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.

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