We are about to depart for England on July 3rd. We will miss all the fireworks but will no doubt have a small family celebration on the 4th. We will give thanks that George Bush and Dick Cheney are not British. We have Gordo.
This blog entry is a bit of a con. It's more about wide boats than narrow. In May I went on an ASU Geology trip through the Grand Canyon from Lees Ferry to Whitmore Wash - 187 miles of heaven interspersed with some of the fastest navigable whitewater on Earth. It was a two boat trip this year as the National Park Service has reduced the maximum head count on each trip. There were 28 of us plus Dr. Paul Knauth, geology teacher par excellence, and a Hatch River Expeditions crew of three. The usual eclectic mix of characters attended. They all had two things in common - strong opinions and bright intellects. There were lawyers, doctors, farmers, river runners, geologists (of course), an astronomer who has worked on Hubble since its inception, and assorted riff-raff like me. Rick, Barbara's nephew, made a great traveling companion with his incisive wit and easygoing attitude. Some pictures from the trip are below and right.
Picture by Mark Beeunas
Some of the highlights included two fantastic rides through fierce rapids and an unusual number of wildlife sightings. The rafts are equipped with side tubes which can be straddled to give the best rides through the rapids. JP and Eric, the boatmen, would not let us ride the tubes through the worst rapids but we were allowed to ride through Granite Falls and, to my amazement, Hermit rapid. Hermit has always been an unpredictable and dangerous rapid. On the 1998 trip we were met by a huge standing wave which completely swept the boat. This time it was a wild and screwy ride. I hung on for dear life as the tube bucked like an ebullient bull and waves foamed across us. As we came out, I was so weak from laughing that I almost let go. That and Granite Falls were the most fun I've ever had in my life.
We saw bighorn sheep almost daily, several condors and many deer, but the wildlife highlight was a contest between a Peregrine falcon and a swallow. We had stopped for lunch near the end of the trip. Above us the falcon dived from a great height upon the swallow which turned and twisted and fell into a wingless dive at the last millisecond to escape. This continued for several minutes with the escapes getting ever narrower and closer to the water after each attack. The swallow was becoming visibly exhausted and we thought it would soon be all over. Suddenly it flew into a crack in the canyon wall which was too narrow for the falcon. The falcon perched above the crack for about ten minutes and then flew off down river.
In the evenings there were the usual conversations - that strange mixture of ribaldry and philosophy that seems to infect denizens of the Canyon. JP, Eric and Kelly did culinary wonders with a few pots and pans. They even made a birthday cake from scratch one night. All this in some of the most beautiful and tranquil settings on Earth - it will be hard to top this in England!
Back in the Old Country it has been raining daily for about six weeks and our boat construction is running about a week late, according to Simon the builder. He is paying for us to stay in a hotel in Northwich, Cheshire until the launch. This should concentrate his mind wonderfully. We received two more pictures two weeks ago (below) from Angela and Patrick Marks, who are having a boat built alongside ours. It has been frustrating communicating with the builder via e-mail. A constant stream of questions and answers has flowed back and forth - "Did you install twin water pumps?", "Has the hull been shotblasted?", "Have the chairs arrived?"; small details that I lose sleep about. All things considered, the challenges of having a boat built six thousand miles away have not been as great as I expected.
Photos by Patrick & Angela Marks
All being well, we should be afloat by July 15th or thereabouts, and I will post a report. Internet access will be a little spotty as we will rely on finding Wi-Fi hotspots and we will mostly be cruising through rural areas.
All photos by Roger except as indicated.