When we left Oswego, NY after getting Strathspey‘s mast stepped, we headed due north across Lake Ontario with a faint south wind pushing us home. Our early bird status was confirmed by the +6C water temperature and our solo sail all day. As we swung past Kingston, it was too funny as we both kept exclaiming and pointing out familiar landmarks and anchorages like we’d been away for years and years. But when we arrived at Trident Yacht Club around 5 pm, it was with no fanfare, pulling quietly into our old slip and securing ourselves like we’d only been away for a short weekend. We cracked open a bottle of bubbly that I had tucked away for the whole year in anticipation of this moment and we toasted each other and Strathspey for a fine year. At times Strathspey was a better sailor than I this year and I learned to trust that old adage that most often your sailboat can handle far more than you can. What a fine and wonderful boat to have carried us as swiftly and safely all those miles back here to Trident. Later that evening, Doug and Cathy from our sister ship Pleiades arrived to welcome us back in style with champagne, strawberries and chocolate; all the important food groups!
We worked hard for the next two days, cleaning out a year’s accumulation of memories and dirt off Strathspey. We worked that is until the action became less of a sort and remove and more of just move it from here to there. Wisdom says that’s when you should quit the cleanup. So on Friday night, Blair and I were ready to quit cleaning and joined the Trident Friday night social. We got all our embellishments straight and told lots of tall tales that night. Then we moved a year’s worth of living into Trident’s laundry room to await pickup by Heather and Paddy who arrived Saturday morning with both a truck and a car. And if you can believe it, we filled them both!
So right now, Strathspey is sitting pretty at dock. Sitting pretty and sitting a good deal higher in the water as well after Blair carted five huge loads up the dock making Strathspey rise a good 2.5 inches in the water. Our Canadian flag that flies from our stern has faded from a bright red to a threadbare orange this past year. We hear we’ve missed the worst winter for snow that Ottawa has had in years. It’s spring, the peepers in our back yard are yelling “pick me, pick me”, the lilacs are in bloom and now back here on dock, it’s a good time to reflect.
People ask us what the highs and lows of the trip were. I have to say, the best parts were those deserted anchorages. Anchorages like Lee Stocking Island on a day so calm that, on a bet, we could have swam the 5 miles over to Brigantine Cays. We dinghied over instead and spent the best part of the day on flat, mirrored waters, snorkeling and paddling lazily along the shoreline. Highlights too were those out-of-the way towns like Fresh Creek, Andros where we boldly wandered through the small batik factory, sorting through the finished wares to find a set of placemats that will forever take us back to this remote area when we set a winter’s table with them. Top shelf are the friends we made this year – friends from one end of the country to the other that will welcome us to dinner and long sessions of “remember when’s”. On the other hand, the lows are unforgettable as well; Dodging those skinny spots in the ICW, doing without refrigeration for six weeks in 85°F and of course, my least favourite, those following seas on long ocean passages with nothing but Saltines in my stomach.
People ask us, “Would you go again?” And we say, yes absolutely, but only after we’ve done more of the things on our “must do before rocking chair days” list. Number one on that list, as far as cruising is concerned, is to take Strathspey up to the North Channel of Georgian Bay and then perhaps on further north into Lake Superior. The North Channel is Blair’s Mom and Dad’s old stomping grounds, having sailed there for more than 20 years, so it would be wonderful to bring our own boat up there after all these years.
People ask us, “Are you sorry to be back? Are you dreading going back to work? Do you think you’ll have trouble adapting to not being footloose and fancy-free?” No sorry, no dread, no trouble. This trip has given us stories for years to come and friends in all corners of the country to visit. This winter, we’ll sit back in front of the fire and one of us will say “Do you remember when we got stuck behind Fowl Cay in 30 knots for four days and read five books between the two of us?” “Do you remember coming face-to-face with that Lionfish at Warderick Wells”. “Do you remember rebuilding the head when it was 90°C and dead calm?”. Actually, maybe we’ll save the head stories for around the campfire at night to scare the children (or the non-sailors).
People ask us, “Is it hard? Do you need all the finest equipment? Do you think I can do it?” We are both in agreement that anyone with a well-found boat and some mechanical smarts can do this trip. In fact, maybe that isn’t even the criteria because we saw many boats that made us wonder how they managed to get past Florida. The cruising community is full of people who are happy to help less competent boats along and maybe this is how these guys make it so far south.
People ask us if we’ve changed over this year. We say we’re the same people we were when we left. A wise person once said, if it were that easy to change, more would. I suppose there’s lots of reasons people go cruising but ours was pretty simple. We weren’t feeling jaded, looking for a way to jump start our lives or anything like that. We just wanted a year to try this sailing thing while we were young and nimble enough. Living and sailing on a boat isn’t exactly the lap of luxury and, although a good many steps above tenting, it does have much in common with that camping way of life.
We’re glad to be back home in Ottawa with our friends and family and we’re glad that Strathspey is snugged into her usual spot at Trident Yacht Club. We always appreciated this club but perhaps we had to take a trip away to realize how top shelf it really is. In the Bahamas, a yacht club like Trident would not hesitate to set it’s rates around $4/foot/night. Coming back to this well-run club with it’s brand new docks, beautiful grounds and involved membership is a real pleasure. We look forward to sailing Lake Ontario this summer and tucking into those great anchorages in the Thousand Islands. We look forward to those bright mornings, waking up to the loons’ calling and feeling that cool before the hot, hot July sun takes over. We look forward to diving into those clear waters to cool off at midday. It’s like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home”.
And now this story is done.