clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The joy of boating
Duct tape holds Father's Day Lake Powell weekend together

Here's my side of the story.

A while ago, we asked my brother Mike and his wife, Virginia, to join us at Lake Powell. They'd never been on the lake before, and we wanted them to see how spectacular it is.First we needed to get our boat, trailer and truck ready for the trip. The truck's air conditioning was shot, and, alas, Freon is very costly these days. Fixed that, got a tuneup, replaced the brakes and gas filter. Expensive, but the truck was ready.

The boat floated at Willard Bay while we prodded, tightened and fixed the trailer, replacing a tire, leaf spring bolt and winch handle. My son and I were up until 11 p.m. putting it together. When we pulled the boat out of Willard Bay, algae slime coated its undersides. You need a scrub brush, up close, and lots of muscle to clean that off.

The lid for the boat's glove box had broken off and no parts were available, but a discreet 6-inch piece of duct tape plastered it back in place. The towing tarp had a rip in it, but a bit more duct tape, carefully placed on the underside, held it together.

Our Dalmatian, Tosha, had an eye infection. The veterinarian told us she needed salve in her eyes four times a day, so we couldn't leave her behind. Thus, very early Friday morning and full of hope, Tosha, my wife Julie and I set off in the truck, Tosha locked into a coachman's position while she squinted at the passing scene.

At the Point of the Mountain, which isn't all that steep, the truck decided that 35 mph was a comfortable speed. Julie and I looked at each other, and I carelessly mentioned the transmission was getting old. Spirited discussion followed. We assessed the situation. We hit a compromise. If the truck had trouble going up Spanish Fork canyon, we'd abort.

Happily, 1986 Chevy truck and 1980 trailer did well. We even passed a few lugging trailers on the way. Hours later, we pulled into Bullfrog in the heat of the afternoon and miraculously linked up with my brother and his family. Lake Powell in the late afternoon and evening is very hot. That night Julie and I slept in the pickup, which has a shell on it. As we lay in the trough formed by the carpet kit, sweat beading over us, we knew we weren't going to need any sweatshirts this trip.

Every four hours we collared Tosha and put salve in her eyes. When we first arrived, Tosha jumped out of the truck like a sailor on shore leave. Bullfrog's campgrounds have no grass; just trees, scrubby bushes and millions of bullheads -- nasty little weedy mines that lie in the dirt with their sharp points sticking out in every direction. Tosha quickly retreated to the truck and safety, where she watched us balefully for the next two days.

The next morning we launched the boat. It was windy and the boat bucked and lurched through the rolling waves. We saw a few canyons, the massive red walls plunging straight down into the lake. The boat hammered at the waves all day long. The kids loved it.

Finally, exhausted from the pounding, we approached the marina in late afternoon to let Julie and Mike jump off the boat and retrieve the truck. I approached the dock gingerly, banged into it with the engine still running, backed up, and my wife jumped.

Sometimes life is a matter of inches. She landed in the water, her arms catching the dock hard, and she hung there. Mike and an aghast onlooker pulled her out and she lay there bruised, assessing the situation. From the boat I watched them limp off soggily toward the parking lot and then I slunk off to wait for the truck to arrive.

I've taken a lot of boats out of the water. The idea is to back the trailer into the water and put the boat on it, then pull it out.

This time, as we waited for the trucks to back in, a boater next to me kept up a running commentary on the inadequacies of each team handling boat and trailer. I could hardly wait my turn. I didn't disappoint him.

The boat went on the trailer, but the new winch we'd just put on was baffling and we made no hookup. I floated sideways and the critic behind me said, condescendingly, "You want to back it up? Go ahead. I'll wait."

The second time was better, and as we struggled to lock it on my new friend shot his giant, $70,000 boat up on his trailer, snapped it on and pulled away. I wonder if he saw our duct tape.

That night we stretched out in the pickup again, but this time we draped an old, frazzled quilt over the back of the truck's shell to keep out the rising sun. We anchored it with rocks. The kids had used it for sleepovers when they were very little. It said "Love," repeated many times. I saw a couple out on a walk look at us sideways as they went by, Tosha barking at them and the duct tape glinting from the boat's torn cover.

The next day we pulled out at 3 p.m. for home. A long, steep hill climbs out of Bullfrog Bay. In defense, I should say that it gives a lot of vehicles trouble.

By the time we got to the top, the smell of scorched transmission fluid filled the cab. More discussion followed. We assessed the situation. We pushed on, air conditioner blowing and listening to Agatha Christie stories. We reasoned that our friends would find us before our leftover food and water ran out.

Thankfully, we made good time to Salt Lake City. Then, her knuckles white, Julie drove through the increasing traffic on I-215. Somewhere around 30th South a trucker pulled alongside, blared his horn three or four times and pointed to the trailer.

We stopped, with cars whistling by at 70 mph, and I saw the trailer's wheel bearing had blown out. It was smoking and what was left of the grease bubbled around the axle. We sure didn't want to stay there, so we pulled carefully ahead to the 21st South exit and we assessed the situation.

Triple-A was sympathetic but regretful: Their towing policy didn't cover trailers. But they knew some specialists who handled them. It was getting dark, around 9:30, and I had to use the jack to get the trailer off the truck because (surprise!) the trailer's front landing gear was stripped. When we called, the trailer-towing specialist said $75.

The tow truck driver's name was Mike. It was dark while he skillfully cranked the trailer and boat onto his massive truck and we set out for Bountiful. He listened with sympathy to my story, lighting up when Lake Powell was mentioned. Yes, he knew about Lake Powell. His boss had a new, 35-foot boat which he keeps there. Why, he said, his boss went down just last week with his kids and never got off the boat for four days.

I figured that my $75 wouldn't buy gas for half a day in his boss's boat. It was almost twice as big as mine, and I bet it had never seen any duct tape. Sometime earlier, as Julie and I sat in the darkened truck waiting for people to show up, she turned to me and said passionately, "I'm tired of old boats and old trucks." She didn't say anything about husbands, but I'm not stupid. I'm sure glad it was Father's Day.