It was a Long Race

Richard, looking forward. Photo by M. Mair

Richard, looking forward. Photo by Margaret Mair.

If you wait till everything is in place you may never do the things you love. If you want to remind yourself of all the things you love about sailing you need to get out there and just do it. We know that, and yet we have found ourselves hesitating to go out on any but the most ideal days – days of perfect wind and perfect weather. This summer we decided we needed a reason to go sailing on those not-so-perfect days.

We used to go racing, and would find ourselves out sailing in all kinds of conditions. So after some thought Richard and I decided to go back to racing, but longer races, the kind that don’t involve too many quick tacks and gybes. For starters, we decided to do the LOSHRS (Lake Ontario Single Handed Race Series) 100 mile race, worn out cruising sails and all. We had wanted to do a couple of the earlier, shorter races but we were not ready in time for those. So the 100 mile race it would be.

We knew we had some disadvantages, even in this kind of racing. It’s generally recommended to keep racing boats as light as possible – travel with no more than the necessary gear and whatever else the rules dictate must be on board. We live on our boat, so clearly we have much more than any rules dictate – things like clothes and books and pots and pans and tools and art supplies and solar panels. Racing or not our boat is never going to be light, though we try to keep her well balanced side-to-side and fore-to-aft.

We consulted the rules, read the sailing instructions, prepared ourselves as best we could and on the August 20th weekend we went racing on our own boat for the first time in eleven years. We knew cruising was good preparation for the variety of conditions we might face, but we quickly realized how rusty our racing skills are. We misjudged the start and crossed the line well behind the other boats in our group. Never mind, we told ourselves, it’s a long race and by the end a late start won’t make much difference.

There was a nice breeze and the first leg was a reach, perfect for our boat. We managed to stay ahead of a few other boats until the Gibraltar mark. Once around it we sailed upwind for the Burlington Weather Tower mark and watched the other boats pull away into the haze. The afternoon passed. I napped first, then Richard took his turn. We knew it was best to sleep when you know you can, and high winds and possible thunderstorms were in the overnight forecast.

Gibraltar mark, photo, M. Mair

Passing the Gibraltar mark, Photo by Margaret Mair.

We rounded the yellow Burlington Weather Tower before night fell. If you have not seen the tower I will tell you it is a very solid structure that rises from the water with a sign on it that tells boats to keep 100 metres away. Not that it’s something a sailor would want to approach too closely (though the cormorants perching on it obviously found nothing to fear). Darkness fell and the air cooled as we sailed for the Niagara mark.

That was when Environment Canada announced a squall watch and Richard decided to put his rain gear on. The winds rose while I took another turn resting below. At about 23:30 I heard the sail flapping and the winch on the cabin top creaking as Richard reefed; less than an hour later the second reef was in and we were surfing along at 6.6 knots.

I came out, raincoat on, to help with the gybe around the Niagara mark. I winched the jib in and leaned to see how it was set. The boat heeled just that little bit more, the rub rail and my hand submerged and a rush of water ran up my raincoat sleeve. Ugh. I sat up, dropped my hand so it would run out again and emptied the water into the cockpit. Then I went to sit on the other side, glad to hear that the squall watch had been lifted. That, of course, was when the squall hit, the boat heeled even more and an errant wave washed over the coaming and soaked me. Since I had no rain pants I had to retreat to the cabin to change into dry clothes and hang up wet things. I informed Richard I would remain there unless absolutely needed until we were in less soaking conditions.

I emerged with the easing of the wind and clouds to take a watch while Richard went below to rest. By then it was my favorite time of day for sailing, those sunrise hours when the sky grows slowly lighter and the world larger. The vane steered and I watched our course, the wind and the water. All was quiet.

After a while I noticed that the once-light skies over land were growing darker. And darker. A little later I saw what I hoped was just a dark haze enveloping the land, stretching from sky to ground. That dark thing kept coming closer, until some docks I had been watching were hard to see and whatever it was was spilling over the water. That was when I woke Richard and told him to come up with his rain gear on.

He came up reluctantly, still tired and I went down to wait until the weather passed. A few minutes later the boat heeled over and rain drops splattered on the ports. The weather gods had sent us one more squall before we finished the race, before the weather settled and we could concentrate fully on sailing toward the finish.

After it passed we realized we had one more problem to deal with: we had the finish mark wrong. That became apparent after we had called the LOSHRS Race Committee (by this point down to the SRO, Graham Dougal), then searched for the mark where we thought it should be. There was none. What to do? Richard marked the start line instead, and we headed there.

Bow wake, photo, M. Mair

Bow wake, Photo by Margaret Mair.

Those last nine miles were the longest. The wind grew lighter and we traveled more slowly. As we got close to the finish we looked for a mark on land that would be one end of the line. We did not find it – what we did find was Graham in his brightly coloured coat sitting where, we assumed, the mark should have been. Then we spotted the in-the-water finish mark that was the other end of the line, and sailed for it. Graham’s voice came over the radio: “Into The Blue, we have your finish time.” We had crossed the line. The race was complete.

We took our sails down, motored into the yacht club, tied up then tidied up minimally and went to sleep for a couple of hours before we sailed home again.

First 100 mile race done.

Written by Margaret Mair

A note: the photos here were not taken during the race, but they are of the areas we sailed through! We were too focused on sailing to take pictures during the race.

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And Now it’s Summer

End of the dock, photo, M. Mair

The end of the dock, photo by Margaret Mair

Early July:

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.

Ducklings feeding, photo, M. Mair

Summer is full of new life – here, ducklings feeding under a nearby dock. Photo by Margaret Mair

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.

Sailing away, photo, M. Mair

Someone (not us) is sailing away. Photo by Margaret Mair

“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…

Early morning sun, photo, M. Mair

Early morning sun on one of our walks, photo by Margaret Mair

Late July:

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.

Beach after the rain, photo, M. Mair

Beach after the rain, photo by Margaret Mair

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.

Just passing by, photo, M. Mair

Just passing by, photo by Margaret Mair

Posted in Living Aboard, Ontario, sailing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Memory of Whales

Atlantic northern right whale, US government photo

Atlantic Northern Right Whale, courtesy United States Federal Government

This memory begins with a day out at sea. We were sailing from South Carolina up the east coast to Halifax, bringing Into The Blue back after an abortive attempt to sail south. It was sunny, there was not much wind, we were moving very slowly and glad to be moving at all. The only engine we had was an outboard we could not use at sea so it was the wind, or nothing, that propelled us.

We might not be moving much, but other creatures were. In the distance we could see birds circling, and the shimmer of breath as dolphins broke the surface. At least we thought they were dolphins – it was hard to tell at that distance.

It had been a long journey, full of waits for bad weather to pass. I was tired now and I wanted to be moving along, making good progress on our way home. I wanted to know that soon we would be at our mooring, and could rest easy knowing that we had made it safely there. I loved being at sea, but there was somewhere else we needed to be – and should have been weeks ago. After all the waits and worrying I wanted quiet, stability, real rest after the night watches and storm watches and treks up inlets to safe harbours and finding ourselves in strange places we needed to find our way around.

Right whale breaching, US Federal Government

Right Whale Breaching, photo courtesy of the United States Federal Government

The great dark head, spotted with grey, broke the surface not far from the boat. A small beady eye seemed to peer at me, I could smell the wet breath. After a moment the right whale opened its huge mouth, and I could see the baleen filling it. It seemed to lie at the surface for minutes. Then it dived and was gone.

I was completely surprised. I stood braced, a knee on the cockpit seat, tense, my heart beating hard. My eyes strained to catch every detail. In that instant I wanted to understand and remember what was happening. My ears were alert for odd sounds, the sudden catch of breath – the whale’s and my own. I held tight to the lifelines and just stared.

Richard was off-watch, down in the cabin. I finally pulled myself together to call to him, but by then all that was left was the turbulence in the water – the whale was gone. He came hurrying up into the cockpit at the sound of my voice, alert and ready to deal with whatever situation had arisen.

“What is it?”

“A whale!”

“A whale? Where?”

“Gone. Already gone.” I pointed to where it had been. “It was huge!”

“What kind?”

“It must have been a right whale. I think.”

My heart was still beating hard. It took a while to calm down. If I’m really honest I would tell you that this was one of those situations that I had always dreaded. I could not imagine how I would deal with the sudden appearance of a whale larger than we were close to the boat. What would I think, how would I feel, what would I do. Drifting along with no way to change direction was my particular fear – what if the great creature should be there, right in front of us, and we could not avoid it?

I need not have worried. Looking back on this memory now I can see that I never realized until I actually met a whale how strongly I would feel a kinship to them. There is an intelligence in their eyes, an evaluation of you as you are gazing at them, a sense that you do not want to be found wanting. Their size is intimidating, but their intelligence offers a way to come to know them in their natural habitat as you never could by reading or studying.

A sense that grew even stronger when we were visited just a little later by a pod of orcas on their way to join the birds and dolphins feeding in the distance. When an orca looks at you feel you have been examined and evaluated, that they really are considering what you might be…

Orca, photo by Christopher Michel

Orca, Photo by Christopher Michel

 

Written by Margaret Mair

Pictures courtesy of:

Orca: Christopher Michel [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Right whales: United States Federal Government (This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. See Copyright.)

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Spring is Flirting With Us

Spring, photo by M. Mair

Spring, A Clear Day – photo by Margaret Mair

It’s spring. And that means that the weather is unpredictable.

Three days before I sat down to write this the trees and grass and docks were covered with ice after a day of freezing rain. Everything was slippery. We looked at the forecast and spent the night before up the hill and away from the boat to make sure that we would be able to do what we had committed to doing that day. Even after a bout of sunshine there was still ice on the docks when we came home.

Ice and snow, photo by M. Mair

Ice and Snow, photo by Margaret Mair

Fast forward a couple of days. The sun shone brightly. Under our winter cover the temperature was positively tropical. We kept our cabin doors open most of the day, and enjoyed the influx of light and warmth. When we went for a walk in the park it was full of other people also enjoying the weather. The air was that particular kind of clear that deepened colours and made the light on the tree branches glow.

How quickly things changed. Early the next morning a thunderstorm woke us. The wind began to pick up and misty drizzle rolled through. Then came the showers. Wind-driven water chuckled against the hull. The boat rocked and rolled when the wind gusted, and the cover moved on its frame. We built it flexible, but that didn’t mean we liked to see it flex and sometimes lift a little. The gusts were as high as 80 km/hr – less than we had in the worst winter storm but more than usual. On the other hand we weren’t here when that winter storm came through and we were here to see and feel the spring one.

Spring, misty day, photo by M. Mair

 Mist and Rain, photo by Margaret Mair

The weather keeps cycling. Today was a cold and sunny day, perhaps the most popular kind of day so far. Snow and sleet are expected over night. The forecast for tomorrow is rain and warmer.

I suppose we should just be glad that so far this season nothing has blown off or away from our boat. Though we did notice that someone else has lost a large black fender, the kind that bigger boats – many of the bigger boats here – use. The last time we saw it it was still floating around the marina, going where the wind took it. And we should be happy that the worst of the waves stirred up by the wind have not come round the breakwater into the marina, thanks to the wind direction. Though the bottom of the lake close to shore has been well stirred up and the waters there are an odd beige.

Best enjoy the good days, get through the bad days and look forward to summer and sailing…

Sun in spring, photo by M. Mair

Sun in Spring, photo by Margaret Mair

Written by Margaret Mair

Posted in Living Aboard, Ontario, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

A Furry Visitor

Raccoon_Female_After_washing_up_Wikimedia

Female Raccoon After Washing Up, photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson*

 

We are used to seeing wildlife. We enjoy watching the birds, though we wish they did not leave their calling cards wherever they have been roosting or resting, particularly when that happens to be where we walk. The ducks and swans argue and squabble noisily from time to time; the seagulls swoop and squall; the geese loiter around the grassy areas where they feed. The minks move silently and rarely make their presence known, though we know they are around. Then there is the plump young raccoon, oddly lacking in what we thought of as raccoon characteristics – being nocturnal and avoiding us.

We first noticed him (or her?) one fall day when the restaurant was still open, waddling casually up the ramp to investigate what he could find there, his ringed tail trailing behind him. Then we saw him hanging around the outdoor snack bar and, another day, investigating the garbage compound. One day we spotted him on the main dock, wandering along, undeterred by our presence.

It must have been soon after the restaurant and snack bar closed for the season that he decided to check out the boats. A boater down the dock from us realized one night that he had an unwanted guest on board. When he investigated he found a tear in his cover, a place a young raccoon could slip through. When we talked to him he was contemplating his options for encouraging said raccoon to leave.

A couple of nights later there was a light sprinkling of snow. In it we saw small animal footprints leading to that boat and away again; obviously the raccoon had left to go about his business, and while he was away his entrance had been closed. The footprints returned to the dock gate. Scuff marks suggested he had slipped under it. No mean feat, considering how fat he looked and how narrow the gap between dock and gate.

A few days later we saw Mr. Raccoon sauntering down the ramp we were walking toward. He slipped off it before we got too close, and ducked into the gloom on the dock underneath. He was probably waiting for his chance to look for food and shelter unobserved. We passed quickly over his head.

A week or so ago we learned that he had found at least one more place to shelter. This time he had climbed into the open back of a powerboat, and had made a messy, smelly nest in a sheltered spot there. This left the powerboat owner with two related problems – how to get the raccoon to stop visiting, and cleaning the nest out. It was, he said, man against raccoon.

First he tried a humane trap. He baited it and left it out overnight. The next morning he came out to find the bait gone and the trap empty. Round one to the raccoon. When we next passed the nominal owner of the boat (we assume the raccoon would contest ownership) was working with hose and brush on the second problem, that of cleaning out the nest, hoping to discourage the raccoon from returning. Perhaps that was all he needed; when next we asked the raccoon had not returned.

The last time we saw Mr. Raccoon he was lingering by a wire fence that overlooks the ramp down to the gate we all enter through. There was a cold wind blowing; he looked twice as fat as usual, his fur all puffed out around him. Perhaps he was considering the nest he had built, the nest that no longer existed, and regretting its loss. Hopefully he was thinking of food and shelter options that did not involve entering boats. Maybe even contemplating a return to the nooks and crannies of the wild.

We’ll let you know…

Photo, winter water birds, M. Mair

Winter water birds, photo by Margaret Mair

*Picture by D. Gordon E. Robertson, April 2009, shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

 

 

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A Christmas Away

Quiet winter day, M. Mair

A quiet winter day, photo by M. Mair

Life often hands us the unexpected. Our boat was well covered and relatively tidy and all three heaters were working away when we left to spend a couple of weeks with family further south. We let people know we were going, asked our dock neighbour and a couple of friends to keep an eye on the boat for us, left the key with one of them and let the marina know about our plans. We felt we had done all that was necessary when we drove off.

Down south we had a good visit with family and friends and a very Merry Christmas. The weather was warm, sometimes windy; there was very little rain. Though we did see news of long, hard rains and flooding north and west of us and of some snow to the north as the time to return home drew close.

Our stay was pleasant, but leaving was eventful. On our way along the Turnpike one of our tires went almost flat. We managed to pull over to the side on a conveniently wide section of the shoulder where Richard put on the temporary spare so we could get to an auto repair shop. More than an hour and two auto shops later we were on our way again, after a broken valve stem had been repaired.

The Christmas tree, M. Mair

The Christmas tree, photo by M. Mair

We arrived late at our first stop, a Georgia hotel showing evidence of dampness, possibly a result of the rain and flooding. Our room was dry enough, but there was wet carpet in the entrance and a dehumidifier in the hallway. Our route took us around the worst of the flooding in Macon, but the next day we could see the evidence of high water in the brown rivers and ponds we passed. Our second day was uneventful, the hotel we stopped at pleasant. On our third day the temperature started falling as we got closer to home. We saw remnants of snow in some of the fields and then along the sides of the highway.

One of our daughters lives close to us. She had texted the day before to ask whether we had run into bad weather on our travels. We did not fully understand the reason for the question until we got back to the boat. And even then, in the dark, we did not really see the full extent of the damage to our winter cover. We did wonder why our door was oddly out of place, but we were tired. We went in and went to bed.

Up for the winter, M. Mair

Up for the winter, photo by M. Mair

The next morning we saw there was a hole in the top of our cover and the bottom of it was flapping in the wind where it had become detached from the frame. It turns out that a couple of nights before we got back there had been a storm, with winds high enough to burst fenders, cause boats to rub hard enough to remove paint and in at least one case to start stripping a cover, piece by piece away from its frame. A large, full dock box had been blown into the water. In some areas boats were moving enough to flip their fenders up and out from between boat and dock. The wind had come first from the east then the west, blowing the boats first one way then another.

One of our friends had come across from his own boat to check on ours when he saw our door had been blown open; after coming to close it a couple of times he found the whole door frame out of place. Our cover and frame were moving in the wind. He jammed the door frame back into its approximate position and made sure our lines were good, but could do no more.

After he told us this we looked down at our fenders and realized that they had been crushed between dock and boat hard enough to be deformed. But at least they had stayed in place.

Early winter ice, M. Mair

Early winter, ice forming, photo by M. Mair

We always feel a certain hesitation leaving our boat. We are aware of the risk that something will happen, and that the measures we have taken might not be enough to prevent damage. We would have preferred not to find any damage, but it’s not too bad to come back and find that after a storm has blown through the worst that has happened is that you have to repair your winter cover. Which Richard did the next day, using a new way of fastening the cover around the frame at the bottom and a new way of fastening the frame down.

We do know that the winds will blow again – it’s winter, after all. We just hope that they won’t blow as strongly.

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In Good Weather and Bad…

On a sunny summer day a visitor gazing around the marina might think: how pleasant to live on board one of those beautiful boats. What would it be like to sit out in the cockpit or up on the flybridge, drink in hand, barbecue going, gazing at the watery world around me? Even better – what if I never had to go back to my house (or apartment) where the walls close me in and there is always work to be done? What if I lived here?

It looks ideal. Of course, at some level everyone realizes those beautiful sunny days are only part of the picture, but not many people come to the marina when the winds are blowing hard and the rain is falling sideways, when the waves are rolling round the breakwater and setting the boats and docks rocking, when snow blankets the docks and boats or when ice makes the walking slippery underfoot.

Misty day at the marina

A Misty Day, Photo by Margaret Mair

So, if you are one of those dreamers, why don’t I paint you a picture or two of those kind of days? I’ll start with this, written a few weeks ago as one of the storms of late summer rolled through:

“The wind has been blowing for three days now, harder and harder. The waves are breaking through the entrance to the marina, and there is swell inside. Close to the entrance it is much worse, and the wind and waves are pushing the boats on one of the docks so hard that the dock is moving out of line.

“Boats have been moving off that dock and down to our end of the marina. When the sailors on board are more accustomed to living on their boats than moving them they find coming into a new slip in these conditions very difficult. The wind takes the boats as they slow down and turn, and even with many willing hands waiting to take the ropes thing happen. There are scrapes and scratches and even a broken window.

“Where we are the docks are rocking (but not moving), and we can feel and hear our boat tugging hard on its lines. The fenders are groaning, squeezed between dock and boat. In the worst of the gusts the rigging lines we have tied off manage to move enough to slap against the mast. We are rocking and rolling and keeping an eye on the boat beside us.

“In this weather I ask for help getting off the boat and walking along the dock. The high winds make it difficult for me to keep my balance and I must stop completely if I do not have someone else’s arm to steady me in the gusts.”

Rough weather at the breakwater, photo, M. Mair

Rough weather at the breakwater, photo by Margaret Mair

As you can tell, we feel the effects of the weather very directly – the winds that blow around a home built on the land move ours. Since we arrived here at the end of summer 2013 we’ve lived aboard through the tail ends of passing hurricanes and the turbulence of fall storms, through the ice storm of 2013, through much of the deep cold and snow of early 2015 and through some very hot days this past summer.

The ice storm was one of those memorable experiences better enjoyed in the telling than the living. The most difficult thing for us, as for most people, was the loss of electricity and consequent loss of heating. For a while our alcohol heater kept at least part of the boat liveably warm and we could use our alcohol stove to cook, but fuel soon ran out and then proved hard to get. When we left the boat we walked on ice-covered docks, liberally sprinkled with grit by the marina in an effort to help everyone keep their footing. Without power to run our bubblers ice moved in and ground noisily against our hull. Around us the storm created a deadly beauty, sun sparkling off the ice that covered trees and almost everything else that did not move. There were good things: friends and family reached out to help, each in their own way; people came together to trade stories and help each other.

Winter at the dock (Photo by Margaret Mair)

Winter at the dock (Photo by Margaret Mair)

We have no idea what the coming winter will bring – hopefully not another ice storm. The day I’m writing this is beautiful, cool and sunny, a few cotton wool clouds in the sky, but the weather yesterday was windy enough to keep the boats rocking at the docks and lift our not-quite-finished winter cover. Richard is now outside working on finishing it while he can.

We seem to redesign our winter shelter every year. We need one that stays together through the rigors of winter, that remains whole through strong winds, heavy snow and ice. Over the past couple of winters we’ve learned some things about what works and more about what doesn’t, hence the continued redesigning. Grey plastic pipe, wooden strapping, plastic vapour barrier, tape and lots of staples are our raw materials – a curved frame, a taut cover and everything well held together is the goal. When it’s done it will let the sunlight in and accumulate some warmth on sunny days.

The next thing to figure out is how to hold that warmth…

All in the interests of learning how to live comfortably aboard when the weather outside is frightful.

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