3 Climates, 1 Weekend: Sailing Simcoe
The winds, as predicted, were strong and gusty, and had the cold chill of October despite being mid-August. The days ahead were meant to be equally fall-like, with rain, low temperatures, and cold nights. But with the rapid dwindling away of summer weekends, coupled with the kids’ disappointment at the possibility of yet another weather-dependent summer trip being cancelled…..we decided to make the trip across Lake Simcoe by sail anyway. Besides, the wind was coming from the right direction – a north westerly.
We had already forgotten that only an hour earlier we had been arguing about whose load to carry on board was the heaviest, or that we all blamed someone other than ourselves for the temporary misplacement of the dock keys, or the sense of urgency with which we crossed the final chores off the checklist: fishing bait in cooler, wined stored safely, water tank filled, toilet emptied, and all safety gear made accessible. We had already forgotten that we had been a sweaty, irritated mess of a family, as the waves and the water quickly transformed us into a zen-like peace, where we moved at one with the wind.
Krazy Kid, who had never been seasick before in all his three summers as a miniature sailor, played games with the clouds to keep his eyes on the horizon, and his nausea at bay. Roo played solo in the cabin, unaffected by the constant roll of the boat caused by four foot broadside waves, determined to finish his chapter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, before bugging someone to join him in a game of Crazy Eight Countdown.
Bassam’s strength was well needed for pulling the ropes, as the wind, now at twenty knots, was shifty and the sails needed constant adjustments. And I kept my eye on our destination ahead, not yet even in view across the vastness of a lake with no end. The tiller revealed the force of our lake, and with its constant movement and fierce resistance, it appeared to be announcing its command of our journey. And all the while, the wind never bowing down, as if to prove its equality in ruling our way, its presence is made known by its constant rush through the sails. Its brush against our skin, after hours on the water, began to feel like an affectionate rub from an old, wise friend.
We passed by Johnson’s Beach, then Big Bay Point, then Hawkestone, and Carthew Bay along our way, but not without pointing out the obvious and taking a peak of these familiar places through the lens of our binoculars. Eventually, the shoreline on the other side of the lake showed itself, and the tower marking our destination came in and out of view as the bow of the boat bobbed up and down. Our surrender to the powers that have carried us across our lake have made the five hour journey pass quickly.
A part in the clouds and a window in time makes for two eager little boys who whip off their shirts, happy for the sudden sunshine and their arrival at Lagoon City beach. The sand is still cool, but the shallow beach allows them the freedom to escape the shoreline for what feels like miles away, uninhibited by swim ropes or lifeguards, just two boys who think they are fish and are living in the moment.
Lagoon City beach is always the warmest on the lake, but the cold winter left the lake frozen too long and the cool summer has failed to warm it up. It wasn’t this that invited their departure from the beach though, but the dark clouds rolling quickly in and the promise given by the distant rumbling of a storm sure to come.
We spent two nights in Lagoon City, and all the hours of daylight that fit in between. When the weather settled to a drizzle the boys cast their rods, and when we ran out of worms we found shelter in our 23 foot Sonic, or alternately, the Lakeview Restaurant, right next to where we were tied up – a place to put our feet on steady ground or get a little bit of space from one another’s energy.
Restaurants are typically to be avoided on sailing adventures – as we strive to keep close to nature and spend hours swimming in the very waters on which we travelled – but this time the Lakeview became part of our limited world and a spot we ran to while jumping between puddles in already soaked shoes, looking forward to a warm tea and a welcoming smile. There, with the comforting smell of peppermint tea, and the friendly conversation with our server, we began to appreciate that the poor weather had successfully slowed us all down. Between deals for card tournaments, we found ourselves immersed in the lazy lagoon scene just outside the rain-soaked windows….mesmerized by the continuous, light tap-tap of drops running down to gather in the sills and the seldom passing by of other boats that also decided to test the waters.
And eventually, after a brief inspection of the drenched cockpit and the waterlogged on board barbecue, we lengthened our Lakeview stay and ordered dinner, a bottle of wine, and indulged in one too many turtle cheesecakes. The food was good – but even better was the feeling of being invited for dinner at a neighbour’s comfortable home, of sharing cheerful conversation and connection with all those whirling around us, and the relaxation in knowing we only had to carry our full stomachs to our gently rocking bed a few steps away.
The weekend was one of those where one hour runs into the other, and one day into the next, and so it happened that we were sailing the distance back to where we came from. Today it was an eight hour journey across the lake and down the bay. We found ourselves at one time flopping and floating and sunny and windless (seizing the moment, we jumped off the boat into the chilly water and dared one another to do the same) and at another time in the strongest of winds, heeling so much that our sails were in the water (and letting out exhilarated hoots and hollers for the speeds we were reaching).
As we rounded the last bend and arrived back, slowly maneuvering through the marina to settle our Sonic back in its space, we knew this was a trip without a climax, and that our laundry bag was so much heavier going off board than when it came on board – not just being weighed down by wet bathing suits and evidence of incredible wet sailing, but also by memories of rain and dark clouds, and the irony of being forced to be idle in our ever moving tent on the water.
We roll into the dock, and in that very moment we spot, first by our ears and then with our eyes, a Bowrider leaping the length of the bay, and we smile at one another – knowing that a weekend journey for us would only take that noisy boat about 40 minutes. I had thought all this time we had been somewhere else, and had been focused on the making the best of a wet weekend, on exploring old territory in a new way, and in the last hours, on my eagerness to reach home. But now, as I stared towards the distance from which we came, and watched that motorboat quickly shrink from my vision as it sped away, I realized….despite our hours on the water we had never actually left home….It was in this moment that I experienced the peak in our trip, the break in our wave…Lake Simcoe was our backyard playground, the giver of adventures, the tester of our strengths, the enforcer of the rules of unwinding, the trickster in creating illusions with the passage of distance and time, and the wise teacher of the all the gifts right here at home.