Today is the main day of the festival and we have a lot to do. We begin the day with a visit to the marine centre, which has a big used book sale happening on the main floor, several commercial galleries on the second floor, and a nautical museum on the third. It is a lovely building and an outside deck offers an outstanding view over the bay. At 10 we walk over to the registration area for daredevils wanting to try out the “rocket boots” that are available for the day. They are allowing a maximum of 8 people to each have a 30 minute run with these nifty boots that are connected via a giant hose to the exhaust port of a Sea-doo and basically allow you to fly.
Of course, I put my name down, fill out the waiver, pay my ten bucks and the organizer tells me to suit up and get in line as there are only two people in front of me! So I return to the boat to get my swimsuit and then line up on the dock to watch amateur hour while I await my chance to make a fool of myself. The system works like this. You first become David Lee Roth by jamming your fleshy body into a tight wetsuit that is three sizes too small and hugs your body bulges most intimately. After I sing the chorus of “Panama” I strut to the end of the dock where the rocket boot coach presents said rocket boots and asks me to step into them. Now this is where you become Gene Simmons because these boots are about 24 inches high and look decidedly dangerous. I strap them on and now with the Van Halen jumpsuit and the Kiss sex boots, I really do feel like a rock star and I am ready to rock and roll every night and party every day. Except that right around then I lose my balance, flop down onto the dock and collapse like a clubbed seal into the lake. The frigid waters causes my body parts to shrink so now the wetsuit fits much better, and the rocket boots have ignited and are producing positive thrust, pushing me through the water like I’m riding a dolphin. I’m directed by the guy on the Sea-doo to move out into the wider part of the bay and then he tells me to hold on and hits the gas which controls the amount of thrust delivered to the boots. The first couple times it pushes me up but I’m so damn wobbly that I flop over and can’t get up. He tells me to slow down and use exaggerated movements. I soon get the hang of it and, just like that, I am transformed into Tony Stark in his Ironman suit. After experimenting a bit I’m able to move left and right, forward, and backwards a bit, but that usually causes me to somersault into the water. As my confidence grows, the operator offers a bit more thrust, and now I’m hovering six feet above the water and it’s not just amazing; it is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced. I start to get cocky and do a dive down into the water, get pushed underwater by the rocket boots, and then arch my back and shoot straight back up into the air and manage to hold it! I repeat this a few more times but soon the operator sees where it’s headed (likely a triple back flip, knee to the face, twisted back and finished with a face plant into the deck of the nearby sailboat) and shuts me down. By the time I return to the dock I have decided that our family needs to buy a Sea-doo and rocket boots and will do so at the first available opportunity.
While I was queued up on the dock the kids had gone down to the bouncy castles and had a good jump, so next on the schedule was the cardboard boat race. Until now I had never considered the feasibility of building an actual, floating vessel out of just cardboard and duct tape, but now I know that is it certainly possible. Before us was a large collection of cardboat boats and lifejacketted sailors of all ages. There didn’t seem to be any rules or design principles, other than the one strict rule that the only allowable building materials are cardboard and duct tape. The starting gun goes off and the boats are launched! Some sink immediately. Other are half filled with water by the time the participants get themselves into the boat. Others are floating well and being propelled across the water in a foamy frenzy by exited paddlers. The participants have to paddle out into the bay about 100 meters, round a buoy, and then paddle back. Along the way at least half of the boats either capsize, break apart, or simply absorb so much water they sink to the bottom. In an incredible act of persistence, one team consisting of an older lady and a child are upright and paddling hard, but their boat is completely underwater so you can only see their heads, shoulders and paddles. I hope their boat was named “Never Give Up”.
We spot David, Jacque and Parker in the crowd and walk over to say hi, just as the race concludes and the triumphant team drags their waterlogged cardboard schooner from the water and does a victory wave to the sizeable crowd. We ask them if we are still on for a visit at their boat this afternoon and they are. But before that we walk downtown to visit the town museum, which is located inside an old jailhouse. They have a large collection of items of local interest including Indian artifacts, newspaper clippings, household antiques, stuffed animal heads, old childrens toys and even a full sized horse carriage. There is also an art gallery in one section of the museum, except for one corner of the room which has a mock up of an old fashioned dentist office complete with the metal chair and foot operated drill. Ouch.
We have a few groceries to get so we let the kids go back to the boat on their own to play some games. It is so nice having kids at this age who are able to take care of themselves. Then they don’t always have to get dragged along to the boring things we need to do.
We return to the boat and lounge in the cockpit for a while, enjoying the hot sun, cold drinks, and a terrible band playing in the beer garden, each player strumming away in a different key. I spark up a beautiful Partagas Cuban cigar, then after one puff mishandle it and drop it into the water. It takes off like a torpedo somehow, and disappears beneath the dock, never to be seen again. As punishment for wasting such a magnificent smoke I did not light up another one and instead had to relish the memory of the two puffs I did suck out of the lost, rolled soldier.
Here’s the beauty of being a guest in a foreign marina. A lady walks up the dock with two drinks in her hand, stops at our boat, hands us the drinks, and tells us they are having a drink mixing competition and that we should try out her entry, called the “Creamsicle”. Of course it is delicious, and she stays for a quick chat then disappears down the dock. People in marinas are so nice – everybody is on holidays so are in a good mood, nobody is in a rush, everyone is helpful and there is a friendly, jovial atmosphere, especially when it’s thirty degrees and sunny outside.
Around 3pm we walk over to David and Jacque’s boat and David gives us the rundown on a few of their favourite anchorages. He has owned his boat for 27 years, and before that had a sailboat, so they have cruised these waters many times over during that period. Stella and Magnus fall in love with their dog Parker and they take him down for a swim at the boat launch. We spend a few hours with them and have such a great time. They are from Toronto and their boat is a magnificent 42’ trawler - a real beauty. David gives us the full tour, including crawling right into the engine room and seeing all the systems in action. It makes our sailboat interior feel like a broom closet. The only thing missing is a hot tub, but when I mention it I’m pretty sure it started David thinking. I learn Jacque has a taste for gin and tonics, and I also learn that I have been using the wrong tonic. When she asks me what tonic I use I say, “I dunno. That Canada Dry stuff in the yellow can.”
She says, “I used to use that crap but not anymore. Ever heard of Fever Tree tonic?”
I said no. And I knew what was going to happen next.
“Would you like me to make you one?” she asked.
“Yes please,” came the predictable answer.
“Do you want a single, or double and do you want the regular tonic or the diet?”
“Just make it good.”
That made Jacque laugh. And she did make it good. Damn good.
We put a plan in place to meet up the next day at either John Island or Beardrop Harbour, both about 20 miles or so north-west of Gore Bay. We try our best to convince them to join us at our boat for Sheppard’s pie but they have their hearts set on the fish fry. But as we return to our boat we realize we are practically having dinner together anyway, because the fish fry is in the pavilion directly behind our boat – we just have to talk a bit louder to hear each other.
There is a big dance tonight at the hall in town but we opt out and instead enjoy a nice, quiet evening in the marina.