Teachable Moments

Teachable Moments

Part three of a story about boats, kids and dads…

Morning in the Benjamin’s brought a spectacular view: Pink granite rock formations a boat length away, visible looking aft through the companionway. Brewed up some coffee, and off to pick blueberries, with a panoramic view from the top of both South and North Benjamin Islands, the Sow and Pig Islands, and the many boats in the anchorage. In addition to the blueberries, which were plentiful, there were also raspberries.

We’d noticed the night before, when anchoring, a trawler tucked in by where we were anchored; it turns out it was being chartered by Port Huron sailor Eric Vigrass, his girlfriend Jessica, and her parents. Actually, it was reassuring, as the charted boat name was ‘Chocolate Monkey’, which conjured up some weird possibilities…most of which are not suitable for our 12 year old daughters. Accepting Eric’s invitation to visit, we swam, or rowed out, and spent an hour or so enjoying conviviality and hospitality. During the course of our conversation, Jessica’s mom told us of Topaz Lake, near the ‘Pool’ at the end of Baie Finn, and that is was supposed to have mystical healing powers. I had some distant recollection of someone telling me of the spot, and hearing of Topaz Lake triggered an impulse to find it and check it out.

The girls were anxious to get back to rock climbing and blueberry picking, so, back to our little section of pink granite Benjamin Island we went. At some point, Todd and Olivia returned to Fast Tango. Maren and I continued picking blueberries, high up and out of sight of the boat.

"TIM!"  "HEY TIM!" After hearing Todd yell my name for the 3rd time, I answered “What!?"  Todd shouted up, "The authorities would like to speak to you." 

Uh-oh. Maren could see the boat from where she stood, so I asked her what was next to our boat.  "I don’t think it’s a fishing boat, dad."  Descending the rock and coming around to within view of Fast Tango, I saw a big black RIB filled with four people in full SWAT attire. This couldn’t be good. Maren and I went to the dinghy and rowed the 40 feet to Fast Tango’s stern, cheerfully greeting the contingent aboard the RIB. "Yes, I am the owner," I told them, as it dawned on me that I had no passports with us.  My only ID was an old-school (non-enhanced) Michigan Drivers License), and I had no ID at all for Maren. Todd had his enhanced Michigan Drivers License, and some sort of acceptable ID for Olivia. I was rooting thru my wallet hoping to find something of Maren’s, though she produced one of those cards you get when you buy a new wallet, that she’d filled in herself. This was not going well. “Have you checked into Canada?” Uh, no….there are no phones here….”You should’ve gone to Meldrum Bay to check in” Thinking…yeah, but I didn’t think of that, plus, it was out of the way. “Mr. Jones, where is Olivia’s mother? Does she know she’s up here with you?” Uh-oh….I didn’t want to get asked that question…with no ID for Maren, that could’ve led to phone calls to her mother, which may have turned out just fine. Or not, you never know. “Have either of you ever been fingerprinted?” Uh…yeah… ”What for?” Ummmmm… ”Do you want to send the children down below?” No….so I described the various circumstances in my past which resulted in my fingerprints being taken. “This is why you need to check into Canada…with your record, we wouldn’t have let you in!”. Whoa….I didn’t get convicted of any of those, only charged.

“How are you planning on going home?” Sailing my boat to my well at BYC, tying up, and driving home. “You can’t, you need a passport to enter the US, it is a requirement of your government”. I’ll deal with it….

I realize the writing of this story doesn’t convey the tenor of the conversation. On the boat were two members of the RCMP Waterways Security Force and two members of the local Ontario Provincial Police, and they were very courteous, friendly, and didn’t have their hard assed ‘game faces’ on.  At the same time, I was glad I had sunk the paraphernalia I’d found while straightening out the boat as we left Mackinac Island. I don’t know who left it, but they aren’t getting it back…it’s deep in the straits.

Anyway, the questions continued…and Maren, trying to be helpful, kept interjecting. After the 3rd hard glance from me, she stopped, but I was worried our Canadian visitors may have noticed. (Teachable moment: Girls, when daddy is being questioned by the police, do not interrupt, and do NOT contradict what he is saying).

“How much alcohol is on board? Any weapons on board?…  Firearms?…. Drugs?…. None, ok…”

After talking amongst themselves, they announced we were going to get a warning this time. After thanking them, they then told me it would have been a $1000.00 fine. After thanking them profusely, they told me I was I in the ‘system’, and if I was caught again in Canada without having checked in, it would be a $2000.00 fine. We thanked them again, and wished them a great day, as they left us, and moved on to the next boat in the harbor.

In retrospect, if you have to have contact with law enforcement, this was a pretty benign contact. And, since they checked us in on the spot, we did not have to check in again as planned when we got to Little Current. Talk about personal treatment and great customer service. In fact, they asked us when we planned on leaving Canada, we told them Saturday, and they gave us until Monday. They loved us!

As we had planned on leaving for Little Current for a quick fuel/ice/hot shower stop en route to Baie Finn, we decided to get moving. One last teachable moment: (Girls, there’s a song for every occasion….so, from the extensive iPod library, “Fuck The Police” blared from the stereo). NOTE: We were well out of earshot of the RCMP, and all other boats while playing this song.

As we exited, passing the Sow and Pigs, looking south, we saw the ‘Mother ship’, the RCMP frigate the RIB had been launched from. Since the RCMP officers we’d been talking with hadn’t specifically answered my question when I asked them where they were based out of, I now knew why. This was a major operation they had running, and allowed them to move from anchorage to anchorage easily, without pounding themselves to death on a RIB. Clearly, the RCMP takes their waterways security seriously.

Once again, it was a perfect afternoon for a motor-sail, so the main was hoisted, and we headed to Little Current. In addition to fuel, ice, and water, we were in pain, Todd with his gout afflicted big toe, and my back was totally wrenched out of place. Todd recalled that Tylenol with codeine was available over the counter in Canada, so we added that to our shopping list. (Teachable moment: Stay young as long as you can). To be continued…