Thursday, January 7, 2016

Yet Another Reason Why I Am Not A Boat Person

It all started as a nice idea for a Christmas gift for my parents. My husband got the winning bid on two tickets for a dinner cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle, a riverboat (is it a riverboat, though, when it's on a lake?) on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. He thought my parents might enjoy going, and they might have, if (a) my mom wasn't still recovering from a fall in late October and (b) it didn't have to be used by the end of December (fine print not noticed by the winning bidder during the bidding process).

With only a few more days left to use the tickets, we made plans to go to Branson and stay at my parents' lake house for a few days. We further complicated this decision by taking two cars, two kids, and three cats with us, but that's a story for another day.

It was unseasonably warm on Saturday, and we drove through heavy rain and fog, punctuated by lightning and thunder, for the entire two hours. It continued to rain all afternoon and evening. And all night. And Sunday morning (at which time it was no longer unseasonably warm, and I knew this because my family thought there was nothing wrong in sending me to the grocery store in the pouring rain to get provisions to prevent certain starvation after turning their noses up at all the food I brought with us). We made a reservation for the 4:00 cruise that afternoon, although after getting soaked on my trip to the grocery store and coming home with numb feet and hands, the thought of getting out again to go on the cruise had lost a lot of its appeal. 

It is quite a hike from the parking lot of the Branson Belle to the actual boat, one that would be lovely in warm, dry weather, as there was nice landscaping and a winding path, but was long and tortuous when being pelted by cold rain with no umbrella, because Mr. Red Cross didn't have an umbrella in his car (so much for being prepared for a disaster). The wind was blowing and the surface of the lake was rough, with white caps and swells. 

And we were getting on a damn boat and going out on it.

There was a sign at the ticket booth that I thought would be my salvation (if I'd known it would be key to the evening, I would have taken a picture of it) stating that, at the Captain's discretion, the boat might stay moored to the dock due to weather conditions. Hallelujah! With flood warnings, rising lake levels, buckets of rain falling, and a stiff north wind, we obviously would stay safely tied up at the dock.

Two lousy pictures of the boat, but keeping my
phone dry trumped good visuals for the story.

If you look just past the paddlewheel (spoiler alert:
it's FAKE), you might notice how heavy the rain is falling.

Once we were seated, however, our waiter said he was sure we'd be going out on the lake, and I'll be damned if he wasn't right. Shortly after we were served our salads, I realized we had pulled away from the dock and were out on the water (breathe breathe BREATHE). The pre-show had begun when *poof* the lights went out and the emergency lights came on. Oh, yeah, and the boat's motor quit motoring. And the heat wasn't heating. We were adrift on a flooded lake. There was partial power, somehow, and the band was able to keep playing ("You know, the band kept playing on the Titanic while it was sinking," my husband kindly pointed out to me). Then a belated Christmas Miracle occurred as the lights came back on, the ship's engine kicked in, and we began cruising in earnest. The band took a break as dinner was served, and the food was delicious and I was REALLY TRYING to relax, even as my eyes kept darting towards the windows, watching the water rolling outside, when *poof* darkness. No emergency lights this time, although there were lights outside the dining room/theater area of the boat, so we caught some of the glow from there, and the engine was still humming beneath our feet, so there's that. We heard one waiter tell another that we were returning to the dock (Christmas Miracle #2).

First time the lights went out. I sent this to my
kids, who were safe and warm at the lake house,
 and told them to use it for our obituary picture.

The water on Table Rock Lake is usually calm
and a lovely shade of blue, not angry and gray
with white caps and swells and the promise
of near-death.

A sample of the outpouring of love and concern from my children:

The emcee announced that there would be half an hour between dinner and the show, and we were free to walk around the ship or go out on the deck (in the driving rain, on the flooded lake, sure, show me the door...). I took this opportunity to avail myself of the facilities, so we left the dining room and found the restroom. I walked in, pushed a stall door open, and nearly gagged. Unflushed poo. I tried another stall. Same thing. I hurried out of there and reported my findings to my husband. We went up to the second floor. Repeat of the first floor restroom, but this time, I heard someone saying the toilets didn't flush because THERE WAS NO POWER. Terrific. I finally found a stall on the third floor that had no poo, relieved my bladder and got out of there. 

Oh, just panicking a little while eating
my dinner in the dark.

It was announced that the show would begin in fifteen minutes (and thirty minutes after those fifteen minutes, it did start), and as we headed back to the dining room, I happened to look out the door onto the deck (the same deck they told us to go out and enjoy while we were waiting for the show to start) and saw an employee standing out there, a flotation device strapped to him, as he stood guard over a manhole on the deck. For real. You can't make this stuff up.

Who wants to meet me out on the deck?

The ship made it back to the dock (Christmas Miracle #3), and soon after, thanks to shore power, the show did go on. I will assume the toilets became flushable at that time, but I was willing to wet myself before I gave them a try again. It took me two days to get warm again, the show was fine, but it wasn't really to our taste, it didn't occur to us we would have to leave a tip, so we were scrambling through pockets and fishing change out of the bottom of my purse for enough to leave our waiter, and it was obvious the captain was (fortunately) unsuccessful in his attempt to kill us all at sea lake, but you know what? We're going to go again.

They gave every passenger a voucher to come back again next year for a free cruise.

Can't. Wait....


  1. Wow. I think I would have peed my pants - and not because the toilets had poop in them! And you know, all the way through I kept thinking "you really can't make this stuff up." :D So glad you're OK.

    1. I very nearly did, Lisa. I'd been nervously swilling sweet tea up until the point I went in search of a bathroom.


    Nevernevernever...and I'm due to go on a ferry tonight! ERGH! So glad you got the miracles and GOT BACK ON DRY LAND!

    1. I hope your ferry keeps its generators going and you are safely ferried without mishap!

  3. Went out on whale watch and got caught in edge of a was very exciting... Luckily i dont get seasick cuz everyone else was below deck puking and i was outside upstairs riding the waves.... Oh and poor Alexis huh???

    1. The only good thing is you honestly could not feel the rough water while on the boat, or I would have been in the fetal position under the table.
      Alexis got chopped, but if she can't cook a pork chop, then she got what she deserved.

  4. Hilarious "we've got problems here, too" text from the kids. And I love that they watch chopped junior together. :)

    Dance Band on the of our family favorites from the Harry Chapin CD. We would have been singing it at the top of our lungs if we would have been on the boat.

    While I look forward to spending a weekend with you one of these days, I will never, ever go on a boat or a plane with you. Nothing personal. :)

  5. Bahahaha. You have the best stories! Glad you made it safely back to land :)

  6. ha ha - too funny ..but your kids reaction not real... they have your sense of humor.... glad no I am so so so so so so glad that you got off that darn cruise alive and well :)