By 5:30 pm we were cruising westward down the 403 highway with Subway sandwiches in hand heading to join Bella Blue in Sarnia - the kick off point for our four week sailing trip to the North Channel and Georgian Bay regions of Lake Huron. We were supposed to be going the other direction towards Pearson airport for a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this very evening, but 2020 hasn’t turned out quite the way we expected it to. As Magnus said a few weeks ago, 2020 is the year of abandoned plans. But in the wake of abandoned plans, new plans are hatched, and we find a different way to carry on - and our way is sailing.
We arrive in Sarnia and are greeted by the Bridgeview Marina dock 400 welcoming committee Rick and Patty Kingswood, our old friends from years back when we spent an entire season docked here, and spent many a late evening around a fire with them solving all the problems of the world. We are overjoyed to see them again and they are astounded to see how much our kids have grown.
We immediately get to work on prepping the boat, and one of these jobs is installing the new portable air conditioner unit Ana just bought yesterday. Our onboard a/c unit was giving us some problems and simply stopped working last weekend so we spent all week trying to find replacement parts or a replacement unit, but due to the COVID situation, the Canadian supply had been cut down to nothing and the thought of spending 30 degree days in marinas being slow cooked like pork loins in our boat was unbearable. Ana struggled to even find a portable unit, but she prevailed with a beefy 12,000 BTU Danby model (henceforth to be known as crew member “Dan”), but we had no idea if it was going to fit or how exactly we were going to install it. After 30 minutes Magnus and I had built a venting hatch and we had Dan installed and blowing freezing air into the smoking hot cabin. Incredibly, the unit fit in perfectly, almost like the damn thing was custom built and it became so cold in the boat that we were thinking of hanging up prosciuttos, stocking up on German salamis, pickles, and fancy cheeses and opening “Ana’s Floating Deli”.
While Ana was packing unimaginable quantities of food and drinks into the nooks and crannies of the boat I was squashed into the rear cabin doing advanced yoga moves to access the still leaking primary fuel filter in the engine compartment (see last blog for details on this one). You know, when you look at boats for sale listings, the one photo they never show you is the heroic bodily contortions required to access the engine compartment. Ask any sailboater if they can touch their toes and they will bend over, grab their ankles, then reach all the way back up and give themselves an ass massage with one hand while using the other hand to replace the 1/2" bit on the socket wrench they are holding to a 9/16”.
At the end of my repairs I was left with fuel soaked hands and a aluminum collection cup of diesel I wanted to put back into the tank, so I asked Magnus to grab the engine key, which also holds a little device used to unscrew the cap from the diesel tank, and open up the tank inlet for me, which is located at the stern of the boat. He grabbed the key and began wrestling with the cap, but it was stuck on tight and he couldn’t get it. All important boat things that cannot be lost will be attached to a floating device, but the one attached to the engine key was very old and as far as I knew had never been tested for successful buoyancy. So I said to Magnus, “Be super careful you don’t drop that key because it might not float. If we lose that key we are screwed because I don’t have a spare.” Now a good captain would have stopped the operation right there and tied a string onto it, or attached an extra floatie, or implemented some other sort of failsafe, but I left it in his capable hands. And seconds later those capable hands slipped and the engine key plopped into the water and slowly began its decent down, down, down into the depths.
“Aaaaaggggghhhh!!!!” Magnus screamed and leaped over to the dock, fell to his belly and started clutching at the water, but it was too late - the key was gone. I looked at him sternly, but kept cool and didn’t say anything. Poor Magnus had gone white, no doubt thinking he had just ruined the trip for everybody and had a panicked and sick look on his face. I told him, “Don’t worry buddy, we’ll get it,” and I knew we’d get it because I’d seen this movie before. Years ago when my dad and brothers helped me sail Bella Blue to Sarnia, my dad dropped his phone into the water and I was able to retrieve it so I knew it was a sandy bottom and the water here is crystal clear. So I put on a mask, donned the fins, jumped in, swam right to the bottom and in12 feet of water was my engine key in the sand with the flimsy floatie standing erect, yearning to return to the surface. I grabbed the key, launched myself to the surface, and was met with a chorus of cheering and applause from my children. My reputation as the village diver remains intact.
We didn’t finish our boat jobs until after 11, so were finally able to join Patty and Rick for a visit, and we had a lovely time catching up on several years' worth of news. Earlier this week Ana had suggested we consider leaving the boat in Sarnia for the winter and spending next season there, which would save us the long haul back to Port Dover at the end of our trip, but also give us another chance to further explore Lake Huron. After our visit with our buds, we were decided. And we knew our Port Dover buddies were used to us coming and going every few years. Ana was full of ideas this week, and she came up with another big idea that could potentially change things a lot. But I’ll get back to that one later.
We returned to the boat well after midnight and Ana and I spent another hour flushing out the engine compartment and bilge with fresh water, then collapsed into bed, looking forward to what just may be our last good sleep for a few days.