The wavering of the fluid surface beneath me is both unnerving and calming.
I don’t like that I can’t see more than two feet of my submerged body. At all. But the water swishing back and forth under the boat and the way it moves up and down, attempting to break free drop by drop while also becoming part of the entire lake at the same time, is like a blanket of reflected sunshine.
Our transportation for the day is a boat. Simple, comfortable, spacious enough for the three of us to put our feet up yet compact enough so we don’t have to yell – too much – over the wind while we zoom from pier to pier. We pass an abandoned golf course. Then a course that’s being used. And a floating church.
To our right, a few hundred feet away, a girl on a Jet Ski is winning the race that she had no idea we were competing in.
Lake Lanier on the Friday before Memorial Day was shockingly empty.
Maybe our timing had something to do with it. We were, after all, boating to three restaurants before 6 p.m. and possibly overestimated the number of people who would be flocking out already.
“This is nothing. Usually when I come here it’s like bumper to bumper with boats. Like you can’t just pull up like this.”
That was Connor. Our captain for the day.
We took advantage of the space before it inevitably became a parking lot. We floated in the water and watched the zip line at LanierWorld.
We could hear the massive screen over the water from our boat. We did not feed the ducks that swam up to us, clearly accustomed to an alternative outcome.
The family favorite
You can without realizing it spend an entire day at Lake Lanier Islands Park. We almost did.
Maybe it was the half-and-half frozen daiquiri-margarita I ordered at Sunset Cove that probably made our server wonder if I had already had four. I hadn’t.
Maybe it was the key lime pie that tasted like someone’s grandma made it. They probably didn’t.
We only experienced the opening act in the total show. We didn’t get to eat our nachos while listening to live music. We didn’t get to lounge under the roof or on the beach. It was still a perfect meal to end a day on the water, but it also could have made for a family outing that lasted all weekend. Which it often does. They were sitting next to us.
A half-day earlier, we had departed from the Habersham Marina and headed northeast. Connor had transformed from Forsyth County News sales representative to our Lake Lanier navigator. He showed us how steep the lake floor dipped as we approached Buford Dam to 50 feet, 120 feet, 200 feet.
I transformed from reporter to observer. With no one to interview, I noted the movement of the boat. I wondered what the part of the island that was hidden under water looked like. Like a red-clay iceberg.
Micah played the role of first-mate-for-the-day. I think he even learned how to tie the knot when we pulled up at the dock. The boat didn’t float away, so it must have worked.
Not growing up around lakes big enough to host restaurants and destinations, I anticipated the novelty of parking our boat at Port Royale and walking up to Pelican Pete’s for lunch.
The fish tacos satisfied the hunger and refreshment I needed. The dockside restaurant was the respite from the sun I wanted.
The ease of getting right back onto the boat after a calming lunch and friendly staff was the relaxation I didn’t expect.
Between Pelican Pete’s and Sunset Cove, we stopped at the Twister Oar. We took the scenic route.
This was the place where, if I lived nearby, I would see someone I knew every time I went. Nothing flashy, nothing unnecessary. Good, simple, satisfying.
It was the perfect mix of home and vacation, like having a patio and TV with the comfort of the water on your other side.
I knew we were surrounded, past the water and the docks and the trees, by the traffic and the neighborhoods and the orange cones along the roadway. And it comforted me that this lake was below me.
Here’s a disclaimer: I’ll take a beach over most any other setting any other day. Growing up in Florida, I was a few turns away from soft, white sand and saltwater on either side. Forty-five minutes to the west for a seaside lunch or a coastal sunset or 75 minutes to the east for a day trip or weekend visit with crashing waves.
But I must say there’s something about taking a boat out on the lake, spending a day on the water instead of by it, not having to pack up and leave to get a meal and feeling the motion of the wakes from other boats turn the floor beneath you from a rocking chair to a roller coaster.
There’s something about seeing the green of the trees turn into the red of the clay before being submerged under more green. There’s something about a lake that settles your mind. About being on the water but surrounded by shore. It’s escaping from reality but remaining grounded.
There are certainly worse ways to spend a day.