Sunday, April 5, 2009


In my previous post I mentioned that I almost lost my knife today, and that this was something of an odd coincidence. It was given to me by a former girlfriend some 6 or 7 years ago. While I don't know knives very well, I know that this one cost over $100, which makes it plenty nice enough for me. Today I almost lost it while kayaking. It was in my dry bag, which was on the deck of my boat, stuck under, but not attached to, my deck rigging. It was a little choppy for a spell, and a wave washed the bag off my deck, which I didn't immediately notice. Lucky for me, one of my fellow paddlers noticed it and grabbed it and that was that. I was very relieved.

Ok, the coincidence. In late March of 2003 I was fresh out of the Navy and crashing at my folks place between road trips. They live on a "lake," more properly a glorified pond, and there had been considerable recent rain. So much rain, in fact, that the lake had swelled beyond its normal banks and submerged all of the docks. As a result, things like gas cans that normally rested on said docks were floating around in the lake. Our neighbors had some very short rec boats that we enjoyed open invitation to, so I decided to be a good samaritan and grab the detritus via kayak, which would also allow me to check out the lake in its tumid state. The lake was made in the '30's by damming up half of a shallow valley and allowing it to fill with rainwater. Today you drive over the dam to get to my folks place. On one side of the dam there is a boat ramp which serves as an overflow when the lake level gets too high. This particular morning water was flowing over the spillway pretty fast. It appeared as though after flowing over the narrow spillway, the current spread out and slowed down (reverse Venturi effect). I thought, "That looks like fun. I'll paddle over, get pulled through the fun part, then just stand up in shallow water and drag the boat back over to the lake and be on my way." As I paddled over towards the spillway, a little voice in my head suggested that this didn't seem like a good idea. In a moment of stupidity, I ingored it and paddled into the current. I didn't slow down the way I expected, but I was still able to get out of the boat and put my feet down. What I thought would be maybe one or two feet deep was waist high, and moving swiftly. I was standing immediately downstream of the kayak, holding the coaming of the cockpit in front of me. Ok, I thought, not what I expected, but there's dry ground 10' away, so no big deal. I just needed to pull the boat over to the edge of the current and re-enter the lake and paddle away. I lifted the boat slightly, by the coaming, and because of the current pushing against it, the lip of the coaming went under and the boat immediately filled with water. It bowled me over before I even knew what happened, and I was under water. I flowed, with the current, into a gully that sped through about 30 yards to a ledge, dropped 12', then went another 30 yards or so. I was under the whole way, but I knew I was very close to the surface. Still, the water was moving so fast that I couldn't get my head up and couldn't stop. I remember thinking that it was very bad, but that I shouldn't panic. I needed to stay calm and just get my head above water, get a breath, and figure out what to do. All the while I was reaching out and grasping for anything that would stop me, like a root or a tree branch, but all I got was rock and concrete, which cut my hand up (I still have scars). There was a moment of weightlessness when I went off the ledge, and I crashed into something hard, bumping my leg. After that I slowed down and stood up in knee deep water. It was March, so it was still fairly cold. I think the air was in the 40's and water in the 50's. I immediately pulled off my winter coat, which was shredded badly down the side and back. I started to check myself out by moving everything and patting myself down. My hand was bleeding some, but I knew that was just cuts and scratches and not a huge deal. It hurt a lot when I put weight on my right leg, especially in my calf and ankle. Satisfied that I wasn't seriously hurt, I limped up the hill and started walking down the road (it was about a mile back to my parent's house). A neighbor saw me soaking wet, bleeding, and limping and picked me up. At home, I got into a tub of hot water to warm back up. I squeezed my calf and there was a clicking noise that coincided with pain, which indicated a broken leg. I called my best friend, who worked for her orthapedic surgeon of a father, and arranged to come in and get checked out. Long story short, I broke my fibula and tore ligaments in my ankle. I was very lucky that I didn't drown. I later learned that I was out in flash flood conditions. I traveled almost 75 yards in underwater.

So how does this relate to the knife? I had my knife in my pocket that morning when I got into the boat. When I came out of the water, it was gone. I guessed I would never see it again. It's only 4 inches long closed, and it's black, so even if it was laying in grass it would be hard to see. There are a thousand places where I washed through that it could have settled down. It could have gone under a log, been buried in mud, washed into a crack somewhere. Anything. A few days later, after things dried out a bit, my dad was walking around down there, looking at where I went and marveling that I wasn't hurt worse, and there was my knife hanging by the clip on a small thin branch in some brush. We were blown away because it seemed so improbable that it would ever be seen again.

So today makes twice that I've been in kayak, had a spill of some sort (one rather serious and the other very minor) in which the knife was lost, assumed it wouldn't be found, and then returned to me by another person. That's kind of wierd.

The Knife

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