Well, Friday afternoon there was another rescue in the Gorge.
This time it was a couple in a canoe who flipped under Tillicum Bridge. The Times-Colonist newspaper wrote about the incident. The paddlers were caught in an eddy in the current. Apparently several 911 calls came in from people who saw a man and a woman clinging to their overturned canoe. Luckily for the soaked paddlers, the police marine unit was working nearby and rescued them in a few minutes. The reason the police marine unit were nearby was an unlucky one; they had two boats and some divers searching for a missing man.
A boat flip doesn't have to be an emergency from which one needs to be rescued. It's a good thing for small boat users to try to be able to get themselves out of a tricky moment, especially when paddling in sheltered water, with a dock and shoreline for landing. Our paddle group has had a boat flip in the same place the rescued couple did, right under Tillicum Bridge. You can read Bernie's account here, John's post about it here, on January 27 2008, or my post about it here. John's post has photos. Mine has more arch comments (so there), and Bernie's has cool drawings to reconstruct the accident.
Bernie's flip was not an emergency. Unlike the couple just rescued, he was wearing a PFD, farmer john wetsuit, and a paddle jacket. He has done enough wet exits -- even in cold water -- that he didn't panic when his kayak turned upside-down. And he was with friends who escorted his swim to the dock. It was a good chance to practise our "rescue skills" even though he did not need to be rescued.
The big difference between the experience of that couple in the canoe and our paddle group was preparation and practise. Anyone can flip a boat. Some places, like the Tillicum narrows, make it easy to flip. In just the past three years, there have been several people needing rescue there, or after getting themselves to shore the damp boaters have knocked on at the door of a nearby house to ask for help getting warm and dry. It's worth remembering that anyone could end up in an upside-down canoe or kayak on any outing, even in sheltered places.