If Geneva Lake were a great big donut, we could be excused for clinging to its edges. If there were glazed waves that pushed the outer limits of the circle, and the interior was as an interior is on a donut- absent- then this would make sense. We would do nothing but ring the circle, again and again, pushing close to the outside and then a little closer to the inside, but we would never go to the inside. Because we couldn't. It's a donut, remember? And not some creme filled job with the hole missing. This is a regular donut, with a circle in the middle where no dough, filling, or glaze can rest. And that's why we can't boat there, which is why we must boat on the edges. This is how things would be if our lake weren't a lake at all but rather a donut.
Thankfully, our lake is not a donut at all, but don't tell most everyone who boats on it. There is an unspoken challenge on this lake, and it pits boat driver against boat driver in a high stakes game of ring around the lake. The winner is he who can successfully cling as close to the slow no wake buoy as possible. If you're playing this game with me, and we're matched in a slowly unfolding game of chicken, I will always beat you. It's not that I'm happy to always beat you, but I will, for no boater can hang as tight to the slow no wake buoys as me. But that's getting sidetracked from our original goal here. The goal is, in case you forgot, to remind everyone that the lake is not a donut and as such it has a very under appreciated aspect: The middle.
On smaller, ridiculous lakes, boaters have no choice but to embrace the middle. They must. There is no other place for them to go. If they ring around the outside, bumping the buoys, they have to depart from this route before they become dizzy from the constant and continual right, or left, turns. This is why small lakes are stupid. On a big lake, like a Geneva Lake, there is ample shoreline to circle, bobbing and weaving and clinging, either to the east or the west but ultimately to the north and the south. This is a big lake and it has big lake turns and big lake shoreline. It also has big lake homes, which is why we cling to its edges and jockey for viewing position. We must be close to the shore if we want to see which owner did what to their house over the off season.
And so this is our habit, to circle and cling, to hoard the inside track, to draft off of boats in front of us in hopes of blocking out the boat that trails behind us. It's serious business, this outer ring of the lake. With this understanding, and this deeply ingrained form of boat ride, I circled the lake a week ago. I left Upper Loch Vista and headed towards the tall Black Point, and the cut back west, following the buoys and looking at homes. I saw a client of mine having great difficulty navigating his boat directly into his slip, so I quickly sped by to save him from shame. To acknowledge him would have been to claim witness to the spectacle of a difficult boat mooring and make matters all the worse. I am nothing if not thoughtful.
We pushed further west, past Abbey Springs and past Indian Hills and around the corner where Country Club Estates has their lakefront claim. My wife and children were riding up front in the bow, I at the helm, the sun to our left and seven miles of open water to our right. That's when I made my move. I turned the boat to the right, without accelerating, and cruised directly from in front of the Fontana Beach towards the tippity tip of Conference Point. I said nothing when I did this.
After a few moments, my kids wondered what I was doing. They said this to me. Dad, what on earth are you doing? A reaction to what I had done, as if I had made some disastrous error, as if my judgement had failed me and it was up to a six and eight year old to correct my errant ways. My wife too, confused by my route. Was I okay? Was there something wrong? Did we need to be somewhere? Why are we going so slow? And with those questions, the truth about boat rides was made known. The outer ring is for cruising. The middle is for cutting from one point to another while under great RPM's. I had just decided to cruise at leisure, through the middle. Sacrilege!
It's the middle of the lake, and we take it for granted. While skiers and wake boarders battle for shoreline proximity, there's a great wild middle being ignored. I cruised that night, through the middle and back towards the point. Other boats wondered what was wrong with me. Did I need help? Was I misusing bath salts? Was there some reason that I felt I was entitled to cruise at boat ride speed through the middle of the lake? This is what people wondered, but it's time we stop our preferential treatment of the cruising lanes and explore the deep wilderness that exists in the middle.
When pulling children on a tube, I never pull them near the shore. I avoid the shore because, as we've just spent 750 words discussing, the shore is where the other boaters are. I cringe when I see some yahoo pulling his kids on a tube on a Saturday afternoon, hugging the slow no wake buoys as he goes. This is novice behavior. The true pros are pulling their kids in the middle, where there is lessened concern that some other moron will be pulling his kids in your similar path, or worse yet, where some other guy just grabbed the keys to a rental boat after he spent the afternoon at Champs. Geneva Lake can be a dangerous lake at times, but with vigilance and intelligence and a love of the middle, we can all stay safe.
The Middle Of Geneva Lake: Under utilized since Chief Potowatomi first told his son to stay close to the Slow No Wake buoys.