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.

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