Bordering Arizona and Nevada, Lake Mohave is miles wide and the locals weep with relief for it. I’ve seen them wipe their brows and drop to their knees, mouthing prayers of thanks because they’ve evaded our careening craft, if just barely.
Rumors persist that locals phone houseboat rental agencies for updates, wanting to know if we’re on the lake. Many ask for us by name, prefaced by a curse word.
We don’t mean to export distress. But each year we must relearn to drive our rental houseboat.
“I drive just fine,” says my wife, Nikki, a bit huffily. “It just takes me a couple of days to get the hang of steering a giant refrigerator box.”
So we weave like drunken sailors, back and forth across the waters like Alan Arkin dodging bullets in “The In-Laws,” as he yells, “Serpentine, serpentine!”
We enjoy houseboating on Lake Mohave, hammering mooring rebar deep into secluded beaches of coves with mysterious names like Monkey Cove, Fire Mountain Light Cove, and Here-There-Be-Bad-Houseboat-Drivers Cove.
We come for the burros and mountain sheep, blood-red cactus flowers, super-speed skittering lizards, and ebony night skies with stars close enough to rearrange by hand.
We also return, like the seadog in Coleridge’s “The Ram of the Ancient Mariner,” (the recently-discovered correct name), to dispel rumors that we crash into mountains for fun. Yes, yes, there was that little incident of smacking full-speed into a pile of rocks, coming to the mountain rather than the mountain coming to us. Not nearly as much fun as people intimated.
But if we search deep inside ourselves, not so far down as the cloacae perhaps, but closer to, say, the interventricular septum, or the Purkinje fibers, or even the mitral valve, in our heart of hearts, we must admit that nowadays we return, like MacArthur, to liberate ourselves from the burden of being No. 1 Bad Driving Boat. We want others to experience the unique opportunity we’ve had these many years, to anoint hares-apparent, to allow us to rabbit about in anonymity. That is, find a boat which careens and careers over the water, drives worse than we do, and makes more noise. The search for the Holy Growl.
The plan was simple: as coyotes yowled from buttes during the full moon, we pricked our fingers and signed our names in blood, using the Palmer Method of course, on pink parchment where the pact had been penciled.
The method was equally simple: ply the waters in search of the elusive bad-driving boat. Ply north to Willow Beach, ply south to Cottonwood Cove, ply west to Techatticup Cove, ply east to Castle Cove. No ploy. No play. Just ply, ply, ply, and ply once more, precursors searching for post-cursors to get cursed at instead of us.
It would be grueling, this arduous plying, but we girt our loins and swore not to blench, nor flinch, nor quake, nor quail. But happy propinquity! Without a query we flushed the quarry of our quest quite quickly as we were about to partake of the NOAA weather channel.
We overheard this exchange:
“I’m Jennifer!” she said. “Hi!” Like Annette on the Mickey Mouse Club. I imagined Jennifer with big black mouse ears. “Who is this?” she asked.
Home Base then explained CB protocol.
“Oh,” Jennifer said, “Okay.”
“Could you turn down the music?” asked the responder from Home Base.
“Oh, okay,” replied Jennifer.
“You have a question?” Home Base asked.
“Um, yes. How do you stop these things?” asked Jennifer.
“Hist!” I said. “Coulds’t be? Have we discovered our Holy Growl?”
“Dilly-dally not!” someone said. “Forward, ho! Find them!”
Home Base said, “‘These things’ you want to stop would be…?”
“Ships,” Jennifer said. “Our ship in particular.”
“You watched the houseboat video?” responded Home Base, emphasizing the word “boat.”
“Okay. But we don’t like documentaries,” replied Jennifer.
Home Base explained how to stop a houseboat.
“Oh,” Jennifer said, “Okay. Um, so no brakes.”
“Not like in a car, no,” confirmed Home Base.
“Oh, okay. See Paul, I told you, no brakes,” said Jennifer.
“Oh,” a man’s voice said. “Okay.”
We danced about our houseboat fairly sure we had found our successors. The surety came shortly when Jennifer asked about anchors, “Ours don’t work worth a darn.”
A deep sigh from Home Base. “You don’t have anchors.”
“Oh, okay! Um, those big iron rods?” questioned Jennifer.
“Those are mooring rods,” Home Base explained.
“Oh, okay. No wonder we drifted and kind of touched two other boats. Not hard, though. Just little crinkles,” confessed Jennifer.
“It’s them!“ one of us said. “Now we must needs find them, and our worries are over! Tra-la!”
“But it’s a huge lake…” I said.
Our boat shuddered, and we heard a terrific crash.
“Make that three,” Jennifer said.
She probably wondered why she heard cheering.