With my right hand, I grip the tiller. The roughness of the splintered varnish presses into my palm as a gust of wind thrusts sharply against the main sail. The boat lurches and I tighten my grip on Alice’s life jacket with my left hand, while pressing my legs together, squeezing Henry’s body between them. Blake nimbly jumps up and down, up to the bow to adjust the jib and back to the main sheet to let out some slack. We rush through the waters of Abram Lake, with the spray from the waves dousing our faces.
Henry wraps his arms around my leg and whines for his fleece. Alice, perhaps sensing the instability of the situation, begins to profess her love for Henry while nestling her head against Henry’s neck. Blake, in his element, calls out various instructions, “Bear off. More. More! You’re too high. You’re pinching!”. I adjust the tiller in tiny increments, feeling the veteran sailboat responding in its course.
We are out for a mid-morning ‘pirate adventure’ on our 1962 nineteen-foot wooden Lightening. I had packed a lunch, envisioning a leisurely cruise with the family. As usual, things had not gone as planned and as the wind picked up, we were soon sailing, really sailing.
When we had moved to Sioux Lookout in 2014, one of the first things that Blake did was find us a sailboat. We had both grown up sailing as kids and wanted to continue our love for wind sports in our new home.
Somehow, Blake found an elderly woman who was parting with an old Lightening. It had been a joy in her marriage for many years, but since her husband’s passing, the boat had been kept in a woodshed for some time. I remember driving out to the rural hamlet of Rugby, an hour north off Highway 17, near Dryden one summer day with Blake to pick up the sailboat. Navigating the basic directional instructions, we had pulled into an old pioneer homestead with a log cabin and scattered outbuildings. No one had been there, but we had found the sailboat tucked into a woodshed and had hauled it out and trailered it home.
With much love, Blake had repaired and refinished the hull, restoring the boat to a water-worthy state. That summer, while pregnant with Henry, we sailed every chance that we got. But soon, with two kids under two, it became harder and harder for me to get out on the water. Thankfully, as the kids grew, our ability to sneak away for a sail, just the two of us, also grew and we have spent a number date nights sipping beer while cruising up Abram Lake.
Now, as the baby stage is forever behind us, our family sailing adventures have begun! In the end, on our pirate adventure, many a goldfish cracker ended up waterlogged in the hull of the boat and Alice had newly acquired the phase ‘Oh shit!’, but we had made it back to our sandy beach all in one piece.
Although I may not have been appreciative of this sentiment while simultaneously trying to navigate the boat and keep both kids upright and safe, our lives are so intimately connected to the pristine lake that stretches out in our backyard and we could not be more fortunate.
Each day begins and ends with the sounds of the waves against the beach. In the summer, not a day goes by where we don’t relish in the cool relief of the water, our bellies satiated by fresh Walleye. Even in the winter, the lake is not forgotten and its snowy expanse is used for snowshoeing treks, skate skiing and ice skating.
As I launch my new blog, it wouldn’t feel right to not pay homage to the body of water that provides our family with such joy. It’s not always easy to raise a family in the backwoods of rural Northwestern Ontario, but this is our home and no matter what atrocities that I face at work, my stress melts as I watch the sunset over Abram Lake.
Now that it has been two years since there has actually been ‘FOUR in the Canoe’, I felt it time to make move to a new platform in hopes of rekindling my love for writing and sharing stories of our lives here in Sioux Lookout. I hope you’ll follow us along too!