Saturday, September 18, 2021

Weekend with the Ottawa Olsons

We were alone again. With the Henriques gone and Andrew and Victoria having to work all weekend and the Ottawa Olsons not arriving until afternoon, it was the perfect time to do some chores. Andrew had left his truck for us so Ana and I ditched Stella on the boat to chill out and we drove to the west end of Kingston to Marine Outfitters, which is likely the best provisioned chandlery we’ve ever been to. After dropping some coin on boat supplies we picked up human supplies at a giant Loblaw’s supermarket and returned to Andrew’s place. 

Marty, Jen, Leif, and William arrived shortly after 1 and we dingy’d them all out to SeaLight for a tour and a welcome drink. The kids took the dingy back into shore to goof around while the four of us got comfortable in the cockpit and caught up on our respective happenings. We hadn’t seen them for a year and a half due to Covid restrictions so a visit was long overdue.

The pleasant, sunny day started turning not so pleasant and soon the wind was screaming through the channel kicking up largish waves and I was getting nervous being anchored so close to a lee shore. We decided to motor across the channel to the protected bay on the other side. By this time, Andrew and Victoria had returned home to find four kids ravishing his home and doing all the things he’s constantly scolding his dog for – jumping on the couches, eating food out of the garbage, chewing on his socks, peeing on the floor, licking everything in sight, and blowing farts all over the place. He immediately poured a rum and coke and escaped to the safety of his deck, only to find us hauling anchor and taking off. The following series of texts ensued.


Going to cruise the islands for the rest of the day, be back for dinner.


Just give them pop and chips. We might stay out for the night if we find a good anchorage.


We have plenty of rum here, have fun! We told the kids to start calling you Uncle Andrew so don’t be surprised.

After an hour or so the squall blew through and we sailed the boat back  to Andrew’s and made sure she was anchored well before dingy’ing back in and rescuing our good buddy from the ravages of parenthood, which are cruel and unyielding.

As is customary in these parts, the neighbours once again assembled at La Mansion Andrieu and we ordered several hundred bucks worth of delicious pizza and ate and drank until we were tired.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Back to the Kingston Mansion

The day was cool and clear so after breakfast we all paddled into Leek Island to take a leak, I mean a look. It is not a large island – we walked across it for five or ten minutes and popped out onto a broad beach with large flat rocks, onto which all five of us collapsed with exhaustion.

“It’s great to get some intense exercise,” said Ana as we all layed there like walruses after a seafood smorgasbord. We all agreed, then our thoughts wandered to what was on the docket for lunch. Sailors are not the most physically active folks in the world.

We returned to SeaLight, had a round of morning showers and baths, then said goodbye to Leek Island and its many minks then got underway. Angela cued up one of the awesome playlists she had cureated for the trip and the music rang out joyfully as we sailed our way back to Andrew’s place, passing by the Admiralty Islands then navigating back through the Bateau Channel. Unfortunately the wind was right in our face most of the time so we had to motor nearly the entire way.

Sadly this was our final day with the Henriques and the end of phase 1 of the sailing trip. After arriving back in Kingston and anchoring in front of Andrew’s house we lounged around the boat for a while, had some food, then the Henriques organized their things and we ferried ourselves into shore. We said our final goodbyes then Angela and Tony took off back towards civilization. It’s always sad parting after a trip, but we know the next adventure with the Henriques is never far away.

While waiting for Andrew and Victoria to return from work we gave the boat an interior cleaning, an exterior wash, and got the cabin ready for our next guest – Magnus! He was scheduled to arrive around 7 or 8 pm and was catching a ride from Brantford with a colleague of mine who was driving to Ottawa for the weekend. In addition, my brother Marty and his family would be arriving tomorrow to spend the August long weekend with us and Andrew.

I borrowed Andrew’s truck to pick up Magnus from the drop-off point at the Husky gas station on the 401 highway, just a ten minute drive away. My colleague arrived in a mini van and when the door opened a small army emerged – parents, kids, Magnus, and a rather large dog. I had a quick visit with my colleague then we let them get on their way as they still had a couple of hours left to get to Ottawa. Magnus and I caught up on the week’s events as we drove back to Andrew’s. It was great to have him back with us.

Another Friday night meant another neighbourhood party at Andrew’s! Bob, Terri, Jan, and Don all arrived and we enjoyed more than a couple of drinks as we visited and goofed around. I discovered why Andrew’s dog Emma is always after the can of beer I am generally holding. Throughout the evening when nobody was looking, or especially if they were, Bob would call Emma over and pour Coors Light into her mouth which she lapped up greedily. I don’t know if it’s even possible to become an alcoholic drinking Coors Light, but if so the dog was definitely ready for an ADA meeting (Alcoholic Dogs Anonymous).

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Gananoque and Leek Island

We awoke to overcast skies, rain, and blueberry pancakes. I really enjoyed one out of the three.

Despite the showers, Stella and I went for one last snorkelling expedition as she wanted to see the catfish. Despite finding the catfish den, and despite diving down multiple times and even wiggling my fin inside the hole, he did not appear. I was tempted to shove my entire arm in there and noodle him out like a Loooooo-siana hillbilly, but the thought of a thirty pound and heavily whiskered bottom feeder clamping down on my arm and dragging me around the bottom of the lake didn’t have much appeal. So instead we cruised around the weedbeds and saw many fish.

It was a short sail to the the lovely town of Gananoque, which has the heavist tourist footprint in the Thousand Islands. Of course all of our Quebeccer buddies had taken up the transient slips, but we lucked out by finding a single available spot in the free, short term public boat dock so we slipped SeaLight in with a shoehorn, tied her up, then went off to explore the Gan.

As is typical in such shore leave expeditions, the ladies went thrifting while Tony and I just wandered around with our hands in our pockets looking like a couple of lost tourists. We did stumble across an amazing opportunity to rack up some more karma points – an older couple (let’s call them Mr and Mrs Jellybean) had just driven their small sedan over a bridge and had picked up something along the way that had become wedged under their car. Despite wearing our best shore leave outfits, we both fell prone to the ground in the gravel and started prying, beating, kicking, probing, smashing, coaxing, tugging, and wrenching the object from various directions using various limbs, but to no avail. We did discover that the object was a door from a mini-fridge, though why it had been abandoned on a bridge, or what had happened the fridge body remained a mystery. A quick look at Mr. Jellybean confimed he too had no idea where they had picked up this unwanted guest.

Tony came up with a brilliant idea. I would lay down in front of the car and they would drive the front tires up on top of me in order to gain some clearance. From there I would reach out with my last breath and strike the fridge door clear of the vehicle. I considered this option, and the gargantuan quantity of karma points I could achieve, then decided it was not yet my time to leave this earth so asked my good buddy if he had any other ideas. He pondered it for a moment, then calculated we could achive nearly the same effect (if not the heroic drama) if Mr. Jellybean drove the car up on the curb. Mr. Jellybean did just that and Tony easily removed the fridge door, and tucked it under his arm. The Jellybeans bid us adieu and thanked us for our efforts, but it’s all in a day’s work for Karma Kings such as ourselves.

Tony asked if we could keep the fridge door as a memento of the experience and I said, “Sure, if you’re willling to store it in your cabin.” So we said goodbye to the fridge door as he flung it into a nearby bush, where it would serve as a nice home for a local chipmunk or mouse family.

After all that excitement we decided it was time for a drink so we wandered over to the main street and found several promising options, but settled on a Thai restaurant, sat down at a table on the outside patio beneath an umbrella, and ordered up two rum and cokes. Our server returned almost immediatley with two of the most magnificently presented rum and cokes I have ever seen. We were each presented with a fine serving tray, and on it carefully placed was an extra large shot glass of dark rum, an ornate glass full of cubed ice, a sparking tumbler, a juicy wedge of lemon, a chilled can of Coke in a bright red can, and an unmistakable aura of love and attention enrobing the entire presentation. We felt like kings and were sure glad we ordered this instead of a couple of bottles of boring domestic beer.

We each carefully assembled the various ingredients into our tumblers, then raised them for a satisfying clink and a toast to our good fortunes, and had our first sip. Heavenly!

The ladies arrived shortly after this and we ordered up a delicious Thai lunch, which was not quite as magically curated as the rum and cokes, but very good nonetheless. Ana hadn’t found much in the stores, but is always happy for a little retail therapy in whatever form. Although we do enjoy the time we spend on the water sailing and anchoring out, we seem to always have the most fun and adventures when we visit towns and marinas, so this is an integral part of “the boat trip”.

There was a final bit of shopping after lunch then we all assembled back at SeaLight, cast off the lines, bid farewell to Gananoque, and headed back out into the lake. There are dozens of islands close to Gan so we reviewed the charts, had a look at the wind forecast, and then settled on the well-sheltered south-eastern bay of Thwartway, otherwise known as Leek Island. Because there were already six other boats here, the only available spot was to nestle into a small cove near the entrance, which didn’t have enough swinging room so we would have to employ the stern tree line tie-up method. I retrieved a 250 foot line from the anchor locker and handed it to Tony and Angela who loaded it and themselves into the dingy. Ana then dropped the anchor as I slowly reversed the boat into position and the Henriques navigated the dingy into shore, feeding out the huge line which was cleated on the stern of the boat, tended to by Stella. As we set the anchor, they snugged up the line and tied it to a giant pine tree, and voila, we were done! This method keeps the boat firmly in one position no matter how the winds and currents are behaving.

With that, we sat down in the cockpit to enjoy the view of this beautiful bay, the US shoreline to the south, and the impressive number of minks that were playing on shore and in the water. In fact, I’d never seen so many minks in my life - they kept popping out of the bush, appearing on the rocks out of nowhere, or we’d just spot a small wake in the water, followed up by a plop as the mink would dive underwater to scrounge up a snack.

I took the paddleboard out for a nice long paddle around the bay and down the channel westward. The water was clear, calm, and by this time the skies had cleared and the sun had returned. It was shaping up to be a beautiful evening. After I returned, Tony took the board out for a long ride while I did some snorkeling with Stella and the ladies kept themselves busy on the boat chatting and putting together a lovely snack board. We all gathered up on deck for happy hour and snacks under the fading but still warm sun and enjoyed what I’d consider to be the second best moment of 2021!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Brockville to the Navy Islands

I am normally a pretty positive guy but the cool and rainy weather was really bumming me out. In years past we have been spoiled with good weather on our annual sailing trips where the sweltering hot days are pleasantly broken up by dips in the cool lake, shirts and shoes are rarely worn, the AC is the most critical piece of equipment in the boat, and the crew is always on the lookout for fresh ice. Well, this trip was all about sweaters, hot coffee, rain gear, cabin salon dinners, and heroic but painful leaps into the freezing cold water. Wha’ append? It turned out that in 2021, summer would not arrive until mid-August.

Fortunately, the company was as good as ever so we made the best of it, and did quite enjoy the amazing sleeps we enjoyed at anchor with the cool nighttime temperatures. And Stella did get to rotate through all the different outfits she had brought for the trip instead of just wearing shorts and a tank top all the time.

We had some nice bran muffins for breakfast – at least Angela and I did, and I learned that not everybody in the world loves them as I do. I had my suspicions the week before the trip when I was thinking of making a batch of bran muffins so I texted Tony the following:

“Do you guys like bran muffins?”

He replied, “Bran muffins?? Those are laced with cocktails of bad stuff…bran muffins! God help us.”

I knew none of my family liked them either so was starting to think I was weird or something, so the relief was welcome when Angela bought a box of them. Butter, raisins, grainy stuff, fibre - what’s not to like?

We pulled anchor and sailed back westward against the current along a similar route that brought us here. The weather remained crummy right up until we arrived at the Navy Islands and found an anchorage amongst the dozens of boats that were already there. As we dropped anchor the clouds vanished, the sun appeared, and the holy rays shone down on SeaLight and her weary crew. Shirts and jeans were unceremoniously stripped and tossed in favour of swimmers, and we exploded from the cockpit to the open deck with fruity drinks and some sweet summer reggae tunes blasting from the speakers. After some time on deck, and some leaps into the water, and some tricky moves from Stella on the paddleboard, and more drinks, and lots of laughs we found ourselves all sprawled out on the deck when I exclaimed, “This is the best moment of 2021!” And it was. After months and months of lockdowns, masks, deaths, sickness, anti-vaxxers, idiotic conspiracy theories, hours upon hours of Netflix,  isolation, sneaking around, and all the other unhappy results of this pandemic, here we were enjoying a beautiful day on our boat with friends and not giving a damn nor thought to Covid. It was the best moment of 2021.

To make things better, Andrew cruised out in his new ultra fancy power boat to meet us for a drink and we had a lovely long visit covering all sorts of topics regular people generally don’t discuss, including how close a relationship a man can have with his dog.

“I really loved Belle, she was the best dog ever,” Andrew reminisced.

“Yes she was, we all loved her. Labs are the nicest dogs.” I replied.

“When I was single I thought maybe it could be just me and her forever.”

“Uh. Like a relationship?”

“Yeah. She was beautiful, caring, loving, a great listener - really everything you need in a partner.”

“I suppose. She did have quite small breasts though.”

“Sure, but there were lots of them.”

We tried talking Andrew into staying for dinner but Victoria already had something on the go so he had to leave, taking our remarkable and forbidden conversation with him. I do miss our little chats.

Before dinner I went for one more swim and a little snorkeling adventure. I swam close to the shoreline and saw more fish than I’ve ever seen in Lake Ontario – bass, pike, perch and even a catfish that scared the crap out of me after I dove down 20 feet to take a closer look at a giant hole in the side of an underwater bank and as I stuck my head in to have a peek, this giant freakish fish came out and nearly brushed my face with his feelers. This nice thing about being underwater is when you pee your pants from fear it really doesn’t matter.

Dinner was magnificent – grilled chicken and fresh veggies, followed up with cockpit cocktail then a couple games of Sequence, a board game that takes little skill, is fast, and folds up nicely – perfect for boating!

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Secret Tunnel of Brockville

The poor weather that started yesterday continued into today and we awoke to grey skies and rain. And the forecast didn’t look great. Despite the cool morning, I put on my shorts and jumped on the paddleboard for an early morning lake bath.

Once the crew was woke, showered, and fed we motored into Gilbert’s marina in Brockville to top up the water tanks and drop off the ladies for a shopping expedition. Tony and I then motored back out to the closest anchorage we could find – Skelton Island and got SeaLight securely anchored before heading back to shore for our own non-retail explorations.

We got drenched from the rain and waves during our short dingy ride to the marina. We tied up then proceeded to the dockmaster’s office, where we found a most unusual set of tools lying in the corner: a huge cutting saw, a chainsaw, a jackhammer, steel pry bars, and an axe or two. We theorized the following:

“Brockville marina, Brockville marina. This is Dainty Sailor heading into the marina looking for a slip. Over.”

“Dainty Sailor, what length of boat are you? Over.”

“Uh, what do you charge per foot? Over.”

“Two dollars and fifty cents per foot. Over.”

“Ok. Uh, we’re a 34 footer. Over.”

“Please proceed to slip E14. Over and out.”

Shortly after the captain of Dainty Sailor gets tied up and pays dockage for his vessel, the dockmaster and his helper go out to the slip with a measuring tape and the crate of aforementioned demolition tools.

“Hmmm. According to this measuring tape Dainty Sailor is 37 feet long. But he only paid for a 34. So let’s make it a 34! Fire up the chainsaw!”

When the thrifty captain returns to his boat he finds the first three feet of his boat sliced off and the rest of it sinking slowly with the dockmaster and his mate leaning up against a tree, brandishing their weaponized tools, winking at the captain and offering a double thumbs up.

Not that the honorable captain of SeaLight would ever lie about the length of her to save a few bucks, but In retrospect, I feel rather happy they had no space here and we’re safely at anchor.

With the ladies nowhere in site, we walk a short distance over to the Brockville Railway 

Tunnel, a place I’d never heard of, but one I’ll be telling everybody about. Canada’s first underground railway tunnel opened for business in 1860 and was used extensively in fueling the growth of this nation and then eventually fell into disrepair and was decomissioned in the 1970’s. Fortunately, the structure was rehabilitated and reopened as a pedestrian tunnel and tourist attraction in 2017. The tunnel is half a kilometer long and features some amazing geological curiosities, all highlighted by constantly colour-shifting LED lighting. It is truly one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Ontario and definitely worth the visit.

After exploring the tunnel Tony and I hustled through the rain and found two nice bar stools at Moose McGuire’s pub in the downtown core where we moved onto our second activity of the day - exploring local brews. The bar was totally hokey, with all sorts of Canadiana kitch hanging off the walls – moose heads, elk antlers, racoon tails, hockey jerseys, canoes, and, of couse, a bunch of televisions showing hockey replays and, later, some kind of online hockey video game championship which was just mesmerizing in its stupidity.

The ladies took a break from their shopping extravanagza and joined us for lunch. They each displayed their purchased wares in turn and Tony and I politely clapped. Lunch was unspectacularly typical for such a standard-issue sports pub, but it was certainly filling and laden with calories to fuel our vacationing bodies. By that time, we’d seen enough of the town so the boys dingy’d back to SeaLight for rum and cokes while the ladies continued their retal therapy.

When the ladies were ready to return, they rang up the Uber Dingy Hotline and Tony and I took turns retrieving them. Tony discovered that if you were running the dingy solo, and maxed out the throttle, and moved forward to the bow, that little 4 horsepower Mercury engine could indeed get her up on plane, resuliting in blistering fast speeds, but a total lack of control because you couldn’t reach the handle from there, unless you used your foot, which turned out to be quite fun.

During my run back to shore, I spotted a man and his two kids in a small sailboat struggling with its engine so I did my good deed of the day and towed them back in to the marina. On the water, karma rules, and you do everything you can to help other boaters, as your own next breakdown is never far around the corner.

The day finished with a cool swim, a hot meal, and an onboard fashion show by Stella, proudly showcasing her fabulous new fashions.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Admiralty Islands to the Brock Group

Tony, Stella, and I began the day with a swim and a snorkeling expedition while the ladies enjoyed morning coffee in the cockpit. The water temperature was chilly, but once past the shock of the initial plunge it was manageable. Stella and I dove down and founds dozens of perch cruising around in the weeds, and even a few small bass.

Some of the boats from the previous evening had already departed and they continued gliding out of the anchorage, one by one, likely to lock in a premium spot at their next anchorage. We were less ambitious and instead took our time, made sauage and eggs for breakfast, and planned our our next destination. We decided to make the 35 nautical mile run to Brockville, which is the eastern end of the Thousand Islands and as far east as we would go on this trip, then we could slowly make our way back westward. I was quite excited as we did not make it that far on our previous visit to this area three years ago.

I fired up the engine while Tony and Ana went to the bow of the boat and retrieved not just the anchor, but four hundred additional pounds of mud and weeds. With the help of the boat hook, some unbelievable yoga power stretches, the windlass to dip the anchor and and out of the water, and massive muscle power, they managed to liberate the bottom growth from the anchor and we were on our way.

Navigation in the Thousand Islands requires good charts and 100% attention from the helmsman as there are hazards everywhere: rocks, reefs, nets, kite surfers, sea-doos, buoys, overhead power lines, strong currents, inattentive boaters and most importantly, the US border which weaves unpredictably aorund the islands and currently restricted due to Covid. SeaLight has an excellent navigation system with fairly up to date SeaRay instruments, but we also keep backup navigation software on our phones and iPad just in case of failure. What we don’t have are the full set of paper charts for the area, which we should, but honestly they are expensive, bulky, and rarely used.

SeaLight threaded and weaved her way following the small craft route passing hundreds of islands and hundreds of other boats along the way. The afternoon sunshine beat down and we enjoyed the best weather of the trip so most of the crew were sprawled out on the deck in swimsuits drinking fruity beverages.

We arrived to the Brock Group of islands after a 5 hour sail and began looking for a suitable anchorage. Ana had called the Brockville marina along the way and learned that our timing for this trip was rather bad. You see, since 1971 the province of Quebec has celebrated the “Construction Holiday” which is a two week period from the second last Sunday of July where everybody in the construction industry drops tools and goes on vacation. Only in Quebec would they halt construction right in the middle of the best season for building so that the brutish concrete workers can get their Speedos on and take up every damn marina spot for hundreds of miles around La Belle Province. It’s good to be a Quebeccer.

After a failed anchoring attempted in brisk current between De Rottenburg and Black Charlie islands, we continued eastward throught the island group looking for a better anchorage. As we were motoring down the Brockville Narrows a giant frieghter caught up to us and passed by, displacing an enormous mountain of water as it went. Surprisingly, these beheamoths leave very little wake – less than a Sea-doo so they pose no danger. Unless, of course, you are in their path and they run into you, something we experimented with on last year’s trip but did not much enjoy it. So we stayed clear.

We found a delightful little anchorage between Smith Island and the mainland so we dropped the hook, then had a short chill out session in our cabins before meeting up in the cockpit in preparation for a planned swim. Somebody noticed that Tony was no longer on the boat, so after a cursory search we theorized that he must have fallen off the boat somewhere along the way. We each took turns telling our favourite Tony story and there were many “he was a good man”, “such a gentle soul”, “would give you the shirt off his back”, and similar generous comments in his memory. As we were raising our glasses for a toast, he appeared just off the port side of the boat on the paddleboard, so we quickly lowered our glasses and pretended like nothing had happened. It was good to have him back.

I jumping in and went for a deliciously long snorkeling expedition. The water here was cool, incredibly clear, and had a variety of bottom conditions from thick weeds, to rocky drop-offs, to long stretches of rocky plates. I saw a number of perch and small bass, then at one point I spotted what I first thought was a northern pike cruising the weed beds, but as I got closer I realized it was probably a muskie. First, it was a little more grey than a pike, and looked a lot meaner, then it immediately took off as soon as it saw me – usually pike don’t mind you trailing them around in the water for a while.

The beautiful afternoon sunshine disappeared and the overcast skies started dumping rain as I was near the end of my swim, so after I was out and changed back into clothes, I joined the others in the cockpit for happy hour. Ana heated up the chili we had made in advance of the trip and also re-warmed up the sheppards pie we had overcooked for lunch, leaving a black, grisly bottom coat that made it almost inedible. Almost.

Two scouting missing were sent out in the dingy – first Angela and Tony, then Ana, Stella and I. The three of us went right into Brockville, and did a quick tour around the marina and confirmed that it was indeed jam packed full of Quebec boats, sacre bleu! We also learned that the slightest chop on the water dumps the tops of waves right into the little dingy, so it really is a two person vessel and not ideal for us, but it would have to do for this season as the currently overpowered boat market was making it very difficult to find anything decent.

The day concluded with us all in the cockpit, deep in convo, wearing sweaters becuase the temperature had plummeted. It did not feel much like July but the whole summer had been much cooler and wetter then normal. C’est la vie.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Kingston to Lindsay Island

You know what’s nice? Waking up and having a nice freshly brewed coffee. You know what’s really nice? Drinking that coffee on a beautiful deck of a beautiful house overlooking the beautiful St. Lawrence River. We had a lovely long chat with Andrew and Vic, catching up on recent events and bitching a fair bit about how a year and a half of Covid and four years of the orange clown to the south has turned so many people into utter idiots. Once we got that out of our sytem we got back to the poo jokes and things felt normal and happy again.

Sadly, our hosts had to head into work so the three of dingy’d back to SeaLight and had a nice big breakfast, than sailed her back across the bay and anchored in front of Andrew’s place. The wind was much lighter now so it was safe to anchor. I went for a swim and hooked on the mask and snorkel to go and chase perch around for a while while the ladies lounged in the cockpit. I couldn’t help but to swim over to dock area to get a close up view of the bottom, and it was no wonder we hit a rock as there were dozens of them scattered across the ground, but I couldn’t find any with a blue bottom paint stain so we must not have whacked it hard enough.

Shortly after noon, our friends Angela and Tony arrived, yay! We don’t go anywhere without them, which presented a bit of a logistial challenge this year as they too had sold their boat at the end of last season but had decided to try land yachting this year (hint…think RV). Fortunately they agreed to sign on as crew for SeaLight so we’d all be traveling in the same vessel this time around.

We hooked them up with arrival bevvies in the cockpit, them moved back to the upper dock lounge when Andrew and Vic returned from work. There, we drank beer and smoked cigars and all was good with the world. But soon, it was time to go.

We set the sails on SeaLight and began our slow ride eastward down the Bateau Channel. The ride was smooth, slow, and relaxing as we passed such a diverse array of housing along the way – many multi-million dollar mansions, small family cottages, camp sites, and even waterfront trailer parks. Something for everybody.

The Admiralty Islands is the name given to the first island group in the Thousand Islands chain, which really starts at Gananoque and reaches as far east as Brockville. We threaded our way through the channels and many boats that were already anchored in the area and found a suitable spot just west of Lindsay Islands. By “suitable” I mean the only spot we could squeak into that didn’t already have a bot – there must have been 30 to 40 boats in the anchorage, which is one of the downsides of visiting a beautiful and accessible cruising ground in the height of the summer season.

The five of us gathered in the cockpit for happy hour then enjoyed dinner and conversation into the evening. As the sun dropped and day was replaced by night, a menagerie of twinkling lights appeared from the tops of masts, from cockpits, from cell phones, and from the odd camera flash of cruisers trying to capture that special memory. But despite the potential for a massive boat party, it was very quiet in the anchorage. Our first night together in the Thousand Islands.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021


It has become clear that the greatest feature of our new boat versus the old one is the gloriously large and covered cockpit. Our old boat Bella Blue had a modest bimini cover over the cockpit, but not a dodger (which covers the front) nor side panels so when the weather got bad, you were putting on foul weather gear and getting splashed in the face. When the bugs got bad you were swinging the basura wildly and constantly cleaning the cockpit out with buckets of water to rinse out the insect corpses. And when it was cold outside you would freeze at the helm.

SeaLight has a full cockpit enclosure so it remains warm, cozy, clean, and bug-free. While the visibility without a cockpit cover is superior, you can still see quite well through the transparent plastic panes, but to be sure you can just unzipper one of them and stick your head out every once in a while to scan the water for other boats. But this comfort comes at a cost – remaining conscious during the overnight shift becomes exceedingly difficult. On Bella Blue, it was easy staying awake as you were either shivering uncontrollably or batting bugs or usually both. Plus you were standing up most of the time and wearing a bulky, uncomfortable lifejacket tethered to the helm to prevent yourself from an accidental fall off the boat. On Sealight it was all decorator pillows, prone position, salty snacks, and cozy, sleep-inducing temperatures so despite both of us remaining in the cockpit for most of the evening, there were times when we drifted off to la-la land while the boat steamed on.

Fortunately there was literally nobody else on the lake. Besides two far away freighters we could barely see across the lake, we did not see a single other boat until we had been on the water for 15 hours and were approaching Kingston. The wind finally picked up in the morning so we deployed the sails and enjoyed some engine free sailing. After breakfast I advised the ladies to shield their eyes while I engaged in a chilly bucket and sponge bath on the swim platform so that we wouldn’t have to pull the sails in and stop the boat.

This was the first trip where we were a crew of three instead of four. Magnus had scored a summer job as a camp councillor with the City of Brantford, and was also working weekend shifts at a local grocery store so he was unable to join us, although we had worked out a plan for us to come make it out during the two weekends which our trip would cover, so we were looking forward to seeing him then.

We arrived at our friend Andrew’s waterfront house late in the afternoon and despite his previous measurements of water depth at his dock being well under the required amount for our boat, we decided to give it the old college try anyway.  I pointed the bow of SeaLight towards shore and we tenderly powered ahead, watching the depth gauge. 10 feet. 9 feet. 8 feet. 7 feet.

“Good so far!” I yelled to Ana on the bow and Andrew on the dock.

6 feet. Then a sudden stop as the keel hit an immovable rock.

“Whoops, that’s it, out of water. Sorry about that blue bottom paint on your rock!” I hollered as I punched it into reverse and backed out. We didn’t get too close but it was worth a try.

Because the southerly wind was picking up we decided to anchor across the channel in a bay that was well sheltered instead of trying to anchor off the lee shore – never a good idea. We dropped anchor and stuck it right away, which was a nice change from Bella Blue where anchoring was always tricky and the Delta and Danforth anchors she had just didn’t work nearly as well as the Rocna type one on SeaLIght. We gathered up our things, deployed the dingy, then the three of us hopped in and motored back across the channel to the dock, tied up, and joined the rather large gang of people on Andrew’s upper dock deck – neighbours, family, dogs. We were already well acquainted with all of them so we exchanged greetings and salutations then got to work on the Bud Lights stacked up in the fridge. It was nice to be back on land after a long ride, and to enjoy the company of these fine folks. Andrew and Victoria’s newish puppy Emma made us feel especially welcome by dashing into the water to get fully soaked, then returning to the upper deck to stand in front of each of us in turn and doing the doggy shake to unleash 8 litres of hairy water directly into our laps and faces. The misting actually felt quite nice.

As afternoon slipped into evening, the horde migrated to Andrew’s house, ordered up a mess of pizza and poutine then stuffed our faces and got into the Guiness and red wine. We were feeling buzzy and comfortable, but Andrew’s neighbour Bob was not, as he could simply not believe that we had left our boat anchored across the bay on its own. So he would get up every few minutes and walk to the patio door to ensure he could still see the mast light, and that it appeared to be coming from approximately the same location.

It must have been near midnight when we decided it was time to dingy back to the boat. So we walked down to the dock, accompanies by the hard core partiers, and discovered the wind speed had doubled or tripled and there were huge whitecaps bashing up against the dock. There was no way our little dingy was going to get us back to the boat; in fact it likely wouldn’t have gotten us to the end of the dock without being swamped. So Andrew and Victoria invited us back in to stay at the house, which is quite a privilege as the neighbours confirmed he refuses to let anybody sleep in his amazing lower level, complete with three fully furnished bedrooms, a full kitchen, popcorn machine, giant ship’s wheel, video game system, 9 sprayer shower system, hot tub, wonderfully folded towels, an excellent smell, and fully stocked fridges. Why does he let us? I think it’s mainly because of Stella. He was pretty much her first friend and she’s had him wrapped around her finger ever since.

The 2021 Sailing Trip Begins!

The sunlight was faltering and the weeds reached up hungrily from the bottom of the marina as SeaLight slowly pulled away from the dock. We were racing to depart while there was still sunlight, and ended up leaving at the worst possible time – when there seems to be enough light to navigate the narrow channels of the marina, but there actually isn’t and you’re moving blind.

I misjudged the turn into the channel and narrowly missed scraping SeaLight’s sides against the anchors protruding from the bows of boats on the next dock over, with inches to spare. We squeaked back into the main channel where we then faced our next challenge – the underwater weeds, which began winding themselves up on our prop mercilessly. Because our boat needs over six feet of water to float, and the depth of the water in the channel in some spots is just under six feet, I need to keep our speed up to push the keel through the muck. So I gave her extra throttle, which barely made a difference in our speed as the weeds just wound tighter and tighter around the prop making it difficult to accelerate.

After a laborious mile or two we made it out of the marina and into the open water. I put the boat into neutral, then shifted into reverse and gave it a hard thrust to spin the weeds off the prop, which usually results in a small island’s worth of greenery floating up to the surface, but since it was now dark I couldn’t see anything, so I assumed they were off and we continued east, pointed directly for the south end of Prince Edward County, where we would round the corner then head north-east up to our buddy Andrew’s place near Kingston, for a total trip length of nearly 130 nautical miles (230 kilometers). The wind had dropped to zero so this was going to be a motorboat ride. As we settled into the long trip with the auto-pilot engaged, something in the back of my mind was bugging me. It seemed like the RPMs on the engine were too high for the speed we were doing. But since we had barely used the boat yet, I didn’t know for sure how the engine should sound or run at this speed, unlike our old boat which I knew intimately. Deciding to ignore my gut at my peril, the peril did indeed arrive about half an hour later. Ana and I were relaxing in the cockpit when all of a sudden from down below Stella says, “What is that horrible smell?” I went down below and a grey cloud of smoke was pouring from the engine room so I yelled at Ana to kill it.

Here we go, I thought. We always have at least one major problem on a major sailing trip on the Great Lakes – you just don’t expect it to happen so damn soon. I opened the engine access compartments, put the headlight flashlight on, grabbed some screwdrivers and sockets and started trying to figure out what the hell had happened. I checked belts, hoses, thru-hulls, the exhaust system, the oil, the transmission fluid, the coolant, the filters, but everything seemed perfectly fine and I couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from. Covered in sweat and grease, I was about to start some drastic and desperate measures when I thought I better try the simple fix first. We started up the engine and put it into reverse then gave it a hard spin. We still couldn’t see any weeds coming up, but when I put it back into forward gear and brought her up to speed, the RPMs were much lower and the engine and handling felt better. That was it, the goddamn marina weeds!

I cleaned myself up, reset the auto-pilot, then Ana, Stella and I sat nervously in the cockpit for an hour waiting for something bad to happen…but it didn’t. The visions of having to call the coast guard to get shamefully towed back into harbour, then spend several days begging mechanics to fix our boat began to fade and we could finally relax and enjoy the night sail across this giant freshwater ocean.

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.