Two modes of transport, one used by me and one by Ollie, my 10 year old son. I used mine, the fixie, to get myself to the Point-Claire Yacht Club to watch Ollie zoom around Lac St-Louis in the kayak. To add a little background as to why this day has turned out to be so special, it is because Ollie, up to this point, has steadfastly refused to get into any kind of boat. Well, small boat anyway. He did go on the rather large ferry that takes you from Toronto to Toronto Island, but you don’t feel much in the way of water motion and if you want you can stay well inside the craft so as not to even appear on the water. He also took the sightseeing tour of the Ottawa river, again a largish boat. Today was going to be his first foray into single-seater watercraft.
Summer seems to have arrived here in Montreal and the brief ride from home to the marina on the fixie was enough to give me a wet neck and more than slightly damp chest. From the distance I could see the kids all lined up on the pier as it jutted out into the water and one by one they were boarding the canoes and kayaks. Marie was also there as a volunteer Mum, helping the kids on and off the boats and trying to keep order. It’s not an easy task to control about forty-five children in life jackets, all of them charging around the bobbing deck of the pier trying to push each other in the water.
Lunch, the reason I arrived at 12.15 p.m., was a chaotic affair to say the least. Kids were trading portions of their lunches as if they were the latest and hottest stocks on the market. Voices were raised, names were being called out, and through it all the teachers calm voices acted like a blanket of authority over the whole crowd, preventing anything from escalating beyond more than noise. Ollie, fresh from conquering his mild phobia of bobbling boats, was behaving like all ten year olds and doing a magnificent job of pretending that we, his Mum and Dad, did not exist. When Marie tried to join in the game of Chinese Dodge Ball, the Chinese version apparently making use of three balls instead of the more conventional one, she was told in no uncertain terms that she could not play. He did come and offer a half-hearted explanation when he thought his friends were not looking. Funny how the generations come and go, but the basic behaviour of kids is the same all across the world and through all the ages.
Before heading back for a series of afternoon conference calls I was able to watch Ollie and his classmates load themselves into a Dragon Boat for the practice sessions prior to the big race. Three boats in all were going to be taking part and all this was going to be adjudicated by a couple of teen lifeguards in their dinghy-like motorboat. How they were going to be able to make any sense out of the chaos that I can only imagine ensued is beyond me. Suffice it to say that by the time Ollie got home he had the broadest grin on his face that you could imagine. I see some kayaking and canoeing in our future.
As for me, I could not stay and see the race so rode back home on the Paddywagon. I did allow myself the treat of taking the long way home, so zooming right past my street and continuing all the way down to the circle, stopping for some milk on the way and finally pulling into the driveway hot, sticky and content. I had probably not done more than 12 km in all but it was a quick enough burst that it cleared the head for the ensuing couple of hours of business speak.