Bull Shoals Houseboat
Michele and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend a few nights aboard a 60 ft houseboat on Bull Shoals Lake recently. I was quite impressed with both the lodging and the diving. It’s no Caribbean, but it’s way better than anything around us. The houseboat was a four bedroom, 2 bathroom (ok, head) model that was custom designed by the owner of the boat dock. I’ll get to how we met the (super nice) owner later…
The main reason Kyle, Becca, Michele, and I decided to go on the trip was for Kyle, Michele, and I to finish the open water portion of a few scuba certifications… advanced for all three of us as well as rescue for Kyle and I.
To be honest my expectations were quite low. I’ve seen houseboats on the Illinois River… and, well, they look like houseboats on the Illinois River. Most are barely more than tents or campers precariously perched on a few rusty pontoons. Not so with the houseboats from Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. The boats were open, clean, and basically felt like a house inside (I know).
The diving was varied… a recent lack of rain coupled with unseasonably high temperatures has created a large algae bloom, reducing visibility to 5-10 feet in places. Below the thermocline at 26 feet the visibility greatly improved to 50-70 feet. Unfortunately the temperature dropped from 75-80 °F above the thermocline to around 55-60 °F below… too cold for our 4/3 wet suits.
The dives consisted of a few wall dives, some sunken machinery, and a ton of fish. My favorite dive, however, was our advanced class “deep” dive. Deep in quotations because we’ve already gone deeper in the Caribbean. Don’t tell PADI. When the Bull Shoals dam was built a huge swath of land was flooded, creating Bull Shoals Lake. The houses were dismantled prior to flooding but the trees were not. On our deep dive we were able to swim through an underwater forest of decades old trees… it was unreal.
While preparing to descend for our night dive Michele was injured by Kyle accidentally jumping in on top of her. One of the instructors was bringing us over closer to the boat’s lights so he could explain the dive plan more easily. In the time between Kyle checking the water and announcing he was about to roll in, we entered his drop zone. We should have been aware divers were still entering the water. The instructor with us (who was facing the boat) should have been aware divers were still entering the water. It was dark. Kyle followed the proper procedures for entering the water… accidents just happen, however.
The owner of the boat dock was simply awesome. He instantly picked Michele and I up in his speed boat and brought us to a waiting ambulance at the dock. He then was kind enough to pick us up from the hospital at 3 in the morning after Michele was discharged. If you are ever in the area, I would highly suggest renting a boat from Rick at the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. I am confident Rick will take great care of you.
Fortunately the three of us were able to complete our additional scuba certifications despite the accident. Kyle and I are now ready to begin divemaster training! The road to our dream won’t always be easy, but it is a path that is worth taking. It felt great to live on the water, if only for a few days. We can’t wait until it becomes full time.
Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.