Encounter of an Island Kind

One of the highlights of the last month, and likely of the entire summer, was the qualifying of Aylmer Island (ON295) and its subsequent activation during the “2015 W/VE Islands QSO Party” (see two of the previous postings in this same blog). Access to the island required a short solo sail upriver, which added to the appeal of the expedition. I have sailed that portion of the Ottawa River numerous times and it is rare that I can pinpoint – least of all document – the very first moment that I laid eyes on a particular anchorage or a given shore. However, in the case of Aylmer Island I not only remember the occasion, but can also provide graphic documentation of our very first encounter.

It was in the summer of 1982. I had just moved to Ottawa as a post-doctoral fellow of the Medical Research Council and had started working in a laboratory in the Biology Department of the University of Ottawa. Although I had always been fascinated by sailboats, I had never considered any activity that could distract from my career, and such preposterous idea was to remain dormant for another thirteen years (until, close to my fiftieth birthday, my wife asked me if I had done everything I ever wanted to do, because the moment was then…). The rest is history, but for the time being I was to remain a very serious and focused scientist.

Jane, the technician of the laboratory, had a sailboat: a C&C 27 by the name of “Sweet Chariot”, and she invited some of the people in the laboratory for an afternoon day-sail up-river. There was little wind so we motored all the way and anchored nearby a small island, where we had a BBQ afloat before returning to the mooring in the Britannia Yacht Club. At sunset, as we prepared to weigh anchor, fully aware that I would likely never see that island again, I took a picture of it using black and white film that I processed and developed myself. Little did I suspect that, thirty three years later, I would be returning with my own sailboat to that now familiar same spot, to literally put the island “on the air” (though not quite in the same manner as the flying island in Gulliver’s Travels – the one whose name takes a meaning once south of the Pyrenees…).

The only print still in existence is a very small and dark test print, but the silhouette of the island is identifiable. Here, is the scan of the picture taken in the summer of 1982:

Aylmer Island 1982 (1)


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