Mid-Winter Musings

IMG_8541It’s been 6 months since we returned from our adventure, and land life is well underway. How are we doing? Hmm. Generally just fine. At times, though, it is like we’ve secured our docklines a little too loosely, but haven’t noticed until we are stepping ashore. One foot on the dock and one remaining on Ariose’s deck with legs in an ever-widening stretch … yearning to be two places at once. That sort of describes it. We are enjoying the comforts, security, and stability of home, the beauty of winter, and for me, the challenge of work – at the same time – we long to be aboard Ariose. We are craving the warmth, the spectacular tropical waters, and the allure of cruising life. We wonder how all the other cruisers we met along the way are doing.

20180202_124753Many aspects of our day-to-day existence are not so dissimilar to life aboard. We’re living off-grid, in what some would say are quite primitive conditions. We collected plenty of rainwater before the freezing temperatures set in, but with the shortened mid-winter days limiting sunlight, and solar-charged batteries that are not holding what little charge they get very well, we rarely are able to use the pump to get that water to our sink or shower. Unlike on the sea, though, when we need fresh water, we have the convenience of stepping outside to scoop snow and melt it on the woodstove. It’s a bit of a process, though, when we want – or need – to bathe.

Firewood = warmth x4.

We don’t have the tropical sun’s warmth, but rather, wood warms us multiple times: as we take down trees, as we gather and cut the logs, split and stack them, and finally, as we burn them. I say “we”, but Tim has more time available than do I, so more correctly I should say “he”. Wood cooks our food and keeps Tim fit.

Our fancy “restroom”.

Our “restroom” set-up is rather basic. We have had some extreme cold this winter, and a December stretch of -30 degree days motivated me to create an alternative to our outhouse by extracting the composting head from Ariose. La voila! We now have indoor facilities. Tim’s still stoically toughing it out in the outdoor facilities.

We’ve begun to rebuild our cruising kitty. I’ve secured employment coordinating a community mental health program. Despite being under-resourced and under-supported for years, these teams of skilled compassionate people have still managed to deliver solid care to our clients. I’m looking forward to helping the program realize its full potential.  It has been alarming, after only two years since I stepped away from my career, to find that the saltwater’s corrosive effects had taken their toll on more than Ariose’s stainless steel. Three months after I have resumed work, and finally, the rust is being scraped off the neurons serving the professional parts of my brain. It is taking way more effort than I expected to rebuild my short-term memory and multi-tasking capacity, and it’s tough to maintain high-energy for the work-day without fully depleting my reserves by days’ end. Waking to an alarm is still painful, but I am adjusting to having my days determined by a schedule completely removed from nature’s dictates.

Time to head to work.
Sun’s rising – time to head to work.

For me, it has been especially hard to adjust to indoor life, especially for the last couple of months when my commute to work and back home has been in the darkness. The days are lengthening, and so I’m now enjoying sunrise and sunset skies en route. My work is office-based, and with no windows in most of my workspace, I’m feeling nature-deprived. Once at work, I’m really enjoying my role and have a great team of colleagues, but oh, I long for the weekends and being able to snowshoe through our woods. There’s a short-cut between 2 sections of my work facility, taking me from a stairwell’s emergency exit about 20 steps outdoors to the entrance to my teams’ office. I grab every opportunity to take this route for a breath of fresh air and a quick skyward glance.

Tim’s Mitsubishi allows us to share its space.

Tim has yet to find paid employment, but that is not a bad thing. In fact, the look on his face as I head out each day suggests that he’s relieved that it’s me not him. There is plenty to do. When not keeping us supplied with wood and tackling fix-it projects, he’s focussed on working on his treasured right-hand drive Mitsubishi Pajero. He says he will sell once it is in tip-top condition. I have my doubts. It’s not that I doubt that he will soon have the jeep-like truck in perfect shape. Many times while we were aboard, I witnessed what Tim’s perseverance can accomplish. I suspect, though, that he may not have the heart to part with it.  I think I have mentioned in previous posts that the structure we are living in is technically a garage. Tim built it, with a bit of assistance from me thrown in, as an exercise in learning about straw-bale construction. Our intent is to eventually put that knowledge toward building a home. For now, the garage provides low cost, and relatively comfortable accommodation. But, it is still a garage, and the Pajero shares our living space. Now and then while Tim is relaxing on the couch in front of the fire, I catch him reaching out to caress his beloved.

Good Old Boat article. Jan-Feb 2018 issue.
Good Old Boat article. Jan-Feb 2018 issue.

Once January hit, we both were in need of a sailing fix. We were delighted to get the January/February issue of Good Old Boat and see our article in print, but rather than satisfy, this only served to intensify the itch. Our Lake Ontario to the Bahamas and back memories were calling. A charter-a-boat-in-the-Caribbean-type get-away is beyond our means, but we had a closer-to-home option. We had been invited by the Great Lakes Alberg Association (GLAA) to attend their Annual General Meeting. We had originally declined, but Cathie, the Commodore, then mentioned that we had been nominated for some awards, and trying not to let the cat out of the bag, she urged us to reconsider. The AGM coincided with the Toronto International Boat Show. A weekend of immersion in the boating world was just what our spirits longed for.

IMG_8572We attended some really interesting seminars, and enjoyed checking out boats and products. It was an affirming couple of days, especially when compared to when we last attended two years ago. Then, I had just quit work and we were beginning serious preparations to make our dream a reality. We were completely overwhelmed at the dazzling options, and filled with nervous anticipation as we tried to soak up as much knowledge as we could without blowing too much of our budget on every shiny piece of hardware. This time, we could hone in on the relevant products and sessions, and ignore the fluff.

Photo by Phoebe Campbell, GLAA. Thanks Phoebe!
Yves Gelinas sharing his wisdom. Photo by Phoebe Campbell, GLAA. Thanks Phoebe!

A definite highlight was meeting Yves Gelinas, the famous Quebecois sailor, who provided the inspiration for us to purchase an Alberg 30 in the first place. We caught his seminar during the day, and that evening, got to chat with him at the GLAA dinner. He completed a solo voyage in the early 80s – from France to the Gaspe – in the same boat as ours. That may not sound like an especially remarkable journey until you consider that he went the long way around the world to get to his destination. Yves gave us a personal demonstration of some of the ingenious modifications he made to his boat, and now our to-do list is longer.

Commodore Cathie Coultis "honours" us. Photo: Phoebe Campbell.
Commodore Cathie Coultis “honours” us. Photo: Phoebe Campbell.

We had a pleasurable evening of kinship with fellow Alberg-owners at the GLAA AGM. Where else could we enjoy such engaging dinner conversation about composting heads and such? We were awarded the Proctor Trophy for most nautical miles sailed in the previous year, and were also honoured, if we may use that word rather loosely, to receive the Bent Fork Award. This is given to the member of the GLAA who has experienced a ‘less than illustrious event’ involving them and their Alberg during the year. We were invited to the podium to recount our rudder-smashing Coast Guard rescue grounding that we experienced less than 24 hours after our departure. Then we were asked to recount the gas-in-the-diesel-tank incident that marred our first attempt at crossing the Gulf Stream. Then we begged to not be asked to recount the dozens more “events” we survived during our voyage. We certainly were well qualified for this award. We look forward to Ariose taking us on more adventures, but hope that our hard-earned experience from our maiden voyage will protect us from future Bent Fork accolades!

Clearing our house site before the ground froze.
Clearing our house site before the ground froze.

Looking ahead, I think we’re going to continue to feel that stretch I described at the beginning of this post. Seemingly opposing dreams are calling to us. We hope to build a small straw bale house on our forested property. Before the ground froze, we worked at clearing a building site. We also long to get back out cruising for a more extended period next time. During our maiden voyage, we realized that it’s important to both of us to have roots, to have a home to return to, to live in once the cruising ends. But we face a catch-22 of knowing that the time and funds we invest in building will prolong the time before we are able to cast off again.

No decisions are pressing. Despite being caught in the ebb & flow of our wishes, for now, we will focus on enjoying land-life’s offerings while dreaming of future sailing. For now, in our fittingly-named home town of North Bay, the holding ground is good.

For now, our approach to neighbouring islands is by foot. Photo by Adrian Denomme.
For now, our approach to our neighbouring islands is by foot. Photo by Adrian D.

17 thoughts on “Mid-Winter Musings”

  1. Congratulations! I just read your Feb 2018 post and am looking forward to finding a copy of the article, as well as reading your earlier posts. We are fellow A30 owners with a long list of boat projects complete and several more in process. We are hoping to launch in 2019. Reading your blog is inspiring. Many Thanks, Deb.

    1. Hello Deb. Always nice to connect with fellow Albergers. Ah.. the boat project list. Ours, somehow, is longer than ever, but we’re so glad that we didn’t wait until everything was done before launching or we probably wouldn’t have ever set out. We have our sights on setting sail again, perhaps for a longer journey, in 2020. What kinds of things are you tackling? Where are you located and where do you plan to cruise? Glad you’re finding our blog inspiring. Certainly, if we could do it, anyone can!

      1. Helllo, We live near Philadelphia and our A30 is currently at Reuwer’s Boat Works in Rock Hall, MD.. We purchsed Winsome in 20111 had Reuwer’s replace the cockpit in 2012, did some sailing in the Chesapeake in 2012, then on the hard since post Sandy. While on stands, through hulls and valves have been replaced, stuffing box repacked,, Atomic 4 work tackled, new hose everywhere, etc, etc. Ben and I know we lack the experience to recore and glass the topside, so we are back at Reuwers for structural work, new core and glass, and hull fairing and painting- the whole enchilada! We have removed all deck hardware and now working on removal of dead lights and fwd port lights, also interior furniture to access the chain plate knees.. We decided we couldn’t stand it any longer and we are so fortunate to be able to have Mark Reuwer do this work so we can launch in 2019. There is much work ahead of us, but we are eager to put everything back together once work is complete.’ Looking forward to hearing your sailing plans for 2020.! Best, Deb

  2. Now you’re no longer “Sailing Alone Around the World,” maybe you should check out Billy Collins’ “Sailing Alone Around the Room.” Seems apropos, yes? Enjoy the land. And the diesel.

    1. Neither of us is familiar with Billy Collins but a cursory google search suggests he is a poet that we might enjoy… and the title of this collection certainly does fit! Will check it out.
      Thanks, Kevin.

  3. Nice to hear about these awards, congratulations. Certainly a very nice evening with all these sailors who have perhaps experienced same sorts of events. I will have to get this issue of the magazine with your published storywhich was so well written. Good luck in making your roots in the forest, keeping in mind and in reality your future plans on the sea.

  4. Thanks for sharing Shirley. What a transition. Thinking about you and Tim, and looking forward to our next visit. Congratulations on your awards, I wonder how often they are given to the same nominee! Probability would suggest…

    1. I would think there’s some sort of equation we could come up with that factors in # of nautical miles journeyed inversely proportional to degree of previous experience leading to probability of “incidents” that will be encountered…
      Yes – looking forward to our next visit!

  5. Excellent story, you are so,good in your story telling, you can almost see the happenings, thank for including us in your post and we wish the both of you good sailing in the future no matter where it is. Enjoy your summer and also,have sometime put aside for yourselves.. CHeers

  6. Thank you for letting me live vicariously as a stow away on your trip to the Bahamas and back. I Will turn 80 during this coming sailing season and although gunkholing along the coast of Maine on my 29′ Watkins sloop was the limits of my sailing adventures I too am feeling the tug of reality as I am about to turn the page on the next chapter of my life.
    Fair winds.

    1. It was a pleasure having you and others along! It is a shift, isn’t it, from living adventures to savouring the memories of adventures… sounds like your coastal explorations on your sloop will have given you quite a reserve to draw from.
      Wishing you the best in this next chapter.

  7. ” Now and then while Tim is relaxing on the couch in front of the fire, I catch him reaching out to caress his beloved.”

    I can totally see Tim doing that!! lol!

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