TESSI AND THE PELEE ISLANDER (Tessi Rides the Ferries, Part 1)

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As we pulled up to the terminal jutting out from the shoreline, I was confronted with the reality of the nasty waves beating onto the deserted beach. Would the upcoming excursion take place? Weather predictions called for rain; nevertheless, I hoped for improvement in the downward spiral the conditions were already taking. I needed to supply pictures of a dog on a ferry for an article I was writing and time was running short. The ferry service would soon shut down for winter. Pelee Island I planned to take the dog-friendly vessel over to Pelee Island. At about 4047 ha (10 000 ac), the island sits in the middle of Lake Erie, between Leamington, Ontario and Sandusky, Ohio, and is the most southern piece of land in Canada. I had always understood it to be famous for its winery and thought it was the only place of interest there. In further research, however, I discovered for Tessi and me the island offers a couple scenic parks. On that unstable November day, upon finding the outside ticket booth closed, I ran into the terminal building to check in. In the centre of the quiet room, a sign blaringly stated that the scheduled crossing was delayed. I grasped the word “delayed” and held onto it with hope. We headed over to the nearby Pt. Pelee National Park to wander. While at the Tip in the park, I spotted dark, seething clouds mushrooming towards us from the horizon. We scooted back down the trail to reach the car—no parking allowed at the Tip. The cold, heavy rain arrived, soaking us before we made it. It continued for most of the rest of the day confirming my plans were officially scrapped and squashing any other outing we could have enjoyed instead. Luckily, the editor was willing to wait until spring for pictures. The Other Side of Winter Spring finally arrived with all it promises—warmer days and a ferry back in business. Tessi and I headed to Leamington on an encouraging sun-filled morning. Since it was only April, bare trees and bushes still ruled the land and most businesses hadn’t opened yet for the new season. I decided to “walk” over. Then I wouldn’t have to make a reservation beforehand, as is needed with a car, and chance weather problems. I was at the point I just wanted to get those photographs. I’d leave a more thorough visit for another time. Since I had mentioned my dog-related quest while talking to Stacey, the reservations rep, by phone—when I learned you don’t have to make a reservation to walk over, she wondered where Tessi was when I showed up to buy my ticket. I was surprised to discover dogs are allowed in the terminal building. I returned to the car and retrieved Tessi. Stacey and I were heavily involved in dog talk when I realized I probably should board the vessel before it ended up leaving without us. There would be no other chance that day as the number of daily crossings is minimal in April. We ended up on the M.V. Pelee Islander, which can carry 16 vehicles and 285 passengers. The other ship, M.V. Jiimaan can hold 400 passengers and 34 vehicles. It wasn’t running yet for the new season. Knowing we’d be out on open water and vulnerable to cold air, I brought a knapsack filled with warm gear. At least the air was calm and the friendly blue sky showed no forecast whatsoever of any foul weather. Following my fellow passengers, I strolled onto the ship with my leashed dog and headed up the stairs to an open deck, where rows of metal benches offer seating. I noticed an overhead framework in place for a canopy. Smooth Sailing—For Most Everyone We left port with a horn blast, which caught Tessi’s attention and made the only other dog tremble more than he already was. Amid taking pictures, I chatted on and off with Rob and Rose, the owners of Bailey, the dog. They and their two teenage children have travelled to their island cottage for years from their Burlington home. The couple told me that though Bailey used to easily handle traversing the lake, he now becomes quite anxious and seems to grow worse each trip. They’ve had to start medicating him to calm him. Since he’s not very social in this state, I kept Tessi back—not an easy task for my uber-friendly girl. I enjoyed the casual feel onboard. There were only a small number of people. It might be different in the busy days of summer when, as Rose told me, the ferry tends to be packed. The day stayed sunny and pleasant. It was a bit cool, but I didn’t need any of my extra gear. The calm water allowed me to leave the anti-nausea pills, which I had brought for my sensitive stomach, packed away. Rose told me how rough the lake gets at times. Sometimes the turbulence is so severe it makes most everyone sick. I wonder if Bailey’s negative experiences with foul weather could have instilled the anxiety he now feels. I guess I’m glad the ferry hadn’t run that nasty day the previous fall. I managed to take numerous photos of Tessi posing around the ship. As we moved about, I realized of the areas passengers are allowed in, the snack bar was the only place on the Pelee Islander dogs aren’t allowed. I brought my own refreshments anyway. Afterwards, we relaxed and visited for the rest of the trip. As we pulled into port, Bailey stilled and brightened up—pleased at the prospect of placing four paws on firm ground once again, I imagine. Tessi and I left them as we stepped off the ship and headed into the terminal to purchase our ticket back, since the company’s system wasn’t set up to sell me a round trip ticket at the start of the trip. Then we re-boarded. That was all we saw of the island; yet, the approximate three-hour round trip was a satisfying adventure in itself after a stagnant winter at home. For More Info

 (c) Cheryl Smyth, 2014

Part 2 – Tessi and the “Big Canoe”

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