Winter is upon us. Temperatures have dropped; this past week they hovered below zero, and then rose above again for a few days. The snow on the docks and all around us in the park fell, melted and came back again. For a while the ice lay smooth on the water, and those among us who love hockey and skating were beginning to create rinks to play on – at least until rising temperatures melted the ice away. Now even though its cold again the water is moving and what ice there is is broken.
Others (like us) have been running bubblers to create open water around their boats and are grateful for the days or nights they’re not needed. The days are short now, the solstice just past, and the sun, when we see it, hangs low in the sky. Any warmth is treasured.
As we walk toward the main gate in the mornings we hear sparrows chattering in the leafless trees and see them pause to perch on the wire of the fence before they swoop down under the concrete pad we walk on. In the morning we see geese and ducks gathered at the edge of ice, thick or thin, as close to open water as they can get. Several more swans have come to join the family who make their home here and some mornings we have seen them, bottoms up and heads underwater, feeding by the boat launch.
Most of the boats are hiding under their winter covers now, covers that keep the snow off their decks and add a little extra warmth on a sunny day. We have had days and nights when cold, blustery winds rock the boat – our cover gives us more shelter from them, too, and we’re glad we got it up in the calmer intervals we were granted this fall. At night Christmas lights twinkle under many, adding a little more cheer. Our own little lights are solar powered and a little anemic after grey, snowy days, but they give us pleasure.
During those blustery winds our stern rope somehow worked loose from its cleat on the boat. By chance we were not there when it happened, and it was a call from the marina (thank you, Michelle) that alerted us to the situation and sent Richard hurrying back. Worried about the time it would take to get there, he asked one of our friends to take a look at what was happening. She put a fender between our stern and the dock beside ours to prevent any damage from their meeting. They had become rather closer than they should have been! Thank you, Brenda.
When he did get there Richard retrieved our stern line from the water and put it on the dock. Then he had an interesting problem: how to get on to the covered boat to refasten it when our door was about three feet away from our dock. He has not learned how to walk on water…
Of course most of our tools, including our knife, were on the boat. In the end, reaching from the other dock, he used a key from his pocket to start and his fingers to enlarge a hole in the cover he had so carefully constructed, at the stern, and scrambled through it into the cockpit. Then he booted up the engine to get Into The Blue back to our dock (leading us, after it was all over, to contemplate another unexpected advantage of electric engines; they don’t need to be winterized and remain full functional no matter what the season).
Next problem: how to get the stern rope back into place without further disturbing the cover. Once the boat was back against our dock he ran a rope through the door to hold her there. Then he attached another rope to the stern cleat, and dropped the end of it into the water through the space for the original stern line where it floated behind the boat – out of reach.
To get it to the dock he cobbled together a piece of aluminum pipe we just happened to have on board and our already interesting, one-of-a-kind, created-on-the-fly boathook. Together they were long enough to reach the line if he lay on the dock. That line, once retrieved, he taped to and used to pull the stern line back to its cleat. After he re-fastened it he tied another smaller rope around both line and cleat. Just in case.
And all this while I waited and wondered what was happening, until finally the text arrived that let me know that all was well and things were back to normal. I did not get the full story until later, which was probably just as well. Better to picture that climb on board after I knew it had been successfully done.
There are, thankfully, other, gentler forms of excitement. The restaurant in the middle of the marina is busy with Christmas parties and other events, and will be until New Years. Cars arrive filled with decorations, others disgorge nicely dressed folk arriving for various festivities. The parking lot fills and empties, and if we are lucky we return from wherever we’ve been at one of those emptier times and find a good parking space close to the marina. If much snow falls there won’t be much choice about which part of the parking lot everyone uses, though. The snow gets plowed into the back section of the lot closest to the lake, making that part unusable.
Other people may shovel driveways and sidewalks. Here there are docks to shovel and ice forms around the boat if it is cold enough long enough. There is theory and there is practice, here as elsewhere. Everyone is supposed to shovel in front of their boats, but much of the time Richard, rising early, does at least one pass of the dock from our finger to the gate so that I can get from one to the other safely and comfortably. For which I am very grateful (and so, probably, are others). On the other hand others shovel while we are out and about, so it all tends to work out in the end.
On foggy fall and winter days the moisture hangs heavy in the air and the sunlight is filtered through a grey haze. Mist flows across the face of the bluffs and hides the houses that peer down from on top. On snowy days the air is filled with a whirl of flakes that dances in front of your eyes and makes your world feel a little bit smaller. Those days the cold, grey lake is hidden too, until the mist evaporates, the fog lifts or the snow stops and we can see the horizon again. But even when the sun shines, these days the water looks icy cold.
We would prefer less moisture, more evaporation. This year we have been watching how high the lake is and wondering about winter storms and the continuing erosion along the spit that protects the marina. The higher the water the higher the waves reach when they come – and we have already lost enough earth and trees. Once the road along it that now runs close to the lake’s edge was in the middle, but no more. If there was a reason to hope for cold and a freeze up along the St. Lawrence, this is it: once the ice has formed strongly more water can safely be allowed to flow out, Lake Ontario will be lower and lower water means less damage.
What the lake will do we can only wait and see. Nature follows her own bent, and we try to accommodate her whims.
Meantime – it’s snowing again, and it looks as if we’ll have a white Christmas here. Your celebrations and your weather may well be different – but whatever and wherever you celebrate, from both of us to all of you, may this be a time of celebration, of good fun and good memories.
Written by Margaret Mair
Photos, Margaret Mair