Saturday, September 19, 2009

A-75, the final installment

Captain David Hamel

As difficult as it was to lower the fridge into the speedboat at Five Mile Dock, it now had to be lifted up and onto the dock. Not as easy as it looked – and it didn’t look easy. Warren came up with the slick idea to slide 2x4’s under the pallet to gain leverage in a tight space. The fridge would be raised in two steps using three people lifting from in the boat and the others on the dock to help lift and steady the fridge from tipping over - either back into the boat or into the lake. With much grunting and groaning, the fridge was hoisted onto the dock without incident. Time for a breather and to regroup.

The cardboard packing on the new unit was removed and the wooden pallet slid out of the way. Much ooohing and ahhhing followed as everyone gathered to inspect the shiny stainless steel doors and much increased interior storage space. The doors, storage shelves, ice trays, drawers and related hardware were removed and carried to the cabin.

Old Servel

The appliance dolly, which had been stowed in the bow of the boat, was retrieved and hauled up to the cabin since the old unit had to first be gotten out of the way. The old unit’s door was removed along with a few valued mementos. The Servel door emblem and the interior glass freezer compartment door now adorn a place of honor in the kitchen. The dolly was moved into position only to discover that the dolly’s strap mechanism did not work (it did not hold securely). But while the strap on the dolly was of little use, the wheels of the dolly were. Captain David, using lengths of rope, devised a series of tie-downs to keep the fridge on the dolly for the trip out the door and down the trail to the dock.

After removing the back door of the cabin to allow both units to pass through, it wasn’t long before we realized just how difficult safely moving the old unit would be. Not that damaging the unit was of any concern – damaging the movers was the issue. It was all we could do to get the behemoth out the door and beyond the backdoor steps. It was unceremoniously dumped next to the trail but out of the way. Tearing it into smaller more manageable pieces seemed like a good idea. Over the next few days that's exactly what took place.

The dolly was hauled back down to the dock to move the new unit. Once more, Captain David, using lengths of rope, devised a series of tie-downs to keep the fridge on the dolly for the trip up the trail. Looking back at A-75, part 1, take a look at the narrow trail photo. The narrow, tree lined, rock strewn, and uneven trail. Now you have a better sense of the challenge that lay ahead? Slowly the fridge was cajoled along the narrow path, up the back steps and into the kitchen. The womenfolk were already on task reading the new fridge’s operating instructions, sorting out where food would be placed and generally awed with all the extra storage space. Clearly propane refrigerator technology had come along way.

New Unique in place

The doors were re-hung (new fridge and cabin). Shelves and drawers were replaced. Captain David constructed a piece of copper pipe fitting to work with the propane gas fitting. Eventually the brain trust on A-75 was able to sort out everything to make the new fridge work. It takes a village. Within eight hours the new fridge was humming merrily along. No food was lost and the food crisis at A-75 had come to a successful conclusion.

With the fridge crisis over, life at A-75 returned to normal. Sunrise coffee, evening readings, pontoon trips – all was as it should be with the exception that no fish had been caught yet. But not for trying. There were some close calls but no cigar. Worse, we were getting down to the last entrĂ© idea. Something had to be done and done soon.

Early the next morning the gauntlet was thrown. Captain David, Shelley, and Carol took off at daybreak headed to Sears Bay. The rest of A-75 gathered as usual on “the rock”, coffee in hand to wait the result of the fishing expedition. Within an hour the sound of the returning pontoon boat was heard – was there a noticeably cheerier sound to it’s motor? As the boat came into view it was obvious from the smiling faces, thumbs up gestures, and Carol roaring “I am woman!” that worries over the evening entrĂ© had been put to rest. Captain David was holding up a monster northern pike that Carol had reeled in. Even Dash and Sally seemed to sense something wondrous had occurred.

Catch of the day

Captain David dispatched the pike while Carol told and retold her grand adventure. Later in the afternoon the ritual trip to “gut rock” was held. Fish remains were deposited for scavengers as we sat back and watched Turkey Vultures, Northern Ravens and Bald Eagles vie for the pickings. That evening the pike was prepared in a delectable batter and served to perfection. The fish was big enough to feed six with half leftover for another meal.

Shelley and Dash

David fishing, Tom, Sharon, Shelley & Dash

Continued good weather convinced us to stay one day longer than planned. There were more trips around the lake, viewing scenery and wildlife, including a small flock of Red-necked Phalarope on the lake. There was also a gala “paddleyak” party held at a cabin on Cherry Island where we were able to meet many of the Hamel's neighbors.

Our week flew by all too quickly and before we knew it, we were waving goodbye from the speedboat as Captain David pointed the bow back toward the docks near Fort Frances. We were dropped at the dock where our vehicle had been parked. Warren had accompanied us as he and David were to pickup needed provisions and do laundry. We packed up our vehicle, bid them farewell and headed back across the U.S. border.

Henry David Thoreau is quoted, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.”

Thoreau also said, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.”

We are ever so grateful that David and Shelley, along with Warren and Sharon, continued to pursue us with their annual invitations to A-75. It was everything they ever said it would be and much, much more. We're only sorry that the doors on the new fridge could not be reversed to open the way David had hoped they would. Apparently that was a special order. Who knew?

Postscript: One of the last "to do's" before we left A-75 was to haul the old Servel down to the dock where it was left, upside down with its door removed. I'm not certain but isn't that the international distress signal for "we're out of beer"? The Servel was in fact taken back to Fort Frances, loaded into the Hamel trailer, and taken to their home. Shelley has reported that David's eye surgery went very well and that he is at home recouping, dreaming of the day he can properly dispose of the Servel. Warren and Sharon are back in Black Earth tending to their goats. A-75 is now closed up awaiting next Spring.


  1. What an incredibly beautiful place! And, Dash looks like he would fit right in with Mato and Syrt. Enjoy!