Saturday, January 2, 2016

Summer...the big tease

This is a long story not made short.  I'm going to spell it out for anyone who will listen.  If you're not interested in a married couple, who have become accustomed to passing in the wind and who are in the throws of raising their three pre-teen and teenage children, who come together to complete an amazing project, for exactly one month, without children or responsibilities, then stop reading now. 

I don't even know where to begin.  I guess the idea crept up into me when there were grumblings about the house we've been going to in Minnesota for the last 20 years would be going on the market.  The house we got married in 18 summers ago.  The house my boys turned 1 in.  The house I loved my husband in, more than anywhere else in the world.  I think I loved him more there because of the air and water, the way the poplar leaves whisper in the wind, the lonely loons in the middle of the night looking for their mates, the lack of dishes and laundry, the dock days spent lounging in the sun.  The Northern Lights. 

I spent the year researching houseboats.  How to make them...start from scratch?  Redo an old one?  Tear one down?  I wanted to keep a piece of something for us to go back to.  Something to claim as our own in this special place.  I wanted it tax free and I wanted it on the water. 

Paul Bunyan thought I was nuts.  I would send him Craigslist postings.  "What about this one?"  I got little, to no, response.  He was not on board.  Literally.

I didn't really stop, though, even after he called me crazy and insane.  I wrote him a long letter explaining my reasoning.  I sounded like a spoiled rotten brat, espousing my thoughts that for the last 11 years he's been able to complete 3 (THREE) major projects that he's wanted to complete.  And me, well, NONE!  

I got him, at least, to think about it.  In June I emailed a man named Barry Bailey in Baudette about a 1974 Boatel.  I asked him to send photos and they didn't look awesome but hey, it was a start.  And it was the right price!  $4500.  There wasn't much out there and I hoped that his boat wouldn't sell before we got up to International Falls on July 12th.  The boys started camp on July 13th.  Claire was in Montana with her best bud Maggie and would fly into MSP on July 18th on her own.  The bus camp would pick her up with all the other Ogichi girls and she would be off and running.  On the 13th Paul Bunyan and I would have exactly one month to spend together and NO ONE to take care, except (of course) Ivy.

On the afternoon of the 13th, immediately after dropping those boys off, we drove over to Baudette.  Paul Bunyan looked under, looked over, clonked on pontoons, looked at the motor, looked on top.  I was ready to pull it behind our car.  Wait, what?  It weighs 12,000 pounds and will take a semi truck to get it to Rainy Lake?  Seriously? 

We had our work cut out for us.  We needed to 1) find a place to drydock it and 2) find someone to truck it.

 And long story made short (ha) we did it.  It took a week, which only left 3 weeks to get her done! 

So within minutes of it getting put on blocks we got to work on demolition.  EVERYTHING would be taken down.

Sawzall to the rescue.  We rented a dumpster

We took pictures of the way things used to be.

So we can, maybe, hopefully, put the steering all back together next July.

Ivy loved this project so much because we were around ALL day and didn't leave her side.

We took the moldy house apart bit by bit.

And with the help of Uncle George, we sweated

and banged

and watched for loons from the deck.

And pushed some more.

The whole thing, with all of its mold and history, went into the dumpster.

It was dirty work.

On a hot day.

But we finally did it.

Going, going...


Almost a clean slate.

And one happy, exhausted, demo guy...

And demo dog.

When the cross beams were sanded and painted (by ME!) we started to put in supports to widen the width of the boat.  Could be a risky move, we'll see when we get on the open water.

Then we rebuilt the floor

And started on a wall!

In the mornings we would go into town to visit Leo's Sawmill.  His turn of the century equipment still works like a charm, mostly because Leo, who is 80 something, and his brother work on the machines themselves.  We planned on building all the interior walls with rough cut cedar.

Leo sawed up what we needed in one day.

And Paul Bunyan ripped a few boards on the table saw.

We started in the middle, where the queen sized sleeping rooms will be.

Sleeping Ivy.

We worked from sun-up to sun-down.

Every single day...rain or shine.

And then moved to the back, where the kitchen and living room will be.

The front will be a bathroom, bunk room and the helm. 

We had a professional come tell us the motor WORKS!  Holy Shebang.  Things happen for a reason, right?  We just need new cables.

Windows will be screens with some sort of rain cover for when it actually rains on Rainy Lake.

As our three weeks wound down, we snuck over to see the stinky boys. They had so much fun they didn't want us to see us, which was great because we still had A LOT of work!

Ivy did little to help, other than dig rocks out of the water and fetch for sticks in between jobs.

We took time off to watch Timmy in the Indian Dancing Championships.  Paul Bunyan was so proud.

When my glass garage door went in, I felt like things were actually happening!

It's absolutely gorgeous.

And exactly how I imagined it.

I imagined the roof to be all clear plastic but I was talked out of this plan when everyone said it would be way too hot in our kitchen if we did that.  So I have one clear strip and two galvanized tin strips.  Compromise is good; however, as I sit here in the grey of this VT winter all I want is that greenhouse kitchen right now.

Roofs went up in front and middle.

At this time we started to say goodbye to some of our toys as Tuck and Susie, my in-laws, were starting to get rid of some of their things.  They sold the house with all of the furniture but this was Paul Bunyan's sailboat and he wanted to donate it to the girl's camp.  So, with the help of his college friend Tim (who also has a boy at Kooch), they sailed the boat down to Ogichi on the rainiest, windiest day we had.

And the next day Tim was put to work helping us with the old tin roof siding!  Which, thanks to his help, went up like a breeze.

Alana was there for encouragement, which is what we needed as the finish line neared!

A little break for Grand Council.  All of these final week events meant that we were running out of time on the boat.

This is when things started to get stressful.

Because we needed to get things closed in before heading home.  And well, Paul Bunyan and I needed to get home.

So we cranked out the rest of the tin.

And Paul Bunyan started on the pine siding.  He would measure, call down a number, and I would cut.

This is when he started to (sometimes) yell.  Sometimes.

Ivy was feeling the stress, too.

Uncle George showed up at the right time to help put in the slider in the front.

And the boys, out of camp, helped every day.

Here she is almost all closed up!

Timmy is helping measure!

Popi was a professional holder.

On the last night we were swatting mosquitoes and fighting the dark as we screwed in the plywood to cover the windows.

And on the last morning, the morning of our departure, Paul Bunyan screwed on the old Boatel back door, which is our side door.

And we said goodbye.

I hope she stands strong and doesn't leak.  And I hope the mice don't ruin the few things we've got stored in her from the house.  I hope that the snows of Minnesota don't make the roof collapse and I hope no one is squatting in her.  I hope there isn't record high water in the Spring and the things we have stored under her don't go floating away.  I can only hope. 

And with the sun shining through this house as we pulled away, I couldn't help but hope that all the memories I have here don't float away either.  The first time I visited in the summer of 1996, our wedding in the summer of 1998, Timmy and Auggie's first birthday in 2005,  friends coming from far and near, Austin's college reunion, the knee boarding, water skiing, tubing off the dock, the sun shining through the large front windows in the morning, and the buzz in my ear of the mosquitoes through the screen at night.  It will be hard to motor past this house every summer and see someone else on the lawn playing Baggo but it will be made easier knowing that I still have a space for the sun to shine through and a screen for the bugs to buzz through.  And I will, if she floats, be that much closer to the cries of the loons.  So I, at least, have that to look forward to.