Friday, August 12, 2011

A Boat and A Lake: Jumping in the Deep End Part 5

We just returned from our summer vacation - spending almost a week (6 days / 5 nights) exploring Lake Powell (Arizona & Utah) on a houseboat. While we have visited this part of the country before (and we love it!), it was our first experience on the lake and our first time in a houseboat. Each day this week I'll show you pictures from our trip - grouped into themes.

Today's theme: The Anchorages

While each part of our vacation had it's own surprises and challenges, by far the most "exciting" aspect was finding a spot and anchoring the houseboat down each night. The theory is that you just motor part-way up onto a beach and dig holes in the sand to bury your 2 anchors there, holding your boat in place overnight.

Sounds pretty easy, right? (Well, I thought it did anyways...) But finding a good spot turned out to be tricky. You want the front part of your 2 pontoons to rest snugly in the sand, while the back half of your boat, including the 2 outboard motors, to still be in deep water, so that you can start them up without damaging the propellers.

We thought we had found a good spot on Sunday - our first night (although, in hindsight, we can see from this picture how we were wrong):

As you can see from the threatening sky, a storm was on its way in.

Sure enough, later that evening we were struck by a massive storm - thunder, lightening and torrential rains that created multiple waterfalls along the sides of the cliffs around us! All of this came with fierce winds. We watched in awe from the safety of our cabin, little realizing the potential impact of this storm on us.

At one point we heard a loud noise from somewhere on the boat. It turned out that one of the plastic lounge chairs was blown off the upper deck, into the lake and broken into 2 pieces. We were able to recover the pieces the next morning and, from then on, whenever the wind picked up we used 6 of the 12 life jackets onboard to attach the lounge chairs to the railings of the upper deck.

But that was nothing. It was Tuesday morning, when we were ready to leave, that we learned what the storm had done. It had blown us sideways into a sand bar, and we were stuck, stuck, stuck! :(

We tried for a couple of hours to break free, without success. Finally, we called for help on the marine radio and were told that someone would come out to get us, but we were 3rd in line and it may be a while...

After waiting by the radio for 5 hours, my husband got bored and went out with his life jacket and a shovel - it took him an hour, but he actually dug us free!

Unfortunately, this meant that we were quite late heading out to find our next site. You're not supposed to be on the lake at night - plus we didn't want to be trying to find a site and fix our anchors after dark! - so we were feeling quite stressed as we motored along.

Some kind folks in a speed boat intuited our plight and guided us to a good site:

You can see that the sun was going down as we anchored and took a quick swim to relax...

Other than the stress of getting there before dark, the 2nd site was uneventful. The next morning, we left for our 3rd site. Once again, we had difficulty identifying a good site - this time we wanted to avoid getting stuck in the sand, so we picked a rocky shore and my husband used the rocks to secure the anchors.

Or so he thought! We had another huge wind blow through that afternoon, and somehow it blew one of the ropes right up over and around the rock, pulling one anchor deep into the bottom of the lake. :(

Scott didn't want to unhook the anchor from the boat, as it was still helping to secure the boat - but when he tried to pull up the anchor, it got stuck on something at the bottom of the lake! We were looking at each other like - Are you kidding me? Can't we catch a break here?

Well, amazingly, he had packed 2 long coils of webbing and a handful of carabiners, for us to take on our hikes, in case we ever got stuck out on the rock cliffs somewhere. So, he used our gear to build a second anchor to the shore. Then he was comfortable untying the real anchor from the boat - at which point we were able to pull on the anchor from all different angles, eventually unsticking it and raising it.

As we lay panting on the deck - tired and relieved that it had worked - I commented to my husband, "That was amazing! You're not just some mild-mannered college professor!" His reponse, "But that's all I want to be!"

Of course, our happiness was premature at this point. Our next step was to un-anchor both sides of the boat and head out. I manned the helm and used the steering wheel and outboard motors to keep the boat steady, while Scott collected our handmade anchor and the other real anchor and brought them back to the boat. As he was stowing the real anchor, it slipped out of his control and knocked him on the head! It gave him a cut, and blood started pouring down his face!

I was horrified - watching the blood cover his eyes, his nose, his mouth and his beard - afraid to leave the helm in case the boat drifted and got stuck again. I kept telling myself - it's okay; scalp wounds bleed a lot...

Sure enough, once he got the anchor fully stowed, he came in and cleaned up, and it was a small cut, shallow and less than half an inch long. You can tell I'm a wife first and a photographer second, as I sent him to clean up before it occurred to me to get a dramatic picture. ;)

By now we were feeling pretty stressed out about this whole anchoring business... And we still had 1 more site to go! For our last site, we again got some advice from folks in a speed boat. Scott dug the holes for the anchors very deep!

And every time the wind picked up, we cringed, went on the alert and tried to brace ourselves for another "adventure"...

But we made it through the night without incident and managed to get ourselves and the boat back to the marina the following day, in the right number of pieces - well, okay, 1 extra piece because of the lounge chair going into the drink! ;)

I'm super proud and impressed by how well my husband was able to get us out of those scrapes - oh, I helped, but it was generally his brains AND his brawn that got us out. But it was pretty much right up to the edge of how much "adventure" we like to have...

With time, the sharp edges of the memories will undoubtedly soften and we'll be able to look back on the trip without adrenaline flooding into our systems... But I know one thing for sure. We'll never forget this one! ;)

I have one more picture for you tomorrow...


CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

OMG! I'm so glad you and your husband arrived home safe and sound. It sounds like you brought Murphy on vacation with you.

gwensews said...

Oh, man! I'm glad your husband is ok, first of all. Geez, the last place you want to be in a storm is on the water! Storms are fierce on water, as you found out. I have some stories too, after living on Lake St. Clair for many years. I can so relate to the storms and the anchor problems, and sand bars.