Summer is here. It’s been mostly hot and mostly dry. Around us the insects and birds and spiders are thriving, the trees are maintaining their green (and silvery and deep red) ways, but the wildflowers are growing scarcer, the shrubs are thinner and the unshaded grass, where there is grass, is dry and brown.
This is our third summer back here, and it finally feels as if we’re settling in, not just trying to find our way around and figure out what we want to do and how to do it. Not settling into the ordinary parts of life, like groceries and laundry and such, or the family parts of life, but the sailing part.
Before we went away we used to race regularly – club races once a week, a series of longer round the buoy races outside the harbour, a single/double handed series of races between clubs. And I used to race sometimes with an all-woman crew in a series of races for women. Between those and just going out sailing for the fun of it we spent a lot of time on the water.
When we came back re-joining a club (though we loved being part of you, QCYC) was not our best option. There were financial considerations, for one thing; it would also mean spending the summer at one place with one group of sailors, and the winter at another. And that would mean picking up and packing up twice a year.
So we took our place with the liveaboards in this marina, and for a while we focused on figuring out winter living and trying to finish some of the many jobs that did not quite get done before we left Halifax. We enjoyed the park around us. We visited with and helped out family. We saw old friends again. We sailed, but not nearly as often as we used to.
This spring there was a change. We were ready to do more, to sail more. At the boat show we mentioned to the organizers of the long distance races that we would love to do them, but didn’t belong to a club.
“Oh, that’s no problem,” the cheerful woman said. “You can join the Maple Leaf Club. Then you’ll just need a PHRF certificate.” And she wrote down the URL we needed. It sounded so simple that we put off doing anything about it until the beginning of summer.
It took a couple of attempts to join the Maple Leaf Club. That took us past the first race in the series. Then we needed to track down the right person to measure our sails and sign our PHRF certificate. That took a couple of tries as well. We got the certificate just before the second and third race, but by then we were deep into figuring out the safety equipment we needed to be able to compete. Luckily we have most of it – most cruisers would – but there were some things that had failed along the way as we traveled, like the hand-held VHF radio, or that needed to be cleaned up and upgraded. It seems that now the long distance races are being run under modified ISAF safety rules for offshore racers. That took us past the second race.
There is a little more than a month until the next race, 100 nautical miles around the lake. In the meantime we are sailing as much as we can, trying to get and stay in tune with the boat and be sailing-fit again,as in being fit enough to handle the jib well and tack quickly and efficiently. Being sailing-fit also means being generally fit, so we’re trying to be more systematic about our walking and generally staying strong and flexible.
We’ve had some good sails, and some slow sails, and some no-wind days. We’ve set the vane and enjoyed just being on the water; we’ve also battled those nasty biting flies that lie in wait on windless days and swarm into the cockpit to attack our ankles. Those days we rate in terms of spray bottles: a bad fly day can consume two or three bottles of soapy water as I spray madly in a vain attempt to keep them away. At least we end up with fewer, the environment is not harmed, and the cockpit just needs a good rinse to be very clean…
Last week we hauled Into The Blue and Richard is cleaned and painted her underneath. I had an easy day, sitting on a friend’s boat, enjoying a little time to myself, sketching some designs and doing some writing. Since then we’ve been sailing – oh the pleasure of feeling the boat slide easy through the water – and working on screens that will allow us to keep the boat open and the insects (particularly the wasps) and spiders out. Richard is modifying our original design as I write. For some reason our original designs often need some modification when they move from idea to reality.
Having screens feels more important as the heat and humidity show no signs of diminishing. We have finally had some rain and thunderstorms, and more rain and thunderstorm are promised over the next few days. If the drops fall as hard as the first showers much of the water will slide over the land and end up in the lake, carrying sediment and garbage with it. But there will be enough left to help the plants and creatures who have been craving water.
We did manage to collect some rain inside the boat when the first rain and thunder-storms came. This was because we foolishly left our hatches open on a very hot day while we went up the hill to watch our grandson play soccer. While we were away the dark clouds gathered, the rain fell heavily and the thunder rolled over us. We were soaked, the game was called and we fled home to assess the damage.
Coming down the hill we saw muddy water rolling down the ditches beside the road. Twigs and leaves littered the corner where the water had swept across the road. The puddles on the level part of the road were huge. The heavens opened again as we parked, and we decided to wait for the worst of it to pass. A few minutes would not make any difference.
When we did get to the boat we found the steps down into the cabin and floor beneath them wet. We shed our own wet shoes and dried that part of the floor before we went forward to see how wet our bed was.
I usually put an umbrella over the hatch when I open it, and fasten it in place with bungee cords to prevent it from blowing away. It looks a little odd, but I have my reasons – I began doing it the day a bird left a calling card on our bed when the hatch was wide open. When we got back this time the umbrella was still in place, and I’m sure that’s why the bed was not nearly as wet as it might have been. There was a soaked patch in the centre, but it had not spread out to either side. It also helped that we still have the fleece covering on our bed, since the fleece held the water and little of it leaked through to the sheets beneath.
So all we needed was a few things hung to dry and sheets and our clothes in the dryer, and we were dry again…
Here’s to rain that falls more gently and at night, and as many days spent sailing as possible.