Thursday, June 28, 2007

Boats and falling trees and thunderstorms, Oh My

VALOIS, New York, USA - The last few days have been filled with boating, getting my shoulders stretched by Amanda Smith-Socaris (the anonymous physical therapist from the last posting) and almost - note almost - becoming a victim of lightning in a wind storm that rocked the entire state.

But first, the good news.

The Admiral and I are the proud owners of a 20-foot FloteBote, which on Tuesday we used all up and down the lake, stopping at lots of docks, ending up at John & Ruth Bills' dock well after dark Tuesday to tie the barge, er, yacht up.

Lady Louise
Lady Louise at rest next to our dock

The boat was brought over from neighboring Keuka Lake on a trailer about 1 p.m. Tuesday and for the rest of the day we did a classic Seneca Lake tour with the Admiral and I, Ruth Bills, and Roger & Nancy Beardslee aboard. We would motor a few miles. Stop at a dock. Drink a beer. Use the restroom. And then repeat.

So I was pretty exhausted Wednesday morning, when I had to make it down the lake to see my physical therapist who is actually making some progress on my shoulder. I'm even trying to do all the exercises she has given me.

But the weather forecast Wednesday morning warned of afternoon thunderstorms, which on all these upstate New York Lakes have to be taken pretty seriously.

So after my stretching session, the Admiral, Ruth Bills, Ruth's dog Carbon and I motored the Lady Louise (that name is subject to change, by the way) up the lake past cousin Roger's house where we picked up some heavy pipes and a large maul to pound them into the lake bottom to make a secure mooring for the boat.

Had we started that project about two hours earlier, life would have been a lot less stressful and I might have a little more adrenalin today.

Storm tree
Tree on lakeside path, knocked down by 60 mph winds

We had barely arrived at our dock when the first peals of thunder rolled over the lake, not nearly as charming as when you read about them in some Washington Irving novel. It was too late to get serious about setting metal posts in the bottom of the lake - standing waist-deep in water, holding onto a metal pipe and swinging a lead sledge hammer is not recommended to do when lightning strikes are imminent. (Not to mention, they are not on my exercise list for physical therapy.)

But I was able to put in one post on short, thrown out the stern anchor and tie the boat six ways to Sunday against the dock, hoping that the storm would come from the southwest (as predicted), which would blow the boat away from the dock and away from any real danger.

And it did just that!

But only for the first 15 minutes of heavy rain, lightning and wind.

Suddenly, the rain let up, the wind clocked around and, as the French say, Voila! The strongest winds I have ever experienced on Seneca Lake came roaring out of the northwest, blowing out screen frames on our porch and dropping the big tree in the photo above.

And the Lady Louise?

Well, she survived with barely a scratch, though it was obvious that the boat did ride up on the dock a couple of times. But before the storm had completely abated, cousin Roger showed up with more lines and together (with the Admiral) we pounded in a proper set of pipes into the lake bottom to hold the ship.

It seems ironic that we have crossed many hundreds of miles of open ocean aboard Sabbatical, been in crashing storms and wild seas to nearly lost a boat to a thunderstorm on a lake.

Mother Nature has a great sense of humor.

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