A comfort to be stranded with nowhere to go

My heart caught for a second as soon as the boat turned over with a thump to the snowy ground.
Our only source of transportation to the outside world now was upside down.
“I’m glad we’re done with it,” I remarked gleefully to my husband who looked cold—even in the shadows of a propped up flashlight.
An hour earlier, we hauled a few weeks worth of groceries and our laundry across the lake to our new home at the cabin before propping the boat’s motor in the shed.
The night was calm and cold. The ice between us and our vehicle was closing in quickly.
“We’re across just in time,” replied my husband. “There was a lot more ice this way back.
“It’s forming fast.”
So it was. Later that night, the mist disappeared and we could tell in the crisp moonlight that all the squeaky shards of ice had turned hard.
But we slept well with the boat out of the water. It’s a comfort to be stranded with nowhere to go.
Plus it’s a relief not worrying about the safety of the water. My brain had pulsated with warnings from people with much more lake experience than we have.
“Watch for ice that freezes to the side of your boat as it splashes up,” said one old-timer. “Get off fast if it starts to weigh you down because otherwise you’ll be in big trouble.”
The thought of a sinking boat is unnerving. That and the impending freezing of the water’s surface had us loading and navigating with unusual high efficiency.
It’s as if scoldings from Mother Nature improves co-operation, and in an overdramatic way we were thinking, “Nice knowing you if this watercraft goes down.”
But as former city people learning to adjust, we did think things through in advance. On that last boating day, we shovelled the snow out of the boat, carried wrapped matches and lights, and we wore our snowmobile floater suits.
We also did a little research. We knew that the entire surface of a lake can’t freeze solid until the deeper water is colder than four degrees Celsius, and during that last day, the water a few feet down was still more than five C.
Also, we knew the ice we navigated is temporary because we compared the air and water temperature from previous years.
This fall on Nov. 8, the surface upper layer of water was seven C, and a week after that it still was only five C. This puts us behind last year when the lake froze over on Dec. 5.
So I’m not sure why we were so surprised at the scene that greeted us the following morning. There, throughout the wide expanse of water, waves splashed like it was a hot summer day. Not a pancake or even a shard of ice was in sight.
In fact, we canoed along the shore on the two days following and found nothing but claws of icicles along the perimeter.
It is Monday as I write this, and even now there is a wide open channel of water curving through the largest girth. Most of the ice is thin, clear, and sporting a blurred reflection of trees.
We even could break through it if we tried, but we won’t.
It’s an upside down kind of thing but in our opinion, ice is a lot more enjoyable when your boat is on shore and you’re stranded at a distance.
• • •
Today (Dec. 1), at least officially, is the last day to purchase the early-bird rated $200 snowmobile passes.
After Dec. 1, this rate goes up to $250 for the season. The one exception is if you have a machine that is a 1996 model or older, in which case your pass is $125 without a deadline.
Buy your pass at Badiuk Equipment, Pinewood Sports, Systems K, Tompkins Hardware, and Borderland Esso.
Or if you’re in Rainy River, purchase from Brian Russell; in Nestor Falls from Jim Swanton; and in Mine Centre from Chris Christian.
The good times will roll any day now.

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