Floating on the St Lawrence River on a gorgeous July afternoon, time seems to stand still. A few ducks swim leisurely by the boat, which is anchored in a beautiful little inlet. The low, uneven shoreline is a bit rocky, but the smooth stones just under the water’s surface make for the perfect sitting place as I survey the kids splashing and playing nearby.
The boating culture of Ganonoque, ON has a distinctive flavour to it and although this is my first time here, I feel confident it’s something I could get used to pretty quickly. Our family was introduced to the quaint little town – just over an hour south-west of Ottawa – last weekend, courtesy of our generous friends Laura and Chris.
Having grown up there, Laura’s role as ‘Captain’ comes very naturally to her; she has been driving boats under the watchful eye of her father since childhood and independently since the age of 16. Even with her newborn son in a sling on her chest, she handles the wheel with a confident ease. Her husband, Chris, graciously adopts the role of second-in-command while on board. With the mid-morning sun overhead, he greets our two young daughters with a friendly but firm reminder of the ‘boat rules’:
- Laura is the Captain of the boat. Listen to her.
- Wear your life jacket at all times
- Have fun!
Simple rules; fitting for the simple but beautiful way of life that they govern. Laura speaks warmly of the fellow boaters they encounter, both at the Gananoque Municipal Marina and out on the water. As if to prove her point, shortly after she tells us about the highly-social atmosphere some family friends motor up to their boat. Sitting in a small dinghy, they have zipped across the water from their own anchored vessel to say a friendly hello. It strikes me that recreational boating is not unlike camping, where family and friends wander in and out of each other’s camp sites, sharing BBQ supplies, sunscreen and beer.
The little girls – there are four of them between the two families – spend the afternoon in and out of the water. Though it’s cold enough to generate a short-lived shock factor upon jumping in, the water is the perfect antidote as the mercury continues to climb. Before we know it, the supper hour is fast approaching and it’s time to head back to the marina.
A short ride later, Laura and Chris work in tandem to smoothly dock the boat. The small, boat-mounted barbeque is lit and soon the smell of steak, chicken and pork skewers fills the air. Some homemade potato salad and a bottle of red wine magically appear on deck and voilà – dinner is served.
Contentedly full and happily tired from a full day of sun and swimming, the girls doze on the drive back to Ottawa. Their little sea legs have now been initiated, and dreams begin to roll over them like gentle waves.