Ah, yes! How I look forward to opening the cottage
By MIKE HART
For the fortunate among us who have cottages, a rite of spring involves tripping out to the cottage — with great trepidation — to see how things have survived the winter. This is an anxious time. Cottagers never know what they will encounter. The damage possibilities to cottage and waterfront are endless. The unexpected becomes the expected.
This spring was a really bad year for ice damage on our lake. The worst possible wind blew the ice packs back onto shorelines to move docks and deck posts with impunity.
The little piece of dock that I leave in the lake every year was demolished – twisted and battered into a pile of broken boards and posts. The dock needed to be realigned to point in a more useful direction anyway, so the smashed wharf is an incentive to straighten things out.
Good news -the cottage had not been frost heaved. The floor angle remains unchanged -north leaning corner to allow for good drainage if the roof leaks.
The gazebo is tilted oddly because the magnificent cherry tree beside it decided to topple. This is going to require some fancy chainsaw work. I can’t blame the high winds for this.
It was I, who in a moment of weakness, folded to spousal pressure to install steps at the gazebo door and levelled the entry by cutting the west side roots off the cherry tree. My callous action served to cut the tree’s anchor lines and the toppling was inevitable.
Last week, my son and I rebuilt the dock. It’s not the same as it used to be. I believe the level we used was a half-bubble off.
The dock has a hump in the middle and, near the end, angles greatly towards the lake surface. That’s OK. If the water comes up, I can put cement blocks on the last section to keep it from floating away.
Actually, the dock -board sections bolted to cedar posts -reminds me of wharfs I visited in the outports of Newfoundland. My odd-looking dock is appealing, in a strange sort of way. Like the Newfoundland outports.
Why do I always get the leaky chest waders? Lake water on the last week of April is numbing. Immersing bare-naked hands in frigid waters results in a grip that becomes numb and clumsy.
Over the years I have lost dozens of tools into the all-swallowing bottom muck. This spring the lake claimed two socket wrenches, a pair of vice grips, and one hammer. In a thousand years, my dock site will be an archaeologist’s treasure trove.
Turning the cottage water supply on is a treat at the best of times. The worst part of this year’s ordeal was getting the old piston water pump primed. That’s a job.
After getting the pump to suck water and bring the pressure tank up to its 40 lbs PSI, I found a leak around the prime hole nut. This is never good as the slow leak means the pump comes on more often than needed to keep the pressure up.
I needed to fix the bubbling leak. Easy. Thinking all would be well, I put my trusty vice grip to primer nut and twisted it off. I was bent over the prime hole when the nut came loose and 40 lbs PSI hit me square in the face.
Now, my pump is under the cottage, and the space is such that when kneeling, I can’t lift my head, so I got a double whammy -a fire hose hit to the face, driving my head up into the floorboards above. That hurt.
The worst thing was the primer hole nut was blown out of my hand, hit the deck above me and ricocheted somewhere into the mud and dark under the cottage. I can’t recall how long I knelt beside the pump with my finger in the prime hole, trying to save pump prime.
Duct tape would have worked. The pump won when my finger went from throb to numb. The result of this fiasco was that I lost all my pump prime and, after fumbling about and finding the prime hole nut, started the priming process all over again.
I wasn’t too upset -I could still see out of both eyes and my teeth were still intact. If I was a hockey player, I would have been benched for a suspected concussion.
But all of that aside, the cottage is almost ready for the grandkids -as soon as the mud dries up -and once the water works through the gas lines of the outboard motor, things should be ready to go for another cottage season.
I don’t know what’s going to happen when I get really old and can’t crawl under the cottage any more.
Cottages are great -renting one is looking better all the time.