Welcome to the cruising blog of Wayne and Michele Sharp!

If you want to learn a little bit about cruising, satisfy your curiosity, live vicariously, or be entertained, I think you've come to the right place.

Feel free to ask questions or post comments in the comment section of each post; I will respond to all of them. You can also email us at reluctantsailor@me.com.

We've written a book based on the blog from our first journey in 2007 - Adventures of a Once Reluctant Sailor: A Journey of Guts, Growth, and Grace. It is available online from my website at reluctantsailor.net, and from Apostle Islands Booksellers, Copperfish Books, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Your local bookstore can also order it for you. We've included over 170 color and black and white photos.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Another whale of a day

This was another experience beyond words, but I'll try.

We were cruising along in the fog, the gray of the sky merging seamlessly with the gray of the water. Only Lena Bea broke the calm of the sea and there was no other boat in sight, creating a perfect backdrop for what was to come.

Suddenly something black appeared - a whale! - breeching and spouting. And another...and another...and another. They were everywhere, some so close to the boat (50 feet) that we could hear them breathe! I grabbed my camera and started shooting, turning to where the sounds came from, wishing I had four arms and two cameras with which to capture it all. Wayne cut the engine and we watched in awe - just us and the whales - no tour boats and no marine police to tell us to keep away. Were we afraid, knowing that some of these whales were nearly twice the size of our boat? It never crossed our minds.
We finally moved on and radioed Claus and Rachael, who were a couple miles behind us, to give them a heads up, excited to tell them about our whale encounter and hoping they would experience the same (which they did).

Spent the night tied up to the dock at Marina Gaspé.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's all south from here

Aug. 30 - Today we reached the northernmost point on our journey, at 49.17.339 degrees latitude, about the same latitude as Winnipeg. That's a big turning point for the four of us - figuratively as well as literally. It seems appropriate that fog and chill (60ish) have been the order of the day. I think we're now in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, although my map does not tell me where the river ends and the gulf begins. It just feels like the gulf. One week from today we’ll meet Michael, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. We are so looking forward to having him with us for a week!

Anchored at Grande Vallée behind the public wharf. We hope to have cell phone service back later today or tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Blogging in a biker bar

There is no internet service at Marina Sainte-Anne-des-Monts and it seems the only place that has wireless is Pub Chez Bass. I asked Rachael if she wanted to go with me and she responded with a vehement "NO! That's a biker bar." She and Claus had walked past earlier and there were dozens of motorcycles parked outside.

Well, dedicated blogger that I am, I was not about to let a few bikers keep me away. Wayne agreed to escort me to the pub, which turned out to be totally unnecessary because all the bikers were gone by the time we got here. Wayne stayed for a beer and some fish and chips before returning to the boat, but I'm supposed to call him on the two-way radio when I'm ready to leave (we have no cell phone service here) so he can walk me back. He is so chivalrous.

We're stick-in-the-muds

Aug. 29 - We sailed the spinnaker again yesterday and docked at Marina Matane. Rachael bought fresh scallops and shrimp and made a delicious seafood bisque for dinner. We expect to eat a lot of seafood in the weeks ahead, and boy are we ready!

When you come into a marina, you call them on your VHF radio to tell them the size of your boat and your draft (how deep into the water it goes - ours is five feet) so the marina knows whether or not they can accommodate you. Normally they will then direct you to a slip. We didn’t hear back from them, so we ventured in. Well, after dinner we realized that the ebbing tide had left both of our boats sitting on the bottom of our slips. Thankfully this is not a serious problem unless you're planning to leave before the flood tide, in which case you're stuck - literally. During the night I felt the boat begin to rock and knew the tide had come in; we had set our alarms so we could leave at 6:00, before it got too low again.

Now it's noon and we're about to dock at Marina Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, where I hope to have internet service so I can finally get these messages and photos posted. Calm water gave us good visibility this morning, so we saw dolphins, a few whales, and seals.

We're on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, still in Quebec, but New Brunswick is just south of us.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A picture is worth a thousand words

Aug. 27 - I've decided to skip all the superlatives, as none are adequate, and let the whale photos speak for themselves. The photos don't begin to do them justice either, but they will have to do.

The long black whales are Blue Whales, the largest of all mammals. They're 75-80 feet long and eat four tons or more of food per day! They are protected and endangered; the St. Lawrence population is estimated at 60-100 and the entire North Atlantic population is probably less than 1000.

The Beluga or White Whale is also protected and endangered. Their numbers are less than 500 and declining due to environmental toxins.
Heading out into the bay this morning we watched the tour boats, and when they congregated and stopped, we knew to watch for whales if they had not already made their presence known to us. We watched Blue Whales blowing and breaching, heard them breathing and moaning. Rachael and I stood in our bowsprits, cameras clicking wildly, while Wayne and Claus kept busy trying to aim the boats to where we pointed.
The Blue Whales had disappeared and we were sitting back, relishing the experience. All of a sudden there seemed to be a lot of whitecaps on the water and my immediate thought was, "Belugas." Then I would laugh and say to myself, "Now I'm imagining that every little thing is a whale." Except they were Belugas and we were surrounded by them - over 100 for sure.
They swam past the boat, swam up to the boat, swam under the boat, and I couldn't shoot my camera fast enough. Wayne put the engine in neutral, as we understood the protocol to be. We realized we were in a marine park sanctuary when the park patrol boat interrupted our experience and set us straight: If we find ourselves in a pod of Belugas, we are supposed to leave the area immediately and stay at least 400 meters away (200 meters from Blue Whales). While they kindly educated Wayne about whale etiquette, I kept taking photos, including some of Kyanna with Rachael taking photos of the Belugas.

We saw other kinds of whales too, and quite a few seals. The seals don't photograph well; they just look like black lumps in the water.

All day long the thought kept crossing my mind: this is something I couldn’t even have dreamed about.
Dinner this evening with Claus and Rachael anchored off Île du Bic was a celebration of another kind. We bubbled with conversation about our shared experience, one of the most awesome of our lives. We had "show and tell," reliving the day as we shared our photos, oohing and ahhing as over a pile of precious gems.

"We get to do this!"

Aug. 27 - We spent the night moored near the marina in Tadoussac and are sitting in the cockpit sipping our morning coffee, preparing to start our day. We watch the rising sun glisten on the water and hear whales blowing in the harbor. A lone seal swims by occasionally and glances at us warily without changing course.

"We get to do this!" as Claus would say.

The four of us have marveled about how blessed we are to be realizing our dream (I didn't even know it was my dream), but it didn't happen by accident. First of all, you need to know what your dream is and stay focused on it. Then you need to figure out what it will take to make it happen. Finally, you need to commit yourself, sacrifice as necessary, and do what it takes. Just do it. Last but not least, never underestimate the power of prayer.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A birthday to remember

Today is my birthday, and it was a memorable one.

I woke up in this gorgeous boat, moored in Eternity Bay on the Saguenay fjord, surrounded by breathtaking mountains. The sun, which we hadn't seen since leaving Quebec, was trying hard to make an appearance.

Wayne and Claus did a dinghy run to shore with our garbage and met a family with four kids from Ottawa, who were finishing up a two-month sailing trip. They had been to some of the places we are headed for, so Claus invited them over to Kyanna to look over charts and give us suggestions. Coincidentally, one of the daughters was also celebrating her birthday.

We left at 12:15 and actually sailed the entire 26 miles to Tadoussac...with our spinnaker (the big, colorful sail)! An added bonus was that Rachael - a very competent photographer - photographed us while we were underway.

We moored in Tadoussac at 4:00 under heavy winds and took the dinghy in to shore. What a charming town! We walked around, took photos, and went to the grocery store before returning to our boat for hors d'oeuvres and to Kyanna for dinner. We had a surprise when we returned to the dinghy after our walk: the tide had gone out, leaving the dinghy sitting on the beach.

Rachael made a delicious birthday dinner of pork chops, green beans, a fresh baguette, French Rabbit chardonnay, and for dessert, a flourless chocolate torte. Yum! They even had birthday presents for me. Claus and Rachael have become such dear friends.
Seeing whales was the icing on the birthday cake, so to speak. No, I couldn't have asked for a better day. God is good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Leaving Quebec

Just a quick note here before we head over for fuel and a pump out.

We're leaving with Claus and Rachael and will travel 60 miles today to anchor off Île Aux Coudres. 

Tomorrow we will travel to Tadoussac and from there, up the Saguenay River, a fjord. The mouth of the Saguenay is one of the best places in the world for whale-watching, with as many as fifteen species of whales. I expect this to be the highlight of our trip.

We don't know when we will have internet access or if our cell phones will work, but we do have our satellite phone and will check in with family.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Our route so far

Wayne has done a Google map with all our stops along the way. If you'd like to check it out, I've added it to the bottom of this page. There's also a link under our "links" section on the right. Because we now have a map on the blog, from now on my hyperlinks will take you to a website that tells you more about the location.

A reunion in Quebec City

After checking in at the Old Quebec City Marina on Saturday evening, we went to find Claus and Rachael. What a joyful reunion that was! The conversation was animated and without pause for the couple hours we spent with them and their cat, Charlotte, on Kyanna. Although we just met this summer because we "happened" to be docked two slips apart at Pike's Bay, it feels like we've known each other much longer. Sharing a first adventure like this (although they've sailed more than we have) at the same time will do that. It was fun to compare our experiences.

On Sunday morning we were invited to join Claus and Rachael on Bill and Nancy's boat, just a few over from ours. Bill and Nancy are acquaintances of Rachael's aunt and uncle in Park City, Utah, and old salts with endless stories to share. Bill counseled Wayne and Rachael (who took scrupulous notes) on the fine details of navigating the waters of the rest of the St. Lawrence, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Maine. They pored over the charts while Claus and I, who aren't navigators, followed along with our road maps. The other three would be talking about latitude and longitude, and Claus would say, "That's G5 on our map."

After lunch we went our separate ways but soon bumped into Claus and Rachael on antique row. We continued our exploration of the Old City of Quebec with them, Rachael with her Nikon D200 and me with my Nikon D80. The guys get a lot of points for patience, because our pace went something like "walk twenty feet, stop and take a picture" all through the Old City. Rachael and I rewarded Wayne and Claus with a beer stop later in the afternoon, and we finally settled on dinner at a little French restaurant after checking out nearly every menu posted in the Old City. Too many enticing restaurants to choose from.

We like Quebec even more than Montreal; it has more of the Old World charm and atmosphere, more buildings and sites of historical and architectural interest, and is the last remaining fortified city north of Mexico City, which adds a unique element of interest. Quebec City is said to be the only place in North America to have retained so much of its European heritage. Walking the cobbled streets within the walls of the old city, one has the unmistakable impression of being in Europe, except for the almost jarring disparity of seeing signs and shops with Canadian, Native American, and Inuit merchandise, arts, and souvenirs.

We returned to the boat late Sunday evening, but not too late to call and wish our granddaughter, Alex, a happy 5th birthday. Happy Birthday, Alex! We love you!

Monday morning we had another session with Bill and Nancy, covering the area from Maine down to the Chesapeake Bay. They're from Rhode Island and know the east coast particularly well. They shared with us a treasure trove of information, and we are grateful to them for their generosity. Bill and Nancy are dear people who are young at heart and fun to be with. They spend their winters in Park City, Utah, where it is Bill's goal to become the oldest ski instructor there.

After lunch I was feeling the need to go off on my own, and Wayne had work to do. I went to the farmer's market nearby - oh, my! Wayne and I visited there on Sunday, too. I have never seen so much beautiful produce! Baskets of freshly picked berries, piles of sweet corn, gunny sacks full of potatoes, bundles of leeks, onions, carrots, herbs, etc, heads of broccoli and cauliflower, buckets full of flowers, every kind of squash imaginable, cheeses, teas, maple syrup, freshly baked bread, etc. etc. etc. And all of it displayed so beautifully. It was a feast for the eyes and overwhelming to us produce-deprived mariners.

I walked for over four hours and returned to the boat exhausted and weighed down with goodies from the market. Wayne greeted me with "let's go to the grocery store!" so we walked twenty minutes over there and picked up things not available at the market.

On the way back we were summoned by our four friends to join them for cocktails on Bill and Nancy's boat. We dropped off our groceries, heated up some spinach and artichoke dip, and went on over. We shared stories and laughed and just enjoyed the company of like-minded friends.

I had thawed out some soup and invited Claus and Rachael over for dinner, with the idea that we could plot and discuss our course since we've decided to travel together for a while. I don't know how much plotting took place, but we shared lots of lively conversation and laughter.

Earlier in the day Claus said to me, "I'm feeling the itch," and I knew exactly what he was talking about: as much as we love it here in Quebec, we were feeling the urge to "hit the road." In spite of that, we decided to stay another day and get things done. We'll be mostly in wilderness area for the next couple weeks and we want to be well-provisioned and prepared before we venture out. I did a couple loads of laundry, answered email, got some things organized, and am working on this blog. I hope to get photos uploaded this afternoon. Wayne has been - all together now - working on the boat, and I hope he'll have time to get a couple things done on my honey-do list before the day's out. I have been encouraging him to post to the blog, but he hasn't gotten around to it yet. 

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This and that

I originally started this blog as a lark, but it's become my obsession, my connection to you, my journal, my creative outlet, and yes, my lifeline. Thanks for accompanying us on our journey; I enjoy sharing it with you.

You may have noticed that I’ve gone back and edited some of my entries of the past few days and added photos and hyperlinks. I’m discovering that the words flow easier for me during the day because I'm not tired and rushed. I've also started to mention days of the week instead of "yesterday" or "tomorrow." This is to help me because we lose track of time, date, day of the week. I go back and look at some posts and don't remember for sure if they're in the correct order.

Navigating the St. Lawrence River is totally different from navigating the Great Lakes. In the Lakes you pretty much set your instruments to get you to your destination, keep an eye out for other boats, and keep on truckin'. In the river there are channels marked with little red and green buoys that you must stay between or risk running aground. We rely less on GPS in the river because it can be off by as much as 100 feet - a huge distance when you're trying to avoid shoals and underwater obstructions. We are amazed that there has been minimal commercial traffic on the St. Lawrence; we thought we'd be dodging freighters all the way down (or is it up?).

We have the current in our favor and now tides are becoming a factor as well; they bring currents of their own and can be a help or a hindrance, depending on whether the tide is coming in or going out. Wayne is "playing the tides," which means timing our travel so the tides work to our advantage. Where we stayed last night there is only about a foot and a half rise and fall between low and high tide; in Quebec City, only 70 miles farther downstream, there is a tidal range of eighteen feet! In a few miles we will pass through the Richelieu Rapids, a two mile stretch of the river that can have a current of up to eight knots.

Well, that was a non-event. I just went up to ask Wayne how soon we'd be to the “rapids.” We looked at the cruising guide and the charts and discovered they were behind us.

In Lac St. Louis (a lake), before Montreal, Wayne had me take the helm for a while so he could put some things away. I carefully watched the buoys to make sure we stayed in the channel, but darned if I didn't get us off course (and in shallow water) by about a mile and a half. I couldn’t figure out how it happened until I read in our cruising guide later in the day: "Be sure to follow the charted, buoyed channels carefully to avoid the shoal areas. You will require diligent pilotage as the channel zigzags over the lake so that distinguishing one buoy from another can be tricky."

After visiting Montreal, a truly bilingual city, I was starting to think I might escape having to use my French while in Quebec. Not so. Our stay last night in the small town marina of Trois Rivieres seemed devoid of anyone fluent in English, so we made do with my French. I drew the line when Wayne asked if I could explain to the management that we didn't have electricity because of "reverse polarity;" I could not have explained that in English, much less French.

My sister Ricki called me this morning to tell me about the first evening of the all-class reunion at our high school, Irondale High School in New Brighton, MN. They're celebrating the 40th year since the school opened; I was in ninth grade that year and graduated in 1971 (the second graduating class), Ricki in 1973, and my other four siblings all before 1980. I am disappointed to miss the reunion and asked Ricki to give this blog address to anyone who might be interested. So if anyone from Irondale is reading this, hi! Thanks for checking in! I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment at the end of any of my blog posts.

Which reminds me...A few people have emailed me, which is great - keep 'em coming! - and said they are too shy to leave a comment on the blog where everyone can read it. If that's a concern for you, there is an option to comment anonymously.

Someone (who asked to remain nameless but her initials are RJS) also said, "Will you please fix or remove that horrible distorted photo of you and Wayne at the top of the page?" Well, I have tried several times to fix it, but no luck; the photo looks fine on my computer but appears distorted after I post it (wouldn't you know that the only distorted photo on the blog is the only one of Wayne and me). So I'll remove it and try again. Blogger is not without its bugs  and frustrations. I’ve spent hours trying to correct such things (different fonts, colors, photo placement, etc.) but some things can’t be fixed no matter what I do. So be it.

Wayne and I were talking about the trip and all the great places we are undoubtedly passing up. I commented that after the trip people will probably be asking us "Did you do this? Did you go there? Did you stop here?" We didn't have nearly enough time to do research before we left and our resources are limited now, so if you know of any "must see or do" places along the way that are sailboat accessible, we would be grateful for suggestions.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Adrenaline overdose

Fabulous sailing today, with winds that reached mid-20's at times. We flew the spinnaker for the first time and it was awesome. Well, except for the part when I was screaming with my eyes closed, begging Wayne to call for a helicopter to come and get me. We had minor complications and the boat was heeled over so far the spinnaker was in the water.

We saw the craziest thing! A guy on water skis or a wake board or something (he was too far away to tell) had a kite/parachute pulling him across the water and he actually became airborne!

But the highlight of our day came in the form of an email from Michael; he'll be joining us for a week in September (we wish Amy could come too)! He'll fly to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and will sail with us to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Of course we need to work out the timing thing, but as long as there are no big weather delays we should be fine. WOO-HOO! Doin’ the happy dance!

Leaving Montreal

Just a quick update before we leave the dock in Montreal.

We made it through the remaining four locks (I'm so glad to be done with them) and arrived at the marina in Montreal at 7:30. First thing we did was dispose of the bags of hay that served as additional fenders for protecting the boat in the locks and helped save wear and tear on the good fenders. We were grateful to have them but are happy we won't be needing them again.

The energy of the city grabbed hold of me as the skyline grew, and I was nearly off the boat before we were in our slip. We ate dinner under the curious eyes of dozens of onlookers lined up on the wharf above us. Some people were even taking photos!

We ate hastily and went out to experience nightlife in Old Montreal; it was such a treat and a much-needed change of scenery for us. Place Jacques Cartier, a popular pedestrian-only street in the heart of Old Montreal, is directly across from the marina. It's a vibrant place bordered on both sides with shops, restaurants, and cafes. The cobblestone streets and 17th and 18th century architecture give it a distinctly European flavor. Street artists, performers, and vendors add to the color and lively character of the area. What a delight it was to just explore, observe, people-watch, and soak up the energy.

Thursday, in addition to more walking, we decided to make the most of a rainy day and our short time in Montreal by taking a bus tour - how very touristy of us - which gave us a really fine overview of the city.

I was horrified and sad when the guide on our bus tour told us that some of the beautiful old cathedrals are being turned into apartments because "religion just isn't that popular anymore."

We were planning to spend a few days here, but another rainy day looms ahead tomorrow and Quebec City awaits us, so we decided to move on. Claus and Rachael will arrive there today, so we'll catch up with them Saturday evening or Sunday.

We expect Quebec City through Maine to be the highlight of our trip; I’m especially excited about QC to Nova Scotia - whale watching!! It's one of the top whale watching places in the world, with as many as 15 species! My camera will be ready, batteries fully charged, and memory cards cleared.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A nip in the air

Last night when we were getting ready for bed I commented to Wayne that it was the first day since we left home that I didn't feel sticky with perspiration (he agreed, so it's not what you think). We slept with a quilt over us for the first time. This morning it was downright chilly and I threw on a pair of sweats...very quickly, I might add. We have been blessed with beautiful boating weather and very little rain, but would appreciate more wind so we could sail more.
We traveled 60 nautical miles in about 9-10 hours today and made it through three locks, which leaves us four tomorrow. We went with five other pleasure craft, rafted together in pairs with the larger vessel (that would be us) next to the lock wall. We hardly waited at all, which is amazing since our book says the wait could be "as little as thirty minutes but not usually longer than four hours." Of course, we’ll probably make up for it tomorrow.
Rafted up in the lock
Tonight we're anchored off the islands at St. Regis. This area is an Indian reservation and half the town of St. Regis is situated in New York and the other half in the Province of Quebec.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A leisurely evening at home

It's 5:30 and we're anchored off Grenadier Island on the north end of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence Seaway, about 130 nautical miles from Montreal; we should arrive on Thursday, depending on the locks. Yes, we have more locks to do - seven between here and Montreal. I can hardly wait.

We heard a little while ago that Claus and Rachael are in Montreal, so maybe we'll catch up with them in the next week or two. It would be fun to sit and swap war stories over dinner or drinks. I called and left a message for them.

We had an early dinner and have the rest of the evening to do whatever. It feels like a luxury.

When I was a child, I used to fantasize about living on my own island. It may have had something to do with being an introvert living in a chaotic household with five siblings less than eight years younger than me, I don't know. Anyway, today I was utterly fascinated by all the single-dwelling islands we passed and went nuts photographing them.

Well, off to clean the bathrooms...lest you think we're getting away from it all.

August 13

For weeks I've had an entry on my calendar, "meteor shower dusk until dawn on the 13th northeast horizon." We missed the peak shower time because of clouds and the lights in the marina, but now it's the evening of the 13th and I am ready.

August 13 is significant for another reason: Three years ago today, Hurricane Charley hit our home in Punta Gorda, causing us over $110,000 in damage and $13 billion statewide. I muse over all that has happened since then and how, even six months afterwards, we still wondered if the repairs would ever be completed.

We all have hurricanes in our lives, and yes, we do finally recover from the vast majority of them, but in the meantime we wonder if we'll ever have a new roof over our heads or be finished picking up the pieces of the old one. We are never the same afterwards, but hopefully wiser, stronger, with reorganized priorities and a greater focus on our Lord. He created us the first time and only he has the blueprint to put us back together.

Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Now, where did all that come from?

The remarkable thing about my aforementioned calendar entry is that it's the only calendar entry I have since July 20. And aside from a questionable October entry of "Suz in Philly?" and "kids in FL" the week of Thanksgiving, there is nothing else until a doctor appointment on December 17. Can you imagine that? Five months with no commitments? I can't really decide whether it's a gift or a deprivation; guess it could be either or both, depending on how you look at it.

Question of the day: Do you have a TV on board?

A: Technically, yes; we have a TV which is hooked up to an antenna (no satellite). But we've had it on maybe twice since the start of the trip. Ironically, we either don't have time to watch it or need to conserve our batteries. Or more likely, we don't think of it because we have never had a TV on the boat until this trip. I miss keeping up with world events and local news, but aside from that we hardly miss it.

If I could be granted one wish, it would be to have one of the kids join us for a week. Our son, Michael, wants to and is checking into where he might meet us. Greg (Wayne's brother) and Darlene are planning to go to New York in September to visit friends and family and, hopefully, sail with us a bit. Our niece, Melanie, is waiting in the wings, ready to meet us somewhere in September. My sister, Jodi, would be delighted if we could be in Cape Cod when they are there the end of this month. Etc. And we would love to make it all work out. But here's the deal: you're moseying along at about six or seven knots, at the mercy of the weather, with no idea beyond the next week or so when you will be where. And I have to say that's part of the beauty of this trip, the gift aspect, if you will, of five months with no commitments: no schedule. Having the freedom to stay here an extra day or two, or add a stop there, or take a side trip up this river. And that does not mesh well with the need of others to plan ahead so they can join us...the deprivation aspect.

We’ll see what we can work out. Meanwhile, it's time to put this computer down and gaze at the heavens.

E-mail problems

For some reason, we haven't been able to send emails today, so if you've emailed me and haven't gotten a response, it's probably sitting in my outbox. Meanwhile, there's a place for comments at the bottom of each post, so feel free to leave one if you wish.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

In Gananoque

Last night we anchored in the Thousand Islands, just off Thwartway Island. From here on, we plan to slow down - easier said than done when you've been like a perpetual motion machine. It's like trying to stop one of those 700' freighters. We'll be in Montreal before the weekend and will spend a couple days there, and after that, Quebec City, where we will do the same.

Our plan was to anchor again tonight after spending our day in Gananoque, Quebec, but there was no transient dockage available and we had to spend the night. We need to do laundry, pick up some provisions and charts, study up on the locks, currents, and tides ahead of us, clean the boat, get online for a host of reasons, etc. And I'd just like wander around town and stretch my legs. So here we're docked. The two main reasons we'd rather anchor are: the peace and tranquility of anchoring and the expense of docking (about $65 here). But you can't put a price on marital harmony, and if you don't have that you can forget about the peace and tranquility stuff.
So I'm sitting at a picnic table under a tree overlooking the marina while my laundry does its thing. Talk about sticker shock! Granted, it has been awhile since I've used a coin operated laundry facility - ok, nearly 30 years, back when all you needed was a few quarters - but jeepers! $2.00 a load, $4.00 if you want 'em dried! Canadian $$, but still...!

I am so jealous of people who are cruising with their pets, and you'd be surprised how many are. If someone came up to me with a dog or cat and asked if I'd like to take them, I don't think I would hesitate as long as the pet was agreeable to being on a boat (I hope Diana M. didn't hear me say that or she will probably have one waiting for us on the dock when we get up in the morning).

Later...I finished my laundry and went to the grocery store. Got in a couple miles of walking, and it felt good.

Oh, and note to selves: don't wait three weeks to do laundry (I should have taken you up on your offer, Diane).

Another night passage

First of all, thank you for reading our blog. It means a lot to us that people care enough to follow our journey this way, especially knowing you have more important things to do. Blogging has turned out to be a really great way for us to communicate. We feel less lonely sharing the experience with you, and for loved ones back home, it makes us seem not so far away.

It's 12:15 a.m. and I am on watch while Wayne gets a few hours of sleep. Or maybe I should say TRIES to get a few hours of sleep. I've had to wake him twice. The first time I noticed on radar that there was a 736' ship just on the other side of our waypoint, headed directly towards us. Novice that I am, I'm not about to make any navigational decisions, so Wayne got up and changed our course. I think I hit a wrong button or something a while later while making adjustments for the next waypoint, so I had to get him up again. He takes it all in stride.

So that's pretty much all I do on watch - keep an eye on the radar, look around for other boats too small to show up on radar, and make sure Otto Pilot is keeping us on course. All I need to do is make adjustments to it as necessary. And wake Wayne when the situation calls for it. My constant attention isn't required, so I've also been reading and doing Sudoku puzzles. The concentration needed to do the puzzles helps keep me awake when I get drowsy reading, although that hasn't been a problem tonight.

Later...It's 10:30 in the morning now. We anchored near Wolfe Island at 6:30 this morning and slept until 10:00. Now we're ready for the day.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Crossing Lake Ontario

We made it through the Welland Canal on Thursday, but it was a long, slow, and boring day - about eleven hours to get through the locks, much of it spent waiting. Unfortunately, it was dark by the time we got through, which is never a good thing when you're trying to find an anchorage or a dock at which to spend the night. We tried several times to radio the nearest marina, St. Catharine's, but they didn't respond. Since we've found that most marinas close at 8 p.m., there didn't seem to be much point in trying another one, but we needed a place to stay. We motored into St. Catharine's and tried to see if there was a big enough slip nearby, but it was too dark to tell and too shallow to cruise around looking, so we made a u-turn and anchored in the bay to figure out our options. In my mind there was only one option: stay put and don't do anything until daylight. Who cares if the anchorage is only protected if winds aren't from the east but they are? Wayne was too tired to disagree, which is good, because I was too tired for a fight.

Note to selves: call ahead if we'll be getting in late. Better yet, never arrive after dark if you don’t have to.

Now we're in Lake Ontario, with a view of the New York shoreline to our right and the Toronto skyline on our left.

Later...We were planning to make it as far as Point Breeze, NY today, but had the forethought - we are learning - to call this morning to see if they would have a slip available for us, which they didn't. It was too far away for Walter (Hi Walter! I'll never forget the ride on your motorcycle. Hi to Kim and the boys.) to join us for dinner anyway, so there wasn't much point in going through U.S. customs for a one night stay. Instead, we're cruising all night and will arrive at the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the morning. I hope this overnighter is less exciting than the last one.

I spent a lot of time today reading up on the Thousand Islands, St. Lawrence Seaway, and Montreal.
Later... We made an uneventful night crossing of Lake Ontario, then anchored for four hours in Navy Bay in Kingston, Ontario to catch a few winks before moving on.

Question of the day: Michele, we know what you're doing to pass the time, but what about Wayne? What does he do at the end of the day?

A: Wayne does the major navigation stuff. Every night he records data for that day, plots our course for the next day, and checks weather. He also keeps a Captain's Log and records in it daily. We have a wi-fi booster antenna, but only one of us can be plugged in at a time. Since we've agreed to make the blog a top priority, he doesn't get online much, even to check email, although I'm willing to give him a turn now and then. Especially when it's time to pay the bills, which Wayne does online. I email most of our blog entries, which he could do as well; we don't actually have to be at the website to do that. That is nice because sometimes we get a wi-fi signal that's barely enough to get email through, but not enough to get online. So sometimes you'll see our recent post with text only; I edit the text, upload the photos and add hyperlinks when I can actually get online.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hurry up and wait

After a good night's sleep, we scrambled to get the boat ready for today's adventure: our trip through the locks on the Welland Canal. Preparing the boat meant putting out extra fenders and lines to keep the boat away from the walls of the locks, securing everything, and gathering anything we might need during the day - like food - to keep close at hand in the cockpit. The voyage through the locks requires our constant presence and vigilance on deck; since we've never done this before and don't know what to expect, we've probably over-prepared. But better that than being caught unaware.

So we got to our check-in point at 9:45 and were told it would probably be around noon before we could start. There were some freighters coming through and we had to wait for them, since commercial traffic has priority. That's fine. Unscheduled idle time around here is never idle and is usually a blessing in disguise. I finally did the dishes, which had been stacking up for a few days. I don't know if that qualifies as a blessing, but they're done.

In my haste and exhaustion last night, I didn't mention all the friendly people we met at Sugarloaf Marina, starting with people in a dinghy who gave us directions to our slip. Next were some other boaters, along with the dockhand, who met us at the slip and kept us from seriously blowing into the dock. The Canadian customs officials met us at our boat and facilitated the process of customs. People kept stopping by to say hello and admire the boat. It's amazing how many people have connections to Punta Gorda and approach us when they see "Punta Gorda, Florida" on the transom...two different parties here. There was a boy about 11-12 years old who kept walking by and grinning at me, so I invited him onboard to see the boat. He was wide-eyed and awestruck. We met a young couple who hope to circumnavigate the world when their kids are grown. The kids working in the office bent over backwards for us, even offered to drive us in to town. On our way out of the marina this morning, people were waving and wishing us bon voyage. We'll have warm memories of our short stay in Port Colborne.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Photos uploaded

You may have noticed that at the top of this page I've added a link to some photos I've started to upload. Feel free to check them out at http://www.costcophotocenter.com/groups/lenabea
I have lots more and will get them posted as time online permits. Unfortunately, I don't have time to sort through them much while we're traveling, so please excuse the duplications and lack of captions.

Port Colborne, Ontario

It's been a long and exhausting two days, so don't expect anything witty, profound, or articulate here. We finally left John and Diane's yesterday around noon during a break in the weather and sailed all night until this afternoon at 3:30, when we docked at Sugarloaf Marina in Port Colborne, Ontario

We took turns on watch while the other slept; I took the first shift from about 9:00-1:30. There were some nasty thunderstorms, but they didn't last long, thank goodness! Call me crazy, but the words "sitting duck" kept coming to mind. You're sitting in this vessel in the water, the only object above the water level as far as the naked eye can see. Then you have this 63' metal rod sticking up from the middle of the vessel. Now, if I were a lightening bolt, I'd interpret that as an invitation. Might as well put a big target on us with the words "strike here." Of course, Wayne has a good explanation for how an Island Packet is constructed to minimize the effect of a lightening strike. Whatever.

We also had some excitement coming into the marina today. High winds and strong currents, difficulty docking, etc. But we made it.

Tomorrow we will pass through eight sets of locks in the Welland Canal and will come out the other end into Lake Ontario.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Thunderstorms, bridge collapse, and other tidbits

Here we sit, still docked at John and Diane's, waiting out a thunderstorm. Looks like we will be traveling in rain quite a bit the next couple days.

On the bridge collapse: Saturday I received an email from a friend who informed me that the school bus you've probably all seen on the news, was carrying kids on an outing with a summer program run by Pillsbury United Communities. Tony Wagner, the President and CEO of PUC, is a friend from church. He, along with two of his staff people who were on the bus, were guests on Larry King Live the other night. Pillsbury United Communities-Waite House is providing counseling services for families involved in the accident. A fund has been established to provide assistance for medical bills and other costs associated with the accident. Contributions can be made by calling 1-888-642-3040.

Several people have said to me, "I should get a map so I can see where you are." I try to provide a hyperlink to a Google map for each location. The name of the town or whatever will be highlighted, so you can just click on it to bring up a Google map. From there you can zoom in or out for a better perspective.

I'd really like to upload more photos but need a large block of time online to do so. By the way, if you want to see any of the posted photos close up, just click on them and you should see an enlarged version.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Delightful time with John and Diane

We we've been docked behind John and Diane's house since about 2:00 Sunday afternoon and are leaving tomorrow morning. It's been a wonderful boat break and we have enjoyed our visit with John and Diane immensely. They are such gracious hosts. They offered us their guest room, which we declined (didn't want to get spoiled!), chauffeured us around to do errands, served us delicious meals, and John helped Wayne with projects on the boat. It was just great to be with friends. I could live comfortably in their backyard, no question.

And what a lovely yard (and home) it is, at the end of a lagoon lined with charming houses and flowers everywhere. John and Diane are sailors too, so there was plenty of sailing conversation.
Our plan is to leave mid-morning tomorrow and sail straight through Lake Erie, non-stop to the Welland Canal, arriving sometime Wednesday afternoon. The Welland Canal connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie through a series of eight locks, allowing ships to avoid the 51 meter high Niagara Falls. It takes an average of 11 hours to traverse the canal's length. We'll see how long it takes us.  

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sailing in the rain

On our way to John and Diane's and it's been raining all morning, the first rain we've had since the start of our trip except for a light shower as we slept one night.

Question of the day: How do you get out and about when you are anchored? Taxi? Rental bikes?

A: Fortunately, we like to walk a lot, but we'll probably employ nearly all possible means of transportation before the end of this trip. We have a dinghy and motor, which we use to get to shore when we're anchored. Last night we were anchored at Put-In-Bay and took a water taxi in to shore. We could have rented golf carts, bikes, or mopeds to zip around the island, had we been so inclined, but it felt good to walk. Besides, walking was faster - the streets were jammed with golf carts lined up bumper to bumper.

That was one wild and crazy little town! Lots of bars, restaurants, t-shirt shops, and people. And boats! I've never seen so many boats packed so tightly into a place before; it looked like a tailgate party at a used car dealership. Boats were rafted together at the docks with coolers stacked on the transoms. Everyone appeared to be under (most of them way under) the age of 35 and there for one purpose: to party. Then there was us: we're way over the age of 35 and were back at the boat by 7:30. But that's ok. We were still able to enjoy the music from the boat...until very, very late :)

We didn't realize at the time how lucky we were that there was no room for us at the dock or moorings - we could have ended up in the middle of a huge party whether we wanted to or not. Instead, we were anchored a fair distance away, but not so far that we didn't feel a part of the action :)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Needing a boat break

We've been cruising for a week now (covered about 650 nautical miles) and are settling into a routine, establishing a rhythm, developing a synergy. It feels right; Wayne and I are a good team - we both know what needs to be done and do it. Life is good.

Yesterday I was in kind of a blue funk, though - just couldn't figure out why. We by-passed two little towns on the St. Clair River that I would have liked to have stopped at for the night, and instead anchored in mud and weeds just offshore of a party town on Lake St. Clair, north of Detroit. I don't know what time it was when all the power boats roared by, but I have an ugly suspicion that it was shortly after last call.

It dawned on me that I need a leisurely boat break. I like to walk, sightsee, browse through little shops, that sort of thing, and we've done virtually none of it. That's by choice, of course (although I really did want to stop yesterday); we're sacrificing stops now for more desirable destinations later on when there's more to see and do. Pacing ourselves is tricky. My tendency is to enjoy the here and now. Wayne is good about letting me call the shots, but keeps us on track by balancing my tendency with his own of looking ahead and driving hard when the situation calls for it. And I do agree with him most of the time. Yeah, we're a pretty good team.

If you have suggestions of good places to stop along our route, we'd appreciate hearing about them. You can either add a comment at the end of this post or email us. Normally we'd go online to get such information, but that's obviously not possible most of the time.

Tonight and tomorrow should give me the break I need: we'll be docking at an island, Put-In Bay Marina on Lake Erie, which is supposed to be a nice destination. Better than that, though, is our destination on Sunday - our friends John and Diane's home in Vermilion, Ohio, where they have a dock waiting for us.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Tranquility, tragedy, trials and triumph

4:30 a.m. We're sailing along at 6-7 knots, enjoying a breakfast of hot oatmeal with dried cranberries, flax seed, cinnamon, and brown sugar, listening to jazz on NPR, watching the moon's reflection on the water. Life is good.

But then reality shatters our tiny bubble of bliss: the collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis. Joey called and Denise emailed us about it last night. I woke up at 1:45 and couldn't get back to sleep; after tossing and turning for half an hour, I finally got up. "Are you up?" Wayne asked from the bedroom. "Yes," I responded. "Let's get going." Might as well, we're not going back to sleep.

We can't imagine the horror, the mayhem, the grief. And it's happening in Minneapolis. Home. There could be people we know at the bottom of the Mississippi River right now, entombed in their cars! I just want to be at home with my eyes glued to the TV like everyone else. The news on NPR doesn't tell us anything we don't already know.

Psalm 46:1-2 "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea."

The morning continues. We have a couple of minor irritations (they’re all minor after yesterday’s news): the cockpit is covered with a bazillion minuscule winged insects. They're on the screens, on the canvas, on the cushions and every other surface. We sit on them, walk on them, and brush them off our faces. I have the remains of them on my legs and scrape them off with a fingernail. What the heck?? All I can say is that it's a good thing they don't bite or we'd be in Lake Huron right now.

Minor irritation #2: The generator isn't charging the batteries and Wayne can't figure out why. We didn't need to run the generator until yesterday because we were motoring and the engine was charging the batteries. Now we've been sailing and need to rely on the generator to do it, but something is amiss. We do have solar panels for charging the batteries, but Wayne hasn't connected them yet because the wires were too big to fit through where they needed to go. Well, one way or another we'll get the problem fixed. For those who don't know, the batteries are necessary for powering everything on the boat, vital things like the navigation instruments and the refrigerator, for instance.

Tonight we're docked in Harbor Beach, Michigan. Wayne fixed the battery charger problem. Hallelujah!

It has become more obvious that we needed to leave the North Channel when we did: today they were predicting bad thunderstorms and small craft warnings there and in the northern part of Lake Huron. Instead, we enjoyed a day of great sailing. Someone up there is truly looking out for us.

Question of the day: How did you come up with the name "Lena Bea?" A: We named her after our maternal grandmothers: Wayne's grandma was Lena, and Bea was a nickname for my grandma. Our mothers were less than enthusiastic - they both thought we should have named her Wind Dancer II.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

On the lam from U.S. customs

So we dock at Presque Isle Marina, and like the good little Americans we are, call U.S. customs to let them know we're back in the country. The guy tells Wayne we need to go twenty miles in the opposite direction to check in. Right. Phooey on that; it isn't going to happen. Or to quote our painter, the colorful Mr. James Bailey, down in Florida: "Haaiil, no - we ain't doin' that!" We’re on a sailboat, for crying out loud. So I guess we're back in the U.S. illegally. Come and get us if you really care, Mr. Customs Official.

Sweet sailing!

We left our anchorage in the North Channel at 6:00 this morning and have been sailing all day on a direct tack to Presque Isle, Michigan, our next anchorage. It has been glorious! We were going to spend two or three nights in the North Channel, but last night I suddenly felt like it was time to move on. Good thing we did or we would have been motoring and these lovely winds would have been wasted.

After so many years of sailing the Apostle Islands, it's really different to be sharing the waters with huge freighters, up close and personal. We passed four yesterday, saw many others, and this morning one passed us up and cut across in front of us. Those ships leave a powerful wake.

A couple days ago I suggested people ask us questions, either by email or in the "comments" portion of each day's blog. Here is today's Question of the Day:

Q: How far apart are these places? (Like, if you run into bad weather, how far is it to the next "rest stop"?) 

A: That varies tremendously. We plan ahead and look at the weather every day. We have state-of-the-art Sirius marine weather service, which tells us winds, waves, barometric pressure, and so on. It has sophisticated weather maps and gives us weather reports and storm warning alerts; I noticed there were tornado warnings in northern Florida a couple days ago. If the weather looks ominous, we batten down the hatches (literally!) and stay put.

Down south??

Ok, I just want to share a little trivia with you, eh. Of the following cities, which one is NOT referred to as "down south," eh? a) New Orleans, b) Atlanta, c) Toronto, d) Charleston, or e) none of the above? *You'll find the answer at the bottom of this post, eh.

We got away from the Soo later than planned, eh, about 2:40. Wayne had Diesel Dave - hi, Dave! - come over and change our oil. Wayne neglected to bring the right tools for that task, eh. I find it ironic that he installed the engine but can't change the oil! Diesel Dave also helped repair our bimini, which was damaged when Wayne lowered the boom on it, eh.

There wasn't a hose at the dock for filling our water tank, eh, so Wayne ran over to Sears to pick one up, which we probably would have had to do eventually anyway. Sears didn't have one, eh, but Roberta - hi, Roberta! Thanks for your help! - offered to drive Wayne to an RV place that sells them when she got off work at Sears at 1:30. Mission accomplished and we were finally on our way. Eh.

In a little while we'll be passing a cargo ship named "Isolda." She is en route to Duluth and will arrive on August 2 at 1:00 a.m. She's 657' long, has a 79' beam, and draws 19.7'. And I could tell you a lot more about her if you were interested. How? We have this cool electronic gadget called AIS (Automatic Identification System) that gives us all kinds of information about other vessels it picks up on. I don't know too much about it, but will post a link with more information.

At this point any sailors or techies reading this blog are groaning and chanting in unison, "We want Wayne! We want Wayne!" Sorry, guys, but he's busy driving the boat. And I have learned enough about the AIS thing to be able to look up the information on the ship myself.
*The answer is e), none of the above. I learned from one of the dockhands that Canadians refer to Toronto as "down south." Who'd a thunk it, eh?