The boat’s engine noise drowned out all but the loudest cracks of thunder, and fortunately for we two children we couldn’t see much of the lightning because we were under the heavy dark canvas navy top over the Blackduck‘s cockpit. It is my earliest recollection of Georgian Bay. It was probably the summer of 1940. My sister June would have been seven and I four. With our parents and perhaps a couple of other adults we were coming back to Wahnuhke from visiting friends at Good Cheer Island, just west of Parry Island.
My memory is of sitting beside Dad’s feet as he stood at the wheel peering forward through the two tiny windows in the canvas for the few-and-far-between vertically floating channel markers. In those days they were hewn from long skinny logs — black ones with flat tops and red ones with pointed tops. Not easy to see in the murk of a rainy day on the water let alone a thunderstorm in the mix. Unlike today, there weren’t many other boats about to watch for.
Mother was terrified of the storms. Dad considered them as something just to be endured. We kids hadn’t much, if any, experience with lightning and thunder (yet). My view from the boat’s floor was of adult silhouettes as we all stared astern through the open end of the canvas while flashes of lightning flew around outside.
A couple of years later on another rainy day my sister, myself and our cousin Betsy were playing on the floor of the cottage’s north bedroom. Suddenly a big flash and enormous bang sent us all sprawling. Dazed and wailing in fright, we two younger ones noticed that June was just lying on the floor. She came around as the adults came running in.
We had survived a lightning bolt. It had struck the water pipe coming over the rocks. It must have raced through the plumbing system to the washbasin in the bedroom under which we kids were then playing.
Looking back now, I wonder why it didn’t go the other way to ground in the lake. For years there was a scorch mark on the galvanized pipe over the rocks where, we guessed, the bolt had struck.
Fast forward a couple of decades and we same three cousins, now adults and sister with a husband (Sandy) who had joined us, were roaming in two canoes around Go Home Lake which was still virtually uninhabited then. We had paddled from Wahnuhke to the Musquash then up the river to Go Home Lake, where we set up a campsite and then went exploring.
It was hot that August and I remember that we spent a lot of time in the water, which was warmer than the open Bay. With the heat, though, came thunderclouds and we were far up the lake from the campsite when the rain began. Spotting a beach in front of a vacant cabin we made a beeline for it. We hauled the canoes onto the sand, flipped them over and crawled underneath. As the lightning danced and thunder boomed around the rocky landscape we waited for the rain to stop pelting and the storm to move on.
When we emerged unscathed, at least three of us joked that “Maybe lightning really doesn’t strike the same place (or people) twice!”
Footnote: On the home page I noted I was conceived at Wasa-Waba in the summer of 1935. Apparently that event also took place during a thunderstorm, and was duplicated in the same cottage, at the same time, for another family whose son was born within days of me the following April. There definitely was something in the air at Wasa-Waba.