Anyone who is regularly on the water knows that boats provide more than just thrilling entertainment and an excellent way to drain your bank account really fast. Sometimes they also provide an incredible story. If you don’t know what I mean, just you wait—something disastrous is bound to happen. A storm will pop up out of nowhere, the gas tank somehow won’t get filled up or maybe the old canoe won’t have that one last ride in her after all. There are a million ways for adventures out on the water to go wrong, and just so you don’t feel all alone in your boating blunders, here are some of those dreadful moments described by two Utah execs. Please avoid trying this at home.
This first story takes place during the ‘70s on a nice sunny evening on the Columbia River in Oregon. Dan Dyer, now CEO of NASCAR Car Wash in Lehi, had just loaded two families, including his own, onto a 30-foot cabin cruiser. The eight or nine kids under the age of eight were ready for a fun ride. But the adults grew concerned as the boat immediately began leaking oil.
“Oregon was probably one of the first states to really be tree-hugger green. And I think there was a posted sign that said oil or fuel on the water was a $5,000 fine,” Dyer says.
The water moves at about seven miles an hour on the Columbia River, and that particular day there were a lot of container barges and sail boats. As Dyer describes it, “No sooner had we gotten into the main channel of the Colombia River, the engine quit. So here I am stuck in this big oil slick, and the whole boat and oil slick are moving down the river together.” He couldn’t figure out where the oil was coming from or how to stop it, and soon called for help.
Dyer ended up with the sheriff and coast guard coming to his rescue—which in addition to towing him off the water gave him a $1,200 ticket for violations unrelated to the oil and then turned him over to the state of Oregon to pay retribution for the leak. Luckily, the state was understanding of his innocent crime and let him off the hook. But his boat’s two engines were completely fried, costing $3,800 to fix.
“So,” Dyer says, “five grand later I’m a boater again!”
He also solved the mystery of the leaking oil. As it turns out, the prior Saturday, his father had replaced the engine filters and changed the oil. A good deed indeed—it just would have been nicer if he had finished by putting the oil plug back in.
Jeff Hodlmair, vice president of operations and business development for Eliot Management Group, brings us our next boating adventure. He purchased a used Hobie 16 sailboat in 2002, ready to hit the winds and waves of Utah Lake. He took along his brother-in-law Micah, his six-month pregnant wife, Camie, and his one-year-old Bichon Frise puppy, Bryton. As Hodlmair says, “A LOT was about to go wrong with this quick trip to Utah Lake.”
They were on the lake for about an hour when the wind suddenly picked up and capsized the boat, throwing everyone overboard and getting the mast stuck in the bottom of the shallow lake. The two men fought to try and free the mast, but the wind never let up. “While Micah and I fought with the lake conditions, Camie, Bryton and the camera were slowly floating away,” says Hodlmair. “Micah, being an accomplished swimmer, swam the 50 yards to rescue his sister while I continued the battle.”
Finally, a small speedboat came to their rescue and, after about 30 minutes, was able to pull the mast out with a rope. They cautiously sailed back into the small marina “having been introduced to the wicked winds of Utah Valley,” Hodlmair says.
He has been sailing a lot since then, but after another experience with the winds at Utah Lake—leaving him with a massive head injury—Hodlmair never went back to the gusty spot. He now prefers Bear Lake, but he can tell you that the winds there have their own tricks, too.
Before You Go
Required Boating Safety Equipment
This list shows safety equipment that must be onboard your boat, as required by the state of Utah. This is a general list and in some cases there are more specific requirements, depending on the size and type of your boat.
• Display of registration decals
• Registration card
• Display of bow numbers
• Fire extinguisher
• Spare propulsion
• Bailing device
• Sound producing device
• One life jacket for each person onboard (kids under 13 must wear life jacket)
• Type IV throwable floatation device (personal flotation device)
• Proper navigation lights
• Adequate ventilation
• Approved flame arrestor
• Capacity plate displayed
• Hull Identification Number (HIN)
• Proof of liability insurance
Recommended Optional Equipment
• First Aid kit
• Boarding ladder
• Tool kit
• Extra rope (line)
• Anchor with line
• Visual distress signals
• Spare spark plugs
• Spare bilge plug(s)
• Spare propeller(s)
• Copy of the navigation rules
• Additional life jackets
• Additional bailing bucket
• VHF marine band radio