Thursday, July 28, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 4 - Spray Cheese, Booze Shopping, Cuban Cigars

We awoke to another gorgeous, clear, warm day and got busy making a big breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit, and toast. To prepare for this trip we had installed a second boat fridge and Ana and Melissa had jammed both of them full of food, leaving space for not an additional single egg, leaving us with the challenge of eating every scrap of it before the week’s end. I had no doubt we could do it.

Having cemented our reputation as bad assed gypsy boaters, I took the hose and bucket and gave the boat a good scrub down. In reality, I hate when our boat is dirty. It drives me mad. And boats seem to get dirty very easily. Once I was done my cleaning, and the others had fed Beau, tidied the inside of the boat, and gathered up their things, we jumped in the dingy and motored over to the chandlery (store for boaters) in the marina next door, where we met Lydia and Daryl. We tied up the dinghies, picked up some overpriced marine goodies from the store, then we all walked over to the nearby shopping plaza. It’s real easy to pick out Canadians in American lake towns as they are the only ones walking across hot parking lots, and they are almost always carrying beer.

While Ana was buying a can of squeeze cheese from the grocery store, I picked up some beer there, but then also got an additional case from the pharmacy (you read that right) while Pat and Melissa were looking for some cough medicine for Melissa who had developed a scratchy throat. Beau was getting a little impatient so Ana took him for a walk through the Walgreen’s isles and found a little toy that played “Baby Shark” when you squeezed it. Well didn’t that work like a charm? So now we all had the damn song stuck in our minds on autorepeat for the rest of the trip.

After grabbing a coffee, the final stop in the plaza was the liquor store. We all loaded up on cheap spirits and while we were checking out, the owner asked if he could deliver the purchases to our boats so we didn’t have to carry them – this guy knew his customers. As we were walking away he came running out and grabbed the two cases of beer I was carrying and told me he’d deliver those too. He probably noticed my arms were still hanging several inches too long after humping those crates of Yuengling beer for miles back in Wilson.

We slogged back to the boat in the afternoon heat then settled into the cockpit for a late lunch of tremendously good chili dogs made with the leftover chili from the previous night and fluorescent orange lines of Ana’s incredible squeeze cheese which amazed and delighted everybody. This wonderful lunch was enough to put me to sleep but I was somehow conned into joining Ana, Lydia, and Daryl on a shopping trip to a nearby shopping area in Irondequoit that had a West Marine and a Marshals. An Uber picked us up at the marina gate and the four of us packed into the back seat as the female driver already had a friend sitting up front. She had thousands of reviews and a very high rating but all of her previous customers must have not felt the need for brakes on a car because it was all metal on metal, baby. She ground, shrieked, squealed, and shrieked us all the way to the mall, then dropped us off in front of Planet Fitness. I don’t know if that was some kind of underhanded comment on the state of our physiques, but fortunately the West Marina was right next door.

Just like when Ana shops for clothes and never leaves a store empty handed, it goes the same for me with marine stores and I found a lovely package of assorted stainless steel screws and a few other things, but Daryl really knocked it out of the park by buying a new battery charger. We then walked a short ways over to the Marshalls strip mall and there was nothing, and I mean nothing else in that mall of interest to me, but I did  join Daryl in visiting the pet store where he bought Chili Dog a brand new shirt as a souvenir of his trip to Rochester. As far as I could tell Chili Dog really only ever left the boat for a poo, so I wouldn’t say he extensively explored Rochester, but who doesn’t enjoy a new shirt?

We finally made it back to the marina after being rejected by a couple of Uber drivers for being a party of four and then having to stand on the concrete mall sidewalk boiling in the hot heat for what seemed like a very long time. The cool pool water was invigorating and washed off all the retail sweat I had accumulated from my mall journey. The pool itself is positioned right next to the harbour channel so you can watch all the boats going back and forth from the comfort of your lounger, so we sat on those loungers for a good long while, in no hurry to do much of anything. But soon, we started getting hungry so Ana and I returned to the boat just in time to meet up with Pat and Melissa and Beau who had taken the dingy out for a ride to explore the park on the other side of the channel.

Happy hour drinks ensued then everybody got busy making dinner. Soon we were positioned in the cockpit with tenderloin steaks, green and yellow beans from our garden, air fried potatoes, and some fine Menage a Trois wine Melissa had picked up. Everything was delicious. Ours was turning out to be a Michelin-starred sailboat galley on this trip.

Beside the main yacht club facility was a smaller building that housed an incredible bar with all wood interior and yacht club burgees from around the Great Lakes and the world displayed proudly. Outside the bar was a large seating area with comfy couches and chairs. As it was a Monday evening the place was practically deserted so we all gathered at one of the sitting areas with music, snacks, beer, wine, luxurious Plantation sipping rum, and Cuban cigars and talked and laughed well into the night. Both Chili Dog and Beau stayed up to join the party!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 3 - Caesars for Breakfast, Jolly Jumping, and the Spirit of Rochester

Boat vacations are all about making the miles in the most efficient way. Today's destination was Rochester which was 58 nautical miles or a 9-10 hour sail, so Pat and I got up at 3am, navigated the boat out of the harbour in darkness, then were soon on the calm and flat lake enjoying the dawn experience while the autopilot did her magic and kept our course straight and true.

I am most often by myself in the cockpit for these early morning departures and my routine is pretty boring - usually consists of drinking decaffinated coffee and writing. But Pat brought a whole new dimension to the experience. First, we had a round of butter croissants and blueberry muffins. Then he cracked out an industrial sized bag of extra-crunchy potato chips and that giant cannister of pretzels he bought the day before. Then he made us a couple of Caesars and man, there's nothing like a splash of vodka and tomato juice to start your day. We then moved onto iced coffees, then peanut butter toast and cereal. When Ana came into the cockpit several hours later, she found the remnants of a big party - empty booze cans lying around, crumpled chip bags, food crumbs, and dirty dishes. The boat trip was ON.

Once everybody was up, eaten, and caffeinated, we stopped the  boat and went for a morning swim and lake shower. The water was a pleasant 23.5 degrees, slightly below Ana's minimum requirement of 25, but she went in anyway and tested out the brand new pool noodle floaties we added to the boat inventory this year, courtesty of the Paris Dollarama. Beau had his own custom baby floatie and happily plopped into the water and floated around blissfully. The day was heating up nicely and it was going to be a scorcher.

Once back underway we removed some of the canvas covering the cockpit and rigged up the boom so it couldn’t move. This fancy engineering enabled us to hang Beau's jolly jumper from the boom, so we strapped him in and let him go. His little legs started pumping and he was off bouncing and leaping like a madman with a crazed look in his eye. After a while I got severely exhausted just watching him so I grabbed some licorice, pretzels, and beers from the cabin so the rest of us could restore our energy reserves. But Beau didn’t miss out – when he finally did tire of the jumping, Melissa pulled out this fancy packet of prepared food mush and squirted it into a spoon, shoved most of it into his mouth, then he wiped the remnants off his chin and wiped it in his hair. The next quarter spoon went on Melissa’s clothes, and the two after then went on the seat cushion then the floor. Ah, babies are so entertaining.

We had a reserved slip at the Rochester Yacht Club, and when we visit yacht clubs there’s a specific protocol we always follow, which helps sustain our reputation as a gypsy caravan boat. First, there must be clothes, towels, swimsuits, lifejackets, underwear, and socks pinned to every inch of lifeline around the boat, and when the clothespins run out just throw the rest on the deck surface. With a baby this was even easier than normal considering the quantity of clothes they go through. Next, you need to ensure your waste holding tanks are full, so that you leave a trail of sweet septic odour behind you, and possibly even in front of you if the tank contents are foul enough. This is so everybody knows you’ve arrived, even the blind folks. Third, the boat should be exeptionally dirty, and this I took care of during our swim as I tossed hundreds of feet of spare line from our mucky anchor hold into the lake to give it a cursory wash. When I pulled it up it was only half clean, but half is better than none, so I then draped it all over the topside of the boat to let it drip dry, leaving snaky trails of muddy stains all over the surface. The boat was disgusting. Lastly, you need to be dressed appropriately, usually micro Speedos and ball caps turned backwards for the men and g-string bikinis and hippie beads for the ladies, or their sailing moo-moos, whichever they are more comfortable with. The only other thing that’s hard to plan for, but a real treat when it happens, is an engine failure as you’re navigating through the marina so that you lose control and crash into a few boats and docks. The yachties really notice that.

The entrance to the Rochester harbour was huge and busy. A steady stream of inbound and outbount boats filled the wide channel. We found the entrance to the yacht club, turned in, and after a bit of confusion with slip assignments, we finally pulled into slip 12, which happened to be located directly in front of the clubhouse, showers, pool, and ice machine. If we were racing, this would be Pole Position.

To celebrate our arrival, Ana and Melissa whipped up chicken caesar burritos, and I belive that may have been the most delicious burrito I have ever eaten. After our long and leisurely lunch we received a message from Lydia saying they were about to arrive so Pat and I ran over to their assigned slip at the far side of the marina to give them a hand docking. Well it’s a good thing Pat had that tub of Vaseline he usually carries around with him, because the wooden posts at the entrance to their slip weren’t quite wide enough for their boat. Pat lobbed a gob of petroleum jelly at the far post, hitting it squarely, then slapped another dollop on the near post, which enabled Daryl to slide it right in, like a gentle lover.

The afternoon sun was wicked hot so we filled up our cooler bags with cold drinks and headed for the pool. The route to the pool led through the clubhouse and I had a peek into the restaurant area. It was magnificent with its classic wooden bar, tall beer handles, starched-collar servers, and antique wooden tables and chairs. Many of the club members were there dining or having drinks and yachting memorabilia was displayed everywhere – trophies, pennants, club burgees, photos of classic ships. I fit right in with my faded swim shorts and Beer Lao wife beater.

After spending an hour or two at the pool enjoying the lovely, cool water, we packed into our respective dinghies to go out and explore the area. Daryl and Lydia have a 9.9 horsepower 2 stroke engine (which Daryl affectionately calls a “two smoke” due to the noxious odours that trail behind them as the engine burns the oil/gas mixture) and we have 4 horsepower four stroke which is less odourous, but also much less powerful, yet still able to push the five of us around. We motored up the Genesee river, passing by many fancy boats, marinas, restaurants, and even a couple of huge barges and tugs that were hauling aggregate and gigantic rocks out to the breakwater they were reconstructing in the channel. The further we ventured upriver, the smaller and more desperate the boats became. As we passed under a large bridge we looked to the right to see Hillbilly Harbour, a sort of graveyard for derelict boats that probably didn’t run anymore, but at least still floated. The shaky docks these boats were tied to led up to the shaky custom bar sheds built on shore. I could picture a million cans of Bud Light being poured down smoky throats, with simultaneous fistfights and laughter to the whines and drawls of country music. There would be groping, and some falling, and perhaps a near drowning most weekends. If we could only score an invitation, it would be a fun place to hang out.

Almost immediately after Hillbilly Harbour, the busy harbour scenery was completely replaced by water, trees, reeds, and lily pads. Oh, plus one boat – an abandoned dinner cruise ship, unironically named “The Spirit of Rochester”, anchored beside the reedy and swampy shore. We circled it, looking for a way in, and Daryl and Lydia found one and in seconds Daryl had scrambled up, over the balcony, and disappeared into the belly of the beast. Hoping to make one of them Found Footage horror movies, we had our cameras rolling, waiting anxiously for Daryl to be attacked by a legion of zombies, or infected bats, or rabid mice, or at the very least a strung out wino, but we were rewarded with nothing of the sort. The only exciting thing that happened was a drone came flying over and probably took a picture of Daryl coming out and standing beside the “PRIVATE PROPERTY – DO NOT ENTER” sign. I assumed it to be a police drone so I yelled, “Cops!” and then everybody started shouting “Cops! Cops!” and just like back in the good old bush party days, we got the hell out of there before we got busted, not thinking that if it was a police drone we were already busted, but in the heat of the moment it was hard to think straight. As we motored off in our low speed getaway dinghies, Daryl said he’d probably come back later, and maybe set it on fire. I’m not sure if he did, but that would be a real hoot.

After a very long day we found ourselves late at night in SeaLight’s cockpit, eating chili and Mexican dip, drinking Coronas and rum, laughing and chatting, and everything was going great until Pat’s eyes went blank and he started tipping forward, face racing towards the bowl of chili in front of him. He woke up just in time to avoid the crash, then quickly excused himself and went to bed. Poor little tyke was all tuckered out from the long day on the water.

Monday, July 25, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 2 - Anchor by Wire, Gynecological Inspiration, and Pina Coladas

It's always exciting when a new day starts with a big surprise, so imagine my delight when Pat burst into our cabin at 3am in terror reporting that the boat was ensnarled in power lines.

"No, that's impossible!" I grumbled, mostly asleep.

"No man, we're hitting the lines, and I think the mast is electrified!"

"Can't be,' I said, trying to get back to sleep.

"Get up man, we're all going to die!"

Die seemed to be the magic word so I jumped out of bed, wearing only boxers and rat nest hair and joined Pat in the cockpit, looking up.

"Great news! I think it's only the lower hanging telephone lines we're snarled in," I said happily, then added, "Holy shit, we're screwed!"

The crew leaped into rescue action and soon all four of us were on deck with Pat and I in our underwear, girls in their sailing moo-moos, our 1000 lumen spotlight being waved around indiscriminately, one second illuminating the overhead wires, then blinding me at the helm, then shining on the terrified faces of my crewmates, then cast over the whitecapped bay. The howling wind had shifted east and the length of anchor chain that prevented us from hitting the barges was insufficient for holding the boat and our anchor had dragged, but fortunately the telephone lines currently scraping against the mast were holding us from floating further into the shallow bay and grounding ourselves. This is actually a valuable safety feature on sailboats that powerboaters don’t get with their vessels.

"Who the hell's even using a telephone landline these days?" Melissa asked as she cradled her chin and tapped her lip.

"Yeah, that's strange. Everybody's on cell service these days," nodded Ana.

We then convened a round table to discuss the current state of communications technology in the US, and I started taking meeting minutes, but then we realized we were still in deep shit, so the meeting was terminated and we resumed yelling at each other, running around on the deck, waving the spotlight around, and panicking.

I hollered at Ana to pull up the anchor as I cranked the engine and slammed it into forward gear. We immediately lurched off the lines and were clear, but the anchor was stuck and wouldn't come up. I left Pat at the helm and ran up to the bow to see what was going on. After a bit of screaming and pointing we realized the steel pin locking the anchor chain in place hadn't been removed, which became more difficult as the pin was now all bent up, but I managed to yank it out, scraping a layer of skin from my knuckle, and the anchor started coming up. Pat drove the boat back into the wind towards the state park docks then called me back to take over as he said there was no damn way he was going to dock the boat. Even though I knew his skill level was high, and he could probably do it blindfolded, I took over the wheel.

We circled the area around the docks, looking for a place we might be able to squeeze SeaLight's wide ass into and found enough dock length in one spot to try. Fortunately, the wind was parallel to the dock, making it quite easy to slide her in and once close enough, the crew jumped off the boat and tied the lines down to the available cleats, but not before Ana landed one of her feet in a large pile of goose shiza, and soiled her only pair of socks, which was really the only lasting damage from this particular screw-up, besides the bent anchor pin.

Several hours later it was daytime and we got up, all cool like, tied up to the dock, wondering if anybody was fortunate enough to see the clown show we put on for them in the early hours. We did not notice anybody snickering.

The ladies heated up an amazing breakfast casserole that Melissa had prepared in advance of the trip and we enjoyed a big meal in the cockpit with the beautiful sun shining down through clear skies. I assured our guests that epic disasters were a vital part of the sailing experience, and it was good we had the first one under our belts.

While the girls were getting ready, Pat and I worked with Daryl on some electrical issues he was having with the boat, until I got distracted with trying to fly the parasailing Barbie we had purchased while on vacation in Mexico earlier this year. It is like a kite but way worse as there must be a hundred strings attaching the doll to the parachute and they got horribly tangled, but not before I did get her into the air for a brief, but magnificent ride.

We jammed the five of us into our nine-foot dingy and motored back up the harbour to the busy part where we saw the restaurant and band the previous night. We tied up at the gas dock, checked out the gift shop/convenience store, then began walking to the town of Wilson, which was only a mile or two away.

Daryl and Lydia caught up to us about halfway there, just as we were admiring one of the impeccably maintained houses, which were similar to many we'd seen in many other small lake towns of the US - two story, white picket fence, and universally displaying a US flag and often several US pennants hung over the porch rails. The sense of nationalism here is unlike anywhere else.

There wasn't a lot to see in town, but we did find a nice park where we found a baby swing for Beau, and had a swing for ourselves, then moved onto the surprisingly large and well provisioned grocery store where we all picked up some booze and Pat struck gold with a gigantic plastic jar of like 500 pretzel sticks, which he claimed really supplemented the beer drinking experience. As for me, well I scored two cases of Yuengling beer, which is by far my favourite summertime boat brew, and haven't been able to get any due to the closed borders so I was smiling the entire way back, despite my arms feeling like they were about to drop off.

Once back at the boat, Melissa laid baby Beau down on the floor of the cabin while we unloaded the provisions and found places to store them. At one point Pat looked over to see Ana standing over Beau as she was putting away some groceries and he was looking directly up her dress, smiling and mesmerized.

"When he becomes a gynecologist later in life, I wonder if he'll remember his first moment of inspiration?'" Pat said.

"I sure will," I replied as I took a photo then high-fived Beau.

Melissa took Beau down for a nap, I put on the Santana Supernatural cd and we got settled into the cockpit for a beer. It wasn't long before both Ana and Pat started sliding further and further down onto the seats, with droopy eyes, so I took the cue and retired to the comfy v-berth and we all napped for nearly two hours as Santana played smoothly on repeat.

The day's adventuring finished with one final dingy ride into the harbour to meet Daryl and Lydia for a pina colada at the simple yet groovy little dockside Five Coconuts bar. We all agreed they were the tastiest pina coladas we’d ever encountered on Earth.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 1 - Wiener Dogs, Krazy Binz, and Rubber Vajay-jays

The day had finally arrived. The moment I most look forward to all year. Everything in the world seemed right as we casted off the lines and embarked on our annual sailing trip, this year on Lake Ontario to explore the US side, which had not been possible the last two years because of the pandemic.

Our friends Pat and Melissa and their baby boy Beau had taken residence in the two aft cabins of our sailboat SeaLight while Ana and I took over the front v-berth. We powered out of our home port Newport Yacht Club at 3:30 pm and into the lake. There was no wind and the lake surface was glass so we continued by motor power alone, pointed towards the town of Wilson, New York.

Most people assume sailors don't go anywhere near the lake unless there are 20 knot winds and white capped waves. Well, I can assure you that is not true. While we do like having wind to push us along, we also love being on flat water, motoring along at a comfortable 7 knots without sails, enjoying the smooth ride. And that is exactly what we had today.

We know Pat and Melissa from the many years we spent in sailing from Port Dover and were overjoyed when they expressed some interest in joining us on the boat trip. They are experienced power boaters and have been around boats their entire lives but have never done an extended trip on a sailboat. Pat is also a millwright and has suffered through countless boat disasters so has a real knack for fixing anything that might go BOOM on SeaLight. The best part is that their little boy Beau is only 8 months old so exposing him to the wonders of sailboats at this formative time just may turn him into a future sailor.

We were about halfway to Wilson when Melissa was in the cockpit and wanted to go down in the cabin but was too impatient to take the stairs so instead just stepped right off and took the elevator option straight down, sending herself arse over tea kettle, splayed out on the cabin floor. Ana and I initially felt awful, until Pat explained that Melissa always starts off her boat trips with a spectacular wipeout and really wouldn't have it any other way. We felt better after learning this, but I did have Ana check to make sure they had properly filled out their SeaLight liability waivers.

Shortly after this we decided to stop the boat and have a swim. Pat and I jumped in right away, but the ladies decided to give it a miss as the water temperature at 22 degrees Celsius was not sufficiently balmy; they would wait for warmer bays. As we were getting dried off, our friends Lydia and Daryl and their 16 year old wiener dog named Chili Dog passed by us in their power boat. They had decided to join us on our trip which was perfect as we always like to travel with power boat friends so they can get to the marinas first, find the best slips, scope out the area, pay for all the dockage, then have cold drinks waiting for us when we finally arrive by sail, many hours later.

We arrived in Wilson at dusk and were mesmerized by the pretty harbour, with boats of all shapes and sizes on one side and classic American cottages on the other, plus a busy restaurant near the entrance to the harbour, with a live band playing. We motored to the end of harbour and found our friends tied up at the state park docks, but there didn't look to be sufficient room anywhere for SeaLight so instead we anchored in the bay, but because of huge barges that were also anchored there I had to put out less chain than I normally would to prevent us from swinging around and crashing into one of them. And we couldn't move further into the bay away from the barges as there were power lines overhead, and we wanted to avoid those despite the chart showing they were 75 feet high which gave our mast plenty of clearance. The anchor seemed to stick well and soon we were settled, with drinks in hand, in the comfort of the bug-free, fully enclosed cockpit. Lydia and Daryl arrived shortly after that in their dingy and we spent several hours discussing important matters of the world...but also the “Krazy Binz” liquidation store in Stoney Creek near our marina and the five-dollar rubber vagina I found there recently, but was forbidden by Ana to purchase it, despite the potential of it being the best gag gift ever.