The Americans excel at recreation, particularly when it comes to water sports. The first time I drove through the high desert of Arizona I was amazed to see speedboats on trailers — which I later found were heading for a reservoir.
Lake Sonoma, Northern California, is about 70 miles north of San Francisco and was created in the 1980s for flood control, irrigation… and recreation. Covering over 2,700 acres (England’s biggest lake, Windermere, is around 3,600 acres), it is formed from several valleys, giving it a huge shoreline of coves and bays.
We rented a ‘party barge’ — a half-covered platform floating on three aluminium tubes, powered by an outboard motor. Shannon navigated as I piloted us to a deserted bay near a tributary she’s used in the past. We tied the prow to the top of a sunken tree and cut the engine. Across the bay there was a rocky outcrop and the four of us – Shannon, Zoe and her friend Nova – as well as Skipper the dog, swam over. The water was not cold, though it was cloudy from the dust blown from the arid countryside.
It was Skip who provided the entertainment. A keen chaser of sticks and balls, he couldn’t grasp that stones sink, so Zoe and Nova had him chasing splash after splash. In his frustration, he tried biting into the branch we were moored to so I swam to the other shore and brought him back a stick. He enjoyed jumping off the boat to fetch it, with me there to retrieve him and his stick from the water.
He let us know he’d had enough of the game by putting his front legs over a fork in the branches of our mooring tree, looking every inch the shipwrecked Skipper.