No, “on-the-hard” isn’t another reiteration of our grounding. We have almost gotten over that. It’s a nautical term to refer to boats out-of-water, and although Ariose WAS on the hard limestone for those few hours of pounding, she was still technically in the water, therefore not on-the-hard. Oops, I promised not to go there again – we covered that incident in more than enough detail in the Launching & Grounding posts. This Ariose Note holds no drama, no suspense, no cliff-hangers. We will just share some snapshot reflections on our last 2 weeks living on the hard in the “deep south” of Kingston, Ontario, while dealing with getting Ariose back in shape to carry us on.
On the day after our grounding, Henry, a Collins Bay Marina yachtie bounded up to us to animatedly share that with this setback we would find a silver lining. Maybe an opportunity to go back home and complete preparation on things that we had not had time to do, he suggested. Well, thankfully, he was wrong about the heading home, but he was ever so right about the silver lining.
We lived on board Ariose for almost a week while sourcing repairs and making decisions. Between that and our week in preparation before our fateful inaugural journey, we became quite accustomed to boatyard living. Unexpectedly, this experience was one of the silver linings.
High above the ground on a borrowed cradle, it was a cold climb up and down the rungs of the metallic ladder where every step carefully taken created sounds akin to the halyard slapping on the mast. It’s almost 10 feet from the cockpit down to the gravel. Sleepwalking isn’t permitted in this home!
Just walking through the boatyard was entertaining. Space is at a premium and every available inch is occupied by a giant hulk with characteristic rounded bottom and fin-like keel and flipper-like rudder. It looks kind of odd really and even seems a little fantastic, like a bunch of beached whales all exposing their bellies to the air as if they are hoping for a scratch. Boats are meant to be in the water. Their awkwardness on land is justified by the fact that here, in the north where the water soon turns to ice, their captains have no choice but to pluck them out and store them on cradles where they wait for many months through driving snow and wind for their spring-time return to water.
Among the boats cloaked in their winter gear, their owners in a different headspace than they were not more than a month before, we felt a special vibe in this place. For most, the excitement of heading out on the water had taken a back seat to the tasks and frustrations of winterizing. There was a busy-ness around us: cleaning off the hulls, drawing coolant through the engine, fighting awkward heavy tarps and endless sections of tubing to dress their vessels in their winter garb and more. We could feel the resignation of others knowing that their days of boating are over for this season and now it’s time to accept that the cold draws near. We, on the other hand, had arrived the week before, a UHaul full of gear, moving onto the water just as there was a mass exodus of others moving out. We were heading in the opposite direction toward warmth. We hoped.
Each time we returned from shopping errands, or a visit to the marina office or washrooms, we would be struck with “there she is”: this boat that withstood a beating that would have destroyed a lesser boat. As we returned from dockside’s nightly sunset show, Ariose’s lines in the darkness silhouetted by the reflection off the cold clear water of Collin’s Bay and the crisp air of early November, it felt like she was waiting to give us transit to the warmer waters and sultry breezes of places further south. Even on-the-hard, her lines continued to please us and assure us that good times are ahead.
We did miss the sensation of being on the water. There was no gentle rocking or characteristic lapping of little wavelets against the hull. There was no light squeaking noises between fenders and the dock – the boat was absolutely motionless and lifeless. On the water, Ariose feels alive where every movement of the wind projects its energy allowing us to feel part of that natural rhythm. When we move, Ariose gently rearranges herself in the water. With the size of her underbelly (including 1000’s of pounds of ballast) the movements are gentle and pleasing and only slightly noticeable. The stillness of being on a cradle felt wrong.
We did, as Henry predicted, use the luxury of down time while we were on-the-hard to tackle some things we intended, but had run out of time to do. Once Ariose was moved to the boat yard taking on the repairs, we did complete a bit of work on her. Most importantly, we bought and Tim installed a high quality starter. Never again do we want to be in a position where motoring is critical and instead of the diesel grumbling into action, we hear the clunk of a broken starter. The boatyard generously allotted Tim a corner of their shop to complete work on the mast steps he designed and created. We didn’t want to be underfoot to the guys who were working so hard on her repair, though, so left the rest of our to-do list for another time. It felt demoralizing trying to wade through the thick fibreglass dust that had settled everywhere, and with the contents of our packed lockers thrown into the cabin to allow access to the rudder’s shaft, it was almost impossible to get anything done on board.
With Ariose’s back-end exposed while sitting up on slings in a heated workshop, and having the expertise of professionals at hand, we did have additional work above and beyond the repairs. These were a few of the too-far-down-on-our-list-to-get to-before-departure things. We had the cables on the steering wheel tightened, the cutlass bearing replaced (the thing-a-ma-jig that goes around the propeller shaft where it exits the boat to allow water – a bit of water that is – in to lubricate the shaft), the hose for the stuffing box , also known as the packing gland (no, these aren’t sexual references; we’re talking about the bearing that lubricates the shaft with water). Getting to those was one of the silver linings, and even better that we were able to get people with expertise do the work. Now we know how to next time without having to spend hours googling.
We also took time to review navigation techniques a little, got more comfortable with the vhf radio, familiarized ourselves with our new tablet and the Navionics software we intend to use. It was surprisingly difficult to focus, though. We were preoccupied with whether we would be able to get on our way in time to get through the canals, or find ourselves returning to North Bay, tails between our legs, or need to gouge our budget to haul Ariose south of the canals, or what. We also needed to move off Ariose while the work was being done, and found ourselves moving every couple days. We enjoyed a few different Air BnB’s where we could make ourselves at home (including a host who was a fellow cruiser!), but less appealingly, we needed to spend a couple of nights at hotels too. Oh, another silver lining was the luxury of having hot showers in all those places. Admittedly, stockpiling being warm and clean doesn’t really work, but it sure is a seductive thought and made it easy to justify the water wasted.
Another really special silver lining was mentioned in our last post. Tim & I took a quick trip to Montreal to visit one of my kids, Rachelle. We had already exchanged our official good-byes, but the prospect of having a bit of time together before this extended separation was tempting. It was wonderful to meet and re-meet some of Rachelle’s close friends. The next day, while Tim happily explored the urban flora, Rachelle took me to experience a “Zine” expo, an eclectic gathering of decidedly out-of-the-mainstream people passionately sharing literature. The ideas exploding out of that crowded basement invited a healthy stretch to my perspectives. As many parents, and maybe moms in particular can attest to, good-byes to adult children can continue to be painful even years after they leave the nest. Not knowing when we’d see each other again made this one especially hard. And as though I have an innate need to torture myself more, for some reason, whenever I have time with one of my kids, I miss the other 2 all the more. Yes, the usual tears were shed.
Let’s get back to the silver lining behind Ariose’s incident. Since the repairs were covered through insurance, we did have access to some modest funds for daily living expenses while awaiting repairs, so we treated ourselves to going out to eat. Well, come to think of it, some meals were a silver lining – good food in character surroundings (like Chez Piggy – yum!); whereas some were more of a tarnished lining. We tend to enjoy cooking for ourselves, and one of us is a little particular about what he eats, so after a few restaurants meals, the appeal was lost. (Tim’s shared in the writing of this post, but isn’t at the keyboard at the moment, so I can out him.)
Kingston is a beautiful city to be stranded in. We really weren’t in a frame of mind to be tourists – I’m sure we’ll get better at being in the moment as we go as we are still finding it hard to shift into that mode when longing to be somewhere else – but we did appreciate checking the city and some of its parklands out a little. There’s limestone everywhere, not just embedded in our rudder, giving the historic community lots of charm and grandeur. We were struck by the contrast, though, with the other massive limestone institutions in the area. We drove by penitentiaries every day. It’s disheartening to think that as a society, we still engage in the archaic practice of warehousing people that fall outside the social norm.
By far, the silver lining that meant the most to both of us was that our misfortune triggered so many opportunities to experience helpfulness and to meet interesting folks from the sailing community and beyond. This was a revelation for us, not that it is absent in the north, but there is a shallow pool, so to speak, of sailors. We made great connections far afield through posts on online sailing forums. Our efforts to seek a replacement rudder generated so much heartfelt advice, support, encouragement, and even much appreciated condolences. One poster from Chesapeake Bay asked for details of our grounding, since as an Alberg 30 owner, he felt confidence in the nearly damage-proof design, and was now feeling a little paranoid. We were then reminded by another poster of a response back in the 1960s by our boat’s designer, Carl Alberg, to an owner who described his repeated grounding episodes and was enquiring of Alberg how to repair the rudder. Alberg, so talented in aesthetics and function, clearly also had a sense of humour. His response was that the letter writer should move to the Chesapeake area where the bottom is known for its mud. We could have done well following that advice. We can sleep well at anchor in a month or so when we do make it there.
As I was saying, we were touched by the kindness of others. Our obvious “situation” was a magnet for people to approach us and strike up a conversation. We were reassured and our pride preserved by those that have far more experience than we, that it is not unusual to drag anchor or to run aground, or have unexpected hardships when cruising. The art of cruising is to do everything possible to mitigate those risks but the possibility is there for anyone. Our hearts were warmed by the genuine condolences even from those that had warned of the potential dangers of anchoring at Main Duck Island. We met so many that understood our dream, understood how easy it is for plans to take a turn when you are a mere human on a boat, facing far larger forces. Many spoke of similar dreams that they hoped to realize in future, others shared stories of fantastic voyages already lived. Most championed what we are doing, and although we detected the “pretty late in the season” look of judgement on some, most gave us a hearty “good for you”! And many offered welcome suggestions and went to great lengths to help us. Right from day one, there was Wendy who peppered us with details that made her voyage to Venezuela a success, Pat and Lionel who took a few moments from their lovely boat “Knot Happening” to share, Dan, whose spirit of one who has found balance in his life was contagious, the Collins Bay staff who felt like friends, Phil, the affable owner of “Wavelength Sailing School” (Shirley’s Intermediate Cruising instructor) who warmly welcomed us into his home for dinner with his family, Harold, who would have given us the shirt off his back had we allowed him, but settled for offering us sage advice and much appreciated spare Alberg parts … and many others. Oh yes, also the Loyalist Cove Marina folks who went so far above and beyond in pulling off the magic of completing Ariose’s repairs in record time. It really wasn’t magic, though, we saw the long hours of hard work, which we tried to sweeten with the occasional box of bakery goods.
So yes, lots of silver linings, and perhaps our set-back has also sharpened our appreciation for all that we have ahead.
We’ve now been in the canals a few days. We’ll share more about that experience in our next post.
But now, it’s time for bed. We need to be up early as usual, and on our way by 0700h to get as much distance in before dark sets in before 1700h. The canal is technically closed now, but lock operators are good naturally letting us through. We trust that will continue.