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Bow and Stern - March 2, 1980

Bow and Stern - - March 1980

Bow and Stern

March 2, 1980

From the President

Dear Fellow Paddlers,

The time has come for me to retire the Presidency and let another paddler take over. Through the years I have seen the club membership grow from thirty members to well over a hundred. This tells us all that the N.V.C.C. is an active and growing club. Our membership is basically a family oriented canoe and paddle activity and I have tried to keep the club this way so that our families could enjoy the wonderful sport of canoeing together.

Whitewater, flatwater, canoe sailing, whatever kind of canoeing you enjoy, we tried to do it all in the N.V.C.C. There has been plenty of fun and paddling in the past and there will be plenty in the future.

Next I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all of you that have had a hand in helping me to make my years as President so successful. If it wasn't for you, too many names to mention, (and you know how I am with names!) the club could not have performed as well as it has.

So keep your bow forward and your paddle in the water and I'll see you on the rivers, ponds, lakes, and in the wilderness!

Your Ex-President,
Normand R. Lavoie

N.V.C.C. Events Chairpeople - 1980

The following people are coordinating the activities of the club this year. Anyone who has interest, ideas and energy to contribute to any of these people should contact that chairperson.

Whitewater Training Bob Dodds
Whitewater Schedule
Safety Chairperson
Peter Alden
June Supper Meeting Len & Cindy Carpenter
Summer Events Bob Durkin
Quartermaster Norm LaVoie
Bow & Stern Larry Thomson
Memorial Day Parade T.B.A.
Picnic - War Canoe Race T.B.A.

N.V.C.C. Whitewater Training Schedule

Blackboard Session Wednesday, March 26th, 7-10:00 p.m. at
Aesculapius Medical Center, Timberlane,
South Burlington
Pool Session(s) Tuesday, April 1st, 5-7:00 p.m. at UVM
(if needed)-Wednesday, April 2nd, 5-7:00 p.m. at UVM
River Training Session Saturday, April 12th (the river, to be announced)

Second Annual N.V.C.C. Limerick Contest

Once again, the Bow & Stern is holding a limerick contest. The theme of the entries should relate (however loosely) to paddling.

There will be prizes for the top three entries. Judging will be based on rhyming, meter (yes, this year we re going metric), originality of theme and the cleverness of the last line.

Send entries to: Larry Thomson RD 1, Box 217-A-6 Richmond, Vermont 05477

Canoeing 125 Miles on the St. John's River in Maine from a Female's Point of View
By Melinda Dodds

We should have known. When we packed up our gear and left early Friday morning, it poured all the way to our destination. But we were optimistic. Connie and Moe (short for Maurice) Desilet and Bob and I are in one car; Len Carpenter and his son, Brian, in the other car.

Arrived safely after an eight hour drive and put in at Baker Lake. Some other canoers were already there and huddled in a shack across the lake. The river is down as we take off and it looks like we are going to be scraping. It was tortuous starting out from my standpoint with heavy rain and very cold; your muscles are weak and you're nervous about this whole thing. Seems forever before we finally stop and make camp. Everyone is tired and quite miserable. But once we got camp set up, started cooking our supper and proceeded to dry out the day s clothes, things looked brighter. Camp was on a sandy peninsula where a stream flowed into the St. Johns. Bob walked up and caught two small brookies and had a drink of water (which turned out to be a mistake). Two days later, he developed a kinship with every outhouse along the way. Back in Burlington, it was. diagnosed as a parasite end it remained with him for about six weeks. Lesson learned, DON'T DRINK THE WATER!

Another lesson learned that first night was keep gear way above water line. The next morning, the river came up about a foot (from all the rain) and our gear was very close to floating away. I'm a worrywart, so the first night I didn't sleep well at all; kept thinking that bears would be raiding our campsite and eat all our food. Connie and Moe were also tossing around - thought it was because she was worried also but it turned out they had pitched their tent on a rock nest. Also some woodsman kept trying to start a generator somewhere!! Moe was going to speak to him about it!

Took off in the rain the next day. And the next day. And the next day. And the next day. And the next day - finally the sun broke through for about four hours. What a pleasure. We all hooked our canoes together, Len had brought a sail and being a choice piece of the river with very few rapids, we sailed. Beautiful. It was the first time we were able to enjoy the countryside without peering out through the8 raindrops. It was the first time we were finally able to take off some of the raingear, coats, sweaters, etc. By this time the river is so high that the fishing is terrible. All the feeder streams are roaring. We did stop a couple of times; once as we were crossing the wooded areas heading up one of these feeder streams, we spotted a deer. The time of year is late May and as we continued to watch her, she did not spook but laid down and started licking herself all over and we feel that if we had had more time, we might have been fortunate in seeing her give birth. Back at camp, we cleaned up for the first time, laid everything out in the sun to dry and did up a fantastic meal of chicken with dressing, etc. and the highlight: WINE. I figured this was going to be an all right trip after all. Left my long johns on the tent to dry. Woke up the next morning - raining. Oh no!

Thursday - took off in the rain and paddled all day in the rain. Nothing new with this. There are some advantages to all this rain though, number one: no blackflies, number two: small rapids were a wash, less work. The bigger rapids were just water - no rocks to worry about until we reach the famous "Big Black Rapids" and "Big Rapid". TelI you about them later.

In our plans, we had put in an extra day, so on the worst day (hard to decide which day this was) when Bob was feeling his all time worst and we girls had just about had it, we stayed in the campsite all day, resting, reading and trying to dry out a few things. The campsite was located on a logging road, so it appeared there was a way to get off this river. Three other canoes pulled up and they had had it too and were pulling out and returning to civilization. As we were all pondering about this around the campfire, we looked up and what should be going across the bridge before our eyes, but our cars being ferried to the end of the line. Wait, Wait, catch those cars!!!!!! But alas, Connie and I are determined, strong like bulls, won't give up the ship girls and dumb! We stay on and head out in the rain the next morning again, nervous as the devil because Big Black Rapids are coming up.

Now let me tell you about those rapids. When we reached the first one, you could hear it from a long ways off, I hare that! We stopped and the guys scouted to see the best route. Looks like a quick upstream ferry to the middle, turn and head straight. Nothing to it! Good Run! So we continue on to the famous Big Rapids. We saw a couple of older gents with a canoe loaded right to the gunnels with gear and they were heading over to the right side of the river. Now the books says take the left side but we figured these guys have been here before and if they were going to the right, we better follow. We caught up with them and asked what they planned. They were lining on the right so we figured again, well if they can line from the right, we ought to be able to canoe on the right, right? Large water, large rocks, really nervous and all of a sudden not cold but sweaty as a matter of fact. Bob and Moe and Len got out to scout. Bob figured out a route. There are many strong eddies along shore so no problem. Go arounda hole here, a rock there, some sharp turning in the middle and jump into an eddy. Easy beans (which whenever Bob says this, I know it is going to be tough). Well we did the first maneuver, I paddle stern so I'm in the bottom of the canoe (my whitewater stance) prying with everything I have and Bob's struggling up front drawing with everything he has. Easy beans!!!??? We back paddle with a stroke that stops the boat in mid-air and then jump into that eddy along shore. Whew, made it - now Moe & Connie's turn. They look good until they reach the eddy, Connie's one way and Moe has his paddle in the air (sorry Moe). Almost tip, really shaky but made it. We all smile. Brian and Len made their move. Brian lost his paddle (crocodiles) but Len managed to complete the first section by himself.

NOW the next set of big water. This is even more tricky and I'm very confident that Bob has scouted correctly (?) Easy beans! By now, 125 miles, I'm muscular; I can move that canoe faster in rapids than anyone! Stand it on end, if necessary. FEAR does it. We pry, draw, back paddle and quick turn and make it through the biggest water I've been in. Moe and Connie's turn. They make it to the eddy and flip but because the eddy is so strong, nothing comes out of the boat. Bob jumps in and grabs Moe's paddle that he is holding out and-pulls Moe and the boat to shore. Connie has already abandoned ship and is on shore, wet and a bit fearful. Len and Brian take off for the middle of the river - looks like high standing waves but guess that is where we all should have been, the waves were just right and with a little back paddling, it is no problem. Even though Moe, Bob and Connie are wet, we are relieved and happy. We are near the end of our journey and no gear has been lost and everyone is all right. Other cancers were not so lucky. We managed to find a lost canoe down at the bottom of the rapids and free it for the guys that are now walking the shoreline. They are most thankful - it's a borrowed canoe.

SUMMARY: Seven days of canoeing in the rain is not much fun, matter of fact, it's the pits. We did manage to keep smiling (not much else you can do about it). We felt most thankful that we had along three tarps so we were able to set up canopies over and around the campfire every day to try to dry things out. Tents did well, sleeping bags - Bob and I had down and had double plastic bagged them, so did reasonably welI in keeping them dry. We since have purchased some HoIlowfiII bags. Down when wet does not dry as Bob found out. So as a rule, on a canoeing trip, you should stay away from down as much as possible. We were all thankful we had wool jackets with us. My next trip is strictly with wool long johns (a necessity) wool shirts, wool jackets, wool hats, wool socks, etc. I was fortunate that I took along my whitewater booties and gloves and they were a blessing. Bob's guaranteed waterproof Timberline boots did not work out. We all agreed that the Bean gumsole shoes with the whitewater booties was the best bet. Rain gear was of course, a must. Bob had just purchased a Gortex rainjacket and it really worked for him. My raingear was new from Beans and it worked out reasonably well. For comfort, Connie and I brought our short-legged lawn chairs ignoring all the name calIing, such as sissy's, etc but once on the trip, we had to fight to sit in them. Very popular. Food was all we looked forward to and we are glad we didn't skimp. Good meals every night BUT we ran out of Yukon Jack the second night and had only brought two bottles of wine. Beer was out of place because it was so nasty out, but you just never know. Still I would definitely bring more spirits!!

I guess I would like to go back and do the trip again. Bob had had such perfect weather the year before, so it is possible that the river can be nice. The best part is that there is no portaging and maybe we had better return to it soon before the Corps of Engineers do their thing building a dam and ruining a beautiful river, which I could see even with all the fog and rain.

Yes, I would do it again.

Dead River & Kennebec Gorge

July 29-30, 1979

Dick Trudell, Rich Brainerd, Kim Brainerd

This was to be our whitewater highlight of the summer. We had read about the Kennebec Gorge in Yankee Magazine, and had heard stories about the monstrous waves. The Club was planning a trip on the Dead River and a scheduled dam release brought a lot of people to West Forks.

When we arrived in West Forks on Saturday, we decided not to camp behind Webb's Store, as it looked like it could be a noisy group. Instead, we went just up the street to John Layton's Kennebec Dories and set up our tents. We met John at work in the shop and asked him what we could run that afternoon. John's eyes became as big as saucers and he said he was looking for someone to run the lower portion of the Kennebec with. Every morning there is a dam release at Harris Station Darn lasting for several hours; in the afternoon the river is down to normal flow. John said the lower section was nice for playing in at the low flow level.

We loaded our kayaks on John's van and headed toward the halfway point on the river. The lumber companies have a great network of roads, and it was a fairly easy drive to the put-in. The put-in, however, was Class V - a long, very steep bank that led down to the river's edge. We had to lower our kayaks before us and hang onto the trees to prevent sliding down the muddy bank. There was about a hundred-foot drop to the river.

Once in the river, we quickly forgot about the put-in, as there were a lot of waves and rapids to play in. What was really unusual was we were wearing bathing suits instead of wet suits, and still having a great time in whitewater (if there was some way we could get whitewater season in June-July, it sure would be nice). The Kennebec at this level was a class Il-Ill and we quickly found out we had not used our paddling muscles since spring. Looking around, we began to wonder what this was going to be like with the darn release.

That night we gathered at Webb's campground for a community supper with Al Roberts, Dick & Lucille Allen and Janet Brunet, who had run the Dead River that afternoon. We had a great shishkabob supper and traded stories before the campfire. That night the no-see-urns got us - the next morning we all thought it sure would be nice to have no-see-em screening in our tents.

Sunday we were scheduled to run the Dead River. We had been told of the excruciatingly long and poorly planned shuttle that Webb's Store had given the others on Saturday. We had our shuttle with Kennebec Dories and were quite pleased with the operation. The river for closed boats, however, left a lot to be desired. It was a good level for canoes, but somewhat tedious for a closed boat. To our dismay, we found out that the discharge had been lowered for the scheduled release, and that the previous week had provided much higher water levels. That evening we decided to eat out at a restaurant (not an easy thing to find in West Forks) and ended up about 20 miles north of town.

Monday was our big day on the Kennebec Gorge. We loaded up our equipment on John's van and drove to Harris Station Darn. John had two rafts he was taking down, and there were the three of us in kayaks. We put in just below the darn and watched the river rise several feet as the water started to be released. When it was at the proper level, 6000 cfs., John pushed off and told us to follow the rafts. The rock ledges quickly closed in and funneled all that water into the gorge. This area is called the "Hulling Machine" because the violence of the cliffs and water would strip the back off of logs when the river was used to float them down. There wasn't much room to maneuver in and darn few eddies to catch your breath. I watched from an eddy as the raft ahead of me headed into the three Sisters - three standing waves of 6, 8 and 12 feet. The raft would disappear in the center, come splashing out at the crest, fold over the top, and go into the next wave. Thinking to myself, "Here goes!", I pulled out of the eddy and was snapped around into the main current and into the first Sister. My focus immediately changed to about 5 feet around me, as I was thrown up to the top of the first wave, drew hard and headed into the trough to be buried in foamy water. Popping up, I shook the water out of my eyes and was sideways on the top of the second Sister. Bracing hard, I pointed my nose into the second trough, hit the foam and came up upside down on the top of the third Sister. Rolling up on the downstream side of the crest, I went only about 30 feet before a cross current tipped me over again. I rolled up again and began looking for a place to rest and found an eddy - whew!

Looking back upstream I couldn't see Rich and Kim. Time seemed to drag on until finally I saw Kim's head bobbing among the waves. She had lost her paddle but had her boat and was swimming toward the eddy, which she caught below me. Rich came bobbing down through shortly after, with his paddle but no boat. He made it to a huge whirlpool eddy, where he was picked up by one of the rafts. Rich's boat came by shortly in a vertical position, half out of the water. It was the last any of us saw of it. Kim worked her way down to the eddy and got Rich's paddle and Rich took a ride in the raft.

The river turned right here and then left into "The Alleyway", another series of waves and turbulence created by the narrowing of the walls. We took a short break below and John told us that "Magic" lies below - a 12-foot drop into a boiling hole. We all pulled out above "Magic" and worked our way along the cliffs to look at it from the safety of the shore. It was impressive!

John takes the rafts into Magic and we watched as the first raft went over the drop, folded in the middle, then bounced out downstream. If you think we ran that, you are even crazier than we are. There is another hole on the right side of Magic and between the two, a tongue of water that can be ridden down between the two. John told us that was the kayak chute and to take a good look at it, because you had to hit the top just right to miss the holes. You would have thought we were studying for our doctorates the way we looked at the chute from every angle. We finally put in and paddled to it. It turned out to be easy to see from the river level, so we had no trouble getting to it. Riding the chute down you can't resist a peek into Magic's hole. It's a nice place to look at, but I wouldn't want to be there!

The rest of the river was a series of good strong choppy waves and rollers and certainly was fun. We came around a bend and the raft ahead of us pointed toward shore. There was Kim's paddle in an eddy. After several unsuccessful attempts to tie the spare paddle to our boat, we finally just threw it into the current and paddled along with it to the bottom. The take-out is at a beach right in West Forks, so it's very convenient. It had been a great experience - if we could have found another boat, we would have stayed another day to run it again. But, then again, there's always the summer of 1980.

The Dead River is Anything But
by Richard Allen

As I look back on that weekend, it is a wonder that I have any good memories. The drive from Essex, Vermont to West Forks, Maine is long. The no-see-urns and mosquitoes were forming a welcoming party behind Webb's Store just as we pulled in at 8:00 p.m., tired and hungry. It was the old set-up-camp-and-eat-hot-dogs-and-beans-in-the-dark routine.

The campground was a very busy and noisy place that night. People arriving at 2:00 a.m. with headlights beaming and tent poles clanging does not allow for sound sleep.

Since the campground would be our take-out point, we would have to be ferried to the put-in in a flat bed truck hauling a trailer. Total load: 18 people and 13 boats. The weather was beautiful, but the ride took the whole morning. It was a very slow parade over many miles of rough logging roads. We arrived at Spencer Stream, the put-in, about noon.

We quickly loaded the canoes and headed up the Dead to view Grand Falls and have a lunch. That little side trip is well worth the effort. The Falls are Grand!

Now we were headed down the Dead River. The first serious rapids are named Spencer Rips. It is a Class II-IIl, but it can be negotiated without a great deal of trouble. It ends in a beautiful pool with a large sand beach. The kind of place you could spend a lazy afternoon.

The remaining rapids are too numerous to have names. It is mostly Class I and II stuff, demanding technical boating skills due to the large number of rocks exposed. The country is wild and beautiful. The river had plenty of traffic that day (a large contingent from the Boston area AMC), but we never felt crowded in. There are plenty of swimming holes and ideal lunch spots. We made several stops to enjoy all of this.

By the time we hit Poplar Hill Falls, we were very complacent. This is warned as the most demanding section of the river, but I wish that they hadn't put it so close to the end. We got broadside on a rock and went over. The canoe did not go too far downstream before it caught on a rock perpendicular to the flow, filled with water, and stuck fast. The rock was exactly dead center. By some strange quirk, I managed to stay with the boat. So there I was, standing in an eddy in the middle of the Dead River, having visions of my canoe becoming a permanent fixture on the river.

After about a ten minute wait, a large party came around the bend and pulled in above to help with the rescue. They got a rope out to me after a few tense moments. One of my main jobs was to direct some of the traffic around me and my boat. One kayaker came too close and soon flipped just downstream from me. It was a busy place. By this time I had two other people on the rock debating with me on how to attach the rope and rescue the canoe.

The float bag in the canoe seemed to be helping keep some of the water out. But I could see the hull bending and creasing. On a broached canoe the rescue should be made with two lines: one attached to the end of the canoe that will most likely become the upstream end after the boat is freed; and a second line that should pass over the top gunwale, along the bottom of the canoe and be secured to a thwart that will most likely be under water. Easier said than done.

I had this hazy picture in my mind of how to do this. Alas, it was very hazy. We attached the second line in the reverse direction; we came under the canoe with the line and tied it to the out-of-water thwart. As soon as the shore crew pulled the middle thwart and both gunwales gave in with a resounding crack! The canoe came free.

It could still be paddled so we loaded up, after thanking the people who stopped to help, and headed down the last mile of the river.

Our weekend plans were altered, but not ruined. The canoe was in rough shape and we were a bit shaken up by the whole incident, so we decided to spend the next day hiking, swimming and relaxing.

If you go: the drive from Vermont (six hours, plus) demands that you get at least two good days of canoeing for your gas money. Call one of the outfitters in West Forks ahead of time to reserve the space on a morning shuttle. Take experienced whitewater canoeists only. Have everyone well versed in people and canoe rescue. Don't miss the hike to nearby Moxie Falls.

The Dead River is alive and well and waiting for you.

Club Safety Rules and Suggestions

Mandatory equipment for participating canoeists includes:

  1. Life jackets for each member of the party
  2. Spare paddles
  3. Adequate flotation
  4. Painters on the bow and stern of the canoe

LIFE PRESERVER: Anyone who has known the relief of popping effortlessly to the surface after having been flipped into a rapid (and this means every paddler of much experience) has quickly come to appreciate his life preserver. Elementary safety demands its use when paddling in whitewater, for, with few exceptions, the lack of a life preserver has marked every fatality in white water. A vest preserver, either inflatable or with a buoyant filling, is recommended. It must have plenty of flotation and should fit so that it will interfere with neither paddling nor swimming. It should be cut high under the arms or have a crotch strap to keep it in place. No outer clothing should be worn over it. Belt preservers of any kind are inadequate, since their buoyancy acts at the wearer's middle instead of his chest. This can make handling oneself in the water more difficult; even more, a belt preserver will not support a stunned or unconscious swimmer, but being familiar with swimming prevents panic and its ensuing perils.

PADDLE: A few years ago a double canoe was halfway down a twisting drop. The stern broke his paddle, and in the excitement, the bow lost his. The spare was tied in so well that the two paddlers could only ride helplessly to an inescapable conclusion. Keep your spares handy and available. A rubber band secures a paddle well enough, to one of the thwarts.

PAINTER: A 10-??? foot, yellow, 3/8 inch polypropylene rope tied to the bow and stern is an invaluable aid in the safe rescue of boats in heavy rapids. It must be securely fastened to the canoe. It is also advisable to have more warm clothing awaiting in the supporting cars.

SELF-RESCUE: On swamping or capsizing, hold onto the paddle and go immediately to the upstream end of the boat. There is nearly a ton of water contained in a standard canoe, and you dare not risk being caught between this moving mass and a downstream rock. If there are dangerous rapids immediately below, or if the water is very cold and you are not protected against it, you may have to abandon your boat for your own safety. If so, do it immediately. Even the strongest swimmer can do little in a severe rapid, and needs his life preserver. Use an elementary backstroke with feet downstream to ward off obstructions, and in warm weather wear enough clothing so that if upset, you will not get abrasions from sliding on rough rocks. If your own safety does not compel you to abandon your boat, stay with it, always at its upstream end, and work it gradually toward shore. Try to keep it aligned with the current; this will help prevent it from being wrapped around a rock. It is often feasible to swim with the free end of the painter toward shore or some shallow place. Having once gained a secure foothold you can then snub the downstream movement of the boat and work it toward shore or the safety of an eddy.

SWAMPING: During the course of a wet drop, an open canoe can pick up a considerable amount of water over the gunwale. Even a small amount of water acts as a shifting ballast, which impairs stability, buoyancy and maneuverability. To accept the first stage of disablement is to invite the next and final one. Land and empty at the first chance lest you be unable to later.

GROUP SAFETY: Never boat alone. This is a basic rule, for the sake of the specific, systematic support which paddlers can give one another when they act as a mutually dependent team. Three boats are the minimum for a run of any difficulty. First aid, throwing ropes, hand winch and any other rescue equipment should be carried, and preferably in more than one boat. In a group of any size two experienced paddlers should be assigned to run first and last as "lead" and "sweep". It is surprisingly easy for a loosely organized group to lose track of a boat for a few minutes, and those minutes could be critical in a rescue. A boat in trouble can count on help of the others only if all keep to these three rules:

  1. The lead boat is never passed.
  2. The sweep never passes any boat.
  3. Each boat keeps the one behind it in sight, waiting if necessary.


  1. See that safety rules are enforced before starting.
  2. Appoint who shall be first boat and who shall sweep.
  3. Scout each section before running.
  4. Determine when life jackets must be donned.
  5. Be responsible for overall safety and conduct of trip.
  6. Leader has right to ask paddler to pull out if leader feels that he is not qualified to run.
  7. Contact landowners regarding trespass.
  8. Leader has right to determine starting point of trip, lunch stop and pickup spot at end of trip.

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