On the Friday afternoon of a Labor Day weekend, there was nothing but blue skies as far as the eye could see while we loaded up the car and hooked up the trailer to head out to the Colorado River. As we approached the Arizona state line, it became obvious that the weather was taking a definite turn for the worse. By the time we arrived at the marina in Lake Havasu, we were engulfed in a massive thunderstorm complete with extremely high winds and a torrential downpour. Undaunted, my father proceeded to launch our seventeen foot Bayliner into the lake for a harrowing journey to the other side to meet up with some friends who had been camping in a remote area all week.
As we made our way across the lake, the weather continued to deteriorate and our little ski boat was tossed around by over ten foot waves. At this point, most experienced seamen would have turned the boat around and headed for the safety of the marina, but not my pop. My father was a proud member of the greatest generation. He had made it through the Great Depression and survived the “War to End All Wars” and he wasn’t going to let a little rain slow him down. My mother, on the other hand, who usually supported completely every crazy idea my father ever came up with, had a different plan for how she was going to protect her children from drowning in the middle of the lake.
Although she had never learned to swim herself, she decided that the best course of action would be to wrap me and my younger brother in blankets and stuff us in the hold under the bow. In retrospect, I believe that lifejackets might have been a better choice. I can still remember feeling a little uneasy about the position my mother had put us in, but after some severe rockin’ and a rollin’, pop safely beached the Bayliner at our designated campsite and we were able to set up camp for the night.
The next morning, we awoke to a sunny, albeit still quite windy day and began to assess the damage. Overnight, the little Bayliner had completely swamped and the bottom of the hull had been ripped out due to the pounding it took from being blown back and forth across the sandy beach all night. I do believe that a lesser man would have given up at this point, but not my dad. He enlisted the help of another camper whose boat had survived the storm to give him a ride back to the marina, where he purchased fiberglass, resin and paint brushes. He then proceeded to flip the boat over on its side (with the outboard motor still attached) and apply a makeshift patch to the hull. Now I’m not saying that the patch was completely watertight, but it was good enough to get back to the marina and the boat loaded back on the trailer.
It’s like my Pop always used to say
“You’ll never sink this boat! Come on! You call this a storm, Dude?”