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Accident Description


I wanted to report that I had a pretty close call on the Tobin stretch of the NF Feather -

Rock Creek Section - California (1-4-14)

The run was at the very low fish flow (330 cfs) and the moves are relatively slow/not very challenging. I had done the run about 10-12 times this year, many of these runs were at fish flow due to desperation to paddle during the drought; it is a run I know very well at many different flows. In one of the more innocuous class III rapids above the last big one (Piece of Risa), I was trying out a different line that involved driving over a rock in the middle of the river as opposed to taking a river left channel. The rock was too dry to clear and rejected me back into the sieve pile it was a part of. My stern sank down and I became vertically pinned/head-up with my body and boat wedged tightly in place.

For a minute or two my boat sank further into this pin as I ran out of strength to brace myself against the rock behind me with my arms. The boat then seemed relatively stable, though it had some wiggle and the water pressure from upstream was keeping me vertically in place. Without the water pressure, I might have started sliding sideways into a toilet bowl funnel of water going deep into the heart of the sieve. Trying to push myself up and out of the sieve was futile (couldn't budge more than an inch and it also seemed to make me less stable). It took my paddling companions about 10 min to access me, as even at this low flow there was current all around the boulder pile I was stuck in.

Access was finally gained as one partner was able to swim out in front of me, throw me a rope that I attached to the boat, which then allowed him to pull himself hand-over-hand toward me. He was then able to throw the tail of the rope to another paddler who was then able to swim/pull himself towards me. Also, at about the same time a third paddler was able to jump out of his boat (in moving water) onto the rock behind me. Once they had access to me, it was simply a matter of lifting me up and out of the sieve (no mechanical advantage required, just a rope of the bow and sling on the side of my boat). I never had to exit my boat and was able to paddle to shore.

The entire situation took about 15-18 min to resolve, I did not become cold at any point as I my body was only partially submerged. The rescuers who had made numerous attempts to swim to me (only to be washed away) were very cold even though the air temp was moderate and they were all wearing drysuits. It's worth letting people know that the sieves on this run are still severe even with the minimal flows that we had lately. Let me know if you have any questions.

Brian Ginsburg