New Year’s Day Fun

New Year’s Day Fun

by Ben Natusch

After taking a few months off from paddling to focus on deer hunting, skiing and working retail during the Christmas season, it was time to get back in a boat.  Every year on New Year’s Day, the Merrimack Valley Paddlers (MVP) run an event on the Winnipesauke River in Franklin, New Hampshire.   I have been to this event many times and it is one of my favorites.  There is always a great crowd on the river and many people show up to watch.  

This year Katelyn, Sam and I decided to head up and start the year off with some icy paddling.  We met at the church that the MVP rent.  We took our time gearing up hoping the temperature would warm up a bit.  When everyone was ready, we headed up to the putin.  The river run on the Winni starts off with a large seal launch down a snow bank into the river.  When I slid into the river, I felt my boat hit something as it skipped into the river. I'm not sure what it hit but it was probably a piece of ice or a rock.  While sitting in the eddy waiting for the rest of the group, I noticed my skirt was starting to puff up.  Next I started to feel like my boat was sitting a little low in the water.  Eventually I could feel the water filling my boat and realized that I was sinking.  Having run the river many times in the past and feeling very comfortable on it, I decided to paddle it anyways.  I would paddle downriver until my boat got too full of water.  Then when the boat started getting difficult to control, I would catch an eddy and empty it out.  This made the run a bit more interesting as I had to plan my moves further ahead and make sure there would be an eddy that wasn’t frozen when I needed to empty the boat.

We were the first group to make it to the takeout.  We had done a pretty quick lap since we were racing against a sinking boat.  After getting off the river, we hung out at the takeout for a bit and spent some time in the warming tent. Katelyn and Sam decided to do a second lap of the river but since my boat was cracked and I had already done one lap, I decided to sit the second one out.  While Katelyn and Sam headed up for the second lap, I hung out at the takeout.  The takeout is one of the best parts about paddling the Winni on New Year’s Day.  There are several varieties of Chili served in the warming tent.  There are also cookies and warm drinks.  There is a bridge over the river just above the takeout.  The police closed the road over the bridge because there were lots of spectators in the road.  There were many cheers every time a kayaker came down the river.   The spectators had lots of questions and took all kinds of pictures.  It was a lot of fun talking with them and answering some of their questions about whitewater paddling.

After the others finished their second lap, we headed back to the church MVP had rented to change and enjoy the meal that they put on.  This year they had lasagna, meatballs, sausage, and a bunch of other stuff.  It was a very delicious meal.   It was a really fun time and it was great to reconnect with some of the Zoar crew and get out paddling again.  The New Year’s Day Winni paddle is one of my favorite events and one that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to do some winter paddling.  Hopefully we’ll see some of you out there next year.

Happy New Year!

-Ben

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