Saturday, July 31, 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, July 30, 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, July 29, 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, July 28, 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!

Tuesday, July 27, 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.

Monday, July 26, 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.

Sunday, July 25, 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.

Saturday, July 24, 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.

Friday, July 23, 2021

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.