Sinking My Houseboat at Lake Powell & What I Learned...
Updated: Oct 23, 2018
If you follow me on social media at all then you know that this past weekend I took a group of 70 friends to Lake Powell to experience the most beautiful water in the world. You also know that I became a mini-viral sensation when one of the houseboats started to fill up with water and almost sank to the bottom of the lake. If you haven’t seen the video, here is the link
If you read through some of the 1000’s of comments you start to see a couple of trends forming from people and they almost all revolve around 2 questions: First - How did this happen? And second - How is this guy so calm? I’ll answer both of those for you…
As far as the question of how it happened goes, well I’m still not 100% sure. What I have learned though is that houseboats don’t have a bilge pump in the front of the boat so if it starts to take on a lot of water, it can escalate pretty quickly. This is essentially what happened to us. I’m still not sure why the houseboat was sitting so low from the beginning but as I started driving through Navajo Canyon I did notice that more water than usual was coming up on the boat. It’s not unusual that water comes up there but it was annoying that it seemed to be happening so much more than normal. Keep in mind I’ve done this exact trip on this exact boat about 15 other times.
As we got out of the canyon and into the channel we started taking on bigger waves until we finally got hit by a cruise boat wave. Seconds later is when water started to flood in and enter the front bedroom. This was the moment the issue got serious. This is when we realized we might not make it back to the shore. I know it’s not the sexiest story, we didn’t hit a rock or have any major issues, but this is the best explanation I know of as to what happened.
To answer the second question as to why I was so calm and why I handled the whole situation with as much calmness as I did, I want to tell you about a few experiences I had growing up.
When I was about 11 years old my family went up to Bear Lake to do a skiing and boating trip. We all got to bring along one friend and it was supposed to be a great time. My brother Dale brought his friend Jason along and on the first day of boating Jason was trying to spray the boat with water using the jet ski, only he didn’t turn fast enough and he crashed into the boat. I was sitting in the water about ready to yell “hit it” so I had a great view of the whole thing.
What I remember most though was my father freaking out and essentially ruining that trip by yelling at everyone and causing a lot of panic. I had a great childhood, don’t get me wrong, but the moments I would like to forget where almost all something very similar to that. Something goes wrong and dad loses his shit.
About that same time in my life, I met a new friend at my new school and he invited me over to his house. He was clearly well off in life and seemed to have a lot of nice things. He asked his dad to take us to the movies and I went to get into his car. It was a BMW and I’m sure the dad, not knowing me, wasn’t too worried about my feelings. But he turned to me and said, “If you spill in my car I’ll kill ya!” I nervously chuckled but he just said, “I’m serious.”
I remember as a young kid vowing in that moment that I would never be that way. I’d never be a jerk about my stuff. I’d never put things in front of people. I’d never get mad at someone because there was a chance that something of mine could get damaged or ruined. I just never wanted to be that guy. This is probably why when the houseboat started to go down I didn’t get angry or start yelling. I didn’t panic either. I’ve been going undercover with Operation Underground Railroad for three years now to help rescue children that are being sex trafficked so I am used to being intense situations. I don’t panic. I think.
That takes me to where I learned this mantra in life. Several years ago I was selling meat door to door and my business partner and I had a 12 passenger van that we purchased to help take our sales guys out to their area. We wrapped it with our logo and pictures of cows hanging their arms out the window. One day I was driving with one of my best friends Chris Francis and it was pretty late. We spotted the van in a grocery store parking lot so I decided we would play a prank. The back door didn’t lock so we decided to sneak in the van and our big plan was to have my partner Herman start driving, then when he looked in the rearview mirror he would see my friend, a total stranger to him, sitting there. We assumed it would scare him good and we’d all get a good laugh.
I crawled in with Chris and once Herman was in the van I stayed tucked down while Chris sat up. Herman began to drive away and so Chris made a sound to get his attention. He saw Chris sitting in the back of the van only instead of freaking out he just stopped the van and turned around with the most quizzical look on his face that I’ve ever seen. Not one part of him was scared, yet Chris and I both started to get a little anxious so I popped out and told him about the big joke.
I asked him, “Herman, you didn’t react scared at all, we really thought you’d freak out when you saw Chris sitting there!” His response to me I’ll never forget, he said, “Jimmy, when something scary or crazy happens most people freak out and make a bad choice. I learned to always stop and just think. Think about what I should do? What is the danger? How can I survive this? So I was just thinking about what to do next. I was about to take action knowing exactly what to do.” Such simple advice yet so profound. I learned a lot of lessons from Herman but this might have been his greatest lesson to me.
So when people ask, “How is he staying so calm?!!!!” as my houseboat was taking on water and sinking. I was just thinking, “Ok, how do we make sure everyone is safe and make sure I get this back without sinking.” I knew that if I just kept going it would give us the best chance to make it back so I didn’t hesitate, I just made sure my choice was the right one for the situation. I’m the first to admit that I’m not a great boat captain, but at least everyone that was there with me that day will be able to say, “At least he wasn’t an asshole!” My 11-year old self would have been proud!