Our journeys always began in Penetanguishene, Ontario, where we would gather provisions and fish from the docks while our grandfather readied our boat, Mañana. Our grandmother would stow bags of buckwheat flour, baskets of oranges for juicing and eating, peanut butter, honey, homemade bread, and cornmeal for crusting and frying catches of the day. Milk was stored in the freezer (so delicious with its icy shards when paired with our peanut butter and honey sandwiches!) along with emergency meals for the days we hooked nothing but bottom.
Leaving port was always filled with excitement! When the lines that bound our boat to the dock cleats were tossed on deck and bumpers were hauled aboard, we would motor out of the marina onto Georgian Bay. I remember the smell of Manana’s diesel engine and the eager anticipation of cutting the motor and unfurling her sails. How I loved watching land drift further and further away until it was out of sight! This meant there was no turning back and I could finally enjoy the thrilling juxtaposition of our boat’s intimate quarters against sailing on open, unprotected waters.
We sailed during the day, passing time with backgammon matches, boat songs and turns at the helm, then anchored at night, staying a day or two in one of the protected coves my grandparents had named after each of their grandchildren. The moments of navigating our boat through the narrow, rocky passage ways to reach our secret coves were often fraught with tension. I recall being confused at how they could yell at each other while anchoring but then be so calm and loving afterward. They contended that it wasn’t “yelling” if you were on a boat – it was simply “speaking with urgency.”
Days were filled with blueberry picking (for my grandmother’s buckwheat pancakes), fishing, swimming, canoeing, exploring, and napping or reading in the bow hammock. After dinner we would play cards or tile rummy and look over the next day’s nautical charts. Many nights ended with time in the cockpit marveling at the stars while our grandfather taught us constellation names. Their brilliance against the black of night is something I still dream of today.
Baths were taken in the bay with a bar of Ivory, chosen for its inability to sink. I can still feel the cold water inching up my legs as I eased down our boat’s ladder. If the temperature was unbearable, my grandmother would pour buckets of water into the dinghy and let the sun warm it before washing our hair.
Every trip had a different crew, with parents, cousins, and my Aunt Sally all taking turns.
Save for one year, Kathy was always with me. I can close my eyes now and see her curled up in a sleeping bag with a book on her favorite starboard bunk. She cherishes those summers just as I do, and we dream of returning, together with our families, someday.