I went kayaking today for the first time in about 11 months. The warm 20+ degree weather will not last much longer this year. I was out for over 3 hours, including the stop detailed below.
After I left the dock, and rounded the first bend, I saw big cranes just ahead. I wondered what it was for. When I got there, I realized it’s for the new bridge that is being built. It’s less than 500 meters from our house but I didn’t realize they had started the construction.
I continued upriver until I found the stream joining the Rideau. There wasn’t much to see after all. I couldn’t explore, as the stream was too shallow.
From that location though, I could see something strange further up ahead. I didn’t wear my prescription glasses in case I loose them. So I was not able to tell what it was. It looked like a wall or cliff blocking the river. On the top, there appeared to be boats.
Curious, I went to investigate.
When I reached the area, I discovered it was a dam. I paddled around the base. Then I heard a heavy stream of water, so I went to investigate that.
This part of the Rideau River flows around Nicolis Island. Looking at Google Maps, it appears that one side are rapids (which I did not see as I missed the entrance to that part of the river). On the other is the dam and a set of locks for raising boats over the top of the dam. The sound of water came from the locks, which were being used to raise three boats. The water was cascading over the top of the lower lock door. I got closer to investigate. I thought it would be interesting to go through the locks myself in my kayak.
But I was too late to join the boats already in the lock, and I didn’t want to wait for another opportunity.
As the lock was full (water pouring over the top of the door), the lock workers opened underwater doors at the bottom of the lowest locks, which stopped the overflow, but created a huge, churning, foaming swirl of water. I paddled a little closer to see, but tried to stay away from the center of the disturbance. The swirling water started to rotate my kayak. I paddled backwards a little, but it was not enough and the kayak continued rotating. I leaned back to stroke backwards again and turned around to see how close I was to the wall. This put my center of balance too far to one side and over I went.
Upside down, I immediately grabbed the front handle of the kayak skirt, yanked on it to release and then rotated out of the kayak. I had not practiced it since my school. I go over the procedure in my mind every time I prepare to get in my kayak.
I popped up to the surface. I grabbed the side of the kayak to prevent it from floating away and threw my paddle in the cockpit. I started a strong side stroke to swim away from the lock and to try to find a place to steady myself. My goal was to try to get back in the kayak, although this was not something I remembered very well from my school. I got up sideways on the kayak easily enough, but attempting to rotate around to get my legs in only dumped me overboard a second time.
I gave up on this approach. By this time, the two workers from the Rideau Locks were on the shore next to me to help me out. Although I just wanted to get back in the kayak, I didn’t protest their help.
They bought up the kayak and I climbed out of the water myself.
A few people joined the two workers and they all asked me if I was ok. I laughed and said I was fine. I was happy because I remembered my training, and also laughing at myself for making a mistake like that.
One very nice lady offered me some food – nuts and raisins trail mix – and we talked about kayaks and canoes for about 20 minutes. I thanked her and put my kayak back in the water on the other side of the wharf. I had to go retrieve my hat, which was still floating in the water, a little downstream.
The paddle back to where I had parked my car was uneventful. I passed some other people in open kayaks (not quite canoes), paddled past some fishermen, and quietly drifted by a gaggle of Canadian geese.
Once back to my car, I spent a few minutes attempting to get a picture of myself and the kayak. I used my car as a tripod and set the shutter for a 10 second delay.
At home, I checked Google Earth and I found I had paddled over 3km each way during my trip.