Back and Forth...
(An instalment in the Diary of an Inheritance series
August 10, 2004
I knew in advance that today was going to be hectic.
Long ago an appointment was made for surveyors to come to the lake... today. Our large parcel of inherited property is finally to be divided into separate lots, one for each sibling. In addition, Heather and I had bought a state-of-the-art stove/fireplace for our increasingly comfortable cottage, and the installers were to bring it today as well. Finally, once her opera was all finished, Rachael had come up to the cottage with her husband and her dog, and, having spent several very pleasant days with us, they were going to leave this morning. They are driving to Sioux Narrows to continue their vacation with Kevin’s family. They got up early, packing and making sure their stuff would not obstruct the fireplace installers.
As you may recall, the only access to our cottage is by boat. As well, the two forest roads coming in to the lake are guarded by locked gates. Should someone wish to visit us – or if a tradesman comes – they must phone from the nearby village, whereupon I take the boat across the lake, get into the car, drive over the hill, and wait to meet them at the gate. I can walk to the gate, but it takes about ten minutes, and the road is steep. That trek is quite a workout!
It looked like the timing was going to be good: just after eight in the morning, the stove installers phoned to say that they were on their way, and the surveyor phoned seconds later to say that he should be at the gate by about ten thirty.
First trip across (1)
Off I went to get the fireplace workers. With their tools, the extremely heavy stove, and a stack of chimneys and fittings, I knew it would take at least two crossings in the boat to get them over to the cottage. Once their truck pulled up to the gate, we made our little procession over the hill to the landing, and I put my car back in its space between two trees. They parked behind me, and began unloading. I had asked them to put the truck there, so that they would not block Rachael and Kevin’s departure.
As we came back over to the cottage with the first load on board the Jack Aubrey, I noticed that our speed was not as strong as it should be. Uh oh. Was I beginning to run out of battery power?
Chimneys, tool boxes, caulking guns, ceramic tiles for the floor, and other equipment were quickly unloaded. Mark and Steve, the installers, were in a hurry because the weather forecast threatened rain, so we worked as fast as we could. Getting warm, I took off my fleece jacket and put it in the bedroom.
Kevin and Rachael were completely packed, so it was decided that when we went to get the rest of the stove supplies, we should take their stuff over in the boat, and Kevin could start to pack up the car.
Halfway across it was obvious that the boat’s electric motor was running out of power. Thinking about it, I realized I hadn’t charged the battery in nearly a week! The humming sound got quieter and quieter, and our progress across the water became very slow.
The installers, anxious to get the exterior work done before the rain, ran Kevin & Rachael’s things up to their car, then staggered back to the boat with the actual stove. Bolted to a wooden pallet, it was squat, and black, and heavy. Straining under the weight, the two men gingerly lowered it into the boat.
This process took time – time enough for the battery to recover a little – so when we pulled away from the landing, I thought there might still be enough oomph left to get us across.
There was. Barely.
An extremely heavy object is not easy to lift out of a boat. If you heave it one way, the boat moves the other way. People have to hold the boat firmly against the dock, yet stay out of the way as the men struggle with their load. One false move and the stove would crash right through the boat and down to the bottom of the lake. Thankfully, everything worked well, and soon the men were hefting the stove up the path towards the cottage.
It was time for Rachael to go. Her little dog, Annabelle, was in its carrier, so she stepped gracefully into the Jack Aubrey. Heather got in, too. “Diana and I are going in to Montreal,” she said, sitting down, “There is nothing but work going on around here all day anyway!”
Intuitive, she added, “Do you have the gate key?”
“I think so,” I said, and patted my pockets. Uh-oh, nothing there. “Maybe it’s in my fleece jacket,” I muttered, and ran up to the cottage to check. Patting the jacket, I felt nothing there, either. “Hmmm...”
I knew the key wasn’t lost, because I had just met Mark and Steve at the gate, and had let them in! Was it, perhaps, still in my car?
Supposing that to be the case, I got back into the boat, and headed across the lake with wife, daughter and dog.
This should be an endorsement for the “Interstate” brand of marine batteries, because once more, our depleted battery had recuperated during the pause – a little – and we set out under power. However, in a few minutes our progress slowed to a virtual standstill. On some holiday days, it is nice to sit quietly in the middle of a lake, but this was not one of them. There was some shuffling of seats so that I could get out the oars.
I began to row.
In due course we glided in to the landing, and began unloading daughter, dog, wife, and assorted gear.
Then I checked in my car for the gate key.
It wasn’t there.
There followed what might be called a “marital moment.” Heather explained to me some of the ways I fell short of her expectations. I have noticed over the years that this is fairly common in married life. The husband may be filled with remorse – indeed kicking himself vigorously – but nonetheless it is also his duty to have his error explained to him in some detail.
There was nothing for it, of course, but to go back to the cottage and really check those jacket pockets!
Speed would be good. Kevin and Rachael were now ready to leave. They had a long drive ahead of them, and it was close to ten in the morning. A locked gate across their exit was now a serious problem.
However, as I got back into the boat I knew there would be no noticeable power in the battery, so the necessary speed would be difficult to obtain. I put the motor in the water anyway and turned it on. Then I got to work on the oars as well (amusing myself by thinking of this as my “hybrid-powered boat’!)
Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! ...across a quarter mile of water.
Breathing hard, I pulled up to our dock, ran up the rock path, in the door, to the bedroom. Lifted up the jacket. Put my hand in the pocket... the key is there!
Back down to the dock and into the boat.
Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! Still using my odd “hybrid” propulsion, I noticed that now the battery was so weak that my rowing speed was forcing the propellor to go faster than it could under its own power. Huffing and puffing and pulling away as fast as I could, I idly wondered if the force applied to the propellor would somehow reverse the flow of power and charge the battery!
Did I mention that the distance across the water from cottage to landing is about a quarter of a mile?
Breathing hard, I got into Rachael and Kevin’s car, key at the ready, and we drove up, then down the other side of the hill (let's see now, this would be my second trip across the hill to the gate – both of them, so far, driving in a vehicle).
Heather, who had gone ahead across the hill with the the dog, was waiting at the gate, which I now unlocked. Soon there were hugs and kisses all around, and our daughter and her family drove away.
Heather and I started back, holding hands and together enjoying the silent forest. Before long, however, and not very far up the steep rise, we were huffing and puffing, and lamenting, not for the first time this summer, our lost youth.