Stoke's Bay, ON - Norman Emptage
My Watermark is Stoke's Bay, Ontario.
This waterbody became part of my life in the sixties, canoeing and boating. As a teenager, enjoying fishing, outdoors, and hiking. It became really important taking my children canoeing, boating, and moving them around in the water, having fun. It was an easy canoe ride initially. You could canoe from Parker landing inside Parker Island and go up the shore, quite sheltered, and get into a very long shallow river, Old Woman’s River. But now you have to go around the island because there is a causeway in there. I don’t know why it ever got in there. There were some arguments at the time.
At Old Woman’s River, beautiful, quiet, peaceful area. Old rustic cottages from the fifties and sixties, in the trees. With young kids, now my grandkids, we can fish up there, they can have a great time. And you see the heron flying ahead of you, and little fish bopping in and out of the water, and the people up there are very friendly. Someone will be sitting out, and you’ll have a 5 or 15 minute conversation. Just like my kids were engaged, my grandkids are engaged up there. Disappointing though that Great Lake water levels are going up and down. It makes it harder to go up there. Last year was pretty easy. I would be concerned that that area is shut down for people to enjoy. Anyone who wants to go on a nice cruise on a windy day goes on a cruise up old Woman’s River.
Not far in that bay of water, Stoke’s Bay, there’s an island out there. A big storm came up, my brothers and I were out fishing when we were in high school. We didn’t listen to the radio before we went out. We were going to go out fishing on thanksgiving, and there were aunts, uncles and cousins all around. Three of us went fishing in a 14-foot fishing boat and the wind changed so quickly that all we could do was point straight into the wind. We knew we could go around the point of Parker Island could go in, the waves would crash over the 14-foot boat. So we had to point into the wind and just slightly off the wind pointing towards Lyal Island on a little island out there, one of the knife islands. We slide into the backside of the island and it wasn’t that high.
We got our boat in, it’s getting dark, we fought for about 45 minutes into the wind to get half a kilometre. Just a massive storm. Then what happened was once we got the boat in, we got it onto the shore, set it on the island, we’re going to shelter there. We had some wind ponchos and wet weather gear, and we set up a fire in the middle of this little island, and we kept the boat sideways to make a wind shelter. This was thanksgiving, so it was cold. We never took our life jackets off. The wind gets higher. We missed thanksgiving dinner out in the water. It’s dark now, we have a big fire going, and as the howling wind comes up, this is a storm like you maybe see every two or three years, the water starts coming up onto our fire. We had to build the fire higher on top of logs, because the waves are washing across the island. We have to tie the boat down further against the trees so that it doesn’t blow or get pushed out off the island. There’s about 15 or 20 people in the cottage knowing we’re out on the water and this storm’s coming up and it’s rattling the cottage.
My father said “I’ve taught the boys what to do, they’ll be ok” and my mom and aunts were very upset that we were missing and not there. At 11:30 we come around the point of Parker Island when the storm broke, and we come in, and we come and dock, and we tell the story, and you could tell there was just silence in the cottage, relief that we made it back in. That’s one of the stories of storms on water. I had the same storm, in Lake Nipigong, wind changes, we didn’t have weather news or radar or a little radio you could pick up and carry onto the water, so there’s lots of stories like that.