Grants Pass Boatnik 2000 "Mr. Toads wild ride!"

We rolled across the border into Oregon on Wednesday at about 9 am, MUCH relaxed from the nice evening in Mt. Shasta and a great dinner at the Mexican place there. We were heading for my aunt and uncle's (Margie & Mack Williams) place in Grants Pass, hopefully to use their forklift to hoist my motor. They were getting ready for Boatnik too. They own the Super Steak Burger trailer, the best food AT the Boatnik.

I was using a flexplate PTO adapter to hold the flywheel on the motor since Marysville and I wanted to replace it with a flywheel PTO adapter because I didn't trust the flexplate PTO, it has no shoulder to seat in the flywheel. I stopped in Medford and bought one from Mike Zoller.  If you go by his place, Performance Motorsports on Crater Lake Highway, stop in and look around, he has all kinds of really great stuff in his shop and I am sure there is something you could use. After purchasing the adapter, slobbering on the Russel fittings and drooling on a bunch of built up motors in the showroom, we hopped back on the freeway and headed for Grants Pass. I wanted to really look the hull over for new cracks and check all my welds. I had also decided to go back to the wet lowers/homemade uppers on my exhaust also as I had lost 50 rpm with the headers I had borrowed from Mike Messick. I THINK it was because of the silencer inserts, or maybe because the headers were the correct size for a small block turning about 6200 rpm and we only turn 4450. Anyway, I had to go back to a known setup. This was my short list for the day. We pulled into my aunt and uncles, and that's when we discovered we had left the brief case with our schedules, maps, RULES and money in the motel in Mt. Shasta!

It really isn't that far back to Mt. Shasta and the drive IS nice.

OK, we're back in Grants Pass, it's now it's 1 or 2 pm, I've got the motor slid back, the exhaust has been changed. I just need a few heavy duty fine thread bolts to finish the job, so we go downtown and I walk into Bayless Autoparts. At the counter is a guy who looks familiar for some reason. I look at his name tag and it says "Larry". Oh, Larry Bayless! I went to school  through sixth grade in Grants Pass, and there was a kid who was about 6 or 7 years older than me, who lived just down Foothill Boulevard. He had this gorgeous hopped up 57 Chevy, a very dark blue (although I had remembered it as black). I can remember (about 1964 ) standing at the bus stop and his 57 roaring by. All us little kids on Foothill thought that kid with the 57 was real cool. The kid's name was Larry Bayless. After  36 years here he was! I recollected to him about his car back then, small world and all. Larry commented that his son, Kevin, was also racing whitewater with Joel. Hell yeah, Kevin! It really is a small world, you know. Kevin was working out back and he came to the counter and said hi. I was lamenting missing the buoy in Colusa, and Kevin said, almost everybody missed it at least once, it had drifted off line! Talk about making my day!

We went back to Margie and Mack's and finished up the boat. I was still grinning as we headed for the motel.

The next day, Thursday, we went to the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville for a boat show and reception. There sure was a lot of empty hulls on display! The boats were there but the motors were in various shops being rebuilt or repaired. We kept looking, but Sam Waller wasn't there. Nobody seemed to know if he was still running or not, but someone said he was in Gold Beach and Wayne Adams was replacing the center back part of his hull. Sam finally showed up with about two thirds of the center section of his hull forward of his pump replaced. He looked like he had gotten at least 2 hours of sleep in the last two days. Sheer determination!

Lonely C -class boats, off in the corner.
John Rachor had a really great KwikKraft pleasure boat he had built on display. It appeared he had combined the best of race and reliable. It was all marinized and to code. If you want the fastest, civilized whitewater jetboat in the world, I know who has it.  John. AND it's for sale.

We all sat around on the curbs and BSed until the reception at 5. The reception was in a big hall on the north end of the Casino/motel complex. When you put all the racers and crews in one room, there is a hell of a lot of 'em! Lot's of aluminum got bent in that room over a few beers. Burnt lots of fuel too. Randy offered me a ride the next day to look at the river.

Friday was preruns and another small boatshow at Mock Ford. Home to the motel and to bed.

I met Steve Soderberg, Jesse Cummings, Randall Frei and Garth and Randy Sundberg at the ramp at about 7. I had my race jacket on and everyone looked at me funny, but it's all I had and I don't boat without a PFD. I am absolutely addicted to floating.  I hopped in with Steve and Jesse Cummings in the white Sabre and we headed downriver. Garth and Randy had Randall Frei with them in the red sport. We hadn't gone far when we started hearing a subdued pocka-pocka-pocka from under the padded motor cover. After investigation, it was decided that maybe it wouldn't be such a great idea to go down through Dunn riffle with a suspect motor, so Steve and Jesse turned back and I got in the red sport. It was cold this early so I stayed hunkered down behind Garth's seat most of the way. I kept peeking at the bad stuff. The river didn't look a lot different from last year, but the water level was just right to make some of the spots half again as torn up as last year. Randy jumped out of the sport into another boat and we ran up and down through one of those places with Garth driving. On a down run the boat took a bad hop. Then the motor started doing the whoop-whoop sound. You know the sound when you are trying to get the pump to take a bite again? Then crash, thump. Oops! Landed right on one of those rock fingers sticking out into the river about 5 feet. The pump finally bit and we shot back out into the river. Everybody was ok, the boat was handling funny and water was coming in so we retired back to Grants Pass. Sorry about the boat Garth, if I had known ahead of time how my luck was going to go this weekend, I certainly would have never have endangered YOUR boat by riding with you. AND I should have put a flag on that damn rock while we were there.

The next morning was race day. The drivers meeting was at 7 am in the park. Cold again, drizzling, EARLY. The only other people out were the guys shining the park back up for saturday's boatnik celebration. Do you know how a bunch of cold, getting wet racers look at 7 am in a city park? Well, actually, everyone looked pretty perky, considering. We got our start times and left for the ramp. THEN it started raining. The boat was more or less sheltered under the bridge, so Lynn and I sat in the truck. We took a nap. That's how not ready I was.

I missed the start flag late by at least 8 seconds. Wake up, I said to myself. It was drizzling and there wasn't many spectators. The skys were grey and my visor was fogging up bad. Through the cement pile, no sweat, onward! I was thinking about Dunn and the place were we had crashed yesterday. The upper part of the Grants Pass run is wide open, BUT, you still have to pay attention, even at only 71 mph. I wasn't.

I don't know exactly where it was, a little down from Griffin park I think, but I had lost my concentration. I took a little left hand channel around an island I thought. Hard turn, Oh Shit, no more water! It ran out into about an inch of still water on top of 2 - 4 inch river rock. Gotta get going the other direction, fast! Drop the diverter, crank it hard over, come on Cavefish you've turned harder than this before.

I saw Lynn grab the bars and brace herself out of the corner of my eye. Arrrgh! It's not turning fast enough, Oh Shit! The rear end tailed out over the inch deeper water and we were instantly sailing backwards at about 65 mph, bumping and hopping over the rocks. I could hear the motor going raw-de raw-de -raw up against the rev limiter, but who cares, I had to brace myself and the throttle was already under my right foot.It seemed to take forever to slide and slow over about 100 feet of rocks. We slid backwards and sideways up against a log, the boat teetered way up on my side, hung there a second, then flopped back down. I killed the motor.

All of a sudden it was very, very quiet.  Lynn's eyes were huge as I am sure mine were. We popped our belts and asked each other if we were ok. Then we just sat there stunned. After just a short time we could here Jim and Michelle going by out in the river.  "Oh shit!", Lynn says, then she jumps out of the boat, runs around to the back and starts pushing. I ran to the back too and started pushing, but it ain't going nowhere. It's surprising how determined the little boat was to stay right were it had landed. I tried prying under the back with a big ole branch, but that was good for about 6 inches of movement, then stuck again. I tried lifting the nose and moving it around, still couldn't get it to go forward.

Lynn said,"We better get the sweep boat stopped." and she started running for the main channel carrying her helmet. It was about 500 feet from were I had crashed us. Just as she was about there, the sweep boat went by, moving. Lynn was still in the brush and they didn't see her. I could see people on the opposite bank waving and pointing towards us, but why on earth would the people in the sweep boat expect some idiot to crash clear up here were there was nothing to hit? AND people wave and point and do all kinds of crazy things all the time when you are going up and down the river.

There was a boat hauling rescue divers about a minute behind the sweep boat and they stopped. After they had stopped and turned around, I heard ANOTHER boat start up just downriver from us, that was a Sheriff boat. In a very short time there were two rescue guys, the two operators of the boat, a deputy and a lady deputy on the scene. The boat that was hauling the divers was operated by a man about my age who seemed right away to know what to do.(Steve Roberts) "Not my first rodeo.", he said when I commented that he appeared to have done this before. Between the divers, the boat, several ropes that broke and some real serious grunting and lifting we got the boat back out to deep water. I am still amazed at how difficult it was to slide the boat over those rocks. It was way harder to do then I thought it would be. I think everybody that was there asked me at one time or another, who made that hull? I guess I would have asked the same thing if I saw a boat that had slid 100 feet over rocks and remained in one piece.

"Terror on the Rogue" (After we crashed, that's what I kept calling it just to hear Lynn crack up laughing.)

We got going again and just cruised down to Alameda park. When we got there we discovered that no one had known what had happened to us for quite a while. The Josephine County Deputy had called in to report that we were aground but unhurt, but the word hadn't gotten out to the people at Alameda until right before we got there. I heard from several people that Linda Sundberg had grabbed a couple of race officials and insisted that they go find us and right damn now! Thanks for the concern Linda, it's a damn funny feeling to be in a fix like that and know that no one knows where you are. Our kids had come to watch us and were at Dunn Riffle, but we never came by! Jeff, the driver of the sweep boat felt real bad about missing us, but there is no way he could have expected us where we were and we didn't get out to the river until they passed. It certainly wasn't his fault that we had crashed way off the mainstem.

I want to thank the guys who got us off those rock as again, I have sent a letter to the Active Club expressing our appreciation to them also. I very, very much appreciate the hard work it took. I sure as heck couldn't have done it myself.

Darren Arave, 399 had crashed at about the same time we did but a lot further down, and we saw his boat sitting out in the middle of the river, half sunk, on our way down. It was still in the same place when we came back up river and by that  evening Darren and the little red Kiwi tugboat had pulled it to the north bank. Darren stripped the motor, seats, tank, etc. to get the hull light enough that it could be dragged back across the river to the south shore were it could then be loaded on a trailer. The other reason for removing as many parts as possible was so they wouldn't be damaged by another drenching, or smashed if the boat turned over whilst being towed. Everybody thought Darren was done for this year. Guess again, more at Gold Beach!

Also on this first day, several other boats had taken hits from rocks, but no injuries.  I was interested to learn at Alameda that Tim Harding pulls his boat and tears the pump down on almost every leg. I guess I never noticed before. Mike said that they have to, they chew up stainless impellers on a regular basis. Wow!

I took a real good look at Spencer King's boat, and it gave me an overall impression of being very work-like, not a lot of fancy, just reliable. It also happens to be disgustingly fast. I like the Kiwi boats for the same reason, they are usually quiet but fast and reliable. The Sharkeys were continuing their march through b-class, they had something like 6 minutes cumulative time on the next closest boat, Ernie and Brandi Fields who were very, very fast also.

The run back upriver was uneventful for us, since I was wide awake and I didn't take any wrong turns. We saw the Sharkeys  parked about half way up- found out later that evening that their motor went south.

Sunday- day 2

Another early morning drivers meeting, we launched from the beach under the bridge, that way we weren't in the way of everybody else trying to launch and all I had to do was pull the truck forward about 50 feet.  Sat with a bunch of the other c-class folks and talked about, what else, boats until it was close to time to go. Our time came up and away we went. Lots more people in the park this morning, I guess because it wasn't raining! After yesterdays fiasco, I had at least 10 minutes to make up by the end at Gold Beach and that was just to get in third place. I didn't know if it was possible but I was sure going to try.

    The boat seemed slower, which makes sense because the bottom was now fairly corrugated from being slid across 200 feet of rocks. After the first mile and the way the boat felt, I had figured out I would be lucky to just to hold where I was at and hopefully fix the bottom at home in the week between Grants Pass and Gold Beach. We cut every corner and I made a point of running through most of the rough stuff just a bit faster than was prudent. At Dunn I cut to the right at the top so I wouldn't have to slow to jump off the shelf. It was bumpy, but fast!

    We saw Mike and Andy getting out of a resuce boat, but never saw their boat at all. Only got a quick glimpse but they were moving very slow and sore- I am putting Mike's email to me at the end of this story, it's a real eyeopener and might make you appreciate those harnesses, roll bars and god awful lifejackets for what they are. Lifesavers.

    The run went smooth until the riffle were Darren Arave's boat got lumped (same one that's Garth's boat took a hit). I came down the left side, after not being able to see where to get over to the right. That riffle has a series of big holes where you have to run and the bank side has about three rock fingers sticking out about 8 feet into the river. Directly on your right is a series of standing rollers, guarenteed to throw you back into the bank or the rocks. I tried to split the difference and all was great until I strayed just a little bit too far into the rollers. The boat veered left, I corrected and punched it, the boat took a hop, all the water fell out of the pump, and I was now sideways in the air, moving sideways,  towards the same damn rock finger we had hit in Garth's boat! S$#%! I goosed the throttle a couple of times and it caught! I corrected back left again, to stay in the sweet spot and we fell in a hole. The current also now pushed me sideways towards the rock finger that I still had not cleared. I punched it hard again and aimed right, the boat responded by lifting the nose and kind of rotating on the right rear corner. The nose shot up the other side of the hole and I heard a loud THUMP, sounded like it was just to the rear of my seat. ALL I could see was the front deck, the nose was way high and I knew there was another rock just to the right and downriver about 30 feet of were I supposedly was. I waited for the big crash when we landed on that rock, but it never happened. We plopped back down were aimed right on the line between the bank and the next rock. I'll take it.

    I remember looking up at the bank to orient myself and looking right at the back of Dwayne Longfellows high and dry #244 Liquifire boat. It was still steaming but no one was around it. It almost looked like they had needed to make a quick pee stop and had just ran it up there and jumped out! Found out later that his driveline had let go and they flew up on the beach out of control. Weird. Terry Pottratz was snapping photos of them when it happened. Terry said they were aimed right at him, he took one more picture and ran!  Ran the rest of the way down without incident, boy is that Rogue river an aluminum eating son of a gun! That one riffle claimed much more than it's share of shiny aluminum and dollars. The count from what I had heard was 5 family boats and 4 race boats all with varying dents, rips and corrugations.

    At Alameda I crawled all around and looked, but couldn't see the dent. Guess I'll see it when I get back to Grants Pass and on the trailer. There was a tiny new dent on the side, just aft of the seats, but it didn't look like it could have made that big thump sound. Denny Farster got the all time hosedown  award. He reportedly hosed upwards of 200 people at Ennis Riffle for what has to be an all time record for unstaged spectator watering. Good job Denny!

    The up run was very exciting but not of the screaming type. We caught some big air but the Cavefish flew straight and came down straight so it was just good fun. It was a good run and pretty fast I thought. I ran around the left of the little island just below the bridge, across the line, and Grants Pass was done.
 
 

Some interesting stats- There were 5 father/son teams(the Kings, the Pelkeys, the Sundbergs, the Sharkeys and the Carters) along with 3 husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend  teams (Jim and Michelle Ely, Ernie and Brandi Fields and Me and Lynn). There were a few "have not raced in awhile" racers such as Brad Heineke, Hugh McGinnis to mention a few, who showed us all they had payed their dues long ago and had not forgotten the hard learned lessons from years past.. Internationally there were 5 Canadian teams and 5 New Zealand teams.

Mike Galvan's email describing he and Andy's crash at Ennis Riffle....
(I wasn't certain I had the story straight and I didn't know if they were
ok, so I had emailed Mike and asked. This is Mike's email back. I asked him
if I could put part of it up here, he said it was ok and might be a lesson in there
somwhere for someone.
I wanted to put at least part of it up here so everyone might have the story from them
and know they are ok.  It is a very good description of what is to all of us the darker
side of boat racing. It is somewhat reassuring to know that the safety gear
we use works so well. When I look at their boat though, it's very sad. Jesse)

So I don't know what you heard, but we are OK.  I think Andy really took the
worst of it.  I got out of it with a swollen right ankle, a good bruise over my
right eye, some pretty nice looking bruises on my thighs from the five point
harnesses, a nice deep cut on my left shin, and some other bumps and bruises.
Andy got two stitches on one of his legs (can't remember which one) a chip out
of his shinbone, and a burn like abrasion on another leg.  His faceshield
shattered and cut his left eye pretty badly.  9 cuts throughout his eye many on
the eyeball itself.  A piece was actually shaved off the side of it.....BUT none
of the cuts were over the iris of the eye, so he will heal up 100%.  So overall,
we are physically OK.

As for everything else....we are REALLY bummed.  I have been really down about
it for the past couple of weeks.  I worked so hard on that boat and had built
almost the whole thing myself (I know that you know how that feels).  Not to
mention that we were in third place that day and would of moved into second
(since Matt and Jake - Jokers Wild - blew there bowl off the back of the boat on
the return run) which stinks, but hey, we would of been in 2nd!!  And then I
heard that Earnie blew his motor........so we had a six minute lead on Dave
Provost and probably would of been able to hold him off..........CRAP!!  Oh
well, that's racing I guess.  Almost 4 years of racing and really never hit
anything, so I guess it was my turn...........

The hull is a total wreck.......I don't know if you know what happened, but it
went like this.......we had turned down our impeller on Saturday night (Matt
Morris's dad did it for us - their family really helped us out so much in GP and
in yuba.......they are great people) so when we took off from the start on day
two we gained 500 RPM and around 12-14 MPH!  We were cooking downriver at around
82 - 86 MPH on the GPS....having really the most perfect run of the all the
races so far......everything was perfect, boat was handling beautifully, engine
was running great.....we made our minute on Hugh McGinnis 00 above Hellsgate and
had to slow down and hang out behind them for a couple miles, through Hellsgate
and then rode their rooster tail thru Dunn riffle since I couldn't really slow
down anymore than I had (or at least it felt like that).  They finally let me by
just after Dunn and I floored it and roared past them........had just a blinding
run all the way down to Enis.......well, I took a wide line into Enis since the
day before we had nicked some little sleeper rock on the way up on day 1 on the
inside line......as I went between two rocks at the top of the rapid I
straighened out and was making a straight line for the slack water below
Enis....I knew that damn rock was in there, but couldn't see it since it was a
boil over....we were doing around 68 by the GPS and since I was unsure as to
where that rock was I took the toungue of water down the middle of the
riffle....well, about 35 feet in front of me, I saw the boil over.........I
think Andy saw it at the same time cause I saw his hand shoot up about the same
time I saw it.....all I had time to do was brace for it and floor it to try and
get that bow over it............it caught the hull about 6 inches from the
back......I remember it in slow motion....I braced into my seat against the foot
brace, the steering wheel and the throttle pedal.....I remember the bow pointing
down slicing into the water....then the light went dark, light, dark, and then
light again.....the ride was surprisingly smooth.....I really don't remember
being thrown around hard at all........when we had sort of stopped, I was
holding my breath and was unsure if I was upside down or rightside up......the
water was still pouring out of my helmet, so I couldn't see real well.....I
remember being totally calm and kind of thinking to myself "Am I underwater?  Am
I rightside up?  God, I might die........."  I then realized that we were
rightside up...I reached down, popped the harnesses, and stood up in the quickly
sinking boat.........I looked over to Andy's side and he was already out as
well....I looked at him and asked him if he was OK...he said yes and asked me
the same thing....."yep, I think so".....I noticed that his face shield was
broken in half and that his left eye was red and bleeding.....I think he felt it
at that point as well.....he looked at me and said "We lost the boat"  I said "I
know" and he let go of the boat and let the current take him downriver.....I
waved at the sheriffs boat to signal that we were OK and pointed to
Andy........I kind of sat on the rollbar and held on.....looking at the
boat.......everything was OK, except the bow was about 4 feet shorter and the
nose was 90 degrees to the right and split up the middle about 4
feet.........the engine was still intact, the rollbar had partially broken, but
overall, it didn't look too bad........the boat had stopped on the bottom
pointing downriver...I kind of realized that we had gone end over end in a
complete flip........
I finally let go and climbed into the rescue boat..........Andy was starting to
go into shock....shaking........but he was conscious and coherent........

When we were taken to shore, everyone was really good to us......people were
bringing blankets asking if we needed anything......at that point (knowing Andy
was OK for the most part, I was OK) I started getting really pissed...at myself,
for hitting the rock, for sinking the boat, I stormed around for a few minutes
trying to calm myself down........I was still soaking wet....the Pelkeys were
there and they were so nice.  They were asking if there was anything they could
do, if we were OK, telling me to get out of my soaked race suit.......Barry's
Mom MADE me put on her sweatshirt and sweats.........she definitely made
me........she just started handing it to me right off her back.......that was
really nice.....cause I probably would of gotten really cold pretty
quickly........

I was really worried about my girlfriend Kimberly........I knew she was
downriver on John Rachor's boat.....and I knew that I had to go to the Hospital
with Andy........I didn't know how to get word to her that I was OK.....that was
kind of rough, because I had to go in the Ambulance, but didn't want to leave
without Kim.......luckily, they showed up at the last minute.......and boy, the
look on Kim's face was really hard to see....she looked terrified............she
jumped of the boat and wrapped her arms around me crying......I could only hold
her and let her know that we were OK..........that was tough.....I think we
(racers) sometimes forget that those who care about us are never sure that we
have made it downriver succcessfully until they see us at either end......it is
rough on them when something happens.........

We rode in the ambulance with Andy to the hospital.....he was doing OK, they
taped his eyes shut so that he wouldn't move his cut up eye as much and possible
do more damage.......I sat in back with him and talked with him and the
EMT.....those guys were absolutely great.....really took good care of Andy and
Kim and I........I wish that I would of gotten to thank them again........Andy's
brother and Dad were at the hospital when we got there and they really got Andy
fixed up.

We were back out at Enis riffle about 3 hours later to start to figure out how
to get the boat out.......once again, the Kiwis and that rescue boat helped
out....they were great.  They had already pulled two boats out that day and then
they came to get ours.........it took 3 trucks, a winch and several attempts by
those guys to get a rope and cable on that boat.  They really risked a lot in
the heavy current trying to get that thing out...........I won't go in to
detail, but with everyone helping, we eventually dragged it out.......really
destroyed it getting it out, ripped the roll bar out completely, tore the rest
of the bow apart from the current, flipped it onto its top and had to drag it
the last 12 feet on its top......man, that was really hard to do.........when we
pulled it up on shore and onto the trailer........well, lets just say it was
done.

Everyone helped out so much.  The crowd of people who joined in to lift, drag,
and push the hull back onto the trailer were great, people really felt badly for
us and it seemed like they couldn't do enough.....they were all kind words, I'm
sorry's, and we are all glad that you guys are OK......I didn't know how to
thank the New Zealanders.......they spent a couple hours, a lot of gas, and
risked their own boat to help us...........all I could do was say thanks.......


Later that night Val and Del Ramsdell continued to help......they took our
engine out and dissassemble and cleaned the whold thing....without their help
our motor would of been pretty trashed as well.....so I can't thank them enough
either....Del really has helped me quite a bit over the past few
years......great people.........

Matt and Jake and their families (Joker's Wild) have been so great as
well....they helped us fix some things on our boat, stored it for us, took us
all over the river...they are just such good people and have become really good
friends....I guess that is a big part of the reason that I have gotten into this
racing is the people....and they continue to be great.....

..........

If you hear of anyone selling a hull, let them know (and me) that I am in the
market for one.......

I think Mike's email just about covers it all. SO, anyone got a good deal on a hull?