Maps at

It has no idea what to do with Sri Lanka. It found Vancouver, British Columbia fine. Queen Elizabeth Park is exactly where I left it. 🙂

It found Norman Wells, North West Territories which, I will admit, surprised me. It didn’t have enough detail to see where my sister used to live, though. But you can see the barges approaching town, and the gas islands – what looks like civilization on the islands in the middle of the Mackenzie River are all oil wells or the like. No houses, nothing. Just oil.

Which brings back a memory. The summer I went up to visit my sister when they lived there, we took a boat trip up the Mackenzie River. We being my sister, her husband, her daughter, her son, and her husband’s brother. The boat was newly acquired, so they didn’t know yet at that point the extent of repairs or maintenance that would be required on the boat.

That last sentence is called foreshadowing, in case you missed it.

We had plans of heading up to Fort Good Hope, about 30 miles or so further north along the river. The river, by the way, empties into the Arctic Ocean.

Well, we had problems. The engine ended up sputtering out and dying. We were intending to be back home that evening (we left fairly early in the morning), but with all the engine problems, we burned through gas about four times faster than we should have.

We ran out of gas.

Sometime late that afternoon, a barge passed by. Well, this is a mighty wide river, and even in August, it can get chilly that far north. The river isn’t used enough that you can be cavalier about things like people asking for help on the side of the river, despite the fact that this river is the main means of transport in the north when there’s no ice on it. I mean, in the day and a half that we were out, we saw one barge and one boat.

So this barge is going past, sees us, and brother in law and brother in law in law hold us gas cans – universal signal for "we have no gas". The barge turned around while it sent out a boat to deliver gas to us – 2 cans. When the boat got back, the barge turned around again and continued on its merry way.

The testosterone-enhanced individuals among us got the boat started again, and we continued on our merry way. Until we ran out of gas again.

The other adults in the crowd were in, shall we say, a foul mood. I didn’t care so much. I mean, sure, inconvenienced, but heck, I’d have a story to tell for years. My niece was 12 at the time, so what does it matter to her? My nephew was 8 months old. He was hungry.

I should also mention that my sister, like all of us in our family, packed with emergencies in mind. We were supposed to be gone for lunch only, but she brought enough food along that we were okay. Well, not well-fed or anything – we got hungry. But starving? No. The hot chocolate ended up going completely to nephew – the formula ran out too fast and my sister was already weaning him. My sister also brought along spare jackets, blankets, and things like that. So, inconvenienced, yes. In trouble, no.

We ended up having to sleep in the boat with tarps propped up for a roof. Well, it works. I slept in the front of the boat under the steering wheel with my niece while the various other adults slept either across the seats or on the floor. All in all, not comfortable. Not at all comfortable.

The next morning, it was decided that the brother in law in law, being the fastest of the lot of us, would run into town (Norman Wells, that is, and about 15 or 20 km away) while the rest of us pulled the boat to the head of the island we thought we were on. A few kilometres of hauling the boat, and we realized that we were on the shore, not an island, so we stopped hauling and parked ourselves.

Sometime later that morning or perhaps early afternoon, a boat goes by. It sees us, it approaches us, and we all get in, hoping that he can take us to Norman Wells. No go. He was moving from Fort Good Hope to Norman Wells and had a lot of heavy boxes, including his big screen tv on board, and it couldn’t take all of us. So sister and baby went while the rest of waited at the boat.

Eventually, the guy came back with gas cans. A whole lotta gas cans. My sister, who worked at a place that also sold gas, got her boss to open up shop so she could buy fuel and sent it back to us with the guy on the boat. He happily did, refusing to allow us to pay for his fuel. We had no idea where brother in law in law was – sister hadn’t seen him on the way back.

After we got the gas loaded up on the boat, we headed back to Norman Wells, and who do we see, but brother in law in law in his single engine airplane flying overhead, making sure we were okay.

Turns out, he got to town after my sister had already sent the fuel back, and headed back to make sure we were okay. He followed us all the way back home, as did the guy with the moving boat.

We found out after the fact that we had travelled far enough – before turning around – along the Mackenzie River that we had made it as far as the Arctic Circle. Woohoo!

[/seriously long derail]

Author: LMAshton

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