Ariose has finally emerged from her boat shed, made it into Lake Ontario and …
…. we’re almost on our way.
Welcome aboard ArioseNotes, our blog diary that keeps friends, family and anyone interested, abreast of our sailing adventures.
First, a little background. When I was young, White Sail lessons on weedy Porcupine Lake and crewing on my friend’s beautifully handcrafted Bluejay sparked dreams of sailing afar. Decades later, Tim and I met. It took no convincing for this guy, already living a simple and sustainable off-grid life on land, to join in on the dream of taking that life to water.
We bought Ariose in 2014, and set to work to make things happen.
Five years ago (Wow! The years have flown!), Tim and I, relative novices at both sailing and in our relationship, launched ourselves into quite the immersive experience: Nine months living aboard Ariose, our 1969 Alberg 30 sailboat, as she took us from Lake Ontario to the Bahamas and back. If you’d like to read about that journey, go to our home page and scroll to the lower left corner to find “Posts – from the beginning“.
In 2016-2017 when we took that year-long hiatus from “real” life to cruise, it was supposed to get the bug out of our system. We planned to then return to work through to a typical retirement age. That adventure was a success on many levels, but not so in satiating the desire. Quite the opposite. Like the coronavirus, the urge to sail lodged deep into our lungs, affecting every breath. After we returned, hardly a day passed that didn’t require some major self-pep-talking as I headed into work. Our Friday night ritual of gorging on YouTube sailing channels further fed the bug. It wasn’t just the sailing that we missed, it was the freedom. We tightened our frugality belt even more, and put every saved dollar to the cruising kitty.
So in the spring of 2020 I left work, officially retiring. (I still stumble on that word… just doesn’t fit. Makes me think of slowing down, retreating. I’d prefer to say I’ve “advanced” in a new direction).
We dusted off lengthy “to-do: must” and “to-do: wish” lists from our last journey, and proceeded to pour in our labour and cash. If you followed us before, you’ll notice that treating Ariose to an extensive make-over was part of that work. Our aim is to sail until the waters match Ariose’s colour. In future posts, we’ll share a little more about the many maintenance and upgrade projects we’ve completed. There’s still more to do. Always more to do.
After over a year of near daily toil on Ariose, we were (almost) ready to go! With covid shots in our arms (we were, as the signage at the vaccination clinic stated, one step closer), with infection rates dropping, and talk of borders soon opening, it seemed the pandemic would permit our voyage.
The plan? Launch in Lake Ontario, sail out the St. Lawrence, cruise the Maritimes, and once hurricane season nears its end, head down the US Atlantic coast, perhaps tucking into Maine and then the Chesapeake, hop over to the Bahamas, and then southward along the eastern Caribbean. How long? Who knows. When we yearn for land life again, we’ll return. That’s the plan. We’ll see if the universe agrees with it.
Last week, after increasingly frantic months of preparation, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on our front porch, and set out. Our good friend Nadia’s parting wishes were for a safe and uneventful departure. That was exactly what we hoped for. We had survived a very eventful departure in October 2016. It was a bone pounding, rudder smashing, keel grinding, coast guard rescue kind of departure. We discovered that we had a deeper reservoir of resilience and perseverance than we thought possible, but the trauma of that start still feels fresh and we definitely want to avoid an encore.
As I started this post, I looked forward to proclaiming – I really wanted to proclaim – that we have, indeed had an uneventful start. We towed Ariose from North Bay to Kingston – always nerve wracking to be hauling our precious 9,000 pound boat, riding high on her keel, along the pavement, clearly out of her natural habitat. We did arrive safely and were relieved that this was our first time transporting Ariose without incident. No flats, no axles coming loose. Rather lacking excitement… just the way we hoped!
We were then craned in. That too, is always unsettling. If speeding down a highway is unnatural for a sailboat, soaring through the air is more so. All went well though, thanks to the capable marina crew.
After 4 years on-the-hard, doesn’t Ariose look content in the water? We were feeling content too! This has been a week of puttering at the final preparations and acclimatizing to the art of cohabitating aboard a small boat. I think Tim always sports a “I live on the 7 seas” appearance, and within a few days, I, apparently, had assumed the look too. I had hiked to the grocery store, where an older fellow inquired if he could ask me a question. I had a deja-vu from my past brief experience with on-line dating, where men with ample bellies and missing teeth, adorned with a fish in one hand and beer in the other, tried to convince me that we were a match. I prepared myself for a lame pick-up line. Instead, he asked, “Do you live on a boat?” He was an ex-pat Newfoundlander, and was proud to still have the ability to spot ‘em. Boat people, that is. I laughed! Clearly, the frazzled hair and home-made up-cycled sail shopping bags gave me away.
And it’s not just the grocery store where we’ve encountered interesting folks. The boating community here at the marina is welcoming and full of engaging sailors. We wondered if Ariose’s fresh look would allow us to slip by unrecognized. No such luck. Our disastrous departure last voyage has become a minor legend here. Several people have wandered over, and their opening line of “We’ve heard about you guys…”, has lead to great conversations about mistakes made and the hard-knocks learning that anyone who leaves the dock has experienced. We also have hired an excellent marine surveyor – just a delight to work with – who is going over Ariose with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that the work we’ve done is up to par, and to make suggestions for further improvements. A few more days completing projects, we thought, and we’ll set sail. Uneventfully.
Over a month ago, we had ordered parts from the local chandlery. Some were spares to carry with us; some were necessities. We hiked over to the store, only to learn than many items had yet to arrive. Most are not critical, but it ends up that the lack of a lowly $6 impeller key is preventing us from starting our engine, and keeping us docked. Patience. Disappointing, but still well within the range of uneventful. Departure would be a little delayed. No big deal.
Then, “eventful” began to happen.
This spring, Tim had been fiddling with the propeller. Well, to be fair, he was working hard to figure out how to install an anode. When dissimilar metals, especially in a salt-water environment touch, the one that is the least noble (everyone remember grade 12 chemistry?) will suffer corrosion. This is a bad thing for a bronze propeller on a stainless steel shaft. The solution? A chunk of zinc, called a sacrificial anode, is installed on the shaft. Since zinc is one of the metals more willing to give up its electrons, it corrodes and the metals on the more critical parts stay intact. We have yet to find an anode that fits, so that project never got the completed check mark. Two nights ago, Tim awoke at 3am startled by the realization that he was not 100% certain he had tightened the nuts holding the propeller in place. Losing a propeller could be disastrous. This was not a risk we were willing to take. Sheepishly, we asked to be craned out so that we could check. It ends up, they did need securing, and although an expensive memory lapse, the few hundred dollars was worth it. But this haul-out has cost far more than that.
Earlier, I had said that craning Ariose in/out has always been anxiety provoking. That’s allayed by the skill and dexterity of this marina’s crew. We’ve watched them capably manipulate massive yachts in tight spaces and trust them fully. But even the most experienced can make mistakes.
We stood back, complacently watching Ariose be prepared for lift off. The crane engaged, straps tightened and strained, freshly painted underbelly slowly rose from the water, crew stepped back and then, a heart-stopping clunk! Ariose dropped several feet. Yikes! The aft strap had slipped and fortunately, caught in the rudder, preventing our sailboat from plumetting in a nose-dive. Not so fortunate for the rudder though. The good news is that no one was hurt, and the mechanic, despite being incredibly busy with the post-covid avalanche of boat work, will soon be by to check on the degree of damage. We’re expecting that the rudder will need to be rebuilt and parts of the steering system replaced. More of a delay.
Cruising is a powerful teacher. One of the lasting lessons for us is that as much as we like to delude ourselves into thinking that we navigate our lives, we are shown over and over that we actually have very little control. And we’ve become more comfortable just rollin’ with it and making lemonade when dealt lemons.
Maybe this will be quick repair and we’ll be on our way. Maybe it won’t. A lengthy delay will force us to alter our route to take the New York Canals again so that we don’t hit north Atlantic winter storms. Or maybe we’ll need to abort this season, head home to enjoy a northern Ontario autumn and winter, and try again next year. None of those are bad options.
For now, we’ve got some unexpected time living on-the-hard to carry on tackling that project list.