Ferocious winds revive vivid memories

The winds of last Thursday evening, and again late Sunday night, reminded me of a summer weekend more than 40 years ago.
In that summer, my parents acquired a tent for family camping. It was first erected in the backyard and throughout the summer, my brother and I slept in it nightly.
We managed to sleep through thunder and lightning, bugs, and strange sounds.
My father had wanted to take my brother and me fishing up on Mainville and, at that time, the only way was to travel by boat across Rainy Lake, up the Big Canoe River, and then portage your boat into Mainville.
The fishing and camping trip took place on the long weekend in May.
Our family owned an 18-foot wooden Larson boat with two 10 h.p. Johnson outboards pushing it. Behind, we towed a smaller skiff to portage.
It was an all-day adventure getting to our campsite. The next day, we fished and watched the wind build up and the clouds move in. The fishing was good and that evening, my father cooked up an amazing feed of fish and chips.
As the weather kept building up, he decided the skiff had to be pulled to much higher ground and we packed all the food into the tent. By then, the wind was howling and the trees were swaying in big circles.
The rain came, and the wind gusted to even higher speeds—bending the trees like fishing rods.
At that point, my father decided to rearrange the sleeping arrangements. He shifted my brother across the back of the tent while he and I were positioned along the sides.
His reasoning was that even if the pegs and ropes pulled out of the ground, by our positing in the tent, it would remain in place and upright.
At some point in the night, worrying that the wind might cause trees to snap or pull loose, he went out and tested the trees.
My brother was always a sound sleeper and didn’t recall being moved in the middle of the night nor the tremendous lightning and thunder. I really never recalled the winds nor the thunder and lightning, either.
The next morning, as we came out of the tent, everything was in disarray. To start a fire for cooking, my father relied on boat gas. I seem to remember learning to cook toast on a fire from that day, and how good bacon and eggs could be from cooking on an open campfire.
The boat that had been pulled high and dry was filled with water. We left for town shortly after breakfast.
Our first indication of how damaging the winds were came from seeing floating islands that had broken away.
Coming over the portage, several houseboats were scattered along the shoreline. Someone provided coffee to my father from one of the grounded ones.
We headed down the Big Canoe River and out into the open lake. Somewhere along the route, in the channel between Hostess and Cheery islands, we saw a Canadian Wilderness Houseboat high and dry on a rock outcropping.
It had broken free from its mooring in the middle of the storm and had been driven by the wind up on that rock pile clear out of the water. I remember a man lighting a barbecue with lighter fluid on that houseboat.
A little later, we ran into Bill Fontana, the owner of the houseboat, who stopped us and asked if we had seen a boat on a rock. He had learned the fate of that houseboat from Rusty Myers Flying Service, who had a pilot fly over the area earlier in the morning.
From that weekend, I gained a real appreciation for how powerful winds can get.
Our neighbour at the lake told us Saturday evening that in all of his years coming to the lake, he had never witnessed winds the strength of those he felt last Thursday.

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