"Stoney Lake to Orillia" by Ed Aarntzen
Stoney Lake to Orillia by Ed Aarntzen
The 1999 Boat Trip
Port of Departure Stoney Lake
Destination Port of Orillia (Georgian Bay really but we never seem to make it)
Vessel 25' Doral Citation (never did name her)
Crew Lauren, Paul and Ed
Date July 3rd, 1999 - July 18th, 1999 (oh baby)
Ah, planning the boat trip. There is nothing like it. It all begins as soon as the summer ends from the previous year. You think about it, you work hard all year round just so you can have a few weeks off in the summer. It's all part of being Canadian, at least for many of us who have invested our lives in cottaging and boating. My kids, Lauren who is 14 and Paul who is 16, spend a lot of time and energy discussing this yearly ritual.
The Winter Boat Show
Like any other year it all starts with the winter boat show at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. That is where reality and the boat owner agree not to get in each other's way. You walk through those doors with a glimmer of hope that this year you will not only drool on the Carvers but actually walk away with one too. This year I spent many hours walking through the 32 and 35 foot beauties. When the sales person approached me on my 5th time through the 32' aft, I sat down with her and discussed the financing packages, my trade in options and how I was going to enjoy the coming summer on this lady of my dreams.
Of course, my kids were getting all excited because they too had left their understanding of reality in the car in the parking lot. This was going to be the year we do it, they were sure of it. We somehow managed to get off the boat and go to grab something to eat so we could discuss our options. After we ordered our food and paid $30 for a hotdog and a couple of sandwichesﾅ..Thirty dollars?? Reality started to set back in. We decided to look at the used boats, just to compare. Paul found a really nice 1990 33' Prowler for only $124,000. Sure is a lot of money but still, that was half the cost of the new Carver. We, or should I say I, thought about all of this a little more. We all looked at each other and, as we do each year, decided to wait another year and get back to the task of buying what we knew we could afford for our trip. I am sure we will buy that Carver next year.
We bought flares, line, jet-ski boots, boat dishes and GPS. Oh ya, we were going to make the leap to a Global Positioning System. My American friend had it last year so I am getting it for our trip this year. More about that wonder of modern technology later.
The Trip Plan
Well, after the winter boat show, there wasn't much planning done until the summer. My kids and I take this summer trip every year. We cottage on Stoney Lake and make our trek to Orillia with plans to head up to Georgian Bay. Will we actually make it up to the Bay this year? One never knows. Our intentions are good but for whatever reason, we seem to get to the Port of Orillia and never leave it. I think it's the hot showers or Big Chief or all those big boats that come in that keeps making us forfeit the last leg of the trip.
A couple of years ago, when we were on our boating trip, we hooked up with a boat from Ohio. It was a meeting of fate, I am sure of it. I am a typical divorced father who tries his best to make the two or three weeks I take off with my kids to be the best vacation possible. Although I am fortunate that my son and daughter actually like my company, there are voids that I cannot always fill.
Well this Ohio boat that moored with us in Bobcaygeon came from the same marital displacement that we came from. The father, John, was also a divorcee and he had a daughter, Andrea, who was the same age as my son. John also had another daughter, Christie, who was the same age as my daughter. We had a great time together. Nobody was ever bored and John and I got to compare notes on a variety of things.
Needless to say, our future boating plans always included our American friends.
The trip begins, oh wait, have to load the boat first
I have talked about all the planning that goes into getting ready for our trip. Why is it that you do all that planning and when it comes to the day of departure you end up sweating like a hog and rushing your tale off at the last moment? That's what happened this year, actually it happens every year if I think about it. I had a list and we checked it more than twice. That task was performed properly but with all the excitement of starting the vacation, someone forgot to mention that the day before we should have done less partying and singing and spent a little more time actually packing the boat.
We own a Doral Citation and that's a fair size boat. It's 27' long when you tell someone how long it is except for the people at the lock and Port of Orillia. Basically, if money is involved, the Doral is 25' long and when bragging is involved, it is 27'. Anyway, a 27' boat can hold a fair amount of stuff but what we were trying to load into her this year required an engineer's degree in volume metrics.
Why is it that when you have to load a boat it's always the hottest day of the summer. This particular day it was over 32 degrees Celsius. I was on the load it inside the boat detail, which I never leave to anyone else. I want to make sure that I can properly fill each compartment to its fullest extent yet maintain a total loss of knowing where anything is later when I need it. I pride myself on my innate ability to do this well. After everything was loaded, I had to take one last jump into the lake.
Okay, we are now ready to head out. We were to meet John, Andrea and Christie at either Burleigh Falls or Buckhorn and times a wasting so we need to get going. Like any good, or legal, boater I had my blower on for the at least 10 minutes. I think it was on, the switch was on but I couldn't hear the blower. My ears aren't that good anyway so I trusted that it was on all right. Turned the key and nothing. Here came the first long faces of the vacation from my kids. Not to worry I said, just pull out the shore power chord and we will get this puppy up and running in no time. And so we did. Off we went, all that planning paid off after all, I thought to myself.
Forgot to mention, we take our jet-ski with us each year because you can just never spend enough money on gas. I shuddered at this thought because the previous year Paul and Lauren managed to burn more on jet-ski gas than I did on the Doral for the entire trip. How is that possible? Well, it's always nice to have it when we get to Big Chief. I just hope for my son's sake that the waves on Lake Simcoe will be less than the 5 footers he had to crash through last year.
Locking is a scary experience when you do it for the first time. It is not that you are not able to pull your boat up to the wall and hook up to the black lines. You do it all the time back at your cottage. The problem is, everybody is watching. It's like a hockey game where people want to see a fight or a boxing match where the want to see the blood. People want to see other people have a hard time so they can compare themselves to them and say, I am a better boater. Mind you, there is nothing sweeter than a 40 footer perfectly slipping into position and hooking up with no mishaps.
This is not a problem for me anymore. I have been doing it for years and look forward to the precision boating of the locking experience. This is day one and our first lock is Burleigh. A very impressive deep lock with huge steel doors that slam shut and 100 million gallons of water in her bucket.
On this particular day we are running with a 40 foot Cruisers. Who are these people and how can they afford that gorgeous boat? Mind you, I love my 25' Doral Citation. It is fast, fairly easy to afford and keeps me dry when it rainsﾅnot that it's going to rain. I have two kidsﾅLauren is 14 and Paul is 16. The Doral has two places to sleep, the cuddy cabin and the aft cabin. The kids will get those and they are too old to want their dad snoring beside them at night. Where do I sleep?
Are rich people taller, are their legs longer, are they more deserving of an air-bag, are they more beautiful, are they more deserving of a huge very expensive boatﾅ.yes they are, they have the money. This particular boat had two very nice looking women on it. Do rich people have bigger breasts than everyone elseﾅyes again. Ah, it's all part of the vacation. Life is just better when on vacation and I fully expect the people to look better during these two weeks. So far, everything is going, as it should.
Tight linesﾅ.part of the pride of the ride. Tight lines is where everything is put away properly, there is nothing that is going to fall off a counter when you hit a rich person's wave. There aren't fenders splashing in the water. Your lines are properly tied off and not trying to find their way to your propeller. I look in disgust when I see a ship that doesn't understand this basic concept of looking good on the water. I pride myself on our tight lines.
While I sit back and look at the othersﾅI feel good because I know my ship is tight. Then came the yells from the other boats, is that your jet-ski. My son was taking his first brake and we tied off the jet-ski on the swim platform. You should always keep your eye on everything, besides the women, when you are going through a lock. Our jet-ski had managed to lodge its nose under a rung in the ladder used for maintenance. Half the jet- ski was submerged and it was going down. I jumped from my pride perch and instinctively landed my two feet on the nose of the jet-ski. I gave it a hard pop down and it came free. Was this a sign of what was to come or could I laugh and say, well something bad had to happen during the trip and I am fortunate that we were able to get it out of our system early in the trip.
Well, forget about looking cool in front of the women on the Cruisers. Back to ground zero. I had to lose these people and start a new relationship with fresh boaters who hadn't seen my not-so-tight experience.
GPS - Global Positioning System
It is funny how sometimes a little thing will set off your confidence. Do I stay on the right side or left side of that marker. I purchased a GPS system last year at the boat show, as I mentioned earlier. While traveling with my American friend last year, he was showing off his latest little guidance device. I don't know, when I think of GPS I think of a big screen and coloured buoys that look like buoys. Expecting too much? Yes, my friend's GPS device looked more like a pacman game than a nautical map. He explained to me how it worked and I could see a little blimp on the screen. I think it was supposed to be the next way point but I couldn't tell. How do you know if you are to go to the right or left of that buoy? I expect too much.
Well, after seeing his navigational aide I decided to get one that met my expectations. I should have known better given that the pacman GPS he had cost over $500. What was I thinking of course the system I was looking for would cost more, but how much more? Try $4000 plus but why is that. You think about it, you are in essence paying for another personal computer but all that colour and that wide screen. I was getting ready to buy the bigger pacman GPS but it struck me, why don't I use my laptop and just buy the software and an uplink antenna. Good ideaﾅand they are out there. I paid around $200 for the software and another $350 for the uplink. Now I was setﾅman was I going to show John on the next trip what a real GPS system looks like.
I loaded the software on the laptop and man of man did it look sexy. Colour, marinas, big screen, it had it all. Came time to try the uplink. The uplink needs power and of course, since we are talking mobile, it came in the form of a cigarette lighter plug. I wasn't able to test it out during the long cold winter when you have all the time in the world to get ready. No, I tried it out on the boat just before we were going to take our trip. Didn't workﾅwhy? Somehow it couldn't synch to the satellites. I phoned the manufacturer of the software and we got into a Greenwich Mean Time offset discussion. Was I 5 hours East or 7 Hours West. I don't know, but I got the answer. Get ready John, here I come.
I know, I am supposed to be writing about my trip and I am getting off track with this GPS thing. Well, a trip includes all of the planning, dreams and hopes that build up to that day you push off the dock and set up the waterway so you are going to hear about this dream. You know, although it is true that you can save a lot of money using your own PC, in my case laptop, there are other drawbacks for not buying one of those sturdy $4000 systems. My laptop is slim and sexy. It needs to be, I make my living using it and I just want to look good. Well, there is something to be said about being thick and sturdy too. I placed my laptop on the table beside the captain's seat. It almost slid right off of the smooth surface once I took off. Luckily for me. I tried this out earlier so I bought one of those place mats made out of that materiel that will not slide. Great, great stuff and it works, my laptop stayed where it was supposed to.
Power. Okay, the GPS needs a cigarette lighter and I had one on my dash. I had one. How long does your PC battery last? None of them last long enough so I was faced with adding another cigarette lighter. I think there is another name for them but that is its most common use so let's call it that. Well I had it all together now, the laptop on the table and a power chord running across the doorway to the plug on the dash. The GPS power chord was plugged in and running up the window and out to the bow where I placed the uplink. It wasn't exactly tight lines but I had a real navigation aide and it didn't cost me much. I was going to impress Mr. Pacman.
I was a little leery about the fact that my PC was so thin and light and that every time I went over a wave the flip up screen almost came off. I would get my daughter to keep a hand on the screen to stop it from trying to snap shut. I am sure she wouldn't mind. She would mind sitting next to this thing and holding it for several hours each day.
Well I turned the PC on, fired up the software package, started to synchronize with the satellites. Trying to synchronizeﾅ. still trying to synchronize. You know, it never did synch up. I packed the PC away. I pulled the uplink off the bow. I unplugged all those stinking power chords. I pulled the table out of the way. Man, did it feel good to be tight again but what was I going to tell John?
Continuing on with Day 1
We were not exactly sure where we were to meet John and his family but we kept a watchful eye. We never knew what to expect from them. They are big on surprises and take great joy in soaking us with their water guns. We passed through the Lovesick lock without much mishap. Still running with the rich people so I still had to deal with our mishap in Burleigh. Next lock was Buckhorn. You all have to experience the Buckhorn lock. It is average in size and depth but it is the lockmaster who works there that makes it an adventure. I am sure he always waits until there are enough boats to completely fill, or overfill, his lock. You know to be on your best behavior because a trip through this lock is like buying soup from the soup nazi. You come in the order he calls you and you go where he tells you.
Of course, there were a couple of rental houseboats coming in as well. Nothing against rental houseboats but you know that, some of them at least, have never piloted a boat bigger than a 12' fishing boat with an eight horsepower Johnston let alone a 30' by 12' wind abused battering ram. Here comes one of the first rules of boating. At all costs, the crew on the boat knows that a rental houseboat is a force to be contended with and if one comes remotely close to you that you have to use all means at your disposal to fend it off. In the most extreme cases, I have seen captains hurl their bodies in between the hull- smashers and their vessels. Lucky for us, we were in the hands of the Buckhorn lockmaster and he knows to bring them in first. That way they can only damage themselves.
All went well, everyone entered and left the lock without any mishaps. I nodded to the houseboats as we cruised by. I'll give them this, it is no easy task marshalling these big boys through the locks and not get into some kind of trouble. These particular houseboat pilots knew what they were doing. As I said, I am just too hard on them but I once witnessed a houseboat in Bobcaygeon spear an OPP boat in the side sinking her on the spot. Some things just keep waking you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and that was one image I just couldn't shake.
After nodding to the houseboaters we were engulfed in a stream of water. Well I know where John is now. They purchased these water cannons last year and were relentless with them for our whole trip. I fully expected to get hosed again this year but we came prepared. We quickly pulled out our water armament and let them have it tight back.
"Great to see you again John", I yelled out getting some water in my mouth. Let's get to Bobcaygeon before it fills up. To my dismay, John didn't want to tie up there this year. He was there just the night before and came down to Buckhorn to meet us part way. John wanted to make it to the Port of Orillia by tomorrow night and it does make sense to head a little further upstream thus making the next day's trip an easier one. Like the Port of Orillia, my kids and I just love stopping off at Bobcaygeon but John was right.
As we passed through Bobcaygeon we noticed that all the spots had already been taken. I told you it was a hot spot. If you are fortunate to stay there for a night, I suggest you stay on the topside. Don't know why but all the real party boats tend to stay on the bottom side. Of course, if you want to party hardy, stay there. Another good reason to stay up top is that the bathrooms are there too. So we bid Bobcaygeon good bye and started heading for Fenlon Falls. Sure hope there is a spot to tie up there. This is the first big weekend of the summer and I fully expected it to be busy.
We are still running with that 40' Cruisers. Man, he must be rich as soon as we clear a lock he pushes that big beast up to 30 mph. How can they afford it I wondered if they still are laughing at my jet-ski experience earlier today?
Well there was nothing at the lower end of Fenelon so what were our chances on the topside. John took a run up there while we waited for the locks to open. He managed to persuade a couple of boaters who were planning on leaving to hold their positions until we came up. It was about time we had a little bit of luck and here it was. As I mentioned earlier it was a very hot day so I was prepared this year, thanks to all the forward planning. I had a spray bottle, which I used liberally on my daughter who was stuck with the lines on the bow of the boat. It can really get hot in the locks on these types of days where there is no wind and you are totally at the mercy of the sun. I kept Lauren cool but Paul was roasting on the jet-ski. I sprayed him as well but he wanted a towel to cover his head. I threw him a towel and we started going up. As we were nearing the top of the lock Paul threw me back the towel. Now he is one great athlete but you would never have known it by that feeble attempt to throw it into the boat. It landed in the water and started getting sucked down in the lock. I quickly grabbed the gaff and tried to fish it out. We were not successful and I didn't really care, it was only a towel. Remember I told you to always keep a watchful eye when you are in the locks? Well as I was preoccupied with the $6 towel my $100 VHF antenna lodged itself under the top of the guidelines in the lock. Before I could do anything about it, it snaps in half. Now I had a long face. How can you look tight when your VHF antenna is dangling in the air like an older man in need of Viagra? I had given up on my ideal of being the tightest boat on the waterway. The lock doors opened and we sheepishly edged out towards the boaters who were holding the spots for us.
One thing about mooring at Fenelon Falls, the walls are really high. That means that you have one heck of a big step to get off of your boat. There are lower ones but they get snatched up real early. I planned for this possibility because we tied up here last year on our way back. What happens is your lines are constantly rubbing against the concrete walls and they do are really good job on them. At the boat show I purchased line savers which cover your line at the point of contact with the wall. They worked just great and John was a little jealous. He still hasn't asked me about my new GPS system. Thank God.
Fenelon Falls has a lot of nice places to go and eat. We chose the Docks (??) and ate like royalty. We got caught up on what's been going on with John and his family. After we finished up eating we went back to our boats. By this time the locks were closed for the night so we took advantage of moving over to the blue line. You can moor up to the blue line at this time but you knew that you had to get off of it by the time they open up again in the morning. That worked for us because we had a long run the next day if we wanted to make it all the way across Lake Simcoe to the Port of Orillia.
I can't tell you enough about how hot it was. The thermometer kept climbing instead of giving us a break for the evening. We were now ready 35 degrees. Guess what else happens when you have a hot muggy evening in the first week of July? If you guessed mosquitoes you get no extra points because everybody should know that. Yes there were mosquitoes and a lot of them. We quickly started closing off the boat to limit the number of these bothersome little bloodsuckers we needed to kill. Paul, Lauren and I are old pros at putting up our canvas. I think this time we set a new person record but now a frightening realization started to set in. It was going to get hotter and hotter onboard and there was no escaping it. There was no air to breathe what so ever. Ah what I would give for a boat with a gennie and air. More ammunition to buy that Carver nest winter.
Normally I am jealous that Paul and Lauren have the premier sleeping spots on the boat. Not this year, I was sure that they were going to suffocate below. At least I had more air up top. The only problem I always face with sleeping up top is that I am in open view to anyone walking by the boat. I remedy this situation by hooking up towels such that they block the view of the onlookers. Next boat we get, I am going to have a better place to sleep. It was a long, long night but we managed to survive it. Not much sleep mind you but we are boating and that's the best time of the year so we didn't mind this minor inconvenience.
Day 1 came to an end. Not too bad, only almost lost the jet-ski, we lost a towel, broke the VHF antenna and lost our tight lines designation. Not too bad at all.
The second day of our trip is always a hectic one. We start off knowing that we have to push on quickly and if God is on our side, we have a Lake Simcoe that can be crossed. One day many years ago my brothers, a friend and I hit lake Simcoe on our vacation. We were four guys looking to have some fun. There was no way we were going to hold up at the Gambridge lock. When we reached Lake Simcoe the waves were over 7' in height reaching 9' at times. We were on a 23' Doral and were adamant that we were going to cross even though the 40 footers were turning back. It took 3 hours of wave crashing and it claimed two people to seasickness but we made it across. We had a great time in Orillia for three days and returned back to Gambridge early one morning only to see all those boats that we left behind three days ago just coming across then. So you see, you never know what Lake Simcoe is going to deal up for you. It could put a real crimp in your travel plans if she wants to. Be prepared for that fact.
Lucky for us, John likes to run fast. He does spend a little too much time preparing his boat for the locks. He must put four fenders on each side. Maybe he just wants to be extra careful just in case a rental houseboat goes awry against him, who knows. But John has one great looking boat. It is about 14 years old but it looks brand new and the extra time he takes to prepare for the locks is just one reason why it does. One comment John, what's with the cheap ratty line? Everything on that boat is in great shape except for the farm line he uses. I am sure that will be remedied next year.
There were no mishaps running Cameron Lake and the Rosedale Lock was a snap. We made great time whipping through Balsam Lake. We are now as high as you go on the Trent-Severn. Once we get past the Kirkfield lock we will be heading downstream. Have to remember to change my buoy reminder. I will have to stay right of red going down the Trent. That's the way I always remember it but I still use the idiot reminder that I keep ahead of my steering wheel.
One problem with wanting to run quickly on day two. You have all those canals with the 10 km/h speed limit to contend with. Being courteous and good boaters, we always observe these speed limits. The run from Balsam Lake to Mitchell Lake has one big canal that links them together. It reminds me of going up the Nam River in the movie Apocalypse Now. Mind you, there are no Tigers to worry about but you do have to be ready for the deer flies. When we go slow like we do up the canals, we tie off the jet-ski off the stern. It gives Paul a break and gives us another pair of hands to kill those flies.
We slowly boated our way through the canal, Mitchell Lake and yet another canal. The Kirkfield lift-lock was now in sight. A very impressive lock only rivaled by the Peterborough Lift-lock. Got into a conversation with the lockmaster because we had a For Sale sign on our boat. He wondered what we were after and I quickly told him, a 32' Carver. He wished me luck on selling my boat as his head disappeared while we were lowered in the massive bucket.
We entered yet another canal and then Canal Lake (the name makes sense). Have to mention the swing bridge. There is a sense of pride that you have when your boat is big enough to have the bridge swing open for you. Mind you, almost anything taller than a canoe requires the bridges through this section to swing. It would be a real accomplishment if they had to swing the bridge at Bobcaygeon for you. More fodder for the Carver purchase. That alone would be reason enough to buy it. My ex-wife called me something nasty one time. What was it? I think she called me someone who was only interested in immediate self-gratification. Maybe she was right after all.
Well, we were making okay time thus far given the speed restrictions but now we were entering the Heritage locks. Once you pass the Bolsover lock you are now thrown back in time to the days when the lockmasters had to crank the locks open and closed using the strength of their legs and back. I love the Heritage locks that include the Talbot, Portage, Thorah and Gamebridge locks. Once you enter these locks you are stuck with the boats you start the trek with. It can take almost two hours to get all the way through so you better make sure you are traveling with who you want to travel with. One year I happened to hit Talbot with the Kawartha Voyager. A massive cruise boat that almost takes up the whole lock. The lockmaster asked if I wanted to enter with the Voyager and I looked back at him as if he were from another planet. I would have barely fit in and would have had to put up with the stench of diesel fuel for 2 hours, no thanks.
This time through I had my golden opportunity to finally lose the 40' Cruisers. Yes, I was still stuck with my shame from yesterday. No more, this was my out. We waved to the lockmaster that we would wait for the next wave and I finally lost the rich people.
When you slowly move through the Heritage locks, you take every opportunity you can to determine the condition of Lake Simcoe. I asked each and every lockmaster what Simcoe was like. They all answered the same way, we haven't heard anything bad. When you get to the Gamebridge lock you have three pieces of information that would help you make your decision. You have the lockmaster who is closest to the scene. You have the boaters who were just coming off of the lake and you have that electronic status report station. The first two sources reported favorably. The board however, told me what it tells me each and every year, Small Craft Warnings. I went with the first two sources only because I have never seen the board with anything but Small Craft Warnings. I guess they do that for legal reasons. If they told me that it was safe to cross and I ran into trouble, maybe I would think that I would have some recourse against whoever posted the information. If they tell me that it could be nasty, and it turns out that it is not, then I would only laugh it off. Probably wrong with this assumption but why does it always read the same?
Normally I would be writing a longer section on the Lake Simcoe experience, but this year she was nice to us. We rounded the corner and started heading toward Thorah Island. You know by the time you get to Thorah whether you should continue on or not. We knew way before that point this year. John asked if I wanted to take the lead so that I could make use of my new GPS system. I just looked at him and he knew that I never did get it to work. "You take the lead John", I said and away we went.
Lake Simcoe is the only time you really need a GPS device to make life easier. Of course we had our maps and compass and could have made use of them. I knew the heading we were to hold from experience but John was bang on. We made the crossing in just over half an hour. Paul was happy as well because it was a walk in the park for him compared to last year.
Port of Orillia
We were now nearing our final destination. Really we had planned to head up to Georgian Bay this year but I just knew that we would spend the rest of our vacation at the Port. There is just too much to do and too many conveniences at the Port of Orillia to bother going anywhere else. If we were true boaters we would push on after a few days but we are not. We like to look good on a boat, look at other boats and stay clean. That is why Orillia is our kind of town.
If I were a real boater I would have hailed the port on channel 68. That's the channel they monitor as well as many other marinas but I didn't have my Radio Operator's license so I didn't pick up the mike. I wouldn't have anyway because I knew that we could get a slip, or at least I hoped and my boat was only 25' in length. Notice I now use 25', it is now time to pay by the foot. It bothers me when boats my size ask for assistance when coming in. If you can't manage to dock your boat here how did you manage through the locks? It is perfectly okay to radio in when you are 32' and bigger. It is not only because you may need assistance but also all the boaters moored up already are listening in and look forward to a call like:
Port of Orillia, Port of Orillia, Port of Orillia
This is the Sovereign
We are a 44' Carver and are looking for a slip for the night and will need assistance
This is the kind of stuff my kids and I wait for, watching the big boys coming in and in they come. On a weekend, especially a long weekend, the Port of Orillia fills right up and we are talking 222 slips with the ability to take a ship up to 80 feet in length. Being a part of this tied up flotilla is just too enjoyable to describe, at least for us anyway.
At the Port of Orillia you get to experience the natural boating social strata. There is a section where all the 18 to 22 footers moor. We tie up in the 22 to 28 foot section and then there is the 30 and up world. It is an interesting thing to watch and it completely recognizes that two footitis is still alive and well. All of the 20 footers are scouting out the 25 footers while the 25 footers are off scouting the 30 footers. It's sickening really, my ex would call us all immediate self-gratifying pigs but that is all part of being a boater and we think nothing of it.
There is a section at Port of Orillia that you traditionally stay away from and that is where the docks come close to the breakwater. Why you ask? The sea gulls. We are well aware of this fact having spent a day or two being dive bombed and squawked at. They make such a noise that you can't hear yourself think never mind the extra work each morning to clean off the droppings. But this year there wee none thanks to the fact that they put up a few plastic owls on the breakwater. Great idea but why didn't someone think of that before? I wonder if I stick one of those owls on my car if the squeegee kids in Toronto would stay away from me? Who knows?
The other Lady in my Life
You can say that the Doral is the lady in my life. Maybe it is too small of a boat to start personifying it but I do care for her. She is not the only woman in my lifeﾅthank God. Wouldnﾒt want my entire romantic life to be described in nautical terms. I have a friend named Bonnie and she has a beautiful little daughter named Sarah. Sarah is very young, only a year and a half. I invited them up to enjoy our little heaven.
The great thing about Bonnie is that she is no stranger to boating. Her father owns Lauderdale Point Marina just a little ways from here on the Severn. I didnﾒt do it consciously but maybe that was one of the criteria for our relationship.
A few years ago the Citation was my dreamboat. It was so big in comparison to what I was used to. Space? Man, thereﾒs a lot or so it seamed. So what do we have here? We have two teenagers who will not sleep in the same room, no way no how. I understand that. And we have Bonnie, Sarah and myself. Creative minds need to come into play here. I wonﾒt get into it, but somehow we all managed to find a corner to sleep in but I think it was just a little much for Sarah. I guess I could have slept on the jet-ski or asked John for his help. John is an engineer and in this situation you need their kind of thinking to make things work.
Big Chief Island lies just outside of the Port of Orillia. This is one of the big reasons we like to stay here. Every morning you can see everyone getting ready to head out to Big Chief. We usually head out around 11 am to make our crossing. This is another one of those experiences that you try and perfect each year. The idea is to find a spot where you can anchor your boat, leave yourself enough room to play Frisbee and football and yet still see all the great boats and women (give me a break here, I am single). The water gets really shallow but we are talking sand so bring her in nice and close. Drop the bow anchor and then let your boat drift around with the wind and then drop your stern anchor. Simple enough isn't it. What bothers me, seems like a lot of things bother me, are those people that slow their boat down when it is still 10 feet deep and start the anchoring process. What's the sense, you are not going to be able to enjoy the fact that you are on one of the best sandbars on the Trent-Severn but this happens every year. They fiddle with the anchoring a way out there only to find that they have to pull it up and move in closer. Just bring it right in boys; the sand isn't going to destroy your propeller.
So the rest of the day goes like this, eat, drink (remember you cannot drink alcohol unless you have the proper facilities aboard and plan on spending the night), play water games and relax. Watching all of the boating action is also a paramount part of each day. Don't forget to monitor channel 68, you don't want to miss whatﾒs happening back at the port. Doesn't seem like much but we end up doing this for days and we like it. We also have the jet-ski so little toots here and there also included.
When the sun starts to sink or we have plans to go out for supper, we head back to port.
Evenings in Orillia
There is quite a bit to do in Orillia. I have been known to head off to Casino Rama but that only happens when it's rainy and always during the day. My kids and I look forward to this all year round so I am not about to leave them in the evening to go out there, but daytime in the rain, they can deal with it. There are numerous restaurants to go to and we take full advantage of them. In fact, this year I only managed to barbecue twice. We even ordered Chinese and pizza delivered right to the boat. I lied about the Chinese, we actually had to go out and get it but it sounds great to have something delivered right to your boat.
Paul, Andrea, Lauren and Christie have been known to head off into town or up the shore and not be seen for hours. One year Paul and Andrea didn't come back till a little too late and John especially wasn't too happy about it. Again, good planning can deal with any situation. I picked up a couple of radios that are good for a two-mile distance. I keep one on the boat and give the other to whoever heads out. Funny thing though, they never seem to work in these situations. Maybe it's because buildings or hills get in the way, or maybe it's because they get turned off. Well this year the dads didn't have to deal with the late situation again, everybody came home at a decent hour.
And so it goes, we pretty much do the same thing each day. We keep talking about heading up to Georgian for a few days but never manage to do it. We had a good excuse this year because the winds picked up one day and never let up.
That Rainy Day
Well it had to happen, it started to rain one day. We were quite lucky thus far; although we had wind we didn't encounter any rain. John and his family had already left back to Ohio by this time. He had some feeble excuse that people were coming over from Germany but I didn't think that was a good enough reason to end their vacation with us so soon. He could have left them a key under the mat, I am sure they would have understood.
When it rains I always get into trouble. I mentioned going to Casino Rama. My ex always gives me crap for leaving the kids to go there. This year it would take a different form since John was already gone. My son was going through the Boat Trader on this particular day and found something that I had missed after having gone through it several times. He found a 10 metre Prowler in the magazine. Now again, 10 meter is 33 feet when you are paying for lockage and mooring but 35 feet when bragging to your friends.
We decided to go and take a look since the boat was only at Lefroy Harbour, which was about an hour away by car. As we got closer to Lefroy's the sun came out, was this an omen? I was already worried because this boat was priced a good $50,000 less than I had seen it anywhere else. We found the boat and took a tour. It was beautiful. It was big, loaded with teak, had everything on it we needed and it was big. Being the immediate self-gratifying person I am, I bought the darn boat. What the heck were we going to do at the winter boat show now?
The Trip Home
The trip home is like that long walk to the principal's office or waiting in the waiting room at the dentist's office. It is a journey you just don't want to take. The trip we have been talking about for months is coming to an end. It will be another year before we can enjoy it again. It is for this reason that I am not even going to talk about it, depresses me even now. It was uneventful anyway except for the fact that we were so darned excited about our new boat. We didn't take it with us because I still had to go through securing the financing. Holy cow, I bought a new boat without even having sold the one we are on. I am sure there are going to be friends and relatives who are going to ask me to have my head examined but I look at it this way, I just saved a bundle of money that I know I would have spent come this winter's boat show.