Silent Football in the Boatzilla: ( you have to read on to understand this title)
When we all get tired of paddling, and there’s not enough time to pull over to a tan sandy beach on the shore, something called the floatilla (aka the boatzilla) is born. On November 17th, our group got our first taste of this amazing concept. With 20 miles to travel down the Colorado River that day we decided to eat lunch on the boats in order to save time and keep moving. Something we learned on the first day of rafting is that there are 3 different boats: 1 paddle boat and 2 rowboats. The rowboats are helpful in carrying gear and have 2 large oars that jut out the sides that one person rows. The paddleboat doesn’t carry hardly any gear but fits 8-10 people who all get paddles and a seat along the edge of the boat. As everyone paddles, the boat is propelled forward. Another thing we quickly learned was that each member had to paddle in unison, otherwise the paddles would hit against each other. The floatilla is created when all three boats tie together and float downriver. The formation that works best is 2 rowboats in front, and the paddle raft behind in the middle–creating one giant raft that can be steered and paddled by the 2 outside oars on each rowboat.
On this first day of experiencing the floatilla, we all got to take a break from paddling, play games, and pass food around from boat to boat. One of our favorite activities was getting to practice rowing the oars. The giant boatzilla inched closer and closer to our goal destination with each stroke through the water. Two students got to practice rowing at a time, while the rest of us got to do another one of our favorite activities: play silent football. Silent football is a bizarre game that provides endless hours of entertainment. Silent football’s essential rules are: that it is played in a circle, it has a passing of a “pulse”, someone acts as the “sir master, game master sir” to keep track of the rules, and no one can show their teeth at any time. To talk, we have to curl our lips around our teeth and try our best to hold our laughs in. Make sense? Probably not–but trust us, it is a ridiculous and magical game!. It’s fair to say that silent football and the floatilla were decidedly two of the biggest highlights from our Grand Canyon rafting trip.
“Sailing” the Colorado River
It was our fourth day on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and I was prepared for a nice relaxing day on the oar rig with Cole, Matt, and Miles. Little did I know: this was about to become one of my favorite days of the entire course. We set off at about 8:40 am and soon we could tell it was gonna be a pretty windy day so we added a few layers and got on our way. Pretty soon the day was in full swing. Miles, our instructor, started moving around our raft muttering about needing to “set something up.” I didn’t pay too much attention to what he was doing and instead returned to read my book–enjoying the relaxing flat section of water.
A few minutes later I looked up again and both of our instructors–Miles and Alex–were rigging a full tarp to the back of the raft to use as a sort of makeshift sail. It looked complete to me and it was mostly full of air so I figured it was ready. Pretty soon though, another addition was added. They got one of the spare oars from the side of the raft to use as a mast. It now looked even better and once again I returned to my relaxation–now trying to catch up on my personal journal. While I was journaling Miles summoned Alex’s paddle raft and asked to borrow two paddles to use to hold out the sides of the sail so that we might catch more wind.
At this point, I started getting excited about this engineering project and jumped in. Cole and I held the paddles out while Matt stabilized the mast in the middle. All the while, Miles sat on the other end of the raft to act as a rudder and steer for us. Soon we really started to move and ZOOMED ahead of the other two rafts. Not long after that, we got the rope from the front of the boat we’d use to anchor the raft to land and used it as a backstay with shrouds so as to relieve the amount of work Matt had to use to stabilize the Mast. And so, our makeshift jury-rigged sailboat was complete. We rode the wind as long as we could, leaving a wake in our path. Our “sailboat raft” ended up being powerful enough to tow two more rafts behind us! I loved the spontaneity of this day and the way we worked as a team to create a beautiful machine out of just the things we had around us–and a little inspiration!