Saturday, July 31, 2010

Testing the Strength of Gravity

You can see the impact of the economic recession in the towns along the Champlain Canal. The people have a worn down look and feel to them. The buildings are run down around the edges. In Waterford we dinghied to the east side of the canal to go swimming. We tied to a dock and waded in. Local teens gathered on the shore and stared at the weird people swimming in the probably polluted canal. At first it was 1 girl, and then she went and got her friends. And then more friends crawled out to gawk at the strangers. And then the theme song from “Deliverance” played on repeat on the CD player in my brain. That night, after dinner, we sat at the counter in a diner to get dessert. A man talked Todd’s ear off about his disgruntlement at the state of the world, NY state, and the government.

“Mags, we have to help out Uncle Todd. We need to tear him away from this man,” I whispered.


“We need to ask him a question, so he has to turn our way.”

“Uncle Todd, so, how do you like the iPad?” she asked. Todd, relieved, turned to Maggie. The man got up and left after a few minutes. Which was great because he was such a bummer. But I suspect that’s the theme of the town. Not enough jobs and plenty of politicians to blame for it.

Fort Edward was no different. Haggard people sat on the park benches when we pulled up. A couple went by—she was pushing a baby stroller as he walked beside her. Her T-shirt, from afar, read “Pussy Rules.” Upon closer inspection it read “I have the pussy, I make the rules.” Classy. The locals swam in the creek where we were tied, so at least we didn’t feel like animals in the zoo when we swam too.

On Saturday morning we took on locks 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12. There is no lock 10. Apparently the Canal had been diverted and changed so many times that the lock numbering system had been disrupted. Once we were through lock 12 we would officially enter Lake Champlain.

It was just before lock 12 that Hali fell. I was below making lunch. Out of the corner of my eye I watched a skinny 9 year old fall clean down the companion way and land face down. I leaned down to pick her up. She said she was OK, but her left cheek looked like someone stuffed a golf ball under her skin. I grabbed an ice pack from the first aid kit and struggled to pop the inner pouch. Eventually I frantically set the damn thing on the floor and stomped on it until I managed to get the inner packet to break. I shook it and released the cool chemical reaction.

Tears had begun to stream down her face by then. Todd hollered to me from the helm “What’s on the back of her shirt?” I turned her around and saw a stream of blood had formed from the back of her head. Her blonde fine hair was clotted with blood. I pawed through it to find a small scrape on the back of her head that bled like a geyser. I wet a paper towel and held it to her head to stop the bleeding.

Lock 12 loomed. We had no choice but to go through it. I dispatched Maggie to care for Hali while Krys and I navigated the lock. Once through the lock we pulled over to a marina immediately north of the lock. Todd called my brother and sister in law to let them know what had happened to Hali. I grabbed a roll of doggie bags and went to the ships store to buy ice. I fashioned ice packs out of the doggie bags and told Hali, “I want that cheek frozen solid.”

Then we decided to cool her cheek from within with ice cream, because that makes everything better. Once calm, fueled and watered as well, we climbed into the boat and headed to Chipman Point Marina.

I’ve mentioned before that Chipman Point is one of our favorite places on earth. We still, rather profoundly, feel the loss of our friend Dick who had owned the marina. We motored from Whitehall to Chipman Point, thankful that the swelling on Hali’s face had gone down and she returned to her spazzy self within a few hours. (Hali is truly by brother’s daughter. When Kaz was in school they used to call him Spaz, and it’s not only because it rhymed.)

In the afternoon we tied to the end of the transient dock at Chipman Point. As I was securing the lines Pat, the marina, owner came up to ask, “May I help you?” Pat had never seen Sabine. I looked up from tying the lines and her face lit up at recognition.

“I can’t believe you guys made it!” she hugged me tightly. Before we knew it, everyone we knew from Chipman Point congregated at the end of the transient dock to greet us, and again we were the monkeys at the zoo. But this time it was more fun. Pat’s eyes filled with tears, “I wish Dick could see this. He would have loved it.” But I felt his spirit there anyway, and I told her so.

The kids explored the marina, which consists of two old stone warehouse buildings constructed in 1812 and 1827. We swam. We helped ourselves to ice cream from the ship’s store, and then marked it on our slip of paper tacked to the bulletin board. We’d pay our slip at the end of our stay. We settled in to watch a movie in the cockpit, shown on the iPad and broadcast through Sabine’s sound system.

We swatted the mosquitoes and breathed a sigh of contentment that only Chipman Point can produce.

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Blogger Unknown said...

What a nice tale. I am glad Hali was OK. Thank goodness for ice cream.

August 15, 2010 at 1:09 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Hali's a tough kid. And she'll be a tough 16 year old someday, climbing out of her window to go to a party. I can picture my bro installing motion senstive EVERYTHING to the outside of his house when she's a teenager. LOL.

August 18, 2010 at 7:24 PM  

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