I've sailed on that lake my entire life, and as far as I can remember, I had never set foot on that nameless shore until my firstborn suggested that he'd like to check it out. He was six, and still blissfully unaware of the many predicaments in which he might find himself, should he actually convince his dear old indulgent dad to attempt the landing.
My own father always denied my requests to visit the island. He was willing to sail me in close to the lily-pad-choked shoals, but no farther. Although the Lightning Class yacht drafts a mere six inches of water with the centerboard retracted, its big lobe-shaped rudder cuts deep at all times. Getting it wrapped in lake-weed and stuck in the mud was not something Dad fancied. His sense of adventure was tempered by wisdom.
Mine, apparently, was not; because that is exactly what I did on our first attempt. It was a hot and nearly windless day. We paddled, bobbed, and drifted more than we sailed. The motorboat chop was relentless and not only impeded our progress, but when we reached the island it drove us out of the narrow channel that led into the cove, and carried us far onto the shoal.
The lily pads are all gone on our end of the lake, but now an invasive weed called Asian Milfoil chokes the shallows, so I pulled up the centerboard. I was hauling the sails down when a wake-boat passed by, throwing a huge swell our way. I knew this wasn't going to be pretty. I told my son to hang on as the waves rolled into the shallows and became three-foot breakers. They pitched our Lightning nearly on her side with each passing surge.
At last it was over: We were rattled, but right side up. And the rudder was planted firmly in the muck. It was a trick, but I got it out of its hinges, and worked it free from the sludgy bottom. I pulled the anchor out and cast it off the bow. Then getting a solid set on the bottom, I pulled the boat forward a few yards. I repeated the process until my shoulders ached and my hands were raw. And so, we kedged our way back to deep water, fighting lake-weed and breakers the whole way. Mercifully, a little breeze came up, and we were able to sail the mile back to the club.
It would be a year before our next invasion attempt. And it would be another blazing, windless day, and a long haul. This time, we dropped the sails, pulled the rudder, and raised the centerboard as we moseyed into the narrow slot between the shallows. It was worth the trouble. My son was delighted by the little fishes that darted through the aquatic jungle of milfoil. Turtles by the dozen basked on mossy logs, herons sulked near the muddy banks. Cormorants spread their black wings and sunned and the bare branches of a dead tree. A flight of blue-winged teal made a break for it and flew over our heads. My boy couldn't wait to explore the island.
Then I saw it. Nailed to a tree. A white sign. Red letters. I glared at it with contempt. No Trespassing. After our epic struggle? I fumed in my mind. After all of our efforts! No Trespassing? A little boy's expectations are at stake, for crying out loud! No Trespassing? Ridiculous! The Water Company or the State owns this, right? I pay taxes!
I was glad my boy hadn't noticed the sign, for he was (and still is) far more righteous than I, and never would have consented to going ashore had he noticed it.
A decision had to be made...
Uncle Arctica is about making decisions - good ones, and bad ones. It's about how we justify the decisions we make - and how those decisions impact us and every one around us, sometimes for years to come. It’s also about sailing, madcap situations and harrowing predicaments. It’s about fear and fun. It’s about friends and jerks—and folks who are a little of both. It’s about love and abandonment. It’s about being a kid. It’s about summer at the lake.
So, did I decide to be a bad Dad and go ashore? I won't tell you publicly because, as it turns out, the island is privately owned.
But there is a reason it's called Trespass Island...