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Most hull abusive trips?

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Blackfly’s Blue Steel scratches got me thinking – and I am sure there are stories – what single trip did the most damage to a canoe you owned?

I expect this will pale in comparison to sundry wrecked and irretrievable pins, but the very first trip in the Mohawk Odyssey was as willfully abusive as anything I’ve ever done.

Our Mohawk Odyssey was an unblemished used RX canoe; the original owner was so proud of the hull’s condition. The very first trip, on section of river with no gauge or useful correlation, after a long complex multi-vehicle shuttle, we arrived at the put in and, in near unison, said “That looks really low”.

The “trip organizer” (not me) replied “I think it gets deeper”. We kinda debated it, but we were there, at the put in, in great weather, with the shuttle set. Whadda ya gonna do, drive home like a wimp?

That would have been a wise choice. It did not get deeper, the tributaries were trickles, and in places that should have had fun waves and rapids there was often barely a hull width to sneak between boulders. Eh, sometimes less than a hull width. There was some inadvertent pinballing, and the rocks and boulders weren’t the worst of it.

The river narrowed at a bridge crossing. A bridge supported by a concrete pylon, set mid-river. A pylon with a massive, rectangular and noticeably crumble decayed foundation, now fully exposed by the low water, smack dab where the only available current piled against it.

The only run-able spot was tight against the pylon. By “tight” I mean I couldn’t I couldn’t get much of a paddle blade in the water to even set up an approach, or effect a draw, and could only cringe as one side of the canoe skreeeeked against the crusty concrete foundation. It was a memorably long concrete foundation; I remember because I hugged most of it trying to keep my head inside the gunwales.

The Odyssey is still going strong, and has the usual 10,000 bottom scratches, but the ones high up on the left chines, I remember where they are from. And I smile.

Hell, the larger dents in our old aluminum canoes each held a memorable story. The history of the giant dent in the bow of our Wards Sea King will forever live in memory.

Let’s hear some tales of canoe abuse, especially if you were – mistakes were made - at fault.
 
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Broke a wooden gunnel a banana shaped Apple boat (forget the model) on the Loop on the Yough at Ohiopyle, PA during my brief WW days. Happened after an involuntary departure from the canoe which continued on it’s journey sans me! Splinted it inside and out with aluminum bar from hardware store and paddled it a couple more years.
 
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I have briefly pinned a canoe once and a kayak once but neither sustained any serious damage and I have never destroyed one on the river. I have hit rocks and sustained some cracks paddling whitewater rivers in a few boats but they were relatively easily repaired.

I did scrape the heck out of the bottom of my Kevlar composite Hemlock Shaman on a multi-day down river trip on the upper Buffalo River when it was really just too low. Primarily just gel coat damage but it looked like heck with some exposed fibers.
 
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On a 30 day trip starting in Quebec and then traversing the heart of Maine we started running out of water. Snubbing down the Seboeis River my in my Disco 158 and Hal in MR Explorer left curly cues off the bottom of our hulls. When hit the Penobscot we got to Grindstone Rapids and the rock there was like something out a space movie and the water was very low. I remember at the top of the rapid Hal got stuck and I could hear and feel the bottom of my boat just scraping like crazy. At the end of that trip the bottom of my Disco had deep scraps/gouges and more scratches then one could count. It got a lot worse in the years to come as it was the only hull I owned for many years!
 
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Doug you missed the rapids called the Hulling Machine on the E branch of the Penobscot. Another called Haskell Rock Rapids. Grindstone is aptly named. Some of these are shale ledges.

Arrowheads are flinted from shale.. Just saying... The Penobscot by the Old Town Factory has a lot of these ledges.
 
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Here's the way-upper East Branch Penobscot from a day paddle when I was scouting for a Millinocket Carry portage. IANA geologist but this is the same kind of shaley ledgy stuff they have around Old Town, which is ~150 miles downstream. I liked how these cedars got a handle on it.

IMG_20210807_130145932.jpg

There was a flow of water, so by rule it wasn't a portage! When you're travelling along this kind of stream and you don't see any plastic canoe scuffs you know you've found a bit of solitude.
 
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When you're travelling along this kind of stream and you don't see any plastic canoe scuffs you know you've found a bit of solitude.
Very funny and very true. That's actually how I knew I was on the right track in the BWCA... lots of colors on the rocks indicated the portage was usually nearby.
 
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Kopka Rv the last 3 weeks of July 2017 during which there was very little rain. We were fortunate to be using my buddy’s Royalex Wenonah Aurora.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I'll recount two hull abusive whitewater day trips.

1. Our club was doing a first descent (for us) on a river in New Hampshire, the Blackwater perhaps, about which we knew nothing. We went through a broken stone bridge, around a blind corner and . . . WHAM! . . . we got hit by five consecutive class 4 rapids.

I swam in the first drop, sort of a five foot vertical fall with a hole at the bottom. Four other class 4 rated boaters ended up swimming in the series of rapids, which I named the Devil's Staircase.

My red Whitesell Piranha bounced down the entire staircase and ended up pinned on a bridge abutment. I had to slowly trudge through thigh-deep snow on the steep riverbank to reach the canoe, which by that time had been freed-up and towed to shore by the surviving boaters. The aluminum gunwales had been radically bent and the Royalex hull folded at the bend. I picked up a small boulder and smashed the gunwale back into some semblance of straightness, and then finished the run.

That canoe was re-gunwaled and painted white by Schuyler Thomson.

2. Another time I was leading another first descent (for us) of the completely undocumented and inaccessible Neversink Gorge, a tributary of the mid-Hudson River in New York. The only information I had of the gorge was from a dying old canoeist by telephone. He said there was about two miles of brutal water between two waterfalls in the depths of the gorge. "How do we know if there is enough water in the gorge," I asked. His famous response was, "If the river has enough water at the take-out, there's enough water in the gorge."

That, we found out, wasn't so.

The gorge was very steep and very low on water. I had decided to take my composite Millbrook ME instead of one of my Royalex canoes. I hit every rock in that gorge. The steep gradient was such that there was no way to stop and hardly any places with enough water to eddy out. Every slot between boulders had a slightly-below-surface, hull-crunching rock right in the middle of the drop.

We all survived without incident, other than I had put more scratches on my slalom canoe in one afternoon than its entire life up to that point. And we all laughed for years about the old guy's rule for judging the water level in the gorge.

Here is the correct rule for judging the water level in the Neversink Gorge, known only by me from many years of experience: The water level in the Neversink Gorge can be judged by the level of the Vernooy Kill where that stream crosses U.S. 209 in Wawarsing, NY.
 
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basically every trip I've done in Canada's north in summer has been abusive due to the gneiss, granite, and quartzite make up of these rivers, more than once the rock was so sharp that it'll slice skin before you know it, imagine dragging over a ledge that can cheese- grater your hull before you even know it's happening...
most people up here carry a tube of epoxy putty in their "oh sh*t" kits...
 
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Well, certainly that last day trip down the lower Totogatic was the roughest I’ve done in memory. Pinballing thorough rock gardens and ferrying through sweepers is always fun. Took a nice chunk of epoxy off my BS stern hull. No more canoe runs until river levels return. That’s why god invented kayaks.
 

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A few years ago my daughter lived in Plattsburgh, across Cumberland Bay on Lake Champlain. I lived a few miles west of Boonville. My goal was to traverse on a diagonal route across the Adirondacks , door to door on foot and water. The NFCT did not yet fomally exist, but conact with the original developers helped me choose a route, especially on the unfamiliar (to me) rough portions of the lower Saranac River. I needed a very lightweight boat for the trip. So I bought a hybrid 10;5' carbon/kevlar from Pete Hornbeck, the very first one of those he had made. It was a hot dry July week that I set off on my trek, with everytjhing I needed for a planned up to 10 day trip on my back, Hornbeck, camping gear, food and all. Everything went well in familar 90 mile race water and overland portages until I reached the village of Saranac Lake. Below there the river becomes very rocky in sections, and even with advice of multiple take outs and carry locations, I tried to stay in the water as much as I dared.

My brand new black Hornbeck was not so new anymore. Several times i got wedged between perfectly spaced boulders as I bounced along the rocky bottom. I could hear the crunch of the cheeks of my boat. 7days and185 miles overall, including a measured 62 miles of carries, a very successful trip to see my daughter waiting for me on the shore across the strong wind driven transverse rolling wave bay. I don't have a photo of the bottom of my boat at the end of the trip, but the bottom of my boat looks much like Alan's last photo above, more white than black. I later took my canoe to go see Peter. He patched and fixed as much as he could to strengthen the crunch weakened areas, but the hull remains highly scratched. And the canoe remains as useful as ever.
 
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Holy crap Alan, were there any rocks that you MISSED with the second boat?!
I tried to get them all but there were too many.

https://flic.kr/p/LDucPA
A lot of the scratches came from going up/down rapids but plenty came from dragging the canoe. And I wasn't above sacrificing the canoe at times by grounding it on rocks before getting in/out to keep my feet dry. It was a very cold trip at times and there were days, knowing I wouldn't have a portage for the whole day, or maybe half a day, when I just couldn't bring myself to wet foot it into the boat first thing in the morning. Same for pulling into camp with dryish feet at night. Plus, the boat is black and shows scratches like crazy.

It's a trip I'd love to do again but my interests have moved on from canoe tripping and I don't know if I'll ever have the enthusiasm (or time off) to tackle it again. The goal was to make it to (and back from) Nueltin Lake in Nunavut from Wollaston Lake in Saskatchewan. The Thlewiaza river downstream from Kasmere Lake proved a little too tough for me and the canoe I'd brought so I gave up on Nueltin halfway through the trip and instead re-routed my trip north to Putahow Lake and down the Putahow river until I reached Nunavut before turning around. The trip lasted 43 days and was by far the most remote thing I've ever done. A lot of special memories. I'd love to complete the route to Nueltin someday. I even designed and built a new canoe for it. This one isn't black so maybe it won't look so bad when (if) I do the trip.

Alan
 
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The Thlewiaza river downstream from Kasmere Lake proved a little too tough for me and the canoe I'd brought so I gave up on Nueltin
Good call, unless you like some brushy portages. Our biggest whitewater on the trip (III+) was just below Hyde Lake, the lake after Kasmere. The Thlewiaza is pretty challenging, and felt like a general nuisance at times (shallow water, lots and lots of rocks).
 
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Our trip from Wollaston Lake to Hudson Bay was pretty rough on our PakBoats. Between rocky rivers, and almost throwing the boat down on some tough portages, we did a fair bit of patching--nothing serious though. Oh yeah, dragging loaded (fabric) boats through wet boulderfields (Thetinne River) didn't help. 27-1208r.JPG
 
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Good call, unless you like some brushy portages. Our biggest whitewater on the trip (III+) was just below Hyde Lake, the lake after Kasmere. The Thlewiaza is pretty challenging, and felt like a general nuisance at times (shallow water, lots and lots of rocks).

I'd have to look at my maps but I was thinking Graves Lake was the first lake after Kasmere? But whatever the lake name it was that series of rapids that turned me around. I think I descended 3 sets, running the first (barely) and portaging/lining the next two, when I came to the realization that if the rest of the rapids were going to be this difficult and the portages that hard to find and traverse (if they even really existed) that I was going to run out of time. I slept on the decision and woke up in the morning to ascend what I'd run the day before. It was a really hard call to make at the time and I second guessed it heavily for the next week of the trip until the weather turned cold, windy and rainy for the last two weeks. That stretch of bad weather eased my mind since I would have been in tough shape if I'd extended myself to Nueltin and been caught by that weather with no extra days to spare.

Alan
 
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I'd have to look at my maps but I was thinking Graves Lake was the first lake after Kasmere? But whatever the lake name it was that series of rapids that turned me around. I think I descended 3 sets, running the first (barely) and portaging/lining the next two, when I came to the realization that if the rest of the rapids were going to be this difficult and the portages that hard to find and traverse (if they even really existed) that I was going to run out of time.

Alan
Yep, Graves Lake. Hyde Lake is another story! The drop below the lake was the biggest water I'd paddled since Hell's Canyon thirty years prior. And I got to paddle it twice, as two of the others on the trip weren't up to it. It was a nice way to celebrate my 60th birthday! There were still some significant runs after that (e.g. Boulder Garden per Hap Wilson's book). Due to some errors, we almost lost it on one--sorta sobering.
 
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Tried the upper stretches of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland (in Tennessee) in loaded trippers. Beautiful river. Mean rocks. In fact, one's called the Cheese Grater. None of us, or our boats, emerged unscathed from that trip. We didn't like that one.
 
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