Lake Powell houseboat trip
Since we had so much fun on last year’s Lake Powell houseboat trip, it was at the top of our list for this year. Reservations opened up in January and we quickly reserved the 75’ Excursion and recruited three other families to join us. Then we waited 7 months! After a COVID-ridden 6th grade ended and an action packed summer, we were making lists of what to bring, coordinating meals with the other families, and making trips to Costco and the grocery store. We decided to leave Willow at home this year and arranged for someone from Rover to stay at our house.
Saturday finally arrived and we were on the road at 7am.Without the dog and camping gear, the truck wasn’t nearly as packed, but we had Stan’s giant 10’ wide water trampoline in a box. It was a pretty smoky drive from wild fires in CA and OR and we just stopped for gas, food, and bathroom breaks. We arrived at the Quality Inn around the same time that the Drury’s got back from Lower Antelope Canyon and just before the McGaughey’s got there. The kids raged in the pool while we had a beer, then dinner at the sub-standard Mexican restaurant in the hotel. More time in the pool after dinner then an early night to bed.
Sunday morning we walked across the Glen Canyon dam and headed to the marina. It’s hard to believe that Lake Powell is 50’ lower than last year! The Cut is closed, several of the boat ramps are closed, and the marina’s ramp is steeper and much longer. Jean got us checked in then we waited for someone to give us the boat walk-thru. The marina wasn’t nearly as crowded as last year either. Scotty and family arrived while we were getting the overview of the boat then we all did several trips from the vehicles piling gear, drinks, and food onto the boat. One of the engines wouldn’t start so we waited for a mechanic to replace a battery. Off we go! Since The Cut is closed due to low water we headed south towards the dam then east around Antelope Island. We passed Antelope Marina and some of the enormous houseboats there made ours look like a toy! As Jean was driving the rest of us were putting stuff away, making lunch, and having a good time while the kids roamed the boat. It was still pretty smoky but the giant red and white sandstone towers never fail to amaze me. Dave brought some bananas and Scotty made him throw them overboard, since apparently bananas on a boat are bad luck! Our boat was therefore named “Banana Hammock”. Around buoy 16 we turned north towards Gunsight Bay to find a place to beach the boat. Next the low oil and high temp lights came on for the starboard engine so we shut it down and continued with one engine. It wouldn’t start back up so we figured it overheated. With the water so much lower when we encountered beaches at the northern end of the bay, the map still showed another mile of water! We found a suitable beach and prepared for anchor, aka… hopped off the front of the boat and furiously dug four holes for anchors and attached the lines to the front and back of the boat, then filled the holes back in. Party time! The kids started their never ending laps on the slide attached to the top deck, we inflated all of the standup paddleboards, inflated “Horny the Unicorn”, inflated the trampoline, the adults started having adult beverages and trying to figure out the stereo system and numerous switches for the generator/batteries. Luckily I brought a long rope that we could tie the trampoline and unicorn to the boat without then floating off. Next the generator over heated and shut off. Damn bananas! We opened the hatch to let it cool off and tried to figure out what was wrong with the engine and generator. It’s good to have a pilot, automotive mechanic, and fix-anything people on board! After cooling a bit (it was 105 degrees, after all) the generator came back on. We certainly needed it for the refrigerator and AC! We called the marina and they said a mechanic would be out the following day. Scotty and Marty cooked up an amazing meal of salad and lemon/onion chicken. The sunset was great and we chilled on the top deck laughing hysterically, listening to music, and watching the stars, including plenty of shooting stars.
Overnight the generator shut off a few times and it was boiling hot in the bedrooms. Monday morning was an early wake up only to find that the coffee maker didn’t work. Banana’s fault again! We ended up boiling water and pouring it over the grounds. Coffee on the top deck while reading and watching the sun come up was just as awesome as last year. Scotty and Marty made stuffed French toast and we all pigged out then started our daily routine of paddle boarding and kayaking, the kids on the slide, bobbing around the water, eating, and cooling down from the inside out with adult drinks. We also discovered “Trampoline Olympics”…. We put the giant water trampoline under the slide and after sliding down it was perfect for a jump, dive, flip, flip and turn, belly flop, face flop, football catch, etc. It was hysterical! The kids also discovered “Trampoline Battle Royal”, last one standing (usually Tristan) wins! At some point a mechanic came out and said our engine alternator was bad but he couldn’t bring one out until the next day and to leave the deck lid over the generator up so it could cool down. That night Nicole cooked about 30lbs of lasagna and we gorged then hung out on the beach during the sunset playing football and soccer and chilled on the top deck again. This time with some guitar and harmonica from Scotty as well.
Tuesday was a rinse and repeat after another beautiful sunrise and breakfast casserole. All the same water fun from the day before and a mechanic came out to replace the alternator. Since we spent two nights in Gunsight Bay we secured all the toys, dug up the anchors, and shoved off. Our plan was to go to the other side of Gunsight Pass and Gunsight Butte to a section of Padre Bay. Of course the engine shutoff along the way, but luckily the mechanic was closeby and he came on the boat and showed us an alternative way to get it started that wasn’t in the manual. We found another great spot to beach the Banana Hammock next to a small rock island and between a couple other houseboats. It was HOT. The kids paddled around and lit off fireworks. I swam over to the island to watch the kids when all of a sudden dark skies started blowing in and the wind kicked up. Next thing ya know, one of the anchor lines came undone and blew the houseboat sideways into shallow water on the beach! It was like a repeat of last year. The neighbors came over to help us and we dug deeper anchor holes and tried to figure out what to do. In the meantime, Stan sliced open his heel on the prop or engine cover and was bleeding all over the place. We decided to wait until the wind calmed down then attempt to de-beach the boat. Out of nowhere, the wind started blowing in the opposite direction and un-beached the boat! We scrambled to start the engines and pull it to open water then set the anchors again. WAYYYY too much excitement, but it all worked out after a mad scramble. Whew. Dave’s smoked brisket was delicious that night and most of us turned in early. The kids swam and played to pure exhaustion each day.
Wednesday, same place, same thing. French toast and bacon for breakfast. The kids tried to burn through all of the fireworks and the adults floated around the back of the boat laughing for hours. Of course the water pump stopped working this time. Luckily a mechanic was out quickly while we bbq’ed on the top deck. The hot tub (without the heat turned on) was another popular place for the kids while on the boat. Jean and I made a monster batch of chili, corn bread, and fixings… then it was off to the beach and the top deck once again.
Thursday morning came and we were all exhausted. There was also a coyote walking across the beach! After breakfast we all started packing up and cleaning up and shoved off around 9am. It was an easy cruise back and we all enjoyed laying around checking out the scenery. Near Antelope marina and Wahweap marina there was even more rocks showing and the lanes were getting more narrow. We filled the boat up with 145 gallons of gas worth $805 then hoped for an ATV with carts to haul stuff to our cars that never came. Instead we all dragged carts up through the dirt to the cars. Just what we needed in the100 degree heat! Scotty’s crew hit the road for Durango and the rest of us went to hotels for showers, food (Stromboli’s again!), and vegged out watching TV in the air conditioning.
Friday morning we ate leftovers and relaxed then left the hotel around 10am for our 10:45am tour at Lower Antelope Canyon with Dixie’s. It’s only about 10 minutes from town, it cost about $175 for the three of us, but worth every penny! We’ve seen pictures before, but it was AMAZING in the canyon! It’s a short walk to a set of steps and ladders, then a slow 1,300ft walk up canyon with such crazy rock formations all around. WOW! You can’t stop taking pictures and the tour guide did such a great job adjusting our cameras, pointing out the formations, and telling us about the Navajo land. After an hour we were out of the canyon, then back to the cars for our next stop at Four Corners. Nothing really exciting going on there except waiting in line to have your picture taken while standing in four states at the same time. We got to Cortez around 4pm and checked into our hotel then had dinner. We were all still exhausted and just chilled.
Saturday morning we got up early and hit the road at 7am for Mesa Verde National Park just 10 minutes away. The Ancestral Pueblo ruins are another 20+ miles from the entrance while the road climbs up the mesa and we stopped at the park high point and a couple viewing areas along the way. We went to the Chapin Mesa area first and were bummed that the museum and Spruce Tree House were closed and other tours required a reservation. We drove along the Mesa Top Loop. First is the view of the huge Square Tower House then up close and personal with Pithouses and Early Pueblos. Sun Pueblo, Sun Point View, and Fire Temple were highlights. It was cool to see how the Pueblos advanced in size and design as the centuries progressed between 600ad and 1300ad. Next we drove to Wetherill Mesa and walked through the Step House. Since it was close to noon and we knew we had a long drive, we had some snacks and headed out. We ticked off the miles and stopped in Durango for lunch, then only stopped for bathroom and gas breaks afterwards. We got home just before dark and unloaded the truck exhausted while Willow was so excited to see us.
Whew, what a whirlwind of a week that we planned, and waited, months for! It was so much fun having four families on the boat this time and so heartwarming to see all of the kids get along so well and just rage like kids should non-stop. A vacation that’ll never be forgotten. And we now know to never bring bananas on a boat!