By Eric Fors
As far as the narrative on how the decks helped us, and likely saved the boat from destruction, well, it's quite a story! A couple of weeks ago, Nathan and I took Reunion out to one of our favorite little streams that we float quite often. It's a 3 mile stretch of a stream that nearly nobody else ever floats. It was a beautiful day, but the river was at least five feet higher than normal. That's not quite a "flood stage" level, but it is a lot more water than we usually have in that little river. The other complication is that our area of the Ozarks had some terrible ice storm damage this winter and the rivers and streams are all full of broken tree limbs. We decided to float it anyway and trust on our experience with this particular stream and the fact that even if we had "walk out" that the roadways were no more than a couple miles from the path of the river.
The float started out absolutely beautiful. We were of course making much better time on the float than we normally do, owing to the great amount of water in the river. Reunion handled a bit sluggishly compared to what we were used to, I think because of the heavier current, but as long as we stayed vigilant and made our course corrections early, all was well.
Well, eventually we came upon a place where the bulk of the river flowed through a bunch of the branches and ice storm debris. We tried to maneuver around the branches, but the current hauled us quickly into the midst of them. The submerged branches turned the haul crosswise to the current and quickly lifted the downstream side of the haul up out of the water. This caused the upstream side to dip its gunwale into the flow of the swollen river and immediately filled the little boat. The current then stripped the boat out from under us and capsized the haul. She sank momentarily in the current and then righted herself and popped back up to the surface a about ten yards downstream still full of water, but floating upright. Next our dry bag, which was originally tied into the boat at the cross members, caught on some other debris in the water and pulled Reunion under the current again. Again, she capsized, sank, and few seconds later popped back up to the surface as before a few more yards downstream. Once again the dry tethered dry bag caught on something under the surface and she repeated the whole process again. Capsize, sink, wait a moment, and pop back up to the surface THREE TIMES!
We stood in the stream amazed to watch as this little boat we had made with our own hands did things we had never seen any boat we could have bought do. Had we been floating in an aluminum canoe without those sealed decks, we would have had to walk home without our boat or any of the gear we had tied into it. Apparently the buoyancy provided by the air chambers under the sealed decks did enough work to keep the little boat from being slammed against the bottom of the river and actually pulled it back to the surface where we could readily recover it.
We were very proud of how she performed that day and determined right then and there that all our future builds would have sealed decks built into them. We finished the float, in an hour and a half that day. It usually takes us two and a half hours to do that float, and this day we had two capsizing incidents. What an awesome little craft! Thanx for sharing her design with us.