Success and family bonding on the water

Susan Manzke
Columnist Susan Manzke's son, Russell, takes are for a paddle around Lake Alice on their family vacation.

It takes a lot of planning to find a vacation spot for our extended family, especially when we only need it for a long weekend. Luckily we found a rental on Lake Alice large enough for the whole family—19 in number, ages from 2 to 74.

The biggest decision Bob and I had was what to bring for a family lunch. To make it easy on us it was suggested we bring lunch meats and fixings for sandwiches. Of course, our list included cheeses loved by our motley crew. All the other meals were made by other members of our family and were yummy, and a bit more work for the chefs.

Food had to pass the ‘no-peanut’ test, as Wyatt is allergic. Other grandchildren had food limits, too, like no red or blue dyes.

Even with all the great meals presented to us at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the highlight—for the kids—was having s’mores around our evening campfires. Except for that, fruit filled the void for sweet desserts.

Columnist Susan Manzke's family gathers around the fire during their latest summer vacation.

The rented house came with a rowboat, but our family brought four kayaks, too. Those were taken down to the water and baptized at our arrival. Unpacking came later.

Our son-in-law, Andy wanted to go musky fishing as soon as possible. His wish to catch a muskellunge was almost successful. A large pike towed him and his kayak across the inlet before he was able to catch it—and release it. Twice a musky took hold of his lure. Once it bent the hook before shaking free and the second time the crank on Andy’s new reel snapped, giving the fish its freedom.

Others fished from the rowboat going after smaller lake dwellers.

Too bad for our youngsters, weeds and shallow water by the dock limited their fishing chances. Instead of dipping lines into the lake they took turns going for rides on the kayaks.

Parents, aunts, uncles and cousins gave our grandchildren plenty of rides on the water. While riding with others, the 8 and 9 year olds learned how to paddle. With their instructors inside the kayaks, they were taught how to grip the paddle, use it to turn, and go forward and back—the hardest part was getting in and out without falling in the lake.

Bob and I enjoyed watching all the goings on. I threatened to take the rowboat out by myself—yes, I know how to row a boat—but Russell thought it a good time for some mother/son bonding. He took the oars and paddled us out into the lake, which was a good thing because a wind blew in, making rowing difficult.

Serenity and Eli search for frogs.

Our last evening things changed. The practicing kayakers got a chance to solo.

Arianna was the first to take the family kayak out, with Daddy right behind in another, giving instructions how navigate the narrow channel between lily pads.

After Arianna’s astounding success, others lined up for their inaugural voyage everyone old enough to hold a paddle waited their turn. Next to paddle came Arianna’s twin, Eli, then cousins Serenity and Caleb—last year this group mastered fishing for bluegills. This year, it was solo kayaking.

The following morning, before we packed up to leave, the kayaks were in use again.

This grandma was very impressed. I couldn’t help smiling as I watched them take turns. Once, Arianna swished herself way ahead of her mother—she told me later it was so much easier paddling without an adult in the same kayak.

Bob liked to see the success on the water, but what really impressed him came at the end of our stay. That was when Ethan got behind the wheel of the family car to drive back to Stevens Point—he passed his driver’s test less than a month ago.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;