Sep 15, 2012

Bear Lake, Sailboats, and the shadow of my father.

It's been a rough week followed by another weekend at Bear Lake.  I've figured out by now that there are a number of survival tools involved when going to Bear Lake with more than 2 kids.  The McNeighbors are up with us this weekend, sans Mrs. McNeighbor.  Awesome kids, but when the McKids get together with the Craig Kids it can get a little loud. Nothing earplugs can't handle.  Naps are a good thing, too.

There has been a lot of playing with the rats, which is awesome.  And then they sleep well at night.  Yes, I mean the rats and the kids.

The blowgun is a bit hit, as well.  Mostly just darts, but the kids are trying out the blowgun paintballs.  Hard to make them break, though.  I've been doing a ton of marksmanship -- .177 caliber CO2 powered pellet rifle.  Great for target practice, but with less deadliness.  It allows me to keep some of my Marine Corps shooting skills, and it's not an overly expensive hobby.  When the CO2 cartridge starts to wane you get some weird effects, however:

I don't know how the pellet managed to penetrate, remaiin intact, and end up backwards.
And a boat ride was nice.  After an "all hands on deck" ride around the lake, Sean and Eli went out on the Biscuit, but Eli wasn't really in the mood.  Sean, however, proved difficult to toss out of the wake.

But the best part of the day was seeing the sailboat on the lake.  We don't know whose it is, but it's roughly the same size as the boat Dad used to sail on Bear Lake.

Bear Lake is primarily a fishing and fun lake.  Meaning most of the boats on the lake are fishing, and in the warm months of summer people go waterskiing, jetskiing, or pull their kids around the lake on an innertube.. But when my parents first purchased the cabin we had a serviceable 26 foot "Snipe" sailboat.  Actually we had it long before that.  Dad would go out for the day and just sail and sail and sail.

Before Bear Lake, when all of our friends had cabins or "up north" (it seemed) we would go camping.  Once a year, however, we would go to "the lake" -- a resort.  Initially it was a resort up on Deer Lake in Minnesota, but the resort that I always loved most was North Star.  They had a pool, a snack bar with video games, and a lodge with a jukebox, pool table, and so much more.  The early years at North Star involved the whole family, larger than life.  Aunt Mary and Brian would even come and one year they brought Brian's kids from Arizona.  They had little plastic pilot's wings from the flight up, and we all spent a lot of time coloring in posters with colored markers.

Anyway, we all had our roles at North Star.  Uncle Leo went fishing morning, noon and night.  He would catch hundreds of little fish and Aunt Jean and Grandma Craig would fry them up so their cabin was always smelling of fried fish.  My sister Mary would disappear to the horse corral, my other sister and I would spend most every daylight hour in the pool, and to be honest I don't remember what my brother did all those years.

But Dad would go out in the sailboat.  Midmorning as the wind came up he would go out, and spend most of the day out on the lake sailing.  He would make it back for happy hour at the end of the day -- a family mandatory fun time.  Mom would sit by the grill with the squirtgun to eqtinguish any rogue flames, the kids would drink Pop Shoppe Pop, Aunt Jean would take our pictures against our will, and Dad would play concertina while Uncle Jerry sang with him - folks songs, sea shanties, the usual. :)

You could go visit Dad on the boat by taking the motorboat out, or you could go out for the day with him.  But usually he was out there alone, sailing the days away.  I remember sun burn, for some reason.  On Bear Lake there were more than a few runs to just drive by and see if he was ok.  He always was.

I also remember the first summer we had the sailboat, sailing it on Long Lake by the boy scout camp with Dad and my brother.  I had just survived a horrible week at camp and he came up as he often did, for the weekend.  After a trip to town in which I bought my first western (The Tin Star) we spent the rest of the weekend sailing.  I would climb into the space undernear the forward deck and read while dad sailed.  It was fairly comfortable if not a little claustrophobic, but there was something nice about being all snug inside my book while we broke through the waves.  Every once in a while he would tack and I would change position, but mostly it was just the up and down motion of a little boat on big water.  Long Lake is truly a long lake, but it's also wide enough that in the right wind you can get good little whitecaps and some serious sailing.  We were out that weekend at one point with my brother, and the three of us would be heeling on the boat, leaning over to compensate for the wind in the sails.  At one large gust, however, the boat went a bit far -- not tipping over, but enough to surprise us all.  I remember telling the tale later as "I screamed, my brother turned white as a sheet, and my father dove for the sheet to bring the boat back upright."

I didn't sail much after the first summer with the boat, but enjoyed going over to Lake Nokomis with dad -- he would sail and I would bike around the lake over and over again.  Every time I came back to the landing I would look out to see where he was and decide whether or not I could make it around one more time before he got back.  I can still smell the landing today, and every time I come near a lake and smell the water mixed with weeds I am transported to those early days.

So to be out on the lake today and see a sail reminds me of the many days mt father spent on the lake, and how happy that must have made him.  The older I get the more I am turning into my father, and moments like these really remind me that to become him is such a gift.