Canoeing ‘a risk but not impossible’

Dave Breedon says the Murray can be dangerous but it’s not off limits. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK
Dave Breedon says the Murray can be dangerous but it’s not off limits. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

A CANOE hire operator says the Murray River is a dangerous place for the unwary and unprepared.

But Dave Breedon says with the proper equipment and advice even the novice can cope.

He was speaking after two dramatic rescues on the river late last week — in one a 75-year-old grandmother, who couldn’t swim, was trapped under an upturned canoe, in the other a couple in their 20s were left clinging to a pole in the middle of a fast-flowing current.

Both had hired canoes from the same outfit but not one run by Mr Breedon.

“It is very easy to be complacent on the river but you have to treat it with the uttermost respect,” he said.

“It is wide, the weather is sunny and the danger is not always obvious.

“A lot of people get a bit complacent, they get halfway down and start relaxing.

“But anyone can be tipped out, it is knowing what to do next that is often important, understanding the next step.”

Mr Breedon said the summer holidays had brought out the tourists.

But they had to be honest with themselves and their own ability.

“People need to be honest about their capabilities, their experience.

“Before the trip we run through the basic skills, how the river works, where the currents are at their strongest.

“But based on what people tell us we allocate the boats — some are wider, more stable, others, the traditional Canadians, for the more experienced.

“We also have kayaks but these days they are all sit on, we don’t want people caught in an enclosed kayak against a log.”

Melbourne’s Darren Elliott finished his trip down the river about noon on Friday, less than an hour after the second rescue and after a hidden object tipped him and his son out of the boat.

“About 10 metres before the last bridge the young bloke got tired and we touched a log and it went under,” he said.

“The current was incredibly strong, the canoe was caught underneath the log and a few guys helped us out and then we got stuck on the very next log.

“We have done it before, it is a great adventure but that certainly showed how easy it was to come unstuck.”