By Robert Martin

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These are the voyages of the K1 Vortex

Star date: May 26, 1996
Location: The Ramsey Prong of the Middle Fork of the Little Pigeon River near Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Class: V
Flow: High water
Captains Status: Hung over...

Sulu: "Captain, we’re coming to an island at a bend in the creek."

Kirk: "Mr. Sulu, eddy up and lets have a look."

At the head of the island the river bent to the right. Looking down the inside channel I could see only house size boulders choking the stream. By following the gap between the tree-tops, I could see where the island ended and the two channels rejoined. The river dropped 20-30 feet in about 1/8 mile. The outside (left) channel disappeared around the bend and out of sight..

Kirk: "Spock, what do you make of this?"

Spock: "Captain, both channels of the river drop the same distance going around the island. The left channel, however, is longer, therefore the gradient will be less severe."

Kirk: "Ohura, Contact the lead vessel and tell them to take the left channel."

Ohura: "Lead vessel reports it has already committed to the right channel and cannot turn back".

Bones: "Dammit Jim! we can’t support each other in that rock maze. It could be a trap! We could end up with both vessels in trouble. For God’s sake Jim tell the lead vessel to pull off and carry over to the left channel."

Kirk: "Ohura, inform lead vessel that we are going left and will meet them and the bottom of the island."

Bones: "Dammit Jim! This violates every regulation in the book. We’re paddling a class V steep creek we’ve never seen before, during high water, and you’re splitting up the fleet!".

Spock: "This creek was given a class V rating because of the cascades above where we put in. The rest of the creek, though it is quite high, is tight, technical class IV. If you break the creek up into 1/8 mile sections, which is the length of the island, then it should be no more difficult than a dozen other creeks that we run all the time."

Bones: "Can’t you get it through your Vulcan head, we're breaking the karma? Mutually supporting vessels work together, build up confidence levels and increase safety."

Kirk: "Mr.Sulu, take us down the left channel, steady as she goes."

Sulu: "Aye-aye captain."

As the vessel proceeded left around the island, I soon discovered a rock bluff overhanging the river left bank, the main channel swept under this bluff, over a drop and into an undercut. The undercut could be avoided by staying to the right over the drop. As I neared the undercut a grave danger exposed itself: A treefall on the right side of the channel with one big limb pointing up stream and to the left, directly into the undercut.

Sulu: "Captain, there seems to be a small line between the end of the limb and the undercut. If we approach at the correct angle and velocity we should be able to duck under the edge of the undercut and not get impaled by the limb. It will require a strong ferry move and split second timing."

Kirk: "Engine room?"

Scottie: "Aye Captain."

Kirk: "We’re going into an undercut. We’ll need full impulse power. Prepare for evasive maneuvers."

Scottie: "This isn'a a creek boat captain. An it dinna help stayin’ up till the wee hours of the mornin’, drinkin whiskey and tellin' lies! My arms are shakin’ like a leaf! Our power levels are down 30%.. We’ll give you the best we can but a canna' make any prromisess!!"

As the vessel entered the river left undercut it was angled right, ready to sprint to river right as soon as it made it past the limb. Unfortunately the crew became mesmerized by the limb, pointing menacingly at the vessel. And, like the sirens of old, were drawn irresistably towards it..

Kirk: "Sound general quarters! Prepare for collision, all engines stop!"

Sulu: "Captain, at this rate we will impact with the limb AND get swept into the undercut."

Kirk: "We’ to stop this vessel!" "Engine room! Let go of the paddle with your right hand and grab the limb!"

Scottie: "Aye Captain. I’ll pu’ a death grip on tha’ limb like was me last bottle of single malt scotch whiskey!"

Somehow the crew was able to hold on against the powerful current, turn their bow upstream, let go of the tree, grab the paddle and ferry away from the undercut as the vessel blew down stream, into the unknown, backwards.

Sulu: "Captain, we’re coming up on a horizon line, the line is river left, looks like about a six foot pourover.....there are no eddies above the drop."

Kirk: "Proceed Mr. Sulu. Keep the stern downstream. We don’t want to risk broaching. Keep looking for an eddy."

The vessel runs the drop successfully but fails to find any eddies big enough to turn this 11.5’ Vortex around in.

Bones: "Jim this is madness! Get this vessel to shore, before it’s to late!"

Spock: "Actually, we have practiced paddling backwards several times and have been quite successful, and might I remind you that our escort vessel is meeting us below this island. Our rendezvous with them is our primary mission."

Bones: "Staying alive is our primary mission. You green-blooded freak!"

Kirk: "Steady as she goes, Mr. Sulu."

The next drop was a four foot drop through a narrow slot into a steep hole. As the vessel's stern prepared to make the drop, the crew breathed a sigh of relief, below the drop was a rock house which housed an eddy, big enough to turn around in. As the vessel dropped over the pourover the stern slammed against rocks on the bottom, causing the vessel to pin.

Kirk: "Damage Control. Scottie, what’s our situation?"

Scottie: "We’re pinned from stern to bow Captain, but we’re right side up and able to breathe... At least we’re no’ gettin’ trashed in that hole!”

At that moment the bow slid sideways and the vessel got sucked into the hole and began recirculating violently.

Kirk: "Sulu, start combat roll sequence!"

Sulu: "I can’t captain. The paddle is not in set-up position!"

Kirk: "Scottie, why...aren’t our paddles in set up position?"

Scottie: "We’re doin’ the best we can Captain, but we’re being slammed against the bottom ever time we recirculate. We just blew our skirt and are taking on water!"

Kirk: "Abandon ship! Beam the crew to shore and begin boat recovery operations."

The crew made shore, with the vessel in hand. They looked up stream to see the pourover and hole for the first time.

Spock: "That appears to be a class III drop into a small hole. Well within our ability. That IS odd."

Bones: "Odd ! It’s more than odd! This entire crew is suffering from exhaustion and mental fatigue induced by excessive alcohol consumption within the last 24 hours. Jim, this crew is finished. As ship's doctor I insist that you take out as soon as possible!"

Kirk: "You’re right Bones. We’ll proceed to the rendezvous and inform our escort that we will take out and hike to the road."

It was a short distance to the bottom of the island and the rendezvous with our escort vessel. The vessel S.S. Mann was anxiously waiting. The S.S.Mann had taken their decent in a single drop through the rock maze.

Kirk: "Ohura. Open hailing frequencies to the SS Mann and put it up on screen."

"Robert....Robert! Are you all right?" Richard asked as I paddled up to him in the eddy below the island.

"Yeah, There were a couple of good drops. How about you?"

Richard’s eyes got big and he said (with some understatement): "Man, this is kinda hairy!".

I replied: "Look Richard. I think I've had enough fun for one day. I’m going to take out here and find Gurkin."

( Gary Gurkin, being an open boater, had enough sense to pass this run up and was following us down the road that parallels the creek in his truck. )

Richard replied, "Yeah. We can catch it tomorrow at a sane level.....and who you callin' Ohura ?!?"