Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our Newest Lake Powell Adventure

This year's Lake Powell Messabout/Kokopelli Cruise was to be a 5-7 day sailing event starting at Bullfrog marina, and ending at Hite.  For a variety of reasons many of us found that we we not going to be able to spend the time to make the trip, and one by one a substantial number of potential cruisers had to bow out.  We were among the whimps, and decided that in lieu of a 7 day trip, we would make a 5 or 6 day trip, arriving on Monday, and leaving on Friday. We didn't quite make it - we left Wednesday night, and ended up not seeing anyone from the Messabout group.  Here is a letter that I sent to one of our Messabout friends in response to his query about our missing the party:

Hi Kellan,

Scattered Showers Forecast.....
We (Anita, her sister Janet, and brother-in-law Scott and I) were in the area, but we should have waited until Wednesday or so to launch.  We got to Hite on Monday night about dusk, hurriedly launched the boat and made a full speed run down channel,  trying to get to Four Mile Camp before full dark.  You won't find Four Mile Camp on any map, that is just what I'm going to call it. It's the point where we made the first camp in 2009 on the way to Good Hope Bay and is a little more than four miles down channel from Hite, and East of Farley's Canyon.

But it got too dark, and we found ourselves in a little steep walled canyon about 3 miles down canyon from Hite.  The moon hadn't come up yet, and it was pretty dark.  We tried to set an anchor, but canyon walls were really steep, and we couldn't find the bottom.  There were no beaches to speak of, and it kept getting darker and darker and fairly windy as well.  Finally we found a little spit of beach and backed the boat into it and put two bow anchors back into the dirt  on shore and slept on the boat, stern on the mud, and bow in the water.  But it worked.  The wind died down, and the anchors held and it was OK.  We were all pretty tired and made a cold, simple supper of dutch ovened chicken sandwiches - a little bread and a little meat, and then some fruit.  Janet also made some great little peanut butter balls with peanut butter, honey and dried milk.  They were a great desert and picked us up several times when we were tired.

Four Mile Camp

Tuesday morning we went down channel and made a camp at Four Mile Camp.  There was a lot of drift wood, and with the drift wood came some fine detritus that washed onto the beach.  We didn't really notice until evening, but with the detritus came a LOT of flies.  As night settled on us I was watching the clouds and they seemed to be not going away, but building into threatening proportions.
A related story that kept us from having good weather information:  On Saturday (Sept 10) night some vandals in Salt Lake were trying to steal copper wire and cut a fiber optic cable instead. We woke up in Millard County on 9-11 with no long distance, no cell phones, and no Internet, and consequently, no real weather forecasts.  Scott had checked the weather  before they came down on Sunday and said that the forecast called for 'scattered showers.  I always thought 'scattered showers were the same as afternoon thundershowers.  That impression is not true. Scattered showers are not the same forecast as scattered thundershowers. As we cooked supper and sat around the fire, we could see the storm continue to build by the moon light, and the wind started blowing from the West.  We were anchored in a little cove so that we would be sheltered from a South wind, but with the wind from the West, we were getting blown around pretty well, and the waves were hitting us broadside with no protection.  Our prevailing winds are oriented North-South as you well know, but at Lake Powell, I think they can come from any direction

About  5 in the morning the rain started and the wind and waves picked some.  The forecast put the wind speed at 5-10 mph, but I think that must have been a weekly average.  We managed to put up a boom tent and make things fairly snug and the flies were gone as long as the wind blew.

Makeshift Boom Tent at Four Mile Camp

Really, things were not too bad, but when wind would die down the flies would come back, the girls voted that we find another spot.  So we had breakfast and broke camp, loaded the boat headed out into the lake. 

I had two gas cans, newly filled for our little outboard.  The plastic one is the one that I used last year, and the one I had tested the motor with before we left, and the one that we had used so far.  We were contemplating a run down to Good Hope Bay, and I thought I should test out the second can of gas and so made the switch.  There must have been some kind of crud in the hose as the can looked clean before I filled it. After switching fuel supplies, it took about 30 seconds for the outboard to die and refuse to restart. 

So as we were drifting down the lake we thought it might be a good time to try the sail that I sewed over the winter.  Scott and Anita and Janet got the sail up and tweaked the attachment ties a little to try and get the wrinkles out, and we did a little bit of very low speed sailing/drifting as the wind had about quit by then.

I got out the tools and changed the spark plugs and fidldled with the fuel system trying to get the gunk out it.   We drifted/sailed back up channel for quite a while until we were really close the the little canyon that we spent the first night in.  Finally I got the outboard going and we put-putted our way back into the canyon.

It was about 2 pm or so by then and we found a quiet little spot in the very back part of the canyon and tied the boat up and stretched our legs a little.  In this farthest back part of the canyon there was no beach at all - just rock.  I put two bow lines out forward, and one stern line that tied us to the back part of the canyon.  It was tied to a rock that was about as big as I could carry, and then I put more rocks on top of it, so I thought we were tied down pretty well. 

We set up a little camp - there was plenty of wood, but no flies, and two little canyons that we could stretch our legs in and do a little exploring in.  We didn't go too far as the clouds and wind had come back to visit and threatening to rain again.  We hadn't really made camp, but we had taken the motor off of the boat so that we could get in and out a little easier.

Box Canyon Camp.
We ate a little early supper/late lunch and it started raining.  Everyone scrambled to put up the little boom tent, but once we got it up, the wind came whistling down the canyon and caught the little boom tent like a sail and blew the boat to the West and towards the lake.  The rock that was holding the stern into the shore was yanked off into the water like it wasn't there.  The two bow ropes continued to hold, but the boat ran back and forth with the wind.  The motor was still on shore, and I was worried that the bow anchors would give way and we would be blown onto rocks or some other not too great fate.  We had very little control with just oar power in a narrow little canyon.  Finally, when the wind turned a little favorable, I jumped off onto a little shelf of rock and grabbed to boat and held it to the shore while Anita ran ashore and gathered up stoves, dishes and everything else that we had unloaded except for the outboard.    I put that on the boat, helped Anita aboard and went along the cliffs to take in the bow anchors.  Scott got the outboard started and tried to keep the boat off the rocks.  I got one line free and walked it back to the boat.  Once I passed the line to the boat, there was only one holding it.  Anita and Janet tried to keep the boat from banging into the rocks but the wind was blowing pretty strong, and Scott was trying to keep the prop off of the rock shelves that lined the back of the cove.  I scurried around to pick up the other bow anchor, and the boat swung around and popped one of the canyon walls a pretty good bang.  It sounded worse than it was, as the boat is mostly a big drum, but it was loud, and there was a lot of excited discussion going on due to lack of steerage.

The remaining anchor was jammed in a large crack in between two big rocks, and was holding really well.  It wasn't hard to pull free, and once it was loose I pulled the boat towards me and gathered up the rope.  It came by really close and I was standing up a little on the rocks and jumped on it as it came by and out of the little canyon we went. 

We probably could have set course for Farley's canyon then, and we might have met up with everyone.  But it was about as far to Hite as it was to Farley's.  It was going to be dark by the time we got to either one.  We hadn't scouted Farley's, partly due to the bad gas breakdown, and didn't know what it would be like.  We had had a pretty good set of adventures and had decided that we didn't like sailing around unknown canyons in the dark.  And so we headed for the barn and home.

Headed Home
I feel bad in a way that we weren't more intrepid, and missed seeing everyone.  Our little adventure in the canyon was kind of sobering.  Either to be on shore with the motor and no boat, or to be on the boat with no motor and not much control in the wind and dark..... and I think we were just done. 

So that is the story.  I think next year, if it is going to blow and rain that we will bring a smaller boat and camp on shore and just day sail.  I built Picara for expedition camping and exploring and it really worked pretty well for that, but Lake Powell is an awfully big lake, and when the wind gets up and the whitecaps start to show, it might be better to be on shore with  a little boat that you can actually drag up onto the beach.  Maybe next year.  It wasn't the trip I thought it would be, but it is a trip that I will remember.


One more bit of drama:  Once we got back to Hite it was getting pretty dark.  We were all tired and once we got the boat back on the trailer, we busied ourselves getting it tied down and secured.  The motor was still on the boat, tilted up so that the prop wouldn't hit anything.  I was reaching under the boat to fasten an eyebolt onto the boat, and for some reason, as my head was down under the motor, a little bit of gasoline dribbled out onto my eye, and some ran into my ear.  Now you would expect that gasoline in the eye would not be good - but I had no idea that gasoline dribbled into an ear would generate and instant and excruciating earache.  I've never had an awl jammed into my ear, but I doubt it would hurt more.  A quick dip in the lake, and a good deal of head shaking worked wonders on both the eye and ear.  A word to the wise.