Best of times/Worst of times
It was one of those “Best of times/Worst of times” weekends that Dickens would have savoured. The DORKS were off once again to carry on with their foolishness and pursue their follies. The plan was laid out in customary haphazard detail; rendezvous, carpool, meet for breakfast at our Barrie eatery, then off again, waiting for the cares of the world to begin melting in the glow of the days ahead. Everything fell into place with remarkable ease. Twenty years of practice and almost thirty repetitions make for a comfortable routine requiring little thought but much determination. There are so many things that want to interfere. In another context these “things” might be important, but in light of the DORK Imperative, they fade into nothing. To appreciate what this means, you must understand and if I must explain, then understanding is beyond reach. So be it.
It was Friday May 1st and we were headed for Frank’s retreat – Haggis Island south of Parry Sound in Georgian Bay. The plan called for eating, drinking, boating & hiking, a little fishing and a vast quantity of friendship. There would be cribbage & euchre, campfires under the stars accompanied by familiar tunes at excessive volume and the old stories brought out again, given new coats of exaggeration and braggart’s boast. The recipe worked many times before and there was no reason to doubt the magic would cast the old spell once more. The weather promised no serious obstacles. It was time for the Spring 2009 DORK-fest and we were ready.
The highlight of the ride out from the Pleasant Point Marina was spotting a deer swimming across the channel close to our bow. No one thought to have a camera at hand so the animal passed safely but unrecorded. We arrived and unloaded our gear, beginning the first of many rituals with the passing of a bottle of Southern Comfort, tribute to Karl’s older brother, Tom who used to supply the under-age set with this potent liquor and beer at a very small markup. He was an entrepreneur, but good to his friends. Tom, with his bulk and bushy beard, could pass as “of age” long before it was so.
Friday was quiet with just a hike around the island to see what was old and what was new since we were last there two years ago. Significant progress had been made on the boathouse in the south channel. The landscaping progressed and the way was cleared to begin major construction. The piers were excavated and poured and the general layout was becoming obvious. Perhaps I was just out of practice, but a little beer and a lot of fresh air had me sound asleep before dinner. I missed Frank’s barbecued salmon that received high praise from the other diners who came prepared with more endurance. As it turned out, we would need all our strength for Saturday’s adventure.
After a late breakfast/early lunch, two boats were loaded with supplies and we set out for our first expedition. There were three of us in the lead boat: Frank was at the helm, Paul sat at the prow and I was huddled in the center as befits my inexperience with all things of a boat-ish nature. The smaller craft following us had Karl handling the motor and Lee perched well forward. Only 15 minutes out and keeping close to shore, I heard a cry and turned to see the following boat, no longer following, but turning tight circles dangerously close to two heads bobbing in the water. After two spins, the boat reared up on end and then capsized while the motor gave one last roar as it spun free of the water’s resistance. In the silence, I called out, “One of them is under!” as I could now see just one head. We raced back as the other swimmer came to the surface again and we started pitching life jackets at them (That’s right. Jackets were in the boats, but not worn. Stupidity is not the sole province of the young.) Karl was floating well and headed for shore but Lee was weighted down with the bulk of his clothing and equipment and perhaps suffering from a bit of shock. We secured Lee to the side of our boat and slowly took him the forty feet to shore. Paul & I stepped on shore and Frank raced to two water rats back to the cottage to dry out, change and warm up. Warming up was critical for the ice had only been out for about three weeks. Frank returned and, with the help of some boaters who saw the disaster take place, the floating equipment was returned, the boat and (miraculously) the motor pulled close to shore, set aright and bailed out. Then everything was towed sedately back to home port.
So what happened? A number of theories were put forward. None of them involved alcohol as it was still early in the day. It was a smaller, narrow boat that may have been overpowered by a 20 hp Mercury. The weight distribution might have been wrong. When they were cruising in the quiet vee of the lead boat’s wake everything was smooth. The problem occurred when they tried to cross our wake. The boat pitched from side to side and threw the two occupants overboard. The motor was turned and at full throttle. The rest is history.
- 1 anchor that was meant to tie on, if needed.
- 1 fishing rod.
- 2 folding chairs.
- 1 boot. (Somehow, Karl managed to retain the other.)
- Lee’s glasses.
- A large quantity of dignity.
- A valuable lesson.
- New techniques for drying out electronic equipment.
- A deeper understanding of life’s priorities.
- A full quorum of DORKS.
- Another story to tell and re-tell.
Within 2 hours Frank & Paul had the once submerged motor running again and cameras, wallets, and cell phones were set out to dry in the sun.
Saturday night was cause for celebration and celebrate we did in true DORK fashion. There was steak for dinner and good red wine. A fire of hard oak was lit on the beach. Audio gear was set up for proper “lift and separation” and cigars were made available for those who cared to partake. Good smoke and fine tunes drifted across the waters of Georgian Bay.
Sunday promised to be fine and, in the tradition of getting back up on the horse that threw you, Frank, Paul and Karl ventured another trip on the water. Lee & I opted to stay behind and enjoy a quiet afternoon on the deck. Conversation drifted around the usual topics; what the kids were up to, and how our other charges were faring. Lee spent some time talking about his mother’s remarkable good fortune to be active and independent at the age of 90. Prophetic talk.
A strange boat rounded the point and made for our dock. Lee and I went down to help them tie up. There was a couple on board and the fellow asked if Frank was here? We replied that he was out with the others. Then he asked if one of us was Lee? When Lee nodded, he said, “There’s been a medical emergency.” When Lee pressed for details, he said, “Your mother has passed away.”
Shock, uncertainty, realization, grief. The moment spun on for a dozen heartbeats, then the world started to move on. As the bearers of bad news left the dock, the rest of our DORK crew appeared off the point. I settled Lee on a deck chair and went to relay the news. That now left Frank as the only one with parents still with us. Each of us, as we’ve gone through the loss, has demonstrated our solidarity and commitment to each other by making our presence felt for the others. That’s simply what friends do, unquestioningly. Guys don’t often exchange hugs. This was an exception.
Karl agreed to accompany Lee back to the city, so late on Sunday afternoon we ferried them back to the marina to start the journey home. Frank, Paul & I chose to stay until the next day as we originally planned. We offered up toasts to Lee and to his mother. There were thoughts of our own parents and all that they had given to us. As DORKS, we’ve shared the best of times and the worst of times. The best is even better and the worst, just a little bit easier to bear. Our charter says “for as long as our bodies are able and our spirits are willing “. That’s a boastful claim but we hold to it.
Three remaining DORKS enjoyed one more day that turned out to be the finest of the four with sun and quiet waters. We didn’t do much but sit on the dock by the south channel, sip beer and nibble on bread and cheese. We raised the flag on the point to signify the start of the season, helped with a little landscaping to get the spring water to drain. Then we packed, cleaned up and came home. We really must do this again sometime. Maybe in the Fall.