All posts by SV ARIOSE

Lunenburg to Yarmouth

In the last Ariose Note, Ariose and I became acquainted with the water of the Atlantic and I became re aquainted with my own fear. Did I really think that I could just brush away the anxiety of overnight passages that rendered me helpless in the past? Fear won.

Gathering up the resources in my brain, still swirling with the realization that I couldn’t just go and essentially forget the past, it occurred to me that a slow and easy pace would have to be the way to gain access to a world of passage making. George agreed! For now, I”m a coastal hopper and will focus on day hops with the occasional overnight, whenever the opportunity arises or my brain says “ok, lets give this a try again”!

So, I left Lunenburg in a beautiful early sun-drenched fog colouring the air with pink and orange as I spotted the lighthouse before turning to the South to find my first port – Port Medway N.S.

Coastal hopping adds considerable amount of distance to the process of getting south because each day you have to travel significant distances off of the ocean to hide behind islands, promontories and breakwaters. While sleeping, the only distance you’re making is purely in your dreams. So, thinking about the enormous distances involved that includes the entire coastline of the US and then multiplying it by two for time and distance and you’ve got what looks like an impossible task.

Each one of these ports that I visited along the Atlantic coast of N.S. had it own charm. Unfortunately, because I’m just using their waters to hide from wind and ocean swell, there isn’t a lot of exploring going on and most of them aren’t set up to access from the water for someone wanting to go ashore.

Port Medway and Liverpool, I’m afraid, will only get a cursory mention here. They served an important purpose in my journey, but, I cannot know them by this method.

The first port I stopped at for a significant period was Lockeport. Named for one of the first settlers to the area, the Locke family, it was a good choice for someone needing to stretch his legs and get a few supplies while being somewhat of a tourist. This would be the last taste of summer weather I would have before reaching much more southern waters. The first night I anchored on the South side of the town and rode the swells of the open Atlantic since the winds were from the North. It gave me a chance to see an incredibly beautiful beach (crescent beach) from the ocean side as, the next day I was motivated to find more protection from the southerly winds forecast for the evening.

The morning of the move, I pulled up the anchor, felt the wind play with the bow as I moved swiftly to power up the genoa and begin the task of tacking back and forth out of the bay, being mindful of course, of all the shoals marked on the chart. It took a while, but the effort of doing this on a beautiful sunny morning with no real time constraints, pays for itself in satisfaction. And satisfied I was, when I rounded the last bouy at the northern edge of the Island and turned up into the wind behind the break wall. Utilizing the lack of wind power to drop the main and feel the wind pulling Ariose downwind a little while I dropped the anchor and felt that satisfying tug in the anchor rode when it bights into the ground, swinging the bow into the wind and securing a spot for the night! With only the clinking of ground tackle and the flapping of sail fabric….I’m sure my sun drenched grin stretched as far as the whisker pole across the bow of Ariose. Oh yeah…..“This is why I keep doing this”.

Lockeport kept me smiling. As I searched for supplies, I found one example of everything a town needs to be self sufficient, but, only one. One post office, one fire hall, one drug store one restaurant and many people willing to chat with this lonely stranger in their midst, looking like a tourist who had lost his way and got separated from the bunch that trampled through at least weeks if not months before; a straggler for sure. People were so willing to chat, give me advice, fill me in on local folk lore, all delivered with smiles and genuine hospitality. They really endeared me to the place from the onset.

Town pier with the little Marina building on the left and the White Gull restaurant on the right.

I tied Poco methodically to the pilons of the pier, climbed up the metal rungs on the ladder heavily stained by barnacles and vegetation from the markings of a higher tide and spotted the White Gull restaurant. An unassuming but functional building which turned out to be serving their last meal of the season. I went into town hoping to make it back for a nice fish dinner…my first night out! And, so it was!

While in Lockeport, I walked a nice trail along a rocky part of the Atlantic, with a view to the beach that I had anchored off of the first night. Lockeport is essentially an island with a causeway being the main road in. Then another access is an old CNR trestle was clearly used during the booming West Indies trade by the Locke family, long in the past but was now just a quicker way for residents to walk up to a hardware store and gas station about a kilometer down the road. This trestle forms a nice scenic walk from town along the crescent beach road, along a back harbour, back onto the trestle and back into town, total distance 4 kms! (see the map of Lockeport above). It turned out to be the perfect place to get some exercise while admiring the unspoiled beauty of the beach.

A few days here while waiting for better weather gave me just enough time to stock up on groceries, fuel, sea sickness medication and water. The fire hall turned on their outside tap for me and the owner of the gas station delivered me back to the pier with 2 full containers of diesel for Ariose. So nice!

The next series of ports in my sights were within a days travel and were chosen for the upcoming wind speeds and direction. It’s especially important if a big blow is forecasted – like over 20 Knots; the more protection from the wind means less stress on the boat and on the Captain when he’s trying to get a rest filled night on the water. So, I set my sites on Ingomar and Clarks Harbour. Ingomar is only memorable for me by the effort I put into sailing amost all the way in through a narrow channel – lining up the zigs to line up with the zags of the channel is an interesting game to play. Sometimes it works out, but, sometimes an extra tack is necessary or a little help from the diesel, often with a little bit of anxiety thrown in for good measure. I always try to keep this option at the ready.

Clarks harbour is memorable for some different things. If you look on a map of Nova Scotia, Clarks Harbour pretty much has the honour of the most southerly point, jutting out into the Gulf of Maine, like a child tempting to feed a lion some flesh at the zoo. I guess that gulf kinda makes me gulp and the lump in my throat remains. It’s exposed. I was a little nervous to round this cape but I didn’t fear anything was going to happen….I mean, what could happen?– it’s just water like everywhere else.

But, this is the Bay of Fundy with the highest tides in the world. This means also that there are some serious currents to worry about and some strange things that start to pull at your boat if you have no experience with how they interact with the topography.

While travelling along in a westerly direction hoping to turn north toward the harbour I look down at the electronic chart and see that I’m actually going south! How can this be? I look again at the direction that I am pointing and it’s still to the West. Then, I noticed a little caution on the electronic charts which tells you to zoom in to read what it is. Oh, a tidal stream! I was caught in a tidal stream! Ok, so I’ll just power up and motor on through. Nope! Full sails with good wind and a cranked up engine were still no match and I just had to ride this wet water slide south until it spit me out down below. Another lesson. Use the tide charts to plan your departures and arrivals. I ended up having to wait several hours from 2pm until 5pm and motor into the harbour in the dark with the current pulling me in. That’s the way it goes. No harm, but, still a little unnerving to say the least. When I finally set anchor for the night just off the town docks, I was so glad that I had food prepared so that I could collapse into my bunk after a good hot meal. And that I did!

The rough water and the impending darkness as I fought my way up toward Clarks Harbour.

In the morning, I got a taste of the other memorable thing about Clarks Harbour. (pic of Clarks)

The realization that the temperature had dropped enough over night to snow and that it did start snowing so early in my trip with so many miles and an entire coast line of the US ahead of me. I awoke, looked out the companionway to what appeared to be the back end of Santa’s sleigh but that Santa must be going back to get another load because all that was there was some of my stuff. The snow flakes falling on the deck, sticking to the rigging, lying innocently on the various ropes and sailing gear in a juxtaposition that I didn’t find particularly amusing. I mean, I love the snow, but, this is a sailboat and someone at the movie set must have mixed up the props for summer in the tropics scene with bits of that last movie about Santa and his raindeer! (pic of snow)

It was definately time to use this!

Ok, enough about Clarks Harbour! On to Yarmouth.

New learning at hand regarding the power of these tides near the Bay of Fundy, I carefully planed my exit strategy from Clarks Harbour. I woke up a little later than I wanted in order to catch the end of the ebb tide that would pull me out of the harbour so I scrambled to get ready with the hope that I hadn’t missed the ride. Ahh……I hadn’t! Even at slack, I was able to motor out at over 5 knots and get comfortably into open water before shutting down the engine and hoisting the sails. It was a great sailing day and I made terrific time with the tides, wind and waves helping me along. I was very happy to make it to the long dredged narrow channel of Yarmouth, so that I could see my way into what could be my last stop in Canada! I contacted the municipal marina who assured me that I could tie up or use one of the mooring balls for free since they were officially closed for the season. This was great, but, what I didn’t expect though, was the level of this commitment to free stuff and hospitality to boot!

He gave me a key to the showers in a super well heated building, that I joked might be a great place to bed down for the night while he offered me another key to an outside tap for water. “ If need anything to just give him a call”! I almost felt sheepish but, accepted the very welcome things that would make stopping in Yarmouth off season most pleasurable! And just to show my appreciation, I stayed for many days, and had many hot showers.

It was a gray and cold few days in Yarmouth, but the town gave me lots of chance to stretch my legs and refill propane and food stocks. Also, since I didn’t get the right weather for my next big leap into the unknown for 4 or 5 days, I had lots of time to edit videos for Episode 2, write the blog entry and write and record the song Deep Blue. When I did leave, it was definitely time to go and to do my first overnight! Besides, there is no other way to cross the Bay of Fundy! It’s sink or swim time! Ooh, not a good phrase to use at this point.

See you next time! Be sure to check out the link to Ariose Sailing below

Splashing: First sail to Lunenburg!

This Ariosenote takes us into the water at last! Just a minute though. Before we go jumping into the water and getting all wet, lets take some time to acknowledge that I appreciate Darren and the Gold River Marina staff for their desire and in thinking about their clientele and making sure that everyone is treated with respect. I will always champion people and businesses who honestly try to be fair to people. Unfortunately, there are lots who are only trying to take advantage of others. Gold River does not fall into this category. For that, I am eternally grateful and a champion of your marina!! Now, on to wetness!!

Darren, in his colour appropriate attire, inspecting things before loading Ariose onto the hydraulic trailor!
Darren with James who is also the official button pusher to lower the railway travel lift into the water.

Finally splashing at Gold River, my mind was swirling at the sight of Ariose’sunderbelly finally touching the water of the Atlantic once again. I was pretty elated, as you might imagine, to see this all unfold. That’s why there is lots of great video of every step! See Ariose Sailing on youtube (link at the end of this post) for the full video. It’s such a beautiful and natural sight to see a fish out of water, reacquainted with the medium for which it was designed.

Gold River was great, but, I was itching to get out and be on my way. I was excited to be at the helm and begin my new job as the captain of Ariose! I knew that it would be a great experience and I was right. The sail to Lunenburg was uneventful and enjoyable. Of course, I had to motor out of the marina, partly because I wasn’t willing to wait for wind and because as a novice solo sailor, I wouldn’t feel completely confident in my ability to negotiate all of the other boats while leaving the docks. I made sure too, from previous experience backing up a full keel sailboat, that the crew put Ariose into the slip stern first so I could just motor out easily in the morning.

In the morning, after loading up on supplies and getting everything put away for the journey, I prepared to leave the Gold River Marina dock for the first and maybe last time.

My neighbour and fellow solo sailor friend Trevor was there to help me begin the journey. We met in the boatyard, as many sailors do, because we are both working on a dream . I learned about his Vancouver 27 by helping Trevor with it and by listening to his description of it. It’s a beautiful design and has many of the features of the Alberg 30. They’re pretty much the same size; the Alberg just has a longer overhang at the stern which makes the extra 3 feel. The amount of boat in the water is essentially the same, as is the remarkable similarity in displacement (weight). With a taller cabin top, the Vancouver 27 seems quite a lot more spacious than the Alberg and I really liked the layout.

Trevor, also from Ontario, was very quick to offer rides into town; a welcome accommodation, considering the 10k walk into Chester for groceries or hardware. I took him up on his offer a coupletimes which made the month I was stuck at the marina much more palatable. For anyone else in this predicament, there is a great not-for-profit operating in the Chester Basin called Community Wheels. It’s donation based and you can get a ride anywhere in the Chester area for very low cost while your driver waits for you to finish! I used it once and it’s a fantastic model for other areas to adopt.

Sailors are an interesting lot and Trevor and I got chatting about mental health before too long. Turns out we’ve both struggled with addictions and have been on our own journey’s to break the cycle. Since addictions are not a choice and are often the result of trauma, whether ongoing and daily, from childhood or intergenerational, and for many…..all three, it was so nice to be in the company of someone who had learned to be companionate and understanding of the struggles of others. When you have struggled, you tend to realize and accept people with how they present without judgement. I noticed this right away with Trevor. We both know that people go through experiences that are difficult and traumatic and that the worst thing you can do is to blame and punish them……..something our society seems to be completely unaware of.

Anyway……to the water! I got the engine fired up and everything ready for the journey. Then, I called on Trevor to hold the bow line as I exited the slip. True to Trevor’s nature, his final parting words were to offer me a ride, if I needed one! Thanks Trevor!

Trevor and his Vancouver 27. I was just about to cast off the bow lines and I asked Trevor to do the casting!

It was a glorious departure! I was pumped and heading out into the blue to start my journey. I pulled out the mainsail at the first sight of wind, leaving the motor running, just in case. Once I sensed the wind and pulled the stop on the engine, I ghosted along at 1-2 knots, but I didn’t care…….I was free!

Soon more wind picked up and I found myself screaming towards Lunenburg under sail! I sailed all the way up the harbour, with other beautiful sail craft in hot pursuit. There are always Schooners of all sorts plying these waters and you are more likely to see a schooner than any other type of boat (check out the video for the schooner regatta). Even the Bluenose II is a very likely figure on the waters in Lunenburg harbour. The maritime history here is palpable and it hangs on your tongue like a wet, dense and salty fog!

As I came towards the end of the main harbour, I decided to take down the sails before entering an unknown harbour, for the same reason that I left a marina with the engine. One day, I will feel more comfortable controlling the boat in close quarters. So, I furled in the genoa in preparation for turning up wind. Then made the turn, dropping the main which completely depowers the boat and took my time tying up the mainsail. Then, into the harbour I went under motor. Having practiced anchoring in unknown harbours many times on our way down the eastern seaboard in 2016, I was not concerned about this maneuver, although, I had always had someone to take care of part of the process. But, with careful consideration of the order of events, anchoring alone was a breeze! And there it was, my first journey! I was anchored in lunenburg Nova Scotia, just a stones through from the iconic Canadian racing sailboat the Bluenose II. (see the video for a short clip of it motoring out of the harbour.

Waking up to this view….(pic through the porthole) gave me a taste of the experiences yet to come!

The next 2 weeks I had relegated to finishing some small projects, getting my first blog/vlog posts out and getting whatever supplies ready for the first major sail out of the harbour.

I awoke to the beautiful regatta of Schooners in the am and thought “so this is what people in Lunenburg do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon”. Pic

I found that it was super easy to walk to groceries and hardware and pretty much anything else. I found great places to go for walks and some interesting shops to wander through steeped in maritime history.

Some things I’m not that good at taking pictures of but here is a pic of the Lunenburg Welcome Sign and a nice trail I found to go for morning jogs!

Having a vibrant sailing community, the government organization that looks after marinas in the province provide very nice and clean washrooms open 24/7 and even all winter! Heres a pic of the government marina building that I spend a fair amount of time around. I was just filling up water jugs for my first attempt out of the harbour (have I told you yet how many times I attempted leaving the harbour for my first overnight sail?) Then, if a shower and laundry was required, a scant 5 dollar fee got you into the room for 5 bucks! Pretty good deal! For someone living on a boat, that kind of service is rare and very welcome. (Pic of me letting my hair dry)

Like me, Poco is a different sort a feller as evidened by the dinghy dock in Lunenburg!

I was prepared, but, I still had anxiety about the upcoming potential Hurricane Franklin. I found two handheld gps’s to set anchor alarms on. The Hurricane Franklin which was downgraded to a sub-tropical storm by the time it hit the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, but still, the wind really tugged and pulled at the bow of Ariose and swung it around on it’s anchor quite violently. The worst winds were to hit in the middle of the night and I only managed to stay up until midnight and the anchor was still holding well, so, I closed my eyes! At 3am, I awoke, probably due to some loud banging noise, and checked on things during the worst of the wind in excess of 40 knots, but, Ariose had still not budged. I watched until 5am and then fell asleep again feeling pretty confident that there was no danger of Ariose dragging.

What I really love about the experience of going through a hurricane is how the morning after Is like “sitting on the bed with a dazed look, after a tumultuous sexual encounter”. Yahooo! Fiona was like that last year. The sky can be clear, sunny and almost smug with the forgetfulness of the events of the last evening. It’s like, “don’t you remember dear, how angry you were last night?”. Apparently not! And, so it goes.

The time came when I was preparing for my 2 nd voyage and first chance to try over night sailing. I stocked up (pic of poco with jugs above) and got Ariose all ready. In the morning, it was a beautiful and uneventful motor out of the anchorage at 10 am. Brimming with confidence, I left the anchorage. Once I got out in to the open harbour I experienced my first trouble. In the tension leading up to leaving I had forgotten to untie all of the lines that I tie at the bow to reduce noise at night. So, when I first unfurled the genoa, it just got tangled in a mess of constricting lines. Mistake number one. Mistake number 2 was when I thought that it was a good time to reef the main. A squall was coming so I dropped the main a little and proceeded to pull on the reefing lines. What ensued was a vivid portrayal of a comic of some kind, as I pretty much just got wrapped up in lines and strapped to the deck like yesterdays catch of the day, barely alive but still flailing! It was hilarious, if it wasn’t so darn demoralizing and self un-affirming!

I pulled out all of the long reefing lines fed to the cockpit to free myself and the mainsail and continued on. Someone didn’t install those correctly, I said to myself outloud!

It was getting late in the afternoon and I was becoming more and more cognizant of the oncoming overnight sail, my first! I realized soon thereafter, that my anxiety was rising to epic levels and suddenly, with very little consideration, hove to. (stopped the boat). I sat there bobbing, floating, meandering for half an hour at least thinking hard about what I was about to encounter at night, all alone, on the Atlantic ocean. Then, a snap decision occurred, and I turned Ariose around and headed back towards Lunenburg upwind under motor! An anxiety attack is nothing to fool with. I felt good about the decision to turn around because the alternative was not a viable option. I needed to regroup.

I seriously considered ending the trip, thinking that I just didn’t have the ability to control my anxiety and extreme fear to complete this voyage. I mean, was I fooling myself, thinking that I could control this beast that had pasted me to the floor on several occasions while I was sailing with Shirl, rendering me nothing more useful than a stick of driftwood, jetsam of the tides? It took me a few days of reflection before I could even entertain the thought of trying again. After a few days, with the level headed thinking of my mentor George, came a plan to leave Lunenburg with a more manageable expectation. His idea was to day hop down the coast, little by little, before gaining enough confidence to try an over night in good conditions. A sensible approach, I’d say.

So, a few days later, I made a second attempt. Leaving the harbour in a dense, yet, sun illuminated fog……… was a beautiful experience! And what of that overnight plan? The plan that had me leaving the harbour and heading straight for Cape Cod Maine, a distance of close to 400Kn miles (750approx kms) and 3-4 overnights? Maybe a tad bit too soon? Maybe…..I’ll be on American soil in the next Ariose Note?! I’ll leave you with these lovely couple of shots of Ariose parked in front of Lunenburg.

Fair winds.

Uncharted Waters: An Autistic Captain and Ariose ______________________________________________

An Autistic captain and Ariose! We’re alone, but, we have each other and the open ocean to keep us company! 

Welcome to the Ariosenote blog/ ArioseSailing channel! There is a link to the video at the end if you’d prefer to sit back and watch. Enjoy!

Flag for Neurodiversiy including autism.

A quick plug for autism

So this journey is about Sailing, isn’t it? Yes, it is and there will be plenty of that. But, being Autistic colours everything I do and say, not to mention how society responds to me; it is who I am. If you come from a career that enforced the idea that “your disability does not define you” please subscribe at the very least. There is lots of good learning to have from Autistics themselves since they are the ones that have the lived experience.

With this blog/channel, you will be sailing with an Autistic sailor that wants to break down some of the stereotypes and stigma around being Autistic and neurodivergent in this mostly neurotypically organized and compliant society. If you want to check out the autism introductory video click on Tim’s Autistic Journey for the youtube link.

You will always see my Autistic identity capitalized as Autistic. This erases the medical model of autism as a dysfunction and replaces it with the social model of disability, which enforces the idea that there is nothing wrong with being Autistic. Nothing wrong equals nothing to change! What we need is the acceptance and tools to help us function to our own standard; not to conform to Neurotypical standards. If society stops thinking that we have to fit in to an artificial mould that we simply cannot comply with, then we can be excepted as just another part of the collective gene pool, and, there is no need to change us to be like others; Autists are just different people. Enough on that!

The Sign

It was a gorgeous august day at my home in a lake in Northern Ontario. Cant you just hear the white-throated sparrows, common yellowthroat warblers and swamp sparrows calling? It reminds me of those old Mutual of Omaha short videos from the 70’s.

Sunny, warm and calm, I splashed into the lake signifying the future launching of Ariose into the ocean. But, what if the original splashing is interrupted? (see the video of interrupted splashing).Does this translate into an interruption of Arioses launching? More on that later.

Shirl and I made the trip to Gold River Nova Scotia with the ceremonial first night in Montreal. Then a night in a lovely little Airbnb near Fredericton New Brunswick. Finally, after a few days, we pulled up on Ariose in anticipation and trepidation. I mean, what would we find after an entire winter? Sorry……no photos of beautiful mold!

Concentrating on flying the drone (see the shadow in the hull on the left?).

Ariose looked great on the outside, and sailboats are fairly water resistant creatures, but, water always gets in somehow and the moisture levels over a period of time can render the surfaces fuzzy with mold. I am very happy that we had the local boat works ( Tern Boat Works) drill a hole just above the keel (bottom of the bilge) that lets water out when it does begin to accumulate over the winter. (See video for installation of the garboard plug that is fitted into this hole). Photo of garboard plug

The interior conformed to our expectations, but it was tough to see Ariose in this condition. It seems quite hopeless and disheartening at the time, but, all it takes is a meticulous wiping with some cleaner and anti mold solution over every surface. Before long the boat is clean from bow to stern. Beautiful sunny days that allowed all windows and hatches to be open and the breeze to flow through made this process much easier.

Shirley’s Sienta, a cutie little 4wd RHD that I imported for her from Japan!

Shirl’s 2006 Sienta- (imported from Japan – a special interest of mine -more about special interests and how important they are to Autistic people in a future autism blog) stuck around for a couple days since we needed to get a few things like the sails, emergency raft and such from our local friend George and I needed to stock up on food for an extended period. Then, when it was clear that the soloing must begin, Shirl and I said our teary goodbyes!

The last 2 weeks have been a blur. After getting many things packed away and out from under foot, I began knocking off one project after another.

The projects, oh….the projects!

The garboard plug had to be installed (see the video for installation).

Talking to the garboard plug “now you listen here……I don’t want you changing your mind about staying in the hole once we’re in the water”.

I replaced the packing in the packing gland. It is part of the stuffing box which allows water in from the outside through the stern tube. The packing nut that covers the propeller shaft houses packing material. This material intercepts water that moves up the shaft from outside the boat and cools the shaft. The packing is tightened to allow the water to flow enough to cool the shaft and drip into the bilge. Normally, the flow rate is a few drips per minute. Once the packing wears out, the drips can increase substantially. Like……a stream!

Next, I converted our rigid boom vang into a regular rope vang by taking out 3 heavy springs inside the tube, which allowed me to install a replacement gooseneck bracket that we picked up in the fall after hurricane Fiona.

Then I replaced the sails, the roller of the ancher roller (the other one was warn right off) and carved down the anchor so that I could fit the securing pin in the hole on the anchor roller.

I Installed the solar panels, reprogrammed the controller to accept Lithium, top balanced my new lithium cells and installed them.

Had some trouble getting the app to connect to the battery management system (BMS) but, soon I had it working and battery was fully charged! It was so nice to have a fridge and lights again after an entire week without.

The engine aboard has been a source of irritation for me. When we arrived in Gold River in the fall, the engines secondary fuel filter had been leaking into the bilge and the bilge pumps dumping this into the ocean! I was in a panic upon arrival because this is so hugely against my environmentalist principles that I was fraught with anxiety!

It seems that the installation of a correct o-ring and the correct tightening procedure, took care of this problem. Upon firing the engine up for the first time in 9 months, the leak was fixed! The engine started and ran perfectly!

Now, the throttle on the other hand, created new problems. Both the throttle and the shift cable had slowly become stiffer and stiffer over the last few years. So, when I cranked the engine over, it started and I gave it a bit more fuel. The throttle lever snapped off in my hand due to the amount of force required to operate it. So, another project availed itself. I thought that the cables had become stiff, but, it turns out that it was just the stainless pins that transferred the action of the throttle lever and transmission shift cables were corroded inside the aluminum casing of the binnacle. Once I cleaned up and oiled the pins, the cables worked smoothly. The throttle lever ended up being threaded on both ends with a very common thread that I just happened to have the right drill bit and tap for. So, I drilled and tapped a new hole in the pin to accept the lever and voila, good as new!

The little red head on the left is the throttle lever that snapped off and the transmission lever on the right

The premonition

The original Northern Ontario dive into the my home lake (video of the dock near the beginning) was supposed to signify the splash of Ariose in Nova Scotia. Because of technical difficulties (a micro SD card that couldn’t handle the 4k video) the splash was not captured by the drone, although, the literal splash did occur, I swear – it was refreshing!

Tim about to splash in Trout Lake – FAIL!

Local marina politics at Gold River Marina in Nova Scotia conspired to obliterate my splash date, robbing me of precious preparatory time for my journey on the water. Then I had to sit, ready to go, on the hard through a gorgeous long weekend and think about the last time that Ariose was robbed of the splashing – the marina in Kingston in 2021!. It almost seemed as though, the original malfunction of the drone, just before the northern Ontario splash, was a sign of things to come!

A blessing in disguise?

At the time of writing, hurricane Franklin came and went. Now hurricane Lee is forecast to build into a catagory 3+ hurricane and is set to make landfall directly over Ariose and is creating a frenzy of activity this coming week as boat owners instruct the marina to get their boats out of the water! I guess I’ll stick it out and then splash after Lee has passed.

I just hope that next week brings some water close to the hull. It’s all I can do but hope!

Hurricane Lee (eventually downgraded to a tropical storm)

Having a friend nearby willing to take me in during the hurricane was a blessing, thanks George. We lost power on the first morning of the storm and remained without power over the next night. Then next morning George had already been out to find that the road along the ocean front to his house had been piled up with debree and rocks from the massive waves. On the way to check out his boat anchored in Lunenburg harbour, he had to pick his way through the piles on the way back to keep from bottoming out on the rocks! (his boat Sh’Boom- an Alberg 29 – was rocking but holding fast). Within hours though, the road was cleared.

With the forecast showing that the worst of Tropical Storm Lee had passed, George took me to Ariose to check on it and to leave me to begin the process of installing everything that I had already installed a few weeks before! Luckily, we were on the side of the storm that normally doesn’t get all the rain, so , there was very little problem with leakage inside. Mostly, there was tons of debris from nearby trees on deck, but, no damage. I was surprised by the speed in which everything went back on. I think that having a dry run made the second re-install go pretty smoothly! There’s always a silver lining, if you try hard enough to find one!

After the storm, the marina had a lot of cleanup to do because, in their rush to get as many boats out as they could before the storm, a lot of services that they normally provide went undone. There was a few days of catch up to finish pressure washing hulls and putting things away that would have normally been part of the process. Then….finally, the day came when Ariose and I were next on the list! Stay tuned for this epic beginning to the journey! Fair winds!

Click on the link for the full length video!

This is a Legit Ariose Note (finally!): PASSAGE

Apologies for the recent spam posts. Ariose Notes seems to have been boarded by pirates, many Russian ones apparently. We’ve been assured that other than the annoyance factor, there has been no risk to subscribers. Hackers, here be the plank for ye to walk!  

In this Ariose Note, I share a very different passage. It’s been an emotionally wrenching and healing voyage these last 3 months, but not of the sailing sort. Well, that’s not quite true. Sailing has played a part, but not the lead role.  In April, for instance, I sailed for an afternoon along Panama’s lush Caribbean coastline. I don’t remember many details.  My heart and mind were elsewhere. 

So, if you follow Ariose Notes as an Alberg fan, or for the sea adventures (& mis-adventures), this may not be the post for you. If you have other motivations for following, do read on. 

Panamanian sunshine in the form of tropical flowers.

As you may recall from the last post (Winter Update), I was invited to be one of two crew, helping a single-hander move her boat from Panama to Guatemala, to safely wait out hurricane season.  I’ve long wanted to sail the western Caribbean. Mary, a qualified captain and instructor, has lived aboard for most of the last 15 years.  There was so much I might learn from her. And as I consider the possibilities of giving up Ariose but still sailing, I could test out if joining others’ boats might be something I would enjoy.  What an opportunity!

I chose the cover photo of this Ariose Note, a rainbow captured mid-flight – it seemed the perfect illustration of the good fortune and positive energy I anticipated the adventure ahead. 

The day before leaving, I was walking along the road bordering our property. Tim and I are so fortunate to have this land, a diverse piece of northern Ontario woods. I love it all, but in particular, am drawn to 2 ancient white pines that soar above their neighbours. They survived storms and disease, and were probably just a bit young to be taken when the mass logging of white pine for tall ship masts and new cities’ construction decimated Ontario’s forests. I looked up to take in the silhouette of the one with asymmetrical swooping limbs, the one that I think of as the dancer. It wasn’t there! I made my way in to verify what I already knew must be true. It had come down. As I looked at the rotted hollow core, I, too, felt gutted.  Even the seemingly immortal, aren’t. All that lives, dies. 

The next day, I was off to Panama for a month or two of sailing, but that’s not how it turned out. Life doesn’t necessarily follow the plan. 

Descending into Panama City afforded a good view of Panama’s claim to fame, the canal. Dozens of freighters looking like no more than toy boats, were anchored awaiting their turn to take the Pacific-Atlantic short-cut. Upon landing, I was hit by a wall of heat. From sub-zero snowy surrounds to 38 degree humid heat. This was going to take a bit to acclimatize. 

I stayed a few days in Casco Antiguo, the historic part of the city, also known as Casco Viejo. A near-ideal B&B had a collection of bins out its front door… which resulted in some interesting neighbours.

It’s a fascinating neighbourhood. This barrio has been revitalized, and deserves its UNESCO designation.

On my second solo day there, I ventured out, to a less fascinating destination:  the MultiPlex. It’s one of the largest malls in Central America. Shopping, especially in malls, is one of my least favourite activities. But there were a few items needed for the boat and crew, so off I went.

Mary had suggested I take an Uber, but the prospect of stretching my legs after the previous day and a half of travel, and taking public transit to soak up the flavour of “real” Panama City en route, was more appealing. 

A walk to the Mercado Marisco, a fish market and major bus stop, then a short ride, and I was there. Navigating in the shopping centre, I must say, was more challenging. As is typical for Shirley-in-malls, I got immediately disoriented. Before I left the wifi of my B&B, I took note of the stores I needed, but unable to find a map once there, asked employees.  Each provided directions with confidence. Most, however, contradicted each other. This wasn’t a language barrier issue. Izquierda/derecha, arriba/abajo … these are words I know, and the emphatic arm gestures made their directions exceedingly clear. They were just wrong. Is it a cultural thing that Panamanians don’t just fess up and say “no se”? Or maybe a mall employee cultural thing?  And so I went, round and round in capitalism’s purgatory, albeit a comfortably air conditioned one. Hours later, I finally found what I needed, backpack full, and was pleased, mission accomplished, to head back to my B&B.

Not so quickly! A bus pulled up indicating it was going to Panama Viejo. Sounds like Casco Viejo, I thought, so as I hopped on, I asked, Va a Casco Viejo? Driver nodded. Mercado Marisco?, I pressed on, trying to confirm. Another nod. 

Door closed, and the bus lurched forward. After a bit, I realized we weren’t just heading in the wrong direction in order to turn around in these one-ways, the bus was heading in the wrong direction, period. It would likely turn back shortly, wouldn’t it? At least it would get to the end of its route, eventually, and then return, wouldn’t it?  Through the ultra-modern downtown, then to the increasingly deteriorating, some would say seedy, neighbourhoods. I saw desperation but resilience, in the lives of the people who called this Casco home. No other outsiders on the bus, heat climbing to high 30s, and I felt like I was melting.  Guide-book precautions came to mind, about areas of the city where tourists should not go, or if they do, should not stand out. Gulp. I was rather conspicuous with my pasty Canadian winter skin and traveller backpack and nervous aura.  

Finally, I was the last person on. Soon, certainly, it would loop back, and return me to the mall. Nope. No, senora, the bus driver said, you must get off, or something like that, and he waved over to the next block, where a line of buses waited. There, though, taffeta’s are needed, but not sold. Everyone, magically, seemed to possess a pass. I was regretting not following Mary’s advice and grabbing an Uber. 

A helpful transit security senora motioned for me to jump the turnstile. I pushed aside memories from years ago, of scolding one of my kids for pulling this very same manoeuvre, and climbed over, glancing back to offer a muchas gracias. I hoped being in the system, ticket-less, would not come back to bite.  She then shouted to the waiting crowd, asking who was going to the fish market. An older fellow, hand up, was instructed to make sure I got there. He seemed nonplussed to be assigned me as his charge, and took the responsibility seriously. Some time later, after another interesting drive-by tour of parts of Panama City, we arrived. When I began to head toward my B&B, not the market, he was somewhat distressed and insisted I go the way he was pointing. I relented, walked to the market, snapped a photo of the fish. Their expressions likely resembled mine from earlier that day.

Having satisfied my guardian, I turned and headed home

Gina, the 2nd crew person, arrived, and we jumped into an accelerated getting to know each other process. We had much in common, and much to share: recent relationship endings, caregiving aging parents, future dreams, recent retirement (Gina from a fascinating career as a military lawyer/teacher), and more. It had been years since I talked so much – a little overwhelming! I wondered how I would do with TWO other people in the confines of a small boat. 

One of the highlights of our few days in Panama, the Canal Museo,  was just a block from our B&B. Gina and I visited, and I appreciated the added perspective she was able to offer from her career. It was so well curated, a moving presentation of engineering success at horrifying costs. The drive to connect the Pacific and Atlantic, avoiding the perilous shipping route around the tip of South America, would certainly mean world domination for the country that achieved it. For over a century, money, power, and ego fuelled proposals. Then, in the late 1800s, a French entrepreneur, who was behind the construction of the Suez Canal, whipped up investors and began.   

The local Indigenous people (wisely) were not interested in the work “opportunities”, so labourers were recruited internationally. Many blacks from Caribbean islands, less than a generation out of slavery, were hired, and joined others from around the globe, at reduced wages and harsher conditions, though. Accidents took their toll – impossible to know how many gave their lives – but the majority of deaths were due to disease. Malaria and yellow fever, whose transmission was not understood until years later, devastated.   There were many hypothesized causes: diseased “putrid” air, living an ungodly life, associating with “whores”, and more. A remarkably  progressive hospital was built, but ants were pervasive. To ward them off, all the palm trees in the beautifully manicured courtyards were encircled by pots of water, and in the wards, bed-legs also sat in bowls of water. Stagnant water. Mosquito breeding pools of water. If patients didn’t arrive already infected with the dreaded diseases, they contracted them while there. Most people hospitalized, regardless of the reason for admission, did not survive.

Eventually, in a story full of drama, conspiracy, and greed, control moved from the French consortium to the US government, who oversaw the canal’s completion and maintained authority over it and all within a strip on either side. It wasn’t until 1999 that the canal and the 10 Kim wide Canal Zone, an unincorporated territory of the US, was handed back to Panama.

Here’s a few more images before we leave Casco Viejo.

Then, Saturday morning arrived.  Mary had hired a driver for Gina and me, and we were picked us up and whisked us across the isthmus to the Caribbean side of the country. From major freeway to 2 lane high-way to narrow paved road hugging the scenic coastline, to a dirt track, and we arrived at Panamarina. This small boatyard/marina, is tucked in the mangroves, just down road from the fishing village of Cacique.

It was great to meet Mary, and settle in to life aboard Glass Slipper. She provided a thorough orientation, and we enjoyed a few days acclimatizing to the heat, the boat routines, and each other. Glass Slipper is a 31 foot Allmand, with shoal draft keel so able to get into skinnier water than Ariose. With an extra foot length, and an 11’4” beam (compared to our Alberg 30’s 8’8” beam), GS had a remarkably spacious, and well layed-out  interior.  

Every aspect of boat design is always a compromise. This shape that allows a comfortable home reduces sea-kindliness. A couple months later, I got to experience how challenged GS was sailing into the wind. If we were not on a beam reach or the wind further aft, the motor’s help was needed to make headway. But GS is first and foremost a home, and as such, offered much more comfort than Ariose.

I felt a little unsettled being on an unfamiliar boat. I hadn’t realized what confidence came with knowing Ariose so intimately. In worst-case scenarios, I could reach into lockers, in the dark, and lay my hands on whatever was needed. I felt vulnerable being dependant on another person’s maintenance and on their direction where to find things, what to do. I may have pushed Mary’s patience a little when, with still vivid memories of water rising above Ariose’s floorboards (last fall, as hurricane Fiona approached), I asked her for the 3rd time to walk me through the locations of all the thru-hulls.

We rented kayaks one day, and spent a glorious afternoon paddling through (and taking a cooling dip in ) the mangroves, with howler monkeys growling their calls from the treetops above. Magical.

Tuesday, our day to set sail, arrived. I turn devices off at night to conserve electricity, so upon awakening, I powered up my phone. Ping. Messages came through, all from my brother, sent through the night. Ping! Shirl, call me. Ping! Shirl, when you get this message, call. Ping! Mom’s had a stroke. She’s in hospital. A major stroke.  Call me. 

The next 3 days are a blur. 

My grandmother lived with us though much of my teen years. A series of strokes had robbed this fiercely independent woman of her ability to care for herself.  My mother had shared that such a fate would be her nightmare. She was consistent over the years – should she experience a debilitating illness, she would not want to live. When my father requested medical assistance to die as he neared his life’s end last year, my mother made sure all were aware that in such a situation, she would make that choice, too.  I appreciated Mary and Gina’s hugs and efforts to be supportive. My mother may recover, they offered. I knew she would not. I needed to get back to be with her before she died. Now. 

We did sail that day to our intended first anchorage, the lovely little town of Portobelo. Not only was it a good place for Mary and GIna to provision (they would continue on), but it was a better point for me to secure transportation back to Panama City and the airport. 

 It was a blue sky day, with perfect wind and sea conditions, along a lush green coastline. I knew in other circumstances, I would be appreciating the sail, but I wasn’t able to focus. I didn’t feel safe at the helm. I handed it over. My mind was thousands of miles away, in an intensive care unit. There was some solace in knowing that one of my kids was on their way to be with my Mom, my nephew was also on his way, and my brother would be arriving the next day. She would not be alone.

Gina had kindly offered to find a flight home for me. As I was about to pay for the one she recommended, I noticed a much better option, so booked that instead. I noticed a bit of a puzzled look on Gina’s face, a bit of a why-hadn’t-I-noticed-that-flight look, but paid without questioning, and moved on with getting Mary’s help booking a driver to get me to the airport early the next day. W head into town for pizza an a stroll.  Then I packed. And slept. Sort of.

We were up early, to allow plenty of time to get to shore to meet my 7am ride with Christian, the same driver who only a few days ago, had brought us to this side of the country.

  There had been an incident a few weeks previously where a pair armed with knives had swam out and boarded/robbed a boat in this very bay.   Just to be safe, we anchored well beyond swim-distance, so had a longish row to shore. As I pulled at the oars, Mary read aloud that morning’s messages from Christian.  There was only one road between Portobelo and the major (only) highway to Panama City – and – it was blocked! A protest was underway, a common means in Panama of people making their needs known. As much as I respect those trying to better the world, did they have to do so today?? He assured us it seemed peaceful, but there was no way through. My already heavy heart got heavier. He agreed to wait at the blockade. 

We wandered the streets of Portobelo, and soon found a cab, whose driver wandered out from the shop where he was enjoying a morning coffee. Initially, he refused to take me. Why would he be interested in taking a frazzled grey-haired gringo chick to a protest? We were able to connect him with Christian, and although most of the conversation was well above my Spanish comprehension, I did hear several reassurances of No violencia, muy pacifico.  Reluctantly, he agreed. Upon our arrival, Christian crossed the blockade, grabbed my pack, and I stuck close to him as we made a bee-line through the protesters and police to his waiting car. It looked like we would still make it the pre-flight deadline. And we did. Relief.

That relief was short-lived. I easily located the check-in counter, the one that, at 2 hours pre-departure, should have had a long queue. No one there. No passengers, no airline employees, no one who could help other than a cleaning staff who advised me of the obvious. No hay nadie aqui, she said. 

I logged on to the 30 minute free wifi to contact the airline, and once I got through the mandatory questions and Expedia’s well-hidden support channels, the allotted time was up. I would have to wait  24 hours for the next 30 minutes. No problem, I thought, I’ll buy a SIM card. Alas, none would work in my phone. I had been certain it was unlocked, but perhaps it wasn’t.  I watched the clock. Less than one hour to departure, and I wasn’t checked in let alone through security. Yikes. 

After repeatedly pestering the SIM card senora, she finally demanded my phone, extracted a promise that I would need no more than one hour of wifi, and turned her back as she tapped away.  I assume she entered her own wifi code . She handed the phone back to me. Gracias!  I’m not sure who was more relieved – me that I could deal with this situation, or she, that she was now rid of me!

As an aside, I had met Dave Carroll a few months previously. He’s a Canadian east coast artist whose whose poor customer service with this very same airline lead to him penning United Breaks Guitars. The song’s video rocketed him to fame. His tune played in my head as I waded through United’s support line, finally reaching a real human. Not only did she solve the mystery, but I now understood why Gina had not seen this “better” flight.  As I stood in Panama’s international airport, I was informed that I had booked a flight from Panama City, FLORIDA. Unbelievable! Well, with the shock and worry, maybe not so inconceivable that I’d make such a mistake.

I rebooked for early the next day, thanked the agent for correcting my error without charge (You sound like you’ve had a difficult morning, ma’am) and thanked Dave for whatever role his shaming had played in improving United’s customer service. I then found a cheap and unexpectedly charming hotel close to the airport. I tried to relax for the evening. There was nothing more I could do.

I flew home the following day, stopped briefly to pick up clothes, and drove a further 2 hours to my mother’s bedside in intensive care.  For a few precious days, she remained conscious. As the days passed, it became increasingly clear that recovery was not going to happen. It was obvious to her medical team and obvious to family, that is. Not to her.

Unable to swallow, efforts to get sips of liquid or the tiniest spoon-tip of medication-laced applesauce triggered bouts of choking. One incident in particular remains with me. After several minutes of coughing subsided – the kind of wracking cough that seemingly threatened to end her life – my Mom’s head sunk into her pillow. She looked fully spent. 

Shirley, she slurred from her half-paralyzed mouth. I expected her to tell that it was time to die. Instead, she whispered, I’m so lucky this stroke isn’t much of anything. Some people are really affected.  I laughed and cried, and held her close as she drifted off again. 

Was it her lifelong optimism, and ability to will herself out of depression by just not thinking about things that made her sad, that had kicked into high gear? Or was it anosognosia, the fancy medical term for not being able to perceive the realities of a situation, likely related to the stroke’s brain damage? Whatever the reason, my mother, who was fully orientated to where she was and why, to the date, to the whereabouts of her widely spread grandkids, and more, had no awareness of the impact of the stroke she had suffered. 

Her physician talked with her about speeding up the inevitable. What irony. My mother pre-stroke would have gratefully accepted medical assistance to end her life easily and with dignity. My mother post-stroke did not understand why it was even being offered. All she needed, after all, was her hiking poles so that she could head right home. It was only one kilometre, and she had done so almost daily for the 40 years she volunteered at this very hospital.

Instead of walking home with my mother, we moved down the hall into a comfortable palliative care suite, rearranging the furniture so she could watch the birds on the feeder outside her window. We brightened the room with flowers and cards from well-wishers, and art from her great-grandkids. So began a 24-7 vigil, shared with my brother. For 2 long but cherished weeks, we witnessed and hopefully offered comfort to my mother on her final passage. Her spirit slowly withdrew, and eventually, her body realized it was no longer needed. She was just shy of reaching her 90th birthday, an ancient dancing white pine of the human sort. I’m grateful for her well-lived, long life, and for all she has given me and my children. As with my father last year, it has been such a privilege to have been at her side on her end-of-life voyage.

The strain of those weeks was eased by the warm embraces that were the many kindnesses of friends and family, of my parents’ neighbours who have now become friends, and of the many others who cared. My kids came from across the country to join me for a bit. Such precious time together.

After a few days’ break, I launched into the physically and emotionally demanding work of emptying my mother’s 1970’s shag-carpeted home of a lifetime’s worth of memories. Incredible how many memento-filled shoeboxes one person could tuck away into the back corners of every closet.

Some examples? Scrapbooks of the 59 “trips” taken over the course of her life, a ticket stub from 70 years ago – the first date with my father, tailored jacket sewn for my brother with its drawn pattern in her hand, report cards, correspondence, fancy clothing finely crafted for her by her mother, the receipt for my oldest brother’s crib, every wedding invitation ever received, magazines and of course photos. So many photos. There was a shockingly thick stack of newspaper clippings, obituaries of those she had known and loved who had preceded her. On top of that stack was my father’s; there were no further additions to the collection. Maybe this record no longer mattered. It was heartbreaking to have so many of the things my Mom had saved for decades now fill recycling dumpsters.

In the midst of this turmoil, I received a message from Mary. Glass Slipper had made it to Honduras, but with many bureaucratic and weather delays, her crew needed to jump ship. Gina’s 2 months were up and she needed to head home. 

Would I consider returning? The timing seemed terrible. Or was it? I chatted with my brother, and he firmly directed me to “GO!” . He was happy to pick up the executor baton and complete the process of preparing my mother’s house for sale. I always listen to my big brother, or at least, to advice I agree with, so “go” I did. Three days later, I closed the door to a nearly bare house, and 2 days after that, found myself at the airport. It was a strangely deja vu trip, flying off to Central America for another take at this sailing adventure. 

As I held my mother’s hand through her final days and nights, I had much time to reflect. I’m grateful that she passed on her curiosity to me, and it pains me that in looking back on her life, she had regrets. Beginnings & endings … she encouraged me to take opportunities to embrace the life in between. 

I’ll get another post out within a week or so to share my Honduran-Guatemalan adventures (spoiler alert: fui una experientia muy rica!)  Tim and I would also like to let you know what’s up with us, with Ariose, and Ariose Notes. Until then…