by Sarath Peiris
Almost a year has passed since our family's last vacation and,
as I look into the expectant eyes of my eight-year-old son Taylor,
I realize time's here to deliver on a rash promise, made under some
duress, in the waning hours of last summer's holiday.
"Sure buddy," I had said with feigned confidence, as we reloaded
the (t)rusty 1987 Chev Caprice wagon for the four-hour trip home
to Saskatoon from our annual getaway spot on Lac des Isles. "We'll
bring Uncle Rick's boat again next year and you'll get the first
Had I been rational at that point, I'd have told the bummed-out
kid that there'd be no more boats, begged, borrowed or bought, in
our future; that my health, self-respect and sanity dictated that
I sever all ties with any craft invented to traverse water by means
mechanical. It's not as if the straight talk could have made him
feel worse than he was feeling already. Besides, kids are resilient
and he'd have soon got over it.
Instead, temples throbbing as I choked back imaginatively conjugated
versions of the seven words George Carlin says can't be uttered
on TV, I suggested the return engagement as I hitched up to the
giant rust pile that serves as our family transportation the boat
which had, within hours of our joyful arrival, turned me into the
Rodney Dangerfield of Big Island Cove resort.
That was almost a year ago. Now that Donna and I are checking her
lists twice and packing into boxes what seems like our entire worldly
belongings for the annual two-weeks of "roughing it" at the rented
cabin, talk is amazingly turning to when might be a good time to
make the two-hour trip south, to Rick's home at Craven, to again
pick up the boat.
Maybe it's some primal yearning to master the water from which
all life sprung eons ago; maybe it's the possibility that this year,
at long last, we'll actually get to skim the cool, clear Lac des
Isles at high speed in the flashy, definitely flashy, 60-horsepower
Sylvan Sea Monster festooned with fishing gadget decals of all manner;
or it just may be that boating is like childbirth -- the longer the
period between doing it, the easier it is to forget the pain, the
crowds of curious strangers gathered around you offering helpful
suggestions. . . .
In retrospect, I should have foreseen the entire humiliating experience
the moment I pulled up at Rick's home last summer to pick up the
boat on which I'd had basic training a few weeks earlier. The boat-trailer
combination that had seemed so manageable behind Rick's van suddenly
loomed gigantic when hitched to my low-slung wagon.
But, hey, I had the holiday spirit and the utter confidence that
comes from not having the vaguest notion of what's really going
on. So what if the boat trailer registration was due to expire while
we were on holidays? We'd just renew it in Saskatoon before we headed
north. As for the non-functional trailer lights, likely just a burned-out
bulb that I'd replace before too long.
Back in Saskatoon, fixing the registration was a breezy forty bucks;
as for the lights, it was nothing that a new wiring harness and
a few hours of crawling under the trailer contraption didn't put
right. The experience of having gravel embedded in one's back and
regions farther south was rendered all the more joyful by several
helpful neighbors who dropped by to assure me that the job was simple.
Then, in conspiratorial tones, they'd inform me that none of their
boat trailer lights worked, either.
Among the proffered solutions: "I just make sure I get where I'm
going before it gets dark."
Boat (aka The Sylvan Sea Monster).
Suffice to say when the trailer tire lost pressure overnight, I
would discover that a spare was nonexistent (how do you jack up
a loaded boat trailer, anyway?) and that local tire dealers observe
the Sabbath. Of course, it was nothing that a few pounds of air
from the neighborhood gas station and an overnight prayer vigil
didn't fix before we finally headed out.
Let's simply gloss over the nail-biting experience of navigating
the lumbering Sea Monster along the then single-lane highway to
North Battleford before we arrived at the resort several hours later
Leroy, the ever-helpful resort proprietor, offered to get the mighty
Sea Monster launched with the aid of his tractor. The look on his
face, after I'd nearly wiped out several bystanders in attempting
to back up the trailer to a suitable parking spot, suggested that
he knew only too well what he was in for over the next fortnight.
Early next morning, I headed down to the dock, where Leroy had
helped me tether the boat after stocking it with required oars and
Oh, what a sight she was, shiny blue and white, bobbing gently
on the placid water.
"Hey, nice combo," called out a fellow boat-guy as he prepared
to head off for a day's fishing. I gathered he was referring to
the 60-horse Johnson on the 16.5-foot Sylvan, not my new Speedo
shorts with matching T-shirt. "Thanks," I nodded, with a proprietary
air. I could explain the boat's ownership later.
Having studied the owner's manual cover to cover, I knew what was
to be done. I hooked up the gas tank, primed the line, checked the
oil. All set. Except, when I turned on the ignition to lower the
motor, nothing. Not so much as a whine.
Leroy to the rescue again, as a curious but small crowd gathered
to watch the proceedings. Turns out that, somewhere along the way,
while loading up our spanking new Sea-Biscuit and other toys with
the potential for endless hours of fun on the water, we'd managed
to flick on the toggle switch for the boat's running lights and
drained the newly installed battery. No problem, said Leroy; a few
hours on the charger in his shop and the battery would be set to
The battery topped up, Donna, I and the kids had headed out, cruising
by our familiar haunts with the happy grins of the ignorant. We
didn't spot the blue herons that occasionally grace the shore of
the big island from whence the lake gets its name, but looking for
them was half the fun. I imagined us heading to fertile fishing
grounds in days to come, maybe even the never-visited Ranger Bay
(don't all northern lakes have one?) where all the other boat guys
brag of catching the big pike and perch.
Oh yes, this boating thing was going to work out just fine.
what a nice evening for a boat cruise.
The next day was as glorious a summer day as a vacationer could
hope for. Cloudless skies, temperatures in the mid-30s, barely a
breath of wind -- what a day for Donna to christen the Ski-Biscuit.
What fun she was having, smiling widely as the biscuit skimmed across
the water, bouncing in the boat's wake. Soon, our daughter Caitlin
got on the tube, a grin of delight replacing white knuckles as the
ride wore on. Then her beach friend Vicky joined her, their hoots
of joy ringing across the tranquil lake.
Yes, this boating thing was working out just fine.
Finally, it was Taylor's turn. I brought the boat close to shore
and shut off the motor. We helped him clamber aboard the tube with
assurances that I wouldn't go fast, that I'd take care not to dump
him, that mom was at the ready to offer any help.
In the boat, I ran through the checklist, lowered the motor and
turned the key. Only this time, there was plenty of sputtering from
the motor, but little else. A tell-tale slick on the water confirmed
my suspicion that the darn thing was flooded. Oh well, we'd all
play on the beach while things cleared up.
An hour later, more valiant sputters but no starting. Two hours
later, nothing had changed, except that the slick was spreading
faster than the rust on our wagon.
Help eventually arrived in the form of Vicky's family, cruising
by in their brand-new mega- thousand-dollar water craft. Explaining
that outboard motors sometimes were hard to start in hot weather
-- I think he was being diplomatic with an obvious idiot -- Lorne
Olson fiddled with it until it sputtered to life and let it run
a while before shutting it off.
well, there's always the beach.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in carefree abandon as we got
rides in the Olsons' boat, tubing to our hearts' content and frolicking
as the day demanded. It wasn't until they departed and we got on
our boat that it happened again. Sputter, sputter sputter. Drip,
As Donna and I did a credible imitation of dray horses in waist-deep
water, towing the boat with the kids in it toward the dock about
half a mile away, it struck me that this was a new low, even for
a man who had attracted curious onlookers the year before by getting
his fishing line snagged in a tree across the camp road and in the
opposite direction from the lake.
The days that followed, to be blunt, were a nightmare for me and
high fun for those who'd witnessed our arrival with a boat that
virtually screamed out: "Look at me, I'm a pro."
How quickly the worms turn.
The very people who'd showed up during my first glorious hours
on the dock to admire the Sea Monster and seek advice on the best
fishing spots were now full of smart-aleck comments.
"Your pants are sure wet a lot for guy who owns a boat," offered
"Hey, how's the fishing out there?" called out a big mouth bass(tard)
kid who witnessed us rowing back the boat which had sputtered and
died just yards away from the dock.
The ritual was the same almost every morning: I'd go to the boat,
fiddle with the switches, turn the ignition key and watch the gas
drip into the water as the motor sputtered; spectators would gather,
newcomers offering advice and the jaded veterans silently observing
with knowing smiles, as I tried to coax to life a contraption we'd
hauled hundreds of miles with such high hopes.
I wonder whether I shouldn't just stick to this.
On the one day the Johnson -- the pejorative is intentional --
did rise from the dead and we cast off to a smattering of cheers,
it was only to return within minutes because a gosh-awful beeping
had began from somewhere in the control panel. It wasn't too long
after that that Leroy helped me haul the Loch Mess Monster out of
its watery home, tarp it down and safely stow it away where it couldn't
further damage my ego.
Looking back a year later, I can laugh. Yes, I sure was wet too
often for a guy who had a boat. And no, I wouldn't have believed
it either if some goof was trying to blame his boating troubles
on a brother-in-law who wasn't around to defend himself.
So as I look into the expectant eyes of my eight-year-old, I've
almost convinced myself that, this year, he will finally get the
promised tube ride on Uncle Rick's boat; this year, the boating
thing's going to work out just fine.
Yet I wonder. . . . When did the Olsons say they were taking their
Sarath Peiris, a journalist with the StarPhoenix newspaper
in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, clearly enjoys hurting himself: please see Waterworks II.
| Contents |
| Events | Search |
Prints 'n Posters | Lodging
Assistance | Golf |
© Copyright (1997-2012) Virtual Saskatchewan