On August 8, 1987, a doubles team of Vicki Demos and Randy Provost was attempting to negotiate a boulder garden above Double Suck Rapid. Their attention was diverted by the drop downstream, which caused a communications snafu leading to a solid broach. The boat, a Hydra Duet, hit halfway between the two cockpits. Both paddlers leaned downstream, but it could not prevent the craft from tipping upstream and beginning to wrap. This narrative is Randy Provost’s:
“I told Vicki to get out and began trying to exit the boat. She was able to escape quickly and made it across the current into the shallower and slower water just downstream of the pin . . . I found that the thigh straps were tightened over my legs, . . . I was immobilized from the waist down. The center section of the foam wall had slipped out of position, and was no longer bracing the hull. I pulled off the sprayskirt and found that the Velcro fastening thigh straps were easily released. I was still held in the boat by the current, which was hitting my abdomen and chest, pressing my lower back against the cockpit rim. The rear deck and hull were beginning to press together as the rear foam wall folded over. My right foot and ankle were being gently squeezed . . . The boat by now had bent 90 degrees . . . I was able to breathe easily by leaning hard to the right . . . I was strongly aware that a shirt by the boat could cause a heads-down pin, and I also did not want the deformed boat to slip off the rock and wash through Double Suck with my foot still in it.
By rotating and leaning to my left, I was able to get my foot out. I was pushed back against the rear deck and submerged as I did this, but I was sure that if the foot stayed put, I could get a breath by pushing up with my paddle. The foot came free and it was possible to grip the cockpit rim and stand beside the boat.”
Provost was then able to tie his companion’s rescue bag to the hull and retrieve the boat. Pushed back into shape and with walls repositioned, it was able to complete the run.
SOURCE: Randy Provost, MD
ANALYSIS: The pin was caused by momentary distraction by downstream difficulties. The victim stated that RSTF Newsletter descriptions convinced him to start bailing out early, as soon as it became clear that the pin was severe. His cool-headed actions saved himself and his partner. I personally feel that in the event of a solid pin that holds the boat in place, paddler should exit their boat immediately. It is a judgment call, but I’d rather take an unnecessary swim than to be trapped.
Provost has built several crosswise bulkheads at the center to hold the walls in place and to add additional flotation. He feels that the Duet needs more support than a C-1, and that center flotation should be mandatory.