Julie slashed gravel from the shoulders of both sides of the road as she fought to stay on the wet pavement. The extremely early hour and despicable weather explained the very light traffic, and she rocketed through progressively smaller towns on her way to the coast. Her growing confidence in the big machine outweighed the worsening conditions of the roads. Woodville and then the sign announcing Cole Wharf passed in a blur. She blew through Picton, a larger town, boasting one stoplight that blessed her with a green, with the speedometer on the high side of 100. The wipers—or rather, wiper, one huge pantograph—had automatically adjusted to the worsening rain as she neared the lake.
“This thing reading in kilometres or miles?”
“Wow, this is addictive!”
Anderson could only agree—after all, it was his car. He had been mesmerized watching the forward video on his largest monitor. Even though he was safely anchored in his chair in his coffee shop 100 miles away it seemed that he was participating in the Targa Rally—dizzying, and compelling. Julie had mainly been driving in the middle of the road, and the distortion from the wide-angle lens widened the centre markings as they approached, then blurred as they were funnelled under the car. This was Julies first time driving his highly modified SUV, and he was dazzled how she was able to wring so much performance out of his ‘Precious’. At what speed, he wondered, would the gaps between stripes refresh faster than his eye and brain could process, and the markings look unbroken? The answer surfaced without effort ... 337 miles per hour.
The steep hill at Glenora flattened under the monster s charge. A slight deepening in the roar of exhaust indicated any gradients, and a slight increase in pitch could be heard when the car lifted off the occasional humps of pavement.
By the time she reached Black Creek Julie was holding a steady 120, and if anyone had been up and looking out a window of either of the two houses at South Bay, they could have described what a large car looks like at 140 miles-per-hour: rain pulverized into such tiny drops that it looked like smoke, with cyclones of wash spilling off the back corners of the spoilers.
From South Bay to Long Point, the road hugged the lake. Julie felt a chill when she saw the size of the breakers, even here on the lee side of Long Point.
Julie was relieved to see the sign indicating she had arrived. The official name of Long Point was “Prince Edward Point”—and its sign was huge. It would have to be pretty big, just to accommodate all the forbidden activities listed. She had time to make out the details of just the first one—“No Motor Vehicles”—as she slalomed the SUV around the approach to the main dock.
The harbour opened to the east, away from prevailing winds, and had natural breakwaters extending from both sides. A twisted channel carried deep water about 30 yards, a third of the length of the inlet. The channel ended at a large government dock and the launch ramp ahead of her, on the south side of the harbour. The weather camouflaged the remains of a fishing village on the opposite shore. Julie remembered that cabins and rusted reels for drying nets dotted the landscape behind an array of old docks, but these were invisible in the inky murk of the predawn. No street lights illuminated anything here. Solar power, batteries and generators provided the only electricity, and none of those expensive watts were wasted on anything but navigational aids and processing fish.
The flying gravel must have announced her approach from a long way back, because Riley was waiting beside his boat, tending the lines with the engines running. Julie reported to Anderson that she had arrived, realizing as she spoke that he would already know she was there. She also realized that she wasn’t dressed for Search and Rescue. As if reading her thoughts, Anderson’s voice intoned over the audio: “Riley has a suit for you. Take the comm package, in the red case from the back, so I can track you. It turns on when it’s unclipped from the bracket.”
Julie had met Riley many times before and wasn’t expecting more than the nod and waggle of one bushy eyebrow that was his excuse for “hello.” Riley looked so at home wearing foul-weather gear, it was as if he was born in a set. The suit was like a big one-piece baby sleeper, with the added bulk of flotation but no flap. The booties were attached, as were the gloves and hood. The hood was a two-part affair—a tight-fitting neoprene liner that was watertight and an insulated cover with a drawstring. Parts of it were still bright orange, strips of reflective tape dotted the hood, shoulders, knees and back. While cumbersome, the suit provided the warmth and flotation needed for boating in nasty weather in November. As if to confirm Riley’s choice of wardrobe, the rain and wind seemed to intensify, stinging Julie’s face.
“Hi, Riley. You sure about this?”
The eyebrow did its thing and his shrug said it all—“Aye.” He unfastened the lines, threw them to her and followed her aboard. A slight incline of Riley’s head directed Julie to the cuddy cabin, while he slowly manoeuvred the cutter around the docks and moorings. The channel was purposely lacking in markers, to discourage visiting yachtsmen from taking up dock space or anchoring and blocking the fishing fleet’s access. Ten years ago, the harbour had been a popular destination with the sailboat crowd, a waypoint on the long upwind slog to Toronto and a first entry in more challenging paragraphs in a sailing resume. After the markers were removed, there were a few groundings and word quickly spread that the harbour was too shallow for sailboats and too rocky for that expensive stuff hanging underneath powerboats.
Riley’s boat, Feigenbaum, was the 36-foot version in the “Kingston” series of welded aluminium boats built by Metalcraft Marine. The boat was perfectly suited to the rocky shoals that populate the waters along the north shore of Lake Ontario, drawing only 22 inches thanks to its Hamilton jet drives. A pair of big Cummins diesels powered the boat to over 40 knots and she was equipped with an A-frame on the stern, a side crane and an oversized recovery platform on the transom to manage the fishing gear. The tiny cuddy cabin had a single berth to starboard with a marine toilet adjacent. The port side was fitted with shelves, drawers and a hanging locker. The hot water from the engines’ heat exchangers ran through the back of the locker, to dry the wet gear. The warmth of mahogany, brass kerosene lanterns and the yacht finish of the cabinetry was a surprising contrast to the boat’s stark exterior and cockpit.
Another survival suit, looking very much like a marine version of a snowsuit, lay across the berth. Julie thought it had probably been bright yellow in the distant past, but now owned only a faint golden glow. There were also a set of woollen one-piece long johns, a heavy dark-blue turtleneck sweater and a pair of sea-boots. Yielding to Riley’s vast experience on the lake, Julie accepted all of the silent recommendations facing her. She struggled out of her skirt, shirt, jacket and coat, thankful for the handholds that were everywhere. Even though the boat was merely idling in the harbour, it was being tossed in all directions by the seas bouncing off the shingled borders of the cove. The woollies felt—and smelled—surprisingly fresh. Julie downgraded Rileys experience to half-vast though, when she tried to stand up—he was at least half a foot shorter than she was, the difference apparently mostly in the torso. Julie released the hood, and loosened the survival suit’s front zipper to enable her to stand almost straight.
The motion of the boat was suddenly worse. She had read that motion sickness resulted from bodily accelerations in two different directions and she was now experiencing three: pitch, yaw and roll in extreme measure. She hurried to the fresh air above decks. There was still no horizon visible in the dark to help stabilize her brain and she began to have doubts about how they would ever find Juice in this convulsion of nature.
As she climbed into the cockpit, the ludicrous Christmas-themed toque and bright yellow rain jacket over her survival suit earned her a slight smile from Riley. She leaned back into the bolster chair, pulling on the thermal mitts he offered as he nudged the throttles forward. Feigenbaum rose into the storm.