April 2016


IMG_3887_2WHAT & WHY?

The simple answer to what are we doing is we plan to cruise on Ariose, our Alberg 30, from Ontario to the Caribbean, leaving in the fall of 2016, and we plan to use this blog to write about it. We expect to be gone initially for about 6 months, a convenient amount of time to fit within our Canadian winter, Tim’s work schedule, and the hurricane season. Who knows – we may be gone for less time or this taste may hook us sufficiently for it to be the beginning of much more.

The details of our plans, and our motivations, though, are a little more complicated to describe.   We invite you to our conversation where we talk about what appeals to us about cruising. If you listen closely, you’ll also hear Melo, Shirley’s dog, moving in close to try to interject.

Just click here:

Tim & Shirley chat about their cruising plans 2

Here’s a Cole’s Notes summary of what we discuss:IMG_2552

There’s lots of things that appeal to us about cruising. It provides an opportunity to:

  1. Take a break from our usual lives – a bit of a mid-life escape for Shirley and a continuation of Tim’s lifelong escape from a more traditional life.
  2. Be self-sufficient in living within our home and our vehicle, and being able to attend to all our needs (we hope!);
  3. Open ourselves to new experiences (move away from hyper-planning mode), to learn, grow, stretch our abilities and test ourselves as we face challenges;
  4. Be connected with nature, and experience a sense of awe that surrounds everyday living on a boat;
  5. Live simply and in the moment, and to cultivate a sense of gratitude; and
  6. Travel to new destinations, to better understand the world.

Wonder how these intentions will compare to our actual experiences once we get out there….



About Tim

IMG_3144_2It seems like a dream. The sounds of instruments echoing off of the walls with the counting of metronomes and tapping of feet on the dense maple floors in that grand old Victorian home conjures up memories of my life right through university. I grew up in a musical household, my parents were both singers and music filled every pore of my early life. Instruments competed with one another and at times, it seemed as though we were living in a music studio. Violently contrasting sounds, echoed from my sister’s Bach cello suites in one room, while Bach cantatas rang out on the oboe in another and my father worked on a musical choir score, chord by chord, tapping out the rhythm once and then again, on the piano, echoing off of the 9 foot ceilings in the large living room on the main floor. My mother set aside a promising singing career to raise me and my 4 siblings instead of pursuing her musical talent. She won the Rose Bowl in 1965, a competition directed by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – for those of you not familiar with that institution) and at the time, she was pregnant with me – you could say I was a live aboard! Later in life, it’s pleasing for me to note, that she sought out other creative avenues and poured all of her energy into the product of the potter’s wheel and lumps of clay. This is something that feels very fitting for my mother to have done, with her solid connection to the earth. Her delightfully hand painted nature designs brought many smiles to the faces of people walking with armloads of her pottery, moving in for a purchase. My father spent his working life teaching students to sing in the classical style at Wilfrid Laurier University (a.k.a. Laurier) in Waterloo, Ontario. Having been immersed in a house full of artists, I naturally followed a similar path up until my 20’s, enrolling in Honors Music at Laurier. I studied oboe and conveniently hitched a ride with my father to school for several years while I worked on my degree.

I frequently played the oboe 6 hours a day or more, and between orchestra, quintet, competitions, lessons, rehearsals and , let’s not forget, all of the core courses, there wasn’t much time or energy left. Examining the lives of my oboe teacher and of my father, I had a good window into the life of a professional musician. Although I had a lot of interest and maybe even some talent for the profession, I often found myself daydreaming and even sneaking away to hike, canoe or camp with my friends, work on my mother’s car, or build an imposing 14 room, purple martin bird house, than spend the kind of time required to maintain the level of perfection demanded by a musical profession. I had so many other interests and not the focus required to give it my all and as my father used to say, “if you don’t want to do music above everything else, then do something else because it’s not an easy way to make a living”. I had pretty much already lived that life, playing piano, playing oboe, singing and being involved in choirs and orchestras, musicals and operas since I was very young.  It was time for a change.

After university in the late ‘80s, I sold my oboe, gave the money back to my parents and hit the road, backpacking around Australia and New Zealand. Then, in the early ‘90s, I motorcycled on an XT350 Yamaha one year and then an old 70’s Honda Goldwing the next, around the east and west coasts of Canada. When I got back, I had a few courses left to graduate. While at Laurier, I noticed a posting for a volunteer position in northern Ontario. So, on a whim, I volunteered for a summer of scientific research in the old growth red and white pine forests of Temagami, Ontario with Ancient Forest Exploration and Research (AFER). The next year, thoroughly beaming from my experience in the northern woods, I enrolled in a biology program, which lead to 25 years of wandering around in the forests of northern Canada, observing every bird, mammal and plant for a living. I often received a strange look and a “that’s an odd combination” from people when they my noted my change from music to biology to which I often answered that the beauty of music and the beauty of nature fulfilled similar emotional needs for me. It was the artist in me that was captivated by the beauty inherent in petal of a flower and the sweetness of the melody in the birds that I learned to identify by sound.

Since this blog is about sailing, let me make some connections. In my early 20’s, I played around on a friend’s 22 foot drop keel sailboat in Lake Erie, Ontario. We didn’t sail a lot, but it was enough to create some of the most memorable experiences of my life. We mostly stayed close to our home port of Port Rowan on Lake Erie, and only once, trailered the boat to Hamilton harbour where we sailed up to Oakville. It was a beautiful, warm summer night with air so still and liquid, it matched the water lapping up along the sides of the hull. A late evening storm was threatening to the east and it felt like there was a halting of breath in the air, a silence, and a waiting of the fury that could eventually overtake the vessel. I’ll never forget the feeling of drifting along so peacefully in that soft glow of early darkness, wine glass in hand, CBC playing late night jazz on the radio and the beauty of the water, lit up by the cities’ starry reflection.

003Looking forward 25 years, I had a chance to buy into a boat similar to the one of my early experiences. I became co-owner of an old Cal 21 in need of a lot of TLC. Being too busy with work which usually required me to be away during the summer months, I mostly moored the boat near the end of each field season on a little bay at the edge of my property on Trout Lake in North Bay. The boat was a great home office from which to go through my bird recordings and write reports. It was also a great place to enjoy the sounds of late summer dragonflies buzzing over the transom and skimming along the water or to smell the lovely vanilla-like scent of the white water lilies lying unassumingly alongside the hull in this little protected paradise. 015Facing the fact that I was still a novice sailor, I only sailed it a couple times on my own and was fairly content to use it as a floating dock for the time being. You see, I had yet to build a dock down there at the waters’ edge since it was lower on the priority list than building a place that I could keep warm for the winter.

My former partner and I had researched and dreamt of building an energy efficient straw bale house and this property was purchased with that in mind. When she departed in 2008, I was left with 130 acres of forest, vacant of any dwelling or any building of any kind, save for the cute little outhouse – a pleasurable place from which to survey the landscape.

Being a bit of a survivalist, thank goodness, I felt I had no choice but to try and fend off the imposing winter temperatures of down to -40 in a trailer with no water, electricity or the like. For sure, this piece of land was very close to my heart and had more diversity and beauty than any other place I could ever hope of living. I had no interest in paying rent in the city and the property wouldn’t have afforded enough financial reward to buy a house. Along with the end of a marriage went the dream of building an energy efficient building using straw bale construction. Or did it?

Tim, was busy when off working on his straw bale garage to serve as a temporary home

Three years went by and I felt like I needed to begin moving on from my previous relationship, so at the end of 2011, I went online to begin looking for someone to share this lifestyle with. Shirley and I found each other within a couple days and she tells me that what caught her attention most was the sight of someone doing something different ( like me-standing beside a wall of straw).

I quickly learned that she was not afraid of this simple life of mine and to the contrary, she came with a lot of experience! Also, something else that became apparent was that she was interested in sailing and had the notion to sail off into the sunset, so to speak. Early in our relationship, she began to grease the wheels of a consummate dreamer, with ideas about taking a course in the BVI’s and learning how to sail. Once every few weeks during our early writings to one another (which could fill volumes), she would send me an advertisement regarding the above and add a few comments about how much fun it would be. I started to dream, and before long, I had researched the perfect cruising boat for us to launch ourselves into boat ownership and set the final dreaming mode into high gear.

Long story short, we bought the boat and began to make plans to try out the cruising lifestyle.

May 2015 – Crane Day


About Shirley

  How to summarize myself in a page or so? A challenging task for most people, and certainly for anyone with my tendencies. “Hardcore” is an adjective my kids often applied to me when they were teens, usually accentuated with a dramatic eye roll. Work colleagues patiently tolerated plowing through the Shirley-120-page-report when 20 would have likely been sufficient. Softening my edges, though, as I move into a new life stage, and focusing on what’s really important is part of what’s motivated me to step out of my usual routine and head off cruising with Tim. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sharing a little about me without overloading detail could be a helpful exercise toward that intention. Let’s see how I do. (You may want to take a moment to get comfortable and pour yourself a glass of your favourite refreshment before you get started just in case I do overdo it!)

EARLY YEARS. I was born in the early 60’s, which situates my formative years squarely in the macramé era – a great foundation for sailing knots! I grew up in the north-eastern Ontario mining town of Timmins, in a traditional middle-class family. My two older brothers tolerated their little sister hanging out with them now and then, but generally, I was left with much time to entertain myself. I remember spending hours imagining travel to far off lands. I would trace maps from the coffee table atlas, and carefully colour in far-off lands, paying special attention to framing the coastal shores in a blue fringe. I still find a map seductive, and can loose myself in envisioning the promises of each cove when looking over a new chart.

Sailing fun figures prominently in my childhood memories. My neighbourhood friend, Linda, had a Bluejay aptly christened Mosquito in honour of the insects that tormented her father as he lovingly crafted the dinghy for her. She needed a crew and I happily accepted the role. Canadian Yachting Association White Sail courses on tiny Porcupine Lake prepared us. I vividly recall holding the boat stationary in waist-deep water, while Linda affixed the rudder, dropped the centreboard, and raised the main. I’d fight off the weeds that had by that time wrapped around my legs threatening to anchor us – or at least me – in place, to then crawl over the gunnels, hoist the jib and we would be off.


Cottage, Kenogamissi Lake, Timmins 1972-2010

Some of my best childhood reminiscing flows from time spent at our family cottage on Kenogamissi Lake. Summers were marked by night-time bonfires, adventures in the bush with friends, beach play, and, of course, releasing Mosquito from its mooring to a stout piece of driftwood to sail to not-so-distant shores.

TEEN YEARS. As I was entering secondary school, we moved to the small agricultural community of New Liskeard, on the shores of Lake Temiskaming. What points of relevance to pull from my teen years? Sailing was pretty much absent, although my good friend Breeda and I did have a great time taking a week-long course one summer. Friends dominated life, and for a few years, each Friday evening brought the challenge of how to get out of the house despite being grounded for not adhering to the previous weekend’s curfew – and doing so without getting caught. I’ve always enjoyed learning, and customary academic approaches were a good fit for me so I did well in school, but participating on almost every available sports team was still a welcome diversion.

CAREER CHOICES. I left home vowing to never, never return to the north, and well, if I did happen to return, to most certainly never, never return to the New Liskeard area. I felt suffocated by its small town-ness. I had seized the plan to become an occupational therapist (OT) as a young teen, so upon completion of high school, eagerly headed off to the industrial southern Ontario city of Hamilton to complete my Bachelor of Health Science in OT. Many factors contributed to my career choice, but mostly, the profession’s focus on meaning and satisfaction being derived from what we do in our lives (our occupations), really resonated with my forming adult self and continues to influence me to this day. It was an incredibly difficult decision I made just a few months ago to resign from the profession. OT has been so central to my identity and now I’ve shifted from 30 years of self –identifying as “I am an OT”, to the unfamiliar past tense of “I was an OT”. Anyways, I am getting ahead of myself again.

MARRIAGE & TRAVEL. A high school relationship morphed into marriage at what seems now like the too-young age of 21. At that time, I was on the cusp of graduating from university and felt more mature and ready to take on a life-time of commitment than I feel today! We settled in Hamilton. An early career break took the form of a 10-month backpacking adventure through Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji. After we emerged from months in the outback, we successfully hitched a ride with Andrew, a friendly live-aboard Aussie, on his steel yacht in Cairns. We crewed during a couple weeks’ off-shore passage along the Great Barrier Reef. The soil that had been tilled in my childhood was now planted with a seed. Childhood fantasy became an adult goal. We vowed to have a boat someday and to set sail.

LIFE CONTINUED. Work, friends, a master’s degree, and family filled the subsequent years. The “never-say-never” lesson reverberated as we moved our young family north, to the small community of Haileybury, neighbour to the town I vowed to never return to! Different life stages certainly do bring differing perspectives. We wanted to make it easier to offer our children the lives we wished for them: the lower cost of living allowed us to spend less time on earning and opened more time for parenting, we wanted them to benefit from cleaner air and ready access to the outdoors, extended family were nearby, the perceived security of a small town upbringing seemed appealing … it was the right decision.

IMG_4724_2MY KIDS. This is as good a time as any to take a quick tangent and gloat a little about my kids. They are amazing. Adrian, Rachelle, Marcus, from the moment they were conceived, have been central to my life. My babies evolved in a blink of an eye to toddlers, school years zipped by, and teen years, which I was told would feel like they would last forever, didn’t. All their stages brought joy. Although I filled my life with lots of rewarding activities beyond my role as Mom, as I look back, the simple days filled with everyday family routines that brought the richness I treasure. They’ve been gone from home long enough that memories of the sleepless nights and other trying times have conveniently faded in my memory. There still remains, though, an irrational inner voice scolding me for not savouring those precious times as much as I could have. There’s been a gap in my heart and my life since they’ve moved on – grief, I guess, is the flipside of love – but that void is slowly filling with this novel notion of freedom in my life. My kids are now spread across the country – Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver – and are pursuing interesting and diverse lives. Their passions inspire me, and it is humbling to be a part of this evolution into adult parent-child relationships. They have most certainly broadened my perspectives, and inspire me to grow.

IMG_0226LIFE CHANGES. I’ll back up again to life in Haileybury. We put our roots down and settled into a charming east-coast inspired home. It was a great place to raise our family. We had a golf course to the back, and a stunning view of Lake Temiskaming to the front. Needless to say I watched the sails scooting across the waters with longing.   On Mother’s Day 2002, I don’t recall what errand lead me past the wintering grounds of the local sailboats, but I do recall the jolt of possibility that ran through me when I spotted a “for sale” sign on one. By the end of that day, Scallywag, a 7.5 Tanzer was ours. Scallywag brought lots of happiness and witnessed some heartache. Day outings and overnight camp-outs and anchoring at Burnt Island are cherished memories. On the other hand, the tension arising between us as a couple with divergent perspectives grew. A desired “sail” for one of us was to motor over to a familiar cove to raft up with friends and enjoy an afternoon of beer and socializing; the other longed to fine tune our sailing skills and explore the far reaches of the lake. It became increasingly obvious that the cruising dream we had talked of many years before was not an option, at least not with one another. The dream was snuffed out.


Camino de Santiago 2009

The tensions on board were reflective of deeper fissures in our relationship, and despite tremendous effort, they proved to be beyond repair.  I embarked on a soul searching month-long pilgrimage across northern Spain. I used the strength I found in myself and the possibilities that were awakened in me to make a heart-wrenching decision.  After 5 years of dating and 24 years of marriage – what felt like a lifetime together – we parted.

It was a relief to be able to direct new-found energy toward reconnecting with my kids and especially enjoying time with Marcus who was still at home completing secondary school. I also had plenty of energy to direct toward work. I have been fortunate to hold a variety of management roles with a great community mental health organization over the past 16 years. Working with the Cochrane Timiskaming Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has been a professionally stimulating roller coaster of change. I have had the privileged to have been a part of significant expansion as we have brought in much-needed mental health services to the area, and was deeply committed to the ensuing projects aimed at ensuring the Branch offered quality that those seeking services deserve. It’s been really rewarding to work with a talented team of colleagues who care.

POSSIBILITIES. Back to my personal life. A couple years after my marriage ended, upon the urging of a trusted counselor, I dipped my toes into the on-line dating world and met Tim.

IMG_4244Tim’s as much a dreamer, content to wander his lovely woods captivated by the beauty around him as I am a pragmatist, driven by plans and determining a day’s value by the amount of productivity I’ve packed in. We bring a moderating balance to one another. Tim leads a wonderfully simple, self-sufficient life, driven by his deep respect of the environment. I’ll leave it for Tim share more about himself in his “About” page. Oh, one more thing. He happened to have recently acquired a fixer-upper Cal 21. Early dating conversations lead to a growing sense of possibility. Embers of a dream that I thought was dead began to be fanned alive. Cruising adventures. Maybe, someday, we could make them happen?

What would it take to sail from northern Ontario to the Caribbean and maybe beyond? The tropical waters and breezes and the allure of living in the moment seduced us. The challenges we would face excited us. The awaiting experiences offered by new lands and people inspired us. We recognized the hurdles ahead: improving our sailing knowledge and polishing skills, securing the funds, dealing with responsibilities, finding the right boat, not to mention carving out the time. This was a someday plan.
MAKING IT HAPPEN. We began to align the stars. I sold my beloved home – I felt as though a piece of me had died yet I appreciated the financial wiggle room I now had. I was surprised to also appreciate the unexpected emotional space that was created. I had not realized how difficult it was to look to the future when enveloped by physical space so deeply rooted in the past. At 50ish years old, I found myself living for the next year part-time in my parent’s basement and part-time 2 hours away in North Bay, with Tim, in his straw bale garage. It was a great way to let my savings blossom and a welcome opportunity to reconnect with my parents.
IMG_5025In terms of responsibilities, I saw that I was well on my way to stepping aside from usual obligations. I had already weaned myself off my past volunteer commitments, my kids are carving out their own lives, and my parents are healthier and more vibrant than any octogenarians I know. Then there is my dog. My ex-husband generously agreed to care for Melo if we did head off.

IMG_2410Tim’s research pointed to the near-perfect boat for us – an Alberg 30. I needed no convincing. It is small enough to enjoy in fresh-water local lakes, and yet had proven itself to be ocean-worthy.   It’s classic lines were seductive. We’ve done a little more writing about how we found Ariose, and about Alberg 30s, in the “About our boat” pages on this blog. If you’re interested, check them out. One of our gaps in making this dream a reality was our sailing skill, or lack thereof. I enrolled in a week-long, on board course and achieved my basic and intermediate cruising qualifications, and then, more recently, coastal navigation certification. We spent every moment we could in the summer of 2015 sailing on Lake Temiskaming, figuring out the boats quirks and our own. And we’ve been reading and watching everything we can consume about all things sailing.

What about the time? Tim is self employed and his usual pattern of seasonal work lends itself to periods of time off. My permanent full-time managerial position didn’t. I had had conversations at work about taking a leave of absence. The agency was supportive in theory, but when we discussed possible timing, it didn’t look too promising. We were in such a state of large-scale change as an organization, it was understandable that my request could not be approved. A key project that I was strongly committed to had encountered hitches beyond my control and was shifting away from the original intentions. I had intended to see it through before embarking on our cruising. At the same time, I was feeling life going by too quickly and recognized that there would likely never be a good time from my employer’s perspective for me to be away for an extended time. If something is important to me, I need to take responsibility for making it happen. Tim and I agreed we would head out fall 2016.

IMG_4640.JPG copy

First morning post employment.

I took a deep breath, and made the decision step beyond my comfort zone and launch the next phase of my life. I tendered my resignation from the job I loved. I left a good income with generous benefits, and left the role that I found fulfilling (marathon meetings excepted!) and gave me lots of affirmation and purpose in life. I moved in with Tim in his straw bale “garage” – a perfect transition toward a simpler, cruising lifestyle. I dipped into retirement savings to carve out a budget for preparing Ariose for cruising, and a budget for about 2 years of daily living. Frugal daily living that is! I expect to then return, refreshed from this sabbatical of sorts, to my career.

With each birthday, subtle and not-so-subtle signs of my aging make themselves known. Dreams can be easily dashed by unexpected illness, and I’ve been touched by so many others I care about who have had their lives cut short. I know that I cannot count on being able to pursue this cruising dream in the years to come. I’m healthy, I have the means, and I have a partner up for joining me in this dream. I’m not prepared to look back on my life with regrets.

I wrapped up 2015 by taking the leap to seriously set things in motion, and by fall 2016, we anticipate launching Ariose and ourselves on a cruising adventure.

Looking back at what I’ve written, I see I haven’t been too successful in crafting a to-the-point brief bio for our blog. I will work on being succinct in upcoming blogs postings. I promise. I’ll wrap up with a quote. I often find inspirational quotes irritatingly clichéd, but this one attributed to Mark Twain, thoughtfully tucked into farewell wishes from my work colleagues, resonates strongly for me, and seems a fitting way to conclude.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.