Posted by: PJC on Nov-28-12 9:14 AM (EST)
Didn't happen, but came close once...
Early spring day, the river was flowing smoothly without many chunks, air temps maybe in the low 40s, mild winds, cabin fever - must paddle. Took off with a bud in my lightweight tandem for a short paddle.
Got a little stiff after maybe five miles, about halfway through, as happens to old guys kneeling in the cold.
Got out on an island for a leg stretch. The island was mostly a big sandbar still covered in ice/consolidated snow maybe six or eight inches thick, so landing involved stepping up on a ledge but over water that was shallow. We got out without incident and slid the boat up on the ice maybe fifteen or twenty feet from the water. That's much higher than I usually leave a boat in warmer weather. We then set off to "walk out" some of the kinks.
We'd gone maybe a hundred or so feet when we heard a weird noise - not the terns, geese, breeze in the trees, flowing water... kind of a raspy sound. Turned around to see the very slightest of breezes was blowing the boat down the island over the ice toward the open water at the end. The boat was accelerating. A pretty serious foot race with an inanimate object ensued.
I won, but there is a lesson in this. You really really want to keep your boat in cold weather. If we'd have had to swim the channel and hike out it could have "turned epic" really quick. The water was barely liquid, the air wasn't exactly balmy, and even after getting to shore it would have been several miles of bushwhacking to get to a road which may or may not have had a car on it. It could easily have been a month before anyone else came that way by water.
Always take a painter in the cold. Keep it dry. Stake or tie your boat to a tree EVERY time you step away from it on ice. Even if only a few feet. It takes very little wind to blow a boat away, it happens fast, the consequences could be really ugly.