Friday, August 4, 2023

July 30 – Back Home to Newport

It’s 1:30 pm on Sunday. Ana and I are sitting on the bow of SeaLight as the sun shines down, the wind blows directly in our face, and the autopilot drives us home. It the first time we’ve done this during the trip and it gives us a chance to reflect on the amazing times we’ve had with our family and friends over the past 18 days and all the new places we’ve explored.

During this trip we covered 804 kilometres or 404 nautical miles which translates into approximately 72 hours of sailing. This averages out to just over four hours of sailing per day, but of course much of this came in larger passages which gave us time for down days where we didn’t sail at all.

This is now our fourth major sailing trip on Lake Ontario and I feel like we’ve achieved a pretty good feel for the lake. There’re a few spots left to explore on the US side of the lake, plus a number of marinas and yacht clubs in our neighbourhood in the western end that we’re yet to visit. Next time around we might decide on a slower pace and focus in on fewer stops with more time to fully explore each area. Saying that, I will admit we tend to get bored quickly. When we’ve had more time allocated on earlier sailing trips, like the longer 4 week trips we’ve done up to the North Channel, we’ve always just expanded the range of where we went instead of focusing in on smaller areas, but I guess that’s just what we like to do.

Along the way we defrost both the fridges (and pick more coffee grounds out of the top loader), clean and vacuum the boat, pull off the bedding, pack up our stuff, so by the time we arrive at Newport we are nearly ready to head home. Earlier in the day after breakfast, Magnus headed back downtown to hang out then took the train back to Aldershot, got the van, then meets us at the marina just as we are arriving. We take a few photos of us and Lydia, Daryl, and Chili then we were off, just as a big thunderstorm passes overhead and drenches everything. That’s been the story of the trip – sun to rain to wind back to sun back to rain. It’s all good.

And thus ends the 2023 sailing trip.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

July 29, 2023 – Rainy Day in the Big Smoke

We didn’t see much of the kids during last year’s boating season. With Magnus driving and Stella working every Saturday, it just didn’t work out very often and we thought they had both really lost interest. Which is why we were so happy they both decided to join us for parts of this boat trip. They are both at or near a junction in their lives where they are making big decisions so we always have plenty to discuss, as we do over breakfast this morning with Magnus. He is on the tail end of a gap year and looking to make his next move, which will likely be school, and he wants to get started on something in January. So we decided last night to walk over to George Brown college today and have a look around as they offer some programs he is interested in.

A big nasty system rolled in last night and it is pouring outside. I dress up in my full rain gear – pants and jacket, which Ana and Magnus just wear jackets. After walking for a short while through the torrential rain we slip into Shopper’s Drug Mart to pick up two umbrellas as Ana fears a major makeup malfunction. From there we have a long, drawn-out coffee stop at Aromas Espresso Bar then continue on our long walk to George Brown through half empty streets, unheard of for a Saturday in Toronto.

The first George Brown college building we reach looks closed but we find a back door entrance and give ourselves a tour. The entire building is deserted and there are construction works in progress, giving it the feel of a set on a zombie apocalypse movie. We go over to the culinary arts building which isn’t hard to find because we can see people through the streetside windows in there wearing kitchen whites and making bread and cookies.

We walk in and it smells heavenly. There is a single administrator working and she gives us a brief overview of George Brown and points us in the direction of the adjoined Business department which offers the program Magnus is interested in. We take a quick walk around then decide it would be best to continue our discussion over lunch so we find a nearby Thai restaurant and go crazy with the curries. Magnus positively loves this area of this city as it right in the middle of all the action – Front Street, St Lawrence Market, the Financial district, and within walking range of the entire downtown.

Ana finds a thrift shop and thrifting ensues. I duck out early with a big bag of our purchases and Ana’s umbrella which I am charged to protect and go outside to sit in the park. The rain is finally letting up and bits of sun are peeking through the clouds. When Ana and Magnus come to get me I, of course, leave her umbrella hanging on the back of a chair and don’t realize it until we’ve walked a couple of block, so I race back and of course it’s gonzo. I creep around the park hoping to yoink a similar umbrella from another hapless doofus who left one lying around, but no such luck so I return empty handed and feel great shame.

We make the long walk back to the boat then have a nice chill out session in the cockpit for a couple of hours, then Magnus heads back into the city for a solo coffee and Ana and I go over to a nice lakeside seating area in the marina that has a firepit, Bluetooth speakers, comfy loungers, and a resident mink that peeks out from under a planter every once in a while and scratches the back of his head on the wood while he looks up to the sky with glee. We have a drink and enjoy the beautiful sunshine that’s finally made its full appearance. Life is good.

Soon the Thai curry wears off so we walk back downtown, meet Magnus, then have spectacular rotis from my favourite place to eat in Toronto – the Indian Roti House, just across from Amsterdam Brew House. Ana goes for a slice of pizza instead as she claims Indian food turns her insides upside down and we don’t want to risk any permanent damage to the boat’s plumbing.

It’s getting close to dark when we get the call from our friends still moored in the islands. Our presence is required. So we jump in the dinghy and accidentally motor right through the restricted zone beside the airport runway. The giant white marker buoys which are so easy to see during the daytime are much less so at night and we get totally confused with where we are. Fortunately no police boats come chasing after us and there’s no botched plane landing.

We settle on Chris and Miriam’s boat for a drink and visit and confirm that yes, Daryl and Lydia were stalking us last night, but gave up and went out drinking and clubbing instead. Man, those guys have energy.

We play it safe on the dinghy ride home and take a wide berth around the buoys but still manage to accidentally cut through half of the forbidden zone, but now we just feel like marine commandos on a midnight mission.

As we pass by the phenomenal Toronto night skyline headed to the boat I think again how incredible this city and this moment is.

And tomorrow, we will head home.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

July 28, 2023 – Coffee Mishap, Exploring Toronto, and a Midnight Visitor

We drink instant coffee on the boat. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it tastes pretty good. We do, however, have the capability to make great coffee on the boat and that is done with the Aeropress, a type of French press, but with the capacity of only a single cup. Whenever we have boat guests I always crack out the Aeropress to make coffee. Angela’s coffee comes out perfectly and I serve it to her in the cockpit. Now, Sheila’s. I set the Aeropress down on the top loading refrigerator, dump at least two tablespoons of coffee into the chamber, pour in boiling water, then mix it up with a spoon. As I flip the Aeropress on top of the coffee cup to do the plunging, something goes wrong and it falls and comes apart, spilling boiling hot coffee ground water all over the counter and into the edges of the fridge, splattering all over the food and drinks within. It is a goddamn mess and over the next 3o minutes I go through half a paper towel roll and several rags to clean it up. It’s all Sheila’s fault.

After breakfast we toss the lines and motor into Toronto’s National Yacht Club, where we will spend the next two nights for the low, low price of free as they offer gratis slips to reciprocal members of other yacht clubs. We have a hugfest on the dock with Angela and Sheila then they are off to retrieve their car and drive back into Brantford. Which leaves Ana and I all alone with a full day ahead of us in this amazing city.

We begin by jumping in the dinghy and motoring across the harbour to the Dock Shoppe to return a boat part I didn’t end up needing. From there we go on the outside of the Toronto islands to the beach on Ward’s Island. Once again, there’s an incredible amount of activity on the water – little kids in sailing school, that giant three masted ship, and dozens of sail and powerboats. We dinghy right into the beach, lay out a towel, and sit in a sand for a while watching all the action. Once sufficiently heated up, we go for a swim to cool off then hop back in the dinghy and continue the circle tour around the islands. As we are motoring on flat water, at the perfect temperature, with an inviting breeze on our faces Ana says, “Remember this moment, this exact moment right now,” and she leans over and kisses me. “We’ll come back to this memory in January when we’re suffering through winter.”

I love my wife. She is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me and she makes me so happy, especially at moments like this.

We make the full loop around the islands and end up back at the boat where we quickly change clothes then head out to walk Toronto. It is hot as Hades so we stick to the shady sides of the streets where we can and we take it at a slow pace – there’s no rush.

As we are walking down Queen’s Quay a young girl holding a clipboard and flyers stops me.

“Have you ever heard of the Little St. Nick children’s charity?” she asks me, smiling widely and suspicously.

“Sorry, what’s that you say?” I reply as I squint through my sunglasses at the brochure she’s holding and am horrified to see an image of Santa Clause.

“Little St. Nick, it’s a children’s charity,” she explains.

“I hate Christmas,” I say bluntly and we walk away. Ana’s surprised as I’m usually pretty kind to strangers interrupting my free time with things I don’t care about, but today, on this beautiful hot day, in July, seeing an image of the Christmas elf reminds me of the 6 painful months of the year in which I despise the weather and complain endlessly as I question our life and residency choices.

We stop for cold drinks, walk around for a while, then find two free Adirondack chairs on the fabricated, but still lovely, HTO beach near the Harbourfront Centre. As soon as I lean back in that comfy chair, I am out. When I regain consciousness, I see Ana’s been eavesdropping on some other beachgoers. One dude and his buddy are flirting hard with a girl and we can hear everything they are saying. Before long, a well dressed dude walks up on the other side of us, sees a pretty girl sitting alone on a bench and says, “Mind if I sit here?” He starts chatting her up, then we hear, “I like your look,” and man is she digging it! She slides a bit closer to him and they get engaged in deep conversation. Over on the other side of Hook Up Beach one of the first dudes is now touching his target’s arm, then her leg, and she’s laughing and having fun.

“I didn’t think people knew how to do this anymore,” Ana says as she looks back and forth at the pick ups in progress.

“And they’re doing it without the use of an app. Amazing.”

We head back to the boat as we’re expecting Magnus – he is taking the train out to spend the weekend with us. I pick him up in the dingy at Trillium Park around 8 and we have a great visit with him as we make a dinner of Korean short ribs, sweet potato fries, and salad. We consider taking a walk into Toronto and finding somewhere to go for a drink but he’s pretty tired out from a busy week at work so we just hang in the boat and I go to bed at the ridiculous hour of 10 pm. Normally, this would not be possible when Lydia is around as she is this innocent looking thing who, on the first day we met her, claimed her bedtime was 10:30 and she never stayed up beyond that. Well, what a scam that was. We learned very quickly that she likes drinking wine, laughing, and telling stories until 2am and forces everybody in the vicinity to have fun right alongside her. Since she is isolated on the islands, I don’t miss the opportunity for a few extra horizonal hours.

Just after midnight I am woken up by Ana’s poking finger.

“What? Huh? What’s up?” I ask all groggy like.

“There’s something outside,” she whispers. “An evil presence.”

I listen carefully. There is a slight sloshing of water against the boat. Maybe a duck? Or a goose? Or some carps making love?

Then, the squeak of dinghy PVC against the hull and an unmistakable laugh.

“Shit!” I hiss into Ana’s ear. “It’s Lydia. Don’t move, don’t make a sound.”

“Oh no,” Ana says as she freezes and pulls the blanket over her head.

Her and Daryl have found us. She could probably sense from miles away that we were trying to go to bed early and is here to put a stop to it. We can hear them moving alongside the boat, undoubtedly peeking into the windows looking for signs of life.

Then, “Kriiiiiiiiissssss. Aaaaaaaanaaaaa. Come out and play.”

We are frozen with fear. She’s an unstoppable party machine and she’s here to destroy our good night’s sleep. We keep quiet and motionless. My mouth is dry and I start to picture how nice a beer would taste right now.

“Damnable voodoo! Devil woman! Now she’s invading my thoughts!” I whisper to Ana as I shake the image out of my head.

“Be strong,” she says.

We hear them circle the boat, then get off the dingy and up onto the floating dock. They won’t give up. But we wait them out, and soon we hear some yelling and screaming and laughing coming from a boat, probably on the other side of the marina. A pattering of feet. A splash of water as they jump into the dingy. The sound of an outboard engine firing up. They take off to investigate the party noises, and within minutes will be in somebody else’s cockpit making friends, laughing, and having fun.

The danger has passed.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

July 27, 2023 – I Want To See Your Peacock, Cock, Cock, Your Peacock, Cock

I wake up at a gloriously late 6:30, happy that we don’t have to travel anywhere for a few days. It is a clear, warm morning and I get set up in the cockpit with a hot chicory drink and my laptop and do some writing.

Spending so much time on the boat really tunes your ears to the sounds the boat should and should not be making. The hum of the engine while underway should be just so – if it wavers, then something is going wrong, or about to go wrong. The sound of the wind on the sails (not that we’ve heard much of that this trip…) changes with different points of sail and you can hear when you are getting at too close of an angle to the wind. The air conditioner produces a symphony of sounds and it becomes easy to tell when it’s sucked up a wad of lily pads and is about to choke.

The one sound I notice this morning is the bilge pump. Or rather, no sound of it. It should be running periodically to drain the water created by the air conditioner. But this morning it is not so I open up the bilge to investigate. Sure enough, it is underwater and not working. I wiggle it. I flip the breaker on and off. I check the wiring and the voltage. I clean the impeller. Everything looks fine but it just does not work properly. I can get it to run if I turn it upside down, but when I flip it back over it sucks for a second then stops.

Time to go bilge pump shopping.

Daryl is up for the ride to the Dock Shoppe as he never passes up an opportunity to blow some coin at a marine store. But before leaving, our friends Chris and Miriam from Newport arrive in their 37’ Marinette aluminum cruiser powerboat and we help them to get docked. They’ve been cruising around for a week or so and decided to come and join us for the weekend. Their condo is right next to where our boat is docked at Newport and they can look down on us from their deck. I sometimes see Miriam peeking down at me through the bathroom window when I’m taking a shower and she’s usually giggling. I suspect I know what she’s giggling about, but I usually just wave then slowly draw the curtain.

Daryl and I jump in the dinghy and motor out of the islands and across the frantic, wavy Toronto Inner Harbour to the marine store which is located on a small barge at the end of an industrial jetty on the easternmost side. Unless you are a boater in need of parts, you would never, ever be able to find this place, nor just happen to pass by it. It is also past a prehistoric lift bride, which happens to be going up as we enter to let through a tug pushing a barge, who is coming up on us fast.

We pick up the parts we need then motor back to the boat but take the winding island route this time which is a bit slower, but scenic and calm. After installing the new bilge pump and discovering it is behaving exactly the same as the old one, I give up and take the dinghy back across the bay to pick up our friends Angela and Sheila from Brantford, who are coming out to join us for a day. I find them waving at me from beside the Empire Sandy schooner so they load into the dinghy and we cruise back to the boat for a burger lunch then an extended chill out session at the pool.

As we’re walking back to the boat we bump into our friends and learn they have been scavenging (and perhaps plucking?) feathers all afternoon from the pimped out male peacock. Miriam has a handful of four foot long feathers, that she’s strutting around like Mrs. Thurston Howell the Third. Lydia has one between her teeth and sashays like a matador down the dock. Daryl has one pinned in his dapper hat, complementing his million dollar smile. Chris has one slid into the belt buckle loop of his shorts, inviting pelvic glances just like Robert Plant did with that red rose in his low cut jeans when Led Zeppelin played Stairway to Heaven, but Chris’s version is way sexier. I haven’t seen the daddy peacock today but I expect he now looks like he’s got the mange, patchy and unkempt, with half of his feathers missing. After seeing this bonanza of colour, Angela decides she needs a feather as a fashion accessory for an upcoming event so Ana finds two dock rats and sends them off plucking.

After a dinghy ride through the islands, the four of us enjoy a slow and relaxed dinner and drinks at the yacht club restaurant like the fancy folks that we are, then we all meet up in the air conditioned inner digestive system of SeaLight, otherwise known as the main salon. We usually gather in the cockpit, but tonight we try something new. I pull up Spotify on my phone and start with the most appropriate song I could think of as we reflected on today’s events, a new one from Katy Perry, and I turn it to maximum volume:

I want to see your peacock, cock, cock, your peacock, cock. Your peacock, cock, cock, your peacock.

I want to see your peacock, cock, cock, your peacock, cock. Your peacock, cock, cock, your peacock.

Well that really gets the party going. People start jumping around, arms pumping, hips gyrating, going crazy to the beat. A couple of the ladies whip their shirts off, then one of them rips off Daryl’s shorts and, adding fuel to this techno fire, we are rewarded with a beautiful peacock feather peeking out of his boxers which really drives the chicks mental.

I notice the huge bottle of Kraken that Marty and I tried to kill back in Kingston still has a bit left so I split it into two cups, four ounces each, keeping one for myself and giving one to Chris as I don’t think he’s ever experienced a Kraken smackdown, but I think he’s going to really like it.

The party is really heating up as my playlist winds through other high octane fowl tunes and there are more clothes being tossed around, but then Daryl asks me about the electrical problem on the boat and the three men start discussing battery terminals, short circuits, breakers, then we start taking the boat apart and testing stuff, which just kills the mood. Someone mentions mapping out the electrical schematic and that instantly drives Sheila and Angela to bed and they don’t even bother gathering up their clothes so I guess I’ll have to sweep up all the bras, garter belts, and stockings later and return them to their respective owners.

The remaining partygoers move over to Chris and Miriam’s boat where the conversation focuses on the burgee (this is a flag for recreation boating clubs) we need to create for the LOL – Lake Ontario Loopers, which will be awarded to anybody from the club who does a similar circumnavigation of the full lake. We’re thinking it should have images of a gas can spilling fuel onto a goby fish and a swan, the earth on fire, definitely a peacock, and maybe an extra long wiener dog wrapping around the whole thing.

Man, that Kraken produces some good ideas!