canoe journeys in Manitoba were getting less and less popular
at home, as the trip-lengths increased and once Austin and
Kelly arrived. Robin was a good sport, but there was no doubt
that when I took off that way I was imposing on her. I started
looking for something we could do as a family that would still
take me out into the bush (the bush that so obsessed me).
Car camping was out. I simply wouldn’t do that.
We went to the Winnipeg boat show one year to look at kayaks.
While there, we noticed a sailboat. It was large, 26ft, but
the keel and rudder retracted so that it drew only 15 inches
of water, and you could launch it anywhere.
To make a long story short, we bought it (you’ve got
to be careful at boat shows). With that boat we wandered many
many wilderness lakes. All we needed was a gravel trail to
the lake, and some kind of a scratched-in access to the shore.
It was addictive. We had the very great pleasure of sailing
all day, we had the convenience of the cabin for handling
the children (Kelly was a year old, just walking and still
in diapers), and I could tow a canoe – an old 14ft wood-canvas
that I’d restored. We’d anchor the boat in some
little wilderness cove that had never seen a sailboat before,
I’d take a kid and hop in the canoe, and wander off
until it was time to come back for a late supper. We’d
fish or wander on shore or portage to a hidden lake…
.it was wonderful.
We’re not over it yet.
A while ago we were windbound in Providence Bay, Manitoulin
Island, waiting for a howling westerly gale to subside. As
we walked along the beach we came upon a local museum. Along
with the displays of flora and fauna and fossils, was a pictorial
history of the first powered fishing vessel on Lake Huron
– Osprey, by name. Her propeller and shaft were mounted
outside the building, and children were climbing and crawling
all over it. I looked at the lake, with its eternal surf crashing
onto the shore, felt the wind full on my face, thought about
the boat, and it occurred to me, “There’s a story
There’re boats at play on the western bay,
And people crowding on the shore,
And fish swim free in the inland sea,
Where I hauled my nets before.
My mind is at play, on this bright , warm day,
And rolls back the curtain of the years.
And there floats new, the Osprey and crew,
And a young man who’s smiling as he steers.
And if back then anyone would’ve told me.
I’d be old and the fish all gone away.
I’d turn my back and face the fresh and cold sea,
That comes rolling in ashore on Providence Bay.
The first in steam; it was a fisherman’s dream,
To go against the west wind’s steady roar.
And the trout in schools we’d chase like fools,
Net them up and haul them to the shore.
The fishing stations then were full of working men,
With a fleet of schooners cruising under sail,
And they’d all stop and grin when the Osprey came in,
Against the wind, and loaded to the rail.
But now above the sands the fish museum stands,
With her prop and shaft just outside the door.
And children climb and play on the relics at Providence Bay,
And never hear the stories anymore
1999 by Dave Hadfield