Monday, June 13, 2016

On the river... Anchors work great in trees!

First day on the river… here is a picture…  This is about twenty minutes after first launch into the tributaries into the headwaters. 

The day went so smoothly that adventure was almost irrelevant.  We put in and had a following wind the whole day.  Didn’t even put up a sail.  Basically we sat in a boat in perfect weather watching idilic scenery float past as we contemplated how we were getting behind on karma and were probably going to die soon.

Slept just off the river in an idilic mowed grass area with beautiful birds and trains going past.  

Pretty sure the dark angels of hell are getting in straif formation now.


Things were going very well actually.  What I like about this program is the practical problem  solving with your life on the line.  Problems like… the big engineer says, “Hey, as I was driving in here, there is a big pipe over the river, I don’t know if you can keep the masts up and make it under.” 

We stopped ahead of the pipe. I  crawled out on the pipe and threw a pole the same hight as the mast off the side and if it looked to see if it was enough space, probably… we went for it.  

The pipe over the river went fine… but about ten miles after that, dad and I were going crazy fast down the river.  He was in row position and I was on the sails and tiller. The current was blasting us along at speeds the probably can't be measured.  As I am looking at it, my helicopter spicy senses started tingling.  These are obviously the same senses that tell you you can’t fly under that bridge or not. (just kidding to all my former commanders) It is going to be close!  Like… inches… 

We decide to continue…

About a hundred yards from the bridge, it becomes obvious to me that it is not enough space.  Luckily dad had the good idea to sail next to the shore incase we have to bail  out of the channel and stop fast.  

If we try to go under the bridge and it is to short, it will break the masts right off the boat… probably impale us or the hull, then we will have to either make arrangements or make other arrangements…

I make the call using old helicopter skills that we aren’t going to make it under the bridge. 

Only one obvious solution! My dad hucks the anchor into a tree along the side of the shore right next to the bridge.  

"TWANG!" (that is the sound of the anchor line snapping tight!)

YES… We literally anchored into a tree!

It’s a BINGO! The anchor holds in the tree!  The boat swaps ends so fast… it was like fishtailing a schooner!  Yea! literally like that… like always when I talk.  Literally. 

It is a complete mess, but we drop all  the rigging… lines everywhere, spars all over the place… the bottom of the boat is a shit show big time!  Once we are flat and low, under oars, we proceed.

I held up a pole exactly the hight of our masts… BONK BONK BONK.  Yep… that would have been a jack-ass disaster!

Good call on the anchor in the tree! 

Now to deal with the problem of the anchor in a tree.  I thought the obvious way to fix that problem was to give my dad the shovel… Lets just say there was a moment of confusion that passed between us.  (I still say the shovel to solve the anchor in the tree was the right call…

Either way, better than a dismasted schooner in the middle of Montana.  

(There are no pictures of this because we were really busy... there are only pictures of moments when one of us gets bored and restless to do something.)

All we have to do is keep making good calls for the next 4 months and we get to continue!  That though, gave us a little respect for the bridges.  The only books written about this journey in the last 200 years are written by kayakers, so they miss some details that are relevant to the Missouri River schooner captains… Low wires, low bridges… etc… Lewis and Clark didn’t worry about about wires and bridges.

On a lake with no wind... plenty of pictures!

Though the day was 99% a sailing day, as soon as we got out onto Canyon Ferry Lake the wind died.  We were tooling along at 2 knots under sail… looking for hours at our destination.  The trout were leaping into the air all around us.  My boat is getting covered with bugs, but literally two foot trout were leaping everywhere!  

Then… a thunderstorm appears on the horizon.  You can see for about two hundred miles out here… but in my scientist honed meteorologist eye we were still looking at a super cell t-storm with our name on it.  My pilot skills said about 3 hours out for t-storm severe.

With the fish leaping everywhere around us, my dad couldn't resist, and he starts fishing.

That thunderstorm is aimed right the fuck at us…

Damn it! 

Finally some wind start to pick up and we head for the nearest reasonable place to park a boat.


The fishing pole twitches... and Dad hooks what is probably the biggest trout of his life!

I can see the pain in his face as he looks up at the thunderstorm that is going to literally drowned us at sea… and bringing in “El Moucho Grande” the fish.  Luckily the fish was stronger than his reason and broke his line so the decision was easy.  We made for shore ASAP.

Just enough time on shore to empty the boat, set up the tent, then jump in the truck with the big engineer. 

This storm was one of the windiest I have ever seen!

The boat was swamped just from the rain, and the tent was blown literally flat against the ground by the wind.  

The storm was RE-fucking-Cockulous!

Again, the old dudes were slightly impressed by my meteorology skills, when in reality it was just the last 14 years flying through thunderstorms in taxpayer aircraft that made me recognize a shitty time to be under a cloud.

After the storm… The Mermaid is swamped by rain water.  The big engineer, always the sort of optimists… like engineers… no… engineers are always focusing on the terrible.  In this case, he spins positive and says, “Hey, at least if she is sunk, she isn’t moving around against the rocks anymore!”

Yep…. :-/

I bailed out The Mermaid and dad fished.  

The Mermaid beached on the shore of Carter Ferry Lake at our camp site.

Oops... no here it is.  Pretty much the same.  You can understand my confusion.

(As it turns out, there are very few row boat movies.  Ben-Hur and parts of Troy... I'll have to reference them for the next 4 four months.)

There was huge goddamn trout leaping right in front of Dad… like… 20 feet… jumping….
I am not going to say that dad got outsmarted and somewhat taunted by a two foot trout so close he could have swam with the dolphins with him… but…

The trout gave dad his business card and dad bought a time share in vegas from that trout. You know… to be the trout’s business partner in a subway franchise somewhere or something.

All this is true… you can even ask the big engineer.  He doesn’t make anything up or exaggerate.

Break break…. some stuff happened

Well, we have been on the river for four days now.  Damn the dams!  It would be a hell of a nice river if it weren’t for them having made it into a bunch of lakes.

So, I don’t really think of my dad as an organizational freak… but man… the little cooler we have has been pissing him the off!  Every time we turn around, he is reorganizing it again.  Some times I ask him to row the boat just so that he will stop taking everything out and putting it back again.  

So, I didn't bother with a fishing license.  I don’t actually like fishing that much, nor do I really like eating fish.  If the DNR asked… I am just holding this fishing pole for someone else.  But realistically, if someone hands me a fishing pole… I’ll probably just lean it on something and do something more interesting like look at clouds.  (I will get a license for the few days going between Craig and Great Falls.)

So after 4 days on the river, and 7 days at sea for The Mermaid  I finally thought of something that made life a million times better.  We were rowing away from the bottom of Canyon Ferry dam. This boat has always had a squeak to it when under oar.  Like… it sounds like you are in a god damn greek trireme! CREEEEEEK, swoosh…. CREEEEEEEEEK, swoosh… every damn stroke. Sort of a auditory torture! So LOUD!!!!

So as I am rowing and listening to the pure tranquility of the wilderness disturbed by the sounds of the ancient greek navy… I start thinking about lubricants!  


Luckily we had some unopened hotel soap sitting in the bottom of the boat.  (We apparently had aspirations of hygiene higher than our motivations of hygiene.) Anyways, it was perfect!  I ground the hotel soap into the protective coating where the oar meets the oarlock, and they went silent!  It was a whole different boat!  Instead of rowing and feeling like some sort of captured slave, it was like every stroke was turned into pure propulsion!  The only sound now was the water wishing past the hull.  Let me tell you, you can row all damn day when each stroke is a boost to the ego that makes you feel like a greek god instead of a captured Trojan. 

Still straight by the way… just in the course of my life, I do a lot of thinking about lubricants and the ancient greek navy… also I am just holding this rod for someone else… it isn’t mine. 

Gates of the mountain… 

Luckily, right in the middle of these steep canyons, there was a perfect place to park a small schooner.

This was one of the original Lewis and Clark campsites.  In the canyon, it was one of the few places where the river bank wasn't straight up a rock cliff!

So, are we packing heat?!?

My personal philosophy on guns is that if you are carrying a gun, you are always on your way to a gun fight.  (this is also why I always carry condoms and zip-ties!)  Anyways… I prefer to not be on the way to a gunfight, so I tend not to carry them. (except for work) I have no problem with people carrying guns, but I alway assume that if a gun fight breaks out, I’ll take one of the bad guy’s guns and win everything anyways so why bother carrying the weight!  

Of everyone I talked to, every person said I should bring a gun on this trip. Some for indians, some for snakes, some for bandits.  (I tell them I am already bringing two cannons! (Then I flex my biceps! then wait for awe and laughter to die down…)) So on this trip,dad brings this complete POS single shot old ass shotgun.  It may have legit been on the original Lewis and Clark expedition.  Word on the street is that my grandfather took it from a guy that owed him money in the thirties or something.  Anyways, it has always been a dangerous terrible weapon. When you pull the trigger, you aren't 100% sure wish end the explosion is going to come out.  Now it is here in BFE Montana with us.  Well, I haven’t ever seen my dad bring a firearm anywhere and not shoot it off… and this is no exception.  

Dad opens the case we keep it hidden in… and suddenly!!!! it is rusted to fuck-all!  It looks like it got thrown in salt water for a month!  Yesterday, (I know it is yesterday because dad sleeps with it to fend off rattle snakes and grizzly bears) it was fine.  Some how, it rusted up completely in one day.  We don’t have any gun oil or steel wool to clean it with… so we cleaned it with the only other lubricant we have… no, not dish soap which we are using unsuccessfully to keep the masts from sticking in the steps, nor the hotel soap we are using to make the oar locks reasonable people… we used spray PAM of course!) For a butter substitute, it works reasonably well as a gun cleaner and lubricant. 

Twenty minutes later, we are mostly standing behind a tree as dad fires this thing off.  (We thought it might just explode, not from the recent rust, just because it looks like it might.)  Well it doesn’t, so we shoot several more times.  The canyon makes it sound like a real gunfight in there. (Many many echoes!) We figure that is plenty of tests now and it will work for bandits and snakes…. probably not bears though.  Also, we got our story straight incase the local authorities showed up asking about if we heard and gunfire.  (We just picked a direction to send them where we heard it too.)

Pretty sure I don’t need a half hand grenade half shotgun with me, so I’ll probably send it home with dad when he goes home. (Though you criminals, maybe not… I might still have a sawed off cannon behind my back so don’t try any pirate shit!)

As I am writing this, Dad keeps cursing at the no fish… he starts walking back from the river… then inevitably a trout will leap a foot into the air right behind him.  Then he turns around, just in time to see the ripples and gets back after it.  Spam sandwiches for breakfast I assume.

Dad went to bed….

Every time a fish jumps, I point it out… “HEY!  I think one jumped!”

Humor… apparently fish have a really good sense of one! :-D

Of fuck it… they are jumping so much, I am stopping writing and am going to go… you know… hold this fishing pole for someone else. 

Ah… I see why he stopped fishing, there is a massive knot in his line and it is unfishable.

Bed time for me.


amateur.sophist said...

I'm confused why there is suddenly a truck waiting for you on shore

Notorious said...

Long story, but it is only temporary. Call it a fan club. After tomorrow it won't be there. It is my dad's way back to Michigan after tomorrow.

Newt said...

Hey Nick. Looks like lots of fun.
So let me get this straight ... you have been on the river/lakes for how many days? And not a single Trout?!? The fisherman in me is getting very frustrated with this story.
Glad you didn't hit any wires while going under. Old BR can't say the same. :)

Notorious said...

Yea... there is a curse on my family when it comes to catching fish... we don't...

Oh yea! If "Junior" still reads this... I just passed the judith river two days ago and thought about him. That was where he hit those wires right?

Also, I have now hit the bottom of a bridge. It was less eventful than that wire strike I think.

BrandyK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BrandyK said...

I met you last night in Yankton. Thank you for sharing your blog. I enjoyed reading up on your adventure. Your bravery has allotted you an experience that most men have only dreamed of. Humorous writing! BTW, I pack heat for the weirdos who are concealing zip ties!
Best wishes,