Thursday, September 05, 2013

Monsoon on the Pontoon

Before...
The pontoon boat doesn't have the most, how shall I say, 'esteemed' reputation amongst it's fellow water-dwelling vessels.  They resemble tin cans, travel at a snail's pace and require almost zero skill to operate.  They are synonymous with lakeside indulgence, red necks and beer bellies but no matter what, an afternoon on a pontoon boat is sure to bring you some brat slinging, beer swilling, music thumping fun in the sun.  Enjoyable as they are, they are by no means considered "seaworthy" and never in a million years would I have guessed that I would experience my worst squall to date on one.  But that is exactly what happened this past weekend in Northern Michigan.  Guess there's a first for everything...

The day began with threats of storms and rain, but we decided to risk it and head out on the lake anyway.  The sun was starting to peek through the clouds, the air was warm and we all wanted to have fun together since it's not often we get to spend time with Scott's bro and sis and their respective families.  We decided on a little 'river tour' through the various lakes and rivers up here and off we went at a respectable five miles per hour.  We put-putted along; listening to music, entertaining the kiddos, snacking on junk food and, in general, just enjoying the peaceful scenery and good company around us.

Around 5pm the sky was looking pretty ominous.  So much so that Scott and his brother decided to check the radar of the area and see what was in store.  Apparently, there was a big red blob around our whole county with several thunderstorm warnings thrown in for good measure.  We decided to make our way home.  As we more or less drifted along the river, the sky grew darker still and lightning began striking around us, but despite this we all felt pretty confident that we could out run the worst of it (note: have Scott and I learned NOTHING?!?).  Just to be on the safe side we decided to prepare for a downpour, so Scott - being the experienced 'captain' among us - took the helm while the rest of us frantically started packing things away, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.  I believe we deserve a few points for our (vain) attempts to be prudent...

About 5:30 pm we were cruising along when all of a sudden Scott yelled, "Here it comes!!" and just as we looked up, a literal wall of white approached us.  I am talking a WALL OF WATER, people.  The likes of which I have only ever seen in a Caribbean squall and even then, only once.  Lots of screaming and scrambling ensued - there were four kids aboard that needed cover - and before we knew it: WHAM!  It hit us.  And it wasn't just water, but wind.  Lots of it (reports clocked the gusts in our area at 60 mph - the highest wind we have ever seen sailing is 39 knots, fyi).  Instantly we were drenched.  The rain was so dense and strong it looked like someone was taking a machine gun to the water around us.  Suddenly, a humongous gust raced down the river and broke our bimini (the only thing that offered a *little* protection from the elements) suddenly exposing all of us to the cold, driving rain which left us shaking like leaves.

I yelled to Scott (since yelling was the only way you could communicate over the ruckus) to make sure he was okay, he had his arm over his eyes and was struggling to keep the boat moving forward against the wind and rain, and confirmed he was fine.  Peering through the soaked towel that Isla and I were hiding under, I saw our life ring take air and fly away, then a pair of sandals, then a bucket.  The scene around us was utter mayhem, which was kind of hilarious because - again - we were in a pontoon boat.  Scott, realizing that forward momentum was both unsafe and futile, docked the boat along a riverside dock and we hunkered down to wait for the worst to pass.  I kept chucking to myself at how insane the whole scenario was.  I can't wait to sit around some yacht club somewhere with a bunch of sailors spinning yarns and recall "...that one time I went pontoon boating in Northern Michigan..." Good grief.

Eventually, it subsided.  The boat was FULL of water.  All of us - as well as our belongings - needed a complete ringing out.  We were all chattering cold, covered in goosebumps and looked like drowned rats.  This, of course, left only one thing to do which was to laugh.  REALLY hard.  Scott put the boat back in gear and we limped back home, in belly-holding hysterics the entire time.  We even got some cheers from shore-side folks who'd enjoyed the mayhem from their homes but really, only the other pontoon boaters will ever know what it was like out there.  Solidarity, people (tongue is in cheek here).

The lesson here:  don't ever try to outrun a monsoon on a pontoon, because it ain't gonna work.
...after.  It does the wrath no justice!

9 comments:

Marcus Valdes said...

Being from the South, I've seen plenty of those kinds of squall lines. They look particularly cool from an Air Traffic Control tower!

Can't turn your back on Mother Nature for a second!

Anonymous said...

Knowing (1) that you are all safe and (2) all about squalls on N MI lakes and pontoon boats on N MI lakes, I can now say that's a really, REALLY funny story! LOL! Christina

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said...

Oh wow what an adventure!

Rick said...

Back in 1970 Ted Turner called Lake Michigan a Mill pond." Then he sailed into a good ol' Midwest squall in the Mac and retracted his statement.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you really love pontoon boats.....wink wink!

beth said...

Love seeing the whole Meyers clan!

Jeanine said...

This was hilarious. Being a transplant from South Florida and now living in West Michigan, I laughed my a$$ off reading this story. Thank you for the laugh - and thank goodness you are all hunky dory and have a GREAT story to share when you head back south with the cruisers!

KellyK said...

I did the St Joe > MIchigan City leg of the tri-state last weekend. We were supposed to race Michigan City > Chicago on Monday, but our crew was cranky about Sunday's painful conditions and didn't want to deal with Monday's forecasted high waves. So they decided they were going to follow all the other boats in the pitch black night across the lake to avoid Monday's waves. But just before dusk, I saw the anvil-shaped clouds and saw that the storm may hit us. I was not familiar with this crew's skills, and didn't like their decision making. So, I refused to opt for a possible pitch-black storm over waves during daylight, and bid them goodbye and called a friend to pick me up in Michigan City & take me back to the city. Storms in the midwest can be brutal, and when it's not an absolute need to be out in it, I know better than to put myself in that situation in the middle of the lake with a crew I don't know.

Anonymous said...

"The sea is a great university of the story-telling art." Norman Freeman

www.nomadicliving.com

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