One day in spring a number of years ago, friends from Pittsburgh suggested that we charter a houseboat in the Thousand Islands for a week that summer. We both searched through rental ads in boating magazines.
Most of the charter boats that have engines are pontoon boats with long, buoyant, vinyl flotation devices and outboard engines. I preferred a metal boat with an inboard engine as safer and more suitable for non-expert sailors. We found such a boat and reserved it for a week in July.
That week came, and we met the owner in Ivy Lea, Ontario. In his final departure instructions, he advised us to beware of shoal waters and the possibility of hitting rocks just below the surface.
"You could easily bend the propeller or put a hole in the hull," he said.
It was a 40-foot boat, but when we got our gear on board, it seemed smaller. We pulled away from the dock with visions of adventures in our minds. We divided into two teams to operate the boat in two-hour shifts, Sally and Stuart, and Bruce and Joan. Stuart proposed the plan because he said there would be fewer arguments than if spouses had to work together.
Staying on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence for our whole trip, we stopped at islands many nights. The islands were in a large provincial park and were well set up for boaters. One of the larger islands had two docking facilities and campgrounds on its opposite side.
We went around to the smaller area, where we met a Canadian couple who were already tied up at the pier. He turned out to be a retired helicopter pilot with interesting stories to tell. One was about the training of pilots who were sometimes forced to land in unprotected locales where there were bees or insects that were troublesome.
The next morning I was the first one to wake and decided to take the path across the island to the larger recreational area while the others slept in.
About half way across, I ran into a swarm of persistent, biting deer flies for which I employed the pilot's training advice. I picked several long leafy branches that I carried in each hand, whirling them in windmill fashion to disperse the flies.
When I got into the larger camp, I saw that people had insect repellent, and I offered to buy a can. The friendly Canadians insisted on giving it to me.
The flies were still there when I returned, but the repellent was effective and I made it back to our boat where there were no flies. I told my adventure to my boat mates who found it interesting, but they were glad they had not been with me.
Another noteworthy overnight docking was at a pier that extended a long way out from the shore. We tied up at the very end. We noticed quickly that it was pitch black dark when lights in the other boats around us went out.
It was a cloudless night with myriad stars all over the heavens. No sky glow from any city was visible; it was thrilling. As city dwellers, we had forgotten what the night sky could look like.
One morning, two bikini-clad girls in a motorboat stopped by, offering to sell us fresh fruit, milk, candy bars and the morning newspaper. As we chatted with them, we learned this was their summer job while going to college. We agreed it was an adventuresome enterprise. I hope this idea may stimulate young people today to think of interesting ways to make money during their summers.
Our last docking was at a place where a number of other boats were already secured along the pier. Several men came out to offer us help to tie up. We thanked them and commented that at every place we had been, the Canadians were so friendly and helpful.
One of the men laughed and said, "We know those house boats are rentals and the sailors are inexperienced - we are just trying to protect our own boats!"
We took that in good humor and still felt the Canadians were welcoming and friendly to us Yanks.
Finally, we returned the boat to its owner. He asked, "How many rocks did you hit?"
Triumphantly, we replied, "None!"