campfire    Ramming Speed on the Nepisiguit

Elsewhere in this website, I ramble on about what to do when the rapids are all run and the river nears its end. On the Nepisiguit, we resurrected an old sport we hadnít played for many years. We call it "ramming speed". Iím sure many of my visitors have played a version of this at one time or another.

ramming speed
Ramming speed on the Merrimack River, New Hampshire, with Nanook, Hal the Gullboy, and Jay Grenham. This particular game was played with poles, and we stood up on the gunwales. We all went for a swim.

The Nepisiguit runs wide, deep and even in its upper stretches. The four of us were staying in a cabin at Indian Falls, the only significant stretch of whitewater from the headwaters in Mount Carleton Park until the Narrows gorge above the Grand Falls of the Nepisiguit. This was our base for a weekend of day trips in two boats on different stretches of this big river.

bluehill_summer (42K)
Springtime on the Nepisiguit

We were approaching the end of our first day trip, from Allanís Rocks below Indian Falls to the Heath Steele Bridge. Our attempts at fishing produced only fingerling trout, and, even more discouraging, our coolers were empty. I noticed that Bill and Laurieís boat was turned temptingly sideways, so I hollered out the obligatory challenge, "Ramming Speed", and Scotty and I leaned into our paddles, aiming for a direct hit broadside on their boat.

Our first attempt met with only limited success, as they sped around, and deflected our bow with their paddles. As they pulled away, they whipped their paddles on to the water, and sprayed us with soaking streams, direct hits. Our retaliation was just as swift and effective.

Pabineau Falls
Pabineau Falls. Paddlers have come to grief here.

By the time we had made four attacks and missed each time, we were all soaked, and eager to deliver a finishing blow to knock the others out of the water Ö all in good fun, of course. So we found ourselves facing each other on opposite sides of the river, and with no prompting, dug deep with our blades, intent on a head-on collision to settle this matter once and for all. I was sitting in the stern, and saw the intense gleam of fear and excitement burn in the eyes of the bowman Billy Bogan in the opposite boat as our two craft drew near.

Sad to say, our 16-foot Mad River was no match for their heavier, longer Old Town 16í9" Discovery. We were quickly pitched into the drink as our boat glanced off their bow, and scrambled for our cooler, empty cans, and our boat. Iím pleased to report that we managed to recover everything but our pride. Vengeance will be ours, I swear, next year on the Nepisiguit.

That was not the only flip we experienced that weekend. On next dayís run, from Popple Depot to Indian Falls, the river runs through a deep, wide valley, rimmed by the high rounded hills of the last leg of the Appalachians. There are nearly no rocks in this section, the river runs from one deep trout pool to the next, in a swift unobstructed current three to four feet deep all the way.

nepridge (88K)
Nepisiguit Appalachians

Once again, we had depleted our cooler reserves, and were enjoying the warm breeze pushing us downstream to our takeout point just around the bend. It seemed all too perfect, just to lean back, take in the magnificent scenery, and enjoy the glow of the sun on the hillside Ö and it was. In a nanosecond, I was lying three feet under the water, looking up at the inside of my boat above me. One freak gust coming off Mount Carleton had spun us over like a leaf on a lawn.

Yes, we were tempting the river gods, floating sideways downstream, our paddles slack, lying back in our seats without a care. They had every right to call our bluff. Thankfully, the water was not cold, and we were able to muscle our boat to shore with no further mishaps. I should know by now that the wind can play clever tricks on you that the water canít.

campfire (28K)Whenever I see a jet-ski, I think of our close encounter on the Nashwaak. 


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