Tuesday, August 4, 2015

North Channel 2015 - Goderich

The day begins early for me at 4:30am as we push off the dock.  The water is still choppy from the previous day’s wind, but there is a bright full moon that leads the way.  This morning I have to keep on close watch as there are many fishing boats out in the lake – I see at least 20 of them in the first 15 miles which is a stark contrast to most of the days we have sailed, surely because we are now much closer to shore.
The wind is blowing at an average of 15 knots which is pretty good for sailing, but the wind is shifting around making a confused mess of the waves and providing for a very rough ride.  I have both the main and head sails out and the boat is heeling like crazy with the edge rail coming close to dipping into the water.  This is always fun for the guy at the wheel but wreaks havoc for the crew down below who get pelted from side to side and rammed around.  It’s pretty hard to eat a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios on a 45 degree angle.
We arrive in Goderich around 1:30 pm.  It is very easy to spot because it has the largest salt mine in the world on its shores located in a deep water harbour,  and there are huge buildings there that serve as a useful navigational aid.  We get a slip at the Maitland Valley Marina, which is located right beside the commercial marina.  It is small, a bit run down, but very homey place, and they have a pool.
The young man working the marina is quite different than the standard issue dock hand.  He is well spoken, articulate, cheerful and competent.  After helping us dock he demonstrates to Magnus how to properly secure a line to a cleat.  We spend some time talking with him and find out he has been here for three summers, works 70 hour weeks, already has an engineering degree, and is enrolled in a law program.  I would have stopped at the engineering.
He gives us a ride into the town centre and a guided tour along the way.  We have been to Goderich once or twice before on day trips years ago, but this was before the tornado of 2011 that ripped their iconic downtown to shreds.  It was an F3 tornado and caused in the neighbourhood of $150 million in damage to the town.  The town centre in this planned community is a unique giant octagonal roundabout and unlike any other in Canada.  You can walk around and around all day long and never have any clue what direction you are facing or how many times you have completed the circuit.  One time I paced the octagon while Ana was shopping and reported back to her that I found at least three cool Irish pubs.  But it turns out it was just the one, and I have the memory of a goldfish.
We have lunch at the one and only Paddy O’Neils.  Magnus and I grease it up with burgers and fries while the ladies go for pasta dishes.  We then take our newly acquired calories and expend a few of them walking the octagon.  The kids and I hang at a book/toy store while Ana scours the clothing shops for deals.  The town centre looks great as nearly all of the shops have installed fancy new street side signs and awnings.  Though the century old trees are all gone from the central park, which used to provide such lovely shade in the summer, it has been replanted and the new trees are growing quickly.
We enjoy a nice walk back to the marina.  Back at the boat I realize it’s 4:30 – quitting time – so I crack a beer and enjoy a nice end to the work week I didn’t participate in.  But I do think about my colleagues back at the office slamming shut their laptops, overturning their inboxes, gathering up their lunch kits, and racing out the office door and out to their cars without looking back, anxious to kick back and enjoy the long weekend.
I am actually mentally prepared for the trip to be over.  We are in the home stretch now and Sarnia is no longer so far away as we’ve been doing some long sailing days and making the miles.  Ana and discuss our vacation and agree that one week away from work is not long enough to have a real break.  Two weeks gives you enough time to clear your head, stop counting the days, and really get away and feel what life is like without the cloud of work hanging over your head.  The single week trips we normally do to a resort in the Caribbean during the winter months are certainly a lot of fun, but it always seems like we are in a race to relax.  I think about my colleagues and most of the people we know and I really can’t think of many who ever take two consecutive weeks of vacation.  An obvious reason is that many people only get two weeks of vacation a year (damn you Ontario!) so that is completely understandable as half of those days are easily taken up by time you need just to get personal things done.  That leaves one measly week.  But then you also have people who have worked with the same company for years, and therefore get four weeks plus or school teachers who count their time off in intervals of months instead of days.  Why not take longer trips?  Maybe people are simply broke and leave no budget for vacation, or maybe most just don’t like being away from home for that long.  It certainly works for us.  In fact, it makes our family thrive.
The rest of the evening is spent chilling on the boat and we all retire early, ready for the last full day of our trip tomorrow sailing to Grand Bend.

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