As hot as it is here it makes me yearn for a body of water in which to immerse myself, or at least wade in or dip my toes into. It makes me yearn, in fact, for the years when my stepfather and his brother kept a pontoon houseboat at Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan every summer for a number of years.
Dad and Harold built the boat themselves, quite an accomplishment. As Harold's wife wasn't much for boating, our family was able to use the houseboat a lot. Almost every Sunday morning the six of us would pile into the station wagon and head for the border. The dam was just a mile or two into Canada, but hey, we were in another country. That was exotic. Of course, by the end of the summer, the customs inspectors came to know us so well they just waved us through.
The boat was always docked in a quiet little bay at the bottom of a steep cliff. (About three times as high as the cliff in the picture above.) Everything for a day on the water had to be hauled down the cliff - and back up at the end of the day. Usually we kids barreled down the sloped path, oblivious to Mom's shouts to come back up and help her.
The smell at the water's edge was part dead fish, part algae, part motor boat gas, and I was absolutely intoxicated by it. Eventually we got everything on board - lawn chairs, life jackets, groceries, fishing poles and tackle boxes - and got underway. Sometimes Dad would troll while fishing, other times he cranked up the engine and let 'er rip (as much as you can with a houseboat). I loved to sit on the front end of the boat and put my feet on one of the cone-shaped metal prows, letting the waters part over my feet, along with occasional ropes of algae. Once in a while Dad would dock the boat and my brothers would dive off the side of the boat while I explored the beaches.
My Mom seemed to love those days, and was disappointed when the weather so inclement we couldn't go, but looking back on it now I'm amazed. It must have been a lot of work to prepare all the food and pack the other paraphernalia. She always seemed to be having a nervous breakdown, trying to keep an eye on four kids at once, sure they would fall off the boat. My brothers, especially John, were extremely adventurous and she was wise not to trust them.
On a few precious evenings, we spent the night on the boat. We would delight to see fireflies, which we did not have at home, though we couldn't have been more than 15 miles away.
To this day when I smell Coppertone, feel a sunburn tightening my skin, smell that water's edge scent or see the title of one of the books I always had along - Daphne DuMaurier's "Frenchman's Creek" and "A High Wind In Jamaica" come to mind - I am transported back to those carefree days.