Houseboaters: A Rare Kind Of Breed

June 2020 Feature By Brady L. Kay

Chances are decent and slightly in your favor that if your truck breaks down on the side of the road, there is probably at least one person who will stop and ask if you need help. But break down on the water and it’s nearly a guarantee that someone will come to your aid in minutes. Like the way a motorcyclist waves to other riders on the road, there is a sense of a common bond among boaters that is like nothing else.

I’ve said this before: boaters are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. If you’re in trouble on the water, all you have to do is start waving your hands and someone will quickly make it over to help.

I’m going to check my man card at the door and freely admit that Lake Mead in Nevada got the best of me a few summers ago. I’ve been on this lake before; it’s part of the Colorado River and it’s massive.

We were staying on a houseboat and decided to make the long journey by water towards the Grand Canyon. Using our houseboat as a base camp, we took our secondary boat as far as we dared go up the Colorado River until the water became too shallow to navigate safely. Knowing we were pushing the limits of our fuel capacity, we floated and drifted a good part of the way back as we made our way towards our houseboat.

With the evening beginning to set in, we eventually fired up the boat and headed back at full throttle to beat the setting sun. I had a spare gas can onboard, but once we drained that I began to get a little nervous. We had underestimated the distance, or at least the amount of gas it was going to take for this day trip.

Knowing we didn’t have enough left in the tank to make it back to our houseboat, we began to scout for options. Thankfully we were at least back to being around other boats again and were no longer on the truly remote stretch of water. I spotted a beached houseboat and without hesitation headed right towards it.

You would have thought we were borrowing gas from our brother. The guy didn’t hesitate for a second. He handed over his spare gas can and wished us the best. It was still dark by the time we made it back to our houseboat, but we were just relieved not to be sleeping on our trailerable boat.

The next day we filled our boat at the marina and topped off the borrowed gas can and returned it to the houseboaters who loaned it to us. The guy had complete faith we’d return it, so he wasn’t the least bit surprised when we did. We end up talking with the group for awhile as our family became an extension of his.

I’ll probably never see this guy again, but it’s just nice to know that the odds are in my favor that if I ever find myself in a similar situation again that I’m sure to find a houseboating family just like this one that can help. And of course, I’ll continue to do my part to be that kind of houseboater myself.     

But houseboaters do more than just help strangers. It seems like every dock has at least one go-to guy who can fix anything or seems like he’s experienced everything. From taking the time to show a newbie how to winterize his outboards to safely helping someone dock a boat in a stiff cross wind, houseboaters are truly great people. I guess this is why you “pay it forward” when you see another boater in need. You never know when it’s going to be you that needs the help.     

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