Coming Full Circle
06 August 2018 | Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
Beth/ hot and humid /28C in Halifax for two weeks now!
Way back in 2003, we owned a pretty, red CS27 named Noroua. We had been sailing it for a couple of years, but we wanted something bigger to accommodate our then-teenagers and friends for weekends in the 1000 islands. Jim and I admired a Bayfield 32 owned by some friends at Trident Yacht Club and we started looking for one of those. But one day in the dead of winter our friend, Ralph, called us to say, “I want you to see a boat. It’s the perfect one for you.”
It was a Bayfield 36 – a whole 9 feet longer than Noroua – even longer when you count the bowsprit. More than we wanted. But we went to the boatyard, climbed up a ladder, crawled under a tarp and shone a flashlight around … and fell in love. That was indeed the boat for us. Her name was Madcap and she was beautiful.
We were the second owners of this 1988 cutter that had been meticulously maintained and sailed in the fresh waters of Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River. I begged to keep the name because it seemed to fit us, and the owner graciously agreed. We sailed Madcap for 3 years in those same waters, until one day, Mary and Blair (Strathspey) said, “We are taking a year off and sailing to the Bahamas. Why don’t you come too?” And so we did.
We left Trident Yacht Club on Father’s Day, June 17, 2007 and that year we sailed Madcap through the locks of the St Lawrence Seaway, down the great river to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, then on down the Atlantic coast to Florida and across the Bahama Banks to the Abacos and Exumas. We were hooked!
In the years since then, we have spent months at a time sailing southern waters – two more trips to the Bahamas, to Cuba, then farther south to the Western Caribbean, spending several seasons exploring Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and the Bay Islands of Honduras. If you have been reading this blog over the years, you will know what wonderful experiences we had and how we fell in love with the Belize and Rio Dulce areas.
Just before Christmas, 2015 we had a conversation over coffee in the cockpit as we sat in Placencia, Belize, and by the time lunchtime arrived, we had decided to head north to Canada instead of south to Panama. It seemed an abrupt decision – we hadn’t even said a proper goodbye to our friends in the Rio – and while we felt a little odd about making that 180 degree turn without much conversation or planning, we knew it was right for us.
So here we are in 2018, back in Canada , back in Nova Scotia, back on the South Shore where our plan was to spend a few years doing coastal sailing in our own local waters. We felt good about getting Madcap all polished and varnished and systems up and running this spring at Gold River Marina. We were happy to be back on our mooring ball in Mahone Bay, watching seals spy-hopping, scanning the harbour for new or familiar boats, strolling the pretty little town. But then … we started to feel less satisfied.
It seemed hard to fit in “boat time” among “Halifax time” and “family time”. We drove the hour from Halifax to Mahone Bay on several occasions only to find that conditions weren’t right or something needed fixing. We have lots of stories about sailing in exactly those situations; sometimes it was challenging, sometimes tedious, and mostly we were content with it because we accomplished something. Now it was more like, “What’s the point?”
There came a day when we had a déjà vu feeling as we sat in the cockpit with our coffees – very similar to that morning of December 24, 2015. “Maybe it is time for something different – very different!” Many of you will say you saw this coming, but truly, we surprised ourselves yet again with a madcap moment. (As we look back over our lives together, we’ve discovered more than a few of those seemingly impulsive decisions that are more like nudges from the universe!)
While we aren’t feeling the malaise we felt then, it is not just the coffee that has been percolating. We enjoy spending time at the family cottage on the Northumberland Strait. We bought “Rosie” the camper van in the spring and are feeling an itch to get on the road with her. We have an upcoming trip to New Zealand this winter to visit the family there and, as always, we need time to visit family and friends in Ottawa and Newfoundland. We don’t have any significant physical issues and we just barely fall into the “senior” category but the joints are a little creakier than they used to be. Although we loved weekend sailing in Ontario and casual sailing in Belize without having to “get somewhere”, it just doesn’t hold the same appeal now. This surprised us actually - we had thought we would really enjoy revisiting these home waters we passed through on our way south.
To paraphrase words from that Jan 4, 2016 blogpost, “An hour or so after that coffee conversation, we had a new plan and new light in our eyes. We knew - right down to the depths of our hearts – that putting Madcap on the market was exactly the right decision.” We put in a call to John Suederick at Sunnybrook Yachts and the next week Madcap was for sale.
We certainly have had pangs of the heart – when we joined Debbie and John in the cockpit of Mahayana in Sambro Harbour for dinner one night and knew we would miss many of those gatherings, when we see postings from friends who are still enjoying Central America and those sailing the waters of the west coast. Acknowledging the great joy and satisfaction we have had in our identities as “cruisers” – people who sailed off to new places and explored new cultures and learned to navigate well and take care of our boat – people who have adventures – has given us pause too. These past years have been times of immense growth for us and we don’t want to settle for less. But life teaches us that things do not ever stay the same, and a change in the course of our lives is not anywhere close to “settling”.
We have places to go that don’t all mesh with boat travel. We have already discovered that waking up in a provincial or national parks campsite, has much the same feel as an anchorage. Our hunger for adventure will still be fed, our family time will not be squeezed in amidst sailing time, and our beloved Madcap will pass to new owners.
Please have a look at the listing at Sunnybrook Yachts (www.sunnybrookyachts.com). Madcap is the 1988 Bayfield 36 cutter with the picture of Madcap and the Bluenose in Lunenburg Harbour. She is ready and waiting for folks who want a journey, and those who want a comfortable boat for local sailing.
And as for us? We are plotting new courses, on the road and at home, reflecting on what we have experienced in our lives so far, and making new “plans in the sand”. We look forward to the closing of this circle and the beginning of a new one. And when the itch hits us again to go snorkelling in warm waters, or to take grandchildren sailing, or just to go exploring on a boat, I do believe there are boats for charter and friends to visit!
Launch Day, Gold River Marina, NS
15 June 2018
The day finally came when we had to declare the “on the hard” work done – at least as much as it was going to get done.We stayed in “Rosie” the campervan the night before so we would be ready to catch the high tide bright and early on Wednesday morning. Darrin, Alex and Carl showed up as we drained our first cups of coffee, and the process began. Unplug the power cord, make sure there are bow and stern lines ready, remove the ladder, get out of the way!
I always like to watch launches and haul outs, but I missed most of this one. The truck hauled Madcap over to the railway slip and the boat was lifted into the sling, but the water wasn’t quite high enough so we paused for what I thought would be an hour or so. When I saw movement across the yard as we finished bowls of granola and another round of coffees, I raced over to find the lift moving slowly back up along the rails, the guys walking up the ramp – and Madcap securely tied to a dock. It was a most uneventful launch!
Jim checked the through hulls, started the engine, got a little scare when there was water seeping in around the through hull under our berth, (it stopped within minutes – apparently the seal just needed to swell a little after being dried out for the winter) and we spent the day working through the list of “starting the season jobs”.
While it was too windy during the day to bend on the sails, the wind died enough in the evening for us to enjoy a glass of bubbly and dinner of pasta with asparagus and red peppers sprinkled with freshly shredded Parmesan as we sat in the cockpit. It was SO good to feel the gentle rock of the boat and listen to lapping of tiny waves on the hull.
By Friday, the wind dropped to a reasonable level (although it was on the nose) so we motored out of the river and down the shore a few nautical miles to our mooring in Mahone Bay. In typical Nova Scotia fashion, the wind was nippy but the sun was bright, so we wore long pants and jackets as we travelled, and quickly shed them once we were tied up.
Before we left the marina, we enjoyed an evening aboard Shearwater with John and Debbie (Mahayana) and host, Mike. It was the first Happy Hour of the season and a good start to the social side of the cruising season. We also spent Father’s Day on the boat and toasted the last 11 years of our cruising life. It was on Father’s Day in 2007 that we pulled away from the dock at Trident Yacht Club near Gananoque, ON to head off on our journey down the St Lawrence River to the salt water of the Eastern Seaboard. That night we sat with Mary and Blair (Strathspey) and toasted the beginning of our adventure together. This year, we raised our glasses alone as we contemplated what shape this season of sailing in Nova Scotia waters would take, and remembered the wonderful encounters we enjoyed with folks from all over the world during our 11 years of cruising from Lake Ontario all the way down to Guatemala and back to Nova Scotia.
Sorrow Comes With the Joy
26 May 2018 | Gold River Marina, Gold River, NS
Beth / chilly nights and sunny days
I wanted to make this post all about the joy we feel around meeting folks in boatyards and anchorages and marinas. It has been that way from the time we started sailing, especially as we ventured into new waters and discovered new places to say hello - to fellow boaters and to the "locals".
I have a book full of boatcards we have received over the last 10 years and dozens more names written in my journals. I have written about many folks in these blog posts - cruisers on their first long passages, the old salts, the circumnavigators - who have really truly sailed around the world, those who don't venture far but know their home waters intimately, first time owners, dreamers, and lots like us - couples who are enjoying both their boats and the exploration.
We are encountering all those folks right here in Gold River. Mike from Texas on s/v Shearwater, with whom we have shared Bahamas stories, Jay who used to own a marina in Roatan and we know exactly where that marina is; Jeff, Tracy, Ben and Sam who just bought their first boat and named it Lyons Pride and the boys are all set to put their sailing classes to good use; Charles, who used to sail on s/v Wind Swept and now plies the waters on m/v Wind Free; and Graham who has been working in the barn on his schooner Mary David. He came by one sunny day to say hello and we reminisced over the time in 2008 when we both holed up in Deep Cove to ride out Hurricane Hannah. Jim and I sat aboard Mary David then with Graham and Paulette, drinking tea and telling stories.
And that's where the sorrow cast a shadow on all the joy. On a Tuesday, Graham and I assured each other that we would share an anchorage again this summer, 10 years after the last time. On the Friday of the same week, Jim was working on Madcap when the emergency vehicles came roaring into the yard and people went running toward the barn. Graham was on the ground at the bottom of his ladder and all efforts to revive him failed. We don't yet know exactly what happened, but in an instant, all the future plans were gone and those who knew and cared for him are left with memories. Our hearts have been heavy these last few days as we continue the work of readying Madcap for launch.
Carl painted the boot stripe and cove stripe a glossy dark green. Jim and I have continued sanding and varnishing the brightwork - rubrails, eyebrows, hand rails, butterfly hatch. He will start work this week cleaning and waxing the hull and I will tackle the cockpit teak. Jim installed the new Seagull water filter and replaced a rusted out connection to the water heater. Our navigation lights work and he repaired or replaced the galley and aft cabin ones that didn't. The VHF works but the SSB antenna still needs to be hooked up. The Chartplotter won't hold a fix so Keith, the local electronics man spent an hour with Jim trying to track down that problem and he will be back this week to fix it - we hope!
The work goes on, and there is still joy in the boatyard, tempered with the knowledge that we never know what the next day will bring. And so we take time to talk to people, to remember them; we celebrate tasks completed, and we still make plans for the next day and the ones after that, looking forward to being on the water again.