Earlier this morning Tony and Angela’s friend Ken arrived, to help with the Welland Canal passage tomorrow. The newly expanded crew of Cabin Fever is still getting ready to go when we toss the lines and head out into the harbour. After suffering the indignity of being beaten by a sailboat multiple times, Tony is determined to leave me in his liquid dust today, so we won’t be in the lead for long.
We leave through what is called the Western Gap, which is immediately west of the marina and takes us straight out into the lake. As we’re passing the abandoned malting plant beside the marina, I see an ultra-tanned, shirtless homeless guy totally laid out on a big hunk of concrete catching maximum sunshine. I point him out to Ana, she takes a look and says, “That’s not a man. I see boobs.” Sure enough, it was a topless lady sunbather, doing exactly what everybody else stuck in an office on this fine day wished they were doing.
Surprisingly, Port Weller (which is the entrance of the Welland Canal) is a mere 28 miles away, which seems impossible considering how damn long it takes to drive there from Toronto. But since we’re going in a straight line, and have only bird traffic to deal with, it makes for an easy run. Halfway across Ana spots something floating in the water in the distance. We alter course to check it out and find…balloons! These are the first balloons we’ve found on Lake Ontario and they are just lovely (especially the one that says “Princess”), and even have a bit of helium left inside. You may want to refer to a previous posting on the preponderance of foil balloons on the Great Lakes and the birth of the Lake Erie Balloon Hunters reality TV series.
Stella is thrilled to see a reading of 28 degree water temperature, so we glide to a halt and jump in for a refreshing early afternoon swim and soapy bath for some of us. We follow this up with cracking open a bag of ripple chips, which has been taking up a lot of valuable space in the storage locker for far too long. Back when my dad was in town and we were shopping to provision the boat for the trip down the Welland, my dad bought this enormous bag of no name ripple chips, and it is still on the boat. It is the size of a kindergarten kid. It could supply a whole weed smoking class of philosophy majors with dope munchies for a year. It may even be visible from space. The only reason I let him buy it is because I thought the four of us could use it as a life raft in case the boat sank.
As we’ve been sailing, Cabin Fever has arrived at the Welland Canal check-in point and spoken with the traffic control officer who tells them it’s very busy and we won’t likely be getting through tonight. Strangely, I also call and speak with a different person who tells me things are looking quite good and we probably should be able to begin our passage around 7 pm. A Saturday morning departure works better for us, but if they allow us to go through tonight, we will go through.
The St. Catherine’s marina dock man welcomes us in and fills us up with diesel and sucks out our holding tank, and then guides us to our slip, which is directly beside Cabin Fever. Ken’s wife Sheila has arrived to complete their crew and my cousin Megan’s partner Adam also arrives to deliver the burlap straw fenders we left with him on the down-bound journey. He reports that one of them is giving off a punishing aroma of manure, which he was forced to inhale the whole way here. We rip open the black garbage bag it is stored in and are hit with a waft of rot. I remember that two of the fenders got ripped off the boat and fell into the water, so this one must have been the one that got soaked the worst.
The family and I jump into Adam’s truck and we stop at the grocery store to pick up a few boat supplies, and a few beer supplies for tonight’s dinner at Megan and Adam’s house, which is right in St. Catherines. We arrive and I’m happy to see my aunt Linda there too, so we all have a great visit. Adam and Megan have a two-year-old named Teo and the kids have a fun time entertaining (and being entertained by) him.
The evening goes by far too quickly (as it always does with them) and at 11pm Megan drives us back to the marina as she is pregnant, and pregnant ladies are automatically awarded the prestigious “Designated Driver” prize by their husbands, who require large quantities of alcohol to get through a pregnancy.
Team Cabin Fever are still partying hard and show no signs of stopping (except Tony brushing his teeth) as we say goodnight and retire to the innards of Bella Blue.