SALT LAKE CITY — Have you ever found yourself up a creek without a paddle with your family in tow? Or, in my family's case, in the middle of a lake with the rope tangled around the boat propeller with only one paddle to your name AND eight of your nine children relying on you to get them home safely?
Recently, my husband and I took our kids out on our new boat. Actually, it's a rather old boat, (nearly 20 years old) for which we sold our beloved van in an effort to purchase —because that's what you do when you have to make semi-responsible adult decisions.
One of those semi-responsible adult decisions was to take our watercraft out on the lake on a very windy day, because why not? Actually, the wind was quite entertaining to the kids who used it to get bounced around and sent airborne on the tube.
For several hours, smiles were abundant as the kids took turns be-bopping around on the inflatable water toy. Heck, not even a wipe-out into the choppy waters while nearly losing his swimsuit could wipe the permanent grin off my 13-year-old's face. Even the sad, "I'm waiting for my turn to have fun on the tube" passengers got a good laugh out of that one.
Unfortunately, the choppy waters did not allow for wakeboarding, surfing or — my personal favorite — slalom skiing. Even so, everyone got their fill of fun and we soon prepared ourselves for the slow ride back to the dock with the little boys in tow for their final fun ride.
Upon sending us out for the ride back (I was holding on to my youngest during the slow drag back to shore), the rope had an unfortunate run-in with the propeller.
My husband immediately turned off the engine and pulled us back into the boat.
Having experienced this before on other family- and friend-owned boats, I knew this could either be an easy fix or a day-ending accident that would leave you stuck on the boat for quite some time with an expensive tow bill to boot.
But there was only one way to find out: I would need to assess the damage below.
Having grown up with boats, I have seen many rope-detangling efforts. Even so, this did not stop my fear of going under the water into dark areas. In fact, I have had a recurring nightmare of jumping into water and finding myself under something and not knowing which way was out.
With this nightmare in the forefront of my mind, I zipped up my life vest and entered the choppy waters that only seemed to be getting choppier. Holding onto the back deck with two hands, I reached toward the prop with my feet to see if I could follow where the rope had ended up and use my finger-like toes to untangle it.
No such luck. Darn toes are nothing like fingers.
I knew I had to go under because this is what I'd seen others do before me.
Not wanting to commit to the dark abyss, I kept one hand gripped on the deck to steady myself and keep my bearings, then I spent a few seconds trying to detangle the rope. The choppy waters, however, made it really hard to stay under for long.
I attempted this several times over before coming to the conclusion that the rope was wound too many times around for me to detangle it. Also, we didn't have scissors or a knife to cut the rope (now we know we need them).
Unsure if turning on the boat would cause more damage — plus, the rope was hooked tightly to the tower — we decided to paddle back to shore with our one paddle.
Let's just say that we went nowhere very, very slowly.
We called the park rangers for a tow and there were no rangers on the lake that day.
We had no choice but to test out the boat, banking on the assumption that a synthetic rope could do little damage to the steel blade of the propeller. Thankfully, we were able to unhook the rope from the tower and locate both ends of the rope before turning on the engine.
Sure enough, the prop chopped up the rope into pieces, releasing one severed end into my hands, and we were then able to slowly make it back to the dock where we loaded the boat to resume the detangling efforts that were quite massive.
In the end, having to rely on ourselves, our intuition, slow and quick thinking, and spoken and unspoken prayers, this experience brought us closer as a family with a newfound confidence that we can navigate choppy waters. Plus, we now have another story that has landed itself in the Brown Family Adventure Book to be shared around the campfire for generations to come.
And while I'm sure there will be many more stories to come as the days tick on — especially now that we have an official adventure toy in the family — I'll be more than happy if I never have to dive under a boat in search of a rope again. But considering how long we plan on keeping this boat in the family, I have a feeling this is only the beginning.
Do you have any stories that have landed in your family adventure book? Let us know your stories in the comment section.