This year, four of our grandchildren had spent time at our camp on the French River.
On Saturday, we drove down Highway 69 to the turnoff to Highway 64 to Alban, then onto Turenne Road to No. 390, our camp driveway.
The beautiful fall colours of the leaves made for a pleasurable drive on this rainy day. Alex and I had purchased a small motor boat in August, which had already brought a lot of joy and fun. Exploring the amazing French River, the route of Samuel de Champlain in the 1600s, has always been a source of interest to us.
Alex wanted to take a last long boat ride to the Ouellette Rapids to show our friends where he and most of our family members (not me!) had body-surfed the rapids in lifejackets.
It was uncharacteristically quiet on the river this Thanksgiving weekend. Very few people were at their camps or boating on the river. The motor performed admirably and we reached the rapids in about 30 minutes.
It was a smooth ride as the water was very still, just the way we love it. The colourful trees were reflected in the water and it was absolutely magical. All debarked to have a closer look at the rapids. Then, it was time to return to camp and take the boat out of the water.
That’s when we got a most unwelcome surprise. When Alex started the motor, it growled — just as in a car when the battery is low and, indeed, that is what it was! We were totally unprepared.
There was nothing to do but start paddling. The men paddled as fast as they could —which was not very fast at all. The rain kept coming down and in no time we were all soaked.
However, our spirits were not dampened as many jokes were told and we regarded the whole debacle as an adventure. Much laughter and teasing helped lighten the situation immeasurably.
“Let’s pull into shore right there! That looks like a good spot,” the men directed the disabled boat to the land. The rocks were slimy — more laughter and more dampness, too. Alex tried to start the motor again. No luck.
Not only did the motor not start, but we were hung up on the rocks so paddling was impossible. Our friend climbed out onto the bow of the boat and I moved as far forward as possible, and the men managed to push us free. Once more, we were on our way. More reasons to laugh about our worsening situation.
Slowly, we proceeded down the river. Finally as we came around a bend, we spotted a cottage where a lady was tending a fire and her husband was on the dock. Hurray! We called out to him for help.
Apparently, he had noticed our predicament already and was waiting for us to come closer. He had no boat to come to our assistance. He insisted that we go to his cottage right away to get warm while he attempted to help the guys start our motor with his small generator.
Gratefully, we followed his advice and greeted his wife. We considered ourselves most fortunate this couple was at their cottage. We introduced ourselves and learned that the lady’s name was Lynn. She made hot chocolate.
A short time later, the three men came up to the cabin as they had been unsuccessful in starting the boat. Paul introduced himself to us and told us they lived in Barrie. After pouring a drink for himself and our men, he told us he is a builder and is constructing this amazing three-storey cabin himself.
They expressed their love for the French River which immediately gave us a shared interest. Conversation flowed easily. Paul and Lynn Comuso were indeed gracious hosts, as well as being our rescuers.
After we warmed up, Paul drove us to our camp in his truck. The women stayed there while Alex picked up our extra battery and both returned with Paul to try to rescue our boat.
After a while, we heard the familiar sound of the motor bringing the guys back to our dock. Our adventure had ended safely and what could have been a drastic situation had turned into a story we would tell our families eagerly.
By now it was getting dark and getting the boat out of the water would have to wait for another day.
Erna de Burger-Fex is a writer and retired teacher.