We have been, essentially, stationary for about two years now. The winter after we arrived was the winter of the ice storm. The first summer after we got to Toronto we only managed to go sailing a couple of times. The boat needed work, and so did we, and doing one and finding the other was time consuming.
Another winter has passed, another summer is done – it’s now officially fall. But this past summer things did improve: we went sailing several times. Last winter we decided that the boat needed to be ready to go sailing, if not at a moment’s notice, at least in a reasonably short time. So as we made the transition from winter to spring we worked out a different system for storing our ‘stuff’. We moved things around and installed hooks and used cushion covers for storing clothes and bags for other things, arranging it so we could store everything securely without any major upheaval. Our goal was to be able to go sailing without having to worry about things being unexpectedly strewn around the cabin. For the most part, we succeeded. Occasionally something we forgot ended up on the cabin sole.
To help make things happen we gave ourselves a deadline – deadlines, as you probably know, are motivating. We wanted to go to the annual Great Lakes Alberg Association races, in which teams of local sailors race against other teams from Chesapeake Bay. Our own boat would be the best way to get there; then we could spend time with other Albergers without having to think about all the things connected with travelling on our now well-used e-bike. Things like: calculating how far we are going, wondering whether we will have enough battery, can we charge the bike there, will we end up travelling at night and have to use the lights?
We met our deadline, got to the National Yacht Club, enjoyed the racing and camaraderie and spent a very pleasant weekend. That alone was more sailing than we had done the summer before. Since then we have been out just sailing, but done nothing else that might be considered local cruising. There was (is) work still to be done on the boat and we spent time nibbling away at that. And though we we went out, we certainly didn’t go out at every opportunity that offered.
There were the days we thought about going, but didn’t. Then our thoughts went something like this:
- The wind is blowing from the south-east and the waves are hissing against the rocks outside the marina – why go out and pound up and down?
- There isn’t much wind, and the biting flies will be lingering on the water just waiting for us to go past so they can swoop in and taste our ankles – sounds like not much sailing and lots of swatting and soapy-water spraying. Not fun.
- It’s cool, and if we go out we’ll have to dig out our fleeces and jackets. And readjust our life jackets. Hmm.
- It’s hot, and, given the wind direction, the sun is going to be be beating down into the cockpit, and I’m not supposed to spend long periods of time in direct sun…
We did think about going to Cobourg or Waupoos later in the summer, but later did not come. We spent a lot more time than we used to at the dock. We realized we miss the weekly and long distance racing that used to get us out on the water before we went cruising.
Recently I looked around the boat and thought – are we cruisers still, or live-aboards? Where is the line, and have we crossed it?
Because, you see, some things are different. We have electrical appliances on board that we didn’t have before: an electric induction cooktop and a slow cooker, a Mobicool power cooler, and three electric heaters to warm our boat in the winter (except when the power goes out, but that’s altogether another story). And we have a shore-powered LED light in our main cabin as well as all our battery-powered lights. Everything is still as power-thrifty as possible – time spent cruising has taught us to pay attention to how many amps we use. And we won’t lose the habit: cruising we have to pay attention to our batteries; at the dock our power supply is limited to thirty amps.
Other differences? Our printer, which used to spend most of its time safely stored, now sits out on a shelf, held in place by strategically placed pegs. And now that we are in one place we seem to have more stuff, and more of what we have is kept within easy reach instead of packed away in lockers. Happily we can now move seasonal items off the boat and into land-based storage easily – which means that we are tempted to have even more stuff…
Underfoot we now have an insulating cork floor we’ve put over our cabin sole. It can be lifted in sections, so that the lockers and bilge underneath are still accessible – just not quite as quickly as before. There are pictures and a plaque on a bulkhead and on one side of our cabin, things that feel more home- than boat-like.
Some new/rediscovered skills come with being at the dock. We are adept at dealing with spiders and flies. We are familiar with the habits of wasps in autumn and pretty good at keeping them out of the inside of our boat. We pay attention to the habits of local raccoons, skunks and mink – local as in to be found on and around the docks. And we are aware of the many creatures there are in the park around us.
We have fishy neighbours, seen among the weeds under the water. Swans and ducks and geese swim and feed around us, gulls fly over or swoop in, sometimes cormorants hunt close by. Other birds spend their summers here, including swallows and woodpeckers and pigeons and mourning doves. More pass through on their way north or south. Further afield we may see deer and all kinds of birds, as well as the occasional fox and the even more occasional coyote that we glimpse at dusk on our way up or down the hill.
We have an e-bike for getting around, as long as the weather is suitable – as in not too cold and definitely no snow. A scooter style e-bike which definitely does not fit anywhere on our boat. And we have just bought a new-to-us car to use in winter and rain and wind. It’s not the hybrid we had hoped for but very economical in its use of gas, in keeping with our desire to be as kind as possible to the environment we live in. We can’t take either of those cruising. They might fit on a huge mega-yacht, but we’ll never have one of those!
So: have we crossed the line, at least for now? Are we more live-aboards than cruisers? And – does it matter?