Wednesday, July 26, 2023

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.

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