Today was another big day of rapids. Kris and I were in Matt's boat, after I transferred away from the paddle boat. Sure, I was behind Andy in the paddle boat, a big reason to stay in the boat, sitting behind him, but we were going through rapids today, big rapids, and I really didn't want to paddle through them.
So, I jumped ship, and joined Kris and Pat in Matt's boat. I suspect that two consecutive days in the same guide's boat is a little discouraged, but it worked for us. We knew what to expect, having spent the previous day running a large number of rapids. Well, and Matt knew what to expect when I jumped into the back of the boat, where I enjoyed looking around, taking pictures, and, when the need arose, peeing in a can without effort.
Today's rapids were Forster Rapid (6), Fossil Rapid (6), 128 Rapid (4), Specter Rapid (6), Bedrock Rapid (8) and Dubendorff Rapid (8). The only one of note, of course, was Specter Rapid.
So, here we are, going along down the River. We've had a couple rapids, nothing too spectacular, Kris has ridden the bull on one, which involves sitting at the very front of the boat, feet over the front, holding onto the chicken rope between your legs, and crashing through the rapids chest first. I've spent most of the rapids standing behind Matt, as standing gives me more flexibility: I can shift my weight, I can duck, I can crouch, and I can jump clear over everyone in the appropriate case. Better, if needed, I can take a picture of Kris getting pounded by the water. Best thought ever.
Coming up on Specter, however, Matt started tying down everything on his boat, making sure everything was well secured. He told me that, no, I'd have to sit for this one.
I chose to see in the back right.
So, being my normal worried self, I held on when we entered the rapids.
Rapids in the Grand Canyon often come with wave trains, which are standing waves of water, sometimes breaking, sometimes not, and usually diagonal to the direction we want to go, which is straight down the river. If the wave never breaks, a boat can usually just slide up the front of the wave, and back over the back of it. If the wave is breaking, it will do so either continually (churning white water) or periodically, where it crashes, then smooths, crashes, then smooths.
In these latter crashing-smoothing waves, if the boat has timed the wave so that it enters while the wave is smoothing, the boat will just glide up and over the wave. On the other hand, if the guide times the boat to enter the wave when the wave is crashing, we all get gloriously super soaked.
Sometimes we fall out of the boat when this happens.
Sometimes the boat flips.
Of course, all of this assumes the boat hits the wave head-on. When it hits it sideways, crashing or smooth is irrelevant if the wave is big enough. A big enough wave means the boat is flipping sideways.
So, we enter the wave train of Specter Rapid, Pat and Kris in the front, Matt rowing, my sitting back right.
First wave, perfect entry, no problem.
Second wave hits the boat oddly, and we spin counter clockwise.
I'm watching the next wave, the one in a breaking-smoothing cycle in front of us, and note with detached interest that, hey, I'm the one approaching the wave first. The boat had spun around about 120° and I was closest to the wave. Had I reached out and up about a foot with my right hand, I could have touched the top of the wave, which was above me, as the right side of the boat lifted up, the left side dropping down. Matt pulled in his right oar, we rounded the top of the wave without it breaking on or under us, and Matt pushed out his right oar again to straighten us as the next wave came crashing down on us.
At the end of the rapids, Matt pulled out into an eddy, and we waited for the other boats to come through. Josh pulled up and started heckling Matt for going in sideways.
Turns out, Matt admitted later, that when we were knocked sideways, he thought we were goners and were going to flip on the wave I could have touched. Kris and Pat had also thought we were goners, being much more aware of the angle the boat was in.
Me? I had been concentrating so hard on that wave, that I had no idea how far the boat had tipped. I don't know if my sitting on the high side of the boat had any effect on the outcome of that rapid, but I'd like to think it did.