Saturday, November 26, 2022

Let's Take a Pause...a Menopause

I'll admit it - it's pretty easy being a man. There's really nothing to it. You are born and shortly after that some spotty resident doctor takes a cigar cutter and nips a chunk of skin off the end of your penis, or it may be bitten off by an elder from the synagogue, depending on the religious persuasion of your loving parents. Then in elementary school you get beaten up a couple of times, then maybe once more in high school, and maybe a couple more times in your 20's when you are out drinking with Australians. But that's about all the discomfort you go through. Sure, you might eventually find a partner and produce some kids and they will ruin your world for a while, but it passes. And work? Yeah, you probably have to get some jobs so you can earn money to feed the family, which definitely cuts into your free time, but isn't usually too painful, at least not physically, unless you take up a career in the circus and regularly get shot out of a cannon.

You do that whole routine until you are 65 or so then you retire and take up golf or duck carving or find something else to pass the time until you get too old and your kids sentence you to a nursing home where you eat grey oatmeal, find your only life joy in bowel movements, and eventually just waste away until you expire. It's really not that bad, and it is possible to have some fun along the way.

For women, it's way harder. Like I mean, way harder. And the problems all seem to centre around reproductive organs. Let's forget about all the other horrible stuff they have to live through like ritual humiliation from mean girls, relentless pressure from the fashion world to look fabulous, having to walk in ridiculous heeled footwear, Oprah's book club, eyebrow plucking, pubic hair waxing; man, the list goes on and on.

Let's focus instead on those reproductive organs. I think the biggest problem for women is that all this reproductive magic happens on the inside, unlike men where the tools hangs freely and shamelessly in the open air. Women's internal casing results in yeast infections, cysts, UTIs, and all sorts of awful medical procedures which involve cold stainless steel tools in warm places. There is a litany of  painful and awkward events that men never have to go through. We cry the blues when we have to get a colonoscopy, despite now being put under instead of the good old days when they just bent you over a medical table and you looked down to see (and feel) the coil of garden house they were shoving up your butt rapidly disappearing. And women have to get these damn things too sometimes! I didn't even know that until recently.

Now here comes the big one - menstruation. As teenagers, or sometimes before, girls get their periods. I think they are sort of happy when they get it, as it's like a "welcome to womanhood" present. But they get sick of it real fast and continue to deal with this monthly annoyance for four decades, give or take. The only reprieve from the relentless period is pregnancy - 9 months of vomiting, cramping, brain fog, back pain, food restrictions, and endless visits to crammed and germy medical facilities. Then the big prize you get after these months of misery is something akin to passing a camel through the eye of a needle. Wheee, the baby is born, then many women do it all again a couple of years later.

So what happens after all these rounds of baby-making, periods, and lady-problems?


Look, I come from a family of boys so I had no idea about any of this stuff and I've had to fumble along and learn as I went (thanks Google). In fact, when my daughter was born and I noticed all her female parts were already in place, I was shocked. I guess I thought it all sort of grew in later. Ignorant? Yes. Curious? Always.

So now I'm learning about menopause. More correctly, Ana and I are learning about it together. But, as the woman in our life partnership, she gets to experience all the discomfort and strangeness of the transition while I stand by (not too close) and try to be understanding, but usually fail miserably.

First thing, why the hell did they put the word "men" in menopause? That's the stupidest thing I can imagine. We have nothing to do with it. And what's with the "pause" part? It should be "menostop"; all the research I've done on this says that period ain't coming back.

Second, nobody talks about this, yet it happens to every woman. I don't know if it's historically been some sort of conspiratorial secret, but keeping it under wraps probably landed a lot of women in witch court having to explain the cause of their erratic behavior and bizarre symptoms.

Third, have you seen the listing of symptoms caused by menopause? They don't make any sense. On one hand, menopausal women are often overtaken by uncontrollable rage - strikingly similar to when Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk and starts destroying everything in sight. Well it's no wonder they get mad, look at this listing of typical menopause symptoms:

- anxiety
- poor memory
- inability to concentrate
- depressive mood
- irritability
- weight gain
- mood swings
- painful intercourse (ever tried "doing it" with the Green Goliath? Ouch.)

All sounds exactly like the Hulk, right? But here comes that other hand - instead of getting all that incredible muscle mass and awesomeness of the Hulk, they are instead inflicted with  bone density loss, lack of energy, joint soreness, headaches, dizziness, night sweats, and hot flashes.

Hot flashes.

I hate to overdo the Marvel references, but are you familiar with Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, otherwise known as the Human Torch? He can engulf his entire body in intense fire and radiated thousands of degrees of heat, scorching all bystanders and even melting concrete. A truly top class superhero.

That's what happens to Ana. But unlike Johnny Storm who could shout "Flame On!" at any time to turn on the rockets, with Ana it happens randomly - in the car, at work, during dinner, in bed, while folding laundry. The only place I haven't seen it happen is in the bath, but that would be a disaster akin to an undersea volcanic eruption and likely steam the roof of our house right off. When Ana flames on, she literally starts to glow red and we have to quickly open all windows and start fanning her to avoid meltdown. During one of these episodes I suggested that as part of the Ontario government's plan to combat climate change, they should replace all the nuclear reactors and gas plants with a few thousand menopausal women whose combined energy could easily produce the required number of gigglywatts to power the province. She didn't think that was very funny.

For now, we're all trying to help Ana along in this journey. Trying to be understanding, caring, loving, but most importantly, clearing out when the sparks start to fly and keeping fire extinguishers always close at hand.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Magnus Unleashed

At the age of 18 I had just finished high school and was working as a fishing guide at a camp in Northern Saskatchewan in the summer before my first year of university. I’d flown in an airplane twice and crossed the border into the US three or four times on childhood ski trips. I felt suitably well-traveled and had, in fact, probably covered more ground than many of my friends.

But I didn’t know much. And I was terribly inexperienced.

One month ago, the four of us walked into Toronto’s Pearson International airport on a Sunday night. My 18 year old son Magnus was setting off on his first solo international journey. I had hoped to simply drop him off at the departures gate to save a few bucks on parking, but Ana, as a good Portuguese mom, would hear nothing of it.

We accompanied him to the check-in and everything went smoothly. We were very early but the gates were open so we walked to the security queue, which was surprisingly quiet, and said our goodbyes. I was sure Ana was going to bust into waterworks, but she held it back as she hugged her boy and bid him goodbye. He then bent down and gave his sister Stella a hug and told her not to touch any of his stuff. She laughed. As he turned to me, I gave him a better than average man hug, then looked up into his eyes (damn, when did he get so tall?) and said, “Make good choices buddy. But more importantly, have fun.”

He smiled fearlessly and said, “I will,” then turned and flashed his boarding card and passport to the entrance guard and worked his way through the winding line and into the security checkpoint. And to my great delight, he did not turn to look back. Always forward.

I was so proud of him. At 18 he is inexperienced with so many things, but his sense of independence is strong, he is confident, and he is astonishingly comfortable with his own company…and always has been. The thought of me taking off by myself to Asia at the age of 18 is incomprehensible. It just wouldn’t have happened. Being 18 several decades ago compared to 18 now, I think, is different. Perceived possibilities now are much wider and the world feels less wild and unknowable. Today you can Google Earth right down onto any street of a foreign city you are interested in and do a virtual walkaround, or pull up any of a hundred online travel documentaries, or use any social media app to find and make friends there. But what hasn’t changed is the sense of adventure an 18-year-old experiences as they feel the roar and thrust of the airplane engines, are propelled down the runway, and finally rise into the air and take off into the sky, and as they scan the passengers around them, the full impact of being on their own sinks in and they realize they are truly on their own.

Magnus decided he was not going to be ready to pursue secondary education after grade 12 and wanted instead to take a gap year. We fully supported this and were happy when he found a volunteer program through an organization called Kaya Responsible Travel which was located in Siem Reap, Cambodia – a place we had visited twice before and loved. The eight-week program started in early September and he has been working as a teachers’ assistant at a sort of community centre that offers programming to local children, and his job has been to help the kids practice their English. One of the conditions we made when Magnus proposed an international trip was that he had to do it through some sort of organization which would provide him with support and somebody to guide him along. After successfully arriving in Cambodia after several flight connections and an overnight stop in Bangkok, then settling in quickly to his new surroundings, making a few friends, and working in his volunteer role for two weeks, we were obviously impressed enough with his performance that when he asked if he could do a side trip to Malaysia on his own during a school holiday week, we said yes. He enjoyed an action packed week in Kuala Lumpur and learned a few good lessons along the way, including the unpredictability of the banking system and the importance of having access to money!

Magnus is scheduled to return home in less than a month and I fully expect he will arrive a changed lad. This first two months of his gap year are going to be pretty tough to beat, but I hope he goes onto have many other interesting experiences this year. And I think he will.

Monday, September 5, 2022

2022 Summer Sailing

It has been an excellent summer.

Boaters are painfully aware of weekend weather, more than others. You will notice boaters checking their weather app for the upcoming weekend forecast. They start looking on Sunday night as soon as they arrive home from the boat. They check it every hour, sometimes more. Despite the forecasts being notoriously unreliable, and consistently pessimistic, we still look and our emotional state surges and plummets in response to the projected probably of rain.

The 2022 summer weather in our area has been characterized by hot, sunny, and windy weekends following up with rainy Mondays. There is simply nothing better than returning to work on Monday to a rainy and miserable day after an epic weekend on the water. In many prior sailing seasons, it has too often been the opposite. So when we get a great summer, we appreciate it.

Our new home at the Newport Yacht Club in Stoney Creek has been simply incredible. We have made many new friends, had old friends down to visit us, and haven’t gone to bed before 1 am any evening we’ve been at the dock as there are always people around, bouncing from boat to boat or just hanging out in the common areas. There is also just the right amount of dock drama and dock politics, which is inevitable when you are living in such close proximity, much like a Brazilian favela, but made even more interesting here where the marina is encircled by condominiums, putting land and sea dwellers in close proximity. But overall, it is a happy dock family indeed.

After we returned from our sailing trip around Lake Ontario in early August, we had two incredible weekends sailing to Hamilton Harbour, where we anchored out in the bay as well as docking at a marina, joined by great friends both weekends. Despite it being a miserly 1.5 hour sail from Newport, it felt like a different world, and any city always takes on a completely different character when approached from the water. During these visits we were blown away by an incredible Asian night market, swam in the pool at the yacht club, enjoyed some astronomical gastronomical experiences at trendy restaurants on James Street, visited the HMCS Haida destroyer warship, paddle boarded, dinghy’d, watched the stars, had sundowners, visited the farmers’ market, ate Grandad’s Donuts, and really just acted and felt like explorers in our own backyard.

We had planned on another weekend trip to either Oakville or Toronto, but one evening as Ana and I were getting frustrated at our futile attempts to contact the various marinas for dockage, we realized (admitted) we were a little wiped out from all the traveling and hadn’t spent much time locally, so the following two weekends found us in and around Newport and they were just awesome. We stayed up late in the marina parkette barbequing food and drinking “colostomy wine” (Instructions: remove the bag of plonky red from the box, tuck it under your shirt, then when somebody asks for a top up, expose the nozzle, grab their glass, and fill it up from your pouch). We tied up with three of our friends’ boats at Burlington Beach and had an amazing day swimming, beach walking, partying in SeaLight’s cockpit, navigating Daryl’s cool remote controlled submarine around in the depths, and were introduced by Sharon and Greg to the concept of the “Snackle box”, where you take a regular fishing tackle box, put a bunch of ice in the bottom, then fill up the various compartments with snacks – nuts, berries, pickles, gummy worms, hummus, olives, crackers, chocolate, trail mix – you get the idea. We also found the floating corpse of an American Eel, an endangered species.

We also anchored at Green Beach, and Dog Beach, and if we didn’t feel like taking the boat out we dinghy’d just outside of our marina to Economy Beach, which spans from the marina breakwall west for several hundred meters and is surprisingly nice. In fact, I usually go out there every morning for an early swim and that lake water feels glorious no matter what temperature it is. And the water has indeed warmed up, it’s now sitting at over 25 degrees Celsius which is just fine.

We also explored the local area by land. We had in incredible meal at Memphis Fire bbq, hiked a conservation area near Grimsby, then explored their charming downtown area. We attended a Wiener-Paw-Looza Dachshund festival with our friends Lydia, Daryl and their elderly wiener named Chili Dog who came dressed as a tarantula and was robbed of the “Best Costume” prize but did make the front page of the Hamilton Spectator. We went scavenging at local discount liquidator shops. We drank craft beer on the Collective Arts patio. Ana and I walked the lakefront trail until we came across two bikes at the Hamilton Bike Share and rode them all the way to Burlington and back, then stopped at the legendary Hutch’s On The Beach for burgers and a milkshake. Summer boating fun is not limited to the water.

Last weekend Ana and I were mc’s for her cousin Sabrina and Justin’s wedding and had such an amazing time partying with the family. It was our first post-Covid wedding and it was a good one - so nice to see everybody visiting and laughing and dancing...without masks. Fortunately, I took the Monday off so we were still able to spend two days at the boat!

It is now the Labour Day long weekend and just last night we said goodbye to Magnus as he embarked on his first solo international trip – to Cambodia. But that, my friends, is a topic for another day.


Friday, August 12, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip - Conclusion

This is the third major sailing trip we’ve taken on Lake Ontario and in the two week period we sailed a total of about 439 nautical miles which averages out to about 29 nautical miles per day, which is approximately 5 hours of sailing at an average speed of 6 knots. This is the first time we’ve explored the US side of Lake Ontario and we loved it. It was especially good being able to share this experience with not one, not two, not three, but four sets of friends, and having Baby Beau on Board was a real pleasure and brought back a lot of memories for Ana and I from when our kids were that age and we were doing yearly sailing trips on Lake Erie.

Being able to explore the Great Lakes by boat in this way is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. Of all the people who live in Canada, how many will ever get to do this? Even the majority of people that have boats on these lakes don’t often do longer range trips like this. Arriving to a new town or city by boat is an adventure completely unlike what you experience traveling by road. Cities look and feel different. You do different things. You meet different people. And I don’t use the term “adventure” lightly. Every moment you are on the water is exciting, as you never know what will happen. Weather dictates everything. You are putting your life in the hands of your vessel. You sometimes need to make critical decisions quickly, with potentially severe consequences. I would say it is not for the faint of heart, but provides for an experience unlike anything else. On this trip we suffered an overhead wire entanglement, a grounding, rough lake conditions that turned us back, then on land, of course, Ana’s scooter crash. But mixed in, and overwhelming those were moments of peace, tranquility, ecstatic excitement, love, joy, and comradery.

I love these lakes.

We’ve now covered a significant portion of Lake Ontario. Although we have many more places to explore on the US side, we now have a good base of knowledge of the area. There’s much more to explore in the western end of the lake where we are situated with its many cities and marinas,. We’ve been through the Thousand Islands three times now and have a good feel for it. What comes next? One potential trip we were discussing at Andrew’s would be to sail SeaLight up to his place in one shot over a weekend. Then launch  a two week trip from there all the way down the St Lawrence to Montreal which is only 150 nautical miles. From there Quebec City is only 125 nautical miles, passing Trois-Rivieres along the way. This would expose us to heavy river currents, tidal currents and some very challenging anchoring and docking. But what fun it would be to explore these cities by boat! We could finish up the two week trip at Andrew’s, then do the big run back home the following weekend. There’s a lot of moving pieces, but it’s possible. Alternatively, we’ve thought about exploring the Finger Lakes and the Erie Canal, but that trip is a little more complicated as it would require taking the mast down and either leaving it in Oswego or hauling it around with us on the boat. It is possible to do a full loop, westward through the Erie Canal which exits in Buffalo, then we’d have to take the Welland Canal to get back into Lake Ontario. Might need longer than two weeks for that one!

It's taken me several weeks to complete the journals for this trip, and in the meantime we’ve spent two amazing, spectacular, surprising, and adventurous weekends sailing to Hamilton, just two hours away from our home port. You don’t always need to go far to have fun!

With that, the 2022 sailing trip comes to a close.

(ps. if anybody is interested in seeing the exact route we took, here is a link to the online Google map. The black line is the way out and red is the return trip.)

Thursday, August 11, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 15 - Stunning Sunrise, Port Colborne, Home to Newport

5 am came fast and as the sun rose we slipped off the dock, down the channel, around the break wall, and back out into the lake. Today was Friday and we had decided to make the 60 nautical mile run home to Canada, stopping at Port Colborne to check back into the country, fuel up, and have lunch and a swim then make our way back to Newport. Tony and Angela had to leave the following morning so we considered spending today in Wilson then doing the overnight run, but the weather was looking potentially stormy and we didn’t want to take the chance.

This morning’s sunrise was spectacular and I tried waking up Stella but she wouldn’t budge. That left Tony and I in the cockpit to enjoy the show and the ride. Once the crew was up Angela and Tony made these incredible breakfast burritos and we devoured them, then went for a morning lake swim and bath shortly after that. The water was still a balmy 25 degrees, even way out in the lake.

I don’t want to complain too much, as I know what a hassle it is to cross the border by car, but checking in with customs was a real pain in the ass. We arrived at the fuel dock at Port Colborne, called customs, and were on hold for a full hour. The officer who finally took our call was a cranky grouch and had to have each of our full names and addresses painstakingly spelled out, despite us all being Nexus members and having already submitted all of our information through the ArriveCAN app, whose purpose as stated on the website is to “modernize cross border travel”. I think they should just buy the amazing app the US uses, as their system is fast, efficient, and flawless.

We cruised back out in the lake and tried to anchor near the beach at Port Colborne but it was far too shallow to get in, so we anchored further out and had lunch and a swim. By the time we were ready to leave, the wind had really picked up so we started sailing. It was an awesome, high speed sail with the boat heeling over suicidally and wind ripping past the sails. While I was loving the boat tearing across the water I looked over and noticed Ana in utter pain as she was trying to hold on, body stiff and tensioned. Ah, I’m such a dummy, the Bird wipeout! Her bruised body was hurting worse than ever so we turned into the wind, dropped the sails, and motored back, which was much more comfortable.

By early evening we were pulling into our slip at Newport Yacht Club. We got SeaLight tied up, shore power plugged in, and air conditioning turned on when all of a sudden…the AC quit. Have no fear, Captains Kris and Tony were on it. Cushions were ripped off the salon seats to expose the AC, tools were readied, seacocks shut, clamps removed, hoses replaced, filters cleaned, system primed, and after an hour or more, and several pounds lost in sweat, the AC was back in action, blowing stronger and colder than ever. It was beer time.

We had dinner on the boat then assembled at the marina parkette along with a dozen other members there hanging out, making dinner, and having fun. I don’t know what time it was when we went to bed, but I can tell you I slept like a rock and didn’t open my eyes until close to 9am the next morning.

It was nice to be back.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 14 - Narby’s, Dinghy Marathon, and a Pizza Party

Tony, Stella and I were up with the sun to get an early start on the sail to Point Breeze. Stella was up strictly for the sunrise experience, but as the sun was obscured by the overcast sky, she went immediately back to bed. There was a strong wind warning for Lake Ontario today but once we got through the channel and into the open lake we found the wind to be excellent and waves slight, so we hoisted the sails and had a lovely, quiet ride without the engine. Finally, some help from the wind instead of it blowing directly from where we’re trying to go.

As we approached Point Breeze (also known as Oak Orchard), I saw a large breakwater running parallel to the shore with entrances on both the east and west sides, then past this was a channel running into the marinas. When Ana had booked our marina slip with Four C’s Marina she was told to keep to the right side of the channel. I could see the channel, but I wasn’t sure if it mattered which side of the breakwater we should enter in. There were no buoys and the electronic charts showed both sides to have insufficient water, which wasn’t of much help. So I chose the east side as it was closer. As we approached, I watched the depth sounder: 12 feet. 10 feet. I slowed the boat down to a crawl. 6 feet. 5 feet. Then a grinding noise and a sudden stop. We had hit bottom and were stuck. I slammed the engine in reverse and pulsed it. Nothing. I had everybody stand on one side of the boat to heel it over a bit. Still stuck. Fortunately, the wind was blowing us away from the shallow spots, which was good, but it was insufficient to move us. I looked over to the breakwater to see a steel structure with a beacon on top, and an idea struck.

Tony and I jumped in the dingy then I had Ana pass us the main sail halyard and a bunch of extra line. I tied a couple of lines together and to the halyard and we took the dinghy to the breakwater, tied it to the safety ladder and got off with the rope, then wrapped the rope around the steel base, and shortened it up by hanging off it and snugging. This pulled the top of the mast down, thereby lifting the keel, and Ana was finally able to reverse the boat off the ground and back out into the deeper water, just in time to avoid being seen by the pack of sailing school kids coming out in their bathtub boats. Whew, close call! I hate showcasing what not to do when sailing…but it seems to happen more frequently than I care to admit.

We went around on the west side and had barely enough water to float us, then found our way up the channel and into our slip. I was feeling a little beat so I had a short nap while the others organized a few things on the boat and went for a little walk around the area to have a look. There didn’t seem to be much of a marina office, but Tony did find a house that looked like part of the marina so he went in, yelled hello a few times with no response, then used the washroom, no problem. Except we found out later it’s somebody’s house. Tony had mentioned the toilet paper was of a much higher quality than the standard issue marina half-ply variety.

Once I had my cat nap we dinghied up to the Oak Orchard Yacht Club and found Lydia and Daryl. I tell you, these guys acclimatize fast – they took us down the docks, introducing us to people, then across a long dock leading to the shore over a shallow swampy area, pointing out several turtles and frogs in the water they had given names to (“There’s Timmy, he has a great personality…for a frog.” “Oh, there’s Fuzzball, lovely turtle but very possessive of his favourite rock.” “Oh yay, there’s Fredrico, a very shy turtle but amazing sense of humour once he gets going.”). They then led us into the clubhouse, introducing us to more people along the way, showing us some little known areas and features of the building, then told us the entire history of the yacht club. This is exactly why you partner on these trips with ultra social powerboaters – send them in to do the hard work!

After our tour we jumped in the dinghies to go gunkholing up the river and we travelled for a long, long way, seeing a hundred different species of birds, frogs, toads, and I think we saw a cat on the deck of one of the riverside cottages. We went for so long that the ladies were starting to have a retail attack so we needed to find a store, fast. Captain’s Cove Motel and Marina was the closest and looked the least abandoned so we tied the tenders up nearby a collapsed bridge and walked up the hill to check out the store. Now I didn’t go in, but it looked solid hillbilly, and I was happy when the girls returned unscathed, but there were reports of taxidermied squirrels caught in the act of fornication, plus they came out carrying a bag of Dinosaur Barbeque potato chips so at least they were able to buy something. The shopping got even better when we dinghied a hundred metres back down the river, then walked up the highway to Narby’s Superette & Tackle. It looked real sweet so we all went in. The older lady at the counter looked very unpleased to see customers.

“Afternoon! How are you?” Ana asked.

“Terrible,” she responded. “All alone.”

“Oh, why?” Ana continued.

“Can’t get staff. Nobody wants to work. So I have to. Pffft.”

Nobody else said hi to her and we just got shopping. There wasn’t much in there. The Narby’s Tackle branded merch was pretty picked over – just winter gloves and a few squashed hats left. They had a few basic boat parts, some jugs of oil, a small selection of groceries, and a cooler full of low grade beer. Fortunately, there was a small ice cream collection, so most of us grabbed one of those – I got a yellow banana Minions popsicle which made me think, “KEVIN!” so I just had to have it, but it ended up tasting disgusting. Up at the counter as we were queuing to check out, Stella and Ana found those grab jugs of small candies like mini-tootsie rolls, red hots, blue whales, gumballs – that sort of stuff. All 5 cents each. Stella put her bag of candies on the counter and said, “I can’t believe these are only five cents each. Nothing costs five cents.”

“They used to be one cent. Pffft,” the clerk lady said as she grimaced, took a guess at how many candies were in the bag, and rang her out. As we were leaving a man came into the store and told the clerk lady he wanted to have a look in the tackle shop, which was located in a separate building beside the one we were in.

“Oh GREAT! Now I have to lock up THIS store and go over THERE,” she said with fiery eyes, staring at the hapless customer wanna-be. “FINE, go back there and wait. I’ll be there when I get there.” She pulled herself up painfully then shuffled out from behind the counter and pushed us out then locked the door and that’s the last we ever saw of the crusty clerk lady. I felt like she needed a hug, but nobody was offering.

With the retail therapy complete, we traveled down the river and back to SeaLight for cold drinks and an incredibly lush charcuterie board assembled with care by Ana and Angela. After demolishing that we went for a walk around the marina and boat storage area and I snapped a cool photo of the three ladies in front of a disintegrating pirate ship. I think they should use it for their next album cover.

Everybody was beat from the day’s heat so we all took a big nap and didn’t emerge until 6:30, then packed back into the dingy and motored back up to the yacht club for Pizza Night. The yacht club was full of people, all nice and friendly people, and we had all you can eat pizza, delicious IPAs, Caribbean Mules, and even pieces of pie for dessert. Lydia and Daryl even offered to sponsor us for a membership.

We hung out for a good long time, long enough for Stella to pick up a rare Oak Orchard Yacht Club hat which she will wear with pride. At the end of the night somebody tossed us a bottle of cleaner and a rag and we wiped down our table, getting it all ready for the next party.

With that, we headed back to SeaLight, did a bit of trip planning for the next day, and hit the sheets.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 13 - The Origins of SeaLight

8am. Another blistering hot day. Good time to be at the Rochester Yacht Club with their beautiful pool.

Our friends Daryl and Lydia came over for a visit. While we had been sailing up and back from the Thousand islands, they had been deep diving into Rochester and Sodus Bay, mainly because driving their big power boat as far as we went, with its twin 454 fuel demolishing engines would soak up their next six years’ worth of travel budgets. We introduced them to Tony and Angela then caught up on all our news and adventures. Imagine being separated from friends at home for a few days, then meeting to catch up on all your news and adventures. It would be a mighty short conversation. Not so on sailing trips!

We helped them get undocked then they began the next leg of the trip to Point Breeze, 32 nautical miles eastwards. As for us, well, we went swimming, watched the kids from the local sailing school going back and forth in the channel practicing their skills, walked to the shopping plaza, had a late lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, went swimming again, and soon it was time for dinner. We walked over to Silk O’Laughlins, a busy Irish pub on the channel, and were seated at the last table, right near the chain link fence at the edge of the property. From where I sat, it looked like Ana and Angela were in county lockup. The meal was pretty ordinary, but things got exciting when the sun set and all the mayflies hanging out in the trees above us descended into our hair, clothes, bags, drinks, and plates. We learned that mayflies do not pair well with Yuengling beer and nachos.

For our last night in Rochester (and first for the Henriques) we planned a night session at the lovely outdoor seating area between the clubhouse and the burgee bar, seeing as we had so much fun the first time around last week. Cigars, Planation XO Reserve 20-year-old rum, craft beer, gin & tonics, chips, party mix, LED candlelight and, for me, a fresh shirt, and everything was right in the world. This particular spot had generated a magical moment for us twice now. It may be my favourite place on Lake Ontario.

By this time, Ana was starting to feel the pain from the fall and she was moving slower and slower. I was thinking a few shots of rum might help her but she didn’t go for it. I had a feeling the full body pain was going to get a lot worse before it got better. But she was grinning and bearing it.

During our chill session I told Tony and Angela about our interesting experience at the boat earlier in the day when they had gone for a walk. A man who had arrived with his wife on a boat called Real Cream walked by our boat and stopped when he saw me on it. He introduced himself as Mike and asked where this boat came from. I told him the story as I knew it of how it had been a charter boat in the BVIs, then was purchased by a Canadian couple and sailed back to Lake Ontario, where it sailed for many years then was sold to the man we bought it from, who also sailed it on the lakes but also took it to the Caribbean for two seasons.

“It’s called SeaLight?”

“Yep,” I said.

“Did it used to be blue?”

“Uh, yep,” I said, rather surprised.

“My friend is the one who bought this boat in the BVIs. I helped him sail it up to Canada.”

I was dumfounded. I invited him on board to see the boat and showed off all the improvements that had been done over the years. He told me the boat was fairly beaten up after its stint as a charter, but that his friend had done a lot of work on it. And the owner we bought it from had also done a great deal of work and upgrades. The most surprising thing he told me was that the boat used to be white! His friend painted it blue, then the guy we bought it from had it put back to white. He also said that SeaLight was the original name of the boat. That made me happy.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 12 - A Bird Tumble, Oswego Tour and Evening Sail

What a difference a day can make. We awoke to a beautiful, sunny, hot morning. The dystopian Oswego of yesterday was gone and replaced with an Oswego full of promise, life, and probably craft beer.

Tony and Angela made us all a delicious breakfast then we walked together towards downtown. Oswego is split neatly in half by the Oswego River which, if you follow it far enough, leads into the Erie Canal, which in turn will take you to New York City and from there the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world you would like to go. This is why I wanted to come to Oswego, as this is the town we will be returning to someday (inshallah) when we make our first trip to the Caribbean, unless we choose to go the very long way around through the St. Lawrence River.

We reached the bridge that crosses the river and the ladies turned east in search of consignment stores, Marshalls, and other value retail while Tony and I struck out west, across the bridge, towards the downtown area. We stopped midway across the bridge to admire the first of the seven locks on the Oswego River and the pack of kayakers who paddled into it then slowly rose as the water poured into the lock, and one 11 foot vertical rise later, the doors of the lock opened and they continued paddling upstream to the next lock.

We continued wandering into the historic downtown and came across an old armoury with a YMCA sign out front. After doing enough rounds of the famous dance to attract attention, we went inside and the manager on duty gave us a tour of the facility and filled us in on the history of the place. From here we walked up and down the streets of Oswego, seeing stately buildings, shops, restaurants, cool bars, a grocery store, and as we approached the water we came across the marinas. Along the way we noticed many electric Bird scooters propped up on street corners, lying on grassy boulevards, and leaned up against buildings. Bird is a company that rents scooters via an electronic console mounted on the scooter and a smart phone app. We both started fiddling with our phones to download the Bird app and get our credit card info entered, which took an incredible amount of time and effort, and I never did get mine working, so Tony spotted the both of us for scooter rentals. We were off!

Bird scooters are extraordinary. They are a testament to the fact that 95% of the energy used by a vehicle is used to just move the mass of the vehicle itself around; your weight is practically a rounding error. Not so with a scooter. These lightweight machines and their barely noticeable battery packs can whiz you around at up to 25 kph for something like 40 kilometres on a singe charge. Our friends Daryl and Lydia have an electric scooter on their boat which they store in a closet, and it has little hooks for hanging shopping bags and even a small trailer hitch for towing buggies or wagons!

Tony and I cruised around the marinas, down to the nautical museum, all throughout downtown, down a canal-side trail, and finally back up and over the bridge we had crossed over earlier, then a few blocks up to a second hand store where we found the girls. They handed us the bags of their purchases and we handed over the scooters then we walked back to the boat and left them for their second round of shopping.

Back at the boat we had some bbq sausages and a beer then got to work changing the primary and secondary fuel filters on the boat – something I had meant to do first thing in the spring but had somehow not made it to the top of the list and had been bothering me, as fuel issues are almost always the main culprit when your engine starts acting up and we didn’t want that. Somewhere along the way Tony had found a canvas repair person in the marina and talked her into patching up our rip.

Several hours later the ladies returned. Angela looked charming as usual. Stella was very fashionable. Ana had scrapes on her arm, legs, feet and bandages stuck all over her.

“What happened?” I asked, panicking.

“Mom fell off the scooter,” Stella said. “Flipped right over it and rolled across the concrete road.”

I was flabbergasted. She didn’t have mark on her face, her hair was neatly tied back in a bun, and she looked calm and collected.

“Are you serious?” I asked her. “What happened?”

“Well, basically we were running away from the cops. We weren’t wearing the mandatory helmets, Stella isn’t old enough to drive one, and we were riding them places we weren’t supposed to. So when we passed a cop car we hit the throttle and scooted out of there,” she said, all Daisy Duke like.

“OK, sounds good so far, but how did you fall?”

“I was turning back to make sure the cops weren’t gaining on us and all of a sudden I was in the air.”

“Did you hit your head?”

“Nope, my bun saved me,” she said as she caressed the knot of hair at the back of her head.

“I can’t believe you’re even walking right now.”

We decided that one full day in Oswego was enough to get the hang of the place, so at 7pm when the canvas repair was complete, we left the dock and started upon the 45 nautical mile sail to Rochester. We had a perfect moment along the way – the setting sun was casting a gorgeous orange glow over us as we enjoyed a glass of wine in the comfort of the heavily pillowed cockpit. We took turns answering critical life questions such as:

“If you could only drink two kinds of liquids for the rest of your life what would they be?”

“If you could only visit two more countries in your life, where would you go?”

“If you could only eat one meat, one fish, and one vegetable for the rest of your life, what would you choose?”

It's amazing what you think of when sequestered to a sailboat cockpit for hours and hours.

We made it to Rochester around 2:30am and docked with no issue. On the way through the channel, Tony had been diligently searching the shore for something.

Angela asked, “What are you looking for?”

“A canvas repair shop,” Tony said. “In case I put my arm through the other side of the cockpit!”

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 11 - Six Footers, Oswego, and Tossed Pizza Salad

For the first moment of the trip, I found some time to do some writing in the morning. Normally when it’s just us I have all sorts of alone time on the boat – during the overnight runs, the early morning departures when everybody goes back to bed once we’re underway, during the afternoons in marinas when the girls go shopping. But when you have friends aboard, there’s no time for that nonsense. It is non-stop action all the way, especially during a trip like this when the weather is beautiful. But the forecast had come true and today was rainy and windy.

By 10 the thunderstorms had passed and it looked like we had a window to make the jump to our next location – Oswego. The strong winds were blowing south but we’d have good cover for the first fifteen miles of the trip as we hugged the shoreline moving westwards, but at that point we’d have to turn south and face the waves directly. Hopefully it would be manageable.

After Tony snuck into the marina office and underhandedly paid for the dockage (just like he did with the fuel back in Kingston – some people just can’t be trusted with a credit card), we launched and found ourselves alone on the water, but suitably sheltered from the wind. The worst thing in sailing is being rushed, or having to be somewhere at a certain time. We could have stayed in Sackets for another day and night, but we had to be back in Newport by Saturday morning, and there were an awful lot of miles between us and there. So I made the call to leave. But I was regretting that decision when we made the turn around the headland and headed south into the lake. Some of the waves were five to six feet with a short period which was causing the boat to slam up and down into the water, crashing menacingly, tossing us around.  The wind was blowing at 20 - 25 knots but gusting to 30 at times. After a mile or two of that I gave up, turned the boat around, and we sailed back into the cover of the headland, dropped the anchor, and had lunch, hoping the winds would lose strength. I was loathe to return to Sackets, but didn’t want to risk things by continuing on in such bad conditions.

After two hours of waiting the winds had weakened a bit so we secured everything down and powered back into the open lake. The waves were now down to four feet and manageable so we agreed to continue on to Oswego by engine and autopilot.

“What do you think about the water conditions?” asked Angela.

“It’s going to be fine, looks good, no worries,” I replied confidently.

“Then why are you the only one wearing a lifejacket?” she noted.

“Ah ha, you got me there. Yeah, we’re probably going to die, but I prefer a slow, lingering death.”

 The remaining 30 nautical miles ride wasn’t terrible, and SeaLight handled the waves well, but it was slow and took six or seven hours. We arrived in the early evening to a dull, grey, dreary Oswego. On the way into the harbour Tony took a stumble and put his hand right through the canvas, whoops! Nothing a little duct tape can’t fix.

We reversed into our slip at the Oswego Marina then made an immediate and unanimous decision to get the hell off the boat and go find something to eat in town. We halfheartedly put on rain gear and started the trek into downtown, accidentally taking the furthest route possible to the closest restaurant – The Press Box, which we discovered later we could practically see from the marina. The walk was wet and depressing. Any city looks like hell when it’s raining and cloudy, but Oswego looked particularly bad.

The Press Box was your typical American Sports Bar and the food was nothing special, but it filled the gap. They did have one interesting item on the menu called “tossed salad on pizza”. I had to ask.

“Excuse me, what is the tossed salad on pizza?” I asked the server. “Surely it’s not just a salad tossed on top of a pizza, right?”

“That’s exactly what it is. The cook just throws the salad on top of the pizza. Very popular item. Healthy choice.”


On the way back to the boat we stopped to check out the marina washrooms. The door was propped open with a bucket and there was a guy inside cleaning fish at the sink. It smelled terrible. Tony pointed to the coded lock on the door and asked the guy if he knew the code.

“Sure, it’s 1436, but you don’t need to remember it,” he said, wiping his face with the part of his jacket arm not covered in fish slime.

“Why not?” asked Tony.

“Because somebody carved it into the door frame, see it there?” he said as he pointed his scaly and bloody knife towards it.

“Right, thanks man!”

Back at the boat, I pulled out a USB key Andrew had handed me back in Kingston and stuck it into the tv. A brand new horror movie “Black Phone” started to roll. I actually remained awake for the entire movie. It was excellent.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 10 - Dredge Marking, Compass Hijinks, and Sackets Harbor

I awoke early and headed straight up to the house to have coffee with Andrew. Like me, he’s always been an early riser, so quite often when I’m at home and my phone starts buzzing at 5:30am, I know with certainty who it is.

Before long, Tony (another early riser) joined in on the coffee session as we waited for the girls to get ready, and when they did they decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood. We took the opportunity to get into the lake and mark that high spot on the bottom that SeaLight’s keel had run into yesterday so that the dredger could be redeployed this week. It was again a hot a lovely day so the swim felt great.

It was around noon that we were finally ready to go so we pushed off, waved goodbye to Andrew and Victoria on the dock, had one last look at Holmes Mansion, then were on our way. As we had made two prior trips to Thousand Islands with Tony and Angela we decided to head back to the US side and visit some of the towns we missed on our way here. We stopped briefly at Portsmouth marina in Kingston for diesel and a pump out, then set a course south and east towards Sackets Harbour, which is located in the most northeast corner of Lake Ontario. But there was something wrong. The autopilot was acting crazy. I would lock in a heading and the boat would hold it for a minute, then start straying to the west. I reviewed all the settings on the autopilot controller and it all looked fine. I reset it to factory default, then did the required calibration sequence which requires you to do a series of slow 360’s in the boat. No dice. I then started checking all the wire connections deep in the belly of SeaLight, crawling around her most sensitive inner parts. Everything looked good. I checked in Tony and Angela’s cabin where the autopilot’s fluxgate compass was located to make sure there was no metal around it. All good there, nothing but a fabric lunch bag nearby.

Back at the helm I started fiddling around with the autopilot controller again, and somehow changed the default language to Korean.

“Oh shit, I changed the language to Korean!” I said.

“What??” said Ana. “How did you do that”

“I don’t know, I was just pressing some buttons and poof, Korean.”

“You better change it back.”

“I can’t read any of the buttons, it’s in Korean!”

Of course I couldn’t find anything in google on the Raymarine menu structure so I sat there, out of options, until Stella came over, pulled something up on her phone, held it in front of the autopilot screen, and sweet English magically appeared, instantly. Stella is now my go-to IT Helpdesk.

My next move was to start pulling wires out and reconnecting things but before I got started on that, Ana’s googling found that a metal or magnetic item even within six feet of the fluxgate compass could result in the behavior we were seeing. So Tony and Angela went back down into the cabin to look. Nope, just that innocent fabric lunch bag…with a damn magnetic latch! The lunch bag was removed, the autopilot’s pristine operation was restored, and we stopped the boat for a celebratory swim.

We arrived to Sackets Harbour in the early evening and tried dropping the hook in the anchorage marked on the charts, but it must have been a flat, shale rock bottom as we could not get that anchor to stick into anything. Ana called Navy Point Marina and they found a slip for us, just barely big enough to side-slide SeaLight into. After getting docked we mixed up some drinks and walked over to a nice seating area overlooking the bay for a sundowner. The evening was beautiful, but the next day’s forecast wasn’t looking too beautiful at all – high winds, rain, thunderstorms.

After a delicious dinner of butterflied pork loins, grilled foil packs of potatoes, and fresh veggies, we went for a walk into the town, in darkness. The only thing open was the Boathouse restaurant with this phenomenal garden patio, but there were also a number of cute shops and houses along the main street, as well as a military museum.

We decided to call it a day, and return to explore tomorrow if we were unable to travel because of the weather. Tony and I had one more drink in the cockpit to the sounds of an auto-generated country music playlist based on “Buy Me A Boat” by Chris Janson – the Olson family currently hottest trending (and perhaps only) country music song.

Friday, August 5, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 9 - Transition Day, Prime Rib, and Fancy Toilets

It was transition day. The halfway point of the trip. Time to turn around and start heading west. After a round of swims and lake baths in the warm water of the beautifully calm anchorage, we pulled anchor and started the easy 10 mile run through the Bateau Channel to Andrew’s place. Yesterday we had hung out a hammock between the headsail and the mast so this morning we all took turns swinging and lounging as SeaLight slowly motored her way down the calm channel.

Andrew was there to greet us as we maneuvered SeaLight into the dock slip, right beside the huge barge. We tickled one rock with our keel on the way in, but adjusted our approach a bit and easily got her docked and tied up. A round of hugs ensued, then Andrew asked if we'd like to take the Diamond Level docking package again this time which included free electrical, free water, gasoline top-ups, unlimited ice, free laundry service, and all the booze and food we could consume. We’d been very happy with this package in the past so we stuck with it.

Pat and Melissa asked for some time alone to untangle the complicated mess of gear they had stuffed into the aft cabins. As they had arrived before us on the first day, we didn’t know how much they had brought, but every day they had been pulling out a new cool piece of kit, so I expected the load was substantial.

Ana and I went up to the house to have coffee with Andrew and Victoria. They took us on a tour of the house to see all the new goodies they had procured since the last time we were there. We first saw their new ultra luxurious, ultra automated, Japanese-inspired, feng shui toilet fabulouso. It had everything – auto-lowering seat, LED night lighting, retractable sprayers with rear and frontal cycles, water massage settings, auto flush, odour control, auto dryer, auto-sanitize, heated seat, temperature control. If this spectacular unit didn’t provide you with the cleanest and happiest ringpiece on the block, then there really was no hope for you. The lower level now boasted a huge fitness coach machine with a 7 foot high screen that swung open to reveal an inventory of dumbbells, kettle bells, tension straps, and other fitness gear. The touch screen allowing you to select any of hundreds of prerecorded workouts - yoga, pilates, cycling, stretching, and similar painful programs, but the one that really grabbed my attention was the hot dog speed eating course by American competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut. I would definitely be checking that one out later.

After the tour we looked out from the expansive deck to the dock and we could scarcely see the surface of it for all the gear that had been heaped on. We walked down to investigate. The pile was extraordinary. Andrew looked to the pile, then to the boat, then back to the pile.

“How did they fit it all in?” he asked in wonder.

“Ever seen those Narnia movies? The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? You know that closet that opens into an entire world?” I said.


“That’s how sailboats work.”

“We’re going to need a front end loader.”

Before long, Pat’s parents John and Judy arrived with our friends Tony and Angela and our sweet daughter Stella – new crew for the return trip! We had a nice visit, they got the tour of the palace, and then we gave John a bottle of whisky to celebrate his 70th birthday, which he had so far been spent driving for four hours through traffic on the 401 highway and would require another four on the way home. Pat pulled some more Narnia magic and crammed all their gear into his dad’s truck. We had a round of hugs, said our goodbyes, gave Beau a big kiss, and they were on their way after such an incredible week.

Ana, Angela, Stella, and Victoria went out food shopping while the boys stayed home and didn’t do much besides having a couple of rum and cokes on the boat, visiting, and occasionally checking in on the gigantic prime rib roasting on the smoker. We got off easy.

Soon, the ladies had returned, as well as Andrew and Vic’s friends Adrian and Sarah, so once all the groceries were packed away we all gathered on the deck and had a great time visiting, laughing, and telling stories. Adrian and Sarah are really cool cats – we had met them the last time we were here, but got to know them a bit better this time around. As mealtime approached, their neighbours Don and Jan also arrived and soon we were gathered around the dining room table with whopping huge prime rib slabs on our plates.

After a whole lot of food, drinks, and laughs, the day caught up with us and we retired exhausted to SeaLight. Week two had begun.