Monday, September 27, 2021

The Ride Home

Dave was up before everybody and walked around with his guitar until he found a perfect place to play. And the perfect place to play was this big metallic egg on the waterfront that I had hitherto not ever noticed. Dave got positioned in the egg, started playing some sweet chords, sang loudly, and attracted passersby who would pop their head into the egg, stop to listen for a moment, then continue along their way. Dave loved the experience so much that he is now playing at the egg every Wednesday evening from 7pm until midnight. Pay what you can.

Magnus and I were just starting our own walk when we ran into Dave, then Tula came running up, so the four of us took a walk and ended up at Starbucks for a coffee and muffin. It was yet again another beautiful warm day with a bit of wind that would be nice for our trip back to Whitby.

When we returned to the boat, breakfast preparations were well underway and we all enjoyed a big feed of sausages, eggs, fruit, toast, and more coffee. The original plan was for Magnus to catch a ride back to Brantford with the Germann-Hinds for his 6pm work shift, but with the great weather we decided he would join us instead. It’s never a good idea putting a five hour sail and two hour drive between you and someplace you absolute need to be at a certain time, but we decided to risk it.

Goodbyes and final words of parting were spoken, hugs were exchanged, and then we watched our friends drive away into the depths of the city to enjoy the rest of the day. We returned to SeaLight, packed up our gear, tossed off the lines, and we were on our way. It was nice to have both of the kids back with us and we enjoyed a lovely and trouble-free sail back to Whitby. One of Ana’s most passionate and long-standing boating fantasies has always been to have a boat where she could run the vacuum cleaner underway. And with SeaLight’s 1800 watt inverter, this fantasy has become a reality, so by the time we arrived back in our home slip, the boat was clean and tidy, and within minutes we had packed everything into the van and were on our way back home.

This is the second major sailing trip we’ve taken on Lake Ontario and in the two week period we sailed a total of about 418 nautical miles which averages out to about 25 nautical miles per day. One big difference with this trip was the many nights we spent anchored out instead of in a marina, which was really fun and cut the overall cost of the trip substantially. Sadly, the weather didn’t cooperate so well the first half the trip, but the second half was lovely. But because we had the Henriques on board with us throughout the rain and clouds, we still had fun the whole way through, and enjoyed the sunny breaks when we got them.

I now feel like we’ve seen a pretty good portion of the Thousand Islands and the north shore of Lake Ontario. We recently decided to move the boat to the Newport Yacht Club for next season, which is located in Stoney Creek at the west end of the lake, only a 45 minute drive from home. From this new spot we will be able to fully explore all the amazing marinas and locations from Toronto to Niagara, but also the southern shore which is completely in US waters. For now, the US border is still not open to us, but I expect (maybe “hope” is a better word) it will be open in time for next year’s sailing trip.

Until next time.

A Death Defying Paddleboard Ride

The Germann-Hinds are very special friends of ours. Dave is an artist who specializes in creating these amazing, giant aluminum paintings as well as huge welded structures, and is also a talented musician. Kira is an elementary school teacher who is an incredible cook and gardener and a gifted maker of all sorts of things. Upon first glance it might seem we wouldn’t have much in common, as they both come across as anti-establishment, hippie types while I would guess we come across as more conservative, working stiffs that follow the generally accepted rules of life – at least to some extent. But appearances are deceiving. Ana and Dave work together on public art projects. Kira and I love talking about cooking and sharing ideas on finances and investing. Dave and I jam on guitar, bass and drums whenever we can. Ana and Kira shop together at vintage and consignment clothing stores. In fact, we first started hanging with them when Ana kept running into Kira at Value Village, both of them digging through mountains of discarded clothes, looking for deals. The discussions we have together are intense and span across dozens of topics. Some things we agree on, some things we don’t, but it is always interesting, and more often than not, our discussions happen around a campfire with craft beer and cocktails. Each of us has a very different background and history and philosophy and we’re not afraid to challenge each others’ ideas or to open our minds to new concepts. The time we spend together is always enlightening and enjoyable. And to make it better, their two daughters Tula and Esme are the same ages as Magnus and Stella and they have all attended school together since kindergarten so have been friends since the start.

Spending a day in Toronto with these kinds of friends is very easy indeed. We began with a sailing trip to give them a small taste of SeaLight on the water and under sail. Beginning westward, we motored out into the open lake then raised the sails and sailed south then back eastward,  thereby circumnavigation the entire set of Toronto Islands. The winds were light but they were sufficent to move us along and soon there were bodies scattered all over the boat, enjoying the ride. We continued northwards into the eastern harbour entrance, then back across the Inner Harbour and into our slip. It was then time to take on the city, so we split off into groups: Adults (who act like kids), and Kids (who are looking increasingly adult-like) then went our separate ways with an agreement to meet back at the boat for dinner.

The adult team initiated our wanderings threading northward between Bathurst and Spadina, stopping for coffee, shopping, and sometimes just looking around at the buildings and people. We wandered around Kensington Market for quite some time before stopping for lunch at a cool little Portuguese cafĂ© called Amadeu’s, where we were treated to not just a delicious light lunch, but a near rumble in the park, where these two honky hoodlums where shouting down a young black guy and challenging him to a scrap, while one of them was motioning to his bag, and making a pistol symbol with his hand. The profanities were shouted back in forth, with the gobsmacked diners simply sitting back and watching. It was not a good scene, but the tension was broken up magnificently when the waiter told us this was a ticketed event, and asked to see our ticket stubs. I got the feeling he was used to this.

After the action had died down without consequence, we continued our wanderings down the fine and so incredibly varied streets of Toronto. Dave and I spent some time in a record store, then a guitar shop while the ladies shopped for shoes and clothes. Dave was hot for a pastry but we just couldn’t find the right thing so we walked around until we ended up in front of the Roger’s Centre along with a thousand Blue Jays fans who were waiting to get in for a game. As non-baseball lovers, we escaped the throngs of blue shirted folk and returned to SeaLight for a couple rounds of craft beer and snacks.

The kids arrived shortly thereafter and an intense show-and-tell session ensured. Shoes, shirts, chopsticks, stuffed animals, foodstuffs - all were retrieved from shopping bags and proudly displayed or fashioned or eaten, to successive rounds of enthusistic clapping from the adults.

Depite the dozens of boats zipping around, large and confused waves, and iffy-looking water, Dave decided he need to conquer this harbour on a paddleboard. We unstrapped our paddleboard from the deck of SeaLight, launched it, then Dave hopped on and began his wobbly journey across the water. His dogged determination took him right into the middle of the harbour, narrowly avoiding collisions with seven cabin cruisers, three Sea-Doos, a giant firefighting vessel, two kite-surfers, eight sailboats, a dozen sea kayakers, fourteen high speed Pirate taxis, and finally a low flying Porter jet. But the worst was yet to come. One of the dock lads came by and asked, “Hey, is that your buddy coming on the paddleboard, who keeps falling off into the water?”

Kira said, “Yep, he’s with us.”

“Well you probably should know that there’s a major problem with the sewers here in downtown Toronto and quite often raw sewage spills into the harbour and a lot of it comes out right here.”

“Oh my god, how bad is it to be in the water?” Kira asked horrified.

“Well, I’d suggest he strips down and runs to the shower room for a scalding hot rinse off. While he’s gone you can pour some gas on the clothes he wore out there and burn them. Then burn the towel he uses to dry off.”

Dave arrived back at SeaLight, smiling widely, proud of his accomplishment, but confused by why everybody was avoiding contact with him. He was instantly whisked away to the showers by Kira while we destroyed his jean shorts and lifejacket.

As night descended we all went off our separate ways and picked up take-out for dinner, then assembled back in the cockpit for a smorgasbord of sushi, roti, veggie plates, bubble tea, and cake pops. We ate until we were full, launched into conversation, then eventually retired for the night as the clock closed in on midnight.

The Final Weekend - Toronto

After a delightfully long and uninterrupted sleep, we awoke to a gorgeous sunny day. I grabbed the pail and brushes and gave the boat a good washdown then went for a quick dip and morning bath on the swim platform while the girls did their morning routine down below.

Once we were all ready we pushed off the wall and motored back into the inner harbour and across to Marina 4 where we had a slip reserved for two nights. Marina 4 is located right beside the Amsterdam Brewhouse, a waterfront staple in Toronto which is literally steps from the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, and a thousand other cool things on the waterfront.

Our slip was located on the outer wall floating dock, which was unfortunate as it left us exposed to chop and wake from all the boats in the busy harbour, but that was all that had been available when we had booked it weeks ago. It was still a great spot, and SeaLight handled the waves well.

The plan for the day was simple – I would go to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) and the ladies would hit the shops, which is the standard play for when we visit any big cities as a family. Because Ana spends most of her time at an art gallery, this is the last thing she wants to do while traveling, which suits me perfectly as it allows me to browse at my own pace and take my time. On this day there was an Andy Warhol exhibit which I enjoyed much more than expected, then I went on to explore the rest of the regular collection currently on display. I was particularly happy to see the famous Elvis silkscreens in the Warhol exhibit, but hadn’t realized this piece was Warhol’s repudiation of the bad-boy greaser stereotype of masculinity, as he transformed the Wild West Elvis cowboy into a homoerotically charged femanized icon. Note the pink lipstick and purple trousers.

We all met back up at Dundas Square, went for a bite, then picked up a few groceries in preparation for dinner tonight and the visitors we were expecting to receive. We then returned to the boat and I was shocked to discover that the rubber eyelet on the dingy had broken loose and it was floating free and getting smashed up against the dock. I secured it down, then inspected it and found no damage beyond one missing oar which must have broken free and floated away. Shortly after this I made friends with a bunch of young dudes on the dock who were staying in a small power boat and had actually come from Whitby, and had a slip on the next pier over from us.

Shortly after 7pm our visitors alerted us of their imminent arrival so we walked out to a nearby parking lot to meet them. Dave, Kira, Tula, Esme and special guest Magnus appeared dragging bags and coolers and after a round of pleasant greetings and salutations, we hauled everything back to the boat and gave them a tour of their mini-hotel on the water. After a welcome happy hour drink, Ana got to work in the galley and these amazing quesadillas started being delivered to the cockpit.

It was dark by the time we finished dinner and clean-up and the night was fully alive as we went for a huge walk around the area. We had sailed to Toronto back in July when the heaviest Covid restrictions had just been lifted, and we spent an incredible evening here watching the city instantly spring back to life. There were people everywhere, enjoying being out in the open, drinking beer on the street, hanging out with their families, congregating in parks, being goofy, playing guitars, and the sense of pure joy and happiness was overwhelming. It was so beautiful to see. Now, just six weeks or so later, Toronto looked to be almost completely back to normal. The only real difference was that masks had to be worn indoors, but besides that it was just a regular, awesome evening in the city, and we were all very happy that we could once again be together and move around freely.

We finished up with a late evening cocktail in the cockpit, had some deep convos, then eventually found our way to our assigned bunks, and called it a night.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Balls ‘n Wieners

After a comfortable and easy overnight sail we arrived in Toronto, 21 hours after departing Kingston. Arriving in Toronto harbour was as magical as ever with the bold skyline, improbable beaches, and the exciting congestion of ferry boats in the inner harbour zipping back and forth between the waterfront and the Toronto Islands. We motored across the harbour and past the Billy Bishop airport into a public docking area in the islands known as Hanlan’s Point.

The Point is a long curving sea wall along a wide channel with good depths mostly throughout. There is a large and wide stretch of grass bordering the seawall which is dotted with picnic tables and firepits making this a very desirable place to park your boat for a day or two. After tying up you are required to walk down to the dockmaster shack, pay your dockage fees (which are very reasonable), then post the receipt on your boat somewhere visible. The wall was already packed full of boats when we arrived but we managed to find an open spot towards the furthest end.

We lathered up with sunscreen as it was already hot and sunny and set out on a walk. This particular island in the chain is known for two things. First is the Billy Bishop Airport from which a lot of small commuter jets fly from, and there is a cool underground passenger tunnel linking the mainland to the airport. Secondly, is the nude beach on the west side of the island which faces out to Lake Ontario, and is also an extremely popular anchorage for boats, especially those with powerful stereos.

We walked nearly all the way down to the airport then circled back on one of the many surfaced paths towards the beach. We weren’t ready to strip down and get naked but we did walk down a path to the beach to have a peek. To myself I was thinking Here comes Boob City! but a I was a little disappointed to spot nothing but balls and wieners. Ana explained to me that this was primarily a destination for gay men, and once she mentioned that I did notice and awful lot of manly couples walking around. If you were an energetic gay man with a nice boat you could have a lot of fun in this place.

After a quick stop at SeaLight to load up on fluids, the three of us jumped in the dingy to go for a cruise. The channels that separate the many islands are perfect for dingy exploration and we saw all sorts of animals and humans along the way. We went past a mother duck and her ducklings, all swimming in formation. Stella spotted the ducks, then looks at me and says, “Let’s catch one.”

“What? Are you serious?” I asked.

“Let’s go, they’re getting away!”

I revved up the mighty four horsepower Mercury outboard and we put the chase on the ducklings. I think they were used to people because they let us get quite close and Stella actually reached overboard to grab one but of course it was way too fast and easily scurried away. But I admired her evil inclinations and brief exposure of the sinister thoughts that clearly fester beneath that pristine veneer.

We tied up the dingy at Centre Island and got out to do some exploring. This is the island that has a small amusement park and a few restaurants and is generally teeming with people throughout the summer, as it was today. I was pleasantly surprised to see most people wearing masks, even while outdoors, which made sense with the tight congestion of people in some areas. Seem the pandemic is not quite finished yet.

I decided it was time for a swim so walked over to the beach on the south side of the island while the girls got in line for a beaver tail – a horrific Canadiana dough bomb covered in chocolate and sprinkles and sugar and peanut butter and any number of other toxic toppings. My swim was simply glorious and the water was clean and cool. There was a lifeguard on duty, but instead of sitting at the top of a beach tower, she was in an ancient looking rowboat paddling around in the cordoned off swimming area without any shade whatsoever. But I guess a summer job is a summer job.

After walking the paths for a while we got tired of all the human activity so jumped back in the dingy and went for a nice long ride throughout the islands, passing by several marinas and snooping around all the fancy sailboats. We eventually found our way back to SeaLight and collapsed in the shaded cockpit for an extend chill out session. For me, this was probably the most relaxing few hours of the trip. I drank a beer, read a novel for a very long time, and even had an accidental nap in the warm cockpit stretched out on the comfy seat cushion. I don’t typically do a lot of relaxing on these trips as I’m usually either at the helm, navigating, fixing something, breaking something, cooking, or otherwise keeping myself occupied. So this was a welcome break.

It turned out Thursday was Steak Night! I scorched up a few New York Strips on the grill while Ana put together all the sides and Stella set the cockpit table. We enjoyed a lovely, and I mean really lovely meal in the cockpit, drank some wine, enjoyed the perfect temperatures, and didn’t run out of things to talk about until it was time for bed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

It’s the Bananas! The Damn Bananas!

I woke up in severe pain resulting from yesterday’s mechanical maneuvers. My back was thrashed and arms and hands were covered in bruises and aching. I guess I just wasn’t cut out to be a diesel engine mechanic.

Andrew drove us back to the boat and we gave it one last go with a few new tools and ideas. I really felt like it was going to work. Along the way Stella said, “Dad, what if we get to the boat and find that the coupling just dropped off on its own overnight? Would you be happy or sad?”

“I’d be bloody overjoyed, but humiliated at the same time. That’s sort of how boating works sometimes.”

After torching it twice as long as yesterday, and applying fresh hammer force, the coupling remained firmly stuck. Andrew helped as much as he could, but it became clear it just wasn’t going to happen. He also helped us call every marine mechanic in Kingston, but they were either too busy or in the case of the marine mechanic working on site, was too freaked out by Covid to go on a boat that hadn’t sat empty for at least three days. They did all offer tips on how to get the job done though, but they were all things we’d tried already.

Andrew headed back into work and we went to the marina office to schedule the boat drop-in. The staff member handed us a bill for twice what we were quoted and we stood there in shock. Ana fought it out with the owner but she would not budge, saying that the original quote was based on them not having to undo the straps, but none of them thought to mention that at the time, otherwise we might have just put the boat back in the water. So we paid the $1400 and simply repeated the boaters favourite acronym: B.O.A.T. – Bring On Another Thousand.

As we were walking around the gravel yard, getting scorched by the sun and angry as hell, Ana the Garbage Picker spotted a discarded Napoleon bbq grill by the dumpster. After a cursory inspection revealed that the only real problem was the burner, I hoised it up on my shoulder like a prize and carried it back to the boat and stowed it in the cockpit locker.

“Man, that thing must be worth about $1400, what a great find,” I said weakly.

“Sure,” replied Ana somewhat sarcastically, but I could tell she was a a little less mad now.

I rigged up a seal clamp that we could use to stop the flow of water when the boat was not underway, which would get us through to the end of the season when we could either have another go at it, find a diesel mechanic to do it, or maybe even find a two part shaft seal that didn’t require the disassembly for installation. In retrospect, this is what I should have done, but again, lesson learned. Always exhaust all inexpensive fixes before going for the expensive, complicated one.

As part of the haul out package, I had craftily negotiated a free pump out (which were probably free anyway…) so after they dropped SeaLight back in the water we motored over the the pump out stationa and left a load of sewage for them, which felt satisfying in a sick and vengeful sort of way. We then motored out of there as fast as possible and started trying to shake off the fact that we’d just spent the two most beautiful days of the trip on the hard. The healing process was continued by tossing out a whole bag of moldy buns, one by one, leaving a trail behind us all the way out of the bay. I was relieved to find that the boat was running perfectly fine – after all the beating and pounding I had been scared that we might have bent the prop shaft, which would have been a mega disaster, but thankfully she remained straight and true.

The further out into the lake we got, the better we started to feel. We originally thought we’d sail to Coburg to spend the night and explore the town, then then once we were on the open lake, we decided to do the big run all the way to Toronto and have some extra time there to relax. There was not a breath of wind and the lake was completely flat so after several hours on the water we stopped the boat and jumped in for a glorious swim. The water temperature was up to 25 degrees C, which is Ana’s minimum for lake swims. Stella wasn’t too excited with the 400 foot water depth, thinking there was possible risk of shark or sea monster attack, but she braved up and jumped in with us.

Once we were back underway, I was at the helm when I heard a cry from below.

“Holy shit, bananas!” Ana exclaimed.

“Bananas?” I asked.

“Bananas, ” she replied.

“You found bananas on the boat? Why the hell are there bananas on the boat? How’s that possible?” I pleaded.

“Well….remember when Angela and I went grocery shopping. We bought bananas and I meant to get rid of them but forgot.”

“Well goddamn it, no wonder we had so much friggin trouble. Get rid of them!”

Stella flung those evil bananas as far as she could then washed her hands thoroughly while Ana sanitized every surface the bananas had touched. You see, bananas are banned from boats because they bring awful luck. Every time we’ve had boat disasters, there’s been a banana involved. I was overjoyed to know that this recent misfortune had nothing to do with my deficient decision making and instead was caused entirely by the goddamn bananas.

Banana-free, we motored across this great lake and into the night.

A Quick Fix at Collins Bay Marina

As we pulled anchor at 4am and quietly motored away from Andrew’s place, my phone buzzed with a text.

    Good luck today! It was great seeing you guys.

    I replied, thanks again man, we had so much fun!

We motored westward just off the shoreline so were able to watch the city slowly waking up. The few vehicles were outnumbered by the bikers and walkers on the waterfront path out for their morning exercise. The sun was up as we passed by Kingston’s downtown, and my phone again buzzed with a text.

    I can see you guys! The boat looks great out there!

I looked to the shoreline but couldn’t make out Andrew’s black truck. He too had an early start as he had to travel to Hamilton today, but obviously went into the hotel before heading out to the highway. That’s Andrew, always has our back.

We arrived at Collins Bay Marina far in advance of our scheduled haul out time, so we just tied up at the gas dock and waited until they were ready for us. I then motored the boat into the far channel and into the slip right beside the shoreline and the giant mobile crane. The marina owner came by, introduced himself, then gave us a rundown of the procedure, which was basically us getting the hell out of the way and letting them take care of everything.

From the gravel parking lot we watched them rig the lifting straps up, attach the line from the crane, then lift ten tons of SeaLight out of the water like she was a floatie toy. They set her down gently on boat stands, chained them up, then leaned a ladder up against the side of the boat and handed her back to us. As I was expecting this to be a fast fix they kept all the cables and straps attached so they could get her back into the water.

While I got to work on the seal, Ana and Stella walked over to the nearby marine store to pick up a new anode for the shaft, which is a magnesium fitting that bolts onto the propeller and is used to prevent corrosion on the underwater metal pieces. Since the boat was out of the water, it was an opportune time to make this repair. It would turn out to be the only worthwhile repair done.

After removing the mattress from Stella’s cabin I discovered removable panels that gave me the access I needed to the prop, seal, and transmission. If I had been a bit smarter and discovered this earlier, then Marty and I could have easily clamped the seal and a nice temporary fix would have been in place. Lesson learned.

As I got to work it became immediately apparent that I didn’t have all the tools required for the job. Fortunately the marina owner was kind enough to lend me a bag full of tools including a gear puller, giant crescent wrenches, large sockets, hammers, and a bunch of other stuff. The job was to unbolt the shaft coupling from the transmission, which I was able to do, then remove the nut holding the coupling onto the prop shaft, which I was able to do, then remove the coupling from the tapered shaft which would then allow me to slide the old shaft seal off and slide the new one back on. Sadly, the coupling would not come off. After some cursory and unsuccessful hammering I referenced Youtube and found all the tricks usually used to remove stubborn shaft couplings. Lying prone with a lamp strapped to my head, I wrenched, hammered, torqued, twisted, beat down, inspected, oiled, rehammered, and beat the shit out of both the coupling and my own body until I was covered in bruises and could barely grip the hammer any more. Yet, the stuck coupling looked back at me, glistening with my own sweat. Somewhere along the line the marina guys came back and said they had to unhook us to go and lift a different boat.

I had a peach for lunch then got back to it and worked on it for several hours more as Ana tried to help as best as she could and Stella kept herself busy watching the newly release season of Outer Banks and imagining herself as a heroic pogue. The absolute worst part of it was that it was a hot and glorious day – the best weather of the trip, and here we were high and dry in a gravel parking lot.

Andrew surprised us by arriving at the boat around 5pm, fresh back from his trip to Hamilton, and drove me to Home Depot to pick up some new tools including a propane torch. We both got back on the job and attempted to torch the fucker off. With my head in the engine compartment I flamed the coupling until a thick cloud of toxic smoke enclosed the coupling, my head, and the entire interior of the boat. I then beat it using a four pound hammer and all my might while Andrew held the prop shaft steady on the outside of the boat. But she wouldn’t budge.

As the light was fading, we threw in the towel and caught a ride with Andrew back to his place, stopping to get McDonald’s along the way. We then watched a really, really bad horror movie, but it was nothing compared to the horror this day had become.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Rainy Day in K-Town

The rain and gloom forecasted for today arrived right on time. After a lengthy coffee session with Andrew and Victoria we drove into downtown Kingston to meet Marty and gang for breakfast at the Four Points Sheraton where they were staying, then we went for a walk downtown and avoided the intermittent showers by ducking into shops. In a moment of complete misdirection I bought a pair of $90 boating shoes, which were marked down from an even higher price. My bar for shopping value is high as the majority of my fashions come from Value Village or consignment stores thanks to my good lady wife who is constantly on the search for deals. But this purchase used up five years worth of footwear budget so I’ll likely be wearing them all winter too.

The day passed entirely too quickly, as it always does when we are here. We all assembled back at Andrew’s in the afternoon and visited, goofed around, drank beer, told stories, and smoked a big prime rib and a few racks of ribs in his smoker, which turned out magnificently. At some point during the day their neighbour Bob fired up his chopper and buzzed us in the yard. I thought it would be cool to leap up, grab onto one of the skids, and go flying through the air like an action movie hero. I’d then climb heroically into the cockpit, punch Bob in the face, throw him out into the lake far below, then pilot the bird back to Andrews and land it on the dock, to my cheering and adoring family who would shower me with confetti and gummy worms as I raised my arms in victory then took them all for helicopter rides. But all that seemed like it might be bad for my back so instead I just took a photo and waved to Bob.

Towards the end of the night, Andrew decided to demonstrate one of his home automation features. Every time we visit there is a new piece of technology in his house: auto-tinting glass on the front door, automated blinds throughout the house, voice controlled temperature and stereo, high resolution and motion activitated security cameras. One feels very much like Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise, without the tight-fitting bodysuit.

After dinner, most of us were at  the dining room table and Magnus was at the sink running the tap to rinse off some dishes. Andrew grabbed his phone and said, “Watch this.” As Magnus turned off the tap and began to walk away, Andrew pressed the screen and the tap came back on. Magnus heard the water running, looked a bit confused, then went back and turned off the tap. As he walked away Andrew turned it on again, totally confusing the boy. This ruse held up for at least four rounds until Magnus finally noticed us laughing wildly, flipped us the bird, and seeked safety from further embarrassment by joining his cousins playing Mario Cart on the giant screen in the lower level.

“You have internet enabled taps? Why the hell would you need internet enabled taps?” Marty asked.

“The money I spent on those just paid for itself right now!” Andrew replied, with Marty nodding in agreement.

We said goodbye to Marty and Jen and the boys at the end of the night as they had to head home early the next day, which was holiday Monday of the August long weekend, which really sucked as the weather forecast was finally looking decent. We said goodbye and I really hoped we’d be able to get together again soon.

With that, we too packed it in for the night and had a beautiful dingy ride back to the boat. The wind had died, the clouds had disappeared, the moon was bright and beaming, and the moonlight shone down upon SeaLight, guiding our path.

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.