Around one of the bends of the Erie Canal is a quiet, well placed canoeing dream park. Kayak, dugout or racing shell would be equally delighted with the layout. We, however, had planned to cruise right past. Instead our newly purchased motor coughed and gave up the ghost as we came in sight. Adrift, we maneuvered to the dock and tied up, grateful for the option.
Thankfully the marina we had purchased the motor from apologized profusely and drove out to pick it up, promising to refund us. But they had no engine to replace it with. Meanwhile, our grandson took the kayak out. Might as well enjoy the area, right? I fixed lunch. Garam Masala chicken salad with tahini on romaine seemed a good choice. But I was feeling discouraged. Two engines burnt out in three days didn’t feel like a great track record. Not to mention that the kitchen sink needed fixing after one day of use. The marina to the north had no options.
“Try Dry Dock.” they suggested. We did.
“We’ll look around and get back to you.” they responded. We waited. Meanwhile, our grandson came back kayaking alongside an older gentleman in a 20 foot long home-made kayak. Pulling their boats out, they sat on the deck, chatting. Soon most of the family had joined the conversation. This merry boatsman seemed glad for an audience. He sat forward and talked with his hands.
“I was delivering kayaks to the San Fran Bay Area. Nice long ones I had made.” he gleamed. “I heard about the spring tide that comes in. Mind you, this tide is the highest of the month. It creates a wall of water about six foot high to roll in under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s crazy to try. You can either wash up on the shore of Alcatraz or Japan, and that’s if you’re lucky. So we paddled out and caught it and rode that baby for about an hour! Whee! It’s was crazy, but we did it!!”
The phone rang. Dry Dock Marina had an engine for us. But we had to find a way to get there to pay for it and check it out.
“I’ll take you, Dan,” the kayak surfer said, “That way I’ll have a captive audience for my stories!” Laughing he swung his kayak over his head with one swoop and popped it on the roof of his Jeep.
Back at the water, a family drove up with canoes and their dog. Paddling about, they looked at our boat and said, “We kid ourselves, saying, ‘We want kayaks so we can exercise.’ but what we really want is a boat like yours. It must be a dream!”
We looked at each other. Yes, this is our dream, come true, really. But in dreaming one doesn’t always calculate that, in truth, cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places. We smiled at the people and encouraged them to keep pursing their dreams.
A storm was coming up, and three times we had failed to assemble the bimini. Stepping aboard, three poles sagged sideways. When I tried to fix a loose joint the tiny Allen wrench slipped into the water. The experience was becoming more than trying. My learning curve was on a steep incline, and my daughter and I agreed that the difference between loosing ones temper and being tempered was vastly challenging.
While bungie cording the mess to a semi standing position an old truck coughed up. Dan and a toothless mechanic got out. The rust holding the truck together stood in stark contrast to the new engine he shouldered. His overalls were well greased, and boots grimy, but within half an hour we were underway again.
Coming around the bend we found the next marina. In contrast to the spotless marina in Lockport, with window boxes singing from every story, sagging docks, scattered RVs, and a laughing circle of rednecks made us wonder if we should stop. But we did. Even if they had an Allen wrench we could borrow, it would be such a boone.
Three of them sauntered over. Assessing the situation, they immediately dropped everything to help. The boat in the next dock was wrestling with their bimini too.
“A race, then?” they laughed, with instant camaraderie. Meanwhile, the chap with the Duck Dynasty beard and Theodore Roosevelt glasses was in command. Magically, he knew which poles we had in backwards, which ones needed adjusting, and where to clobber with a hammer to straighten things out.
Suddenly the boat looked real.
“Gotta run now,” the commander said, “wife’s got supper waiting.” The other chaps pushed us off and got us on our way again, not accepting a penny in exchange.
Suddenly I realized. Yes, today had been a day of tempering. But each time we needed help, God had sent us the most unusual and best equipped people we could have ever wished for.