Aram and Tiffany Minnetian didn’t know how to pronounce O-cone-ee when they first visited the lake in 2017. Now they and their three teenage kids can’t get Lake Oconee out of their damp hair.

“We pretty much live in our swimsuits when we’re here,” Tiffany says.

The Minnetians spend most of the year in New Jersey. Their home on Lake Oconee is a blessed refuge during summers or whenever the family needs an escape, badly. In the spring of 2020, as the pandemic began to morph into cabin fever in the northeast, Aram told his tribe to pack their bags. “We’re going down to Reynolds for a couple of weeks.”

Two weeks turned into five months. That’s 150 days of the freshest air, wettest swimsuits, widest social distancing as anyone could want.

“There’s a freedom on the water that’s hard to put into words,” Aram says. The family’s actions during that long Spring spell it out pretty clearly. Aram Sr. would take a kayak or the Sea-Doo Fish Pro into empty coves. Danielle, 20, and Samantha, 16, would disappear on their paddleboards. The Minnetians continued to rent boats until they finally decided it was a good time to buy a Super Air Nautique. The Nautique became like a third home, the center of the family’s daily recreation.

“I think Aram Jr. has kissed the boat every day since we bought it,” Tiffany says of their 18-year-old son.

The kids would rather be on the water instead of on their phones.

The Minnetians pack a cooler twice a day. They tube over to Jumping Rock. The girls waterski. Mom takes her turn, too. Aram Jr. used to entertain the family with flips and spins on his wakeboard until his contract with USA’s U18 Men’s Hockey prohibited aerials. Now he carves the surface of the water on his wakesurfer.

Dad captains. “The boating gene probably comes from my own dad,” Aram says. “He was in the U.S. Navy, and when I was a kid we spent a lot of time on Lake George in upstate New York. The summers there were short. We don’t have to worry about that here.”

Aram looks out at Lake Oconee from the family’s pool deck. The boat has been in its slip for three hours. The swimsuits are dry … but not for long.

“Are we all ready to get back to the boat?” Tiffany asks.

It’s a rhetorical question. No one in this family has ever said no.

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