It was a short sail from the Narrows to McPhee Bay. It was quiet there; we anchored off a sandy shore on a sunny day, the blue water calm, the boat swinging on the hook far enough away for us to enjoy our privacy but close enough to see the assortment of houses that fronted the beach. Our eyes were drawn to one big house which had what looked like the door of a large garage facing the water. Odd, we thought, until we watched the door lift, bend and roll inside and a plane emerge. It moved slowly down what we now realized was some kind of runway to the water and motored out onto the water. We watched it take off with a swish and a chatter of propeller blades, make a large circle overhead and fly off into the distance. But not for long – after what might have been long enough for a flight around the lake it was back and making a smooth landing. All, as far as we were concerned, for our entertainment.
We enjoyed a pleasant day and a quiet night. It was tempting to just sit there a while longer, but practical and necessary things intruded – we needed to pump out our head, and the results of putting that off would not be pretty. And we needed more gas for our engine, just in case we needed to use it, because our cruising time was limited and we had to get home by the weekend.
So it was time for another visit to a marina, this time by and of our own choice. Everything was new to us, so how to choose? The marina on the edge of the provincial park behind us was within easy reach, just across the bay – and the thought of being close to the trees and green of a park appealed to us. Besides, there should be showers there, something else we would appreciate after a week or so on a small boat. We upped anchor and motored across and into the channel in front of the marina. We saw the gas dock; the sign on it promised a free pump out with each fill-up of fuel. Unfortunately, that offer was not meant for such as we; our fuel needs were far too small. A sigh and a laugh and we decided that was fine – we stopped to pump out and get the fuel we needed and got a slip along the channel for the night.
We tied up, stepped off and meandered around the grounds. We found the showers, looked at the other boats, investigated the rest of the facilities, enjoyed the shade of the trees. It was Richard who later came upon an older man (well, a lot of people looked older to us then – now they mostly look younger) aboard an older McGregor, one from the times before water ballast when they looked and sailed more like our boat.
“Come and meet him,” Richard must have recognized a fellow spirit. Now he wanted us to spend time with him.
We wandered down the dock together and fell into an easy conversation, we standing on the path, he in his cockpit. He told us that he had been sailing here for years and knew the lake well. We talked – about his boat and ours, about where to sail when the wind blew from the east and when it blew from the west, about nasty, choppy wind-driven waves, about places to stop and finally about the mosquitoes which came out in the evening. Dusk was rapidly approaching when we thanked him for his stories and advice and tried to get back to the boat ahead of those mosquitoes. We almost succeeded. We slapped at a whining few as we went into the cabin and locked up tight until the next morning.
It came with good winds from the east, and we set off down the east side of the lake toward home. In my memory, the sun shone and the water sparkled and we sailed past places we had never seen before, at least not from the water. We dropped our anchor late that afternoon off Snake Island, and as we listened to the water lap restlessly against the hull we talked about tales we had been told of people rapping on anchored sailboats. Only the water rapped on our hull. We saw no sign of boats or people, just green trees in the fading daylight and a scattered light or two among them at night. That night we enjoyed our last little bit of solitude, the stars bright above us, before we sailed back to Cook’s Bay.
After we pulled our anchor up early the next morning the weather and the lake were kind to us again. Perhaps too kind. We turned back into the marina and headed for our home dock feeling that strange mixture of reluctance and happiness we would become familiar with when we cruised farther and longer: reluctance to give up the days of sailing, the times of working together, the pleasures of being out on the water (and the challenges too); happiness because we had met the challenges, done what we wanted, arrived home safe and sun-kissed and were off home to be with our daughters again.
For the next few years we sailed the Nash hard and as fast as we could get her to go (which was not very fast). At one point Richard tried to get her to point better by tightening the shrouds a little too far, and we had to fix her crumpled cabin side. We tried racing her against other sailboats on Cook’s Bay but rarely made it through the finish line before the marks were removed. When we decided to try living aboard for longer spells we knew it was time to say thank you for the adventures and goodbye. We began the search for another boat, a sturdier, faster boat.
We almost bought a Contessa 26 that lay in a slip behind ours, but bad timing and miscommunication defeated that plan. Instead, we bought a Tanzer 7.5, fixed the Nash up one last time, cleaned her out and put her up for sale. She was a pretty little boat, with her shiny red hull and light grey nonskid on her deck. She sold quickly.
And by the following summer we were ready to begin the next chapter of our boat adventures.
Written by Margaret Mair