Friday, October 3, 2008

The Pin at Pinball

The picture at the left shows the rail road trestle bridge at Pinball Rapid on the Colorado River just below Burns. The river is running around 1600 cfs down there right now. This is high for this time of year. Usually the flow is south of a 1000 now. If you've ever had the misfortune to slam a bridge in a boat, then you know how solid they always feel. They don't budge. The rower, Kerry Hix, was humble and direct in a good way retelling the events that led to this. It was their first time on this stretch, and they were a little lost. They had missed the take out about a mile upstream. At this point he related they were going for the river right channel of the abuttment, and unfortunately got caught up in rock garden upstream while making his move. This wrecked his line, and sent his boat sideways into the concrete. Within a second he said she rolled, and they were swimming. I feel everyone was extremely lucky not to have been hurt. Hollywood could not have stuck her to the bridge any better. The current direction and volume, and the flat surface of the boat bottom, and the conspiring flat surface of this abuttment came together for a class in physics. She stuck there for 5 days without budging.

River people are the best. There's a great guy down there named Jack Bombardier who lives and guides about two miles downstream. He provided awesome information during the week. The owner of the Hog, Bill Nickerson, got very involved, and made several laps of the County, State, and Federal agencies involved in the management of the river. The word from the Green Mountain dam was probably two more weeks of releases. Nobody really wanted to wait two weeks for lower water. We were lucky the Gypsum Search and Rescue crew volunteered. Bill gave them his consent and understanding that they may not be able to remove his boat without damaging her. The picture at the left shows part of the crew rigging a modified "Z" line. The Gypsum crew put on a clinic on how to pull a dory off a bridge. Their first rope configuration worked lifting the Hog by the motor mount, and pivoting her on the nose in the downstream current around the abuttment.

We did an inspection of the boat, and the only real damge was the side wall at the oar lock tore about 4 inches on either side, and another 7" tear on the sidewall below the gunwale. The inside of the boat looked like she had been scrubbed pretty good. The back mat was gone, as well as the spare oar blade and both pedestal seats. The casting braces, spare oar shafts, fly deck, hatches, rower's seat, and spare rod tube were still there. Jack volunteered his yard as the take-out, and Bill and I took off for his house with a streamer rod. What a day. We have a tough hull that floats! Just the same, it would be just fine with me if I go the rest of my life without seeing a pinned Hog.