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Blanche Tickle Girl book cover

Blanche Tickle Girl
Book Two of the Full Sails series
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 17

It was no surprise that Sid enjoyed hearing the stories about the adventures Matt and Mary had on board the Mary Sue, and that he enjoyed meeting Mary. He was eighty-six now, and was failing a little from when Matt had seen him in the spring, but he still seemed ready to go sailing again.

The meeting with Sid ate up most of the morning. By early afternoon they were back in Ann Arbor, where Matt got the results of his blood test– about the same as before, which wasn’t a surprise. He worked out an appointment to have a telephone consultation with his main specialist in a few days, and with that they were pretty well done with what they had to do in the area.

“It’s a little late to get started up to Winchester Harbor,” Matt told Mary, “But we can call ahead and let them know we’ll be arriving after dark.”

“Aye, we might’s well be movin’ on, then,” she agreed. In a few minutes, the nose of the little Chevy was pointing north.

It was almost three hundred miles to Winchester Harbor, a five hour drive in the best of times even with part of it being on four lanes. By now the Michigan trees were nearing their peak color season, and in a brisk wind it could be seen that many leaves were coming down, indicating that winter was on its way. Soon, many of the trees they saw would be naked, and would be staying that way until they were back on the Mary Sue again. It made it seem like the winter would be awfully long, and right then the boat seemed far away indeed.

After a while they got off the four-lane road, and onto a little-used two-lane that Matt knew was a good shortcut to Winchester Harbor. “You’re welcome to drive any time you want to,” he offered to Mary.

“’Fraid not, b’y,” she shook her head. “I thought I told you drivin’ is one thing I never learned to do. I never really had the chance, an’ I never had the car to learn it on.”

“Well, I suppose we ought to do something about that sooner or later,” he shrugged. “But now isn’t the time. It’s going to be a long haul from Winchester Harbor to St. John’s, and it’ll probably eat up an extra day if I have to do it all myself.”

“Sorry about that, Matt,” she told him. “But like I said, it’s somethin’ I just never learned how to do.”

“No big loss,” he shrugged. “After all, what’s one more day when we’ve got the whole winter to get through? It probably isn’t that big a deal in the short run, although it would be handy if you knew. Believe me, it’s simpler than steering a boat.”

It was after dark several hours later when they finally reached Winchester Harbor. He pulled the Cavalier into a small restaurant/motel located on a channel leading from a small lake that served as the harbor. The restaurant was dark inside, but there were lights on in a small house at the far end of the motel. “This is it,” Matt said as he drove down a narrow side street. “My home away from home, except that this is more my home now than at my parents’.”

“Not much like your other home,” she said as he stopped the car.

“No, I should actually be welcome here,” he sighed.

They got out of the car and headed toward the small house. They didn’t get all the way up to the house before a door opened, and a man came out, with a shorter, slender woman right behind him, followed by a teenage girl nearly her size. “Well, I see you made it up here with your ass still intact,” the man said.

“Yeah, that wasn’t any fun, though,” Matt sighed. “Damn, Uncle Jake, it’s good to see you again.”

“It’s good to see you,” Jake smiled. “And I see you brought someone with you.”

“I sure did,” Matt grinned. “Uncle Jake, Aunt Rachel, Amanda, this is Mary O’Leary, the girl I met up with in Newfoundland. We had a ball crossing the Atlantic and sailing around northern Europe.”

“Mary, it’s good to meet you,” Uncle Jake smiled. He was a lean man, not much taller than Matt, with the look about him that he spent a lot of time outside. “Come on inside. Since you left, Ron decided to do a tour in the Coast Guard, so he’s in South Carolina. It’ll just be the five of us.”

The five went inside, to find a cozy house; though it was small, it was warm and comfortable; it felt lived-in, unlike the sterile house where Matt’s parents lived. “Would you like anything to eat?” Rachel asked.

“Not for me,” Matt said. “We stopped and had a burger before we left the four-lane. I don’t know about Mary, though.”

“Nothin’ now, thanks,” Mary replied. “I think that burger is gonna be enough ta hold me.”

“How about a beer?” Jake asked.

“I think I could be standin’ a beer to unwind from the drive,” she replied. Matt agreed that it sounded pretty good to him, too. In a few minutes the five of them were in the living room, each with a cold glass of beer.

“We didn’t get enough cards and letters from you,” Uncle Jake said as he settled into his chair. “I take it everything went all right with the boat?”

“A couple little things, nothing worth mentioning,” Matt replied. “It never gave us any trouble.”

“I always knew that was a good little boat,” Rachel smiled. “We thought that taking it down to Sandusky was a big deal, but I’d never have believed that someone would sail it across the Atlantic. Mary, I suppose Matt told you the story about Jake’s and my little adventure on that boat, longer ago than I want to think about.”

“He told me that there was a little romancin’ goin’ on,” Mary smirked.

“Well, not on that trip,” Rachel laughed. “But it was the foundation for a lot of what came later. I got the impression that it’s not the only time a little romance broke out on that boat.”

“It seems to be good for that,” Matt smiled. “It seems to have worked about as well for Mary and me as it did for the two of you.”

“So,” Amanda asked, “are the two of you planning on staying long?”

“A few days, probably,” Matt shrugged. “We’re planning on heading up to Mary’s house in Newfoundland for the winter, but there’s no rush about getting there.”

“You probably shouldn’t make it too long,” Jake smiled. “I had a call from your mother after I got off the lake this afternoon. She wants me to call her just as soon as you get here. Apparently she didn’t get a chance to tell you everything she wanted you to hear.”

“I’m sure she didn’t,” Matt shook his head ruefully. “I figure she had plans to rant at me all winter.”

“Knowing your mother, I’d guess that was about right,” Jake shook his head. “What do you say that you stick around for a while? When you leave I’ll call her and tell her you were here for a couple hours but hit the road again for parts unknown.”

“Sounds like it would work to me,” Matt said. “But we’d probably better not stay too long or she might get wise, come up here and camp out on your doorstep waiting for us.”

“I wouldn’t put it past her, either,” Jake nodded. “I spent years aching over the fact that we’d broken up, at least way back when, but I finally realized it was a blessing in disguise. In fact, it may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Well, as always, I’m just happy you can provide a refuge,” Matt sighed. “But this time, maybe we shouldn’t drag it out too long. I have to admit that I was surprised at how much Dad went out of the way to run interference for me.”

“It wasn’t the first time,” Jake said. “We’ve had a few discussions since you took off last spring. He was pretty worried about you being out in a boat as small as the Mary Sue by yourself, but I think I was able to convince him that the boat was just fine and that you were capable of handling it like a pro.”

“I sure got a more positive response out of him yesterday than I was expecting,” Matt admitted.

“Your father is a good man,” Jake said. “Sometimes he tends to listen to your mother more than he has to, and maybe not draw the line with her as often as he should, but I got the impression he’s more or less on your side. At least, he’s been that way since he and I were able to talk about it a little without your mother around. I take it from what was said you don’t feel particularly welcome at home.”

“Afraid not,” Matt sighed. “Like I said, Dad was happy to see me, but Mom only wanted to get on my case, and it was clear she wasn’t going to shut up any decade soon. I’m sure glad we decided long ago to keep the Mary Sue a secret from her. I couldn’t have managed it without your help, and I want you to know I really appreciate it.”

“Again, knowing your mother, it was clear before you even thought about buying a boat that we’d have to keep it a secret from her,” Jake shrugged. “But enough of that for now. You know the price of me helping cover this up from your mother was that you were going to have to pass along some sea stories when you got the chance. Plus, your father told me you had some interesting photos.”

“He called up here today, too?”

“Yeah, I was no more than off the phone with your mother when he called from his office,” Jake smiled. “He said you were on your way up here, that you’d had a real good trip, had some interesting photos and a real nice girl friend. He got us curious, and we don’t plan on letting you go until we’ve wrung you dry.”

Matt and Mary spent most of the next three hours going over the story of the trip in detail, showing off their photos and telling stories in more detail than Matt had told his father and grandfather the day before. This was the third recitation of the story, and by now they’d worked out how to tell it. It was a fun session; Matt had written to Jake in much more detail than he had to his parents, and it turned out that he and Rachel had followed the trip on charts and on the Internet the best they could.

Finally midnight drew close. “We’re going to have to drag this thing to a halt,” Jake finally said. “I could sit here and jaw with you all night, but I’ve got a fishing party showing up at seven and we’re going to take them out on the Chinook.”

“How’s the fishing been?” Mary asked.

“Not bad,” Jake responded. “It’s usually pretty good in the fall since it’s spawning season and the fish are getting to be more active. We’ve only got a couple weeks left in the season.”

“From what Matt tells me,” Mary replied with honest interest, “This is something that’s pretty different from what we do in Newfoundland.”

“I’m sure you would think so,” Jake said. “And you’d be the one to know. If you’d like, the two of you could go out with us tomorrow.”

“Sure, I’d love to,” she replied. “I’m sure Matt knows about all he needs ta know about it, but it sounds like it’s new to me. It might make for the odd story when we’re spending the winter in Blanche Tickle.”

“Are you up for it, Matt?”

“Always,” Matt said. “The thought has crossed my mind from time to time that when I get done traveling I might have to come up here and ask you for a job.”

“It might be you’d get one if you did,” Jake smiled. “There wouldn’t be any question that you could handle the boat.” He turned to Mary and added, “We’ll have to meet the party at seven down at the dock in the harbor, but we’ll come back here with them for breakfast. That’s usually the plan. You could go down to the dock with me, or meet us here.”

“Oh, let’s go down to the dock,” Matt said. “That might help Mary get a little better idea of how this is done.”

“Good enough,” Jake smiled. “Matt, your old room is empty tonight. In fact, we only have one room rented tonight and it’s on the far end of the building. I suspect we’d better all get some sleep, since that old six-thirty wake-up call comes mighty early. Or do you need more time to get around than that, Mary?”

“That ought ta be fine,” she said. “I’m not like some lassies that need an hour or more ta get their face on in the mornin’.”

“That’s for sure,” Matt grinned. “I’d say that was about the average amount of time it takes my mother, though.”

It was still dark when Jake came knocking on the motel room door a little before seven the next morning, although as Matt stepped outside he could see a smudge of twilight building off in the east. “It’s about as dark as the inside of a cow at this time around this part of the year,” Jake explained. “But it’s nice to get on the lake early since the fish are often hitting then.”

The three of them piled into Jake’s old pickup truck and drove a mile or so down to a boathouse and dock near the highway that went through the town. “This is actually Rachel’s father’s place,” Jake explained to Mary as he parked the truck near a big cabin cruiser set up for fishing. “I’ve worked with him for dog’s years. He’ll be taking the other boat out today without a helper. Rachel was going to go with me today before you showed up, but she had some things to do around the motel, so she’s not minding taking a day off.”

“Not that she takes very many off,” Matt grinned.

“No, she’s the real fishing nut,” Jake agreed. “Matt, since I don’t have Rachel with me today, I guess you’re running the boat. You remember how to?”

“It’s been a while, but I shouldn’t have any problems,” he replied.

“OK, why don’t you go start warming up the engines? It looks like our party is here, so we might as well get going.”

Matt led the way onto the big boat– much larger in every way than the Mary Sue – and climbed up to the flying bridge in the semi-darkness, with Mary following along behind. It had indeed been a while since he’d been up there, but he’d been there a lot over the years and it didn’t take long to get the boat’s two big diesel engines running. Mary looked around and said, “Looks like a nice boat, b’y.”

“It is,” Matt said, checking the engine gauges with one eye. “Uncle Jake and Nate really have it set up for what they do with it.”

“OK, Matt,” Jake called up from the cockpit. “The party’s aboard. I’ll get the lines.”

In a minute, the lines were up on deck, and Jake had hopped aboard. Matt cracked open the throttles a little and began to ease the Chinook away from the dock. In only a couple minutes they were heading across the small lake to the channel at hardly more than an idle speed, leaving only the smallest of wakes behind them. “Ye act like ye know what you’re doin’,” Mary said as Matt steered the boat.

“Believe me, even as much as we’ve sailed the Mary Sue this summer, I’m still more comfortable with this,” Matt said confidently as he steered the big sport-fisherman into the narrow channel. “This is where I really started to learn seamanship years ago.”

In only minutes they were pulling up at the dock at Jake’s. “Why don’t you go down and help Uncle Jake with the lines?” Matt suggested.

“Sure thing, b’y,” she said, and scuttled down the ladder to the cockpit. As soon as Matt had the Chinook alongside the dock, she hopped onto it and caught the lines that Jake threw to her, then snubbed them up to the posts along the dock. Matt shut off the engines and climbed down from the flying bridge.

The group of them– there were four customers– climbed up the small hill to the restaurant. They were soon seated at a big table overlooking the dock and the fishing boat in the channel. “Just so you know,” Jake told the customers, “We have a special treat today. The young man running the boat this morning is my nephew Matt. He’s here with his girlfriend for a few days, after they spent the summer sailing across the Atlantic and around the northern part of Europe. Mary is from Newfoundland and has worked on fishing boats there, so she’s coming along with us to see how we do things here.”

“I can already see ’tis a mite different than what I’m used ta,” she smiled, her Newfie accent thicker than ever, if such a thing were possible.

“Sailing across the Atlantic?” one of the customers said. “How big a boat?”

“It’s a twenty-five foot sloop,” Matt explained. “We left it in Copenhagen for the winter. If you were here the last several summers, it’s been here.” He gave a brief summary of how he’d set out down the St. Lawrence in the spring, met Mary in Newfoundland, crossed the Atlantic with her and explored around Ireland, and Norway.

“I think I remember seeing it here last fall,” one of the customers said. “It was up on blocks by the boat shed down at the dock, right?”

“That’s the boat,” Matt nodded. “We had a real fun time, too.”

“Cripe,” the man replied. “I don’t know how you’d want to go out into the open lake in a boat that small, let alone across the Atlantic.”

“It’s built for it,” Matt said. “We rode out several storms in it. It was quite the adventure, and I don’t think we were ever in any real danger.”

“Didn’t it scare you, Mary?”

“Nay,” she smiled. “I been goin’ ta sea since I was but a wee child. It’s a little smaller than most of the boats I’ve been on, but I’ve had worse times on others. I’ve rarely enjoyed myself at sea half as much as I did with Matt.”

Matt knew from experience that breakfast with the fishing parties usually involved a lot of talk about fishing. Not this morning; they spent a lot of time talking about their adventure, to the point where Jake finally had to say, “Hey, we probably ought to finish up and get out on the lake while they’re still biting. Mary, unless you really want to be with Matt, why don’t you ride back in the cockpit with us? That way you can see how we do things around here.”

In a few more minutes they were heading back to the Chinook, carrying sack lunches and thermoses of coffee. Matt climbed up to the flying bridge, and got the engines going, while Mary got the lines off the dock and tossed up onto the deck. In only a couple minutes, they were slowly heading out past the jetties that jutted out into the lake.

“We need to get set up in a hurry,” Jake said. “They’ve been close in and fairly shallow lately, and I don’t think we’ll have to go very far out.”

He called that one pretty close; the words were no more than out of his mouth when Matt yelled down from the flying bridge, “Got a nice school coming up, only down about ten to twenty.”

“Well, I was right,” Jake said. “Got to be salmon in this close.” He turned and yelled up to the bridge, “Matt, just head north for a little at an idle until we can get rigged down here.”

“Sure thing,” Matt called back, turning the boat to the north.

It took a little while to get rigged. Jake explained to Mary that most of what they did was troll for salmon and lake trout with spoons or other lures. Since the fish weren’t usually near the surface, they used a piece of gear called a “downrigger” to keep the lures at the wanted depth; the fishing lines were attached to the downrigger with spring clips. The fishing lines were on normal-looking fishing rods and reels, although a little heavier than the normal sport fisherman would use; four of them were usually mounted in the holders, although Matt had told her that at some times they occasionally fished with as many as eight.

There was a certain amount of messing around to get everything set up, but Mary proved to be a big help with it. “It’s a lot different than what we do up in Newfoundland,” she said at one point. “But fish are fish and hooks are hooks, and after that there’s a lot else that’s the same, too.”

It was probably ten minutes before they were ready to go. Jake called up to Matt to swing around and take a run at the school; as soon as he had the boat turned around they rigged the lines into the water. It took a couple minutes to get back to the point where Matt had spotted the fish on the fish finder, but almost as soon as they were into them, first one rod had a fish on it, then another. Jake and Mary had to pull in the other two lines and the downrigger “bombs” that were attached to them, leaving room for two of the customers to fight the fish; Matt just idled the boat while the battle went on.

In a matter of minutes they had two pretty decent coho salmon on board. “Not exactly trophies,” Jake said to the customers. “But they’d make good eating. You want them filleted? Or do you want to throw them back and try for trophies?”

“If I bring another mounted fish home my wife is going to kill me,” one of the customers said. “But she does like salmon steaks.”

The other customer agreed, and Jake turned to set up a board in the cockpit to do the cutting. “Here,” Mary said. “I can do that for ye. These things ain’t much different than cod, and I have cut up a salmon once or twice.”

“Fine with me,” Jake told her. “I’ve never been any great shakes at it, no matter how long I’ve been doing it.”

Matt happened to be looking down from the flying bridge when Mary started in on the first fish with a sharp knife. She indeed knew what she was doing, and it seemed like it only took her seconds to have the fish gutted, boned, and cut into the appropriate pieces. “You got ice ta put ’em on, I take it,” she said to an amazed Jake.

“Holy crap,” he shook his head. “As much as I’ve done that, I’d just be getting started.”

“Ye work in a fish plant as much as I have, an’ ye learn how ta do it quick,” she grinned. “I’m a mite out of practice since I ain’t done it in a couple years, now. Ye catch a few of these an’ I’ll get some of the kinks out. Maybe I can show ye a trick or two.”

“OK,” Jake said to the customers as soon as the first two fish were on ice. “We’re on a good school here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we can stay on it and limit out. We can stay here and fish for meat, or if you want we can go looking for some lake trout. That’s going to be a lot chancier proposition, so it’s a bird-in-the-hand versus two-in-the-bush situation. Your choice, gentlemen.”

After some discussion, it was decided to work the school some more, but not take the limit; when they got close, they’d go looking for lake trout. Over the next couple hours, they boated several more fish. If Matt had ever held any doubts about Mary’s skill around a fishing boat, they were soon put to rest. Though the gear and the technique may have been a little strange to her, she picked it up rapidly, and she worked at the rigging and such things as efficiently as Jake did.

Within a couple hours they decided they had all the salmon they needed for one day. Jake told Matt to turn the boat to the northeast, while he and Mary re-rigged for lake trout, which involved deeper trolling and different lures. Once they had all the lines fishing, Mary climbed up to the flying bridge to be with Matt. “That was pretty interestin’,” she said. “I can see why it’s done different here, but some things don’t change much.”

“I’d imagine that it really is done pretty differently in Newfoundland,” Jake agreed. “Maybe I’ll get a chance to see some of it.”

“It really is different,” she said. “Most of the local boats around Blanche Tickle go long-linin’ with a long string of hooks. It works pretty well in close. Farther out you find draggers, mostly foreign boats, an’ that’s the reason fishin’ in Newfoundland ain’t what it once was, ’cause the foreign draggers have come pretty close ta cleanin’ out the Grand Banks. There’s places in close where there are as many cod as there ever were, though. Maybe I can work out a deal for ye ta take a ride on a cod boat or somethin’ when we get there.”

“I’d like that,” Matt smiled. “I can work down in the cockpit on this boat as well as up here, but it takes more practice than I’ve gotten recently. Just figuring out where the fish are and how to get at them is a lot of it.”

“Ye seemed pretty good with that fish finder, b’y,” she commented.

“I’m not bad with it,” he said, glancing down at it, and not seeing any targets at the moment. “Aunt Rachel is a lot better, but she’s had a lot more practice than I have.”

“Were ye funnin’ when ye said that if ye had ta look for work that ye wouldn’t mind workin’ up here for your Uncle?”

“I can think of a hell of a lot worse things to be doing. The money wouldn’t be anything like what I’d be making in my grandfather’s company, and I know it gets tight for Uncle Jake and Aunt Rachel from time to time, but I know I’d enjoy doing this a hell of a lot more.”

“Might be somethin’ ta think about when the time comes, b’y.”

“If the time comes,” he pointed out.

“Well, yeah, but ye know what I meant. I’ll tell ye what, b’y, if the time comes, I don’t think I’d mind workin’ with ye at it.”

“There’s the chance it could happen,” Matt agreed. “But can’t you just imagine what my mother would say?”

“Maybe in a few years she’ll feel differently.”

“We can hope,” he sighed. “But I’m not exactly holding my breath, not after that scene a couple days ago.”

Not long after that Matt spotted a single target on the fish finder, down deep, that looked like it might be a lake trout. Since they hadn’t been finding anything much, they swung around to drag lures past it three different times, but didn’t get a hit. “Guess he must not be all that hungry,” Matt said down to Jake in the cockpit. “You want to take another pass at him, or look elsewhere?”

“Let’s look elsewhere,” Jake said. “If it’s not going to hit the lures, it’s not going to hit them. If we come up empty we can always head back and see if we can find that school we were working this morning. It’s about time to break out the lunches, if anyone’s interested.”

They ate their lunches– roast beef salad sandwiches from the restaurant, on thick homemade bread– and trolled on for a while longer, the fish finder still working. Over the course of the next couple hours Matt had a couple more hits on the fish finder but the fish seemed to be just about as disinterested as the first one. Finally, along in the middle of the afternoon, Jake suggested that they turn around and try to find that school off the harbor mouth, so Matt swung the Chinook around and headed back toward Winchester Harbor.

Matt kept the fish finder going, and about halfway back he found another single lake trout. This one seemed interested in the lure although he didn’t take it on the first pass, so they swung around and give him another try. This time he did take it, and the customer on the rod had a pretty nice fight before he boated a solid-sized fish, although again not a trophy. Once again Mary made quick work of it at the filleting table, and it was soon on ice.

As luck had it, Matt was able to find the school of coho milling around the harbor mouth, and after a little re-rigging they took a pass through the school. It wasn’t long before they reached their limit, and were soon heading back into the dock for the night.

“Not a bad day,” Jake said down in the cockpit as they were heading across the harbor to their dock. “The weather was nice, the customers enjoyed it, and they got to take some fish home with them. That’s the general idea, after all.”

It took a few minutes to get the Chinook shut down for the night; then they drove back up to Jake’s. “So, Mary,” he said as they rode through the streets of the little village. “Did you learn anything today?”

“Oh, aye,” she smiled. “It’s an interestin’ way ta make a livin’ fishin’, but I don’t think it’d work in Newfoundland very well.”

“Not surprising,” Jake said. “The fish are different, and really, we’re not fishing for fish, we’re fishing to keep the customers happy catching fish. But maybe you’ll have a story to tell this winter.”

They sat around the restaurant telling a few more stories for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner was in the restaurant; it proved that Jake and his family often ate there, since they had a bigger and more comfortable kitchen there than in the house. Mary kept them interested by telling a few stories of her childhood in a Newfoundland fishing village, and of commercial fishing considerably different than the sport fishing they’d grown up with.

Later on they sat in the living room, again enjoying a beer or two before heading to bed. “I wouldn’t think that Newfoundland would be the first place on my list to spend the winter,” Rachel said. “But I suppose it ought to be all right.”

“Aye, it’ll be cold and stormy at times, but the price is right,” Mary said. “But I’ll bet the winters get kinda long here, too.”

“Oh, yeah,” Rachel said. “It would help if there was anything going on, but usually things are pretty dead around here. Winter drags on and drags on, but usually we take a break from it.”

“How’s that?” Mary asked.

“Oh, we have a boat down in Florida, the Winter Haven,” Rachel explained. “We own it with two other couples, and we each use it for about a month each winter. One of the other couples is John and Debby Hufnagel. She was the cook here for years and years. They have kids about the same age as ours, so what happens is that we used to watch all the kids for a while when they go south, and they watched the kids when we went south. The problem is that the kids want to get away too, so we usually took the whole gang south over the holidays and swapped adults in the middle. Two adults and up to five teenagers gets a little crowded on a twenty-five foot boat. It’ll only be four this year with Ron off in the Coasties.”

“Thinkin’ about the Mary Sue, I ain’t sure how ye’d even get two adults and five kids on a boat that size.”

“It’s a lot bigger boat for being twenty-five feet,” Jake explained. “It must be twice the size of the Mary Sue, and it’s got to be about the fattest trailer boat ever built. To be honest, it’s a crappy sailing boat and doesn’t want to go to windward very well unless you have the outboard running. But then, we usually don’t sail it a lot. We find someplace warm and quiet, usually down in the Keys, and just anchor out and enjoy ourselves. Most of the year we just leave it on a trailer in Ft. Myers. It’s not the world’s greatest boat, but it and the system work well for us. At least it gets us away from winter for a while.”

“Sounds like a right good deal ye got there. It’d be nice ta be able ta get away from the winter for a while.”

“Well, it might be available for a few weeks,” Rachel said. “I mean, the schedule isn’t pinned down yet, but the way things are set up now, Jake and I will be using it most of December, and then John and Debby most of January. But they’re planning on coming back a little early for something with his family they can’t get out of. Dad and Barb were thinking that they’d like to go down a little later, and only get back a couple weeks before spring fishing starts in. That would mean that it might be available for at least the tail end of January and part of February. I’d have to talk with everyone and work out the dates and see if they’d be willing to go along with the idea, but it can probably be worked out.”

“I don’t know about ye, Matt, but I think I could manage ta spend part of February on a boat in Florida, just to get away from the winter in Blanche Tickle for a while.”

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” he agreed. “But I don’t want to put anybody out.”

“I don’t think you would,” Jake said. “I mean, the Winter Haven is just going to be sitting there without anyone using it for something like three or four weeks. We bought the damn thing to use it and most of the year it just sits on the trailer.”

“I’m pretty sure Dad would go along with the idea,” Rachel commented. “I’d have to talk to John and Debby, but I’m pretty sure they’d go along with it too, especially since they already have to cut their trip short this year for other reasons.”

“You’d have to cover fuel, food, and fees,” Jake said. “And of course, you’d have to get to and from Florida.”

“It’s something to think about,” Matt agreed. “Just off the top of my head, I’d guess we’d have to fly down there. It would be a hell of a long drive from Newfoundland to Florida. I’d have to check into the cost of flying, but it might not be that bad.”

“Tell you what,” Rachel offered. “You’re sticking around tomorrow, aren’t you? Maybe going out on the Chinook again?”

“We can do it either way,” Matt said. “You know we don’t want to stick around too long, just in case Mom starts to get the bright idea of coming up here.”

“Shouldn’t matter for one more day,” Uncle Jake said. “If it gets too much after that, though, she’s going to start to get bright ideas.”

“Let me run it by Dad and Barb and John and Debby tomorrow,” Rachel offered. “We might not be able to work out all the details, but at least I can find out if they’re open to the idea.”

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