The idea of an extended camping trip with a six-, three- and two-year-old didn't appeal to Pete or me this summer, and I thought Pete's suggestion that we postpone tenting until all the kids are out of diapers brilliant.
We decided instead to get a boat and spend the summer evenings and weekends exploring the waters that are a literal stone's throw from our deck. My requisites were: holds all five of us, cheap, runs. We gave ourselves a day to find one on Craigslist, and twenty-four hours later were pulling an old turquoise beauty home through Vancouver rush-hour traffic. We stopped at Leif's preschool on the way and he just about burst with pride.
We schedule our boat trips to coincide with the least busy times at the launch, so as not to embarrass ourselves. The learning curve has been steep.
We figured out what happens when you (it was Pete) launch a boat without putting the plug in the drain hole. Also, what happens when you somehow detach the line running gas to the engine while roaring up Indian Arm. Also, that the large amount of water that pools in the stern bottom of the boat when you pick up speed can be accumulated rainwater from the bilge, not necessarily salt water pouring through a break in the hull. No need to frighten the kids by bailing madly while screaming at your husband to head for shore.
Aside from those alarming moments, it's been quite wonderful. It's beautiful, of course - placid waters with green-blue mountains mounding up on either side, islands ringed with multi-coloured tide lines, waterfront homes with Adirondack chairs at the end of the dock, kayaks and canoes sliding by.
When we launched the boat this morning, a group of old German tourists watched us from the wharf as we puttered away in a small cloud of blue smoke. They gazed after us silently, at Pete manning the wheel with Saskia beside him, me sitting in the back with Ariana asleep in my arms, and Leif bunched into his life jacket. I could almost hear them thinking, 'So this is how the locals live,' and that made me happy.
At one point up the Arm we spotted a bald eagle struggling in the water. It was almost submerged, flailing its wings, and we circled around to see what was going on. It began to do a sort of sloppy breast stroke, awkwardly pulling its wings through the water in unison, and headed for shore, a hundred metres away.
The occupants of a sailboat, an older man and woman with their tea towels pegged up on the railing drying in the sun, informed us that the eagle had attacked a seagull and was dragging it to land. We all sat there silently, watching the bedraggled creature push for shore, his mate waiting up in a spruce tree. He finally got up on the beach, shook out his wings a few times, and dragged the seagull carcass into the underbrush.
At home, eating burgers and corn on the cob for lunch, the kids remarked that the sight of the eagle swimming was the best part of the day, and I'd have to agree. Although the sight of the plug safely in the drain hole where it belonged was pretty sweet, too.