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intermediate paddlers 1 day
Ottawa River, Middle Channel
Saturday, September 4, 2004
length: 8.0km, 1 day
difficulty: intermediate

organizer: Peter
participants: Caroline Owen, Peter Farr, Sean Farr, Stephen Farr, Jay Kovaks, Mad Mike

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Sean and Stephen's first ever run down the Ottawa, and only my second. Stephen was paddling his crazy little Aftershock and Sean was in his new Dagger G-Ride kayak. We drove over from Palmer in the morning to meet Cline, Mad Mike and a new friend, Jay Kovaks, a kayaker we had met last time we were at Palmer, at the OWL put-in. As we drove East from Palmer Rapids it got darker and more rainy, but by the time we reached Cobden it was sunny again. All the way over the boys were silent, clearly apprehensive of the river's reputation. I knew how they felt, but I also knew they would be having a great day once they got going.

The parking lot was crowded, and there seemed to be more open boats than kayaks. Once everyone arrived we took care of the shuttle, leaving a car at RiverRun. While we were shuttling the boys had carried their boats down to the lower put-in, so the three of us started from there while everyone else elected to head to the upper put-in. We reached the bottom of McKoy's just in time to see Mike doing the last drop - apparently we had missed a perfect run. The rest ran the Zoom Flume. We took the boys up and Mike showed them the classic runs, then we watched the rodeo happening at Horseshoe for a bit before setting off. The gauge was at about -0.5 when we passed it. Just past the campground on the Quebec side we saw a deer grazing by the water. At lunch the boys were so nervous they couldn't eat. I should mention that Sean has done almost no paddling this year and just switched from open canoe to kayak two weeks before.

We quickly came to Iron Ring where we scouted. Cline set up with a throw bag just above the big eddy on river right, mainly as a reassurance. I set up with a camera just above her to catch them as they came through the chute. At this level the chute was no big deal and there were no standing waves worth mentioning, but the current below and in the eddies left and right was fairly boily. After a long pause while Cline and I wondered if someone was having second thoughts, Jay finally appeared leading Sean down. Despite the look on his face, Sean did an okay job of the chute, but ended up in the eddy river left. He made an adequate although shaky ferry across to the big eddy on the right, then Stephen and Mike. No problems there. Cline and I headed back to our boats and joined them in the eddy below.

Sean ran the right side top of S-Bend, then decided he wasn't up to the rest of the rapid. This was probably a wise decision considering how nervous he was and how low and rocky S-Bend was. He pulled his kayak over the rocks into the pool below S-Bend, then paddled over to join us in the hole at the bottom. At this point he was in serious need of some confidence boosting, and right on queue came Butterfy.

We scouted this simple drop, which was in fine form at this level. A little pep talk had them both ready for it. Mike lead the way, running right over the rooster tail and the big standing waves. Sean, for some strange reason, decided he would rather run it in my canoe instead of his kayak. He came through dry and upright, although he did an amazing righting air-brace (well maybe it was the body-English) to stay upright. Cline tried for the right eddy and made it. Stephen followed Jay over the drop and promptly disappeared in the first wave. He said later that he was sure he had come out of his boat and was totally surprised to find he was still in it when he reemerged on the other side. While most of us rode over the wave, his boat pretty much went through it. Mike and Stephen had taken the same line, although Mike chose to stay on the surface of the wave, while Stephen examined it from the inside. Not to be denied my turn I took my boat back and ran it myself, also catching the right eddy, although much lower than I had planned.

Garvin's we walked - big surprise. Mike took us down Elevator Shaft, which was pretty much dry at this level and made for a short carry. As he said, it also lets you get a very intimate look at Dragon's Tongue. We ferried out into the current below to miss the rocky point on the right. In spite of the warnings, Sean made a very sloppy ferry and had to work to stay off the rock.

Next came Upper No Name. Mike showed Sean the optional (almost dry) route to the left, but his confidence was back and he competently followed Jay down the left side. Stephen ran the first drop, then pulled into the first eddy to empty out. The rest of the rapid was a simple run for all.

Lower No Name (my Nemesis) was full of white. The boys chose the far left run, which they handled without a problem. Stephen even found himself a little ledge to run. We watched a kayak make a beautiful left-centre run, which Jay emulated perfectly. Cline and Mike decided to go for the right side, and I wanted to follow them, but once again I found myself in the centre waves, and I took my traditional line down the second half - swimming through the waves and ledges just left of Vampire. On the plus side, I got as close as I have ever come to rolling back up. It is amazing what a little incentive does. No matter how I start this rapid (left last time, right this time), it always seems like the same damn wave is in front of me eventually. Because I was trying to get back to the left after missing the right eddy I didn't have the right angle or enough momentum to survive. Next time I think I am just going to blast right down the left centre, because I always end up there anyway, and I would rather be there with some velocity! After taking my lumps over the ledges I was reunited with my canoe at the bottom.

The rest of the river is a nice cool-down. Sean finally looked completely comfortable running Black Velvet, and Mike and Cline looked cute dropping over the edge linked together.

Sean, Stephen and I really want to thank Cline, Mike and Jay for escorting us down. We has a great time, and next time, Mike, the boys do want to have a shot at the Main.

posted by: Peter Farr

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