Kettle Falls, Churchill River - Reindeer River
Distance 33 km [184 km]
Fast Water 0
Up early to an overcast but rain free morning. We were packed and through Kettle Falls portage by 8.30am and that included time for photos of the impressive falls and for John to have a quick dip, the water is still very cold and I am not that brave or mad.
By 9am we had had what sister Ann would call our new learning for the day as for the first time we capsized the canoe on a ledge just below Kettle Falls. The ledge was in a section of fast water and appeared to stretch the width of the river, John got out and checked it out and as it appeared benign we decided to run it. However as soon as the front of the canoe passed over the lip of the ledge it was no longer supported by water and it flipped. I was wearing a PFD and had the cockpit fastened around me, John was not wearing a vest and was sitting in an open cockpit. It was a weird and frightening experience hanging underwater attached to the canoe, for a second I couldn’t think how to get out and the thought I could drown went through my head but then everything kicked in, I ripped the Velcro and surfaced with a mouth full of water. John was up and had rescued my paddle which I had lost.
We swam the canoe into a nearby quiet cove and spent the next two hours bailing the canoe and draining the bags. It was a salutary lesson, we were not hurt and although everything was full of water we only lost one bailing sponge and one map clip and had gained a greater understanding of how the canoe operated in rapids and negotiating ledges. We became more aware of the need to make sure everything was sealed in waterproof bags having to bury four of our eight toilet rolls as they were completely soaked.
Having spent two hours bailing and draining we packed up our now very wet gear and set off for Atik Falls on the Reindeer River where we discovered a much better portage than the one we had used in 2010. By now it was after 1pm and we still had 40 plus kilometres against the current if we were to make it to our planned camp site at Steephill Lake. We remained optimistic and decided that whether or not we made it today or tomorrow providing it was sunny we would take the day off and dry out our clothes and gear. We were lucky in having a tailwind as we paddled up the Reindeer River however by 7pm we were both very tired so made camp in an okay place. We had no sooner erected the tent and hung out the wet clothing etc when it started to rain heavily. We grabbed the wet clothing and repaired into the tent, the rain set in and we both ended up going to sleep without a meal because the rain was too heavy to open the drums – the only dry things we have.
I guess it was inevitable that we would flip the canoe at some time and having the spray cover meant we lost nothing. We undoubtedly learnt much from the incident not least of which is that we can manage regardless of the difficulty. However, it would have made life easier to have a fine night to dry some stuff off.