Dorval Island Cottage Opening

This is the story of an annual ritual.

Preparing for the Trip

The year's first trip to Dorval Island happened yesterday. I woke up early (those noisy birds and that bright sunshine both spilling through my purposely left open new window) and got ready for the 9:00 to 9:30 departure. Before aunt B arrived, the Impeccable General Contracting people showed up and started refinishing (sanding and re-staining) the front steps (they had removed the old wood stain and left the steps in a somewhat damp furry state a few days earlier). I packed a half bottle of super-cooled Canada Dry ginger ale (the same as my first soft drink - from my grandfather at his house in Montreal) and a few Rideau Bakery buns.

The Trip Down

Aunt B arrived at 9:28 and we were off a couple of minutes later. The weather was clear and warm (32C high for the day) but fortunately she had air conditioning in her car (not that it was working too well - shades of a previous trip in a Ford Tempo). The trip down was straightforward, except for an aborted fueling stop (line-up too long) at Maxville ($0.549/L at Maxville, $0.599/L at Dorval) and a real fueling stop closer to Dorval (coincidentally the $15 of gas needed to fill the tank matched the $15 minimum on aunt B's double air miles coupon). We arrived a few minutes before the 11:55 ferry departure. Aunt B recognised and was recognised by a lot of the people at the dock, including Margie coming off the ferry who graciously lent us the use of her bathroom in case the cottage's water supply wasn't working yet.

The ferry was freshly painted in white and blue, and the trip across went as usual. The only oddity was the low level haze around the island. Perhaps mist from cold water hitting hot air? We arrived, and I dashed ahead with the wire basket on wheels (whatever it's called).

Arriving at the Cottage

At the cottage, I encountered Dillon Fee, the new teenagerish lawnmower guy that aunt B had retained for the summer (since Mr. Charters had unfortunately died the year before and thus was unable to drive through grass and over rocks on his tractor mower (which Dillon is negotiating for purchase from Mrs. Charters)). Anyway, he had arrived just when I did and started clearing broken maple tree branches off the 20cm thick lawn (adding to a big pile already on the roadway between the houses). I parked the wire basket thingy and tried to get into the cottage - but there was no key in the usual spot. I tried the front door and found it unlatched, with a freshly puttied window in place (with flies stuck to the putty), with a shiny new brass door knob, and without a keyhole plate. I was able to get into the overheated front porch, but not past the locked inner doors.

Aunt B arrived and opened up the back door. Walking into the kitchen scented with that familiar cottage smell brought back memories of walking into the kitchen. The air inside was refreshingly cool yet stale. Unlike other years (like the one where the birds got stuck inside), the upstairs and the rest of the interior was in pristine condition.

A Bunch of Chores

Aunt B first sent me out to help clean branches off the lawn. Most of the trees were undamaged, though the locust tree had bent over and the lillac had one of its lower branches torn off (I had to saw it off, which meant a fight to open the tool shed door).

Porch Carpet and the Vandals

My next task was to clean up the mess on the porch carpet where the vandals had broken the glass in the door. Most of it had been cleaned up, but there were still fragments of glass and paint chips. There was also a nice souvenir of their visit - an exploded metal door knob and shattered keyhole plate. I guess they had tried shooting out the lock and then gave up (the lock mechanism was intact and is still being used). Or maybe the door just stuck too much for them to bother with. A bit of work with a broom and then a lot of heaving around of the old hoover on the hot porch got rid of most of the glass, except for a few small harmless grains embedded in the carpet.

Lunch and Water

We then had lunch (ginger ale and buns for me :-). Washing up was difficult due to the lack of running water. However, the toilet had water in the bowl. That's a clue which means that someone had been working on getting the water running and either left it shut off just in case it started leaking, or had discovered a leak and then left it shut off.

Earth Turning and Toad Discovery

Next up was turning over a bit of the earth in the garden behind the house. I found some earth, two bricks, lots of rocks, many roots, a clam shell, and some earthworms. And one miraculous toad, full size too! I guess that the toads are back from being almost extinct. Maybe it was the warm winter?

Beach Status

In-between earth turning sessions, I looked for a place to cool off. Unusually, there was no wind blowing on the west side of the house and only a slight breeze on the east side of the house (normally there is a fierce breeze on the east and a howling wind tunnel on the west). This could explain the mist around the island - no wind to blow it away. I wandered over to the stairs down to the beach; they were in good shape - for the first two steps. The rest were scattered around haphazardly. The water was at normal summertime high levels (almost no beach; lapping at the bottom of the steps). The pebble beach near the old concrete dock was a foot or two higher with extra pebbles, and had a steeper than usual slope down to the water (that made walking on it an interesting down-hill sliding experience). The beach at the downstream tree beside the stairs was slightly eroded (down to the clay) and the tree sported a big 0.3m x 0.6m yellow and black corrugated plastic sign saying something like Defense de Passer and Property Privee. Now they can charge the vandals with trespassing, if they catch them.

The Trip Back

Once the gardening was done, I spent some time inside cooling off and chatting with aunt B. After that we closed things up (but left the power on for the refrigerator and 4 electric clocks) and went over to Margie's place. After a bit more pleasant chatting on her patio, we left for the 15:45 ferry. A smooth trip back to Ottawa (the highway 40 concrete craters have been fixed) brought us back in time for supper at 17:55 (noodles and meatballs, ready and waiting thanks to mom).

- Alex

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander G. M. Smith.