Thursday, June 2, 2016

Upper Willamette hazardous boating!

The same root wads eats another boat!

My last post was about a friends unfortunate boating accident on the upper Willamette and our efforts at recovering his boat safely.  Yesterday, I found out about another boat that had gone down in exactly the same really nasty spot and the owner asked for our help in recovering his boat.  

My son, Colby, and I met the unfortunate fellow who had endured a horrible accident (nobody was injured thank goodness) at the downstream take out and we ran upriver to find his boat pinned in nearly the exact spot as my buddy's boat from a little over a week ago.  Because this boat was hung up more downstream of the root wad than my friends boat,  I needed to find another spot to begin the extrication process.  

I used the same technique of securing the boat to the root wad with a short piece of rope and then using my pulley's and come-a-longs to begin carefully pulling the boat free.  I noticed a length of 5/16th inch stainless steel cable run through the port side of the boat and tied to a root on the stump.  I asked the boats owner if he had secured the boat to the stump with the cable.  He said that he hadn't and had no idea who put the cable on his boat?  I later discovered that this 100' length of cable ran from the boat to the tree on the right side of the channel in the below photo.  Had I chosen to run my power boat down that channel, I would have sunk my boat on the submerged cable and possibly had a tragic ending to this story.  Luckily, I chose to run the narrow channel to the right of the mid-stream tree.  It appeared to us, that someone else with a power boat had come to the scene over the past several days and attempted to recover (unsuccessfully) this fellows boat.  Who knows what their intent was, but the fact that the LEFT THAT CABLE SUBMERGED ACROSS THE CHANNEL IN A VERY DANGEROUS SPOT, PUT OTHER LIVES AT RISK!  If you're going to go out and try and recover sunken boats in heavy, dangerous currents with lots of hazards, don't make matters worse by leaving behind submerged cables!!! 

After we got the boat pulled off the root wad, it simply swung around under the force of the current and came to rest on the bottom, downstream of the obstruction.

Its an odd feeling standing on the bottom of a drift boat full of water!

Once we got the boat off the root wad, I used my power boat to pull the sunken drift boat onto a shallow gravel bar.  That was actually the most difficult and dangerous part of this recovery.  Once it was in water shallower than its sides, we simply used buckets and a hand-bilge to get the water out and get it floating again.  There was no real damage to this boat.  It had a few minor scratches and dents and lost some of its seats, flooring and oars.  I have a set of oars on my powerboat so we put them in this boats oar-locks and we were ready to head down to the take out.

Back on the water!

Back on the trailer!

There have been five boats sunk in the past couple weeks on the upper Willamette.  So far, no one has been injured (Thankfully).  There is another boat (similar to my old red, white and black Clackacraft) sunken above the Jasper Bridge.  I've not heard from anyone on this accident, but just be aware there are some VERY REAL hazards to safe boating on the upper Willamette about a mile below the Pengra boat launch.  These  tress and root wads are located near the bottom end of the island near the old steam shovel that has fallen in the river.  The one root wad has been there for years.  A new tree and root wad is in the main channel creating a very hazardous situation.  PLEASE USE CAUTION!  Wear your life jackets and scout this section out carefully before trying to run your boat through there.

Easy mends,  Dean 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Inches and Seconds

For years I've said "life changes in inches and seconds" and my good friend, Todd Hirano learned that the hard way this past week on a float trip in his driftboat on the upper Willamette. Every year, winter rains and changing flow regimes from the dams on the upper river make changes to the river.  New channels, braids around islands and large cottonwoods fall into the river creating big hazards to boaters.  Luckily, Todd and his fishing partner weren't injured and thanks to another driftboater that came along, Todd and his friend were safely plucked from the massive mid-channel log and root wad that held his aluminum driftboat hostage, pinned on its side - with the raging waters keeping it locked there all weekend.  When I got the call from Todd about the accident, he sounded a little shook-up (who wouldn't be!) but thankful that no one was hurt. I agreed to bring my power boat, some rope, come-a-longs, pulley's, power saws and anything else I could think of that might be helpful getting his boat recovered.   Todd also recruited fellow Willamette river guide, Ty Holloway to join us.
Ty (on the left) and Todd assessing our strategy for getting the boat back from the waters of the upper Willamette.  The boat is laying on its side, pinned by the heavy current against the root-wad and log in the upper portion of this photo.  The log in this photo has been moved and swung downstream from the rootwad so this channel is opened up a bit.  Still a VERY dangerous place below the Pengra boat launch.  
This is the boat, looking down on it while standing on the root wad.
Ty attaches the first rope to the bottom bow ring.
We discovered that one line and come-a-long was no match for the current, so we set a second line to the lower bow ring and used one of my large pulley's to increase the pull of the second come-a-long.
In the above photo, you can see water cascading over the log that ran underwater back to the lower end of the island.  This log became very problematic for us as we continued to try and drag the boat away from the massive obstruction. 

We would crank on one come-a-long until we ran out of cable.  Then we would release the first come-a-long and pull out all the cable, re-attached the rope and pull in all that cable and repeat the process, each time gaining a few inches on the boat. 
At one point, we noticed we weren't able to move the boat another inch.  We hoped back in my powerboat and ran out to the root wad to figure out what was going on.  We discovered a large limb at the base of the log running underwater was preventing the boat from any movement.  We were stuck. We weighed our options and kicked around some ideas.  We could use a portion of rope to keep the boat tied securely to the root wad until the Corps of Engineers lowered the flows on the river, likely to happen in the coming weeks and give it another try in less powerful current.  We could perhaps cut the log on the end of the island and use the combined force of the current and our powerboats to pull the log and root wad out of the way...  Since it involved using chainsaws and powerboats... and not having to wait, that was the obvious "new" strategy.  Like all guys, if we can blow it up, cut logs with a power saw or drag something with a motorized vehicle of some sort, that's always our preference.  This plan included several of these fundamental impulses.  We're dudes..Duh!

Once this log was cut (just below where Todd is working) and moved (pivoted) downstream and out of the channel and driftboats way, the war was over! A few more minutes of cranking by Todd and...

The boat really started to move towards us.

Once the boat was free of the root wad and log, we were actually able to pull it around on the current by hand.  It was amazingly easy to move even full of water until we brought it up on the end of the island.  It was still sunk and full of water that we  had to get out of it. 
Anyone got a bucket?
So what we did is attach a line to the bow of Todd's boat, ran the line through my pulley that was attached to a big log up the bank.  We attached the other end of the rope to Ty's boat.

We drug the boat up the bank until the sides were out of the water and used buckets to remove the rest of the water.
A very happy dry-line steelheader is back on the water!
The boat survived fine.  It received some scratches in the paint and one broken oar.  The only gear lost was a bench seat and a few life jackets.
Be careful out there!