Saturday, July 7, 2018

Thousand Islands - Alexandria Bay

I awake at 6 am to a perfect morning – not a breath of wind, clear water and the sounds of birds singing in the nearby islands. I soak up the moment and stamp it on my memory before going down to check the state of the batteries, because I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be good.

Besides the dead batteries, I discover that the oil pan and bilge are completely full of oil and the engine is dry. There is a small plug lying in the oil pan, but I can’t figure out where it came from. I try to remember the last time I checked the oil level, and it was probably back in Lake Erie so I just hope there hasn’t been any damage to the engine.

Tony comes over and we work on the engine for a long time and finally figure out the likely source of the oil leak – a plugged air filter that was causing pressure, which popped the relief plug out and forced out the oil. We put in a new filter, refill the oil, put the pressure relief plug back in, and it seems to run fine. I also discover that the gear oil reservoir is nearly empty so my engine maintenance program has obviously not been up to snuff.

Our destination is the town of Alexandria Bay, ten miles to the east through the main shipping channel. We leave the anchorage and travel around Grindstone Island and then south between Murray and Picton Islands which puts us in the shipping channel, and from there we compete with dozens, if not hundreds, of other boats for a chunk of water to sail through. The current is slightly more pronounced here, but it’s very easy to forget that we are traveling in a river, albeit an unusually large one. The depths in the channel are incredible; from the rocky shoreline it drops directly down to over 250 feet in some places.

Arriving in Alexandria Bay, we pull into Hutchinson Boat works and get docked into our assigned slips. This location is ideal, as we are beside Riveredge (the most expensive resort and marina in A-Bay) and directly across the river from the incredible Boldt Castle, which we plan to visit tomorrow. After docking, we head into the onsite marine store and buy three brand new batteries, with help from the amazing, friendly and helpful staff.

I install the batteries, test them out, and all looks good, so we gather the team and walk into town to have a look around. Alexandria Bay is much like Clayton, but perhaps even more geared to tourists with the many bars, restaurants and shops. The girls and kids keep dipping into kitschy shops so Tony and I find the nearest dive bar, and are happy to see a sign saying they accept Canadian dollars at par, which means 30% off our drinks! It’s an awesome American bar scene – the large wraparound bar is packed with people, and they seem to mostly know each other, as does the skinny, blonde barkeep. On the floor are the crunchy, brown corpses of a hundred sacks of eaten peanuts. There is a black dog with a fashionable white Mohawk and a glowing stinkeye that is laser focused on my face, giving me the creeps. On the walls are beer signs, televisions playing bad daytime tv or sports, two dart boards, and paper signs with curled up corners, tacked into the wood wall trim advertising local events, such as the upcoming boat poker run with $10,000 in fabulous prizes. The beer on tap is awful, except for the Yuengling, so I order up two of those and the barkeep looks at me and says, “ID?”

I laugh and say, “Really?”

“Take off your sunglasses.”

I lift them up and she sees the deep crowsfeet lines and jaded grey hue over my pupils, caused by years of excessive partying, waking up with vomiting babies, struggling through stressful work projects, dealing with drug dealing tenants in our sketchy rental properties, being in non-stop, win/lose negotiations with my shifty 13 year old, overnight sailing runs, overnight driving runs, and doing my best to pack three lifetimes worth of experiences into just one.

“You’re good,” she says. “Who’s the other beer for?”

I point over to Tony. He’s looking at us with a huge smile and double thumbs up sign.

“He’s definitely good.”

The beers are delicious, the peanuts are cruncy, and the conversation is ridiculous, as it usually is with Tony and I. The ladies and kids soon arrive, order up some drinks, and then we have a darts championship that whittles away an hour and gives our skins a needed rest from the brutal sun. As we’re playing darts Stella says to Tony, “Hey Tony, say the words ‘Rise up lights’.”

“OK,” Tony replies, “Rise up lights.”

“Say it again, but faster.”

“Rise up lights.”

“Ha ha!” Stella laughs, “You just said razor blades in an Australian accent!”

We all try it. It’s hilarious, and does sound exactly like razor blades in Australian. I’m going to have to tell all of my Aussie buddies about that one. Rise up lights!

We return to the boats, along the way stopping at a mini mart to stock up on some cheap US suds and mixers. We do have some leftovers, but they don’t naturally combine into much of a dinner meal, so we decide to save them for a magnificent breakfast tomorrow - chicken avocado peach oatmeal cobbler. I simply can’t wait.

The two boat crews once again join culinary forces and put together a carnylicious dinner of foot-long chili dogs. North Americans routinely screw up hot dogs. How, you ask? Well, we use hot dog buns that are longer than the hot dogs – totally wrong. A proper hot dog must have wiener sticking out of both ends of the bun, and the reason for this is because your first and last bites will be bun-less and delicious. The foot-long style of wiener and standard hot dog bun allows us to create chili dogs with at least two mouth-watering, bun-less bites on each end. The only trick is trying to balance all the onions, ketchup, mayo, mustard, and chili on the ends without them breaking off or slopping condiments all over the place. But we manage just fine, and retire to bed to enjoy dreams of happy, free-range Danish piggies, dancing and having fun, and falling in love, and playing musical instruments.

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