Deb and I worked sporadically on the Bobby, and I read in Dad’s diary that we launched her on Mom’s birthday or July 29th. I recollect it took Gerald Slate, Dad, Deb, Betsy and me to wrestle the craft down to the beach where we put her into the water to see if Deb and I got a “pass or fail” on our efforts to make her watertight. We had to wait a couple of days for the results in order to give the water that rushed in a chance to swell the wood, and hence tighten the seams. I recall Deb and I pumping the water out after a few days and then noting, “Look Deb the leaks have slowed to a trickle.” We now had another means of transportation to add to our growing fleet.
I found old black and white photos from 1961 that document me taking Mom, Betsy and Deb for several rows in the channels surrounding Comfort. Rowing a skiff is relatively easy although working the oars took some getting used to. Each individual oar fits over a pin on the gunwale, and the handle extends in front of the person rowing. Rowing a skiff is tricky because the handles overlap in the middle of the boat. It took me a while to coordinate the motion of bringing the oars back together without having them wedge together. One oar needs to be in front and the other right behind it. Then I’d dip them into the water and off I’d go.
The easy part of rowing a skiff is it goes where it’s pointed, and it glides a long way once it gets going because it is quite heavy. As Hughie and I learned, skiffs are not easy to land because the nine-foot oars get in the way near the dock. Having rowed dinghies, canoes, kayaks, and other self-powered rowing or paddling conveyances, I rate the St. Lawrence Skiff my favorite.
It was possible to explore inner bays and other channels too narrow...
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I had more fun than I’d ever had before in two summers. Santa Barbara was a special setting, but the 1000 Islands was even better. Being a few steps away from a beach, fishing or boating was fantastic, and in the coming years I’d see how it could get even better.
I had my first taste of becoming a “river rat.” I didn’t know what the term meant at the time, but I have grown to know and appreciate what it is in the fifty years I’ve been migrating here. It is many things to be a river rat. It is the sound of the ducks, geese and osprey issuing their calls. It is the flow of the river as it gurgles and gently slaps the shore on its journey to join the Atlantic Ocean in Nova Scotia. It is a call heard by those of us who cannot escape the magic of this unique setting. The pull and allure of the mighty St. Lawrence River had grabbed onto my psyche forevermore.