(Above: These are the colors the other boat unfurled when they came after us.)
They had all the water guns. Water cannons would be a better description, yard-long hollow tubes filled with river water that fired high-pressure streams of water. But we had all the 5-gallon buckets.
"Don't fill them up too much," Travis commanded as he issued them. "You can't throw the water as far if they're too full." Travis had apparently repelled boarders before.
We loaded our water buckets and cleared the decks for combat. Four of our nine crewmembers were non-combatants, being the peaceful couple from the midwest and the two school administrators. The other boat had eight men with their blood lust up.
The fight was on. It was a running engagement. The trick is to be the lead boat, and to drop back to within grappling distance whenever it's strategic to do so. Steady streams from their water cannons soaked us. We heaved bucketfuls of water into their boat, scoring several direct hits. Most satisfying were the full facials.
The boats closed together again. I dipped a bucket into the water between the boats. A burly pirate from the other boat reached out and grabbed its handle. A hand-to-hand struggle ensued.
(Right: The crew of Lindsay's boat donned their battle dress and came after us. I grappled mano-a-mano with the blond pirate on the left.) We glared at each other from eighteen inches away as we fought for control of the bucket. Neither he nor I would let go. He almost pulled me into the river but somebody grabbed my ankles and kept me in our boat. Taking a trick I learned from watching hockey fights, I grabbed his lifejacket with my free hand and pulled it up over his head as far as it would go. We fought on, locked together. The boats separated. We both clung determinedly to the bucket handle as the gap between us widened. The river beckoned to us both.
He let go. The fight was over.
We decided we'd won. (Left: We had pirates aboard our boat too. That's me after six days on the river. Photo credit B.)
That night a pirate from the other boat who was well into his cups commented that he'd never seen the pirate I fought off bested before, going all the way back to our Swell Hall days. "You must be workin' out, man," he declared as he cracked open another one.
This sophomoric episode had a very cathartic effect upon us after we had lost 10 of 28 passengers on the Grand Canyon trip due to the death of one of our members two days earlier. It pulled us out of our doldrums.