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The 'Youth Floatilla' in Boats

Updated: May 13, 2020

‘The good news was, I felt proud that I had the nicest boat in the gang, and everyone tied up to me, the bad news was, it was a crapshoot whether I could get my engine started to go back home...’

The old boat with the 40 HSP engine I had to pull-start to get away as a teenager.

In the days of youth, about the early teens, most, if not all, of my friends had their own little boats to whip around the lake in. My dad said I didn’t need one, because, well, quite frankly every other kid had one, so I could just as easily get picked up. That was not what any youngster, who was now a young teen wanted to hear. I wanted my own little boat, too. I wanted to escape, and get off ‘the plot’. It was clearly never going to happen.  My brother and I were pretty lucky that our cabin was in between a cabin with 5 boys, and a cabin with 4 girls. My brother and I had, within hiking distance, (or row boat or swimming distance) friends to play with. It was a pretty ideal situation. My brother had a same-age buddy at the boys’ cabin, and I had a girlfriend who was just one year younger at the girls’ cabin. My parents were also thrilled, and they often got together with the neighbouring parents, especially the boy’s parents. Life was good in our bay of four cabins.  However, as my brother and I got older, we wanted to break away and get out with that normal pull of independence, and that meant getting our own small boat and engine. Unfortunately, my dad was not going to go for it. We had the one family speed boat with a 40 HSP pull-start (yes, I said, pull-start) engine. It was a Johnson, and I can tell you, it didn’t always want to start very well.  Dad said to me one sunny afternoon, “if you can start it, you can take it out.” Now, he was talking my language, and I was a young gangly-legged, tall skinny girl, but those were the inspirational fighting words I needed. Bring it on, I thought to myself. I can do it.  As I watched the other kids start their little 10 HSP engines and roar off and away from their parents, and, in the case of my girlfriend next door, the old wooden, front steering boat with a 25 HSP (which flew), I pined for teenage freedom and getting out in a boat.  Down I would go to the dock, and into the boat I’d get. I’d start pulling that handle attached to an engine rope starter and I’d pull, with my foot braced up against the transom engine well. And then, I’d pull again, and again, and again. I gave it every ounce of energy I had. Did I mention that engine didn’t always start? Yes, it was crapshoot. Discouraged and exhausted I would give up, at least for that day. I remember I had so many very, very sore muscles, but I was determined. I was a girl of the lake, I was a teenage girl that needed some freedom. A one-room cabin with two parents, and a shared tent with my brother was a tad too close. I need to break out.  I worked at it, and I developed those boat, starting engine, rope-pulling, muscles. Whew! It was killer. I was ecstatic that first time that I did it and I finally got to drive off with a sense of freedom at last!  There were no phone landlines, and no cell phones in those days. It felt like smoke signals were as about as modern as you could get. For the most part my girlfriend and I whistled to make communication. I would go out to the end of my point and then whistle. (I was a girl who learned to whistle with 4 fingers in my mouth at an early age.) She then came out when she would hear me. Then we’d yell, her dock to my rock point. (This might horrify you younger readers, you might not know what life was like before cell phones, today still we do not have perfect cell phone reception at my place, but we ‘make do’ just fine), back then there was no such thing if you wanted to connect with your friends. So, there I was off to meet up with the other kids. The deal was, and this is often like today, the youth meet up by gathering in boat groups. As there is no real public beaches or public areas on the lake, people get away from their cabins and their parents by motoring out into the lake, simply turning off the boat engine in the middle somewhere and just drifting. Couples do it to get some alone time. I have seen boats floating with seemingly no one in them. Enough said. Admittedly, adults get out there, too, usually to catch the last rays of the afternoon sun, or have an afternoon or ‘Happy Hour’ cruise with neighbours.  So, in those days I would meet up with a bunch of friends out in the middle of the lake. I had the biggest boat of the bunch, and so they all tied up to me. We’d visit and laugh (we were very, very young, so I do not remember any drinking of alcohol, or smoking, we were a pretty decent bunch of kids back then.) These days I hesitate to say the boats the youth are piloting are bigger, and they are equipped with rather sophisticated and loud stereo systems. It’s a new, rather affluent world on the lake. Times of course have and will continue to change, there will always be bigger and better and louder, but I can tell you that back then, I felt on top of the world speeding down the lake in a 40HSP boat, wind flying in my hair, meeting up with a few friends to drift.  As much as I had that boost of confidence once I could get away from ‘the plot’, and join my friends, I was often more envious of the kids that had the small engines that were much easier to start. No one else had a 40 HSP engine to pull-start. It was quite a feat, and because it was a finicky engine, I failed to restart it and got towed home more than once.  However, these are the memories I have, and my youth was overflowing with great memories at the lake. Because I have been coming to my lake since I was 8 years old, with me now being in my mid 60’s (at the time of this writing), I have certainly been blessed to have had these wonderful experiences, ones that I would not have had if I had spent every summer holiday just in the city. I never got the chance to go to Disneyland or Hawaii, or any travelling vacations or camping trips, with my parents, like my other city friends, because we had the lake. That is where the family money went for vacations, and I consider myself very lucky. Life here has always been so unique and truly rewarding, and I thank my parents for the many amazing opportunities and rich life experiences. I wish they were alive today, so I could tell them, and share this blog with them. I think they would have appreciated and enjoyed it.  On those lazy early teenage afternoons, floating down the lake with the other kids, in our ‘youth floatilla’, I had so much fun, and it felt rather freeing for a young city/bush girl like me.

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