The boaters have arrived. I saw them the other day when we were driving home from Lexington. Hitches, canvas, sparkles, decals, yellow tubes latched onto roofs, beach balls and pillows in the back seat, kids and dogs hanging out the window — it was there in all its glory.
With Lake Cumberland nearby, people come to Somerset from all over to spend their vacations. I like that they do. It makes me feel lucky that people choose to take their holiday in a place where I get to live all the time.
I notice these people especially in the grocery store. They’re easy to spot because they have neon straps from their bathing suits tied joyfully behind their necks and smell like coconuts, which is extremely pleasant. Always, I get a kick out of looking at what’s in their carts. Because these people aren’t here to stock up on boring chicken breasts and responsible bags of rice. Oh no. Instead, there are ripple chips, onion dip, Twizzlers, plastic red cups, Chips Ahoy!, cheese puffs and beef jerky in these buggies. The food itself is ready to party right there in the checkout lane. If you lean in close enough, you can see it dancing to Jimmy Buffet.
I also like stopping at the gas station in the summer, which is a shock because I normally hate getting gas. But in the summer, the gas station is no longer just a spot to get fuel. Instead it’s a meeting point for families and friends arriving from different directions. It’s a place to readjust the canvas on the boat and get ice for the cooler. You can feel that other people are on the brink of vacation — they’re not there yet, but they have the bulk of the drive already under their belt, all that’s left is a short drive to the marina.
Ahh, yes, the marina. Could there possibly be a more fabulous word? In my book, not really. It’s pretty, fun to say and instantly evokes pleasant images: ducks searching for breadcrumbs, the sound of the waves rippling against the hulls, the faint smell of fuel.
We don’t have a boat ourselves, but, as my husband says, we’ve got one better: We’ve got friends with boats (buh dum ching). And as we head out on their vessels, the wake white and curling behind us, there is no better feeling.
This past April, my friends Candice and Sarah took me out for a day on the lake to celebrate my birthday. It was a warm spring afternoon and, for once, I felt decent in my suit. We popped open the champagne before we even left the dock (another good word) and my friend Candice opened the cooler to show me that she’d bought European cheese just for me.
The girls piled up in the front, the leather banquette warm but not sweaty under our thighs, while the husbands stayed in the back and handled the buoys, watched the gas tanks and whatever else is involved in driving a boat. We parked in a little cove and Jesse turned off the engine, so all we could hear was the water and the wind.
It didn’t take long before we wanted to go swimming and we dipped a toe in and Candice squealed. In all truth, the water was still pretty cold in April, but no way was I going to let that stop me. I pinched my nose and jumped unceremoniously in, feeling the delicious cold burst over me. I floated near the surface where the warmest water was and closed my eyes to the sun, so all I saw was tangerine.
“Is it cold?” Candice said.
I turned over and evoked what should probably be the official Canadian catchphrase:
“It’s warm once you get used to it.”
Then she and Sarah jumped in and I felt very lucky to have good friends like them.
Because, in the end, that’s what makes being at the lake so great: the people you go there with. Nothing is very complicated, there isn’t even very much to do. It’s just about the water and talking and eating, getting a little burned, not thinking about anything but the moment.
So welcome, boaters, I hope you have a wonderful vacation in our neck of the woods.