Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Bella Blue Is Sold!

Today was going to be an interesting day. Tony and Angela’s buyer was coming for a sea trial at 10am and, if satisfied, would then be handing over a cheque for HQ2. We were hoping to hear from our potential buyers today as we were trying to figure out what to do next. Time was running short and we had a lot of miles between us and Sarnia, but still had a few more stops we wanted to make along the way. Our friends Justin and Heather had been in touch and were going to be passing through Collingwood tomorrow so we wanted to sail there to meet them, but if the buyers wanted the boat then that was not going to be possible as it was in the opposite direction. So we waited, and hoped that that HQ2 “sold” first so we’d get that free dinner!

Just before 10am we got a text message from Mark - Bella Blue was sold! I could hardly believe it. After a flurry of texts and discussion we decided to head out to Lion’s Head overnight tonight, then continue across Georgian Bay and back into the North Channel to deliver the boat to them in Little Current. Mark offered to give us a ride all the way back to Paris, then he could pick up the sailboat storage stands which were included in the deal. All in all, the whole thing worked out perfectly - we didn’t have to sail to Sarnia, we’d get a couple of extra nights in the North Channel, Mark would be able to spend an entire day with us in Little Current training on Bella Blue, and we had a ride home. Pending no unforeseen disasters, we would have the next few days to enjoy our remaining time on the boat, then be back at home in time for the weekend.

We celebrated the news by taking a long, hot walk into Midland downtown on the nice waterfront pathway. The downtown was in a state of massive construction as they were halfway through ripping up the entire street and sidewalks and replacing it with a beautiful, modern streetscape that looked to include cobblestones, parklets, bike path, room for trees, and outdoor furniture. As a result of this most of the stores were closed and the place was a disaster, but it was going to be a nice spot when it was finished. After downtown we walked two hot and mostly uphill miles to a big commercial shopping area where there were dozens of stores - a Winners, pet store, a bunch of fast food restaurants, and even a Superstore where we did our final grocery run.

After a taxi ride back to the marina we discovered HQ2 was sold, and that Ken and Sheila (friends of Tony and Angela’s…and ours too - Sheila was the keyboard player in our reggae band) had arrived to spend the night and drive them plus all their gear back to Brantford. We decided that our boat sales happened at precisely the same time, so no dinner was owed, but a dinner would indeed be shared when we returned home. What a turn of events - at the start of the trip neither of us had considered selling our boats, but here we were after an amazing few weeks exploring Canada’s best cruising grounds, with both of our boats sold and left up north, and rides back home. You never know what’s going to happen in life, so you just roll with it and keep things interesting.

Our final meal together as a group was awesome - mushroom pasta, leftover pizza, bbq chorizo, Caesar salad, and a nice glass of some scotch Ken brought. We talked and laughed and wondered how on earth they were going to pack an entire boatload of gear into Ken and Sheila’s small car, which already had two bikes strapped on top. Our buyer had a full sized pickup but we also had a ton of gear so it was going to be tight as well.

After a final group picture and hug on the back of Bella Blue, we pushed off the dock at 8pm, sad to be leaving our friends after such a great trip, but looking forward to the grand finale in Little Current. I checked the weather and it looked okay for the night run - west winds of 10 knots, gusting to 15, which might make it a little bumpy but nothing we couldn’t handle, plus the winds were forecasted to lighten up after midnight. The first few hours were lovely as we traveled northward up through the sheltered bay area, looking at the mansions onshore, watching all the fishing boats rushing in under the final light of the day, and enjoying the warmth of the dropping sun. At 10pm I went down for a nap, then woke up at 1am to the sounds of whistling winds and waves smashing into the hull. It was windy, definitely 15 knots sustained, so we reefed the main sail, and I settled into the helm while Ana went down below to try and get some sleep. Stella wanted to do a night shift so she came up after getting a few extra layers of clothes on, and a lifejacket, and we both tied ourselves on with ropes to the helm as the winds seemed to be increasing. By the time we reached the middle of Georgian Bay, we were getting pulverized. The winds were probably up to 25 knots at times with white caps everywhere, spray coming off the tops of the waves - some of the larger of which were in the six foot range, and little stabs of lightening off in the distance. The ride was awful. Stella stayed with me for nearly two hours, then went down and crashed into sleep quickly. Poor Ana was getting seasick again, but not as bad as last time fortunately, and tossed and turned down below, laying face down on the floor trying to find any sort of relief. Magnus slept like a champ, on the dinette, with his leg flopped onto the top of the table to stabilize himself and as far as I know didn’t wake up once, which was a good thing as he would have been sick for sure. We have not had much luck this trip with our overnight sails.

As we neared the western shoreline around 5am, we became more and more sheltered from the wind and waves and the ride improved. By 7:30 we were rounding the point into the Lion’s Head bay and I did indeed see an image of a lion’s head in the rocky cliffs of the point - it was quite a beautiful scene, but I could also have been hallucinating as I was tired beyond belief and having a hard time not falling asleep standing up. Ana helped me get docked on a finger pier caked with goose poo, then we went to sleep, thankful to be off the angry lake.

Monday, August 10, 2020


My man Brad arrived at 8:30 am sharp and within two hours he had the new control board installed and the boat’s AC system spewing clean, cold air. I felt so bad for Dan, our temporary air conditioner, as he was immediately packed away into the front berth and unceremoniously ratchet-strapped to the solid steel lightening conductor pole to keep him from flying around the cabin under sail. Dan did a fine job, and was a fine crew member.

Ana and the kids had gone to explore downtown Midland during the AC work, so when they returned we started cleaning up all the excess junk on the boat to get it ready to show. We moved a cartload of stuff onto HQ2 after they arrived, which made the boat look tidy and uncluttered. In the morning I had cleaned every single square inch of her exterior and by the time we were done she was looking absolutely magnificent; in fact, the best she has ever looked and even better than the day we bought her 11 years ago. I think I’m actually going to be a bit emotional when we eventually sell her and I have to hand over the keys, as she has been such a good boat for us. When our kids get older and have families of their own, I know they are going to look back at their childhood and the first thing they will remember are all the amazing days we spent on Bella Blue, with friends and family, on Lake Erie, on Lake Ontario, on Lake Huron, in both Canada and the US, and all those hard earned miles sailing when we were forced to work together, tolerate each other in close quarters, learn to be resourceful, learn to be prepared, handle difficult and sometimes dangerous situations, and be ever exploring new places, meeting new people, and always, always relying on Bella Blue to safely get us where we needed to go. She is going to be missed.

Ana whipped up us a lunch of a Portuguese home staple - potatoes mixed with hard boiled eggs, canned tuna, hot sauce, onions, and balsamic vinegar. Then we realized maybe it wasn’t the best meal to be making inside a small boat just before it is being shown to potential buyers. So we cranked open the hatches, got the fans running, and thought we had fully aired it out, that is until Magnus returned to the boat and said, “Well I sure hope those people coming to see the boat like tuna.” Ana lit a candle.

Mark and Kelly arrived right on time and we liked them right away. Kelly was a teacher and Mark was a cop, so they were public sector leeches just like me and we got along famously, sharing tales of water cooler slapsticks, union scams, long lunches, dereliction of duties, pension entitlements, and retirement at 47. We had so much to discuss.

Since we had the time, and they didn’t seem to be in a rush, we showed them every system on the boat, from top to bottom. Well not the bottom, as we didn’t have enough masks and snorkels to go around, but definitely the top and insides. Kelly had sailed quite a bit, but not for many years, and Mark had never sailed before. After speaking with them for a while, they seemed to be the exact type of buyers we were hoping for as they were not hard core sailors, not interested in racing, but were looking for a comfortable and manageable sailboat they could use to learn to sail and to share with their family. After the boat tour we asked them if they wanted to take it out for a sail, and they agreed so I motored her out of the marina then gave Mark the helm. And we honestly had the best sailing of the trip as the wind was steady, the sun was shining, we weren’t actually going anywhere, and we weren’t in a rush. At one point the boat was heeling rather steeply and I looked over at Mark to see his reaction. In cases like this, the most likely outcome is the newbie turning white, shitting his pants, clutching wildly at the lifelines, screaming like a little girl, and vowing to never step foot on a sailboat again, which can be really good and is what we use normally use to get rid of friends and family we don’t care for. But in this case we did want them to enjoy themselves and buy our boat. Mark was smiling and when I asked him if the heeling bothered him, he just said it’s what he’d expect for a sailboat. Good man!

We returned to the marina and I docked it in ass-end first like I always do to show off, and surprisingly it didn’t fail miserably, then we talked a bit about price, timelines (which in our case were short indeed as we were starting our return journey to Sarnia the next day and their home marina would be Little Current in the North Channel). They then said goodbye and that they would be in touch soon. We felt quite good about their visit, but it was entirely possible that they would decide it was just not the right boat for them. So I really wasn’t getting my hopes up, and I always find it’s better to assume the course of action you least desire will happen, then you aren’t too disappointed when it does. But in any case, we really liked them and thought they would be excellent new owners for Bella Blue.

With all the hard work done, I headed over to the marina’s fine pool, and Tony and Angela joined me shortly thereafter, but Ana took a pass. The pool was interesting - it had a three foot deep shallow end, then a steep transition to the rest of the pool which was five feet deep. Angela figured out that if you started running underwater right at the bottom of the transition, you could run full speed and your feet would keep slipping and you could never make it anywhere. So the three of us lined up and started sprinting like hell, in a heart pounding race to nowhere. I said, “This sort of reminds me of my career at the City of Brantford.” This brought a chorus of laughter from the HQ2 crew, as they thanked their lucky stars their destinies had taken them nowhere near the public sector.

Because it was so nice and warm outside we decided to order Domino’s pizza to avoid cooking and heating up the boats. The pizza was not great, which infuriated Magnus as he is very loyal to Domino’s, but it filled the gap and at least the scenery from the picnic table where we ate was quite nice. We felt surprisingly exhausted after our late dinner so packed it in early for the night.

Watermelon Anchorage to Good Harbour on Webber Island then Midland

The damn cold weather finally broke and we were rewarded with a perfect morning. Quiet anchorage, glassy water, the sound of birds, warm sunshine heating up the bay water and the smell of instant coffee being brewed up on Bella Blue. It had been at least five days of cool, overcast weather so this was a welcome and overdue change.

I heard back from my AC guy and incredibly he had found a new control board and expected to receive it before Friday! So we arranged for the serviceman Brad to drive down to Midland Friday morning and install the new unit, then we could show the boat in the afternoon with a properly functioning AC. I love it when a plan comes together.

We did a 23 mile sail to Good Harbour on Webber Island, following the small craft route the entire way and fully enjoying the journey on such a warm and pleasant day. The closer we worked our way into Georgian Bay, the more numerous the cabins became, and soon the gaps between cottages were fewer and fewer. I was simply shocked at how many cottages exist in this area, and we learned that some of the oldest ones have been here for over a hundred years, so the government selling off public land to private owners has been happening for a very, very long time. To me, it does seem strange that individual people own entire islands. It doesn’t seem very Canadian to me, as we are such a bunch of socialist animals, but that’s probably just because I don’t own one of them; otherwise I’d be perfectly fine with it.

The anchorage was beautiful and nearly deserted when we arrived (only 1 group of 3 boats tied up together) so we grabbed pole position at the deepest and loveliest end of the bay and set anchor. As usual, it took a couple of attempts, but we finally stuck it then went for a swim and enjoyed the warm, delicious water. Soon a whole flock of boats arrive and started dropping anchor all over the place, but they didn’t try to deke me out and we maintained control of the end of the bay. HQ2 soon arrived, tied up to us, then we resumed goofing around by hanging hammocks on the boat, leaping off Bella Blue’s cockpit arch with the Prestone rope swing, paddeboarding, dingying, having beers and snacks, and enjoying the gorgeous weather.

Around 5pm, we pulled anchor and left HQ2 there for the night while we continued on the 14 miles to Midland, in order to be ready for the AC guy and potential buyers the next day. We travelled through Honey Harbour en route and had a nice, relaxing sail, arriving around 7:30 in Bay Port Marina - one of the nicest marinas we’ve ever seen in Canada, then assembled a delicious dinner of BBQ pork loin, corn, boiled potatoes and green salad. Just now I realized how often I mention food in these journals, but trust me man, any food cooked on a boat tastes twice as good as a similar thing cooked on land. I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it is.

Gilman Bay to Watermelon Anchorage in 12 Mile Bay

It was a cold, wet, and dreary morning and we didn’t get going until 10:30. Our plan today was to sail south-east towards the Beausoleil Island region, but the winds had really picked up and the weather forecast had deteriorated. Regardless, we sailed on, following what is called the “Small Craft Route” which is a path marked on the nautical charts that navigates you safely through the thousands of treacherous rocks, reefs, and shoals that allows you passage without having to go out into the wide open area of Georgian Bay, which was scary today with the north-west winds whipping up huge, confused waves with white foam flying off the top of them. We had a taste of that as we passed through one exposed area, and were happy to get into the more sheltered parts, until we realized the channel was extremely tight in spots and one mistake would send you crashing almost instantly into rocks. I was nervous with trepidation as we passed through these, hoping that my trusty diesel would not fail me. This was another moment of the trip when the nervous anxiety takes hold and you start doubting your choices, but are still secretly enjoying the thrill of the risk and the uncertainty of the outcome. When we perhaps a third of the way through our route, we decided it was just too dodgy to continue, so after a 12 mile run, we turned into 12 Mile Bay and were rewarded with….a beautiful bouquet of 8 floating birthday balloons! Like pros, Ana and Stella leaped on deck, prepared the boat hook, and effortlessly snagged up the prize. This was by far our largest balloon catch ever.

We sailed into an unnamed anchorage on the south side of the bay and found six other boats already there, seeking shelter. We anchored and HQ2 arrived shortly thereafter and tied up with us. A planning and scheming session ensured and thankfully Ana looked out the window as we were talking and noticed that our anchor had dragged and we were only 20 feet away from a rocky shoal. We leaped into action, pulled anchor, and moved into a much better location, then each dropped an anchor, plus an aft anchor to hold us in place. As we were trying to get anchored a crusty sailor lady was standing on her bow, staring at us and yelling when she felt we were getting too close, as it took two attempts to get the anchor set. A bit later on, Tony heaved severed chunks of a watermelon carcass overboard, thinking the pieces would sink, but instead they behaved just like little green boats, and floated their way right past her vessel and over to the powerboat behind her, which was the perfect setup to blame the lake pollution on the crusty sailboater, if such a thing would become necessary. Plus it provided the missing name for this anchorage - Watermelon Bay.

We decided to stay put for the night, so we had to think up something to keep us busy - movie night! We had brought along a projector and Tony had some white shrink-wrap, perfect for a screen. So we got to work constructing the theatre in the salon of HQ2, which was more complicated than you may think; it involved multi-meter 12 volt system testing, mobile inverters, blown fuses, jury-rigged electrical connections, re-constructed fuses with copper wire and tinfoil, Bluetooth speaker connections, auxiliary speaker cable, USB keys, HDMI cables, exacto knives, strategically placed pins, piled up boxes, lots of tape, and then a short photo op when we realized the setup looked just like one of Dexter’s kill rooms, so Tony grabbed a knife and Stella played the victim. That whole operation took about three hours, but it was time well spent.

Stella and I took a dingy ride to explore the bay, then we all joined forces to create a magnificent dinner on Bella Blue - pork kebabs, BBQ chicken, spaghetti squash, noodles, and lots of the finest boat-friendly boxed vino. We finished in time for Tony and I to “Skip The Dishes” and slip away for a cigar on the rocks, something we’d been planning for several days, and Magnus took on dingy chauffeur and photographer duties, and entertained us by doing wild 360’s, then for fun we grabbed a tree floating by the shore, loaded it up on the dingy, and hauled it back to the boat like a war prize. We got into a little bit of trouble for that whole episode, but movie night (Spy Game) turned out so spectacularly good that all was forgiven (I think). It also helped that Ana was contacted by a potential buyer and we had an appointment to show Bella Blue in Midland in two days! It’s nice when a day finishes with joyful events.

Parry Sound to Gilman Bay

Angela and Tony did the unthinkable and took off before us, as we had to wait for the HVAC guy to show up and diagnose our AC issues. So we bid them farewell with the hopes of meeting up later today in an anchorage if all went well. While waiting I had enough time to walk downtown and get myself a haircut. It was supposed to be an appointments only place, but the barber welcomed me in, put me in a chair, and starting buzzing. As I sat there enjoying the sights and smells of the barberia, I noticed something in front of me that I’d only ever seen in my dreams. It was a vacuum hose coming out of the bottom of the counter with a switch beside it. Sure enough, when the cut was done, she pulled out the hose, flipped the switch, and sucked every last piece of hair clippings off my head, ears, neck, shoulders, and face. Why the hell doesn’t every barber shop have one of these??? It seems so obvious, and I’ve even asked barbers over the years why they don’t just vacuum up all that horrible annoying hair instead of only brushing half off it off? After getting a great haircut, isn’t it horrible leaving a trail of tiny hair pieces everywhere you go for the rest of your day, not to mention getting it all over your hands, face and clothes, then the rest on your pillow overnight if you forget to rinse it out. I wish I’d taken a photo of it, best invention ever.

My man Brad showed up around 1:30, looked at our AC and discovered the start relay had burned out and taken out the control board too. But the good news was he was able to jump the wiring and get the system running and confirmed it was in excellent operating order besides the control board. So the next problem was going to be finding one, as I knew the company who made ours was no longer in business. But he said he’d pass the details to his boss and he would try to find one. At least I knew what the problem was now, but suspected the part was simply not going to be available and I’d need to buy a new system.

We had lunch on the boat, then finally left the dock at 2:15, giving us enough time to zip across the bay for a diesel fill and pump-out at Big Sound Marine, then sail the 2 miles to make the 3:00 opening of the Rose Point swing bridge, on the way to the south channel exit from Parry Sound. Well, our dock hand was competent, but very chatty, and provided us with much more local folklore than we needed at this particular time-sensitive junction of our trip, slowing down the pump and dump process, and leaving us with just enough minutes to make the 3:00 swing. But as I motored Bella Blue away from the dock, something sounded wrong with the engine, and sure enough there was no water coming out of the exhaust. Dammit!! So I spun her around and high-tailed it back to the dock, and just as we glided into it, the engine overheat light came on and the engine shut down. I pulled the engine compartment open. The raw water belt was fine, so it was either the impeller or the water intake. I took the easier one and pulled off the intake filter. Jammed with weeds! I dumped them out, gave it a rinse, screwed it back on, fired up the engine, confirmed water was coming out, then gave the thumbs up to the crew and we were back underway. It was 2:50 so I slammed the throttle down, raced as fast as we could, and arrived at the bridge at just 3:05, but there was no sign of it having opened, so we pulled up and tried calling the bridge on the radio. No answer. So we waited. But no dice. So we pulled into the nearby marina to wait for the 4:00 opening. At 3:55 we were back in position waiting for the swing. 3:00 and nothing. 3:05 and still no swing. So we called the operator and were told, “No swing until 5pm, only every 2 hours.” Dammit! Back to the dock, waited another hour, then finally made it through, and on the way through saw two small signs, one saying the bridge opens every hour, and the other saying it open every two hours, neither of which were remotely visible from the waiting area. Damn government sloppiness.

Fortunately the swing bridge delay was promptly forgotten as the the rest of the trip through the south channel was simply magical; impossibly narrow passages, many twists and turns, beautiful lakeside cottages, dozens of boats on the water - barges, bowriders, sea-doos, speed boats, working boats, even a small tug with an Azores flag flying, and such beautiful northern scenery. It seems one never tires of rocks and trees. We motored down past Sans Souci Island and past Harry’s, the famous fish and chips restaurant on Frying Pan Island, but sadly had no time to stop for a feeding. We continued into Half Moon Bay and past so many islands - Emerald Island, Pennsylvania Island, Moon Island, Flint Island, Moon Island, and finally into Gilman Bay, where we found HQ2 anchored solidly in the south end of the bay with hundred foot lines winding out both sides of the boat tied firmly to trees. This boat was going nowhere. However, our trusty companions were nowhere to be seen so I pulled out my 150 decibel air horn and gave it a quick, but earth shattering blast, and two stunned bed heads instantly appeared, shocked, then leaped into action and caught our lines as we glided in. So this is what it’s like to arrive second! Up until now the tortoise has beaten the hare at every anchorage, so this was a rare treat, and a wonderfully chosen spot.

As we shared our stories over happy hour and snacks by lantern light on HQ2, we learned that the massive, rich portions of fish and chips at Henry’s for their lunch stop had rendered Angela unconscious and pushed her into coma territory. It seemed her system could not handle all that whitefishy goodness, and was not even awoken by Tony’s one man comedy show trying to dingy dual hundred foot lines into the bush with a swinging boat and massive stomach pains from his own lunch overindulgence.

So after an action packed 20 mile sail, we gathered, we laughed, and we planned for tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

What’s That Sound? Parry Sound!

We knew yesterday was going to be tough to beat so today we focused on boat maintenance, shopping, and planning out the coming days. The weather forecast called for overcast skies and a bit of rain later in the day so we were happy spending another day here. After a rather slow morning the ladies went out to explore the shops of downtown Parry Sound while Tony and I did boat stuff. I dingy’d over to Sound Boat Works in search of the owner Gerry who knew all about fixing sailboats. I’d been trying to troubleshoot our AC unit and hit a dead end as there was no power making it to the compressor, which meant it was probably a control board issue and that’s about where my electrical expertise ends. I found Gerry, explained the issue, and he gave me the number for Todd - a local HVAC expert who did work on boats. I texted him and he actually replied (surprising as it was a civic holiday), and said he’d do his best to line somebody up to come and see the unit tomorrow.

In the meantime, Tony had gathered up a mountain of gear from HQ2 and I helped him pile into in the parking lot, then we waited for Nelson who had volunteered to transport it all back to Brantford since he was traveling there later this week. Nelson arrived and we allowed Tony a sad moment to say goodbye to all his invaluable gear, which included a leaf blower, an unused television, and a big stick Magnus had found in the bush back in Kincardine and stashed on their boat.

Tony and I then walked into town to meet the ladies for lunch. As Magnus had already bought himself a Subway sandwich he took a pass and chilled out on the boat. We went to the Bay Street Cafe, got a table inside, then realized this is the first time we’d been inside a restaurant since meeting Tony and Angela for lunch at the Cobblestone in Paris back in March! Damn the COVID. The meal was terrific, especially the deep fried Mars bar Stella was supposed to share with Angela for dessert, but all she got was a small bite as Stella greedily gobbled up the entire thing and was looking to lick the plate clean until Ana reminded her of something called table manners.

Ana, Stella and I then went to the Bearly Used Bookstore to browse through their collection of 250,000 used books. I could have stayed in there for an entire day, or perhaps week, but settled on a 30 minutes visit and walked away with two books. Stella found a fifty year old “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” which was about six inches thick and weighed several pounds, but we left that one on the shelf. After this, we took the long walk back up to Walmart to pick up a few things, which was really only an excuse to go for a long walk. On the way back we took the pedestrian bridge over the Seguin River, which just happened to pass by the Trestle Brewery so I nipped in and grabbed two sixers of their finest IPA and ale. The view from the brewery was quite amazing as it looked over a beautiful part of the river which includes rapids and two small waterfalls.

Happy hour on the dock was kicked up a notch as we had decided to skip dinner and focus on snacks, so we had all sorts of goodies, not to mention the craft beer. It was all going well until Magnus started feeding a duck corn chips, then all the duck’s mates showed up and there was a little gang of them taking food from his hand, off his foot, leaping up out of the water, causing quite a ruckus. At one point Magnus went inside Bella Blue, then the ducks swam away, but as soon as he reappeared, then spotted him instantly and raced back, like mindless worshippers.

With that, we finished off a comparatively slow day, but were looking forward to moving onto a new destination tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Holriques Meet the Bradshaws

The weather forecast today called for torrential rain, which came true as we woke up to what seemed like buckets of water being dumped on the sailboat. After breakfast Tony and I took apart the console of his boat to diagnose a beer fridge issue. Loose wire! We fixed that like champs then vacuumed the entire upper deck of HQ2 as they had an interested buyer coming at 11 to view the boat. Interestingly, this man’s family had actually owned this exact boat some twenty years prior, so they weren’t sure if they was just a nostalgia trip or somebody who was serious. While Tony and Angela were busy fluffing HQ2, Ana and I donned full rain suits and braved a walk into downtown to look for some goodies to bring along to our dinner party tonight. That’s right - we had been invited to a dinner party at our friends the Bradshaws, who have a cabin at Otter Lake, which is just a short drive from Parry Sound and used to own a fuel company and some gas stations (including the one where I filled up the propane tanks yesterday). There really wasn’t much open in town, except the LCBO which still had a damn line-up of people wrapped around the corner. Tell me something’s not wrong when you have a town with a bunch of empty buildings and closed businesses and yet the government-run monopoly is thriving. Free the booze!

Ana didn’t really find what she was looking for, but did find a couple of modest hostess gifts, then we topped it up with wine and beer packed into a cardboard box, which seemed like a great idea for carrying back to the boat until the damn thing started disintegrating in my hands and all over my rain suit during the soggy walk back. Upon returning we discovered that the HQ2 buyer was serious indeed and wanted to buy the boat! So they had arranged for a sea trial the following weekend in Midland, giving us just one more week with Tony and Angela to maximize fun.

Our friend Monica picked us all up at 2pm and we drove back to their cabin to meet up with her husband Nelson, their three beautiful daughters, Nelson’s sister Stephanie and her three sweet kiddies, as well as Nelson’s folks Brenda and David. We first got a tour of Nelson and Monica’s cabin, which they had recently renovated from top to bottom, and it was lovely and perched up on a hill with a stunning view over the lake. They then walked us down a forest path to the boathouse, which looked like a cabin in itself and was filled with all sorts of treasures - huge soaring exposed beams, a classy polished wood boat, bubblers, cool inflatable docking pads, mounted sailfish and bass, an antique fuel pump, paddle boards, composite dock chairs, and really was the coolest boat house ever. We when proceeded up to Nelson’s parents cabin (also lake front and real classy) and met them and Nelson’s sister for the first time - all such lovely people. We got right to it, drinking fine craft beer and wine, visiting, laughing, demolishing charcuterie boards, discussing everything from politics to horses to schooling. We all felt like old friends to me.

Nelson put together a five star BBQ effort - two kinds of sausages, perfectly cooked sirloins, and this delicious, buttery fresh corn mixture scorched in a cast iron pan on the grill. Combined with the salads and sides we feasted like champs around a custom build Mennonite table for 12. Dave started the meal with a fine blessing then we tucked in and kept the conversations going.

“So what are your plans for tomorrow?” Dave asked us.
“We’re coming back here,” I responded quickly.

Everyone thought that was pretty funny, so I had to pretend like I was kidding. After dinner we settled into the couch for some more chatting while the kids goofed around with the youngsters and the three lovely dogs. Tony and I had brought some cigars for the men, but we didn’t quite get around to those, so hopefully Nelson and his dad can have a nice lakeside smoke together this week.

We said our damn non-hugging COVID goodbyes which are a sad substitute for the real thing, and left with some new friends. I can’t say I’m surprised at how amazing Nelson’s folks and sister are, knowing him and Monica.

Back at the boat we immediately started making a list of people we knew in the area who had cabins, or people we knew who may know somebody in the area with a cabin, and also brainstormed some creative ideas to befriend locals with nice cabins as quickly as possible, as these dinner party invitations were really working out well for us.