When it comes to summer and its sweetest spots, there are few offers richer in currency than when you hear the words, “Do you guys want to come boating?”
Let’s face it, living near a lake but not being able to go on it is a special kind of torture. I know many of you know what I mean, and I know many boat-owners are reading this and feeling a little smug about their smart decision to take advantage of, possibly, the most entertaining resource nearby.
This year, one magic invitation came from our friend Steve Eberly.
Steve has been William’s business partner for eight years, and they get along extremely well. He’s been a bachelor for about the last five years and, in that time, has become a pretty frequent regular at our dinner table. He always shows up with either a slab of fish he’s freshly caught, a boar he’s hunted or a nice bottle of wine he’s picked up on his many road trips. He is a wonderful dining companion, always up on the latest news on NPR, always in a good mood, always proud of his four kids, all of whom have gone on to prestigious colleges and medical schools. And even though he’s an avid member of the local CrossFit gym, he doesn’t talk about it unless asked, which is really saying something if you ask me.
Steve lives on the lake in an old fishing cabin that is so rustic you might think Hemingway himself lives there. Driftwood in the shape of a crane stands in the front yard. The stove is avocado in color and about 40 years old. And everything smells of firewood. Of course, he’s suped the place up a bit with a deluxe espresso maker, a monster paella pan and Bose speakers, on which the Fleetwood Mac station is usually playing.
When we arrived there around 11 on a Sunday morning, we were ready for a great day. I felt a little empty-handed as we walked into the cabin with just a bottle of prosecco, but Steve was clearly ready for us. He started piling trays, coolers and jars into the back of his Jeep and we made the short trek to his boat dock.
Before you know it, we were sitting around the table on Steve’s runabout. He’d piled deluxe champagne in an ice bucket earlier that morning and had placemats with cloth napkins. He had two types of smoked salmon, luscious cheeses and crackers. He’d even remembered to bring two egg cups down — one for capers, the other for sour cream. And for later, he’d made tuna ceviche and a mahi mahi dip that will knock your socks off.
It was bloody awesome.
William and I looked at each other and were humbled by the luxury. Here we were with our $14 bottle of prosecco being offered exquisite French champagne. And Steve seemed glad to pour it.
We had our brunch and headed out from the dock, the dam our destination for the afternoon. I absolutely love boating and headed to the banquette in the bow so I could get the wind in my face. We rode for about half an hour at full speed, jumping over old wakes, waving to other boaters, before Steve stopped and poured us more champagne. He parked us in a cove complete with waterfall so we could have a little swim.
Swimming in a lake in Kentucky is something I never, ever take for granted. After a childhood of lake water so cold you’d come out blue with tingly toes, I still marvel over how warm and soft the water is here, how you can stay in as long as you like and never chatter or even think about the temperature.
I floated on my back as the guys talked and relished in the day.
We pressed on. We drank more champagne. Most importantly, I watched William really unwind, get to talk to Steve about things other than the office, get to enjoy summer and a warm day after 12 days of work and call.
When we reached the dam, it was bigger than I pictured it. The guys knew exactly how it worked and explained it to me (bless the science minded). There were no other boats around and the sun was orange in the west. We jumped in for another swim and the water was cooler here, registering more than 100 feet deep.
I felt completely relaxed, restored and lucky. And I realized I’d arrived at the very heart of summer.