Mid-afternoon, we made a short rest break on a bar along the south bank of the river. If you felt my hard line about knowing the rules of the road, regardless of the size vessel you pilot, was unreasonable, perhaps this will put the burr under my saddle blanket in a clearer light. The current on the river in most areas was only about 3 mph, but that’s sufficient that it still has to be taken into consideration in any maneuver. As we went downstream, there was a wing dam that crossed part of the river before we reached the sandbar on the right where we were stopping. There were two ways of negotiating the wing dam. One was to stay close enough to mid-river to clear it, and then cut in toward shore in the eddy. However, there was about a 60 foot break between the shore and the dam that I had seen a dozen or so boat negotiate, so since that was the shortest distance to our destination, I chose to follow. I started cutting toward the break, and was lined up perfectly to allow for the current and clear the dam with plenty of room when I saw a blue kayak coming down on me from astern. The rules clearly state, “any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.” The vessel in front retains right of way until the overtaking vessel is free and clear, and the overtaking vessel is not permitted to hinder the operation of the vessel it is passing in any way. The overtaking vessel is required to take “early and substantial action to keep well clear” of the boat it is trying to pass. This is clearly an example of either not knowing proper vessel operation or choosing to ignore the rules regardless of creating a substantial hazard to others on the water. (The rules of the road, known as COLREGS, can be read at:
or printed out at: http://www.collisionregs.com/Collregs.html
The boat was coming up on my right quarter (over my right shoulder). There was enough room for several boats to negotiate the break simultaneously, but there were only the two of us making for the opening. Instead of following me or heading for the middle to right side of the break, he headed directly for the rocks on the left of the opening, cutting me off and allowing me no room to maneuver. I tried to edge to the right, but he refused me room, and the current and rapidly approaching dam would not allow me time to back out and cross his stern. When I ran out of room, I had no choice but to square up with the dam and take it head-on so as to avoid being swept sideways and rolled in the rushing water. He went cleanly through the opening he had denied me, while I struck the rocks three times while going across, tearing off a piece of the Keel-Eazy I had installed shortly before the trip.
The river was measured at 2.3 feet during our stay. A year ago, all this
area and the riverfront's parking lot was under water.
Washington was also where the first Missouri 340 paddlers caught up to us. The Missouri 340 is a 24-hr/day endurance race from Kansas City to St. Charles, or 340 miles. They stop at check-in points for just a few minutes, and Washington was their last stop before St. Charles. Volunteers man each of the check points around the clock to account for the racers, and paddlers have support teams that meet them there as well to replenish drinks and food and tend to any equipment or medical needs. I missed the first boat that came in, but a couple that joined me later for dinner told me about their landing. They had to help the men out of the canoe. When they let them stand on their own, their legs buckled and they collapsed and just sat in the water. They couldn’t open their hands, which had curled to the shape of the paddles. They were allowed only so many minutes before they were told they had to get back in their boat and press on.
The modern carbon fiber outrigger racing canoe.
Credit: google.com images