The Fish Are Jumping…
A few clouds never scared us away from an adventure, and today we are taking on Lake Champlain - and betting that the haze will burn off by mid-morning.
We head out of Lake Placid at 6:30am and an hour or so later, after a quick pit-stop for much-needed coffee and snacks, we are ready to launch the boat and take to the ‘high seas’ as Oliver calls it. We are at the Ticonderoga Boat Launch and Lake Champlain is looking mighty big to a little boy more used to the land-locked lakes of the central Adirondacks.
Today we are cruising with my co-worker Kelly, and we plan to head out on the lake and meet our staff photographers, Shaun and Cam. The first part of our mission is to learn about Bass Fishing, Oliver is going to get his first lesson. And, actually, I don’t know anything about any kind of fishing - so this is a learning experience for both of us.
Shaun and Cam arrived much earlier than our little entourage, and have already been out on the lake for an hour or so with our hosts for the morning - two well-known Captains that were willing to take on our group and show us the basics.
Painting the Picture…
As we pull up alongside the bass boat, the first thing that catches my eye is that it is not, in fact, the huge boat I envisioned. There are not 50 fishing lines anchored to the sides and a crew of strapping young lads yelling orders and madly dashing about a la deep sea fishing on the Discovery Channel. This is much more serene - more complex than Huck Finn, but definitely not the picture I had in my head. This looks like the way a perfect morning fishing on the lake should look. It is remarkably quiet. Now, I am just a tiny bit worried about bringing Oliver; he is not remarkably quiet.
The boat is flat and open with two chairs set on stands at either end. There is a recessed area in the center that has a couple of more seats, and basically that is it. Okay, okay, I know it is much more complex than that - this is, after all, the boat of an award-winning Captain. But, for our purposes today, that is the gist of it.
Oliver is mesmerized and fairly quiet as we transfer him onto the bass boat. He knows he’s in unchartered waters (pun intended). Not only did he get sprung from daycare to join me at work for the day, he also has never been on this kind of boat. He loves anything that moves, and although I would have guessed he would’ve immediately gone for the fishing pole, he is fixated on the bow of the boat. Specifically, he is staring at the foot of the Captain. Upon further inspection, I understand. The Captain is steering the boat with his feet - not something to be quickly dismissed by a curious 4-year-old!
The Captain, located in the stern, lets Oliver stand on the back deck with him and teaches him how to cast the line. While he catches on fairly quickly, honestly he is more interested in reeling the line back in over and over again. I’m not sure he comprehends that the slower he goes, the better his chances of actually hooking a fish. I’m not sure he cares. This is fun and the Captain is very generous with answering questions thrown at him by a pre-schooler that has recently watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and is fairly obsessed with how a car can float like a boat (can this boat drive?), and pirates and canons (will we see any?). For reference sake, Lake Champlain does not have pirates, but there may be canon balls littering the bottom. After all, we are sailing the waters right below Fort Ticonderoga - if you are looking for a bit more of a history lesson head to the Fort and take their new boat tour! I was intrigued with the information being doled out which ranged from fishing tips to local history to off-the-cuff facts: one of our Captains spent approximately 300 days this year fishing different bodies of water around the country. What an amazing job.
Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away…
After completing our lesson and thanking our captains for their patience and generosity with this diversion from their job, it is time to load back up onto Kelly’s ski boat. It is also pretty hot, so a dip is next on the agenda - Shaun jumps in, and Oliver is quick to follow. The water is cool, but according to Oliver, it is not as cold as Lake Placid!
We head back to the dock and prepare for our next stop. We are driving up the Adirondack Coast to Westport, where we are going to get in a bit more boat time, and meet Suzanne, our Lake Champlain Visitor’s Bureau co-worker for lunch and a tour of Normandie Beach Club. I’m excited, this is all new ground to me - for as much as I travel the Adirondacks, I have not (yet) made much headway up and down the Champlain coast.
The Westport Boat Launch is easy access and user-friendly. Within minutes we are back on the water and heading over to the Westport Marina to re-fuel and check oil. We are greeted at the Marina by several eager teens - what a cool summer job! They dock us, and while Kelly discusses the boat with the onsite mechanic, Oliver and I explore the store and surrounding area. Shaun and Cam are back in the picture, and we load up and are quickly back on the water and heading to the dock at Normandie.
What a great find this Beach Club turns out to be! We pull up to their public dock and immediately Oliver is running circles & attempting to catch butterflies on their expansive grass lawn. The party heads to the Coco Cafe, which has an amazing view of Lake Champlain, and we’re greeted by a lovely staff (consisting primarily of foreign students). We order lunch from a generous menu with options ranging from burgers and fish to paninis and salads.
While the others chat with the manager about the history of the Club, I take the opportunity to play chase on the adjoining lawn with Oliver. I have great (if misplaced) hopes of wearing out some of his abundant energy before making him sit still for one of his favorite meals: grilled cheese and chocolate milk. The lunch is delicious, the setting incredible, the staff friendly - what more could we ask for?
How about a relaxing post-lunch beach date? I quickly accept an offer for Oliver and I to enjoy the amenities offered at the Club’s beach, while the rest of the staff heads out on the boat to film a few waterskiing shots. I can positively say, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. The beach offers boats and paddle boards, a lifeguard on duty, and Oliver's favorite: a box of toys ranging from balls and trucks to shovels and pails.
He quickly wears himself out running back and forth to the water, lugging buckets of water and building his own replica of the Fort. A note of interest: at this particular beach, and I’m not sure if this is the norm on Lake Champlain, we had to wear water shoes - the base is full of tiny sharp rocks. Not at all the sandy bottom we are used to swimming in, but an absolutely enjoyable experience none-the-less!
One Boat, Two Boats, Three Boats, Four…
As the day winds down, and we wait for our ride to float by and pick us up from the dock, we are tired - as well we should be after a good day spent on the lake. We lazily play a game of ‘I Spy’ in a brand new format - things that float. Lake Champlain is seemingly the perfect lake for every type of water activity imaginable. We watch as Sunfish and then huge Sailboats go by, there are jet skis, water-skiers, stand-up paddle boarders, bass boats, leisure boats, boats we can’t name, and of course, the ferry.
We can not wait for our next boating adventure on Lake Champlain. I am so glad we decided to travel out of the mountains and down to the Coast. We have literally broadened our horizons today!