Tuesday, August 4, 2015

North Channel 2015 - Port Elgin and Southampton

OK, let’s have a look at Port Elgin with a clear head.  The marina is very large and well protected.  There is a long beach to the south of the marina that looks very well utilized.  There are at least two lakefront restaurants, both look to be heavy on the carnival food and light on nutrition so we may have to search elsewhere for lunch.  Behind the marina is big park that is surrounded by railroad tracks and a mini steam train that travels by every thirty minutes or so and is filled with people.
We have breakfast in the boat and are all relieved that today is not a sailing day as there is a twenty knot west wind blowing that has kicked up some very large waves.  We get ourselves checked in and paid up with the marina staff and decide that we will actually remain at the gas dock because the heavy wind will make it difficult to get docked anywhere else.
We lock up the boat and begin our walk into town.  We pass a steady succession of tree-lined residential streets with houses ranging from small cottages to multi-unit rentals to century homes to large new builds.  In somebody’s yard is a beautiful 1962 Plymouth for sale that is baby blue and has an immaculate interior.  I tell the kids this would be a perfect first car for them, but then that leads to a discussion on driving rules, high school, getting jobs, girlfriends, boyfriends, and I just have to cut it off there because the whole conversation is making me anxious.  Those problems can wait, let the kids be kids while there is still time.
The town center is 11 blocks away and is full of shops and very busy with slow moving traffic.  We check out a few shops and find a sushi restaurant, so stop in for lunch.  We are all big sushi fans so we order up a sizeable meal and consume all that nice raw fish and rice.  This trip has been good for food and we have been eating quite healthy fare.  We’ve stayed away from the fast food and have actually eaten out a lot less then we usually do during our boat trips.  But one thing that really suffers on these trips is the amount of exercise we get, which is minimal.  All of those hours spent sailing and confined to the 150 square feet of living and sleeping space does wonders for muscle atrophy so we try to at least get some walking in during our shore breaks.
After lunch we explore the other side of the street and find something brand new – an automated French fry vending machine.  So much for the healthy eating, let’s follow up that sushi with a French fry chaser!  Ana puts $2.50 in the machine and it leaps into action.  Through the glass front we can see a collection of cut potatoes drop into a small vat of hot oil, where they bubble away for several minutes.  A wire basket then scoops up the fries and launches them into the stainless steel slide.  While this is happening another arm has knocked a paper tray below the chute and it slides into place just in time to catch the golden delicious fries coming down the slide.  Magnus opens the plastic window, reaches in and retrieves the perfect French fries!  There is even a tray inside the machine with packs of ketchup, salt and pepper, so we squirt on a bit of ketchup and start eating.  The fries are delicious and we stand in wonder at this marvellous invention.  “No,” I tell the kids, “You cannot get one for your birthday.”
During one of the clothing store stops I had called our friend Andrew’s mom Carol, who lives with her husband Tom in Southampton, which is located only a few miles north of Port Elgin.  She offered to pick us up at 4:30 and bring us back to their place for a drink.  We make a final stop at the small grocery store and pick up a few supplies and then walk back down to the boat.  The kids and Ana walk over to the beach for a swim while I remain at Bella Blue with a cold beer and a few sailing magazines I’ve been meaning to read.
At 4:30 sharp Carol is at the dock.  She gives us a long, slow tour of the area in and around Southampton.  Her family has deep connections here and she has owned a cottage steps from the lake for over 25 years.  We arrive at her house – a beautiful, giant, newly constructed house in a subdivision just outside of town – and meet up with Tom her husband.  We have met then both several times at our friend Andrew’s place, but it has definitely been a while.  We have a great time with them having drinking on their deck and enjoying appetizers while the kids explore the yard and forest nearby.  Carol is one funny lady and has an endless stream of stories, while Tom mainly sits, listens, and throws in the odd hilarious comment.  Carol even shows us her collection of Andrew pictures, which I capture with my camera to be used as future blackmail material.
At the end of the night we are sitting in Carol’s car in the driveway getting ready to leave.  A creature wobbles out of the bush and slowly walks between us and the neighbour’s house.  “Is that a racoon?” Ana asks.
“I don’t think so.  I can’t tell what it is, maybe a big skunk?” I reply.
“It doesn’t have a stripe.  Must be a raccoon.”
“Wait, I think it’s a porcupine!” I finally decide.
I have not seen a live porcupine for 20 years, and Ana and the kids have never seen one.  What a strange looking creature!  I open the door of the car to run over and take a picture of it, but he disappears around the far side of the house next door.
Carol shout out to Tom, who is standing at the front door, and tells him about the porcupine.  Tom slowly turns, returns inside and closes the door.
“Where’s he going?” I ask.
“Probably to get his shotgun,” replies Carol.
We leave before the porcupine hunting expedition gets underway and are soon back at the boat.  We bid goodbye to Carol, thank her for the lovely evening, and call it a night.

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