Monday, June 14, 2021

The SeaLight Adventure Starts Now

When we bought SeaLight she was high and dry on a boat cradle at Wigger's Custom Yachts in Bowmanville, Ontario. She had been there for the winter season after having some repairs done and a new paint job last fall. Wigger's is known to be one of the best boat repair shops around, but the trick is actually getting in and out of their harbour entrance with currently low water levels.

We had reserved a slip at Port Whitby Marina, just 15 miles or so west of Bowmanville, but with the additional pandemic lockdown measures put in place by the Ontario government, there was no telling when the marina would be able to open. So we came up with a plan. We would launch her on May 23 and my buddy Andrew would join me in sailing her to his waterfront house and dock just east of Kingston, about 113 nautical miles away or about 22 hours sailing. Then we would just travel up there on the weekends and enjoy the boat at a nice private residence while the province took their time opening things up. I scheduled the boat launch and everything was set...until I got a text at 5:30 in the morning from Andrew a few days before departure.

"Hey, what's the draft on the new boat, like 5 feet?"

"Nope. 6.5 feet - it's a full keel."

"Oh man, I didn't know it was that deep, Bella Blue only had about 4 feet, right?"

"Yep, and when we sailed her to your place last time she floated nicely on the dock with plenty of water beneath the boat so we should be good."

"Uh, I don't know - the lake levels are down like 2 feet."

"Oh shit."

"I'll go and measure."

Sure enough, there was only 5 feet of water at the deepest point on his dock. There was brief talk of dredging, putting down a mooring, anchoring in the middle of the channel, and a few other totally impractical ideas, then we realized the plan was toast.

I called Wigger's and moved the launch date to the following Friday, hoping that the gov't would east up on restrictions in the coming week. Fortunately, they did, and the marina sent notice they would be opening! Plan B was drop-kicked into high gear. My buddy Tony volunteered to drive the two of us up to Bowmanville Thursday after work for an early Friday morning drop-in, despite the forecasted weather looking less than promising.

Tony arrived right at 4:30pm on Thursday and we were off. The drive took a bit longer than usual due to rush hour traffic (which is a Covid fraction of what it normally is this time of day), but we arrived and I gave Tony a quick tour of the boat. We then launched into action and finished up a few remaining jobs to get her ready for the water, then we walked down to the launch site and gave the mast a good cleaning as it was covered in bird poo and spider webs from a long winter in the storage yard. We finished up around 9pm then returned to the boat for a huge feed of sheppard's pie and a couple of beers to wash it down.

By 8:30am Sealight was on a trailer and being towed by a backhoe down to the nearby launch site. The three gents from Wigger's then eased her into the massive travel lift and raised her up so we could splash some bottom paint on the cradle pad marks. By now it was freezing outside, having dropped nearly 20 degrees in the previous 24 hours, and at one point it started snowing horizontally. Painful, considering every day of that week the weather had been clear, calm and hot.

The lads rolled the travel lift into the launch well and slowly dropped her in. I jumped aboard to check for leaks and fortunately found none. The next step was to put up the mast, which is done with a boom truck that is stationed beside the well. They winched up the mast, maneuvered it into place, but as they were about to drop it, something soft and fleshy plopped from inside the mast down onto the deck of the boat. A dead baby bird. And after some foot hammering on the bottom of the mast, three other abandoned bird bodies flopped out, along with a pound of straw and grass from the next. They were unceremoniously flipped into the water then the mast and rigging was set into place.

Once all that was complete, we stood back and had a look. One of the shrouds (these are the stainless steel lines that connect the mast and spreaders to the deck) was floppy and they weren't able to adjust it enough to take the slack out so we feared the company that had just built all this brand new rigging for the boat had made a mistake and cut that one too long. Major problem. But because of the awful weather, the Wigger's guys didn't want to send anybody up in a bosun's chair to investigate further so we decided to abandon plans to leave today and instead work on it tomorrow, which was inevitable as the crashing surf at the harbour entrance was going to prevent us from leaving anyway.

I got onboard, started the engine and started backing up into the channel but soon got grounded and it took some fancy maneuvering with engine, lines, and people to wiggle her out and get her tied up at the dock. She was in the water, safely tied up, and we were cold and starving so we broke for lunch.

JP's Pita Deli is a local eatery where Magnus had picked up some delicious food for us a few weeks prior so we stopped in. JP's is not your average donair dump; it's more like a temple, dedicated to JP himself! The walls are papered with huge images of JP in the 70's as a Greek shmoozer wearing bell bottoms, open chested shirts, gold chains, and manly man-hair everywhere. There's one with him and his Camaro. There's one with chicks draping their arms around him. There's one of him wearing some kind of Indian/Led Zeppelinesque glitter robe. It's a full-on tribute to Greek Studmuffinism. Within 5 minutes he had made Tony and I two gigantic giros, told us all about his current life (working 7 days a week), related a few stories of all the babes he shagged in his Camaro and the resulting state of the upholstery, then offered us shots of Johnny Walker. When we politely turned him down he said he'd drink our shots for us and poured a huge mouthful for himself and gulped it down. I liked him right away.

We returned to the boat, ate our giros, then Tony headed back home and I mucked around in the boat for the afternoon, taking care of a number of inside jobs. Ana and the kids arrived early that evening and were happy to finally see Sealight floating. They brought a pot of chili so we warmed that up, ate it, and I was sleeping by 10pm while the rest of them stayed up longer enjoying the pleasures of the warm boat.

Todd, the previous owner of the boat, arrived Saturday morning and we got to work trying to fix the rigging. I was hauled up the bosun's char and after well over an hour of adjusting turnbuckles, measuring, hammering, twisting, slackening, tightening, detaching, and reattaching, we finally threw in the towel and admitted that the one piece of rigging was too long and needed to be returned to the shop for shortening. We then moved onto putting up the boom, installing the sailbag, and raising the headsail to get the boat ready to go in case we could get out in the afternoon. Robert from Wigger's came by, had a look at the water and decided it was still too rough, and we couldn't go out, but he did schedule the launch for the next morning at 8:30am since the forecast called for no wind and flat water conditions. With that, Todd went home and we spent the rest of the afternoon swabbing the outside decks and cleaning her up. The boat was really dirty, but by the end of our cleaning it was looking pretty damn good.

I installed the barbeque grill on the back of the boat and we cooked an excellent dinner then enjoyed it in the expansive, bug-free cockpit as we admired the resident swans paddling up and down the channel looking for their own meals.

One of the powerboaters further up the channel decided to take his boat out for a rip but as he was backing up he got completely stuck in the mud and was only able to pull it free by attaching a long line to his buddy's 4x4 on shore and getting out in the knee deep water and pushing from behind. This did not bode well for our 6.5 foot draft.

The Wigger's boys arrived early Sunday morning and by the time Todd arrived at 8:30, we were totally ready to go. They gave us the briefing, and the briefing was this: there was only 3.5 feet of water in parts of the channel, and our boat's keel needs over 6 feet of water, therefore they would attach the spare spinnaker halyards from the top of the mast to one of the power boats and he would drive the boat away from ours pulling down on the mast which would tip the boat onto its side and raise the keel, thereby reducing the draft. The other boat would tie a line to the bow cleat and tow us ahead and out of the channel. Now, this is not the way one would typically leave a harbour entrance, but there was really no other option besides having the boat trucked, and that would probably cost as much as seasonal dockage and take weeks to schedule.

Previous to this day, I was warned several times by Wigger's staff of the terror of this operation. When I was asking the owner's son about the infamous process the day before, he told me, "Everybody should try it once." I've heard the same thing said about eating durian fruit, Filet Americain, hakarl, and balut. If you don't know what those are, look them up and you'll see what I mean.

Todd and I boarded the boat while he others watched from shore. Thankfully Todd reminded me to plug the thru-hulls on the starboard side of the boat where we would be heeling, so I got some wooden dowels and pounded them into the holes, otherwise the water would have poured into the boat. I started the engine and piloted her through the narrow channel and got further than I thought I would as the boat came to a halt with the keel stuck in the sand bottom. The power boats revved into action, pulling sideways and forward and the boat immediately started to heel. Over she went, steeper and steeper until the keel pulled free and we began making progress through the channel. I turned off the engine as the propeller was surely now sticking out of water with the angle of the heel. The water started sloshing over the rails, but there was nothing much for us to do except watch and hold on tight!

At one point, the bow of the boat swung towards shore and we were headed straight for the rocks so the Wigger's boys cut the power and she swung back upwards, sticking the keel into the mud but thankfully avoiding the sharp rocks. Getting her off was tough, as the power boats leaned into the throttle, putting massive pressure on the mast and rope, and she eventually released with a groan and we were making progress again, but this time aimed more towards the middle of the channel. The boat was now nearly sideways, probably a 50 - 60 degree angle as she was dragged through the water, like a lion hauling a freshly killed gazelle by the broken neck across the savanna. I had now shifted my footing so that I was no longer standing on the floor of the cockpit; instead I was standing on the wall of the cockpit and the water was rushing far up over the rails, soaking the bottom edges of the canvas cockpit enclosure. Todd was sitting on the high side of the boat, looking down at me, and he seemed to be quite enjoying the ride as the new non-owner of the vessel. I am sure the bystanders on land thought we were trying to purposely sink the boat as they saw the steep heeling and the keel and prop sticking out of the water. I expect they also felt some embarrassment, similar to seeing a flash of bum under a pretty girl's dress, knowing you should probably look away, but instead succumbing to the irresistible urge to stare. After spending so many years sailing I know the physics of a sailboat are such that they can't really be tipped over, but I was worried about all the pressure being applied to the line and the mast and hoped that the standing rigging was tight and secure and able to withstand the loads.

Todd looked up the mast and said to me, "Hey, it looks like the line is getting frayed at the top, must be from all the pressure." Not one minute later there was a giant SNAP and the boat flopped back upright, viciously, but thankfully she was floating!

"That wasn't the mast, was it??" I yelled.

"Nope, the spinnaker line just broke. We're good," Todd replied.

With that, she was in the open water, just barely out of the shallows and it felt great as there seemed to be no damage beyond the broken halyard which was easily replaced. The Wigger's boys gathered up the remains of the line from the water, tossed it over to us and bid us goodbye. I thanked them profusely and thought to myself that this is indeed an experience to try once. Once.

Todd and I spent the next two hours motoring westward to Whitby, all alone on the lake, on a beautiful and calm day. The engine passed the sea trial with flying colours and we were achieving over 8 knots on 2200 RPM as she hummed along nicely. Along the way I took the opportunity to ask Todd all the remaining questions I had about the boat. He had owned the boat for several years and had spent two of those in the Caribbean so knew the boat's systems inside and out and had upgraded many of those systems himself.

We arrived at the Port Whitby Marina and slowly and carefully navigated the boat into the harbour. At some points the depth came right up to the bottom of our keel so we were skimming mud but did manage to float through. As we approached our slip I could see Ana and the kids there as well as several other people who had lined up to help catch our lines. I've always preferred backing into a slip, but because I didn't know how this boat handled I was taking a bit of a chance. My first attempt failed so I motored her back out, turned around, and came in for another pass and that time I brought her in reasonably well and soon we were all tied up and SeaLight was safely docked in her new summer home.

After a short break we got the bosun's chair rigged up to ascent the mast and remove the incorrectly sized shroud. As I was preparing to climb the mast Todd looked again at the rigging and suggested we try adjusting the turnbuckles again. I  knew we had already tried this but agreed to give it one more go before taking the next painful step of removing it completely. I went up the mast, got to the first spreader, started adjusting it and voila, it worked! I have no idea why, but perhaps all the yanking and twisting and jerking of the mast during the unorthodox channel launch stretched the rigging into shape. I was elated and would have done a happy dance if I wasn't hanging off a thin rope 40 feet in the air with an adjustable wrench and screwdriver in my hand.

With that, the job was done, the boat was settled, and we finally had a chance to sit in the cockpit, relax, and imagine what adventures the rest of the season might bring.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021


We are back on the water with a wonderful new-to-us sailboat named Sealight – a 2005 Beneteau Cyclades 43.3 which we hope will someday take to the Caribbean, the Azores, the Great Loop, continental Europe, and beyond!

Like the family matriarch, she is an experienced beauty. She was born in France and sailed across the Atlantic to spend the first years of her life as a shiny new charter vessel in the British Virgin Islands and was surely host to hundreds of guests. As the new boat smell became nothing but a distant memory, she was sold to a Canadian couple who sailed her back to Canada and spent many years sailing her on the Great Lakes. She was then purchased about 4 years ago from the fellow who sold her to us. He sailed her back down to the Caribbean and spent two years in semi-retirement cruising from island to island, knocked that off his bucket list, then returned to Canada to move onto different adventures.

So now, she is ours, and a welcome addition to our family. I had little confidence we would find a boat for this season, but Ana never gave up and her persistence found us a boat that checked nearly all the boxes of our “next boat” list. The one it doesn’t check is being a catamaran, but we realized that this was not the right type of boat for the type of sailing we’ll be doing for the next few years.

Sealight has three closed cabins, each with its own ensuite head (bathroom), a gigantic comfortable cockpit, a full cockpit canvas enclosure, 200 litre diesel tank, 500 litre water tanks, solar panels, new sails, new paint, new propane oven/range, a 54 HP Yanmar diesel engine, and a great electronics package. She is a full ten feet larger than our last boat so feels monstrous and I expect will sail very differently (likely better) as she has a standard battened mainsail instead of the roller furling main and a much deeper keel, drawing a full 6.5 feet.

The boat is in Whitby, which is just east of Toronto, and we’ve decided to keep her there for this season and spend the summer exploring Lake Ontario. We got a small taste of the lake two years ago when we sailed Bella Blue from Lake Erie to the Thousand Islands and we liked what we saw, but realized there was much, much more to explore.

We’ve spent the last six weeks working on her and getting her in shape for this season, which included installing new flooring, putting on new bottom paint, re-caulking the heads, fixing and waterproofing the canvas enclosure, replacing mattresses, putting new lettering on the hull, and cleaning her extensively from top to bottom.

But now, she’s ready to go. And last weekend we put her in the water, which was an adventure in itself...

For now, say hello to the Olson’s new happy place – Sealight!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

When Are Farts Funny?

We had a heated conversation around the dinner table last week. The topic was not Covid, nor was it politics, nor was it really anything of societal significance. It was about farts - specifically, is there any humoric value in farting at the dinner table.

As expected, opinions were mixed, pretty much split down the line between the male and female members of the family. In our house, farting is not allowed at the dinner table, but it has happened, and when it does I can't help but laugh, which in Ana’s opinion, makes me even more guilty than the instigator. But it started me thinking, when are farts funny? Or perhaps more challenging, when are farts not funny?

I come from a family with a well-developed sense of toilet humour. But what would you expect from a family with three boys, growing up in Saskatoon, with a large number of rowdy uncles? There is a strong culture of depravity on the prairies with many disgusting innovations originating from this part of the world, such as the Farmer Hanky (also known as the Farmer Blow), the Blue Angel, and the Hide-A-Dump game, though to be fair I think Hide-A-Dump was actually invented somewhere on the East coast – those guys are even more twisted than prairie folk.

My brothers and I started experimenting with toilet humour early on. One of my fondest memories as a kid was doing a number two in the main bathroom, then asking my youngest brother if he wanted to see this cool science experiment I was working on for school. He energetically agreed so I pointed him to the toilet in the bathroom and told him the experiment needed water so I set it up in there. He went for it! Then my other brother and I locked him in there for a while by holding the door shut. Surprisingly, we fooled him again a couple years later, but I haven’t tried it on him recently.

But back to the focus of this essay – how to know when a delivered fart will be considered funny. Let’s explore a few scenarios.

Uncles farting in nephews faces – Funny!

Me and my brothers were subjected to this ritual humiliation often as kids. Although it wasn’t funny for the person flipped onto the ground with a big hairy guy’s knees pinning down your arms, it sure brought gales of laughter from the farter and bystanders. I wish I could see my nephews more often to provide this wonderful experience for them.

Farting in an elevator – Not funny.

There is an unwritten social rule that you just don’t fart in elevators. There is literally nowhere to escape and people are probably going to know it’s you unless you keep it real quiet or have the gift of ventriloquist farting where you can throw it to the guy on the other side of the elevator. But in any case, you still have to suffer the aromatic consequences along with everybody else.

Farting on an escalator – Real funny.

This is hilarious. In fact, I think the person who invented the escalator probably had a sick sense of humour and was thinking this all along. Farting on an escalator and letting the movement automatically waft the smell to the people lower down is ingenious, and there’s almost zero chance of getting caught.

Farting in front of grandpa – Can be funny.

This all depends on your grandpa. The grandpa on one side of my family found farts extremely funny, but the other one not so much. In fact, if you farted in front of him you’d likely get tossed out of the house.

Farting in front of grandma – Never funny.

No explanation required here.

Farting at the family dinner table – Sometimes funny.

Standard social decorum states that farting at the dinner table is ghastly, yet when somebody does it everybody laughs. So I think it is funny, except that whenever it happens and I laugh I get in more trouble from Ana than the farter does because she thinks I’m encouraging the behavior. My defense is, it’s just as hard trying to hold in a laugh as it is trying to hold in a fart, and equally damaging to one's health.

Farting at a dinner party – Not funny.

I can’t remember ever being at a dinner party when somebody let fly. I have a feeling it would just be incredibly embarrassing. But if I was at a soiree where somebody farted I’d probably either laugh or say something stupid like “Bad doggie!” to break the tension.

Girl farting – Always funny!

Once you get over the initial shock of hearing a girl fart, how can you help but laugh? Especially when it’s during a yoga class.

Farting on your work Zoom call – Not funny.

I have a feeling people do this all the time, but generally the computer mic or headset isn’t sensitive to pick up the noise. However, if it was a loud one and timed perfectly to occur at a natural gap in the conversation, then the Zoom camera would focus right on the farter and they’d appear full screen turning red and looking real guilty, or maybe whistling. I image news of this would travel fast and everybody in the organization would know about the farter within about 10 minutes, forever cementing their reputation as a “Farty Pants” (assuming it was a man; if it was a women God help her). Not funny at all. If it ever happened to me I’d probably go with the “Bad dog” line to try and shift the blame and avoid social ruin. Except most of my work colleagues know I don't have a dog.

Farting around a campfire – Always funny!

There are few things funnier or more socially acceptable than farting around a campfire. It just feels right. The origin of this social development is clearly the campfire scene in the movie Blazing Saddles. How ‘bout some more beans Mister Taggart?

Farting in bed – Not funny (and relationship damaging).

I’m assuming you are with somebody in bed – if you are alone, go ahead and fart all you want if you enjoy gassing yourself. Farting in bed with your partner is a stupendously bad idea, especially if you ever hope to have sex again. And don’t even think about doing the “Dutch Oven” where you fart in bed with your partner then pull the covers up over her head and hold her in there for a while. Yes, this will provide great joy and gales of laughter as you hold the squirming, thrashing, screaming figure beneath the blanket, but that just not what strong, mutually respectable relationships are built on.

Farting for internet fame – Funny!

Have a look at Paul Flart and make your own decision. He's one of a grand total of about five people I follow on Instragram.

Farting for a career – Not funny.

Meet Mr. Methane.

If the only skill you’ve managed to rack up in your life is to be able to fart on demand, I’d say that’s more sad than funny. Saying that, let’s see you try to get through a couple of his videos without laughing.

Farting in class – Funny.

Every class in school has a farter and nothing cracks up your schoolmates more than farting during a lesson. It’s especially good when the farter blames it on somebody else.

Check out this.

And this.

Aaaaaand this.

Farting in a grocery store – Super funny!

I know somebody who loves doing this. At the grocery store, he will look for an aisle that has no people, then mosey over into the middle of it and release gas. He then hightails it out of there, usually fluffing the seat of his pants to make sure the crop dusting stays entirely in that aisle. Then he waits in the outside section, picking up yogurt pots and pretending to read the labels while he watches for somebody to walk down the aisle. If he’s lucky, it’s a couple and when they walk into the green fog the wife inevitably looks at the husband, frowns and berates him while he pleads innocence. Hilarious!

Farting during a 4x100 relay - Funny!

I remember doing this. As a kid I was a useless athlete and a terrible runner but somehow made it onto the track team in grade 4. I was in the 4x100 relay, in the third position, waiting for the baton. Of course, at times like this I’d get really nervous, and I felt like I had to pee and poo and fart all at the same time, but I held it all in and just squirmed around waiting. Finally, my teammate rounded the track and was getting close to me, so I took off running. As he approached, all of a sudden the slamming of my feet into the track caused a series of mini-farts and it sounded like “putt, putt, putt, putt” and I couldn’t stop it. My buddy caught up to me and yelled, “Agggh, what they hell are you doing, you're disgusting!” as he plugged his nose and nearly tripped. He passed me the baton, which I instantly dropped because I was laughing hysterically and by the time I picked it up, ran my 100 yards, and passed it to the next guy we were way behind and we lost terribly. But at least the dude I passed it to didn’t fart in my face.

Farting in a commercial kitchen – Funny!

Cooks are a depraved lot. One chef I know had a right of passage he put his underlings through. The kitchen newbie would be called over to the grilling line, where the chef was cooking up his meaty masterpieces. He would say to the newb, “Hey, reach down there in the counter and grab me a pan, wouldja?” As the victim reached down the chef would lean over and fart right in his face. The ultimate cooking humiliation and mighty funny.

Farting in the family car – Not funny.

Breaking wind in the family car, especially in the winter, is cruel and heartless. Even when you open the windows, something about the aerodynamics of vehicles just causes the smell to circulate around to everybody and it takes forever to go away. It’s especially bad when you have old people in the car and one of them does an SBD (Silent But Deadly) then pretends like nothing happened and everybody just suffers in silence. One time we did a family ski trip down to Montana and the three of us boys farted the entire 10 hour drive. My parents gave up yelling at us after hour three. By the time we got there the air quality was so bad the vinyl on the Suburban seats was melting and the stink had penetrated all the luggage. My ski boots still smelled bad days later.

Farting underwater – Super funny!

There’s just something magical about farting underwater. The sound is amplified, the smell is intensified, you get the visual impact of the bubbles – it really is amazing and is always funny. Bathtubs are the best, especially when the people on the downstairs level hear the rumbling bass tones from the underwater release. Hot tubs are great too, as long as the smell and the heat doesn’t cause any of your fellow tubbers to lose consciousness.

To finish off this disgusting little blog entry (but I hope it’s a nice break from all the depressing pandemic news…) I will leave you with a few gems of potty humour, taken from the late 90’s when the primary use of email was still passing jokes around.

Ran out of toilet paper so had to start using lettuce leaves…today was the tip of the iceberg.

Did you hear about the constipated mathematician? He worked it out with a pencil.

I got in touch with my inner self today. It’s the last time I use 1 ply toilet roll.

It’s embarrassing when there is no toilet paper and you need to go and get one with your pants down doing the duck walk. Luckily enough the supermarket is just round the corner.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Quest for Carbon Neutral - Why You Should Consider Buying an Electric Car

Three years ago we decided as a family to focus on reducing our carbon emissions. You may say, "Well you are a little late to the party" so let me explain. While it has been many years since we recognized the problem and started making some attempts to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, we were not doing it in any sort of structured way. We decided it was time to stop and consider our actions. We could either bury our heads in the sand and continue to be a part of the problem or we could try to be a part of the solution. We went with the second option. 

Why do we care? Well, maybe not for the same reasons as some others. I'm not the guy that says "Climate change is going to destroy the world! Island nations are going to be flooded, hurricanes are going to destroy everything, bugs will eat up the forests, all the coral will die, Africa will burn up, and the Arctic will melt." I tend to think that humans are very good at adaptation. We will use technology and ingenuity to cope with whatever effects climate change brings. We are very good at solving problems when disaster is imminent and our survival depends on it. Also, the earth has gone through phases of being both much hotter and much colder than it is now. Who's to say what the "right" temperature is? Nature will always find a way.

I care about greenhouse gas emissions for two reasons. First, burning oil is fucking gross. Think of the smell of parking garages. Think of standing at a traffic light in a nice downtown area, choking from the exhaust coming from the traffic congestion. Think of the obnoxious roar of a Harley ripping by as you are taking a peaceful walk through your neighbourhood. Think of the rainbow hue that develops around petrol stations when it rains. Think of the reek of the greasy, oily rags hanging in most people's garden sheds. I even think of the disgusting stink of the burning diesel when we used the motor on our sailboat.

Secondly, the way we burn oil is wasteful. Oil is an incredibly valuable and non-renewal commodity but we don't treat it like that. Because it is so cheap, and we are so efficient at extracting it, we burn it unnecessarily. If we're hoping the Earth will still be supporting humans in 10,000 years, then why are we trying so hard to use up all of its resources now? It doesn't make sense. It insults my prairie-sensibility and sense of stewardship.

To turn ideas into action, we decided that the best way would be to incorporate the calculation and monitoring of our family's carbon emissions into our annual planning exercise. If you can't measure it, you can't control it.

Since 2005 I have been preparing an "Annual Report" for our family which is a review of how we did during the year across a range of areas such as Finances, Travel, Fitness, Employment/Business, and Personal goals. We typically review the goals we set the previous year and measure how well we performed, then set new goals for the upcoming year. I typically spend several days over Christmas generating spreadsheets, looking through purchase receipts, reviewing investments, tallying, analyzing, and eventually compile a year end package of reports and a PowerPoint presentation.

And now you are thinking, "WHAT A NERD!" and you would be right, but I do get a lot of enjoyment from the exercise (it's the Finance guy in me). It has become even more fun since adding in the calculation of our family's overall carbon emissions. With all the traveling our family has done, we've left a cloudy trail of greenhouse gasses all over the world with hardly a thought. So in 2018 I first calculated our family's total emissions for the year (it was awful, way worse than I was expecting) and then together we compiled a list of specific things we could do to reduce it. One of these was to look into an electric vehicle to replace one of our two gasoline powered ones.

It has been one year since we bought our first EV (electric vehicle) - a 2017 Nissan Leaf. It was a PowerPoint presentation Magnus did that convinced us it was time to make the leap. As part of a school project he did an analysis of the electric vehicles currently on the market and sat us down one evening to convince us why investing in an EV would be an excellent idea, and why that vehicle should definitely be a Tesla or a Chevy Bolt, but definitely not a Nissan Leaf. The main reason, he said, was the range. The newer models of the Leaf claimed a range of about 180 kilometers, compared with the Tesla or Bolt which were hundreds higher. What he did not weigh heavily enough though in his analysis was the cost of buying the vehicle.

We bought a three year old Leaf for $19,000, which was far lower than we were expecting to pay for a relatively new EV. The car was in pristine shape and had only 21,000 kilometers. I had budgeted for the installation of a Level 2 fast charging station at home, but after a while we realized that the onboard standard charger, which simply plugs into a regular outlet, was able to charge the car back up to 100% overnight since our daily usage was normally well under half the available range. That was another couple of thousand dollars we did not need to spend.

The experience of owning an EV has been nothing short of amazing. Most people think you buy an EV to simply replace your gas vehicle and keep on using and driving the car the same way, but I've learned this is not what happens. For a two vehicle family like us, the gas one has become a pariah, a social outcast, a heel, an untouchable. We have changed the way we use our cars such that the EV is driven as much as possible and we only use the gas one when we need the range - which is rare, or if we need to be in two different places at the same time, which is also rare (especially now that I am working from home most of the time).

The way you drive is different too. You are hyper aware of the energy you are using in the car, because the range gauge adjusts instantly depending on how you are driving and what you are using in the car. Do you really need the heat or AC on maximum? Do you really need to be driving at 120 kph on the highway? In a gas car you hammer the accelerator to get up to speed, then when you approach a traffic light you hammer the brakes, which turns into all of that potential energy from the movement of the vehicle (created by burning fuel) into heat and worn brake pads. This energy is completely wasted. In an EV, you don't use the brakes like this. Instead, letting off the accelerator engages a recharge mechanism that turns the vehicle's momentum back into battery power. In fact, when you are going down a hill, or slowing down from the highway onto an exit ramp, you can often see the range meter moving higher as the battery gets repowered. After getting used to this, you start to really hate the brakes on you gas car as the waste is so much more evident.

One other thing - idling. When you come to a stop in an EV, everything goes silent. It is using no energy. When you stop a gas vehicle, that motor keeps on running needlessly. Being stuck at a long traffic light idling in my old gas vehicles used to bug me a bit, but after driving an EV for a year, it now drives me insane. The same thing happens at the fast food restaurant drive-through - all those idling vehicles spewing their shit into the atmosphere while they wait in line. It's gross.

Now some might say, "Now hold on there Krissy-boy, I've read that the overall environmental impact of driving an EV is just as bad as a gas car because of the materials used to build the batteries." This may have been true in the past, but I think many of the issues around this are being solved, and the process will continue to improve over time. Also, the electric engines on EVs are built to last for a very, very long time - we're talking a million kilometres, so as long as the body lasts these cars can go forever, and they go without the need for oil changes, transmission fluid changes, belt replacements, and all those little gremlins that plague internal combustion engines.

Lastly, costs. Our average yearly gasoline expense before buying the EV was $2514. In the past 12 months we spent only $483. By my best estimate, the yearly cost of electricity for the EV is about $360 giving us a net saving of around $1671 on fuel. I can probably add on another $200 - $300 on savings from fluid changes and other maintenance costs I'm avoiding. These cost savings are nice, but the main factor for us really is the reduced environmental impact of having an EV. Of course, having no car at all would be far better, but we're just not at the stage of life where that is possible.

One thing that I've learned over time is that you can't control what other people do. Everybody has to make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions. You can only control yourself and your own impact on the world, and that's where you have to start. But what I can do is write these blogs, talk to people, and share my experiences. Every little bit helps.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

COVID One Year In

"What the hell are you doing?" I asked, one Friday night not too long ago.

"Shaving my socks, obviously," replied Ana as she looked over briefly, then continued running the strangely shaped electric buzzing instrument over the fabric.

I didn't know socks needed shaving, like faces or lady legs. So I was perplexed. "Dare I ask why you are shaving your socks?"

"Do you have a better suggestion?"

I didn't. It was February. It was cold. And we were still in a damn pandemic lockdown.

"Our Friday nights used to be way better," I lamented as I discarded my jeans in favour of cozy pajama bottoms. It was 6:30pm. And dark already. I don't remember what happened after that, but if the preceding winter months were any guide, it involved a couch, a blanket, and a television.

This blog is a great indication of how dull life has been this winter. I haven't written anything here for seven months, which must be some sort of record for me. Normally I might have written about a weekend trip to Buffalo (sorry, border closed, neighbours infected), a January week in Cuba (sorry, two weeks of quarantine required, no can do), or perhaps even a modest trip to Quebec to visit my bro (no leaving the red zone, stay at home, avoid contact). I was thinking of writing a series of daily blogs about an imaginary trip we had taken somewhere exotic but then decided against it when I realized I was far too lazy, plus it would just be too punishing imagining it.

But now we're headed towards the end of March and life is looking much better indeed. Longer days, no more snow on the ground, warmer temperatures, vaccines arriving by the millions, Covid death rates way down, and a leader for our neighbours to the south that is focused on solving problems rather than creating unnecessary chaos in their country and around the world.

Despite my hollow, first world bellyaching, I do think it has been a valuable year. It has highlighted the fragility of life, the sensitivity of supply chains, the power of viruses, and the inability of most countries to respond fast enough to dangerous situations. It has also enabled many organizations and governments to explore better and more efficient ways of doing things. Sadly, many people have died. We can only hope that the lessons we've learned here will make our systems stronger and more resilient and allows us to prevent death in future pandemics or other disasters.

At this point last year, there was little optimism that developing a vaccine within a year was remotely possible. But it happened, and not just one vaccine, but many, thanks to the funding provided by governments, organizations, and companies, and the incredible work done by scientists and countries collaborating all around the world. It is an amazing achievement and gives me great hope that maybe, just maybe, we will have the collective fortitude to solve other big worldwide problems (any guess at which one comes to mind?)

Strangely, there seems to be many people who seem committed to not take a vaccine, despite overpowering evidence they are safe and effective. I've also realized there is little point in trying to sway the opinions of such people as they tend to approach the subject as more of a religion or belief than a decision to be made. I think this is the result of a long time cultural shift to viewing our fellow citizens as independent individuals as opposed to a collection of people working together as a team to improve our country and the collective lives of those that live here. When the individual trumps the collective it make it hard to get things done. And when a large number of individuals decide they will not take a small personal risk (accepting a vaccine despite the very small possibility it will cause them harm) in support of the greater good and supporting the people that are not physically able to take a vaccine, then this diminishes us as a county and as a people.

But here's the funny part. If you bring this down from the social media level (STOP GOVERNMENT CONTROL, THERE'S TRACKING CHIPS IN THE VACCINES, THE ILLUMINATI CONSPIRACY IS REAL) to the human level, I do think anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are reasonable people indeed. For example if grandpa dies, and grandma has no choice but to come live with me, and because of a serious allergy grandma cannot take a vaccine, I do expect that the vast majority of anti-vaxxers would take a vaccine if not doing so meant potentially killing grandma. These people are not monsters, I think they just don't feel the same sort of empathy towards strangers as they do towards close family.

Everybody wants this to be over. Is there a better way of doing it? Maybe. But I do think governments are trying their best. Remember, none of these leaders have ever been in this situation before, so they are learning as they go and making mistakes along the way, just like any of us would if we were in the same situation. Government does not have all the answers, and we shouldn't expect them to.

Mask up, vaxx up, and let's hope for a good summer!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Analysis of a Trip and Becoming Landlubbers

Our final sailing trip is done, the miles are logged, and the boat is sold. The four of us spent 27 days on the boat, logging over 1200 kilometres (660 nautical miles), which translates into approximately 131 hours on the water, or about 5 hours sailing per day. I looked back at our previous sailing trip to the North Channel five years ago and we did about the same number of miles but in half the time, so the pace of this trip was far better. We managed to cover most of what we wanted to see, missing a few spots such as Beardrop Harbour, Winfield Basin, Penetanguishene, Meaford, and Collingwood, but we visited so many other amazing places we didn’t expect to which more than made up for it. The fact is, this area is huge and packed with so much to explore that you could never, ever be done with it, and the ever changing water levels means that new anchorages open up, new beaches appear, the shorelines change and adapt, and it really is a new experience every time. The next time we sail here I could see us taking an entire season and adding in Lake Michigan and maybe even a small part of Lake Superior before returning to the North Channel and Georgian Bay to fill in some of the holes.

It was such a pleasure boating with our buddies Tony and Angela. They are just amazing people and the best travel companions one could hope for. This is now the fourth trip we’ve done with them and I hope there will be many more. The time we spent with the German-Hinds at their beautiful Manitoulin cottage was priceless, and such a nice break from the sailing routine. We have so much in common with them and always enjoy every minute we spend together. I’d love to do a big trip with them sometime too - preferably for 3 months backpacking around Asia. Then, of course, was the incredible day we spent with the Bradshaw family in Parry Sound, where we made some new friends and spent time with old friends on their home turf enjoying the pleasures of great food and excellent company. To top it off, we got to see our friends Ken and Sheila on the final day we were with the Henriques, so although we were out exploring so many new places, it was made so much better by spending time with all these fantastic people along the way. What a trip!

So here I now sit, back at home, in our gigantic mansion of a house compared to the cramped living quarters we’ve occupied for the past month in the belly of Bella Blue, coming to terms with being boatless. Owning a boat is a huge commitment in both money and time. With Bella Blue, every weekend of the year from April to October was spoken for, from spring launch to the full weekends spend on her all summer with our dock family, our extended sailing trips, then the sad month of October where she was dry docked, winterized, covered in a tarp (or several), and put to sleep for the season. But then our schedule would change dramatically. After months of ignoring our Paris and Brantford friends, we’d reconnect and be back into Friday night happy hour at local breweries, Saturday night dinner parties, Sunday day trips around the area attending festivals and exploring shops, and all the festive Christmas activities in December, followed by three months of miserable cold winter, usually broken up with a week in Cuba, then it was back into boat season.

But this year will be different. While the COVID-19 appears to be relatively under control in Ontario, this could turn on a dime, so we are still being cautious, which means no abundance of dinner parties and keeping our social circle very limited. And there will almost definitely be no international travel this year, meaning no mid-winter trip somewhere warm to break up the monotony of the cold months. Our new boatless situation means that we are going to have even more time available for weekend activities so the challenge is going to be figuring out what to do with this time. That is going to be tricky. Perhaps I will take up knitting? Or the crochet? Or maybe I’ll finally get serious about learning Portuguese and focus on that? In any case, it’s not often one is given the gift of time, so we will make the most of it. As far as the next boat, we are already looking, but the logistics of finding, inspecting, and relocating a boat with the COVID restrictions in place will make it very difficult. But who knows what the future may hold?

So here’s to the final adventure on Bella Blue! It was a lovely ride my darling, we wish you well and thank you for all the joy you brought to our lives. Bon voyage!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Little Current to Paris

Ana and I were up at 6am, and by 7 everybody was showered and fed and hauling stuff out of the boat to the dock. I was really proud of the kids as they really pitched in and we were working together like a well-oiled machine. Mark arrived by 8am with histruck and we piled that sucker high, then used a tarp to hold it all together. As usual, everything just fit. We took one last photo in front of Bella Blue then Stella kissed the hull to say goodbye to our beautiful sailboat, then we walked away, without looking back.

We drove 45 minutes to South Baymouth, which is on the south-eastern corner of Manitoulin island then boarded the Chi-Cheemaun ferry which took us to Tobermory in about 90 minutes. From there it was a very nice drive home as we talked with Mark the whole way and learned a whole lot about his career as a police officer, and he gave us some great tips on how to beat the polygraph, frame others for crimes, cover your tracks, lie convincingly in court, select the best ammo, outrun the cops, and avoid jail time. All useful life skills.

We were so happy to have found Mark and Kelly as we really wanted to sell our boat to great people who will take care of her and enjoy her just as much as we have, and we know they will.

By 5:30pm we were home, and by 6 we had Mark’s truck unloaded with our stuff then reloaded with the sailboat stands, tarps, and other bits and pieces he would need for the boat, and he was back on the road for the long drive back to Sudbury. The rest of the evening was spent unpacking and reacquainting ourselves with life on land, then we collapsed exhausted from the day.