I was bout 3-500 yards before Leatherwood Ford at Big South Fork in TN. Right smack dab in Sgt York's back yard!
The river was beyond flood stage with the gauge about 3800. Twas bout the 3rd week in October 2017. From the trail where I began my float, I didn't remember any rapids between me and my car.
I reconned the rapid from a distance, river right beside a big rock, but all I saw were big waves and heard a noise like a hundred washing machines. Class III , maybe III to IV, I was to find out.
I formulated a plan on how I would run the rapid, but knew I had an option to walk thru some heavy brush with gear and up a hill to my car which was parked at the Ford.
So I paddled to the middle of the river to give the rapid one more look, but I had kinda decided to walk out on this one.
The current was too strong for me and sucked me down the rapid. So I tried to follow my plan. Took a couple big waves easily with my 1st gen Explorer 42. Then when I hit the bottom of a wave. There was nothing but a tall wall of water in front of me! "Capsize!" I said to myself, and I did.....
Twas self rescue as most of my trips are solo. that's why I try not to push it. Anyway.......
I had trouble with my PFD https://www.alpackaraft.com/rafting/pfds/
It kept riding up in front. Twas hard to keep my head outta the water. The muddy river water had a bad taste to it and I swallowed more than once, but not in my lungs. My head bobbed in the water like a float/bobber with a fish on the line!
I paddled/swam with my right arm as my left hand held my left panel close to my chest. I learned to keep the left panel under my chin to keep my head outta the water. I have more whitewater worthy PFDs, but trying to keep the weight down.
I reached shore, just short of an old, broken down single lane bridge, which acted like a sieve, holding my raft. Water level was a foot from going over this bridge. The water's force was strong enough to kill me if I were to swim/float/ram into the bridge.
My question is this, What happened with my PFD? Did I not have it tight enough? Do I need a harness of some type on my legs like a skydiver uses? Would a more whitewater worthy PFD be the answer? I heard something bout it being under my ribcage? Would having a few extra pounds on my ass, etc. have something to do with proper fitting?
I previously had thought of tying the back of the PFD to my belt. That would take care of the back, but this trip I was wearing beltless pants.
Lost some good stuff and kept some good stuff from this mishap. I filed a report at the park station.
Anyway, it was a lesson for me!
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