The next afternoon Ben was determined to learn to slalom ski or die trying. We unsuccessfully tried to get him up again and again, and finally decided that we needed to lighten the boat. April and I volunteered to take the younger kids to a small cave on the rocky shoreline, and had a great time visiting for about an hour while the kids explored and swam. When we got out of the cove we suddenly realized that the sky had once again darkened with another massive bank of clouds that surrounded three edges of the lake.
After getting so worked up over nothing the previous day, I decided not to worry about this storm but to let others decide if we should leave. When we got to the shore it momentarily stopped raining, and since Janie had fallen asleep in my arms I stayed in the boat while everyone but April got out. Shawn, who has been to the lake every summer since he was a baby and has been in some massive storms there, wondered aloud whether this one would also blow over or whether we were just experiencing the 'calm before the storm.'
The tone of his voice suddenly changed and he announced, "We've got to get out of here—NOW!"
In that moment, it was almost as if the three giant cloud banks edging the lake all collided, starting an absolute deluge of rain and some of the most ferocious wind I've ever experienced. I passed Janie off to Dave and offered to stay with April, who had to drive the boat about a half a mile over to the loading dock. Dave and Shawn had both been pushing the boat away from the shore, but when Dave let go to get Janie there was too much force for Shawn to hold the boat on his own and he started yelling, "Go! Go now!"
I was holding onto a giant inter-tube that took up most of the back of the boat and completely diminished our visibility in the storm. April and I were both trying to see over the tube and through the rain to make sure that all the kids had cleared the rudders. Shawn screamed again for us to go, and when I finally looked forward I was shocked to see another docked boat directly in our path and less than eight feet in front of us. April simultaneously gunned the engine and cranked the steering wheel as far to the right as she could, and there was a breathless moment as we missed hitting that boat by mere inches.
By this time the rain was coming down so hard that it was almost impossible to see. The whole lake had turned into a churning mass of white-capped swells, and occasionally a wave would enter the boat and douse us with several feet of cold water. The wind was blowing so hard that occasionally we would see an inter-tube or stray piece of beach equipment whiz past at a remarkable speed. Partly from the cold and partly from the adrenaline, I could not stop shaking and could hardly get my teeth to stop chattering, but April and I tried to stay light-hearted about the situation since we were both scared to death. About halfway to our destination I remarked, "I guess that now would have been a good time to be wearing our life-jackets," which felt especially grave since the lifejackets were in the very back on the boat under the huge inter-tube I was trying to keep down, and they were completely inaccessible to us.
The whole time I kept thinking about Dad and wondering what he would think if he could see me at that moment. Thinking of Dad naturally reminded me of when the sailboat capsized on the Great Salt Lake, leaving Mom and Dad stranded in the water. While part of me had that surrealistic quality like I was really just watching a good action-packed movie rather than experiencing something real, Mom and Dad's experience kept reminding me that we really could capsize into that churning cold water. I was scared, but at the same time I was so glad that I could be there with April since I couldn't imagine how terrifying it would be to make that trip alone. That thought gave me courage and helped me try to remain calm and keep things light.
April doesn't like to turn the boat around and back it onto the trailer under calm circumstances, and she was especially nervous about entering the docking cove in that storm since we knew the waves would be worse there and that it would be much more dangerous with all the other boats. As we approached she asked me if I would say a prayer. I told her that I had been silently praying the whole time, but I offered a very sincere prayer pleading for the Lord's help in getting the boat out of the water. We were so relieved to see that both Dave and Shawn had pulled their trucks over and that Shawn was waiting with the trailer in the water (though it was very disturbing to see Dave come running from the truck and watch the wind literally blow him off-balance for a second). We were also incredibly grateful to see two young men who were complete strangers run over so they could help us as well.
But as April tried to maneuver the boat and steer it into place, it made this horrible straining noise and simply refused to respond, moving instead the way the current and waves were taking it. We backed up and started the approach a second time, and again, were answered with a terrible straining noise and April's frustrated words, "I don't know what's going on-- I've never had this happen before." I was very earnestly praying at this point, and the third time we tried to turn the boat around and steer it onto the trailer, it was almost like the storm slowed for a brief moment. The engine responded without whining, and with the help of Dave, Shawn, and the two kind strangers who had come to help, we were able to pull the boat onto the trailer.
As I ran through the pelting sandstorm and into the warmth of the truck, I was met by Natalie and my three little girls. Dave was so grateful for our safety that he was almost crying, and he told us that when the girls realized that their moms were out on the water in the storm, Dave and each of the girls (but Janie) had taken turns praying through their tears. We knew that their prayers and those offered out on the water had been mercifully answered, so we said several prayers of gratitude on the way back. While we were in the warmth and shelter of the truck, April, Shawn, and the older boys continued to be pelted by the rain in the open-topped Blazer. I marveled the whole way home at the continued ferocity of the storm, and the way it had already carved numerous fast-flowing streams of water through the desert landscape.
When we got back we shared stories of our adventure and I learned a few more details I have to include. Though Dave had quickly gotten Janie and Anna in the truck, Rachel and Natalie were doing their best to find shelter from the terrible wind. Shawn felt really bad when he found them both clinging to the front of his Blazer truck with their feet grasping the grill for protection from the wind. Ben was helping to pack up the equipment we'd set out to day-camp, and was hit by a small flying rock so hard that it left a bloody gash on his shin that was over two inches long.
The owners of the boat we almost hit rushed out from cover to anxiously watch us narrowly avoid hitting the boat, and though they could hardly believe that we didn't crash, they were very gracious and were concerned for our safety. Finally, we felt incredibly blessed that Dave and Shawn had managed to pack things up and get to the loading area before we entered the cove. The three times we had been back and forth during the previous day the boat had beaten the truck every time, and April had had to wait in the water for several minutes. Shawn and Dave were both so worried about us that they used seemingly super-human speed to pack up all the equipment and drive to the bay as quickly as possible. Shawn didn't even try to find the dirt road carved out on the beach and reports to having a very bumpy ride (which I whole-heartedly believe since driving on the actual road at 5 mph was enough to send you to the chiropractor!)
April and I were already a little like sisters before this experience, but I hope that after this story you will all adopt her into the family! Though it was a scary experience for me (four months later I still started shaking a little as I was writing!), but it was mostly an incredible outpouring of Heavenly Father's love. It was a sure testimony to me that He hears and answers our prayers—from the death-bed type pleas of a scared sailor to the faith-filled cries of a young child or worried husband. I know that Heavenly Father loves us and will help us navigate the literal and spiritual storms of our lives.