Pirates of Lake Scugog: the Governor Simcoe adventures
The following will make little or absolutely no sense unless you read this first.
Or unless you enjoy far-fetched pirate stories
How to Enjoy the End of a Summer Long Weekend - Prelude
Agree with your girlfriend that you need to get out of the city. Even
with all its parks, Toronto lacks certain things you can only find in
the countryside. Like fields full of fresh produce.
Set out for a promising venue, gorge yourself on the last raspberries of the harvest and the best french fries you’ve ever had in Durham region, and, realizing it's still very early, decide what to do with the rest of the day.
You mean people actually commute to work in Uxbridge?
Looking at the map, note that you’re not far from the home of your friend’s oddly located company. Send you friend a text message asking for details about your next destination.
Look for the town’s famous bakery. Note that it’s closed for the holiday. “No Empire Cookies for us”, the travellers cry.
Pay a visit to the ice cream shop instead. Shed off your gelato snob attitude and enjoy the best Kawartha has to offer.
Well, it's still early. What's next?
Study your Southwestern Ontario atlas.
Compare the distance to Lake Simcoe versus Lake Scugog.
Simcoe is relatively huge, but a little further away. It’s the last day of the long weekend.
Decide whether you want to risk a late night fighting mobs of people driving home from their cottages to go back to work from the larger, more distant venue, or a hopefully more pleasant return trip.
Scugog, the almost two hundred year old man-made lake, wins.
Helping the decision is the fact that next mission will involve driving to Port Perry.
If the town's frequently mentioned in CBC weather forecasts, it must be worthy of a visit.
Finally getting to the part about the 'pirates'
The above photo and the use of quotation marks around the word "pirates" means there won't be any real pirates in this story. Or does it?
Arrive in Port Perry, wander through the street, and find yourself at the waterfront park.
Joke about taking a swim. Then see the “no swimming” sign.
Right, man-made lake. Nothing but mud and weeds around the shore, as this was previously a swamp.
After wandering past the $11,000 boat for sale, find the rental boat dock, where several fourteen footers are tied up.
Yes - it's time. Start the pirate adventure. Which involves marching back up the hill to sign up.
Learn that there’s a half dozen people ahead of you waiting for their turn.
But aren’t there four or five boats sitting there?
They’re all broken.
And now we play the waiting game
Leave name and contact number, take a walk.
See all that Port Perry has to offer, then enjoy the traditional pre-voyage libation - a double espresso from the Korean coffee shop.
Delicious. Before leaving, investigate the display case.
Wait, are those Empire Cookies?
Enjoy a cookie, made by a baker different from the famed one in Uxbridge, but also quite good.
Return to the docks, expecting the voyage to be stymied by lack of vessels.
Surprise. Your boat is ready..
The paperwork and briefings complete, you’re ready to set sail, for destinations unknown.
Or so you think.
Quite unexpectedly, an elegantly dressed young couple makes a beeline for your vessel, the lady walking right up to your boat.
She probably has a question for the dock staff who are getting you ready to leave.
Except she doesn't.
“Actually, I want to speak to you”, the young woman says.
Learn that the couple narrowly missed the departure of a small cruise ship, carrying dinner and a show.
Would you be willing to do someone a favour?
No sense letting those tickets go to waste. And it's not like you were planning on going in the opposite direction. That only leads to your boat promptly running aground which means both a loss of your damage deposit and sense of machismo.
Long term readers know that when travelling, being helpful to others whenever you have the chance is also the best policy.
The marina office women said you’re supposed “to not approach other boats;” they didn’t say anything about dinner cruise ships. The guys on the
marina dock say it’s both possible and allowed.
You do the math. There’s two of us in the boat, and two passengers looking for a lift.
All aboard, then, and full steam ahead. Time to begin this adventure.
Majestically getting underway
The boat glides as majestically as anything can move, anyway, as it's pushed by hand backwards out and away from a shallow dock.
Carefully getting acquainted with the vagaries of the throttle, the tentative first few metres of travel take place without incident, despite a plethora of obstacles just asking to be inelegantly rammed into by a neophyte skipper.
Clear of the docks, what follows is a thrilling slow motion half hour chase, just like in the ancient days of sailing ships.
Except you have the nagging sensation that a good sloop would no doubt outrun you and your little boat, as its 25 horsepower outboard motor is running all out and leaving something to be desired.
Curiously, the marina forgot to equip your vessel with a sail.
Rowing with the emergency paddles, of course, is possible, but would look extremely silly since this is no rowboat, or ancient Greek galley for that matter.
And so the chase continues, with plenty of time to chat about the day, laugh at the novel adventure, and take cameraphone pictures of the merry band of adventurers. Just like they did in Blackbeard's day.
A float plane was spotted landing on the lake. That option would've been both faster and massively impractical, though, as the wings of the plane would've uncomfortably ripped through the hull of the boat we were catching up to, and would have most likely upset the dinner service.
The couple sits at the front of the boat; they're friendly, charming, and above all very grateful for the surprise
water taxi, er, pirate raid service you're providing them. The marina itself has no regular water taxi service, and the rental shop is too busy on a holiday Monday to send out one of their staff to pull a crazy mission like this.
Although calling this a "crazy" mission for the locals would be a misnomer, as this sort of thing would not tax the skills of the young employees of the marina at all.
You, on the other hand, were last cruising a lake an entire year ago. In a rowboat with no engines, that left you tired and blistered.
Manning the outboard motor, on the other hand, is a breeze.
But you can't remember the last time you've done piloted a proper motorboat. Although operating the rowboat's tiller probably did help prepare you for this adventure, as the principle for controlling direction is identical for both vessels.
This is just much faster.
And you've definitely never tried to bring one alongside a much larger ship already underway!
But you press on undeterred. As a CA, you're ready for anything (Even sending out naval boarding parties? HA! Yeah, mention this at a recruiting session, why don't you...). Although CA Magazine does have a story about one man who joined the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan to administer the army like a true hardcore chartered accountant.
You shake your heard. No. Let's not take inspiration from an article about a finance officer - you're a naval brigand, or some kind of exotic taxi operator, anyway.
Countless hours spent playing Sid Meier's Pirates! finally pay off, though - you're within shouting range of the cruise ship. Your passengers thank you graciously and generously for the help - it was nothing, but thank you for the gift, you say.
And the fun of the boarding procedure begins.
Fortunately the Lake Scugog cruise ship is much smaller and lower than Seattle harbour tour ships, otherwise you would need grappling hooks and ladders.
You've been joking about needing a skull and crossbones flag throughout the adventure. The boat has a rescue whistle in the emergency kit, and as fun as it would be to crack that open, perhaps some shouting and waving will do the trick.
The ship's crew complies with your
amazing show of wit and equally fearsome cannonade polite request to take on your passengers, ropes are thrown and you're brought alongside, coasting along carefully with your hand gingerly playing with the throttle to give you just enough of a boost to finish gliding up to the gathered crowd, all running up to see the unusual arrival of the honoured guests, your passengers.
You try and hide your amazement when you manage to pull off the rather delicate ballet that is pulling up one ship alongside another on the first shot, with no trouble whatsoever.
Thank you, Sid Meier and company.
The return trip has one more surprise in store for you - a 25 horsepower engine will make you positively fly across the lake when you remove half the occupants from the boat. So much so that you warily eye the wake from the speedboats crossing your path.
The last thing you want is to see a nice big wave smack your boat so hard that your girlfriend go flying out.
Fortunately she has strong sea legs and enjoys experiencing the boat's surprising show of proper speed.
Aside from the weeds getting tangled up in the propeller one time, the remainder of the choppy trip is otherwise uneventful.
You pull into the dock.
This time pulling a precision low speed manoeuver is exceedingly basic, compared to the open water adventure, and you retire from your swashbuckling career.