|When Amy got writer's block on Pioneer Day (July 24
holiday in Utah), she assumed Shaun must have the same thing and called to check. An
hour later, they were scooting across Utah Lake in one of the best
breezes of the summer. They spent several hours sailing, swimming and getting keel
hauled before stopping on Bird Island to experience the bird cloud (as well as the
gull's improving aim, hitting Shaun on the temple with something wet).
Far to the north, dark, lightning-filled clouds floated over the valley. "Shall we head back?" Shaun asked. Though unlikely, lightning can jump as far as 20 miles from cumulus thunder bumpers.
At this time, however, the winds were coming directly from the south, and Hobie Cat's don't make (sail upwind) very well. Three long tacks only won them a few hundred yards of the 2 miles back to Lincoln Beach. They could have gained more, of course, but the temptation to sail fast in the stiff wind rather than a slow make was usually too much to resist.
When the wind shifted to south south west, they took advantage and made good time toward the 40th Street Beach. The wind picked up speed and the Cabana (boat's name) flew one pontoon briefly as speeds rose to around 25 mph.
About that time, something big crawled out of the West Desert. It was low to the ground and thick grayish-white and 500 feet tall and moving fast. "Is that a dust storm?" Shaun wondered. "I don't know," Amy answered, "it looks like a cloud." "Either way," Shaun reasoned, "that's a lot of wind." It became clear that it was a cloud when it began pouring over West Mountain and rushing down the near side.
By this time they were as far south as the marina and about a mile east. After sailing fairly near shore, just in case, they turned west and made good time in the mounting winds. For the past half hour, Shaun's barometer watch had shown a steady drop and then sudden rise in pressure, indicating a front moving in, which almost always brings high winds. Ever since the Cabana's second night, sailing in 4' waves, Shaun had longed to sail in such weather again. The incredible speeds, the rising and falling over large swells, and the distant rumble of rolling white caps approaching sounded very appealing. This was just the thing. With the wind from the south, however, with less than a mile instead of 25 for the waves to build, they barely reached 2'. In a momentary fit of sanity, however, Shaun suggested that they head in very close to shore before cutting west again, just in case. "Sounds like a good idea," Amy agreed.
"Ready about?" Shaun asked. "Ready." "Coming about." With that, he shoved the rudders to the right, spinning the nose to port (left) and immediately losing all speed in the wind and waves. Amy scooted to the center of the boat and prepared to shift the jib (smaller front sail) to port as soon as the wind had caught the far side and finished turning the boat. This never happened, however. The sail luffed (flapped) violently for a moment while the boat was shoved backward. Shaun pulled the rudders right to turn in reverse, but the jib caught the wind from port again and the boat wouldn't turn. "I'm going to turn her back and try again!" Shaun shouted over the growing wind.
The Cabana turned west and picked up speed quickly. Shaun waited momentarily for a drop in wind speed to increase their chances of making the turn. He sensed a very slight lull and shoved the rudders to the right again, but at that exact moment, a big gust hit the sails. With Amy still in the center of the boat, the port side didn't have enough weight to hold it down. It lifted abruptly out of the water. Shaun jerked the main sheet (rope controling rear of the mainsail) out of the clete to release the it, but it was already too late. The starboard (right) pontoon dropped below the surface, the boat came to an abrupt halt, and the Cabana flipped on its side.
The following moments happened too fast to be remembered clearly. Shaun hit his cheek hard on the boom after flying through the air and into the water ("Oh, that's why they call it the boom," he quipped two years ago, after righting a smaller sailboat, when the boom swung across the deck, caught him in the cheek bone and knocked him overboard). Amy went in as well, and the mast embedded itself in the muddy lake bottom and would not budge. Utah Lake is murky and about 10' deep throughout. When the pioneers arrived in the valley, it was clear and blue and probably deeper in many areas. But after the introduction of carp, all bottom vegetation was killed, the water regularly got stirred up and mirky, and silt filled in and evened out the bottom.
They decided to wait for the wind to drop down before righting the craft, as if they had any choice. Shaun swam out along the mast and tried to lift it, but it was stuck solid. They took shelter in the leeward (downwind) side of the boat and were grateful for how warm the water was. Two-foot waves rushed by, occasionally white-capping. Shaun's search and rescue radio sat inside a dry bag dangling from the lacings, but he hoped to get away without calling in for help to avoid the eternal, merciless ribbing that would surely result from being rescued by his team mates. While SAR had rescued their own on at least three occasions, one SAR member once walked down a steep mountain with a broken arm rather than call for help.
Half an hour later, the barometric pressure had dropped again, the wind had temporarily subsided, and the boat had blown around and freed itself from the mud. Shaun and Amy climbed up on the lower pontoon, grabbed the rope used to right it, and leaned back as far as they could. Nothing happened. They hung on for a long time, letting the water drain slowly from off the sails. Finally, the nose of the boat rose in the air - an impossible way to raise the mast - and they had to start over.
The problem turned out to be the sail. Shaun was unable to see it in the dark, let alone having to climb up the boat and reach high over his head, but the races that connected the trailing edge of the main sail to the rear of the boat had jammed on the starboard edge. Something had forced them too far out, they had partially jumped their track, and nothing short of a sledge hammer would free them - one way or another. This held the trailing (back) edge of the sail too high and made the sail to hold so much water that the mast would not rise. Waves continued to pile on top of the sail even as Shaun and Amy tried to slowly raise the mast and spill the water. Shaun loosened the main sheet (the rope connecting to the sail's trailing edge) all the way (to where Amy's sandals were tied to it), but with the races stuck on starboard, the sail did not spill the water easily enough. In retrospect, letting the sheet all the way through the clete so the sail hung free might have done the trick and allowed them to right the boat. Also in retrospect, letting the main sheet slip through the clete is what caused the smaller loose boom to knocked Shaun out of the smaller boat in a smaller wind two years earlier. Getting smacked by a loose boom twice the size attached to a sail twice the size in a wind twice as strong could have been deadly.
Half an hour after tipping, around 9:30, Shaun realized it would be wise to call search and rescue after all. He pulled his radio from the bag and turned it on. "727 to any unit." 704 - Darrel - responded. Shaun explained the situation, gave his location, told him that he and Amy were just fine, transmitting the sound of crashing waves in the background, and Darrel set things in motion for getting watercraft on their way to Lincoln Beach.
Shaun turned on his flashing strobe and continued trying to right the boat, making small adjustments and leaning back on the rope as far as possible, trying to guage whether the angle of the boat was changing at all. "Give me your hand," Amy finally said, sitting on the pontoon. "You want a hand up?" Shaun asked. "No, I want you to sit down." It was hopeless. Shaun sat and Amy massaged his arms, skipping the bruises, and pointed out how beautiful it all was. What a trooper. The water was warm and fireworks shows lit up the sky from several cities around the valley, reflecting their sprawling bursts from the waves in reds and greens.
The teasing began as SAR members began to respond. "Does Shaun get credit for this call out?" "He was first on scene - he should get extra." "He should get negative!" Unfortunately (?), Shaun's radio was either under water (it's waterproof) or the battery had died by this time. After his initial conversations, others heard him keying the repeater, but couldn't hear his traffic. Good thing he gave his coordinates early. As the evening wrapped up, Jared and Jason told Shaun not to take the teasing too seriously. "You did everything right," they reassured him.
Shaun had one more "bright" idea while waiting for SAR to show up. "Maybe if we let some water into the lower pontoon, it will float less and we can get the boat tipped back over." Once the boat was up, they could open the round hatch and bail with the dry bag. They tried it once with no difference. They let in more water until the pontoon floated an inch lower and tried again, still with absolutely no results. Shaun finally gave up and sat back down on the pontoon. "If we had wet suits, we could stay here all night." Finally the lights of the wave runners appeared from the marina, traveling north. Shaun moved around the boat so his strobe would be visible, and Chris and others immediately turned and headed toward them. Seven water craft soon showed up. Even with all that help, it was amazingly difficult to right the boat. Shaun swam to the end of the mast, climbed onto the back of Jared's machine, and lifted. Four strong men climbed onto the boat and pulled on the righting cord (or whatever that's called). Amy lay on the front of the pontoon to hold it down as the trailing edge of the sail slowly spilled water. Shaun lifted the sail over the watercraft and walked his way hand over hand down the mast. Finally, the boat stood upright.
Shaun and Amy climbed on too quickly, and all the water in the port pontoon (considerably more than they had intended) shifted and made it unstable, and the boat immediately flipped again. They righted it and Shaun climbed on more carefully, then dropped the sail for a tow back to Lincoln Beach behind Chris' watercraft.
It was a very different experience to be on the other end of a rescue. Shaun had pretty much taken for granted, in most instances, what he and the team did for people in trouble. In two and a half years, he only felt like he had made a significant personal contribution four or five times. Now his entire perspective changed. Watching the seven sets of headlamps and cylume sticks zoom around him and escort him back to shore, he got a taste of how others must feel when rescued. Because of the ribbing he expected (and will surely get), he appreciated more than ever the friendly hellos as his team members and friends appeared from the darkness. And he had been calm. Though he certainly needed the help, the night was warm and they could have survived the night if necessary. Now he could imagine the intense relief of victims with broken bones, life threatening situations, fear and extreme discomfort.
He also began to realize how lucky he was to not have flipped in the big storm last summer, though the large waves from the north wind would have at least pushed them toward shore. He thought of the storm four years back that blew the entire lake over a mile inland, skewering two-foot carp on broken willow branches four feet off the ground there. A ski boat of arguing and possibly drunk people had decided to try to get from the Provo Marina to Lincoln Beach anyway, and some of their bodies had been found pounded into the mud where the waves crashed over them. It took four days for the lake to drain back to its normal position.
Amy had her fun with the team. Someone on the team asked her if she'd ever go out with Shaun again. "What - Shaun? He told me his name was Armond! He said he'd get me a part in a movie if I sailed to some island to meet the cast and crew!" After being asked the question several more times, she replied to Ken, "I don't know about Shaun, but what are you doing later on?" When Tom asked if she'd let the team know next time we went out, she understood - "To see if it's a good day for you, right?" As Derk tried to gather basic demographic information for the incident report, she gave her birth year as 1875, and when asked for her address, responded "Here, or in Paris?" Bruce gave her a ride back to the harbor and she thought he and everyone else were nice.
They loaded the boat, went home to Shaun's, cooked breakfast, then said good-bye and slept soundly through the night.