My 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 here….”
The Osprey ©1999 Dave Hadfield
There’re boats at play on an island 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
[chorus, and end]
© 1999 by Dave Hadfield