One Inch Above the Water, by author Jim Payne

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Voyage on the Connecticut (page 2)


I decided that the classification of rapids needs to be expanded. In addition to classes I through VI, there should be a Class 0 for whitewater a kayak simply can’t get through. Such rapids might not harm a hard shell kayak, but they were a threat to my tender, fabric-covered Klepper Aerius 2000, especially this nine-year-old version that has seen two thousand miles of river trips. Each time the boat scraped, I felt the pain of the rubberized bottom as if it were my own skin.

Ahead lay the breeched dam at Lyman Falls, the first of 14 dams for me to overcome. The guidebooks advised against trying to run the dam, partly because of the unnatural turbulence, but also because there might be exposed rebar—which could be death to my fabric kayak. It was clearly fixed in my mind that I must take out before I reached this obstacle.

I was so preoccupied with the class 0 rapids that I lost track of Lyman Falls Dam. I expected there would be signs warning of the danger and a clearly marked take-out place for the portage, and since neither appeared, I assumed I was still far from the dam.  One moment I was climbing back into the kayak after lifting the boat past yet another rock, and the next, the current was yanking me through tumbled concrete slabs that looked like Roman ruins. I noticed two fishermen peering at me in alarm from the bank. Luckily, the boat found the one safe channel and the current swept me safely past the concrete blocks and hidden rebar. When I realized I had just unintentionally run the dam, my first reaction was, “You idiot!” Then, thinking of the half-day portage I had spared myself, I thought, “Cool, man!”

The second day brought a new kind of challenge. There were more class 0 rapids, but I was developing a technique for handling them. Instead of paddling as fast as possible to gain maneuverability, I back paddled, approaching them as slowly as possible in order to protect the kayak’s skin. I dressed for the part, too, in a bathing suit and wearing booties, so I was ready to jump out as soon as I ran aground. In this way, I successfully traversed several shallow spots.

Several quarts of water were sloshing about the bottom, which worried me. Some of it was being dragged into the boat by my booties each time I climbed in, and some came from wave tops, but, even so, there seemed more water than I could explain. I had been too tired the night before to drag the boat out of the water and inspect the bottom. If it was a leak, it was a slow one, and I hoped I could wait until evening to find and patch it.


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