While I’m not a fan of admitting my own stupidity, for some reason I don’t mind sharing in my column lessons that I’ve learned over the years. In most cases I had to learn the hard way and experience something horrific first before realizing the importance of that lesson, but there was a time when I got the message loud and clear without suffering a bad consequence.
One of my favorite houseboating lakes is Lake Powell in southern Utah because the giant red cliffs give it a very distinctive look that’s unlike any other region of our country. I houseboat often on this massive lake but after a couple of successful trips where the wind never kicked up and the water levels never changed, I started cutting corners a little with how I anchored.
The first couple of trips I was so paranoid about the houseboat breaking away in the middle of the night that I dug grave-like holes in the sand to bury the anchors and I went to great lengths to tie off to the biggest boulders I could find. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t even let my family or friends help me because I felt it had to be just right.
But a funny thing happens when you have continued success: you start questioning the importance of going to such extreme measures to anchor your houseboat—or at least that’s what happened to me. I’d still drop the anchors, but I admit the holes weren’t very deep and suddenly finding the biggest boulder became less of a priority. This carelessness should have backfired on me at some point, but luckily it never did.
One trip while our lazily anchored houseboat was in a protective cove, I hopped in a ski boat with my wife and headed about an hour across the lake. I was scanning the horizon when I noticed a houseboat rocking sideways into the shore and I couldn’t understand why someone would anchor their houseboat that way. Then it finally clicked: that houseboat was in trouble. The wind had picked up on this section of Powell and the ropes had actually snapped, sending the stern end into the shore. With the help of a couple of boats we were able to swing it back over and square it up again to the shore.
Before I saw for myself that the thick ropes had snapped, I assumed this guy must anchor like I do, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I helped him dig out his anchors and they were buried deeper into the sand than I ever would have thought possible. The houseboat was a lot more exposed to the elements because of where he was anchored but he had done everything by the book to secure it and just had the misfortune of having the heavily braided rope just break after I’m guessing years of use. The wind was so bad it ripped off part of the canvas top of his top deck so the family just removed it completely to avoid any more issues. Once things were under control I quickly returned to my own base camp to survey my own damage. Based on the rough waves and what I had just witnessed, I expected to find our houseboat blowing down the lake dragging my anchors behind with my family onboard screaming for help. However, to my surprise I found our houseboat anchored exactly where I left it, shallow anchors and all.
Since we had been there several days at this point I probably would have been alright just to leave things how they were but I didn’t take any chances. That night I dug the holes for the anchors deep like I should have been doing all along and I’ve never cut corners again when it comes to properly anchoring our houseboat. It’s a rare life lesson that I didn’t have to learn the hard way, but an important lesson that I won’t soon forget.