20/06/2007/10:00 pm, Montreal
What an amazing journey this has been - even in the short 4 days since we left Trident Yacht club.
That fine Sunday morning - June 17th - Fathers Day, our sons, Liam and Alex, drove us from Ottawa to the club near Gananoque, Ontario. Mary Beth had been with us for a visit the week before so our hearts were full of her presence in spirit as well.
We enjoyed conversations with many club members that morning, as we had in the days before. Some offered valuable information from previous experience with such journeys; some were filled with shared enthusiasm and eagerness to hear how it all unfolds; ALL were rich with good wishes and encouragement. It surely warms our hearts to know that so many people - at Trident and from all other areas of our lives - are traveling with us and sharing our experience.
As we motored away from the dock, I had to stop coiling lines and pulling up fenders to keep my watery eyes on our boys, standing together on the dock - waving and throwing kisses. Jim managed to steer us in the right direction even though his vision wasn't quite as clear as it usually is. Farewells were shouted from along the dock and an air horn blew and it was a grand departure.
We motored along all day, and as we rounded Toussaint Island (just before the Iroquois Dam) that evening we saw Strathspey anchored there, as Mary and Blair Buchanan awaited our arrival for a celebratory toast to the journey and the friendship.
From Monday morning onward, it was new water, and new experience for us. We tied up at the pleasure craft dock at the Iroquois Lock, as we would for each lock on the way to Montreal. It was there that we met up with Chris and Mary and Ellen and Monika on Wings (soon to be christened with her new name, Arctura) on their way to Summerside, PEI. This was the first of what I expect will be many meetings with boats on a similar track.
After a huge ship emerged from the open doors of the lock, we entered, caught the lines that were thrown down to us, cleated them off and dropped a few inches before motoring out the other end of the lock. It was much more exciting to go through the Eisenhower and Snell locks later that day. The procedure is to tie up at the pleasure craft dock, phone the lockmaster to request passage through, wait till the green light beckons us in, and either toss a line around a bollard or catch a line thrown down by the lock employees. I'm glad the first big drop was one of those where the lines were tied off because it gave us time to take pictures and ooh and aah at the experience. It was just amazing to drop down and down, till the top of our mast was at about the height of the ground. It happened quickly and smoothly. Then the gates swung open, the lines were removed and out we went.
In other locks, where the lines are tossed down, we had to maintain tension on them to keep steady on the wall - not swinging too far out, nor rubbing too closely on the wall. We were very glad we had prepared a fender board to take the worst of the rub. In fact, that fender board saved us from much worse damage when we had a hard landing on a horribly constructed pleasure craft dock at a lock farther downstream.
The locks were just challenging enough to make us feel like we had really accomplished something at the end of the day. The attendants were helpful and the guidebooks clear in telling us which side to have our fenders on and what the procedure would be. The Canadian ones cost $25. and the two American locks charged $30. (in either currency) Most of the waits were fairly short, and the one long wait was easily passed by watching the huge Captain Henry Jackman snuggle itself into and out of the lock, and in conversing with fellow sailors.
I read in Phil Jenkins' book, River Song that the early engineers who built these locks had to enable a drop equivalent to a 20 story building over 168 miles between Kingston and Montreal. Imagine! We have dropped into a whole new landscape.
We have been fortunate to have a combination of anchorages and marinas - peaceful Touissant Island, (thanks for the suggestion, Jennifer of Moon River), St Regis Island where unlit and very fast boats blew past us in the dark of night, to the hustle of the port of old Montreal - reached via a strenuous push against the current as we rounded Ile St Helene. It took us close to an hour to make 1.5 nautical miles; we shot out of there in 10 minutes the next day.
We had a perfectly lovely evening in Montreal, enjoying the company of our friends Elizabeth and Dave Austin in our cockpit and then over dinner at the Jardin Nelson. On Thursday morning we wandered the streets a bit more, sat in a coffee shop with laptops on...yes... our laps and café au lait close at hand, and then made a smooth departure from Marina Port d'Escale in Jacques Cartier Basin. It was a rapid trip down the stretch of water past LaRonde where we could hear the screams of excited roller coaster riders, across the river to Longueuil for a quick and efficient stop to fuel up and pump out, and then out on the river again.
Welcome to the Madcap sailing adventure.
We are James D. Bissell and Elizabeth Lusby - now known as Jim and Beth from Madcap - and this is where we will share our cruising story with family and friends - old and new.
Madcap is a Bayfield 36, built in 1988 in Clinton, Ontario. You'll see lots of pictures throughout this site, and will perhaps come to understand how we fell in love with her and purchased her in 2003.
As much as we enjoyed sailing in the 1000 Islands and Lake Ontario, the desire to explore further and to use this sailing vessel as "home away from home" on a long journey has grown, and so...
We left Trident Yacht Club, near Kingston, Ontario on June 17, 2007 to spend the next 16 months on a Madcap journey down the great St. Lawrence River to the Maritime provinces, and then south along the Eastern Seaboard, into the Intracoastal Waterway that winds along through the US, then across the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas, and back North to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
We'll make postings from time to time on our experience, and will let you know where we are so you can track our progress if you like.
You are welcome to e-mail Beth at [email protected] or Jim at [email protected], or leave comments after the postings.
Come along with us through this site - we enjoy your company!
...and an afterword or two... we were land based in Halifax from the fall of '08 until fall of '09, and continued to welcome visits by cruisers and interested landlubbers. We headed south again in the fall of 2009, spending another glorious winter in the Bahamas. In the spring of 2010, we left Madcap on the hard in Fernandina Beach, FL, while we returned to Nova Scotia for the summer. November, 2010 took us to the Bahamas and Cuba for an exciting winter of cruising and Madcap spent another successful summer at Tiger Point Marina in Fernandina Beach, FL
In 2011/12 we headed down through the Florida Keys to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and in 2012/13 we cruised the waters of Belize and Guatemala once more. We sailed east to the Bay Islands of Honduras (mostly in Roatan and Guanaja) in 2013/14, and in 2015 we spent the winter months back in Belize - leaving the boat for the summers in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.
Follow along with us and leave a comment if you'd like. We're delighted to have you travelling with us and we love to hear from you - either on the blog site or at [email protected] or [email protected]
31/12/1969/7:00 pm, Antigua, Guatemala
We're wrapping up our stay in Antigua, fitting in final dental appointments and last excursions for this time around.
Jim was hoping that Dr Sammy might make the impression for his crown on Friday, but although he removed all the stitches and deemed his healing going very well, he said there was still enough swelling to make it inadvisable. So what did we do? Why we filled the weekend with all sorts of activities of course!
We hired Erick, who was our tour guide at Finca Filadelphia to take us on a pueblo tour in the area surrounding Antigua, and that turned out to be a little more of a "local experience" tour than we planned. He picked us up at 2 and we drove first to San Juan del Obispo just a little farther down our road and up the hill. There, we toured the large Palacio del Obispo - dating to the 1500's and the original home of Bishop Francisco Marroquin (the namesake of the Spanish School we attended last year), a centre of education and instruction in wood and metal working at one time, and now home to a small group of nuns and occasional spiritual retreats. We wandered through beautifully restored halls and archways, glimpsing an ornate and heavily gilded chapel.
Next on the tour was a stop in Ciudad Vieja where we spotted numerous streetside water faucets that made carrying water more convenient for families who didn't have to go all the way to the central square for their supply. In that square, we watched local women doing their laundry in the central lavandria - a large water filled, covered area with individual scrubbing stations - pilas. Women wash not only their own laundry here, many are employed to do laundry for others too. We've seen these washing places in Antigua and Livingston also - where women chat and scrub together - and they do a good job of it too. I have rarely seen a grubby Guatemalan.
Next stop was the Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm, started 30 years ago by a Californian who decided to settle here and establish a sustainable and organic nut plantation. Pedro gave us a short tour, explaining that the nuts are gathered after they fall from the trees - no climbing or shaking necessary - and are dried, sorted, roasted, mixed with chocolate or processed for their beneficial oil. It was here that our unplanned look at life for a local Guatemalan started. Erick's car had a flat tire, and because of the particular lug nuts on it, he couldn't find the right tool from any nearby garage to remove it. As he drove from mechanic to mechanic (while we were having our tour) it shredded entirely and became completely unusable. He had used his spare to replace another tire the day before. So, we waited - enjoying the hospitality of the farm - for a taxi to come. The car stayed there as Erick, Jim and I rode back to Antigua. After dropping us off, Erick would have to go home, get on his motorcycle, find a mechanic with the proper tool and a new(ish) tire, go back to his car and do the repair. As we paid his fee (with great apologies and embarrassment from Erick) we knew that the whole fee for today's tour would go to car maintenance. Although we didn't get to visit the textile village or the guy who made delicious pork tortillas, we got a glimpse of the real life of one young hard working Guatemalan man.
We were back to history on Saturday - after my last yoga class, and my last enthusiastic greeting from Juan the ceviche man - as we walked up to Iglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas - the one time home (started in 1726) of a small group of Capuchin nuns from Madrid. It was heavily damaged in the earthquakes of 1773, abandoned until restoration started in 1943. As in so many other Antigua sites, present day life takes place in the midst of historical ruins, and on the day we visited, wedding preparations were underway. It was interesting to contrast the beautiful flowers and table settings, elegant gowns and tuxedos among beautiful gardens and courtyards with their ever present fountains, with the life of those one time residents who were reportedly required to sever all ties with the outside world, and sleep on wooden pallets in their tiny cells in a unique tower-like structure.
As we walked home, we met up with Doug who invited us over to Nancy's house for a glass of wine. What a surprise to walk through that solid wood-over-metal door. I was expecting it to open into a courtyard, but it was a whole field to the right with houses to the left. We walked through yet another door to find the requisite courtyard with flowers, spiral stairway to the rooftop terrace where we enjoyed our wine among clay tiled rooftops and views of volcanoes and churches and bell towers. I think a rental of one of these Spanish style houses lies somewhere in our future!