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Gray rule

I’m no doctor, but I’ve found that a sunset on the water with a loyal friend can cure a whole lot of ailments.

One after another pickup trucks rumble past, gravel grinding beneath their tires. Boats bounce and crash on their trailers with each pothole (more like craters, really) they take too fast. I sit back and watch as bowriders, pontoons and jon boats alike slide into the placid green water of the lake.

It’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve never heard of Cross Lake in the small town of Cato just north of the Finger Lakes region of New York State; I certainly hadn’t. Karen and I escaped to this lakeside town halfway between The Sticks and Middle-of-Nowhere, USA as a last minute getaway before the birth of our first child.

The goal was to go off the grid, take stock of all we have to be grateful for and try to pretend we were living in a post-pandemic world, a world in which the threat of health implications didn’t weigh down every decision we made.

I’ll be honest with you, prior to this long weekend away, I felt like an overused alternator belt that was starting to fray, -threatening to snap with the next sudden load. You know how it goes. A new project gets dumped in your lap at work, family drama rears its head, and “oh honey, the dryer isn’t getting warm anymore and the dishwasher won’t turn on.”

On top of all this, I was still struggling to get used to my first summer of being boatless in almost a decade. With a little one on the way, I know in my heart the timing was right to sell our boat, but I felt a bit lost without the escape I enjoyed aboard.

Sure, my lawn was looking PGA ready and I finally got around to cleaning the gutters, but that satisfaction lasts as long as a cold beer on a hot day—if you’re lucky. One of my more recent forays into filling my new-found leisure time was to construct obstacles to keep squirrels out of my bird feeders. I kid you not—Karen took a picture of me securing spike strips with zip ties one sunny weekend afternoon. Yes, a getaway and reset was most definitely needed.

I’ve visited some of the most beautiful boating destinations in the world. I’ve cruised in the South of France and off the coasts of Spain and Italy. I’ve chartered in the BVI and been off the grid in the Pacific Northwest, but spending long afternoons watching boats criss-cross a lake that you already forgot the name of did as much—if not more—for my soul than all those other memorable adventures.

The shriek of children on tubes echoed past my Adirondack chair and through the cornfields behind me. A group of friends raced each other to a party cove, fishermen stopped at a suspect-looking live bait vending machine before blasting off to stalk bass, and young and old untied their lines in search of a sunset cruise. The boat ramp produced a decidedly blue-collar crowd who all seemed to be racing onto the water after spending the day working under the hot summer sun. They flocked to this little spit of water for the same reason I had: to find escape. And after the sun went down and the bug zappers turned on, they returned to the boat ramp and headed home.

Work. Boat. Sleep. Repeat.

With only one or two exceptions of the 50-plus truck loads of people I watched come and go, everyone seemed a heck of a lot happier when returning from the water.

By our second day in Cato I was on the phone trying to secure some kind—any kind—of boat rental. One gentleman actually laughed and said “I might have an opening in September.” This was in mid July. I didn’t return his laugh.

My time spent sitting beside that rural lakeside boat ramp watching others enjoy my chosen pastime had a positive affect on me. My blood pressure sank like the setting sun. It was a fitting spot to sit with the dog, toes dangling just above the water, and reflect on the craziness of the past months and contemplate what the years ahead might bring. This short stretch of solitude reminded me of how, whether we’re aboard a Pershing in the Med or a pontoon on the pond, boating can add so much to our lives. For that I’ll always be grateful.

This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.