So the first time I swam in my packraft, I got stuck upside down 50 feet from our put-in on the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. In my panic to avoid drowning, I flailed at my spray skirt, firmly velcroed in what turns out to be a very efficient design. The velcro wouldn't give, and i didn't know how to right myself. I paddled in a mostly likely ridiculous manner towards my friend Jon's kayak, my head above water only by my ability to arch my back out of the the upside-down boat to keep my head above water (thanks yoga!).
Once I reached his kayak I had a moment to locate the spray skirt release point and I swam out of the boat into the big calm pool beneath the first rapid of the day. The first rapid that Kirk had suggested I walk around.
"No, it's ok, I got it," I said and promptly dumped at the end of the wave train. It took me a while to get over my jitters and the "I don't want to die" feeling while back in the boat and successfully navigating the rest of the river.
My fear of water has a lot to do with the fact that when stressed, I freeze. When you are underwater and need to react or not breath, this turns into a serious situation, and I become more stressed. While backpacking my stressful times don't seem to happen with quite the seriousness or the frequency. Boaters definitely flirt with disaster more than hikers.
I'm going to spend some time with my spray skirt partially open, just until I know where that handle is.