Friday, December 12, 2014


There was a promise of +3 degrees that late November day. Not much of a promise, but a damn sight better than the last week, which featured full on winter type storms and lows of -15 at night. I was putting together a crew for a expedition of sorts, which would include a boat ride, a bonfire, some hot food around said bonfire, and of course, refreshments. Apprised of my intentions my dear wife offered the opinion that my plan for the day was both foolish and dangerous, but one that would not cause her concern. She said that her lack of concern was mostly because she doubted severely (as she put it) that I could pay anyone enough to accompany me into that frozen Hell. I got distracted by her choice of words (what did she mean "mostly"?), but then quickly recovered saying, "Pay someone? Why in the world would I have to pay a fella for a grand adventure?" She said, "You make it sound like you're offering them tickets to Disney World, when instead you are putting together a crew for a re-enactment of The Franklin Expedition." I explained that a "possum lodge" type group of  men like us find a day like this very exciting and it was like offering a day at Disney World!

At my age I think I know a thing or two about what men consider to be exciting. Now to be inclusive of all, I've been told that younger groups of usually unattached men have a very different idea of a Disney type experience. I understand it includes a raised stage, brass poles, and having plenty of dispensable cash on hand. I think we are getting off track a bit so back to my plan for the day.

The purpose of this trip of course had nothing to do with finding the Northwest Passage, but it did involve finding safe passage through an ice filled Lost Channel and rescuing one of my "tin boats" and the "little Merc" that powered it. We launched at an ice free Big Chute and headed east on our quest with a sturdy vessel, plenty of provisions and a well seasoned crew. Navigating around ice flows as we went we made good time until changing course and heading up into the slower moving waters of the channel itself.
The weather had changed its course as well with temperatures falling rather than rising (+3 becoming -3 and a snow squall coming in to make things interesting).

Progress forward became very slow, but being a swarthy bunch we pressed on. We were within sight of the cottage and the promise of shelter when, like the ill fated Franklin crew mired in heavy ice, we were forced to abandon our ship and continue on foot. Ice conditions were at that problematic stage (too thick to navigate by boat but too thin to support the weight of a crew member).

It was while I was witness to the exertions of the men between boat and shore that I made the following observation: generally speaking the more seasoned the man the more mass he seemed to have and the less likely he was to be "fleet of foot," which played a big role in how dry he was reaching the shore.
Eventually all souls aboard made it to shore and the relative safety of the cottage with varying degrees of success staying dry.

Undaunted, we set about to build a fire, winterize the cottage and rescue "The Shenanigans" from her icy prison beside the dock. No easy feat as she had gained a little weight since summer in the form of ice and snow filling her hull.
The little Merc? Well it was liberated as well, then travelled by sleigh, then boat, then the back seat of my truck to its place of wintering on a bench in my workshop. The crew members? Well we wound up getting warmed by the fire, having a hot meal and a friendly debate about who fared the worst on this excursion and of course the inevitable assignment of blame.

As with all endeavours it was not without adversity and I suppose responsibility ultimately rests upon the leader. What is it that Frank Costello said? "Heavy lies the crown" sort of thing?

Like the ill fated Franklin Expedition the unanswered questions were many.
Perhaps my choice of days to depart was flawed. Maybe the path taken through an ever thickening layer of ice should have been different. Even the order to abandon ship may have been hasty. Who can really be sure?

As I gazed at those gathered around the fire that day, through the jokes, barbs and differing versions of events, I was only sure of one thing.
Clearly, not a soul here would trade being at Lost Channel today for Orlando and a visit with Mickey!

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