Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Post-Summer Ramblings: 2300 Lb-Force

The scene is Lake Powell, Reflection Canyon to be more specific. Our 60 ft houseboat is anchored up against a red-rock beach with some sand. How it works is that you pull the boat up against the shore with four anchors stretching out from the bow and stern: two lines on either side, two lines on both the bow and the stern each. The lines are attached to anchors which are buried in the sandy shore or, in our case, wrapped around and pivoted against large boulders. Over the course of our two weeks of previous experience from summers past on Powell, we have found our preferred method is to rely on the shear inertial force of a boulder instead of the compacted frictional force of sand. 

What we didn’t know is that as an evening front blew in from across the desert that evening, we would have to rely on far more than just the boulders to hold us to the shore. 

 Certainly the distant skyline looked ominous, but the desert will do that often and the canyon we were parked in, with two hundred-foot cliffs towering over us, seemed very sheltered. But in came the wind, and the canyon did nothing but funnel the gale-force gusts. The wind began to pick up, and two minutes after the first 35-mph, full-frontal gust with sustained 25 mph winds to follow, it was game time. Either we were going to hold strong to this shore, or the wind was going to take us like kite and smash us into the rocks and crush the power boat we had attached to the side of our house boat. To give you a hint, the men on that boat are pretty competitive: we weren’t going to lose this high-stakes battle. 

Into action we flew. My dad whipped out a wench and Geoff (my friend) and I ran an extra anchor line from the up-wind side of the bow onto the shore. The engines were started and we rammed ourselves up against the shore with all hundreds of horsepower worth of two prop engines. With the boat firmly up against the shore, anchors were heaved in to their tightest point and tied off securely. Finally, an extra line on the center bow of the boat was added with a small wench to keep the boat as far on the shore as possible. We were ready. 

I could describe the calm before the storm and how the clouds seemed to grow darker as the wind got heavier. I could describe the 45 mph gusts that slammed the side of the boat. There was creaking of anchors, shifting of sand, scrambling, high-pitched screaming, and satisfaction after we sustained an engineer-estimated 2300 Lbs of force on the side of my boat.

 I could try to, in vain, to describe the awesome experience of braving a storm that shook not only the boat but the inside of my soul. But there is something incredibly humbling and yet empowering to hold strong through the storm. To ride out the wind. To withstand the current. It is just freaking cool. I can only pray that I withstand the power that is the ever-changing currents of the unsteady world. When the earth tilts so often and gravity brings everything down with it, how are we supposed to stand our ground? Certainly not on our own: but on the strength of our anchors we have planted. It may be hard. Your hands might be burned from pulling rope tight. But it will be worth it when the sun breaks through the clouds.  

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