Sunday, July 30, 2023

July 26, 2023 – Toronto’s Islands, Rubber Pirate Cannons, and a Tremendously Good Nap

At 4am the Cobourg marina casts a beautiful scene. There are six other sailboats anchored here, each with a single masthead light glowing as the boats sit motionless on the flat water. Two fishing boats are slowing motoring through the channel with their red, green, and white navigational lights on, headed for the lake in pursuit of the salmon that live in it. I hit the button on the windless and it sparks to life, piercing the morning silence with the sound of thick chain banging against the bow pulpit as the anchor is retrieved.

The lake too is calm and glassy but after an hour of motoring a thick fog sets in and a slight breeze rises. I flash the spotlight periodically to ensure any surrounding boats hidden in the fog can see us. As dawn approaches, the warm air on my arms and face rapidly cools and is replaced by what I call the dawn chill. It is a strange time on the water. As the air cools, the blanket of stars overhead slowly disappears, popping away one by one, and though the sun is not yet visible, a suspicious grey light every so slowly builds in the east. This stage of the day lasts for an hour and I’m always glad when it is replaced by full dawn when the morning sun appears on the horizon. Today, the heat of the sun quickly burns off the fog as the wind steadily gains momentum and the waves build. Soon, the water is rough and as usual, the wind is directly on our nose rendering our sails useless in our anticipated ten hour sail to Toronto.

The boat takes a beating as we motor into the meter high waves, some much larger, some smaller. The longer wave  periods typical of Lake Ontario are much shorter today and the bow of the boat rises then crashes down, jarring everything and anybody inside. As the route to Toronto is a straight line there is not much navigation or steering to be done so we simply watch for boats or hazards on the water.

For the last few hours of the trip we are trailed by the Amy Lynn – a large tug boat towing an enormous barge. We motor at the same speed, sailing in parallel, both pointed for the mouth of Toronto Harbour, which we finally reach around 2pm. As usual the harbour is full of activity – dozens of Sunfish sailing boats piloted by 8-year-olds from the sailing camps, freighters, a three masted tall ship, Tiki taxis, Pirate taxis, party boats, paddleboarders, kayakers, sailboats, all participating in a seemingly orchestrated ballet of motion, but in reality, it’s every ship for herself.

We reach the Island Yacht Club and a young dockhand is there to grab our lines. We have never been to this club before, but we have tied up in past years at Hanlon’s Point which is directly across the channel. After sucking a large quantity of weeds into the intake, the boat’s air conditioner bombs out and I have to take apart the hose connections and remove the foliage. It is a very hot day so once settled we make our way over to the pool, along the way seeing a family of resident peacocks which seem completely at home wandering the grounds.

The pool is cool and refreshing and we take up residence on two of the incredibly comfortable padded pool chairs which populate the expansive deck. I immediately fall asleep and have a glorious afternoon nap in the shade of a willow tree while Ana reads and relaxes.

Lydia and Daryl arrive a few hours after us and they’ve had a rough and tumble trip as the lake conditions have only worsened since we arrived and the inside of their boat looks as if it’s been shaken like a margarita so Lydia gets to work unscrambling the mess while Daryl joins Ana and I on a walk to explore the island. After finding a beaten up basketball court and throwing a few baskets we find a little used grassy trail and follow it. Despite being only a kilometer or two from the largest city in Canada, it feels wild here. It is quiet, the trees canopy is thick with branches and leaves and the smell of the forest, the grass is long, and spiderwebs are sewn everywhere. We walk the perimeter of the small island, ending up in the boat storage yard near our dock then vigorously check for ticks. If there are tick on this island, one of us would have picked one up, and so far we all come up clean, but a closer examination will be required in the solitude of a shower stall.

We gather on SeaLight for a dinner of vegetarian curry and shrimp pasta. They tell us more of their trip here from Cobourg.

“On the way into the channel,” Lydia says, “we saw this beaten up old pirate boat with these long flaccid penis-like rubber things hanging off the side spraying streams of water everywhere. Daryl said, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.’ As we got closer we saw that it was full of Down Syndrome kids and they were all smiling and waving at us. Daryl then said, “Well, I guess it’s kind of cool.’”

It wasn’t long before one of said pirate ships passes our marina and yes, the rubber things hanging over the side do look ridiculous and hardly capable of striking pirate fear into the hearts of onlookers.

We enjoy the rest of the evening, happy that we’d made so much progress up the lake the past couple of days and are now within striking distance of our home marina with four days to spend in and around the incredible city of Toronto.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

July 25, 2023 – Bare Bum, Lake Coagulate, and a Lovely Cheesecake

We have a lot of miles to cover to make it back to our side of the lake so our plan was to leave at 3am for Cobourg. I wake up on time then climb the stairs to the cockpit and find total overcast blackness in the skinny harbour as well as cockpit windows that are heavy with dew and impossible to clear. I’m not comfortable leaving in these conditions so I go back to bed then wake up every 30 minutes and repeat the procedure until 5:30 when there is enough light to make it out safely. There is no wind and the lake is glass. Ana naps in the cockpit while the autopilot takes care of most of the steering and I keep watch.

The ride through the channels of the Bay of Quinte is enjoyable but there are a few shallow areas to navigate through as well as two fixed bridges that we easily fit under, but every time we do that it looks from the cockpit like we are about to be dismasted so my heart always  pounds no matter how high he charts say the bridge clearance should be. Our trip is interrupted only by a balmy clothing optional lake swim and morning bath in one of the warm bays near Trenton with the water temperature topping out at over 28 degrees.

We reach the Murray Canal which is the final stretch before entering into Presqui’le Bay and Lake Ontario. The canal is quite narrow, but has plenty of depth and you need to pass by two swing bridges. On the second one there is a staffer who holds out this basket on a ridiculously long pole and you are supposed to deposit $5.25 in Canadian funds. We didn’t have any cash so instead Ana drops in a can of sardines in oil, a bag of microwave popcorn, two granola bars, a handful of Smarties, a peach, and some semi-fresh basil, which totals out to just over $5.25 so I think the girl collecting it is pretty happy.

Once we clear the canal we are into Presqui’le Bay and I immediately remember the last time we came through here and why I disliked it so much. The bay is shallow, weedy, windy, rough, and the channel to get out is very narrow. I like it even less this time with a keel that is two feet deeper than that on our last boat Bella Blue which we sailed through here years ago.

We get out on the open lake and straight-line it for Cobourg. Of course, the goddamn wind is at 30 degrees so difficult to sail without tacking, which means zigging back and forth and adding unneeded time to the already very long trip. So we power on through and make it to Colbourg by around 5pm. Along the way Daryl and Lydia pass us, but in typical power boater style they got nice and close to maximize the wake thrown at us so I pull down my pants and show them my arse and I know they had a good look because Lydia took a photo, which I hope they enlarge and frame for display on their living room wall. Daryl was enraged with the backside insult so he cut right in front of us and threw a lovely wake we had to chop through.

In Cobourg we get gassed up then while getting pumped out by the nice lady dock attendant, Lydia and Daryl come walking  by and Lydia says, “Kris, you look different with your pants on!”

Now look, I’ve been known to have some pretty snappy comebacks for the frequent insults I receive, but today I have nothing. Totally draw a blank. I could have said, “That’s what all the girls say” or “I enjoyed last night too” but instead I just smile weakly at the gas girl and say, “I don’t even know them. My name’s not even Kris.” But then Ana goes over and starts talking to them so my cover is blown.

Since we want to leave very early again tomorrow we choose to anchor out in their perfectly protected harbour. After getting the hook down we actually jump in for a swim to cool off from the heat as it is far away from the docks and the water looks pretty good. The swim is refreshing beyond belief.

After our swim Ana and I sit on the swim platform with a drink to watch the world go by. But what we actually do see going by in the water are these brown globs of what I imagine to be a toxic coagulation of goose poo, gasoline, fish slime, and rotting algae. I imagine Ana getting one of those stuck in her hair and do a silent prayer to Neptune for his graceful timing.

Lydia and Daryl come by in their dinghy and we have a lovely cockpit dinner of burgers, salad, and this unbelievable blueberry cheesecake they found in a bakery here earlier this afternoon. At dusk the lighting is just magical and I once again feel so very fortunate to be on this amazing trip on this incredible lake. 

July 24, 2023 – Twinkle Toes, Child Meltdowns, and an Amazing Dinner

By 6am we are back on the water and headed for Picton. There is barely a breath of wind which is fine as I’ve pretty much given up on my sails at this point of the trip with all the bad wind luck. The ride to Picton is easy and trouble-free. 

Picton is located in the Bay of Quinte region which is a long inland stretch of channels, bays, and waterways stretching from near Kingston and west to Presqu’ile Bay. After a 7 hour sail we dock at the Picton Bay Inn which is at the southern end of the long narrow harbour leading to the town. Lydia and Daryl arrive just minutes after us so once we are all tied up and plugged in, we head into to town to see what we can find.

Daryl and I settle on beers at the 555 Brewing Company while the ladies plunder the many shops, and there are a lot of shops here, which is why Ana loves this town. We take our time and enjoy a couple of crafties and await further instructions. Instructions do come in the form of a text message from Lydia to Daryl advising him to go directly to a shoe store to pick up a pair of Sperry boat shoes. Now Daryl already bought a pair of Sperry shoes back in Clayton but in a moment of moral righteousness he chose vegan shoes. I didn’t even know what that was, thinking the word vegan was reserved for overpriced and strangely textured foodstuffs. But no, I was told this footwear is made by ethically pure and enlightened forest hippies living in Bhutanian cave communes. There are two sources of materials for these shoes. The first is ethical leather. This is where local witch surgeons graft skin from the backsides of pygmy possums then stitch it together with strings of prickle grass marinated in human saliva. This is vegan because the scalped asses of the possums eventually scab over but remain furless and the creatures are said to enjoy the carefree abandon of bare bums. The other way they make the materials is with PVC (polyvinyl chloride, a synthetic plastic polymer) harvested by Dow Chemical Company from the decomposed organs of long dead dinosaurs, but they don’t count as real animals because nobody’s ever seen one in real life. The other important aspect of producing vegan footwear is to ensure there is no testing done on animals. Traditional shoe makers employ homeless orphans in third world countries in shoe testing. They have the kids put on the shoes then test the durability by kicking local street dogs. With this they can measure how long it takes to break in the shoes, but also after mauling attacks they can analyze the bite patterns in the leather and ensure sufficient material thickness. The hippies aren’t allowed to do this to animals so instead they just kick each other.

Anyway, Daryl’s vegan shoes didn’t work out. In fact, they were total garbage. They left his feet blistered and bruised and cut so he had to go back to wearing dock slippers for a while. We find the shoe store and within five minutes he is sporting a brand new leathery pair of Sperrys and man is he happy. He tap dances right out of that place, then jives down the street and bee bops right into the Naval Marine Archives where we browse the dusty books, ship replicas, maps, charts, and uniformed mannequins and he keeps right on dancing until we finish up then waltz over to the Giant Tiger and find the ladies. Lydia can see immediately how happy he is with those new shoes by the spins, hip dips, flosses, moonwalks, two-steps, body rolls, electric slides, macarenas, and robots. Ana looks at me standing here in my flip flops and asks if I’d like to get a pair of Sperrys.

“No thanks.”

We grab a few critical supplies from the shelves (black licorice for me, Jiffy Pop for Ana) and are really entertained by this kid having a DEFCON level 1 meltdown. The kid is screaming and coughing and yelling and crying, then at one point drops spread eagle and pounds his fists and feet on the floor. The parents pretend like nothing’s happening despite their child being under the possession of a very powerful demon.

I say to Lydia, “You know, if they piped that sound through fertility clinics I bet a lot of those people sitting there waiting would just get up and leave.”

“Adoption agencies too,” she says.

By now we’re all getting hungry so we return to the boats and craft an amazing meal of grilled pork tenderloins, honey pepper squash, zucchini, goat cheese salad, green beans and potatoes and dine like the rich and famous on the picnic tables beside the dock. Lydia makes Daryl take off the shoes so he’s not trying to dance through dinner but promises to give them back to him tomorrow.

And thus ends a fine day in Picton.

Friday, July 28, 2023

July 23, 2023 – Let’s Get Smokin’

I wake up feeling better than expected. I am usually struck with a paralyzing headache after evening adventures at Holmes Castle. Somehow before collapsing into my alcohol-fueled hot coma last night I remembered to drink a litre of water and molar grind two ibuprofens. And I flossed my teeth too.

I walk up to the house and find William already there deep in conversation with Andrew, which is quite an accomplishment as Andrew’s not known for his patience with children who are not named Magnus or Stella. Andrew and I move out to the deck with hot coffees and have a lengthy morning chat while the rest of the gang scattered amongst house and boat sleeping quarters slowly, every so slowly, start to get mobile. At some point Daryl and Lydia take off for the Confederation Marina in Kingston and Bob comes back to collect his helicopter. Everybody is noticeably less animated than last night...

By 11am or so we are all assembled in the kitchen and start formulating a plan for the day. But we take so long coming up with the most efficient plan that we run out of time to do any of it and instead Marty volunteers to take Magnus and Stella for a quick tour around Queens University, then drop them off at the train station before driving back to Chelsea with Mom and the boys.

As we are all out in front of the house saying our goodbyes, Andrew and Victoria’s dog Emma, who is a golden retriever and expert swiper, grabs my mom’s sweater from the top of a bag, runs around with it in her mouth for a while then drops it in the grass and starts rolling on it, with her eyes gleefully rolled back in her head and her legs pawing the sky as she twists back and forth like a caught fish. We’re all laughing so hard nobody thinks to rescue the sweater until Mom yanks it out from under the dog and shakes it out.

The rest of the day is gloriously relaxing. There are short visits from Adrian and Sara, the new neighbours Mike and Deborah, and we stop by Don and Jan’s to help them launch their boat. By dinnertime it’s back to the four of us and Vic has been smoking racks of the ribs all day so we add in a few steaks and have an amazing meal together before firing up a really bad horror movie which puts me to sleep.

We’re so happy that Andrew and Victoria have such a cool group of friends here in Kingston and we always have so much fun with them all during these visits. It’s a great tribe and they’re a unique and crazy bunch.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

July 22, 2023 – Get To The Choppah!

My favourite time of the day has always been the morning. And my favourite kind of morning is being at Andrew’s place. I am always the first person up on the boat, and no matter what time I get up, I will walk up to the house and Andrew will be there making coffee. We will sit down on the comfy chairs on his deck overlooking the water and talk and laugh. We never run out of things to talk about. And that is exactly what we do this morning.

After breakfast on the boat we head townward in two vehicles on two missions – Andrew and I to get boat stuff and everybody else to explore downtown Kingson. Between Marine Outfitters and two Canadian Tire stores we find everything we need, except for a Ninja CREAMi Ice Cream, Sorbet, and Milkshake maker which Victoria asked him to pick up. Well, I learn that Ninja makes about a hundred different models of blenders, most of which seem to me to be indistinguishable, but what do I know? I just use a fork to mix stuff up.

We make it back to the house sometime around 2 and get settled on the top level of the dock house with drinks and snacks. It is a perfect day – sunny, warm, and just a touch of wind. Daryl and Lydia were on their way to Kingston and Andrew offered for them to stop by and see the property. By 3 they are tied up at the dock and join us on the deck. Other people start arriving too. My brother Marty and my two nephews Leif and William, then a bunch of Andrew and Victoria’s friends - Adrian and Sara, Terri and Bob, and Don and Jan. Soon the top deck is full and everybody is goofing around royally.

I asked Adrian, who is a boat broker, to come down and have a look at our keel bolts. He checks it out and doesn’t think the damage is too bad at all but does think it’s worthwhile to put in a claim and get it fully inspected and repaired if necessary. This is a relief.

People spread out. William and I go for a little snorkeling adventure in the waters surrounding the dock. Some jump on Sea Light for drinks. Andrew gets out the Sea Doo rocket death machines and takes people for high speed rides. The kids bounce back and forth between the house, dock, and yard. At one point Leif loses his ring in the grass and when I hear about this I race to the deck and scream, “Daryl! Ana! We have a metal detector emergency!”

Ana’s eyes light up and Daryl races to his boat and gets the metal detector. This is the moment she’s been waiting for, fine tuning her skills back on the Rochester beach, all leading up to this. A test. A mission. Her destiny. Well, after 45 minutes of scanning, digging, combing, recalibrating, and witness interrogation they come up with a beer can tab, a washer, an electrical box knockout, but no ring. Leif is scared for his safety as his girlfriend gave him the ring, but after more intense questioning he’s not 100% that he dropped the ring, or that he had a ring in the first place, or if he does indeed have a girlfriend. Crazy kids.

Back on the deck we are debating the magical properties of the case of Yuengling Daryl bought back in Wilson.

“Is the case still full?” I ask.

“No man, there’s only a few tins left. What the hell? I thought you said it was a magic case?”

“I said mine was a magic case and hopefully yours would be. But to be honest, I started having doubts after that case broke open and fell apart in the mud puddle in Wilson. That didn’t seem like magic.”

“You know, I do seem to have a never ending supply of whiskey on the boat. You could say I have whiskey coming out the Yuengling.”

Uproarious laughter ensues. I keep the liquor puns going.

“Well Marty, let’s get Kraken!” I say and we head back to SeaLight for Kraken and cokes.

This party is really humming now. Back on the dock we formulate a plan that involves the use of Bob’s helicopter and a couple of Don’s classic Corvettes. These are Andrew’s neighbours and they are mostly crazy and hopefully drunk enough to sacrifice their vehicles.

This plan is this: we need six to eight of the party goers to get their cameras rolling from all different angles of the property. I am going to climb on top of the roof of the dock house, run across the span of it and jump off. Bob will be hovering in his helicopter just close enough so I can latch onto the landing gear. Running behind me will be Marty, who will also jump, but as the helicopter is starting to leave he only manages to reach my legs so there will be two of us hanging off the chopper. As Bob starts to spin it to try and shake us off I will pull Marty up with one hand and swing him into the cockpit where he will punch Bob in the face then fling him out into the water then take over the controls. As all of this is happening, Magnus and William will come speeding down the yard in a red Corvette, spinning grass and dirt everywhere, and in hot pursuit will be Leif and Stella in the yellow Corvette, which will be on fire. Magnus and William will hit the shoreline retaining wall at full speed and launch the car into the air, probably doing a high five or saying something clever as they are at maximum altitude, then they will land right onto the dock and come to a screeching halt just before it reaches the end. Stella and Leif in pursuit will also launch off the retaining wall but they will both jump out of the sunroof and latch onto the helicopter landing gear with me as the flaming car explodes in mid-air then crashes into the lake and sinks. Then we’ll all climb into the helicopter cockpit and fly off into the distance.

The whole plan falls apart when I’m unable to climb onto the dock house roof. I even have Marty boosting me but there’s nothing to grab and anyways I’m already tired. Bob, however, does get the chopper and lands it on Andrew’s lawn. Then he offers to take me for a ride so I jump in and get a glorious tour of Howe Island from the sky. And yes, as I was climbing into the cockpit somebody did say, “Get to the choppah!”

The shenanigans continue until late into the night. Bob and Daryl have struck up an intense bromance and as they are standing on the swim platform of SeaLight, having a smoke and a vape, the few of us remaining in the cockpit are watching as they slowly inch closer to each other then we see their pinkies touch and curl. It is a magic moment. Daryl then offers to give Bob a dinghy ride back to his place and they take off. We hear the dinghy engine stop. Then a long silence.

“Do you think they’re okay?” Lydia asks.

“Oh yeah, they’ll be fine. Daryl’s one eye was still partially open and Bob only had 27 beers, and Coors Light at that,” I reply.

“They seem to be getting along very well,” Lydia says as she tops up her wine. “Can you see them over there?”

I step off the boat onto the dock and look over to Bob’s place.

“Well, I can see two men making passionate love on Bob’s dock, but I’m pretty sure it’s not them.”

“Ok, that’s good. Another beer?”

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

July 21, 2023 – Wanna See My Big Dock?

In the frenzy to exterminate mozzies last night we forgot to stow away the pool floaties and lost four of them when a storm passed through in the middle of the night. The weather today looks unsettled, but the trip to our friend Andrew’s place is not far, maybe two and a half hours.

After a big breakfast we have a swim in the lake then I make some calls to the insurance company. Fortunately, since the boat is still perfectly safe to operate there’s no need to get it hauled out and looked at right away – in fact, I was told this can wait until the fall then we can decide if an insurance clam is required after we’ve had a better look at it. I’m feeling a bit better about the situation today as the damage really doesn’t look too bad and I’m happy it’s not going to otherwise impact the trip.

We pull anchor around noon and power our way through the Thousand Islands with the incessant wind directly in our face yet again so still no sailing possible. Andrew is a long-time friend of ours and him and his partner Victoria are there to meet us when we pull up to his place north of Howe Island in the Bateau Channel, then we tie up at the recently extended dock. You see, last year when we docked here we touched a rock on the way in, despite Andrew having had the bottom recently dredged (he knows we prefer our slips freshly dredged). Andrew cannot stand for that, so he ordered up another 36 feet of concrete dock for this season, hoping to avoid such future embarrassment when we come to visit. Well, this time we came in on the undredged side of the dock in the hopes that we’d strike something with the keel and he’d be obliged to tack on another 36 feet for next season, but alas, we floated clear and he was overjoyed. So now I fear that the burgeoning land bridge from Andrew’s to Howe Island might never become a reality.

After a round of hugs and a quick tour of the massive dock house extension project, we head up to the house for drinks and laundry. Andrew once again offered us the “Diamond Docking Package”, which is all inclusive and a fantastic bargain at the low, low cost of free. He and Victoria are always getting new and interesting consumer items so quite often we’ll grab a few things we like and shove them in our bags, which we assume to be included in the package (I see Ana eyeing up a cupboard filled with new Yeti cups). The highlight of our yearly visit here for me is to check out the new toilet tech. After being completely awestruck by the high end Japanese super toilet he installed in the master bathroom last year, I’m thrilled to see he’s purchased upgraded models for all the rest of their washrooms so his yearly guests can also enjoy a luxury crapper. Actually, they kept a standard toilet in the half-bathroom off the kitchen, which was a stroke of genius. Turns out, fancy super Japanese toilets don’t work without power so during a recent black-out they had a manual flush to revert to when the automatically opening toilet lids refused to budge.

Around 8:30 Andrew and Stella take off in his truck to pick up Magnus, who is on the train from Brantford to join us for the weekend. Ana and I have a great visit with Victoria while they are gone and catch up on all the news. They return with Magnus and he’s all smiles – it’s so great to have him here. We stay up chatting for a while then Ana and I retire to the boat while the kids stay in the house in the luxury bedrooms that have already been made up for them.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day.

July 20, 2023 – Boldt Castle, Alexandria Bay, Sailboat Meets Rock

I am up at 6 and crank out a few pages of journaling then give the boat a good washing. By 8:30 the dock lines are free and we are on our way east to Boldt Castle. This hadn’t been part of the original itinerary but we were strangely running a little ahead of schedule so we decided to push ahead. We’d last visited here about five years ago and were simply astonished at what we found. Today, it feels just as exciting and new and we explore the grounds and castle from top to bottom. Mom loves it. And because we arrived here early we were first in and the crowds really didn’t become unbearable until we were on our way out.

We motor from the Boldt Castle docks over to Alexandria Bay, the main US Thousand Islands party town. We pull the sailboat up to the free 4-hour public docks and are the only sailboat there, and possibly in the entire town. This is powerboat central, complete with bikini girls, jacked-up muscle dudes, overpowered pontoon boats, and coolers full of Coors Light. I join the girls for a walk down the main street of shops but my infinitesimally small reservoir of shopping stamina flames out almost immediately and I head back to the boat to construct tuna sandwiches to the sweet sounds of death metal.

When the girls return it’s time to cross the border back into Canada. This is as far east as we will go on this trip and we are 180 nautical miles in a straight line away from our home marina. Go west, young man.

As we wind and twist our way through channels and around islands back into Rockport, Ontario, I am filled with dread. Well maybe not dread, but last year checking back into Canada on our boat trip was a royal pain in the ass. And we are not disappointed this year. We get tied up at Huck’s Marine and while I am getting a diesel fill and pump out, Ana calls into border services. She is on hold for nearly an hour when what sounds like a 16 year old flunkie finally takes her call. He asks the basic info – passengers, passport numbers, where we visited, and thirty other unnecessary questions. Then he asks what we bought. She gives him the consolidated total for the four of us.

“But what exactly did you buy?” he asks.

“Some clothing, groceries, some alcohol, a few other things.”

“How many dollars worth of merchandise are you, just you, bringing back?”

Ana throws him a number. I write it down and do some quick math to make sure our four individual totals will add up.

“Give me a listing of what you bought.”

“What? Really?” Ana says exasperated. “Well, I bought a very nice bracelet for $13, not too flashy, but with a touch of class. And I bought a silver ring, which was also $13 dollars, and the vendor says it’s real and I think it is actually real, but it’s hard to be sure. My mom – she’s Portuguese – showed me this trick to know if something is real silver so I’ll do that when we get home. In any case, the ring goes very well with the bracelet, not to mention the dress I bought here too, which was $47 and is very nice. Short sleeves, long at the leg, quite modest with just a hint of cleavage. Oh, I found some amazing shoes at a consignment store in Rochester, really stunning. Not sure if you’ve seen this style but they have a…”

“OK, that’s enough. Tell me about the alcohol you bought and who bought it.”

This stupidity goes on and on for a very long time and our beautiful afternoon is slowly evaporating. The only thing he doesn’t ask about is if we are carrying any weapons, undocumented migrants, explosives, or drugs (all the things you’d think they should care about). Everybody that travels these lakes by boat knows there is no goddamn way that anybody from Canadian Border Services is coming down to check you, as there’s probably a grand total of five of them covering all the boats coming into the country. Plus many boaters have Nexus so if they do get caught bringing over illegal stuff they are royally screwed so most are generally very cautious.

The Customs Kid finally clears us and gives Ana a confirmation number then we blast out of the marina and head for the Navy Islands to find an anchorage for the evening. We bitch for a while about the shitty system Canada has for clearing boaters, when our best friends to the south have a perfectly good app they’d probably give us for free.

The ride through the islands is beautiful and peaceful until it is not. As I am maneuvering through a tight channel with strong currents there is suddenly an explosive bang and the 20,000 boat surges out of the water up and to the left then crashes back down. We have just struck a giant rock moving at 5 knots. Stella’s water goes flying. Stuff gets toppled everywhere. Mom nearly gets flung off the front of the boat where she was relaxing. Ana screams. Once I regain my footing I pull back on the throttle and let the boat coast. I test the steering, and it seems to be working so perhaps the rudder is not damaged. There is something floating in the water behind us, but we can’t tell what it is. Ana goes down below to check for water ingress. Looks like the hull is fine and not taking on any water. Stuff in the cabins is all tossed around and our water dispenser base has popped its screws and is lying on the counter. Most of the eggs have broken and there’s a pool of yolk on the counter. I get the boat back underway as Ana cleans up down below.

I am rattled.

Remember I wrote earlier how we like to keep the disasters fresh? No matter how much experience I get as a boater, and how many mistakes I make and learn from, the potential for disaster is simply always there. As I’m piloting the boat I think, how the hell did I hit that rock?? What could I have done differently? Well, I should have reduced speed when I saw the difficult turns required in the channel. Maybe I should have tried to find a different route. Maybe I should have had a spotter on the front of the boat. Maybe I was in too much of a rush. Maybe I should have calibrated my charts and GPS better. These thoughts rocket through my head and I feel sick to my stomach as I imagine the potential damage to the keel bolts and fiberglass. Fuck.

We finally get to the Navy Islands and it takes a long time to find a spot to anchor. I am indecisive, uncertain, and keep second guessing myself. Ana and I talk it through and we find a good anchorage, get the hook set in deep, turn off the boat, and finally have a chance to stop and reset. We all jump in the water for a swim, and at nearly 27 degrees it feels amazing. I do a bit of snorkeling while the ladies float on pool noodles then we assemble back at the boat and put together a delicious dinner of grilled steak, roast potatoes with basil and cilantro, tomato salad, garlic bread, and we feast. But as we are feasting we realize we’ve taken a bit too long to prepare dinner and a frenzy of ravenous and determined mosquitos are feasting on us. We close up all the canvas and the boat windows and retire to the cabin, but they’ve infiltrated the inside too and we swat endlessly as we eat.

Mom and Stella go to their cabins to do war with the mozzies while Ana and I stay up for another hour turning over every hiding place in the boat, capturing the blood filled buggers with paper towels.

It’s time to put the wraps on this day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

July 19, 2023 – A Thousand Islands

“Wake up, need your help with a freighter.”

There’s nothing that wakes you up faster than the word “freighter” on an overnight sailing run. I throw my clothes on and climb up into the cockpit. Ahead of us some distance are three giant lights, a high white, a lower white, and a green and these belong to a large ship. The problem is, the light configuration I’m seeing does not make any sense. If the ship were coming directly towards us, we should be seeing red and green lights. If he were going away from us, we should be seeing just white lights. But the combination of green and white tell us nothing about what this ship is or where it’s going, but we do know it is huge. We try altering course first to starboard, then after a while we swing back to port, but it seems like the ship is just sitting there. We slow right down and wait. All of a sudden the ship takes off towards shore, thankfully away from us, and his lights still don’t make sense so I don’t know what the hell it was. But Ana did the right thing by slowing down and gathering the crew for a second opinion.

For the first time in the trip, we had been able to get the cloth out and do some sailing. Actually, motor sailing as the wind was coming from 30 degrees so not giving us much power with just the jib sail so we ran the engine too, which sort of defeats the purpose of nice quiet lake sailing, but when you have to get somewhere that’s just what you do. It lasted for about two hours then the wind shifted northward in our face and we were back to motoring.

Around 2am or so the girls went to bed and Mom joined me in the cockpit. When she came out she was shocked to see me hanging off the back of the boat in the dinghy with a lifejacket on. I had decided to get in there to ensure the motor was securely attached as the wind was strong, the waves were choppy, and the towed dinghy was getting pretty beaten up. She thought there was a major emergency operation underway, but I soon jumped back in the cockpit and everything was as normal as I could be.

Mom and I chat about so many different things as we sit in the cockpit experiencing Lake Ontario at night, the first time for her, and the most recent of many for me, but always mesmerizing. The new moon renders the water black and invisible. The strong winds pummel the boat and she creaks and whines as she rolls back and forth chaotically, threatening danger, but we are safe. Time drags on stubbornly when you think about it but moves rapidly when your mind is elsewhere. I am glad Mom gets to experience this. As dawn approaches I am having a tough time keeping my eyes open so Mom offers to stand watch solo while I cat nap. I doze for about an hour and when I awake Mom has been busy taking photos of the sunrise as we glide off Lake Ontario and into the St. Lawrence seaway and its  Thousand Islands.

Mom heads down for a nap and Ana wakes up shortly after that and joins me in the cockpit. We are now in northern shield land with a landscape of pine trees, rocks, shale, and islands everywhere. By 9am we are tied up at the public dock in Clayton, New York and it is a beautiful summer morning. I immediately crash and sleep for two hours while the ladies get up, get showered, and get ready for the day.

Clayton is excellent as always. The girls go wild exploring the many shops and I even pick up a couple of purchases at the hardware store – a multi-coloured ski rope to rebuild the towing harness for my dinghy, and a pack of Wrigley’s gum, a stick of which I offer to Stella and am rewarded with a suspicious look then, “Dad, I know it’s a trap.”

See what happens when I try to do something nice? I have no idea how she even knows about those old school finger snapping gum traps. Probably saw it on TikTok.

There’s a lovely line of about 20 multi-coloured Adirondack chairs on the Clayton waterfront so we each take a seat and enjoy the scene around us – power boats zipping back and forth, runners on the waterfront path, tourists walking by with bags, local kids jumping into the water off the breakwall. Clayton has by far the nicest waterfront of all the towns in the Thousand Islands.

We decide to stop for lunch at the Hops Spot and I start with a delicious craft beer, then the food comes shortly after that. As we are eating my mom mentions this popular radio jockey from my youth in Saskatoon, whose name is Brent Loucks. He’s the guy you hear on the Princess Margaret Home Lottery radio commercials in Ontario. My mom works for a home lottery organization in Saskatoon and runs into him frequently.

“Mom, I gotta tell you something about Brent Loucks.”

“OK, what is it?” she asks, curious.

“Do you remember the Face Song?”

“The Face Song? Nope. What is it?”

“Well, when I was a kid he used to play this song on the radio for a joke. And that goddamn song’s been stuck in my head since then. That’s 40 years. Quite the earworm. You want to hear it?”


I begin my awful singing.

“Scrub your hands (scrub your hands), wash your face (wash your face), comb your hair (comb your hair), before you get up each morning, every day! Do doo da do doot doot da doo.

Your hands are sure to shake hands with someone who’s hands are sure to be clean. Your hair is where your face begins and your face is the very first place to be seen.

Scrub your hands (scrub your hands), wash your face (wash your face), comb your hair (comb your hair), before you get up each morning, every day!”

Ana looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. Stella is clearly embarrassed. Mom is flabbergasted.

“That song’s been stuck in your head for 40 years??” Mom asks incredulously.

“Uh huh.”

“How often do you think about it?”

“A few times a week. Oh, there’s another one rattling around up there in my brain too, a jingle about the Saskatoon Transit System. Take a bus, take a bus. Yes, I’ll take the bus! Take an STS, it will get you there. Doot doo doo doo doo, doo, doot, doo, doo, doo doo.”

“I think there might be something wrong with you,” Mom says. Both Ana and Stella nod in agreement.

“No shit.”

Ana gets word that Daryl and Lydia are on their way in so we head back to the boat and give them a hand with their dock lines. We have a visit and hear of their morning run from Little Sodus Bay, which was excellent. They take off for a walk through Clayton while Ana and Stella chill on the boat for a while and Mom and I take the dinghy for a ride to a nearby island for a swim, a cigar, and a beer – glorious! Once back, Stella and I jump in the dinghy and go for a high speed ride down the waterfront and beneath some low bridges. She is a speed demon.

We all meet up back in Sealight’s cockpit for evening pretzels and dip that Lydia brings over. As we are chatting Daryl notices the new towing line I had purchased.

“Where’d you get that Jamaican line?”

“In town today. Needed a better towing harness,” I say, then add, “Why Jamaica line?”

“It’s got the colours of the Jamaican flag. We have one exactly like it, bought it years ago,” Daryl says, then stops for a moment, points at me and says, “You copied me!”

I guess he’s been reading my blogs.

Monday, July 24, 2023

July 18, 2023 – Little Sodus Bay

The alarm goes off at 3 am. Before opening my eyes I hear heavy rainfall and strong winds rocking the boat. At first I think I’m dreaming as the forecast last night showed no rain, but when I’m fully awake I grab Ana’s phone and check the weather radar to find a small system just passing by us by. By the time Ana and I have prepped the inside of the boat the rain has passed so we get the rest of the departing checklist items done and ready to push off. Ana gives the stern of the boat a shove as I start to reverse, but I have to abandon the procedure when I notice she hasn’t fully made it back on the boat and is hanging by the lifelines ready to drop into the lake. Now Ana’s fallen off the boat in the past while docking, but it’s funny she’s doing it today as she prefers to have a crowd of bystanders to give them a good story. Maybe she’s just practicing for a spectacular mishap on a future docking.

She manages to pull herself back onto the boat before I can get to her to help and then we are on our way. We glide out of the channel and are soon on the lake in a world of black cut by hundreds of sparkling shore lights. There is a slight east wind, in our face, so this is going to again be a power boat ride.

The 6 hour run is effortless and as we are turning into the channel leading into Little Sodus Bay we pass a long barge with a loader scooping up huge buckets full of mud and rock from the lake floor. I am watching depth and charts closely as we move into the bay as it gets quite shallow on the west side. The bay is approximately 2 miles long by a half mile wide and is pretty and quiet. Bayfront cottages and houses populate the shoreline and there are several perfectly protected anchorages here. We travel to the far south end of the bay where the town of Fair Haven is located and pick up one of the available mooring balls, which takes a bit more effort than anticipated, then after doing a bit of research conclude that these moorings are private so we unhook and anchor a short distance away. We all load into the dinghy, motor into the public dock and tie up then start walking.

We find a typical, cute, American summer town with gift shops, coffee shops, a tackle store, a few restaurants and the all-encompassing gas station/grocery store/pizza place/caterer/hardware store which seems to be endemic in these parts. We swing in the playground, browse the gift shops, have a coffee, visit the gas station, and the only real event of note is that at 11am then again at 12 an ear-splitting emergency siren screeches out from the array of sirens mounted atop the fire station. It is so loud that we have to cover our ears. Based on two data points, it would seem this is the town chime at the top of the hour. After the second one we ask a clerk at one of the gift shops of the nature of this siren.

“It’s a call out to the volunteer firefighters. Something bad must have happened,” she says.

“Does something bad happen here at the exact top of every hour?” I ask.

“Nope,” she replies. “Just a coincidence. But it does go off fairly regularly. All the small towns around here have them. In fact my grandfather’s house burned down last week in the small town where I live. The alarm went off for that one.”

Our last stop before returning to the boat is the Fly By Night Cooking Company, a local sweetery, ironically named as we are told it’s been around for decades and the founder had just recently just passed away. In addition to the dozens of jars holding a huge variety of freshly baked cookies is a miniature museum with those tiny houses, tiny people, and tiny everything. It’s kitschy, cool, and Insta-worthy so we take a few photos and buy some cookies before returning to the boat.

The rest of the afternoon is spent chilling out – Stella and I do a circuit of the bay in the dinghy, I go for a swim, some naps are had, we play cards, we sit at the bow of the boat watching the fish surfacing for flies. It’s relaxing, peaceful, and possibly what one may expect of a sailing vacation, however these low action days are truly few and far between, so we enjoy it.

After a nice dinner of refried leftover shepherd’s pie (which could now be better described as a shepherd’s crumble), and some pan tossed broccoli and beans, Daryl and Lydia stop by for drinks and a chat. They arrived earlier in the afternoon and discovered that practically everything in Fair Haven closes at 2pm and the restaurants are mostly closed until Thursday. But they did find one open and had a decent meal.

Tonight’s plan is to do an 11 hour overnight sail to Clayton, New York, so shortly after 9pm we pull anchor and head back up the bay, giving Daryl and Lydia and their dinghy a ride up to their marina and brief night sailing experience. They have been exploring the idea of moving from power to sail as bankrupting themselves every time they have to fill up with gas, not to mention polluting the earth is becoming tiresome for them. But then a largish, modern sailboat these day is going for two hundred grand so it’s not an easy decision. Their plan was to do a slow overnight run with us pretending their power boat is a sailboat but there’s two big problems with doing that today. First, Daryl has a (ugh..) work meeting in the morning he needs to dial into so good internet is required, which you won’t get on the lake. Second, when you have a powerboat capable of doing 22 knots, slowly trawling along at 7 knots is psychologically impossible. It just can’t be done. And let’s face it – power boaters like going fast. They boat fast, they drive fast, they eat fast, they drink fast, they probably have sex fast too because they just can’t wait to get out on the water and up on plane. The only thing they don’t do fast is walking. They prefer not to walk at all because it is not motorized, so you are more likely to find them racing around on an atv, a motorbike, a side by side, a Hummer, an electric scooter, or a high tech jet pack. That’s just the way they roll.

As the hour of 11pm arrives we find ourselves far out into the lake with winds twice as strong as forecasted, miraculously coming from the north at 45 degrees to the boat so we are finally able to roll out the jib, winch it in tight, and do some sailing. Mom and I leave Ana and Stella in the cockpit as we are on second shift so it’s time to get a bit of sleep.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

July 17, 2023 – A Magnificent Waterfall, Storming the Spirit of Rochester, and Line Tossing

As I’m sitting in the cockpit eating a bowl of cereal and peanut butter toast I think to myself, it’s our last day in Rochester, need to make this one count. As if on queue, I hear this chugging noise and a gigantic freighter appears in the channel, practically blocking out all light. I call Mom up from the cabin so she can see it, and she’s shocked and thrilled at the size of it.

Today, we decide to split up, Scooby-Doo style. And I present Stella with a choice.

“What’s it going to be my dear, boring shopping with the ladies or awesome adventure with the dudes?” I ask her, trying to represent each option fairly.

“Hmmmm, I don’t know. Let me think about,” she says.

“Well we’re leaving in five minutes so you better make it fast.”

30 minutes later I find her in her cabin lying on her side with her phone attached to her face.

“Hey, what the hell? Are you coming?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“We’re leaving. And you don’t want to do boring shopping.”

She sits up, looks at me and says, “I have decided I will go with the boys.”


Stella and I take off in our dinghy and Daryl leaves in his as the ladies wander off to explore the nearby shops. We ignore the no wake signs and take off at full speed up the channel, beneath the lift bridge, past Hillbilly Harbor, and up to the abandoned Spirit of Rochester vessel which, as you may remember from last year, Daryl had partially infiltrated but our crusading party was held back by the sensibilities of the ladyfolk and the limitation that a member of the party was one year old and unable to walk. We had a quick look at the ship and decided we’d get back to that mission later. The immediate goal was to see how far up the Genessee River we could go with the dinghies.

The ride is exhilarating as we speed up the river, with high forested banks on both sides, punctuated intermittently by cliffs of shale rock. We see a pair of herons, pass beneath several industrial revolution era iron bridges, find a concrete spillway with water streaming down, and yet do not see a single other person. We travel for several miles then notice a fine mist in the distance. Rapids maybe?

We find a small beach and park the dinghies there, tying them to rocks, then scramble up the hill and find a rough path through the woods. We follow this for a short ways and it leads us back to the river, from where we can now see the source of the mist – a huge waterfall! Beside it, high up, is an old power station, or perhaps it’s still in operation as there are a few white work trucks parked beside it. We walk carefully across the rocks to get a close look, and the closer we get, the more slippery are the rocks, until we are finally as far as we can go and we stop to take in the remarkable scene. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but certainly not this. The mist is soaking our hair, our faces, and our clothes as we taken in the scenery. The waterfall is surrounded by a circular canyon and part of this canyon breaks down into a giant cave. We climb the rocks and walk into the cave which is damp, dark, and foreboding. We walk to the end and find a giant circular hole in the cavern roof where water is spilling down and pooling. Stella seems to be as impressed as Daryl and I and asks me to take three hundred pictures of her, which I obediently do.

We return to the dinghies, crack open a cold drink, and take a little rest before continuing back. Soon, we reach the Spirit of Rochester, and this time we mean business.

We tie the dinghies up just beneath the “Private Property – Entrance Forbidden” sign and Daryl and I penetrate the ship. Stella chooses to stay back, but soon she reconsiders and climbs the ship to join us, as she’s a rebel at heart.

The ship is creepy as hell. It used to be a cruising, party boat but has been abandoned for at least 20 years and is a ghost ship, haunted by its glorious past, now just a shell of a boat. There is junk lying everywhere – paper files, flotation devices, hunks of steel, blankets, oil containers, bus bins, racks, chunks of ceiling tile, and terrifying graffiti spray painted on the walls. We explore the first level, dodging flying birds that have made this their home. One of the cabins has a bare wooden table with the word “RAPE” spray painted above it. The graffiti on the galley refrigerator reads, “TODAY IS A NEW START TO LIFE” then beyond that images of skulls and hearts on the walls. We climb the stairs to the second level, sealed by a door. The door does not open easily and a rope hangs from the knob on the other side. Is it booby trapped? We push it and it opens, no explosion and no poison darts shot our way. Moldy life jackets, busted up chairs, and broken glass litter the floor. We go up one more level and find the helm, with pieces of radar equipment and electronics still there. The wheel is gone, as is the compass, but a telephone directory from 1998 lies on the desk.

Returning to the first level, Daryl finds a door that opens to a staircase leading downward. The engine room. Stella doesn’t want us to go, but how can we not? She knows the basement is where most people get axed in horror movies. It is surprisingly untouched. The diesel engines remain and even an inventory of spare parts. There is no graffiti or garbage here. Just abandoned. Forever.

We leave the ship, careful not to be seen by the pontoon boat that passes by. Back on the dinghies, we untie and take off. Mission accomplished.

The ladies are back at the boats and they proudly display their purchases. They’ve had a good morning but we are ready for the beach as it’s a hot and sunny day (I realized earlier why the weather is so perfect today…it’s a back to work Monday! But at least for these two weeks we are cheating the system.) We dinghy over to Ontario Beach Park and take Mom for a ride on the beautifully renovate carousel located there, then wander down to the beach and get our towels laid out. Stella and I approach the water for a swim but find five feet of thick green algae lapping at the shoreline and she immediately backs away. I walk down the beach a bit further and see no algae so walk into the water which is extremely shallow and smells bad. So bad that I just quickly dip my body in but keep my head and face dry so as not to infect my eyeballs.

Daryl has brought along his metal detector, on Ana’s request, and she takes up some beach scavenging with great joy. Finding valuable beach treasures by way of metal detecting is the cornerstone of Ana’s retirement plan, despite her never having used a metal detector before, so I am really hoping this works out. She returns after half an hour with a diamond studded miniature gun, a scrap of aluminum, a steel nut, and some metallic rocks. An excellent start, but she has some way to go in achieve massive passive cashflow from her new hobby.

We ditch the working class beach and retire to the exclusive yacht club pool which we have to ourselves since nobody goes to the yacht club on Mondays. We take advantage of this and plunder the pool noodle inventory which provides each of us with 12 noodles each and full floatation.

After a lovely dinner of Lydia’s fresh squash pasta and Mom’s shepherd’s pie, we move onto Boater Olympics, focusing on the line throwing event. This is where we get out a bunch of rope and practice coiling it then launching it at an imaginary dock hand. Many boaters don’t have a clue how to toss a line and they will come into dock and hurl a big twisted and messy rats nest of a rope to the dockhand standing two feet away but it will just drop straight into the water then get sucked into the prop and whamo, there’s another four thousand dollar repair job.

Everybody does well with the drill and before long the lines are being flung out 30 feet, straight and true. We also practice lassoing dock cleats, as this is sometimes necessary when there is no dock hand and you’re not able to get from your boat to the dock to cleat down the line. We try two different techniques for this with some success.

The rest of the evening is consumed by laundry, a pump out, boat cleanup, and preparation for tomorrow’s early morning departure for Little Sodus Bay.

July 16, 2023 – Christmas Morning in Rochester

Waking up at the Rochester Yacht Club is heavenly. It’s become one of our favourite places on the lake. Nice people, great hospitality, lovely pool, restaurant and bar, clean shower rooms, laundry, and access to all sorts of cool stuff to do. Which, today, looks like it will include shopping.

The ladies are riding the slow moving morning train and it’s not until after 11 that we’re walking out of the club to be collected by the Uber driver. He takes us to the nearest TJ Maxx outlet that Ana could find, in Irondequoit, and it takes so long to get there I feel like we’ve driven to Albany. I truly do not enjoy shopping, but to be fair I was given the option to stay at the boat. I decide to join them but bring the laptop so I can sequester myself in a book store or coffee shop while they pursue bargains.

The ladies hit the Maxx and I get settled into a nice table at the Barnes & Noble bookstore after a quick stop at Dick’s Sporting Goods to pick up two new masks, and at Target to check out a smart tv to replace the junky dumb one in Mom’s cabin that emits this unnatural blue glow. Before getting to writing I browse the magazine section and find an impressive selection for the anti-modern, freedom-loving, conspiracy-saddled, man’s man. Gun magazines are prominent but a special edition on assault rifles really catches my eye. But what to do with the guns? No problem, there’re magazines that offer detailed instructions for killing all sorts of things – elk, deer, humans, the government. I browsed some prepper magazines too and learned how to make pond water safe to drink in the event of world catastrophe, how to reload my spent ammo, how to make traps to catch edible animals, and some tips on outing traitorous liberals that survived the global holocaust and are trying to fit in with the rest of us patriots. Right beside that section is a small area of adult mags and I find an actual Penthouse that I desperately wanted to flip through but it’s bound in plastic, obviously to deter perved, cheap browsers who would never actually shell out cash for one. The only magazine that’s not sealed is one with a buff dude on the front wearing a red bikini stuffed beyond capacity, but I don’t pick that one up thinking it probably won’t align with my own personal preferences. So I move to the next section and find some cool mags on hot rods, outlaw bikers, bitchin old Corvettes, then a whole bunch on commando shit like fighter aircrafts, battle tanks, military tactics, modern warfare, soldier of fortune, which are all really fantastic, but the one that really stands out has a picture of Hitler on the front surrounded by his Nazi captains, in a V-formation sort of like those early Janet Jackson music videos. This one, I pick up. The first page has a giant swastika as does the back cover. Inside are a series of articles on Hitler and his amazing troupe of psychopaths, written in the most flattering terms. I flip through the pages, mesmerized, and shocked that a regular bookstore would actually sell garbage like this. Or maybe it was planted by the FBI so they could start tracking any lunatic that buys it. I put the magazine back, go to the bathroom to wash my hands, then get a nice decaf coffee and do some journaling.

The girls arrive sometime later with their treasures. Ana is so excited by her bargain conquests she starts pulling out toiletry items one by one to show me. Halfway through she pauses and says, “You probably don’t care about the toiletries I bought, right?”

“Right. I mean no, I do care. I care a lot. Very exciting.”

I am nothing if not a supportive husband.

We get word that Daryl and Lydia have arrived by Uber and Daryl decides to meet us for lunch at the Five Guys burger restaurant while Lydia does power shopping. This is nice because it gives Mom a chance to experience an essential part of boat vacations – walking across a hot parking lot dodging drivers bewildered by people actually walking. The only missing component is I’m usually carrying flats of beer on my shoulders while Ana is saddled with bags of groceries, but today we are relatively light (so far).

The burgers are delicious and the small fries Ana orders comes in a big brown shopping bag. In the bag is a large container full of fries then two more container loads dumped loose on top of those, enough to feed a largish wedding party.  We are all full after eating our burgers and the single container of fries, but I start picking away at the loose fries, swiping them through the little bowls of ketchup.

“Are you seriously going to keep going on those?” Ana asks me.

“I can’t think of any reason to stop,” I reply, licking my fingers.

We meet up with Lydia at the Target and I excitedly showed Ana the two 32” smart tv’s they have in stock. Along the way as I was telling the gang about the tvs, Daryl had said, “Not that I’m trying to copy you, but I was thinking of replacing the tv in our boat too.” But he is copying me. They have quite a history of copycatting and I’ll give you a few examples. Last year we bought a wicked skull bag at TJ Maxx, they bought the same skull bag. I picked up a great deal on a hundred-foot fluorescent green extension cord at Great Deals in Stoney Creek, they bought the same one. Ana bought a green soft-sided mini cooler, Lydia bought the same one, but in a better colour. I got my hair cut, Daryl got his cut. One time I clipped my toenails, then I saw Daryl cutting his only hours afterwards. Then there’s the whole Yuengling beer thing, total copycat. To be fair though, I will admit I’ve stolen more than a few of their ideas too…

By the time we are done shopping it looks like Christmas morning in Rochester so I have the gang assemble for a group photo of our retail trophies. Then it’s back to the marina for an afternoon of television installation, pool swims, and finding  space on the boat to jam in all the new stuff. I also decide to do a little experiment with Stella. She’s a teenager and all teenagers are addicted to heroin, sorry, I mean their phones, but the addiction is the same. Right next to where our boat is parked is an electric crane used for launching small boats. Daryl and I are standing with Stella when I point into the channel and say, “Hey, look at that rabbit over there!” As she looks over trying to first find the rabbit, then dealing with the mental confusion on how exactly a rabbit could be in the channel, I snatch her phone, tie it into the chain and rope hanging off the crane, then use the control mechanism to slowly raise it into the air. By the time Stella realizes she’s been had, the phone is already out of reach. Horrified, she begins leaping into the air, clawing at it, screaming wildly, “No Dad, nooooooo!!!” Daryl and I stand  by laughing cruelly as I raise it even higher into the air and her panic level rises right along with it.

“You’re never getting it back, ha ha ha!” I taunt.

“Or maybe it will drop and smash to pieces!” Daryl laughs.

“Please Dad, please! That phone means everything to me! My whole life is in there! It’s my reality! I can’t live without TicTok and Snapchat! How will I photograph myself 90 times per day and message my friends every 14 seconds? I can’t face a life with anxiety-free introspection, mental relaxation, interesting hobbies, and using my brain for creative thought. Dad, pleeeeeeaaase!!”

“OK, fine. But you have to give me a back scratch if I give it back.”

As I slowly lower the phone she does this amazing parkour leap off one of the dry docked boats, then bounds off a garbage bin then leaps from the top of a utility shed, all in slow motion, with this unforgettable gleeful look on her face as her fingers meet the phone and pull it from the crane’s wicked grasp. Then she disappears into her cabin and I don’t get my damn back scratch. I start thinking I might try the same trick with Ana’s phone, but she’d probably just punch me in the face, knock me unconscious then tie my foot into the crane and raise me up then beat me with a boat hook as she laughs uncontrollably then posts a video of the whole humiliating ordeal on Facebook. Too risky, I think, better just pick on Stella.

We all meet outside the boats for happy hour and to plan dinner. As we have a ton of leftovers we decide to eat that but Lydia has other plans. Here’re a few interesting facts on Lydia.

1. She is Chinese Malaysian

2. She loves all food, especially Chinese food

3. She eats five times more than anybody else, enjoys it twice as much, and stays slim and svelte, like a gazelle

Last year she found a Chinese restaurant called New East Star near the marina and loved it. So as we’re sitting at the picnic table she pulls up their online ordering app and we hear, “Ooh, the hand made noodles with beef, I’ll get that. And I’ll get the spring rolls and chicken balls. And I’ll get the steamed dumping. And I’ll get the hand made noodles with chicken, actually two of those. And I’ll get the wonton soup, and the egg drop soup and, oohh, I wonder what the house special soup is, I’ll get one of those too. And I’ll get the gang dang red curry beef. And I’ll get the moo shu shrimp. Oooh they have Mongolian beef, I’ll get two of those. And I’ll get the steamed tofu with mixed vegetables.”

Lydia then looks up at the rest of us, watching her, mesmerized, and says, “Hey, do you guys want any Chinese food?”