February's a bit of a rough time for a Canadian boater. Everything's hibernating – trees, bears, boats, even the lake itself.
Even the ice boats are in hibernation this year. Normally, they'd be flying across the St. Lawrence River right now, the tremendous stability and negligible resistance of their triple-skate running gear enabling speeds that any summer sailor would consider truly insane. But this winter's freeze-up was followed a day later by a thirty-something-knot southwesterly, pushing ice up over ice in massive shards. Until those melt, the ice remains too foreboding for travel.
We'd been hoping to make some progress on our new boat while everyone was holed up indoors. Alas, we've had little luck on that front either. Electric space heaters in the garage will give us six or seven degrees Celsius above ambient. The difference between minus fifteen and minus eight, though, basically consists of "The epoxy might kick off by March" versus "The epoxy might kick off by next Wednesday". Neither one's going to cut it, at least not unless I add heating coils to the hand-grips of the jigsaw and the planer.
It's tempting, at times like this, to make plans for the summer. To dream up excursions for when things are a little more pleasant – the reedy patch near the conservation authority land that's full of northern pike, the canal lockstation with the lush green lawn for pitching a tent and the raccoons that break into your galley, that perfect private swimming spot over the mid-lake sandbar that larger boats can't approach. Places that will reappear, like magic, as four billion tonnes of ice break up and vanish.
It's equally tempting to question why we bother with Canada at all. There hasn't exactly been a lot of good news from Ottawa or Queen's Park lately, and the prospect of kicking back at Saline Beach or Orient Bay has a certain appeal when you're standing at a bus terminal in a 30-knot breeze wearing sixteen insulated garments. I sometimes wonder how many Canadians would stick around if we didn't have the world-class health care system, low crime rates, reasonably stable economy, top-tier schools and
good government that this great frozen land is known for.
We'll get our reprive soon, of course. We always do. Canada in the summer is the closest thing to paradise you'll find on this Earth – the sun of the Mediterranean, but without the crowds and the expense; the greenery of the Caribbean islands, but without the hurricanes and the supply chain problems; the vast unspoiled vistas of Australia, but without every living thing in sight being out to kill you.
Until the ice melts, though, we hibernate. And hope for some good skiing snow to show up on a non-work day.