John R. Beyer
With so much more to say, I felt that a follow-up column on our Lake Mohave tour was in order.
And, of course, I thought a quote or two on boating would be inspiring. Unfortunately I couldn’t find much on a couple of guys on a lake in a pontoon. So I turned to my old stand-by: Jimmy Buffett, the master poet, storyteller and singer-songwriter.
In August 2013, Buffett released his 28th studio album, which features one of my favorite tracks, “Somethin ” Bout a Boat”.
The opening words, for me, say it all:
âSomething about a boat. Sitting on the sea. Over there in the wind. Floating on the free. Take yourself around the world. Take you home. Give hope to a man. Something about a boat.
OK, we weren’t at sea, and we weren’t going around the world. Instead, we were touring Lake Mohave. But we were there “in the wind” (the rough water proved it). And we were floating “free”, but I should qualify that statement, because it was not really free given the price of fuel in marinas.
But we knew our boat would take us back to Katherine Landing – where our adventure began – and the whole trip gave my friend Paul and I hope to see things we had never seen before.
So, yes, there is something about a boat.
As we made our way up the Black Canyon, toward the Hoover Dam, my thoughts turned to all the experiences Laureen and our children had on boats. We have owned boats for years and have enjoyed them all.
Well, not all of them; there was a couple that turned out to be a bit of a problem. My daughter Erica never lets me forget the phrase I used more than once when I came back to the platform: âWe’re hot!
For those who do not know the nautical life, the boats do not have brakes. So when the throttle linkage breaks or other incidents occur that affect a boat’s maneuvering function, it can be a difficult time for the captain and crew.
âEveryone, feet overboard. Prepare for the dock hug. I’ve said it so many times that I can’t count that high.
“I’m barefoot, daddy,” Kelly would usually reply.
âI just painted my nails,â Jessica complained.
Many of our trips have turned into saving the boat bows of the docks, or the docks of our boat, depending on your perspective.
Reverse is a great brake for a moving boat, but a captain’s best friend is neutral. I write about those times when there’s no reverse, no neutral, and forward movement is the only thing that happens.
As Laureen likes to say to her friends and enemies, âWe never went on vacation. Each outing turns into a kind of adventure.
As we walked past the Willow Beach Marina. Paul observed, âThat’s not how I remember it. It was awesome. Lots of trees and old buildings. It was very cool.”
As I mentioned in last week’s column, Willow Beach Marina is very modern. It should have been. There is a tragic story about this place at the southern end of Black Canyon.
In 1974, a flash flood ravaged Black Canyon. Nine people died in Eldorado Canyon, a few miles south of Willow Beach.
According to the National Park Service, Black Canyon is so deep, narrow and steep that any sudden downpour can cause serious problems, not only for boaters, but also for those camping along the waterways.
After a few of these unfortunate occurrences, the Willow Beach Marina has been moved a bit inland and redesigned to what tourists see today.
Around 2010, the new facilities were completed, along with the magnificent 2,000-foot bridge spanning an expanse of 900 feet over the Colorado River, just south of the Hoover Dam. The US 93 was hijacked so that it no longer crosses the roadblock. Apparently there were too many headaches for park officials with lookie-loos stopping for a photo. And we cannot forget the possible terrorist suspects who might want to blow up the roadblock.
But, on our trip, the late afternoon finally brought perfect conditions: warm temperatures and calm water.
The canyon is rocky and high on both sides. The sky is only visible directly above you. Birds fly from one cliff to another. The only ripples on the water were those made by our boat. We were essentially alone, in the shadow of the past.
The geological wonders of the rock formations have told a story of millions, if not billions of years of formation. There are distinct linear lines along the cliffs that a geologist could point out and explain how the Earth has violently wavered through the eons.
“What year is it?” I asked.
Paul looked at me. âTwo thousand twenty-one. “
“Looking around, it doesn’t look like this.”
âYes, I expect to see an Abelisaurus around the next corner. “
I had to agree. The canyon was rough, old and definitely reminded me of what the area looked like during the Cretaceous Period. Having said that, I didn’t want to see a 20ft tall killer dinosaur in front of us.
Black Canyon, however, is reminiscent of the past. The really distant past, before humans were here.
A few miles upstream, we noticed a wooden walkway threaded along the rock faces, about 50 feet above the river. The footbridge was driven into the cliffs with huge metal stakes, with a thick handrail wired down to the river. Two cable cars crossed the river near the footbridges at a distance of about half a mile.
– It’s strange, I say.
Just then, a ranger dove into the canyon and slowed down near us. I asked about the gateways.
“When they were building the dam,” said the ranger, “the men would walk along the catwalks, cross the river in cable cars and get on boats to take them upstream to the construction site.”
Fascinating. I also found out that cable cars sometimes lead to water gauges along the canyon that check the depths of the river.
Maybe those wooden trails and cable cars served both purposes. When construction of the Hoover Dam (originally the Boulder Dam) began in 1931, construction workers lived north and south of the site. The workers would come south of Boulder City, which was a development planned in 1930 to house the 5,000 workers expected from the dam, and some might have come north by the river.
Anyway, as we got closer to the dam, the new US 93 bridge appeared. It truly is an engineering marvel, as thousands of tons of concrete sprawl the great distance through the turbulent waters below as I struggle to build a tool shed with even sides. .
At this point in the river, signs tell boaters: âNo view of the dam for you! Turn around now. Maybe it was more polite signs, but I like my interpretation.
A few shots from the cameras, and we turned around.
The canyon took on a whole new look as we headed south. New images emerged from the walls, as the sun shone here and there high above us. Shadows danced across the waters, giving the illusion of “things” looking back at us.
“Did you see this?” asked Paul. “I swear something was about to jump out of the river right at us.”
“No, I didn’t see anything,” I replied, covering my eyes.
An hour later we found a cove where we camped for the night. It was pretty easy, especially since Lake Mohave has hundreds of coves along its shore. The late afternoon turned to twilight, which then turned to night.
Tiny bats hovered here and there – dozens, a few feet from the boat deck. It was strange. In fact, at one point I swore I saw a fairly large human-sized bat on top of the cliffs wrapped in a black cloak. But then again, I may have fallen asleep.
Morning came, as most do, and we made our way through amazingly flat water to Katherine Landing along the east coast. In the afternoon, we had toured Lake Mohave. Our mission was over.
If you own a boat or rent one for a few hours, the experience is definitely worth it on any body of water. Because, as Jimmy Buffett sings, there is really “something about a boat.”
And he was certainly right.
Contact John R. Beyer at [email protected]