Monday Jul 26, 2004

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You'll wish that summer could always be here\*

Here in Massachusetts, I wish that summer would just get here already! It's still cool in the evenings, low 60s; no balmy breezes, no crickets chirping. Not even bats flapping around drunkenly at dusk. More like the middle of May than like the end of July.

Yesterday afternoon was decent enough, though, and I took the opportunity to go kayaking on Lake Cochichewick, which is just a mile down the road from my house. Lake Cochichewick is our town water supply, and in the wake of 9/11, I never expected they'd open it up for recreational use -- but back in May, 2002, unbeknownst to most everybody, they started issuing boating permits:

Certain watercrafts are allowed and must be designed to be manually propelled by oars or paddles. Rowing shells, johnboats, dinghies, rowboats, canoes and kayaks are acceptable as long as the occupants are isolated from contact with the lake. Boats must not have any thru-holes (e.g. self-bailers) that would allow contact between the occupants and the lake water. Electric motors are acceptable as an alternate form of propulsion. The maximum length of a motorized craft is 15 feet. Inflatable boats, windsurfers and seaplanes are not allowed. No domestic animals are allowed to be in boats, on the ice, or in the water at any time.

All I care about is the kayak part. I don't have a seaplane (a rowing shell, a johnboat, or a dinghy), and my dog hates the water. Anyway, they never made much noise about starting to issue permits, so it was two years (this spring) before I heard about it. My wife brought back news from the local YMCA, which is like the General Store of old. Keep your ears open there, and you will soon know everything that goes on in our town. Everything.

This one bit of news was a surprise and a delight. A delight because the lake is absolutely pristine and beautiful, big enough to be interesting, small enough to circumnavigate in a couple or three hours, depending on how hard you want to paddle. A surprise because it backs up on dozens of multi-million dollar estates, and I figured their owners would never go for boaters in their back yard. But (to extend the musical theme) "this land is your land, this land is my land", and as the town lake, I guess it's more or less my lake, at least to share.

My favorite house -- which I could never even see, much less approach from the front -- literally sits in the lake. It's just across the way from the foundation of the original North Andover Country Club clubhouse. The Trustees of Reservations write, in their description of Weir Hill (which borders the lake), "Moses T. Stevens helped found the North Andover Country Club, which built in 1897 a clubhouse whose half-hidden foundation can be seen in the southeast corner of Weir Hill, right on the shore of Lake Cochichewick." The foundation of this house doesn't match the rest of it -- there are these strange-looking, bricked-up portals in what would normally be, on a land-sitting house, the basement. So it's plausible that it was, once, the foundation for a different sort of structure. "At the time, members would paddle across the lake to the links to play golf and then back to the club house for dinner and dancing in the evening." I'm guessing this is where they pulled up on the golf course side.

How totally cool. I was walking -- or rather paddling -- in the footsteps of history, and I didn't even know it.

What made the day complete for me was, of course, stopping for ice cream on the way home. (Being only a mile from the house, this was truly serendipitous.) Treadwell's Ice Cream sits on the corner of Rtes. 125 and 133, just off the northern tip of the lake. In keeping with the outdoors, fresh air, healthy theme of the day, I made it a fresh raspberry sundae with low carb vanilla ice cream and no nuts on the whip cream.

I hope you had as much fun as I did on that (rare) lazy, hazy, crazy summer afternoon.

\*Sung by Nat King Cole, words by Charles Tobias, music by Hans Carste

Saturday Jul 03, 2004

Didn't Crash Into Anything This Afternoon, Either!

A beautiful day on the water was capped off with a ding-free docking. Finally! Thank God and the huge, bulbous orange fenders.

Learned a few helpful things along the way, too -- things people have been trying to tell me, and they're not rocket science, but they finally sunk in:

1. You can fend off the nasty, demon-possessed bow pulpit of the neighboring boat with your hand, so his spikey Danforth anchor, sticking outrageously far out from it, doesn't scrape you. You really can. He's all talk. His bark is worse than his bite.

2. The boat steers from the stern, where the engines are. All the weight's back there too. That means the bow swings free, and is the more likely end to go wild when you're trying to dock. So if you can secure the bow line quick, you're almost home.

3. Finally, slips nearer the shore enjoy much less current (friction from the shoreline slows it down), making docking way much easier. Way way much easier.

Other big news: I figured out how to use my radar. I have radar, can you believe it?! Of course, I don't know what any of the little black squigglies on the screen mean, but I figure I can practically drive the boat in the dark now. Especially with those huge fenders. Heh heh heh... ;\*)

Even more big news: or rather, a big confession. I went and bought it. Gave in and bought the Mother Of All Flashlights, the 6-D Cell behemoth I resisted for so long. But don't think too poorly of me. Ace Hardware sent me a 50% off coupon, good today only, AND a $5 off coupon because they missed me. So it was hardly like buying it. It was more like they gave it to me.

I'm still waiting for Cingular to figure out that they want to give me that phone.

If I can dock the boat and walk away smiling, anything is possible.

Tuesday Jun 29, 2004

Don't Try This At Home

Received today, from my friend Phil:


A waiter employed by my brother-in-law arrrived at work the other evening rather bruised and slightly disoriented.

Here's why.

Apparently he and a good buddy of his (they're both about 22 years old) went out on the Gloucester Casino boat, and returned back to the dock a little less than sober. Cade (his real name) had arranged for his girlfriend to pick them up. She was none too happy that they reeked of cigarette smoke and various alcoholic concoctions.

So, Cade being the thoughtful boyfriend that he can be, suggested that he and his buddy ride in the two kayaks attached to the roof of his girlfriend's car.

Okay, we've all been 22 years old, and perhaps this idea would have made terrific sense were we still 22. Though something tells me it's illegal, even if the kayaks had seatbelts.

It's difficult to create the visual of the inevitable.

The girlfriend tried to be a good driver and all, but at one particular intersection, she made a rather abrupt stop. The kayaks, of course, due to some rather old rules of physics, did not stop. This sent two rather drunk, smelly kayakers bouncing down the hood and onto Main Street.

Needless to say, hoods of cars, and the pavement on Main Street, don't have the same "give" that the Merrimac River does.


And this is, of course, why we always tell people to wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) any time they're in a kayak, and to "dress for the water, not for the air".

Sort of.

Wednesday Jun 16, 2004

Didn't Crash Into Anything Tonight!

I'm going to use this section to talk about boats, well described as "holes in the water, surrounded by fiberglass (or rotomolded plastic, in the case of many kayaks), into which you pour money."

I own three of them: two kayaks and a powerboat.  Yes, these things are, in most cases, mutually exclusive.  Being a kayaker and a powerboater is very much like belonging both to the National Audubon Society and the NRA.  "I enjoy bird watching, and once I've tired of watching them, blammo."  But remember what I said about non sequiturs.  And that this is all about me.

So tonight was a powerboating night.  Powerboating looks really easy.  Like driving, except there are no lanes to worry about.  Everything (or nothing, depending on your perspective) is paved.

The reality is nothing like this.

Picture trying to back into a tight parking space.  With no brakes.  The street is moving beneath you.  Sideways.  Your car is being blown around like something out of the Wizard of Oz.  And the car next to you has sharp, pointy metal things sticking out of it (like anchors) which seem not only temperamentally, but somehow even magnetically predisposed to gouging huge trackmarks in your pretty fiberglass.

Well, tonight -- perhaps for the first time -- I managed to park in my spot (that's landlubber for "dock in my slip") with nary a gouge.  A close call there -- but I spent the big bucks yesterday on huge (15" diameter), bulbous orange fenders ("bumpers", to the uninitiated), just for moments like these.  Spent 45 minutes (each) inflating them with a bicycle pump that kept saying "this is the weirdest freaking thing I've ever been called upon to inflate there, boss" as I pushed and pulled and huffed and puffed.  They came in very handy tonight.  No current, no wind -- but no talent either, so it was a wash.

This successful outing required a celebration.  "Moose Tracks" ice cream from one of the many home made ice cream stands strategically located between the marina and my house.

Of course, less successful outings require consolation stops... at the same ice cream stand.

But hopefully those are now a thing of the past.




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