BWCA Capsized Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
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Lis
Guest Paddler
 
05/19/2022 07:17PM  
Been to the bwcaw 9 times. Tried to maneuver to the portage from Alpine to Jasper. Currents caught us and flipped us, we both were thrown and canoe was upside down. We both popped up thx to the preservers, and we both somehow had our paddles. We floated, swam and pulled the canoe past dead cedars to a small opening to a steep bank, about 400, ft to get out of the current. We uprighted the canoe and all our packs were still in it. We dug out a pan and teapot and bailed it out. We got back in and paddled furiously to the nearest camp. We were prob in the water for 20+ minutes and wet for another 40-60. Dragging bags up we found our tent, sleeping bag and wool blanket were dry, so we set it up. We stripped off all our wet clothes, but found water had saturated everything else. We put the little cook stove in the tent and warmed up with hot Tang under the covers. When we stopped shivering we hung a line and draped our sopping clothes. We stayed naked under covers till the next day which was sunny so we had dry clothes by noon. This happened on May 15,’22, husband and I are 69 years old. He said he thinks we are the oldest ppl baptized in the bwcaw and lived to tell about it. We did a few things right. #1 was life jackets. #2 matches were in ziplocks. #3 we held onto the paddles.#4 we didn’t panic, (he was awesome) we kept moving. The fast water is very dangerous this year. Please please please wear the life jackets.
 
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missmolly
distinguished member(7266)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/19/2022 08:38PM  
Whew, huh?!? Thanks for the reminders.
 
KawnipiKid
senior member (59)senior membersenior member
 
05/19/2022 08:44PM  
Lis,
Very glad you two made it to tell the saga and thank you for doing so. You did everything right. I think about all the times I wasn't sure I could beat the current but went anyway. Right now, it sounds like lots of people are getting caught in bad situations without even knowing they were taking a big risk. I know that spot and wouldn't think it risky. I shudder to think about being wet and cold just enough longer to be unable to get dry and warm. Well done.
 
05/19/2022 08:49PM  
Lucky.

Glad you are ok. However this is not a badge of honor.
 
cyclones30
distinguished member(3918)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/19/2022 08:56PM  
Glad you're ok. Not the first time this spring already (in a week) that people have capsized in places that normally wouldn't be an issue at all.
 
05/19/2022 09:40PM  
I'm glad you survived. Sounds like you kept your heads. Well done.

I love tang, but have never had it hot. How is that?

This story makes me thankful I have Seal line 115 pro packs. If I can get to shore, with the pack, I know my stuff will be dry. I know lots of people prefer duluth packs, but I'll take my seallines.
 
05/19/2022 09:43PM  
cyclones30: "Glad you're ok. Not the first time this spring already (in a week) that people have capsized in places that normally wouldn't be an issue at all. "+1. Not the first “unexpectedly strong current swamped us” tale this year and likely not the last. I suspect there are a lot of places like this up there right now, and I’m sure there will be stories of close calls too. Very glad you are ok, and thanks for sharing your story.
 
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1462)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/19/2022 10:07PM  
Thank you for posting your story and hopefully others heed your warning.

Hot Tang is awesome!
 
05/19/2022 10:30PM  
Glad that you both are okay. You all did the right things, e.g. wearing your pfds, hanging on to your paddles (and the boat!) and wrapping up the valuable items enough to stay dry such as matches so you could warm yourselves afterwards. Get a whistle and a diver's knife to attach to your pfds just in case.

Something like this could work and is what I just picked up.
 
Gaidin53
distinguished member (339)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/19/2022 10:49PM  
First off I’m glad you are alright and worked through the problem! Stuff happens and it happens quick! I’m sure in hindsight some different decisions would have been made. I think current and the power of water can surprise us!

Things to think about to prepare for future. Wearing PFDs like you did is a given! We wear them religiously no matter time of year. If you had lost the canoe did both of you have matches or a fire starter on you. If you got to shore without the canoe. You’d have only had limited gear meaning what’s on you to survive and get warm.

Dry bags? We use plastic liners in our packs but most of our other gear, sleeping bags, clothes gets put into multiple dry bags in the plastic liner in the whale bag! Especially the sleeping bags! Tent doesn’t so that would have been wet if water made it into the main bag. The rest of our dry clothes and fleeces should in theory have stayed dry though.

I’ve got in the bow bag on both canoes a waterproof match container with the super matches. It’s another area I guess to have the means to start a fire. To be honest though I’ve always had a hard time getting fires started and going well in the BWCA.

Thanks for sharing! Sharing this helps others to think about it and be better prepared.

Ryan
 
05/20/2022 08:18AM  
airmorse: "Lucky.


Glad you are ok. However this is not a badge of honor.
"


Not sure why you feel the need to judge and take a shot at someone who survived a harrowing experience. Isn't it enough to let them know you are glad they are okay?
 
missmolly
distinguished member(7266)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/20/2022 10:23AM  
Frenchy19: "airmorse: "Lucky.



Glad you are ok. However this is not a badge of honor.
"



Not sure why you feel the need to judge and take a shot at someone who survived a harrowing experience. Isn't it enough to let them know you are glad they are okay? "


Thanks, Frenchy, for having Lis's back.
 
05/20/2022 10:44AM  
Ouch, glad you're both ok. 69 and and newly baptized. A sense of humor always helps. Sounds like it's pretty crazy up there on the rivers and streams.
There are a fair share of people who take unnecessary shots. Some just always have to be the smartest on the board. Yawn...
 
user0317
distinguished member (371)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/20/2022 11:49AM  
Lis: "Been to the bwcaw 9 times. Tried to maneuver to the portage from Alpine to Jasper. Currents caught us and flipped us, we both were thrown and canoe was upside down. We both popped up thx to the preservers, and we both somehow had our paddles. We floated, swam and pulled the canoe past dead cedars to a small opening to a steep bank, about 400, ft to get out of the current. We uprighted the canoe and all our packs were still in it. We dug out a pan and teapot and bailed it out. We got back in and paddled furiously to the nearest camp. We were prob in the water for 20+ minutes and wet for another 40-60. Dragging bags up we found our tent, sleeping bag and wool blanket were dry, so we set it up. We stripped off all our wet clothes, but found water had saturated everything else. We put the little cook stove in the tent and warmed up with hot Tang under the covers. When we stopped shivering we hung a line and draped our sopping clothes. We stayed naked under covers till the next day which was sunny so we had dry clothes by noon. This happened on May 15,’22, husband and I are 69 years old. He said he thinks we are the oldest ppl baptized in the bwcaw and lived to tell about it. We did a few things right. #1 was life jackets. #2 matches were in ziplocks. #3 we held onto the paddles.#4 we didn’t panic, (he was awesome) we kept moving. The fast water is very dangerous this year. Please please please wear the life jackets. "

Several years ago my canoe partner and I almost capsized in that same spot. It was similar conditions in that it was just after ice out and the water was high. We managed to unload further away from the portage landing and had to bushwhack our gear up the hill to Jasper. We witnessed another canoe trying to muscle into the portage landing and they dumped.
 
SummerSkin
distinguished member (154)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/20/2022 02:35PM  
scat: "Ouch, glad you're both ok. 69 and and newly baptized. A sense of humor always helps. Sounds like it's pretty crazy up there on the rivers and streams.
There are a fair share of people who take unnecessary shots. Some just always have to be the smartest on the board. Yawn..."


...

...
 
woodsandwater
distinguished member (372)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/20/2022 07:38PM  
I thank the Lord you both survived! Well done in your actions following the capsize. You have inner strength. And thank you for sharing the experience. A notice for us all
 
tumblehome
distinguished member(2434)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/21/2022 06:14AM  
I’m thankful Liz posted. Wish she would sign up and stay on the forum.

She provided a ton of wisdom learned in her short read. Stories like this can help a lot of people who learn from her experience and it’s the snippets of information that can save a life later.

It’s at the very least a badge of courage to share. Many people don’t talk about their event like this.

Tom
 
05/21/2022 09:34AM  
If you find yourself swimming rapids you do not want to be caught between a swamped canoe and a river obstruction. This could be deadly. Always be upstream of your swamped canoe in moving water
 
cburton103
distinguished member (461)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/21/2022 11:44AM  
jwartman59: "If you find yourself swimming rapids you do not want to be caught between a swamped canoe and a river obstruction. This could be deadly. Always be upstream of your swamped canoe in moving water"

It’s amazing how heavy a canoe full of water can be, especially with moving water pushing it.
 
pastorjsackett
distinguished member(1118)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/21/2022 12:13PM  
What a story.

We are glad you survived this harrowing set of circumstances. Thanks for the reminders.
 
05/22/2022 06:00PM  
The common thread of these stories is that they were all wearing life preservers. It could have been a much different ending without them. I'm glad you just have an exciting story to tell. Someone puts up a thread every year to remind everyone to wear theirs. If you can get a life preserver with large pockets you can put your matches and some fire starter in waterproof bag along with an emergency blanket, a signal mirror,snacks and a flashlight for after dark use. I like the cord cutter shown above, it looks safer than my attached knife, but I feel more bad ass with my big knife. :)
... I just saw the other thread for ditch kit. Some great ideas on there.
 
05/22/2022 07:05PM  
You and your husband should join and call yourselves capsized #1&2. Glad you made it ok... it’s been ten years almost to the day I did the same in another infamous spot. Later that year went through where you took a swim. I didn’t see you looking for a badge. But sharing a great story with a great outcome with a great sense of humor.
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(912)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/23/2022 08:42AM  
Very first trip our group took was over 15 years ago. It was 3rd week of May and we were paddling back on Lake One. Wind and waves caught our canoes, capsizing one of them. Fortunately the other three canoes were able to get one of the paddlers and gear to shore, while the other paddler swam the canoe to shore.

What we learned: We don't go in late May anymore due to high probability of flooding, high water, and thunderstorms/rain, not to mention frigid cold water. Our entire group (typically 14-18 men divided into 3 groups) always wear their pfd's, on and secured. . .every time they are on the water. . .no exceptions. Third, we don't carry canvas canoe packs or typical back packs. All the gear we don't want wet goes in Sealline waterproof packs like the Boundary packs.

Our motto after that trip. . . pack and prepare like you KNOW you will capsize
 
Speckled
distinguished member(560)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/23/2022 09:34AM  
Glad is everyone is ok - current up there right now is crazy!
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 08:48AM  
I thank everyone for their kind replies and non judgements. After this I have a string of Do Differents and will take your awesome advices. I left out a lot of details bc it’s my first posting, and truly, the word was “harrowing”, altho it did go from tragic to dire before that. We did have matches and fire starter in ziplocks, we did hang onto the paddles, but most important we wear the life vests religiously. And we kept moving. We bag wrapped the sleeping bags tightly, but didn’t quite seal the clothes bag. So much to rethink. Never had a problem with waves or winds, but high fast water is a whole other dragon. Haven’t told my kids yet, heheheh. Be safe and again thank you!
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:01AM  
Aw man? I’d rather not wear a badge for any of the miracles in my life. But my story stimulated a wealth of life saving info from others, and was great to share. Being this old, that long in the water, and keeping a clear focus, I think we deserve a gentle pat on the back.
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:08AM  
Thank you!
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:08AM  
Hot tang is great. Warming, burst of sugar, and fast. Great camp or winter drink.
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:09AM  
I’ll look into the seal lines. Duluth packs with liners failed on the clothes and they did fill up with water.
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:11AM  
I’ll look into the knife great idea. I did yell for help the whole till in the water but unfortunately there was no one anywhere nearby. A whistle will be added.
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:14AM  
We have a small bow bag with the Space blankets, IDs, zip lock with matches, phone all in waterproof cases. Thank you for all the great advice.
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:17AM  
??
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:19AM  
Your and other’s kindness overwhelms me.
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:21AM  
I’m just learning about this site. Will visit it often now. Just figured out how to reply to all the kind comments. Thank you!
 
Jjwhispersocks
member (11)member
 
05/25/2022 09:23AM  
Yes! Pack knowing one will capsize! It’s husband’s fault we go in May. He loves the fishing and cool weather. We have hay to bale all summer, and he goes to Wyoming and Colorado to hunt most of the fall, so that’s out. We did go in September once, that would be my choice! Beautiful and few bugs.
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(912)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/25/2022 09:23AM  
Our group of guys appears similar to you and your dad. Most of us are mid 50's up to late 60's.

After 15 years everything goes in Sealine bags. If there are electronics, they go in small water tight Pelican cases along with fire starting gear. In short, we don't bring anything in the canoes that is not carried in some type of Sealline type waterproof bag.

Most of us are also not carrying ditch kit gear on our PFD's. A tip here: if you bring a Spot, Garmin, or Sat phone for emergencies you can vacuum seal it in a mylar pouch then put in your PFD. In our case we use them throughout the trip so we put them in form fitting waterproof pouches before putting in the PFD's.

On hypothermia, something we learned is to bring a Hot Hands stick on heating pack. If you go in the water, put on dry clothes and stick one of the Hot Hands packs directly on top of your clothes over your heart. This will really acelerate you warming up and takes no room in your ditch kit or pack.
 
papalambeau
distinguished member (204)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/25/2022 10:39AM  
ockycamper: "Our group of guys appears similar to you and your dad. Most of us are mid 50's up to late 60's.


After 15 years everything goes in Sealine bags. If there are electronics, they go in small water tight Pelican cases along with fire starting gear. In short, we don't bring anything in the canoes that is not carried in some type of Sealline type waterproof bag.


Most of us are also not carrying ditch kit gear on our PFD's. A tip here: if you bring a Spot, Garmin, or Sat phone for emergencies you can vacuum seal it in a mylar pouch then put in your PFD. In our case we use them throughout the trip so we put them in form fitting waterproof pouches before putting in the PFD's.


On hypothermia, something we learned is to bring a Hot Hands stick on heating pack. If you go in the water, put on dry clothes and stick one of the Hot Hands packs directly on top of your clothes over your heart. This will really acelerate you warming up and takes no room in your ditch kit or pack."


Great tip on the stick on Hot Hands to be added to the ditch kit. Have used them for years while deer hunting. They would really accelerate the warming up process. Thanks!
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(912)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/25/2022 10:45AM  
Like you. . .lesson learned from the deer stand!
 
LaVirginienne
senior member (53)senior membersenior member
 
05/25/2022 04:01PM  
ockycamper:

On hypothermia, something we learned is to bring a Hot Hands stick on heating pack. If you go in the water, put on dry clothes and stick one of the Hot Hands packs directly on top of your clothes over your heart. This will really acelerate you warming up and takes no room in your ditch kit or pack."


First, I want to say thanks to everyone on this thread and thank you for posting your story. It’s so important for us all to study and learn from one another.

Second, let me share something learned from many years of mountaineering. The need for this has come up quite a few times in BWCA in Sept/Oct. I never go out in shoulder season or winter without at least one “clothes dryer.” This is a specific item: a SMALL, WHITE 500ml plastic bottle by Nalgene or Hunnersdorf. If you’re worried about cancer, you shouldn’t drink from it after you’ve filled it with hot water. But the plastic is softer and more malleable than BPA free plastic, which makes it work far better for this purpose.

So, when filled with hot water, this bottle is the perfect size for drying socks, gloves, and the rest of you and your clothes. Way more powerful than heat packs for hypothermia and it’s reusable. Whether or not you’ve lit a fire, set up your stove. (As above in your tent, if you’re not beside a fire, but make sure your stove is in the VESTIBULE and make sure there is adequate ventilation. Dying from asphyxiation in unventilated tents is absolutely a thing—much more likely if your brain is hypothermia and shocky.)

Dress in all your insulators (like a puffy jacket) and get in your sleeping bag. Fill the bottle with boiling water and wear it as close to your skin as you can to warm your body then your clothes one layer/one piece at a time. Keep filling yourself with the hot drinks while you do this. Two of these bottles per person get the job done twice as fast (esp when you need a pair of dry socks). It can take 3-6 hours to rewarm and dry a full set of sopping clothes. Repeat: the 500 ml size is the only size that’s workable with socks or gloves. Socks really need to enclose the hot water bottle for this to work efficiently. Hunnersdorf makes larger bottles good for shirts.

I like the heat pack idea for the first round of rewarming close to your heart while you’re ideally building a fire. I have two of them in my day bag already and will now add one to my PFD in shoulder season. If you get to shore with your main pack or one food pack, fire up your stove and pull out the clothes driers. Hope this helps! Safe paddling everyone. Take care out there.
 
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