Kathleen’s blog

Authors Note: Many will prefer to read Colin’s blog as that is where you will find the blow, by blow and just when you think it can’t possibly blow anymore… by blow account of our voyage. To ensure we don’t retell the same story, my blog is more of a look at how we live and how we are managing (or not) on a daily basis. We hope you read and enjoy them both. ATB KK

Oct 5th to Oct 22 (present)

Simple But Not Easy

In August I was naïve. In September I was hopeful. By October I was disheartened. We couldn’t seem to settle into a natural routine that encompassed eating, sleeping, school, boat maintenance, life maintenance and overall fun. Fun is what the F in family stands for and certainly what the F in sailing adventure stands for (it’s a silent f). But as I am someone that cannot effortlessly incorporate fun into a daily routine, fun for me rarely happened or it took the form of holing up in a dark laundry room late a night desperate for any privacy or personal time I could find.

No one demands fun; they just get cranky when they aren’t getting any on a regular basis. Hungry bellies are loud and demanding so obviously meals always happen. Laundry is visually demanding not to mention a rare chance for me to be alone for longer than a standard BM so that happens. The constant fear your kids will slip behind in school is emotionally demanding so that happens. Also, despite the $$, time and huge amount of effort Colin dedicated to her before we left, Bojangles continues to make a surprising amount of urgent demands daily.

It seemed to me my plate was full, chock-a-block, I couldn’t slice that pie any other way and lighten the load enough to allow fun to enter even for a short time. That clever analogy of the jar with filled with rocks, pebbles, sand and finally water did not apply this time. I was very frustrated. How was I going to have fun on this trip and still meet our family’s daily demands? Moving fun up the priority list would seem like a logical solution but what would you adjust down? Especially as we are working on a pretty basic level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as it is.

What changed it all was one quiet anchorage that would become our last in North America. Somehow we arrived in a secluded spot with enough food in the galley so feeding everyone for 3 days was uncomplicated, somehow it stopped raining long enough to keep the laundry from overwhelming me, somehow the kids were motivated to get school done quickly and somehow Bojangles decided to behave. It was there that I first really relaxed enough to have true fun. 2 months was a long time to wait.

Before I left I always declared that any adventure of this kind makes life simpler but never, ever easier. I thought that was rather clever at the time. While I never expected this trip to be fun, fun, fun, I was expecting it to be a lot easier than it’s turning out to be. I realize now I have been looking for easy and forgetting simple. If I look back on my last anchorage I now know that to have fun on this trip I have to simply feed everyone, clothe everyone, allow the time and space for learning to happen and contribute a small fraction to the daily boat maintenance regime. That is it. Simple but definitely not easy.

It is not easy to live in a space less than ¼ the size of your urban back yard and while we try to be respectful of each other’s space tensions sometimes run high in such closed quarters. Water, the world’s most vital resource, is taken fore granted everywhere else but is meticulously managed by me and occasionally ruthlessly rationed. We carry 180 gallons of water total and to put that in perspective: in North America the average family uses 100 gallons of water per person, per day. Daily respect for each other and respect for our resources are simple concepts to appreciate but not easy to live by.

We also have to be constantly vigilant about boat maintenance. It is not a fair comparison but imagine you own a clunker of a car (it’s a BMW so worth the investment) and it’s the only way you can get to work each day so you depend on it completely. Also imagine you have to drive this car through puddles of a low grade acid that is dead set on corroding anything and everything if given a window of opportunity (a.k.a. sea water) If you look after it, it will look after you but you must stay vigilant. Vigilance a.k.a. very regular maintenance is a very simple and straightforward activity but in reality a tough thing to make a priority when the snorkeling is good.

An ‘issum” just popped into my head and it sums it up perfectly. KIES it is not,
KISS – Keep it simple stupid or better yet… keep it simple sailor.

Sept 30th
Still in Atlantic Highlands NJ
The Drought is over –
The sighting of our very first kid boat.

On this seemingly regular afternoon, we were puttering around watching with dismay our anchorage and home for the last 6 days rapidly fill up. It was like someone opened a valve and allowed a steady stream of boats to flow towards us.

Anchorages are like high turnover tenement buildings. Seniority is everything and we had it. We could dictate the amount of swing room required and on a whim could – with a well placed discouraging glance – encourage a prospective neighbour to look elsewhere to seek holding.

At this quiet anchorage complete with a beautiful but distant view of NYC, we had been coexisting contentedly with the same small group of boats. Over time we learned how each of our nieghbours swung on their anchor chain in various winds and various tides. No one invited us over for cocktails or even acknowledged our existence but it was safe and comfortable. Just my speed.

Now with all these boats coming in our situation and status was changing rapidly and our seniority was in peril. Someone could set anchor and two hours later look as settled as we were after 6 days! What would happen to our discouraging glances? Would they be severely watered down with all these new comers? What if a newbee started swinging the wrong way? What if they wanted us to join them? Anchorages are usually civil, quiet places just like the building where Chrissy, Jack and Janet lived but things in Atlantic Highlands NJ were getting tenser and tenser.

Fortunately all thoughts of swingers and anchor tension fled our mind when we spotted a boat approaching with lifeline netting (clue #1), kayaks (clue #2) and a cluttered foredeck (#3 and definitive clue) “Kids-ho!” “Kids-off the starboard bow!” I shouted and waved franticly. Yee ha! I hadn’t realized what a kid drought we were in until that moment. I was like a drowning mother desperate for, reaching for, yearning for, another family (with kids hopefully of similar ages) to mix things up a bit a-bored Bojangles.

As they were circling and I was giving them my best come-hither-and-anchor-by-us-look (it was a bit rusty) I suddenly realized that I might be appearing too eager. Not wanting to scare them off I stopped shouting turned my attentions to my own brood. “Kid’s!” I whispered down below, gesturing wildly, “get up here right now and look “fun” and for heavens sake don’t fight! Maybe they will anchor close”.

So began our friendship with sailing vessel S/V Ohana and the Jacob-Dolan family of Massachusetts. All I can say is that they are part Cameron family, part Rozentzweig, part Baker, part Kilgour and part Wagner all mixed up with a health dash of serenity and calm – not to mention a girl of baby sitting age.

No matter which way this family swings, they will always be welcome in our anchorages.

September 28
Atlantic Highlands NJ

If I could turn back time… (insert Cher)
Vol #1

If you are looking for a truly historically accurate Pioneer Experience don’t head to Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto, stop by any marina or harbour in NY or New Jersey to see the real thing in action. You won’t see the period costumes but in essentials I believe the boating lifestyle is more like a pioneers’ reality than any theme park could ever be. It simply comes down to the fact that both pioneers and boaters live (or lived) outside many of today’s standard social mores. I shall now illustrate a particularly jarring one: Garbage Management

Similarity #1
Like Pioneers, and unlike Black Creek Pioneer Village (BCPV), I have stopped recycling and am beginning to forget when I did. Do you really think Pioneers gave garbage any consideration? BCPV is littered with blue bins and I suspect the horses are trained to internally separate their ____ for garden and organic content and wear specially designed divided poop catchers off their rear end; all very environmentally conscience and correct.

How do boaters deal with recycling? They don’t. In Canada you can usually find overflowing recycle bins at yacht clubs and marinas (many of which I know are just for show) but weirdly, NY and NJ don’t participate at all in this relatively common civilized custom.

So… after just a couple of days in their land I, Kathleen, card caring keener greener and daughter of an extremely well respected advocate for the environment who devoted his life’s work to: cleaning up the formerly extremely toxic Great Lakes making them” just a little bit toxic” (way to go Dad!); Stopping Acid Rain (yee ha!)!; and helping reduce the world’s need for fossil fuels through both the “Kathleen if you’re cold put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat” seasonal campaign and my personal favourite the “This house is lit up like a Christmas Tree! Can someone pleeeeeze turn off some lights? Geesh!” ongoing initiative…. I, daughter of this amazing man was forced to stop recycling and start pretending to recycle.

At first, for the sake of the kids I was very good. I sorted the garbage at the boat then threw both bags into the same dumpster when the kids’ weren’t looking. After a while that got tiring so I began tossing bottles directly into the one garbage bin but hiding them under coffee grounds and egg shell – sneaky. Now, several weeks in, I have gone completely native, I overtly and cavalierly toss out coke cans with last night’s potatoes with merely a twinge of guilt. All garbage, all waste in one place. Just like the Pioneers.

Gladly the kids have adjusted and not called me on any of this sacrilege. We seem to have developed an unspoken agreement that is our new reality. Mind you, to keep them overtly innocent I take cans out of their hands as they wander unfamiliar streets looking for a familiar blue bin. Situational political correctness is a tough concept to understand and as I don’t want to have that conversation, it is best to avoid the whole thing.

Sorry Dad, I did try.

Stay tuned for:
Similarity #2 Personal Hygiene

September 20th
Erie Canal

I really wanted to call my section of the blog Passages. The double meaning appealed to me. It lightly conveyed the weighty concepts of life’s many transitions and one’s passing through its varied stages and places simply and neatly while conveying the sense of a significant journey or undertaking. Rite of Passage etc. All that meaning bundled effortlessly into one little word: passages. All in all it sounded perfect.

Unfortunately, if you Google Winnipeg Free Press and add /passages you come to a similar yet fundamentally different kind of blog (or obituaryblog). So that my family will not prematurely see me in those pages, I have chosen an interim name with the full knowledge that rarely is there such a thing as an interim name whether it is a boat, kid, dog or blog. The temporary has a very good way of becoming perfect permanent.

An Effortful Existence
is thus christened interim

By day 3 out of Toronto it became apparent that the ruling body of Lake Ontario did not want us to leave her fair shores. Lake Ontario has been good to us for 15 years and we have no complaints. She has always seen us safely into all her harbours and has provided a wonderful setting for the first part of our sailing life. But it was time to leave and no amount of fuss she could kick up in terms of contrary wind and waves could divert us.

Strangely she must have been the only one hesitant to see our back side. While everyone has been very enthusiastic about this adventure and has wished us well so many times all remained was for us to actually leave which it seemed, we refused to do. In the weeks preceding our departure I heard the good natured, “I thought you’d already left…” so many times I kept my head down and stayed in the car when there was the possibility of seeing a friend. Enough is enough! we can’t say “Welcome Back!” if you don’t leave.

Back aboard Bojangles Day 3 ended with an oddly prophetic sunset. From our position in far eastern Lake Ontario, the sun set behind Hamilton Harbour and if the camera didn’t capture it I would never ask you to believe it but as I came up the companionway 4 minutes before the sun finally disappeared it appeared that we were headed away from the Statue of Liberty rather than towards it (see picture).
Our first glimpse of Lady Liberty
Day 3 was also our first overnight passage thusly required due to our significant weather delays. Amortize 18 hours over 12 months and you’ll understand why we had to push on.

As I mentioned Lake Ontario brought out her best and continue to kick up some unusually persistent easterlies creating 2 previous days of buck & chuck sailing. In all my years on Lake Ontario rarely do you get it coming and going, especially on a 35, 000 pound boat. Our first boat was 5,000 lbs and while we saw some heavy weather, I dread to think what this sail would be like aboard her.

On any overnight passage there always needs to be someone “on watch”. Sensibly there to guard against a number of conceivable hazards: collision, sail trouble, engine failure. Anything. But most often one stands all night simply to ward off plain bad luck. While we were not hit with any bad luck that night I am sure the bad luck theme will reappear in this blog so the literary minded can consider this foreshadowing.

That night on my first overnight passage I took 3 sleeps. Most sailors would say they took 2 watches: 11 pm-1 am and 3am-5am. Being an optimist I prefer to focus on the positive: I slept from 9pm-11pm, 1am-3am and 5-8am. Add it all up and you got yourself a good night’s sleep.

Right now I have a lot of good things to say about night watches. I can now tell approximate time by the relative position of the Big Dipper as it clocks around the night sky and seeing a fiery moon rise on a silent sea is a startling sight, but that’s not what I took away from my first night watch experience.

Most profoundly I was struck by the difference in my 3 wakings. My first waking for the 11 pm shift: I woke naturally and early at 10:45 bright eyed and raring to go. Yee Haa! The seas had calmed, the tides had turned. Smooth sailing. For my second watch I woke with the alarm, willingly but grudgingly with the sensation that the boat was a cradle being rocked by a big brother who thought if gentle was good then faster was better! The third and final waking was forced. I had slept through the alarm, the boat was cold, the novelty had worn off and the boat was at a wedding doing the Can Can wedged between a short guy and a tall chick and neither had any rhythm.

August 20th
Port Credit Yacht Club

Where oh Where
– a silly poem by Kathleen

Where oh Where will it all go?
Who knew there’d be this much to stow?
Food, clothes, tools and books
all Ikea has not enough hooks.

Oh sure, she’s fifty
which seems really nifty.
While she is rather large
She is hardly a barge!

But the fact remains,
that I am still the very same.
For I must take that 3rd dress.
What if I don’t impress?
Or without those shoes,
I will have no retort
To them that see me as rather short.

Rest assured all my pals
Family, friends, lazies and gals.
That in the face of such a adversity
I will control my duplicity.

You see I have no choice,
The alternative is d-vorce.
And with that charming speculation
I re-read this public reflection.

And admit my struggles will follow me
all the way across the sea.
And my best chance of fun
In pursuit of the perma sun
Is not to fret about Where oh Where! Will it all go?
It is to focus on the lack of future snow.

So storage it is for my favourite things
Believe it or not that also includes my rings.

I was just about to end it here on this rather gloomy note
When a charming woman sailed near aboard a considerably lesser boat
Observing my gloom
She mentioned none-too-soon.
Apparently there are stores and shops along our route
Likely selling clothes, shoes, books and boots!

So long, farewell 3rd dress
I shall see you again so don’t distress.
I promise to bring you friends in colours so incredibly bright
My new closet will no longer need a light.

One Response to “Kathleen’s blog”

  1. Denise says:

    Kathleen you are a hilarious woman! I love your account of the adventure – miss you!

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