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Boating Stories

There's a Snake in my Bed

two challenging days end on a good note...

Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada

August 8-12, 2019

 Parry Sound 
 Chicago, IL 
 Detroit, MI 
 Toronto, ONT 


I don’t like snakes. I’ve managed to overcome my childhood paralyzing fear, but I still much prefer them to go their way and I’ll go mine. My other great childhood fear was hospitals. My lifestyle, and now my age, have forced me to overcome that too.

He was a pretty little guy, about a foot long, looking at me innocently as I was rummaging around in my V berth. I think he was as startled as I was, but amazingly, I had the quicker reactions and threw a towel over him before he could squirt away. I don’t even want to contemplate the sleepless nights if he had eluded me.

I wrapped him up, carried him to the back and dumped him into the little bay where I was anchored. He floated away motionless, maybe thinking that the big thing that just got him might not notice him again if he stayed still. But then he furiously started swimming back to L.T. I was making my way to get a kayak paddle off of the top of L.T. to explain to him that he wasn’t welcome back aboard when he disappeared. His sudden spurt of energy was probably due to something more lethal than a kayak paddle. I thought better of taking a swim too.

This was in the middle of a day that that was not going all that well. I had gashed my leg on a mountain bike ride the day before on Beausoleil Island and was trying to make Parry Sound for some R&R at a marina. But a 3 foot chop in the narrow, rocky channels of the small craft route hugging the north coast of Georgian Bay convinced me to go with Plan B. Plan B is something I’ve added to my departure checklist, at least when I’m around open water. But this was the first time I actually used it. Maybe I’m getting smarter.

I was pretty well protected, and the anchor had set well but I was in a pretty tight anchorage. The wind kept building all afternoon and even with a little island not 100 yards off shielding L.T., we were rocking enough to be annoying. At least there were some loons around to watch and listen. Awesome birds who can stay underwater a lot longer than I can. Surely, I thought, the wind would drop after dark. Wrong.

I had set my anchor alarm pretty tight because of the tight space. It started going off. I’d add another meter to the allowable distance and in another half hour or hour it’d go off again. Coordinates on my chart plotter confirmed I was dragging, but not much. Good thing. The last thing I wanted to do while rolling in the dark with rock ledges all around was pull anchor and move. Besides, I didn’t have a Plan C and didn’t know where I’d move to.

So, I held tight and occasionally dozed off until the anchor alarm went off again. Check coordinates to make sure not too far, add another meter or two to the alarm distance, repeat. First light revealed that I still had adequate, if not exactly ample room. The anchor came up with a ton – well, maybe not a ton, but a lot of mud indicating that I probably dug a 2 foot trench some 6-8 meters long on the bottom. I moved to an anchorage with more room about a half mile distant to wait out another day of wind. I slept most of the day.

I usually have some idea, but I’m never sure what I’m going to find when I pull into a new town. In Canada, at least along the Trent Severn Waterway and Georgian Bay, it usually means a small quaint town with some interesting history and enough to explore and do for at least one day, usually two.

Parry Sound was bigger than most so not exactly quaint. Still it didn’t disappoint. Like most Canadian towns, it has memorials to the Great War and World War II veterans. In the States, I think we’ve become too anesthetized with wars – oops, they’re ‘actions’, only Congress can declare war, right? - to remember the Greatest Generation and the generation that preceded it in the War to end all Wars. Parry Sound seems particularly proud of their Algonquin Regiment and an Indigenous member of that Regiment, Chief Francis Pegahmagabow. I found it impressive that he is honored in both English and French (bilingual signs are ubiquitous in Canada) as well as his native Indigenous language.

I was returning from a bike ride and noticed the parking lot filling at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, virtually next door to the marina. Some quick questions reveled that I had 45 minutes to shower and put on my best (a short sleeve shirt and jeans instead of a t-shirt and shorts) to make a concert performance.

I was rewarded with a concert by the National Academy Orchestra at the season ending performance of the local Festival of the Sound. It was even more impressive to learn that this was the Festival’s 40th season. Everyone there seemed proud that their little endeavor had grown into ‘Canada’s premier summer classical music festival’.

The concert mostly featured toe tapping favorites ending in a rousing rendition of Bolero (is there any rendition of Bolero that isn't rousing?). But it also featured the premier of a piece composed and performed by Barbara Croall of the Odawa First Nations. The Orchestra did an impressive job of supplementing rather than overwhelming her pipigwan (traditional wooden flute), drum and vocals. In a way, her performance was much as I might expect from my childhood TV knowledge of pow wows. But the composition gave her rich alto voice room to express meaning that can only be described as spine tingling. I doubt that anyone in the audience had any better idea than me of what she was singing about, as it was in her native language. But it was awesome, and awesome too to be included in and backed by a classical orchestra.

Another great day on the Loop! Now, if someone can just explain how that damn snake got into my bed.

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