We decided to kick off the holiday weekend in true Chevy Chase style by sinking the pontoon boat in the lake, burning up the dock and setting the roof of the cottage on fire.
I blame most of this July 2 fiasco on Patrick, my favorite neighbor at Wit’s End. To get to our cottage you have to pass his and when we arrived around 3 on Saturday he had the tailgate of his big "like a rock" truck down and was busy dispensing holiday "joy juice" into mason jars from a ten gallon Igloo cooler off the back end .
That stuff was very good and refreshing. Patrick believes in big batch entertaining; hence he always has plenty of folks milling around his place. (Last summer he and I got into a tomato canning competition and he won hands down with about 200 jars of tomato products in one weekend.) Anyway, this punch was full of pineapple and lemon and lime and orange juice so I guess it sort of escaped us that it was about 90 proof. We had company coming out for our annual picnic and fireworks display and they all stopped at Patrick’s, too. Here’s a recent picture of me and Patrick in front of his house where’s he’s building a giant pond 15 feet from the lake.
By the time we had a dozen people at Wit’s End I volunteered to take a bunch out for a spin around the lake in the pontoon boat. Six or seven is a crowd; the boat is modest as pontoon boats go but Mark,one of Patrick’s buddies, had anticipated the extra weight and trimmed the motor so we wouldn’t get bogged down in water lilies on the way out. He went a little overboard in his efforts.
It still isn’t entirely clear to me what happened. We were cruising across the lake, we looked briefly at the swans and then I turned the boat in a fairly tight circle to head back. At that point we got a wave off another small boat but it was just one of those rocking sort of waves, no big deal. So everybody laughed and went, "Whoa!" as water washed over the edge of the front deck. Seconds after that, Kristen, with all of the aplomb of a 20 year veteran lead flight attendant said calmly, "The boat is sinking" and made her way directly to the back of the boat and sat up on top of the rear bench seat. My sister-in-law who was standing a couple feet back from the front edge looked down at her legs, which were mostly underwater, and said, "Um, I don’t swim." And continued to stand there and watch the water rise. At this point, in one of those slow motion light bulb moments I realized that indeed, the boat with 7 people aboard, was tipped like the Titanic and gliding towards the bottom. I cut the motor, thinking that it would be better to sink slowly rather than race head long into thirty feet of water and at that moment the back motor end of the boat rose up out of the water completely. Then the boat gave one little bob and did what a pontoon boat is supposed to do. It evened out and water rushed over the sides back into the lake and eventually enough water drained off the decking that I could restart the boat. Once we got back to the dock FG, who had been organizing fireworks, said it couldn’t completely sink because once the motor was out of commission it would bob back up and float. You could of fooled those of us onboard and this experience warranted another trip to Patrick’s. He was sitting on his dock laughing with his buddies and announced that they were taking bets on which would happen first- the motor die or the boat sink.
Then we ate a whole lot of the usual 4th of July food fare: potato salad, deviled eggs, corn, hot dogs, strawberries and molasses cookies.
Before dark there was a certain amount of driving around the lake to coordinate fireworks activities. Four or five families launch a display of some sort and they get sequenced according to who has the most firepower and which side of the lake you’re on. This results in the longest, if not necessarily the biggest, local show that starts before dusk and goes on for several hours.
In past years we’ve put on a respectable show at our place because we got our (illegal) fireworks up in the tip of the U.P. at the reservation but this year someone else brought them and we ended up with quantity instead of quality. Also, Patrick had backed his truck up to our place for ease of beverage service and by the time the fireworks began things were a little loosey goosey.
For a good hour and a half the dock was ablaze with fountains that rarely got more than six feet in the air and the ones that did get up rained back over our heads onto the roof instead of out towards the lake. Around the lake people generally cheer loudly and whistle and honk boat horns whenever there’s an especially big or beautiful one. This year we got the duck calls repeatedly.
The amazing thing is we sat there in a line of lawn chairs across the driveway quite pleased with ourselves, clapping away as chunks and cinders rained down on us, clinking on the roofs of cottage and cars. This morning, still smelling of bug spray and smoke, hair full of cinders, we cleaned up a lot of wet burnt stuff but all in all, since no one drowned and we didn’t need to call out the Marion Township Volunteer Fire Department, I would say it was a fine celebration.