We sped out to the Canadian Narrows of the St. Lawrence River where Reed inflated the yellow vinyl raft intended for two riders. We had the ideal postcard day for Reed to take us in his Lund boat for tubing and swimming. This would be a chance for my dad, visiting from Pennsylvania, to enjoy time on the river with his grandson and great-granddaughters. Into boat corners we wedged coolers, towels, masks, and snorkels. Rayna immediately informed us that she did not intend to ride the raft. She had tried it once, and the bumpy rough ride exceeded her comfort zone. Ditto, I thought. However, no way could Paul balance a raft with Britt who weighed just 40 pounds. My dad, nearly age 88, probably would have volunteered if we let him, but that seemed irresponsible. Reed needed to drive the boat. By this time Britt, almost six, had nimbly hopped into one side of the raft and patiently waited for a partner. All eyes turned to me.
What a sight I must have been, crouching on the boat stern in my old red life jacket, awkwardly climbing, then tumbling, into the seat of the two-person raft. “Go fast! Go fast!” Britt shouted as Reed let out the tow rope attached from the boat to the banana-colored craft. I never intended to sit on a tube behind a speed boat. I hate thrill rides of any kind. We started off easy, our bottom dragging in the water. With acceleration the raft leveled off and skimmed the top of the wake, crystal water droplets spraying in all directions. Britt shrieked and laughed, enjoying every bump and air pocket. I tucked my hat under my legs and held on for dear life. My lips formed a fake smile, but I screamed authentically. The three guys and Rayna just grinned and waved, dry in the boat.
Hair-Dos and Don’ts
Once we reached an area of the river near Huckleberry Island, Reed stopped the boat and reeled in the raft. I struggled out, both Reed and my dad pulling an arm. Paul stared in amusement at my hair and asked, “Who are you?” I had shirts that my hair stylist had made, perfectly suited for this moment: BOAT HAIR, DON’T CARE.
Reed kept the motor off; the boat floated slowly down the river. Paul would keep an eye on the depth as Reed and the girls swam. My dad simply enjoyed watching the girls bob and float around in the water. Reed fitted the girls with their masks and snorkels to view the river bottom. If I jumped into the river each girl would have a partner. I tried to slip off the stern ladder as slowly as possible, but when I let go I submerged completely before popping up again. By this time I had not a single qualm about the hair.
The boat kept drifting down-river so we had to swim to stay within reach. Reed suggested we board the boat and motor to another spot. I skipped the hat, letting the sun and wind dry my hair. We ate turkey wraps and fruit, and drank root beer as we traveled to a small rocky island.
Reed and GP (my dad’s grandpa-name) would stay in the boat while Paul swam to the island with a rope. The wind would keep the boat off the rocks. Rayna, Britt, and I paddled from the boat to the island where we pretended to be shipwrecked. Rayna built a fire ring while Britt collected kindling for our imaginary blaze. I was Tom Hanks from Cast Away. Every now and then a passing boat sent waves crashing onto our island. Rayna discovered mussel shells under rocks and collected about three dozen. We had to use Paul’s hat to carry them to the boat. In a few hours we flew back to the marina, my hair pouffing in the wind. We returned home just in time for bed. Tomorrow’s plan: repeat today, except after swimming we would troll for muskies.
I had just a few hours the next morning to shop and prepare food for the second day’s outing. Ignoring my pride, I marched right into Price Chopper, our local grocery store, with boat hair. Plenty of vacationers wearing Sperry dock-siders flooded the aisles, their carts piled with water, beer, and snacks. Plenty of boat hair, too (on their heads!) Hmmmm. No one even looked at me twice.
An hour and a-half wait delayed us at Customs, so we altered our plans. We would forego swimming in order to have the necessary time to troll the muskie spots. The girls and I sat on the boat deck and pretended to be on a lifeboat. When we bounced over another boat’s wake Rayna and Britt stood and surfed, arms out for balance. Muskie fishing takes patience, so we girls occupied ourselves playing Uno and poker with pennies. Britt built with Legos, as well. We treated my dad to his favorite cocktail in a Steeler tumbler. Reed navigated the boat, and Paul checked rods or switched lures if necessary.
Screeeeech. The clicker on the reel screamed the alarm: Fish on! “Rayna!” Reed called. She leapt off the deck and sprinted the few feet to where Reed was pulling the rod out of the holder. “Crank it!” Paul scrambled to reel in the other rod, locate the net, set up the bump board for measuring, and ready the release tools. I’ve been in the boat for a few muskies. Adrenaline spills everywhere. No matter the amount of preparation to land a huge muskie, a few seconds of controlled chaos occurs. I heard Rayna squeal when the fish jumped. “Keep cranking!” Reed directed. Next thing I knew Reed and Rayna gently placed the fish on the bump board: 39 inches. Rayna’s first muskie. None of us missed the significance of having been witness to her initiation to muskie fishing. We watched the careful release of the fish. Reed looked at wide-eyed Britt, “You get the next one.” To Britt’s relief, I think, another fish did not strike that evening.
Boat Hair Everywhere
The next morning Paul, GP, and I awoke to a power outage at our house. We headed out for coffee. Paul knew of a great breakfast place, Tricia’s Rondette. I resigned myself to another public appearance sporting wild bouffant hair. And I realized I did not care. Paul and I had just enjoyed two spectacular days on the St. Lawrence with our son and grand-daughters. Plus, my dad had been with us for the river outings and Rayna’s first muskie. All of that, I cared about. A bad hair day, or week, a price I’ll gladly pay.