It's 6:32 am, the lake is calm, winds are slight, autopilot is locked in at 294 degrees, Ana is sleeping beside me in the cockpit snuggled up in a blanket, and I'm enjoying a lovely Monday morning which does not involve being hunched over a desk.
We have just had one of the best weekends of the year and a beautiful kickoff to an exciting summer ahead! I arrived home from work Friday afternoon at exactly 17:00, Ana already had the car all packed, kids fed and pee'd, house locked up, and a lovely batch of still hot peanut butter cookies on the front seat. I threw on some beat up jeans and favorite sandals and we were off like prawns in the hot sun. We made a quick stop in Simcoe to pick up some food at a Portuguese bakery for supper - several weekends before we discovered they sell hot roasted chicken dinners, which has become out standard Friday evening boat meal, but this time they included a large dollop of garlic and pepper laced, fiery red chicken drippings. Within seconds the car reeked of old world Portugal, the kids eyes began to water and we were even hungrier than before.
As it has been for most Fridays thus far this year, the dark clouds had begun to gather around 3pm and by the time we got down to the boat it was raining and quite windy. Nevertheless, we loaded up the boat, got the kids packed into the v-berth and set sail. We had a nice 15 knot breeze at our backs and were traveling at close to 5 knots, though the water was quite choppy and big roller waves would frequently take us for quite ride, making it difficult to simultaneously hold a fork, stab the chicken and keep your plate and glass of wine from flying off the table. Though the chicken meal was remarkably delicious, we soon found that the combination of heavy, oily food and a rolling, tumbling boat was starting to make Ana and I a bit nauseous so we both sat in the cockpit for a while - we knew that eventually the garlic would settle, even if the waves refused to.
Before long night was upon us and it was completely black. The overcast sky blocked out all celestial lights and we were left with gps navigation and scanning the horizon for ships and navigation signals. At around 11 pm the winds weakened and I powered up the engine so that we could make better time as our destination, Port Colborne was still 24 miles away of the entire 41 mile journey. The next few hours passed without incident - Ana snoozed on the couch and I was miraculously wide awake and reading a book on the iPad and listening to tunes. I popped my head up every ten minutes or so to check for vessels, seeing only one the entire passage, and being very thankful for our autopilot.
As we neared the entrance to the harbour I had to rely on the charts and the lighted buoys to find my way into the marina. Making sense of where you are at when your eyes and gps are telling you completely different things can be a bit tricky, but I managed to change course just in time before hitting a lighthouse then, a few minutes later, a concrete sea wall. As we were moving into the marina entrance Ana looked back to see a giant freighter just exiting the Welland Canal, passing through the waters I had clumsily navigated only moments before, so timing was indeed on my side that night. From Port Colborne, the Welland Canal runs 20 miles north overland, linking Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, a vital component in the North American shipping route.
By 3:45 am we had ourselves docked and securely tied up for the night. The morning came early and the kids were fresh and ready to go after a lovely, long sleep. We were somewhat less enthusiastic, but once the eyes were de-crusted and the teeth de-slimed, we were ready for action. Our friends Silvia and Dave were scheduled to pick us up at 10:00 and take us back to their trailer, which is at Sherkston Shores, only a short ride away. Dave was right on time and even had car seats for the kids - we had been expecting to travel 70's style (no car seats, no seatbelts, kids and dog hanging out the window, beers on board) but that would not happen until later, on the souped up Sherkston golf carts.
Now Sherkston is quite the place. Technically, it's a trailer park, but is almost like a full service holiday resort. For the kids there's a huge entertainment complex with games and activities, two pools, mini golf, splash pad, trampolines, and organized kids events. For adults, there's drinking and driving, high powered golf carts with chrome lug nuts, flash paint jobs and knobby wheels, cliff diving into a crystal clear quarry pond, Bon Jovi cover bands, vehicles on the beach, and lots and lots of barbecued red meats. After arriving at Silvia and Dave's trailer, I was immediately handed a beer. So I drank it. Then Dave gave me another one, which I drank. Beverage wise, the rest of the day continued on pretty much like that, though at one point the beers switched to gin and tonics, the best summer drink in the world.
We were soon joined by another group of friends - Arthur, Sandra, Adelson and Suzette and all their kiddies - a lovely mashup of Brazillian/Portuguese mayhem, who also have a trailer, though it's more like a house. Ana had been friends with this whole group back when she lived in Toronto (B.K. - Before Kris), and really just this year got back in regular contact with them and we've all really hit it off since then.
The rest of the day was taken up by golf carting, playing games, having a fire, rounding up snails, setting up deck canopies, keeping track of kids, visiting refrigerators and telling stories. The highlight of the day came for me as we were all hovering over Adelson's barbecue consuming delicious steak slices and these amazing little blood sausages which struck an uncanny resemblance to goose turds, though tasted much better. As we stood there munching away I prodded Sandra into telling a joke and she launched into this mystifying, elaborate storyline that involved the four of us dudes present, a farmer, a daughter and, in what was the most personally disturbing punchline I've ever experienced, a clincher that featured me receiving a super sized watermelon up the arse. I'll get my revenge....someday.
I was soon shuffled back to Dave and Silvia's trailer after falling asleep in my chair at the fire – safety first. I went to bed without brushing my teeth to preserve the protective layer of crud which has collected there throughout the day, though somehow I remembered to drink a small cup of water as hangover protection, though in this case the effect would be minimal.
Next morning - smell of eggs, coffee and foul sweat (my own) awakens me, then I'm knocked back down by a vicious headache. Man those eggs smell good, I thought to myself, knowing full well my stomach was in no shape to accept anything besides water and little white candies. Fortunately Silvia had some lovely Advil gel capsules which I nearly gagged on, but worked wonderfully. Two cups of coffee and one triangular egg and cheese toasty sandwich later and I was fully back in action. Over a most interesting breakfast conversation I learned that Dave's boyhood dream career had been to become a "Pantyologist", which sounded a whole lot better than anything I had ever aspired to. Sadly he ended up becoming just a coke dealer (works for Coke) but I hope he never lets go of his special dream.
After saying our goodbyes (nearly tearful - we had such a good time) and rounding up the possessions that the kids and I had scattered throughout the house, Dave had us back in the car and over to the marina in less than fifteen minutes...which gave us another generous fifteen minutes to be ready for our next chauffeur - Uncle Michael. As the girls furiously plucked, picked, brushed, powdered and fluffed, Magnito and I iced up the cooler then walked over to find Mike sleuthing around the marina struggling over my poor directions. As usual, he was looking dapper in a fancy hat and paisley shirt and was proudly sporting a brand new ringtone, in the form of 20 seconds of hair raising rooster calls from his previous weekend engagement as a guest star at a local turkey festival. He will also be starring in another upcoming turkey festival - the Olson family reunion in Saskatoon, which is now only a week away.
After a quick tour of the Bella Blue, our lovely floating cottage and adventure vessel, we were off to the racetrack at Fort Erie for a buffet brunch and some high stakes betting. We were met at the restaurant by Mike's better half and cupcake sensation Anna and her charming parents. After six platefuls each plus a couple kilos of trifle and jello, we made our way down to the trackside to see those lovely horses up close. Ana says she has to look them right in the eye to know whether they are a winner or not. At least that's how it worked for her last time we were at the track - she won money in 8 out of the 10 races. Turns out, this time it was more about the fashion. Stella was the only winner in our family - she chose the horse with blue leg warmers and a jockey with a pink jersey and took away an impressive six dollars. Would have been more too but I bet on the horse to show instead of win, but he took first place so I guess I actually owe Stella about forty bucks. I'll just take it out of all the coin she owes me for the diapers I bought for her over the years.
After the races, the Welland Olsons invited us back to their ranch for some quality time on the covered patio – a very nice place to be. Upon arrival Michael walked over to their second car and pulled a cheap styro-junk cooler full of moderately cold Tuborg Greens out of the back seat, all cool like, as if everybody should have a cooler of spare beers in their car "just in case". In the process the cooler basically disintegrated, leaving a couple gallons of water on the car floor, causing the empty Harvey's wrappers, chip bags and Timmy's cups to float freely.
We were soon "in position" with drinks in hand listening to some sweet music on his new Playbook, having a great visit. They told us about their recent trips, upcoming shows and cookbooks, gave us a demo of their new iPad cooking app, and we caught them up with all our news (work during week, sail all weekend, that's the plan for the summer). We were hoping to see my cousin Meagan, who lives in their apartment, but apparently she invited a whole gang of bikers back the night before and they were up all night drinking, drugging and doing initiations for the new members which involved small rodents and ballerina costumes, so she was still sleeping, probably quite tired from all that crazy fun.
After such a perfect day, we said our goodbyes and our chauffeur Mike cruised us back to the boat, taking us through some of the lovely southern Ontario countryside. If you ever drive with Michael you will soon find that everything is twenty minutes away and you never take the same road or hear the same joke twice.
That evening, we relaxed on the dock, watched part of a movie and had an early night. By 5am we were up and throwing off dock lines for the voyage home. The winds were nice to begin with, but soon died and we were back to motoring. I did a bit of writing on the way as Ana snoozed in the cockpit, all wrapped up in a fuzzy blue blanket, looking very, very comfortable. Our trip back was fairly uneventful, though we did have to motor right through the middle of a 60 boat strong sailing regatta, which was quite the sight to see. We stopped for a quick, icy swim towards the end of the voyage as the day was heating up nicely.
We arrived back in Port Dover around 1pm and celebrated our successful voyage with a hearty lunch on the back of our friend Andrew's boat, enjoying the beautiful Monday sunshine, because you know "back to work" Mondays always feature beautiful weather. I really should take more Mondays off.
In all, probably the best weekend of the year and an excellent warm up to the two week long sailing trip we will soon be embarking on...