is now only 10 weeks left until the HCC, I took my new boat and decided to give it a crack, after having paddled it only 3 times in Westlakes and doing only about 30km in total in it.
We all met up for a 10am start. A couple of slower paddlers left a bit early, and the rest of us went past them around the 6km mark. Yeah, it was a bit windy, so I was a tad cautious, taking my time somewhat. Around the 10km mark, the wind was pretty strong, with a decent wind-swell on the river – some of the bigger wavers we well over 0.5m, then to add insult to this, a fishing boat flew downstream adding about another 0.5m of wash to this from the side – like sitting inside a washing machine!
As my spray deck had not arrived, I was paddling an open cockpit and took on a bit of water. We found a convenient semi-protected shoreline and pulled in for a few minutes so I could empty the excess water out of my boat before we headed back onto the river.
We were going along OK, the wind was dropping a little and the wind-chop was not as bad. The 2 others paddling with me were just that tad faster than me and got away from me – I just couldn’t keep up!
All was going quite well, until at 20.3km from the start, when I was leaning back a little to adjust my seat, with the paddle in the water taking a stroke on the left, I suddenly found out how cold the Murray is in the middle of winter! Yep, and unexpected wave knocked me over – happened very quickly!
So, making sure I held onto my paddle (Andrew, I do need to get my spare paddle-leash back from you!) and boat, after the initial shock, I grabbed my pealess whistle (attached to my PFD) and started making some noise, in the hope that the other’s who were ahead of me and down wind would hear me and come back. No such luck – they were probably about 1km ahead of me at this time.
I was almost in the middle of the river where this happened, so slowly I made made my way towards the willow covered bank. I could not get anywhere near the bank, but did manage to find a submerged willow to stand on with water up to my mid thigh level. It took me around 10-15 minutes to get to the edge and at least get 1/2 out of the water and semi-protected from the wind among the willows.
Fortunately, I had decided before setting off to put my rubber paddling pants on – and about this time with the river only around the very low teens in temperature I was pretty thankful!
I knew that there were still the 2 slower paddlers behind me and a few minutes later, I could hear them coming, I kept blowing my whistle, but they were upwind and had already spotted the boat sticking out from the willows.
With their assistance, I was able to get most of the water out of my boat, maneuver myself a little bit more along the submerged willow and get back into the boat, and finally paddle out into the River again – and as I found out later, nearly 30 minutes after taking a swim!
The cold was unbelievable! as soon as we started paddling, I noticed that I was totally exhausted after being in the water. We kept going looking for a convenient place where we might be able to pull into the bank so I could empty the rest of the water – as having several liters of water slopping around in the bottom of the boat does not make for a stable platform in my condition!
We spotted a likely bit of bank only to find that the water was very deep – so had to keep moving. We noticed the bank opening up around 500m ahead thinking that would do – and yes, it did – we were at the end!
I got a hand out of the boat, and dried off and donned some warm clothes whilst waiting for the BBQ to finish cooking.
Even though, I had my first swimming lesson from my new boat, I was actually pretty happy with the day out. For 1, I now have paddled in some pretty horrid conditions and actually done OK with it (up until 20.3km mark). I still need to work out exactly what is not right with my seat, but the changes I had made are getting closer – at least I was able to sit and paddle for nearly 3 hours (sans the 8 minutes of emptying water at the 12km mark).
Yep, I even discovered that I do not have any chance of doing a re-entry in this boat.
There were 2 positives to this capsize – even though I was in the water for quite a long time.
- There was nobody around with a camera to remind me 🙂
- We took reasonable safety precautions in our paddling – PFD, and having other paddlers not too far away to assist in case someone got into trouble.
Yeah, not so fast, but given the conditions, I was pretty happy with it for the most part. I was sitting around the 8km/h mark until bad things happened, then a tad slower being very careful for the remaining 2km.
You can see on the Map the 2 spots where I stopped, and the yellow dot at the end.
Now, I know how to fall out and know that it can happen very quickly, I just have to concentrate a little more next time 🙂