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By "Captain" Gary

Eight intrepid SCNA members trekked from Los Angeles to Lake Mead on their way to the club’s first houseboating adventure last July 16. Patty, Dee and Van had never done this before, but the old pros Ricc and Gary told the others to trust them to lead the way.

We traveled from Los Angeles across the Mojave desert in three separate cars, staying in touch by cell phone to monitor each other’s progress and to give traffic reports. The desert was scorching hot and so we pushed to get through it as quickly as possible. Five hours later we were in Henderson, buying bulk perishable food at the Costco there. We got to the lake about dusk, and pulled into Carville Bay marina on the north shore. The next few hours were spent unloading the cars and wheel-barrowing our bags and supplies about a half-mile down a long dock to our assigned boat. Wisely we had taken the “early-bird” option so we could spend that first night on the boat so we could get and early check-out in the morning and beat the other 100 boats onto the lake. Well, we beat most of them but not all. We had rented one of the big 58-foot houseboats complete with air conditioning and spring mattress beds – all the comforts of home! It also had a sun canopy on top which proved a blessing during the hot days.

The first day we journeyed through the narrow strait into the main lake area, about 20 miles away. It took over 2 hours at full speed (these boats don’t move very fast!) Everyone’s clothes were off as soon as we were about 100 yards from the dock and they stayed off until we were 100 yards from the dock five days later!

Those who came along soon learned this was not a vacation where they could just sit back and soak up the sun: everyone was part of a crew and they had to learn how to steer the boat, dock along a shoreline without damaging the props, pound in the anchor stakes and tie off the boat ropes. In other words, we worked! It was fun to see raw rookies transitioned into a working crew team. Yes there was plenty of time for fun after we got the boat tied up: swimming in the lake, fishing, and hiking along the muddy banks.

We found our first docking area was too insecure (the bank was too muddy to hold the stakes firmly) so we picked up and moved about another 10 miles down the lake shore to a small inlet that insured us of privacy and a good anchorage. We were very lucky to have chosen this site because about an hour later the wind came up on the water surface and whipped up some waves that rocked the boat pretty hard. If he had stayed in our first spot we might have been in trouble!

Anyway, after the storm passed, Van tried his luck at fishing as he had never done it before. Lo and behold he caught a catfish! He cooked it and we ate it as part of dinner – fish sure tastes better when it’s fresh! He spend the rest of the trip trying to catch another but he never did. Still, you could see the pride in his eyes at having accomplished something totally new.

The next day, we decided to explore another part of the lake. There is over 1500 miles of shoreline on Lake Mead so there are plenty of bays and inlets from which to choose. The trick is to find one not already occupied that will provide good protection against any wind or sudden thunderstorm, and also that is far enough o the traffic lanes to allow us to be nude without annoying any other boaters. I had been houseboating on Lake Mead perhaps a dozen times so I knew of a particular favorite spot to go to. The only problem we found with the lake was that the very low water level (it was about 150 feet below normal due to a severe drought in the area the prior two years) so the inlets and bays that I remember now looked totally different. There were sandbars where there didn’t use to be sandbars! Nevertheless, after some harrowing navigating we finally anchored in a very nice spot on the north fork in a bay that had a small stream running into it. We remained here the rest of the trip. We got bounced around a bit from the wind and thunderstorms that seems to appear like clockwork every day about 3pm, but they only lasted until about nightfall and then all was peaceful and calm again.

We discovered we had brought along far too much food, as people seemed to eat less than normal amounts in the heat. One night Ricc served up some terrific lamb stew, and on another night Gary cooked some huge steaks on the propane BBQ. We had salads and fruits all day long, stored in our two refrigerators that came with the boat. Combined we had about six ice coolers that kept the soft drinks, beer and wine cold throughout the trip. We had to carry out half the food when the trip was over, divide it up and take it home. Next time, we’ll know better.

Several people brought DVD and VCR-formatted movies, which we watched at night on the boat’s TV. By the third night we had literally stopped thinking about home and were mentally really relaxing. Besides, the cell phones didn’t work on the lake so we couldn’t talk to anybody anyway (our only connection to the world was a CB set at the captain’s chair for emergencies.)

Ricc was smart enough to have brought along his massage table so many of us pampered ourselves on it during the cooler evenings.

The last morning, Van got up early and wrote a love note to his wife on the shore using the large rocks he found. We wonder if it is still there.

It took about three hours to boat back to the dock. Having all survived the experience, we disembarked for home weary but vowing to come back and do it again.

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