SLOT CANYONS & STARRY SKIES
Small Craft Advisor|September - October 2020
This adventure, like many good ones, began with a last-minute change of plans.
Jacob Stoesz

The expected 11-day, mid-October window with no work and no kids was an opportunity that demanded bold action. (While I’m a husband and father of two small children—my wild days seemingly behind me—every so often I act out foolishly.)

The advance plan was simply to put in on the Mississippi River near St. Paul, Minnesota, and see how far downriver I could get sailing, rowing and occasionally lowering the mast for low bridges.

The morning of expected launch, the forecast called for highs in the 30s, rain for the entire week and the river at flood stage. How does an 18-hour drive to Utah’s Lake Powell sound?

I picked up my pristine, avocado-green Wayfarer, SN 3481— last registered in the 1990s—earlier in the fall. I had only sailed it once prior to the trip, but everything seemed to be in order, if a bit crude in rigging and baggy in the sails. I quickly made a pair of 10-foot oars, stitched up a canvas boat tent and stowed all my backpacking gear aboard. The boat was packed and I merely made a right turn for Utah instead of driving the few miles to St. Paul.

Southwest Utah is a special place to me. The unexpected beauty, the isolation, the Mars-like terrain is in stark contrast to my home state’s boreal forest. I’ve spent considerable time there and I love it dearly. Like a bear trap grabbing your leg, the desert hides its majesty and adventure until you are right upon it.

I put in a day-and-a-half later to windless inky water and a perfect sunny sky. I like rowing, I told myself, and I was off. The first strokes on the water were the first I have ever put into the boat. New oars, new locks, new sockets…it all seemed pretty good.

Putting in at Bullfrog Marina, I was a bit concerned that every shore on the lake was a potential lee shore, adorned with sheer walls extending to the bottom hundreds of feet below. I guess that is what happens when you flood a slot canyon formed by the Colorado River. It hadn’t really dawned on me until the first day on the water that there was no escape hatch. No amount of rode would catch the bottom, even feet from the walls. If I flipped or became out of control—if the wind piped up or shifted—I might be battered to bits on the walls. No climbing out.

But never mind, it was windless and predicted to persist. If the wind came up as it can frightfully do in the desert, I had the time to wait it out, tucked away securely, I told myself.

Three days of solo rowing south down the lake would appear unpleasant to most, but I quite enjoyed it. Self-flagellation has its place in mental health, especially in my season. Unrivaled scenery, perfect sunny days and a constant gnawing desire to know what was around the next bend kept me happy in my new rowing life on the water.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM SMALL CRAFT ADVISORView All

Upgrading the Potter 15 Centerboard

When I bought my Potter 15, Blue Knot, in 2014, it already had more than 25 years on its clock.

9 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

REMEMBERING MY POTTER 19 TANBARK

In the mid-1980s, Joe Edwards flew me out to California to try out our new boat.

7 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

The Sea Trials of Minimus II

Since our first article about Minimus II, our minimalist, four-masted voyaging catamaran (SCA #117), we’ve taken her offshore for initial sea trials. On our second outing, we spent two days and a night offshore from the coast of Oregon.

5 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

The Importance of Capsize Testing

I was glad to see your recent article on the back page regarding one person’s experience with a capsized boat (Artful Sailor #122). I’m so glad he did this testing on his boat and I agree with his conclusions.

3 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

ESCAPE TO QUARANTINE SHORE THE TEXAS 200 IN 2020

It is almost dark. The sun has finally hit the horizon as I tack down Matagorda Bay towards Pass Cavallo.

10+ mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

SMALL BOAT CRUISE: Moosehead Lake, Maine

There’s adventure in leaving a place you know for a place you don’t know.

9 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

Sweet & Simple

Fred Shell shares some of what he has learned over nearly 40 years of designing, building, and sailing small boats

7 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

Diversity Afloat

As the sailing season comes to an end on northern waters, I find myself pondering the modern sailing scene.

3 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

Boat Review: Salish Voyager

Gig Harbor Boat Works releases a new design aimed toward adventure

10+ mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021

Anchor Juice

That’s odd, I said to myself. It hasn’t rained, yet there’s a cup of water in the bilge.

3 mins read
Small Craft Advisor
January - February 2021
RELATED STORIES

FITNESS QUEST

Stuck in a rut? These six fitness quests will refresh your training mojo. We get it — training can be boring. Day in and day out, doing the same thing over and over (and over). It’s as mind-numbing as it is undemanding. Not to worry: These 30-day fitness quests will launch you out of your rut and back into action. Whether you’re looking to boost endurance, build strength, master a move or just prove that you can, we’ve got the task for you. Want to go above and beyond? Earn a Badassery Badge by ramping things up a notch. See you in 30!

4 mins read
Oxygen
Spring 2021

What's Your Anchor?

My nephew JoJo’s boat race across the Atlantic Ocean became a metaphor for what had been thrust upon all of us in 2020 with the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

8 mins read
Transformation Magazine
March 2021

BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES

THAT CRAZY YEAR IN WHICH A SMALLER FIELD MADE THINGS HARDER

10+ mins read
Motor Trend
March 2021

First time ‘in charge'

You would expect some lessons were to be learned on extended trailer trip

10+ mins read
The Good Life
February 2021

ATHLEISURE LIST: EQUIPMENT + STREAMING CITYROW

Founded by Helaine Knapp,'s CITY ROW Signature-class format combines rowing intervals with strength training for a total body HIIT-style workout.

1 min read
Athleisure Mag
December 2020

The Most American Religion

Perpetual outsiders, Mormons spent 200 years assimilating to a certain national ideal—only to find their country in an identity crisis. What will the third century of the faith look like?

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
January - February 2021

RED STATE REBELLION

Can Utah—of all places—show voters how to seize power from conservative supermajorities?

10+ mins read
Mother Jones
January/February 2021

Tales From the Field – A cold one on mars

Kellie Gerardi, bioastronautics researcher at the International Institute for Austronautical Science

1 min read
Popular Science
Winter 2020

TWEET ON SPARE CHANGE GENERATES BIG MONEY FOR VIRUS AID

Andy Larsen is a sports writer, but with so many games scratched during the pandemic he has spent a lot of time digging into coronavirus data and its sobering implications.

2 mins read
Techlife News
November 28, 2020

Mile High Hybrids

GIANT TIGERS ABOUND IN THE RESERVOIRS OF UTAH

5 mins read
Musky Hunter
December 2020/January 2021