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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cousin's... so many babies.

On the passage few days of KC to St Louis… the current is fast, the engineered levies are not particularly interesting, but the miles are tantalizingly low numbers!

I did stop in Jefferson City to visit with one of Dave the Kayaker’s friends Cecil and Joe the park builder

… who fist fights anyone who abuses dogs.  (There is not even a boat launch in the capital of Missouri… There is one on the other side of the river though.)

I stopped in a few towns… but was excited to get to St Louis, where my Aunt and Uncle happened to be visiting my cousin to diddle around to long.  Like I said, the river is not appreciated this whole section, though I did find a park in St Charles, Mo.  In the Park there are several sunken barges piled on top of each other.  I tied the boat off to one of the sunken barges.  (I hope maritime luck doesn’t rub off… because the Mermaid was hanging out with those sunken unlucky vessels for several days.)



Usually my family is a bunch of shudder bugs, but these are the only real pictures I have from that visit.  

My cousin has twin 1.5 year olds. I was sleeping on the couch.  About 6am the boy wakes up and starts playing in the living room.  

Suddenly!  He sees a crazy looking bearded stranger laying on the couch watching him!  Reasonably his first reaction was to run behind my cousin and peak out tentatively.  After a few minutes of my not eating him, he decided I was a welcome addition to the living room and starts demonstrating his ability to dump over boxes of toys and laugh.  

The girl woke up and laid in her crib singing until my cousin brought her out into the living room too. No hesitation on her part at all. 





“Sweet!  A new “adult” to read me books.”  About thirty seconds after meeting me we were discussing the merits of bananas being yellow and the fact that this is a circle. Being our first meeting and being family we stayed away from the politics and drama of Micky’s clubhouse but I think we would have agree that Minny really should be the one running things at the clubhouse. 


An Asian Carp that jumped into the boat.


This is Churchill Clark.  The Great Great.... grandson of William Clark!  Still lives along the Missouri and spends his time making dug out canoes.  I don't know how I managed not to take a picture of one of his dug out canoes... You can find his work HERE.



KC... Good BBQ and bad boat ramps

So, the last city on the Missouri River that loves the river is Atchison, Kansas.  Home town of Amelia Earhart!  (Turns out no planes downtown or anything… just her house.) When I say it is the last city on the Missouri that loves the river, I mean that it has a park along the river, docks for visiting boaters, overlooks… you know… incorporates the fact that one of the great rivers of the world flows through it. There really is a beautiful park and cool downtown.  

But, you didn’t come here for travel information… You came for the seemingly impossible adventures of Notorious!

I got to Kansas City. KC does not love the river.  They have walled it off, hidden it, and are mostly afraid that it will make a mess of their train town!  For a city of about half a million people, there is only one mediocre little boat launch on the far end of town that doesn’t even have a dock.  Kipling, Michigan has more water front facilities than the half a million people city of Kansas City!  INCREDIBLE!

Well, I guess when the trains came to town, KC stopped being a town devoted to the steamboat, and started being a FRN Train Town.

To KC’s credit, they have beautifully restored their old Union Station.  


It is really impressive actually!


While New York has torn down their beautiful station, and Detroit’s is effectively modern ancient ruins.  So… there is something…  but not friendly to the river.

I found what looks like an old steam boat terminal and tied The Mermaid up to it.  There is a set of stairways that lead up the thirty foot rock embankment into the city.  I tied up the boat, and as has been effective so far, trusted luck and people to be good.  So far so good.

I wanted to explore the city, so I got a room, took a shower, and explored.  Visit the Arabia Steam Boat Museum.  It will inspire treasure hunter in anyone.

In the morning I came back to the boat.  Not particularly used waterfront… no person had bothered the boat.


So, here is where I hid the boat...  Can you see it?

Down the hill... what the?!?!  

 This is not good... It was floating in six feet of water when I left yesterday!

About here is where I realized that I had totally wasted taking a shower.  The boat is almost tumbling down the bank into the water... held from rolling off by the now guitar taunt mooring lines.


The GOPRO walleye vision is odd here, but the boat is about two feet above the water on some rocks and an I beam. I had tied it up the afternoon before at about the level where you see the lines on the poles.  The thing was perched so that if the mooring lines weren't holding it, it would roll right down on it's side into the river. Now I couldn't slide it out or untie the lines...  Some hard corp practical problem solving about to happen.



Several hours and not at all clean anymore, the boat was finally back in the water.  It had been pearched up on this steel thing.  The keel was resting in the poky part of the I beam... so I couldn't even slide it down. 


As far as I could tell, no holes punched in the bottom from this operation.  Though totally luck on that.  The mooring lines luckily held it from rolling off down the bank into the river on its side.  All my stuff would have been in Arkansas if they hadn't.  




Smoke that Prop!

So…  last time I tuned in for an update, I was talking about how I was having a bit of hipster moment in Omaha rebuilding a propeller in a coffee shop.  I am going to have to back up a moment now to just above Souix City, Iowa.

Just before Sioux City, there is the last wild stretch of the Missouri River before it becomes “channelized” or “engineered.” Read that as a big gutter that flushes the water of the Missouri as fast and deep as possible down to the Mississippi.

As I was puttering along, kind of zoning out… I was suddenly surrounded by a squadron of local kayakers! (They always come out of the sun at you!) I didn’t realize kayaks could go that fast!

Dave... crazy fast kayaker that caught me!


Then they caught up with me again at the Ponca State Park




 Surrounded 


Little did I know it, but this kayaker would be my rescuer a few days later!



This bunch were paddling sixty miles that weekend of the MNRR 100… or, the last wild 100 miles of the Missouri are designated a special park.  If you paddle them, you have completed the MNRR 100.  On accident I happened to do this.  Dave, the leader of this band, added me into the award ceremony at Ponca State Park.  

Instantly going into “shake, take, salute” mode, he assumed I must have been a politician.  I assured him I wasn’t but that there is a massive database of pictures held by the United States Air Force.  Every award, honor, or attaboy ever given by the USAF is photographed mid-handshake as the award is passed.  Probably for posterity or something… No one has ever in the history of the Air Force ever EVER wanted to see one of these pictures. (Leave a comment in the bottom if you have ever even seen one of these photos after it was taken…)

The First Shake Take Salute picture ever actually published:


I exchange information with some of the kayakers and and let them know about a really old tree that I had seen there in Ponca State Park.  Being that Kayakers and sail boaters are all cut from about the same level of nerdyness, they were also excited about an old ass tree and all went up the hill and looked at the it too.

Here it is.  This oak tree was born in 1644.  Think about that for a while...





Anyways. Remember that propeller?  Literally the first day out of Omaha, just south of a place called Nebraska City. (Home of the Ely Windmill Factory Museum) I smoked the crap out of that rebuilt propeller.  I hit a submerged rock dike so hard I am sure there were seismologists jumping out of their rolling chairs thinking this was going to be the big one!  

The Ely Windmill Factory Museum… note this is a museum of windmill factories… NOT a Museum of Windmills!  Making it even more notable don’t you think!?




I managed to shred the entire inside of that propeller… It was a clean sweep.  My repair… shattered, the remaining structure of the propeller… shattered, and even the shear pin… well it was fine.  Probably reused that. (cut down high tensil drill bits are the same as shear pins right?!?)  No better propeller salesmen in the world than the Army Corp of Engineers!

Luckily one of the kayakers who lived just up the road in Omaha came to the rescue!  There was a marine store in Omaha that could get the propeller.  Who would have known that it would be such an odd ball part.  No one carries it in stock. I think they only sold two in the history of Mercury Outboard. Apparently, if you are going to buy an outboard motor, no one ever goes for the 2.5 horse… except apparently my dad. Probably went down like this:

Outboard Salesman:  So… you got your 2.5, your 5, and your 10 horsepower outboards.  All weigh the same and cost the same.  

Dad: I’ll take the 2.5.

Outboard Salesman: Ummm… Ok… you putting this on a canoe or something?

Dad: No, I have an old row boat that I like to drive really slowly in.

Outboard Salesman: Like for trolling?

Dad: No… my family has a fishing curse and can’t catch fish. Hmmm… do you make a 1.5 horse?

Now, I have never done Heroin or crack, or any other famously addictive drugs… but I do know for sure that they are nowhere near as addicting as an outboard motor!  You see, you try to do the right thing.  You try to row… but there you are… facing the back of the boat looking right at the damn thing.  Each stroke you think, this could be a lot better… well, maybe just for an hour or so… this is like a headwind… it counts… right?… I did row some today, I deserve this…

VROOOOOOOOmMMMMmmmM…

Well It would be like trying to get off coke but leaving a big scarface mound of it right there in the middle of your kitchen table all the time.  

In addition, I had made a decision about this trip that made the motor imperative to have in working order.

So… Rescued by a generous kayaker, who also also happens to be a chef.  Needless to say, I ate better than I have in months!

Monday, August 15, 2016

I am the stuff of nightmares.

Everyone loathes hipsters... They are the WORST!

...as I sit here in a coffee shop in Omaha, Nebraska... wearing a t-shirt with an inside science joke on it... with a beard... fixing a small outboard motor propeller... with my highly impractical form of transportation a few blocks away on the river... drinking a silly froo froo coffee drink... writing on my blog on my apple laptop... texting on my totally retro flip phone...  it has occurred to me...


Yep, I might be the hipsterest mother hipster on earth.  How did this happen?!?! Well, at least I am authentic in what I am doing.  Not like all those poser hipsters who are not as authentic as I am.  Right!?

Pretty sure the only more hipster moment that has ever happened was when we saw that dude in Milwaukee, wearing a fedora in a whiskey bar, practicing his calligraphy.

Second... I'll tell this story that actually happened a few weeks ago, but is worth telling.  Mostly to entertain.  Don't think you are about to get enlightened in the next few minutes.

So there I was...

There is a place called "Bob's Resort Boat Ramp" according to the Army Corp of Engineer.  As we found out, this is no where near Bob's Resort.  The original Bobs most likely started sliding into the river a decade or two ago, (probably due to the corp's efforts) and it has been rebuilt up a hill and down the highway a few miles.

Anyways... the morning Dad and I were leaving the boat ramp there. I went up to use the vault toilet. (Vault toilet is sort of like a concrete outhouse that every state north of Nebraska puts at their boat ramps.)

So I go to use the vault toilet.  There is only one reason to use a vault toilet and that is not number one, it is number two.  I wanted to get it out of the way before we got underway.  Lake Oahe is huge and it may be all day before I could find as civilized a place to number two as this concrete outhouse at formerly bob's resort.

I opened the door to go in... LORD!  it seemed to be the entrance to hell.  The stench and the swarm of flies that erupted out of the door when I opened it... It had to be be a gate to the underworld!

Didn't matter... some things just have to be done.  Besides, I was armed with a pack of baby wipes.  As it turns out, they are the antidote to any unsanitary situation.  I have even heard they cured herpies on an army dude in the first gulf war.  Ask Pat Fronk... he knows the guy. Though now that I think about it, that might have been lysol.  Either way.... I entered the little bunker of doom.

I closed the door behind me but it seems the lock was broken.  Whatever, there is no one around for miles.  Didn't think twice about it.

(Do my business... not described here.  We all know how that works)

So I get finished and I get to wiping.  (here is where the fun starts!) Did I mention the flies?  Yea, they were whirling around in the poop pit like a biological buzzing tornado.  Don't contemplate the thought for too long, but I am pretty sure these flies main diet was poop. And you are what you eat... so...

I hear a truck and trailer arrive, but think nothing of it.

Anyways... I only sat there a moment because the flies were literally landing on my butthole between wipes.  Let me assure even the most depraved SOB out there that this is not a pleasant feeling.

(I am sorry to all my readers... but if I don't document this for posterity, what will our grandkids think.  They will assume this trip was all thunderstorms and museums next to the river.)

Obviously I stood up to finish my wiping.  At least then my hairy buttcheeks were protecting my butthole from being a shit fly buffet.

I think I was on my first standing wipe, when suddenly I hear a hand on the door and the the door knob turn...

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

I reach for the door handle to hold it closed.... but I am to slow!

OOOOOOOoooooo!!!!!!!!

The door rips open just before my hand, still holding a bouquet of shit covered toilet paper, could grasp it and hold it closed!  A flood of daylight fills the little concrete hell.

The light floods in, a demonic swarm of flies blast out like they are escaping hell, I am basically thrusting a wad of shit covered toilet paper at the now open door inches from the door opener,  my pants are hanging at my ankles, (I had my baby wipes in my other hand and didn't want to set them down on anything so let my pants fall to my ankles rather than hold them up) and there in the perfectly lit doorframe stands one of the cutest little girl scientist I have ever seen.

There isn't a word in english for this level of awkward.

Lets just say that this poor girl was not prepared for that scene when she opened the door.

She let the door drop closed. At this point what could I do so I finished my business and step out into the parking lot to walk back to the boat.

She and her fellow scientist were making the hardest effort to ignore me as I walked past them and their truck and their boat back to the Mermaid.  Honestly, I feel like the both of us had been through a terrible trauma and could make it better with a joke, but they were hard ignoring... so I walked passed laughing to myself.

She never did go back to that vault toilet so I guess she didn't have to go that bad.




Saturday, August 06, 2016

The legend of Guy and Mitch


So... there I am, sitting in sort of a coffee shop, mostly a gas station in Ft Pierre SD scamming some internet.  I just happen to be on the internet live when I get a message from that says... I see your boat, call me!

I send him a text... turns out he and his best friend did this exact same trip the year previous... in a freaking pontoon boat!

Oddly enough, above Pierre I had heard stories about these two guys from the previous year!  As in... "Shit, that's a pretty good rig you got... most of the time you see fellas in canoes and kayaks... though... I think it was last year, two guys came through on a dang pontoon boat! They made the Corp take that pontoon boat over the dams! hahahah!  Damn the Corp of Engineers..." 

Well, as it turns out, they never did get the CoE to take their pontoon boat over the dams, but they did in fact travel the length of the Missouri River in their pontoon boat!  



Here is their contraption!

This is the story the NEWS did on them before they left.  It is a pretty good and worth your time for the click. It really adds to the toe story I am telling here. Also, they made a documentary of their trip and it will be in film festivals in the next year.  So, all you hipsters that go to film festivals, keep an eye pealed!

Anyways... So I get this call, "Hey!  I want to talk to you!  Meet me at your boat in like an hour!"

Well, Ok then.

So I did...


This is Guy and Mitch.  According to his wife, Guy invented the selfie in the eighties... I would say there is solid evidence for that to be the case.  He is obviously the one taking the selfie of himself with us in the background.  Mitch is the one slapping his head... I probably just explained that I have a 12 inch dick and my boat also used to be able to make itself into its own trailer.


Our first encounter.


Fast forward 26 hours!

There was a lot in-between all those 26 hours, but just assume that men who have done this journey on this river have a sort of bond.  I am pretty sure if Meriwether, William, Mitch, Guy, and myself... maybe even the nerd who wrote "The Complete Paddler" all got together... we would instantly be best friends... or at least be able to commiserate about the Army Corp of Engineers. (even L&C hated those guys)

Mitch was busy with the whole getting married thing, so Guy gave me as much info as he could about the rest of the trip down to St Louis.  Names of helpful people, things not to miss, ways to get around the remaining dams... etc. 

Then, when I got to the bottom of Lake Sharp... Guy just came down with a flatbed and pulled me over the dam himself!  Couldn't have been easier!  Flatbed into the water, schooner onto the flatbed, into the water on the other side, schooner off the flatbed!  Took longer to write it than do it!


It kind of looks weird on there doesn't it...

Well, as we dropped the boat into the river below the dam, we encountered a band of tiny Sioux!  Or a tiny band of tiny Sioux...

(You can be a conspiracy theorist or not... but at the bottom of every reservation there seems to be a CoE dam that has flooded all the farmable land that the reservation used to have... we couldn't be that big of assholes could they... we... they?!? Well.... you look at the map and decide.)

Anyways, these kids were swimming at the boat launch.


After about thirty seconds of talking, I had a whole mess of volunteers to join the crew of the Mermaid.  I was pretty happy with my crew of spiders already... so there were no billets open.




Actually I was a little worried about stowaways.  Shit!  Who wouldn't want to take a boat ride to Florida!  



Guy, super shudder bug, had us posing for the camera in moments.


I know the pictures look calm... but it was kind of madness!  


Apparently the party kept going even after I left.



Wind, Waves, and Flies! by Antoine de Dad and Nick


I waited in Bismarck a few extra days... both for Dad to come back out and sail the next lake with me and also for a new set of sails.  I am pretty sure that the old sails were original equipment on The Black Pearl... so they did OK for cloth legitimately being from the 1930's...  Of the four sails I made, 3 of them were shredded by the wind.  

This whole trip has been a school of hard knocks lesson in doing things right, using the right tool for the right job, and paying for better equipment up front and saving time and money later... or maybe I need to get better at using crap to make shit work.  Still learning...  So, I finally have ordered legitimate sails from a legit sailmaker, that fit the boat correctly.  She is now most technically a Bermuda topsail schooner.  Also, surprisingly the sails were significantly less expensive than I had expected... and should have just done this from the beginning. So, with a rush job from 
Squeteague Sailmakers, who priority shipped them to the community organizer and dissenting voice to big oil, The Bakken Resistor, in Mandan SD for me... The Mermaid Now has a new outfit to wear!  

WHAT A DREAM!  These sails pull the boat better than the bigger old sails, less stress, easier to run up and down, legitimate reef points.  MY GOD THEY ARE GREAT!


The new sails... Full sail! 
Also, Dad is there thinking about reorganizing something.  Probably the cooler again... maybe the utensils.  

Anyways, so Dad came out and we left Bismarck. The intention was that we would sail the leanth of Lake Oahe from Bismarck ND to Pierre SD,  capitol to capitol, then rent a car and get him back up to his own. 

The first thing we found when we got going was a boat that was suspiciously upside down in the mudflats just entering the lake.  It was a sixties or seventies speed boat, upside down... numbers removed, crusted with algae, and seemed to have two bullet holes blasted through the bottom of the hull. (.45 if I were to guess...) Well, maybe it isn't so suspicious after all.  Someone just scuttled it unsuccessfully.  I guess fiberglass boats are hard to get rid of so some geniuses thought they could sink it in the lake.  Unfortunately for them it had internal flotation and probably has been drifting around the lake for years now.  Sort of the ghost ship of Lake Oahe!

(Forgot to take a picture.  Use your imagination)

Next we encountered massive headwinds.  Pretty much this the embodiment of no fun.  Huge waves, slow progress... having to stick next to the shore just so the wind and waves aren't completely horrendous.  If you want to draw a map of Lake Oahe, basically, you draw a vertical line up and down.  

DONE.

It is a long straight lake and the wind seems to blow straight up it or straight down it.  THERE IS NO LEE SHORE!! So, the winds have a clear path to build waves for about 80 miles.

Eventually we had to stop.  It was to brutal for us and for the boat. We found a point to hide behind, bailed out the boat, and ate lunch.  And waited... I was happy to hang out and wait for the wind to calm down.  


This is how I wait for the wind and waves to die down.

Unfortunately it was full of flies.  They weren't even the biting flies... but I think this is about when Dad declared war on flies... or maybe they finally drove him over the edge!  From then on... he was attacking every fly he saw.  I am not sure that he ever did get a single one, but from then on they were enemy number one!  In the tent, out of the tent, in the boat... always the flies. always the flies, always the flies!!  Needless to say, we didn't sleep there.  We continued against the waves over sleep with the flies. 

Well, the second day out, we had The Night of Thunderstorms.  Meteorologically I don't even know how it was possible, but we literally had eight hours of thunderstorms in the same spot.  I don't know where the water vapor could have come from, I don't know how there was that much energy in the air... but eight damn hours of thunderstorm.  Luckily this time we had a concrete picnic table where we camped so we used it as a sort of fortress to hold all our stuff from getting blown away and trashed.  Pretty much everything, to include the boat was tied to the concrete picnic table... except the dirty dishes.  We left those in a field hoping the storm would wash them for us.  It sort of worked, though we washed them again... actually it didn't really work that well.  

video

This is the next day after the night of thunderstorms.




This is what The Mermaid looks like now.  Sailing through the Great Plains.  As you can see... even if you do go to the side to try and get out of the wind and waves... it isn't like there is a lot of wind blocking stuff out there.  It turns out the as a wind break, the great plains blow!  


Also, the varnish and bright work has taken a hit.  When dragging the boat over sand bars and through mud, you get a lot in the bottom of the boat when you jump back in.  Slowly it is getting cleaner... but the initial problem of the bottom being to smooth and slippery is no longer a problem. 


Typical loaded configuration. Probably still to much stuff... As The Big Engineer said, "on any trip, take half as many clothes and twice as much money."  I would say this trip is the same unfortunately. I probably could have brought two shirts, one pair of pants, no socks and three pair of underpants.  (One clean pair, one pair on your butt, and one pair for going into town.)  I have gotten to the point where I have actually taken baths with my clothes on in the river.  It might sound crazy in your house, but it makes sense out here.  Gets everything clean all at the same time!  No fussing with doing laundry!  Basically, if I can smell my balls, I go swimming (which I consider a bath) sometimes with soap even!  Actually, it isn't that bad.  Like I said before, my body seems to be self cleaning now.



Yea, I have no idea what is going on in this picture. It is about a million degrees out, we are in the middle of the lake on a boat, the next time we get to shore we will probably have to jump out in the mud and water...  Dad puts on his socks.  I didn't ask, I just took the picture.



I just like this picture... 


So, as a part of getting Dad back to his car, we were "conveniently alined" to go see John Yunker up at the site of what as far as i can tell, Fort Mandan.  

The evidence is pretty solid... Mind Blowing actually! Granted, it might be nothing, but dang... After being there, I absolutely feel like I was standing in Fort Mandan.  You stand there, you read the journals, you look at the land... and you know it is right.


Dad, John, and the dog Mercy... standing next to what was probably Lewis and Clark's bedroom.  (I have no idea why my Dad is making the mister yuck face.)  He was having a good time as far as I could tell.  I think he is counting paces in his head. That is his thinking face. I have talked to some professional Archaeologists who are friends of mine... just to see if we are all batshit crazy or if this is reasonable.  Talking to archaeologists feels a lot more like hiring a private detective than I would have ever expected.  We will see...


So over thunderstorms... Really.


I've never met a Meteorologist that doesn't have a few favorite cloud types.  Also... all of them have included in their top five favorite clouds the mammatus cloud and the cumulonimbus.  Always party favs at meteorology swaray for good reason, they are really really interesting feats of atmospheric gymnastics!     

(Click here if you are not familiar with the awesomeness of mammatus clouds.  I'll assume you are all  familiar with Cumulonimbus...)



This is not the storm in this story, but here you can see the mammatus clouds blowing off in the anvil top with the cumulonimbus in the bottom right of the picture.

Maybe it is a joke of the universe but I have been getting creamed by thunderstorms the last few weeks.

I'll tell you the story of one that hit me just west of Washburn, North Dakota.

I knew there were a lot of storms out this day... as it is pretty much the great plains and you can see them coming.  I was below the Garrison Dam by a day and was still looking for my rudder.  Heston was rowing and it had been raining on and off all day.  I kept looking back at a dark grey section of the horizon hoping that all the storms would just go around me.

I looked up early afternoon and over top of me was an amazing display of mammatus clouds.  Normally this would make me happy and I would text pictures of the clouds to other weather nerds… that day, I just made a frowny face at them.  They didn’t take the hint.

Normally you will find the mammatus clouds blown directly downwind of the storm.  The upper level winds being the steering winds for the weather.   (Surface winds don’t count for bubkiss about whether you are going to be hit by a storm or not.)

Anyways, I looked up and there were beautiful mammatus overhead.  There were a lot of low clouds in the distance so I couldn’t see the associate storm, but I knew it was out there.  Just by coincidence, this was also as I was passing the now likely found site of Fort Mandan.  I didn’t quite have good coordinates and I planned to come back with John so I kept cruising and hoping the weather would go away.

Late afternoon I  saw one single big hail stone drop about ten feet from the boat.  

PLOOP!

Like a kid threw a rock.

I looked back at where I thought the storm would come from and nothing but nebulous grey clouds.  At this point, Mr Heston and I are running full tilt!  I have the throttle set for max blast and I am trying to get to Washburn North Dakota.  It is all river here and also mostly plains so I sort of wanted to park the boat at somewhere and hide maybe in a building or something. I don’t really know why I was trying to get to Washburn, but I was. 

It had been maybe ten minutes since I had looked behind me… when I turned around and…

HOLY JESUS! 

It was the MOTHER of all shelf clouds!!!  (Shelf cloud = The lower leading edge of a super cell thunderstorm)

I am not exaggerating when I say it looked like it was the vacuum cleaner of god sucking up the earth into oblivion! 

I immediately looked ahead for somewhere to stash the boat and hid. Really not much.  As Dorthy will tell you, the great plains are a terrible place to hid from a storm.  Futilely I twist the throttle again against the stop hopping for just a little more speed.

I could see an island about a quarter mile ahead… It looked like I could hide there… nope… I’ll never make it… 

I spot a huge pile of rocks along the right side of the river.  It looked like they had originally been placed there to try and prevent the bank from being eroded by the river, but the river had just worked its way behind the rocks and it had eroded a sort of cove behind the rocks.  That’s it!  No other options… any port in a storm as they say, and this port is a little eroded spot behind some rocks.  

I keep the throttle wide open and aim the boat for the little spot of sand behind the rocks.  My intention is to slam the boat as far up into the sand as I can then tie it to something.

That part went great!  At full speed!!! (Basically a power walk speed) I slam the Mermaid right into that sand and cut the engine.  Immediately I hop out and tug as hard as I can to pull the boat as far in as possible.  I had apparently done a good job with my Bangladeshi ship breaker parking job as I couldn’t move it any farther than it was already.

Next order of business was to tie it to something.  Being the great plains still, there was a serious lack of stuff to tie anything to so I pulled the anchor out and wedged it into the rocks that I had mentioned earlier.  They sort of formed a rock pile about 40 feet long that was parallel with the river and the cove was behind it.

I put everything I cared about in my backpack put that in a garbage bag stuffed that into the rocks.  I then put everything else I wanted to keep dry in a big rubber-made container.  

I was as ready as I could be so I went up on top of the rock pile to watch the storm come. I only stood there for a few minutes when the wind became too ridiculous and I went down and hid in the rocks with the anchor and backpack.  All things considered, it actually was about ideal!  Most of the boat was protected by the rocks from the wind and waves, I was able to get down into the rocks incase of a tornado.  

(Oh yea... this was a text book looking tornado producing thunderstorm.  I started to assume that once I was passed the precipitation, I would be looking at a wall cloud with a tornado hanging down.)

So there I am, crouched into the rocks the wind absolutely blasting over the top of the rock pile.  It was like driving in a convertible on the highway in the rain.  When the rain did finally start, it was all blowing right over me!  Not to say I was totally dry, but I could look up and see the sheets of rain blowing right over top of me!

The masts on the boat were boinging around in the wind like car antenna in the the carwash and I was becoming less and less sure of my furling job on the sail… but it seemed to be holding.  

Slowly I realized that the water was leaving the cove!  The wind was actually blowing the water out of the cove entirely!  The boat was now resting on the dry sand.  Probably it would come back when the wind stopped right? If not, how was I going to get the boat back to the water?  Either way, that was a problem for future Nick, not now Nick.  

Suddenly problem solved…  The wind was now blowing the boat across the waterless sand back toward the river! The wind had blown the boat about twenty feet and it was sliding back into the water when I finally figured out how to get a hold of the anchor line and stop it. I wrestled it back in enough that the bow was at least resting on sand again. I snugged up the line as tight as I could, and got back into my hiding spot.  

The river didn’t exist anymore.  The wind was so ferocious that there was no water there was no sky… as I looked at the river, it was a wall of opaque white about 60 feet high.  I am sure it was a combination of waves, surf, foam, blowoff and rain, but in practicality it was just a wall of white.  If the boat had gotten out into that, I am sure best case scenario it would be that I pulled back a frayed rope end.  

It was horrendous!  (Also as I found out later, that same storm went on to destroy the town of Killdear, North Dakota.)  

Again, it all just ended up being a feat of endurance... just sitting there and taking it... waiting for the pain to be over.

Eventually, the storm went through.  I bailed enough water out of the boat so it wasn’t completely unstable and got back underway.  The lid to the rubber made container with all the stuff I wanted to keep dry was long gone and the container was now serving as a sort of toilet bowl with all my favorite keep dry items sloshing around in it.

This day, pretty much the only thing I had managed to keep dry was my computer.  Other than that, everything was completely soaked.

For the rest of the evening, the sky was spiderwebbed with lighting from horizon to horizon!  It was the most eery lightning I have ever seen.  So much static electricity.  Like an earth sized Jacob’s ladder.  The sky cracked continuously instead of rumble or clapped…. maybe buzzed with electricity.  You could just feel it in the air.

I did make it to Washburn ND that night, and slept on land. 

I did get hit by another thunderstorm the next day, but it was just a regular air mass thunderstorm… and in caparison it was like a butterfly kiss!  But serioulsy… so so so so over thunderstorms!