It’s Been a Long Winter…

Birds on the ice, sunrise; photo by M. Mair

Birds on the ice, as the sun rises. Photo by M. Mair

At first this post was going to be about the first months of this year. A simple post, an account of what life on board has been like. But more and more time has passed;  “life is what happens…” And so it has been. Happening, that is. As we hunkered down in our boat, listening to the wind rustle our cover, feeling the boat rock in gusts, hearing the occasional slip-slide of gathered snow, the drumming of rain, the trumpeting of the swans, life kept happening. We helped look after our grandsons, spent days with one or other or both when they were sick, visited and chatted with family and friends, worked on this boat we live on – and then, suddenly, unexpectedly and much too soon Richard’s brother died and life was emptier.

We drove down to be with family in Florida and stayed much too short a time – just time enough to be with family and friends and to join the celebrations of the life of a good, kind and open-hearted man much missed by all who love him. And then we were back home, missing him just as much here as we did there.

Looking out from the spit, photo by M. Mair

Looking out over the lake, from the spit. Photo by M. Mair

And still life continued and continues to happen. We have our daily routines, more or less. We have work to do on the boat, because there is always work that needs doing. We have changed the settee in our cabin yet again, trying a new way of creating a mould-defying distance between the cushions and the surface below them, and choosing cushions that are completely washable in any decent washing machine. We put in a new foot pump to replace the one that had decided to stop working (as in began to leak in an unfixable way), so that after weeks of making do with a water container designed for camping we can use the water from our tank again, and while we were about it we installed a new water filter.

Richard has done some work on a small soft patch on our deck. Actual finishing work and repainting is waiting for suitable weather, and that is taking its time getting here. Spring, when will you really come? And we’ve been taking a fresh look at paint for our cabin sides and the non-skid portion of our deck, as well as checking our options for replacing our cockpit lockers’ wooden inserts and for repainting our hull. Still more jobs are lurking in the wings.

We are looking at ways to re-make the bed in our vee-berth – again. Larger jobs are being discussed, though they will have to wait until we can spend a night or two (maybe more) off the boat, or until it is hauled. And of course, space being at a premium, as soon as it looks as if we will finally have warmer weather it will be time to unpack the summer clothes, pack away our bulky winter ones, and finally put away the winter boots we keep tripping over. Meantime some scrutiny has revealed shirts that have reached the point where some will become rags and others will become soft bags that are easy to store.

We will wait (impatiently) for better weather and warmer days; there is no other choice. In the meantime, here is a pictorial record of the past few months in this place we call home.

Frosty mist over open water, photo by M. Mair

The air was cold, and a frosty mist rose from the open water. Photo by M. Mair.

The winter was blustery and cold. January and February brought their share of snow and ice and east winds. The short days meant we were more likely to see the sunrise; on sunny days the light was clear and bright. On windy days the rocks by the water became coated with ice as the waves rushed up against them. The birds gathered in groups, as if seeking warmth in each others company.

Birds at the boat launch, photo by M. Mair

Birds at the boat launch – swans, geese, ducks. Photo by M. Mair

March teased us with warmer weather that suggested spring. The trees started to put on their spring green, especially the willows, and for a breath of time the grass was green. Ice and snow disappeared from the paths. And then the cold and wind came again and the grass turned brown. Since then it has felt as if winter and spring are slogging it out; first one wins, then the other. And yet…

Birds in the trees, photo by M. Mair

Birds in the trees, photo by M. Mair

The birds are nesting and courting, ignoring cold and wind, ice and rain. A cardinal flaunted his redness in a bare-branched tree. On one of our walks we glimpsed a red winged blackbird, just one.  We’ve seen robins, swallows and mourning doves strutting and calling and nesting, as well as ducks and geese courting. The swans seem to keep a more discreet distance.

Old growth and new, photo by M. Mair

Old growth and new, promise of spring; photo by M. Mair

A pair of geese have been trying to nest around the docks – so far we have seen them on the biminis of boats, on the docks, on the roof of a float home. Considering they will need easy access to the water for themselves and their goslings their liking for high spots seems a little off the mark. We did see them by the water in the park, but no doubt there are too many people for them there. Wait till they see all the boats at the docks in the summer!

A fat young raccoon slipped under the dock gate and walked uneasily in front of us one spring-like day, no doubt prospecting for food and a good place to live. Tonight we saw it again, on one of the boats with a currently absent owner. The deer are feeding on what forage they can find; we saw a doe with two fawns by the path up the hill and two adults grazing, mostly unnoticed, by one of the park roads. From time to time we’ve seen a mink’s paw marks, in snow on wintery days, wet on the docks when the temperatures are warmer.

Deer among the trees, photo by M. Mair

Deer among the trees (look closely, and you’ll see two). Photo by M. Mair

The water in the lake is high for this time of year. Until this last storm it was not disastrously high, though it was high enough for us to be keeping a watchful eye on it and to pay attention to any erosion whenever the wind picked  up. We keep hoping for less rain than we’ve been having and watching both the weather and the information shared by the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence Board. The Board has taken advantage of ice conditions on the St. Lawrence to let out as much water as they can this winter  and are forecasting lower levels than last year (please!) but they cannot control the weather. Oh how we have wanted the rain to go away, or at least fall more moderately…

Erosion, marina entrance, photo by M. Mair

Erosion by the marina entrance, photo by M. Mair

This past weekend was the ice/wind storm. For two days the wind blew hard; after the ice pellets and freezing rain came the rain. On Friday we did all our errands; on Saturday we hunkered down and waited. By Sunday evening we had been rocking and rolling for hours, our winter cover was moving in the gusts, and our cover door had blown open twice. At some point the upper panel in that door blew out. The second time it flew open we tied it shut. Sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning the power went out and we woke in the dark, slightly chilled. Richard put on coat and boots and went to pull out the generator and set it up so we could run our smallest electric heater; I wrapped the sleeping bag around me and checked what Toronto Hydro had to say on my phone. The ‘outage’ was all around us and rather large. By about eight the power was back on – thank you, Toronto Hydro workers and intrepid tree clearers – and we were heading out to face the day.

On our way up the dock we passed boats with covers that have been damaged or almost completely blown away. A dinghy had blown off the stern of a boat; a dock cleat was torn out. There was debris in the water, small branches and garbage. Our e-bike was on its side, its cover blown off. The water was high along the fixed docks.

Trees down on the Bluffs, photo by M. Mair

Trees down after the storm, photo by M. Mair

Since then we’ve begun to realise how much damage the storm has done. The waves carried debris from the lake side over to the dock side of the spit that protects the marina, and in some places it picked up small stones from an eroded area and deposited them higher on the land. More trees have lost the soil around them, and are falling into the lake. On the hillside there have been slides, including one where a large tree complete with its roots slid down and toppled some smaller ones. In places broken branches litter the ground. Up the hill we’ve heard about and seen trees that have fallen or have lost large branches. And that is just where we are.

Slips and slides, photo by M. Mair

Slips and slides, photo by M. Mair

And of course the lake is high; how could it not be, after all that rain?

What will the summer bring?


Text and photos, copyright Margaret Mair

About Margaret Mair

In love with the sensuousness of paint, intoxicated by the rhythm of words, entranced by the world of water, ever an observer and explorer.
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