Same Storm, Different Boat
Many years ago I was on vacation with my wife doing a car camping trip in Utah. We typically try to fit in a lot of adventure when we go on road trips and this was no different. We had our mountain bikes and hiking boots and that’s usually all we need.
But for this particular day adventure we needed a boat.
We ended up camping in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area for a few days. A reservoir was created there when humans dammed the Colorado River. This water flooded canyon has made it possible to explore the area by boat. It’s a pretty unique opportunity, including being able to view petroglyphs, which are a type of rock art created thousands of years ago by Indigenous peoples.
The boat we rented was a super simple twelve foot aluminum fishing boat. You know, the kind where you have to sit at the back and steer by moving the motor side to side. It was all we needed for an easy two to three hour tour of the canyon.
Either we didn’t check the weather forecast or the storm came out of nowhere, but about an hour into our adventure the rain started. And with the rain came thunder, lightening and wind. If you’ve ever been in a canyon during a rainstorm you know how scary it is. The thunder echoes loud between the canyon walls. Temporary waterfalls are created as the rainwater cannot soak in so it just runs off the rock which can become massive rivers and flash floods. The wind is very strong, like in a wind tunnel and can whip up big waves. If lightening strikes the walls, giant rocks can fall. And it’s never a good idea to be in an open metal boat, on water, when you’re in an electrical storm.
We were very scared and we knew we had to get off the water asap. Luckily there was a bit of a shore nearby and not just sheer rock walls. We pulled the boat onshore with us but knew we couldn’t use it for shelter and we didn’t want to be close to trees. The best we could do was huddle together under some bushes which really didn’t do much to protect us.
We got very wet and very cold very quickly. We didn’t know the storm was coming and we weren’t prepared. Honestly it felt like a life and death situation at the time, with a lot of “what ifs”. What if our boat had been capsized or swamped? What if lightening struck nearby? What if there had not been any place to go ashore? What if the storm had lasted longer?
The worst part of the storm only lasted for about half an hour and then let up to the point we felt it was safe to get back into the boat and make our way back to the marina. After about fifteen minutes of travel, we were passing by another boat that had also weathered the storm. A couple of folks saw us and waved us over and invited us onto their boat.
Their boat was a fifty foot houseboat and there were about ten people onboard. They were having snacks, drinking, listening to music and playing some table games. Everyone was warm, dry, and having fun. It was like they didn’t even know the storm had happened or if they did know, it didn’t really affect them.
They were kind enough to give us some blankets and hot drinks to warm up. We stayed long enough for the rain to stop and the skies to clear before we got back in the boat to return to the marina.
We were so relieved to be off the water and thought we had returned to safety and that the effects of the storm were over. But when we got back to the campground, our tent was gone! It didn’t take us long to spot it about five campsites away. It was upside down and halfway collapsed. It was obvious the wind has picked it up and moved it. When we retrieved it, there were a few broken tent poles, the cooler inside had been toppled and most of our stuff was wet. Thankfully, we were car camping and not in the backcountry. We easily packed up our gear and could head to a hotel room for the night.
As we were packing up, we noticed folks sitting in the sunshine in front of their big RVs. Dry, warm, safe and carrying on with the day. We guessed that like the folks on the houseboat, the people in the RV’s may never have really noticed the impact of that storm.
During this COVID-19 crisis, I’ve read and heard the term, “We’re all in the same boat.” In a gesture of empathy and compassion for those who are in a different boat than me or may not even have a boat, I invite us to be more conscious of our words.
Same storm, different boat.