The Wreck of the 305


How I Spent my Week of Vacation

Last week [May 2002] my parents rented a houseboat from Forever Resorts and took me, my boyfriend Andrés, my brother Chris, and his friend David out for a jolly cruise around Lake Amistad, which is a resevoir on the US-Mexico border. The houseboat was *huge* -- it slept at least ten people, more if they're friendly, and had all kinds of interesting things. There were two bathrooms (although only one shower), a fully-equipped kitchen, a spacious living-room area with couch and table and whatnot, and a waterslide off the sundeck.

On Monday, we drove down to Del Rio and spent the night in a hotel. We ate at Don Marcellino's, which was not nearly as Mexican as it should have been. The next morning we fetched the houseboat (number 305), got our orientation lecture, and piled all our stuff onboard. There was a *lot* of stuff -- the parents brought lots and lots of food, plus various pool toys including rafts, water pistols, and an inflatable ride-on giant caterpillar. The people at the marina gave Dad a captain's hat. He assigned us all other positions -- Mom was First Mate, Chris was the Weapons Officer, David was the Doctor, I was the Science Officer, and Andrés was the Guy in the Red Shirt (quickly promoted to Navigator). We discovered that the lake was quite a bit smaller than it looked on the map, because there wasn't nearly as much water in it as there's supposed to be. According to the guy that helped orient us, this is because Mexico is refusing to release more water unless the US allows their trucks to cross the border without following US safety procedures (regulating the condition of the trucks, pollution controls, driver's age, etc.). However, the level had apparently been that low for quite a while, because there were trees growing on the exposed areas.

Our first day was spent slowly poking up into Rough Canyon and looking at cliffs, goats, birds, and other random river scenery. We tied up in a little cove with *lots* of goats and sheep and explored, finding numerous jackrabbits and several signs of previous human habitation (building foundations and telephone pole stumps). Also we played lots of Cheapass games, courtesy Andrés. The second day we puttered around a bit but ended up spending the night in the same place, after tying up in a steep place for lunch, getting one of the mooring lines caught in a submerged tree on the way out, and destroying one of the props on another submerged tree while attempting to get the line loose. While we were swimming, the beach ball blew all the way across the lake, up onto the shore, up the hill, and bounced over the trees, completely freaking out a group of sheep. Later we mounted a shoed expedition and managed to retrieve it. Before we went to bed we watched the distant lighting.

The third day we went back to the marina and got a replacement prop and fresh water and emptied the holding tank. Afterwards we went exploring the other direction and found a lovely little cove to spend the night in. We tied up quite firmly -- Dad went back two or three times to pound the stakes in some more. There were raccoon tracks in the mud, and nice tall hills which we climbed, but I forgot to bring my camera on the hike so I don't have a record of the lovely view. We also did a lot of swimming. At some point we discovered that we'd brought an extra day's worth of food. After dinner, we watched the slightly-less-distant lightning, retrieved the pool toys and other loose things on deck, and went in to play games and read books and have tea. Right about the time the tea was ready, we realized that it had gotten *very* windy, and also that we seemed to be moving. Indeed, one of the sets of stakes had ripped completely out of the ground, and we were parallel to the shore. This is about when the enormous waves began pounding us sideways into the mud. *THUD* and the boat would rock sideways. *THUD* and the dishes started sliding off the counter. *THUD* Mom leapt across the room to hold the dishes in the cabinet. *THUD* and we started leaking. Nasty muddy water sloshed across the kitchen from the air vent behind the refrigerator. Mom and Dad manned the cell phone and marine radio, respectively, so that somebody would know where we were in case we needed rescuing. David, Chris, and Andrés traded off cabinet-holding duties, and I attempted to mop up the water, which at this point was also coming in the (closed) windows. The bathroom sinks spat up some kind of severely nasty crap.

We took comfort in the fact that we were being blown into shore rather than away from it, so if the boat actually sank, we wouldn't drown. Eventually the waves died down, I mopped up the rest of the water, and Dad restaked the boat (still sideways). In the morning, we discovered that we were well and truly stuck. The marina sent out a couple of boats to attempt to pull us out, but after six hours or so of them making the situation worse by kicking up a pile of debris on the lakeward side of the houseboat, pulling off the waterslide, and nearly chopping one of the employees in half with a propellor, we gave up, packed our stuff, and spent the night in a hotel.

The boat, as far as we know, is still stuck.

[The company did eventually retrieve the houseboat. A month or two after the incident, they even sent Dad an invitation to come visit again. But I don't think they really want to see us....]

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