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Accident Description

June 27, 1989
By Richard Montgomery
from the Sierra Club Paddler's News Bulletin

I pulled out of the last eddy, just above the hard ferry to get my boat where I wanted it, and then readied myself for the bottom of the drop.

The Tuolumne was running 1,200 cfs. Bill and Chuck Stanley were on the scouting rocks watching my run. I had just asked Chuck, "Have you ever seen anybody hit (a rock) in there?" "No," he replied, "But I worry about it." I had run the right hand chute at least a dozen times, many of them at this water level, so was not very worried. Later, Chuck said I was "where he would've been", i.e., in the right place, given where I had left from.

I hit a rock at the bottom. My stern swuung around and hit another, and I was wedged completely underwater at the base of the drop. I was stuck there for about 20 seconds. On shore they couldn't even see a piece of my red kayak. I guess I couldn't get out because of a combination of the water force and the surrounding rocks. I had popped my skirt and tried to wriggle free. Finally, the boat began to bend, and I was able to force my way out, bending out backwards and breaking out the knee-braces in the process.

I had been in a T-Slalom, the boat with the giant cockpit, lucky for me, because I don't know if I'd have gotten out in a boat with a smaller opening. The only damage done was to my boat and to my lower back, in which I pulled a muscle while struggling out. In the future I will not be running the right hand side of Clavey at under 2,000 cfs in a hard boat, and I recommend that you don't either.