A Family Affair

Published in the July 2013 Issue July 2013

We tend to think the Fourth of July is about family and friends, but in Malletts Bay in Vermont, just off of Lake Champlain, the summer holiday truly is about family and friends and then some. In the Trahan family, between three brothers there are 30 children and to them it’s all about enjoying the time to be together.

The positive attitudes in the family has them looking at the glass half full, rather than half empty, as nothing can diminish the fun no matter what happens, especially on this holiday. Last year the Fourth of July fell in the middle of the week, which made it a little harder for some trying to plan. Being on Wednesday meant not having an extended weekend to celebrate, but rather rushing to get everything accomplished in a shorter amount of time.

The day was spent getting to the boat, arranging tie-ups with friends and preparing a specific dish and it all had to be done on that first day. Tim Trahan and his family camped on the shore of Mallets Bay that overlooks the Bay and the Adirondack Mountains to the west.

The Plan

The boats were rafted up about 200 feet from the beach so everyone could walk to shore in the shallow water. The plan was simple: have a campfire, bring a potluck dish to supplement the main course of pulled barbeque chicken and other meats and have a memorable holiday for the three houseboat owners in this Trahan clan of merrymakers and adventurers.

Because of their positive attitudes and joy of living life to the full extent, the unanticipated rough severe weather at the most inopportune time didn’t spoil the holiday, it only forged a date in history to reminisce at future family events about the Fourth of July that was! It wasn’t a weekend or really a vacation, but rather a Fourth of July like none they had ever experienced before.

The Perfect Storm

Weather patterns across this country lately have been more severe than forecasters can anticipate. Taking into account the super storm in New Jersey up to Connecticut, droughts through Texas, floods in the Midwest and freezes and heavy snows in the north, it’s hard to prepare for a weather situation forecast that doesn’t compare to anything previously experienced. You simply prepare as much as you can, and leave the rest to Mother Nature to be as forgiving as possible.

This was the case on the eventful 4th of 2012. Chris and Laurel Trahan of Dunbarton, N.H., just got their refitted and updated Sea Rover from the Louie Marcone family who enjoyed the boat for many years in upper Rochester, N.Y. The owner was getting of age, and sold it to them after they decided they would make a good home for it. Chris and Laurel transported the boat to Malletts Bay Marina—also known as Jake’s Marina in the inner bay—and kept the name BOFUS (Both of Us). They only had the boat for a few months before the now infamous Fourth of July storm hit.

“We felt the boat would have good Karma, and brought it to Lake Champlain where it would become our second home,” says Chris. “We truly enjoy having coffee in the morning on the front deck while reading the paper or playing with our dog, Miles. There is so much to do within walking distance from the local produce stand to the local general store called Dick Mazza’s with the best fruit pies and bakery items.”

The Calm Before

The Wednesday in July started predictably enough with very sunny and bright skies. Cups of coffee and Danish rolls were enjoyed with friends before going to tie up with other boats. Tim’s family camp was already full of his cousins, siblings and parents—81-year-old Jacque and his wife Jean, with 57 years of marriage behind them.

Everyone brought food, including the barbeque meat, using the special 802 BBQ Sauce from Chris, which is locally distributed from his new enterprise. Everyone had either a plate on his lap, in his hands or at a table.

But then the skies got dark and rain could be seen going across the bay at a fast clip. In the blink of an eye, the storm turned into a fierce downpour with lighting crashing down to get everyone’s attention. Water started pouring through the windows, through doors, and anywhere else there was a sliver of an opening.

According to the Burlington Free Press, the intense wind and rain was caused by one of the most dangerous kinds of storms known as a bow echo. In Colchester—where the marina and camp were—the wind was measured at 70 mph and two inches of rain fell in about a half hour. The storm knocked down hundreds of trees and branches, and created havoc and flooding in streets and homes.

“The heat wave gripping the nation was partly responsible for Wednesday evening’s severe storms,” reported the newspaper the following day. “Intense storms often form along the northern edges of such a heat wave. The heat pushed into Vermont Wednesday, bringing the temperatures up to 90 degrees in Burlington before the storm hit. A cold front pushing south from Quebec, Canada, interacted with the heat and humidity, touching off the severe storms.”

The Trahans’ houseboats and several others tied together were blown and turned ashore during the driving rain and winds. Chris was quick to report to family and friends that the boaters were all okay, but the boats did need to be shoved into deeper water before anyone dared to start their engines. Boats were turned around and props were damaged, but the good news is that no one was hurt. Over a dozen people came together to get in the water to push out the stranded boats.

All Onboard

Back at Malletts Bay Marina, cousin Ray Trahan, with his docked 40-foot houseboat named the Beast, was hosting a holiday party too. When the rains and wind started, Ray was yelling to his family, cousins, friends and his 84-year-old father, Bruno, Sr., to hurry into his boat before the winds blew them off the dock. A total of 23 people came onboard and excitement filled the air while water blew between the sliding windows. A close call happened when another large in-coming boat that was having a hard time getting in control in the storm just skimmed their docked houseboat.

Trying to beat the rain and winds to the dock to tie up, Ray yelled out to those onboard to stay away from the windows and prepare for the inevitable. As Bruno Trahan, Jr. admitted, it was quite an adventure. It helped to have everyone there for support, but alas, the scheduled fireworks were of course postponed.

That Fourth of July will always be remembered, mostly because it was so different than the typical other days during the summer on this lake.

“We’ve become accustomed to sudden winds or storms on the lake and are prepared for those situations,” say Ray. “The whole family grew up on the water and no matter when or where or how it happens, we like the adventure. And when it comes, there is no glass half empty, they are all half full.”

With last year’s adventure now behind them, the Trahan family is once again looking forward to spending the Fourth of July onboard their houseboats and hopefully the weather will be a little bit kinder this time around. But either way, this holiday will always be about spending time together as a family.

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