Dolphins!

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Ever since we arrived to the Gulf Coast via Mobile Bay, we have had the wonderful fortune of seeing dolphins almost every travel day.

Based on our joyous dolphin sightings, I’d like to present some “facts” that I have deduced about dolphins:

1. Dolphins are magical sea creatures that are universally loved by all humans who encounter them. Here’s a normal boat conversation from the 43rd time we saw dolphins on this trip: “WOAAAAHHHH!!! DOLPHINS! LOOK THEY’RE LEAPING! WOW! THIS IS SOOOOOO COOL!!!”

2. Dolphins dig good sunsets. This is always the best time of day to see lots of dolphins leaping out of the water for a look, and for a set of grand finale leaps and tail slaps to end a good day.

3. Dolphins like mid-sized sailboats, like ours. They will often take a fun break from whatever dolphin business they’ve been up to to swim over and say hello. They especially like to swim back and forth in front of the bow. When we’re at cruising speed (~6 knots) the boat creates a low pressure zone that must give them a bit of a fun boosting sensation. My guess is that our average speed is also a good walking/jogging pace for a dolphin to leisurely keep up.

4. Dolphins have figured out how to live the good life. Most creatures of the sea are skittish things that spend all of their waking hours in desperate search of food, while simultaneously freaking out about not getting eaten by everything else. Not dolphins. Dolphins get their work (eating) done by working smarter not harder or longer. Then they kick back and spend the rest of the day doing tricks, hanging out with sailboats, playing games, and taking leisurely strolls around their neighborhood. If you measure success based on amount of time devoted to leisure and fun, dolphins surely beat all animals of the sea. Going further, I can’t think of any other animal, (including humans) that beats dolphins when it comes to optimized lifestyle design.

I’ll leave you to watch this video of some typical dolphins hanging out with us on Perigee.  While you watch it, you can ponder how you might change your lifestyle to live more like a dolphin and enjoy a life of ease and leisure.

The Great American Loop Route

Boat Friends, Are the Best Friends

Boat Friends, Are the Best Friends

Happy New Year from Fort Myers, Florida

DSC01645 DSC01639DSC01640DSC01647Now that we’ve reached vacation land, we are flush with friends! December 1st hit, and we’ve happily been hosting or visiting with friends and family since. Visitors are lined up through early March! Boy, having a boat in bright, sunny, warm Florida, in the middle of winter, sure does make you popular. Boat friends, are the best friends though. We love the company. Every visit is unique. Some friends want to learn to sail, others just want the peace of the outdoors. Everyone is excited to be here, and its the kind of excitement that is invigoratingly contagious. I’ve loved everything about this trip so far. Having friends around makes it just that much better though. As we turn-up the East Coast I hope this trend will continue.

My New Year’s resolution… blog more. Or should it be use seashells as cups more? That mango-pineapple smoothy drink sure was delicious. Anyways, never mind that I don’t really believe in ultimatums, or special timing to make a change- you should always strive to be the person you want to be. And never mind that I never imagined myself a “blogger”. I’ve come to appreciate having the blog-as-journal outlet. And as time slips past- we are already 7 months into the trip- I realize how much I’ll value having this to revisit. Even more so, the value of being able to share with others.

When I circumnavigated the world on Semester at Sea I did not take any of my own photos. At the time, this approach was my way of having a totally direct experience. At the end I collected photos from all of my friends. I don’t regret this. I would even challenge other travelers to try it for at least one trip. No camera, just the moment as it happens. This trip has taught me the opposite. Seeing the world through a lens can broaden your perspective. Writing, photographing, capturing, can inspire reflection. And, as illustrated above, photos are fun.

Happy New Year! We raise a seashell to you, boat friends. And vow to post more to you, boat friends from afar.

 

 

Composition

Composition

Wildflowers of North America

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When ever did I get the idea to collect and press wildflowers? Its just been stuck in my head for, well, a while. It may have been when a local retro shop had two Lexan tromb wall blocks with pressed wildflowers inside. I’ve never seen anything like them before or since. Already “sold” when I came upon them. Or maybe I was inspired by taking a concrete countertops course where we cast imprints of ferns and leaves into the surface. Its certainly not from seeing the normal pressed flower workmanship. I usually find the result boring or tacky. When doing the renovation I kept thinking it 
would be beautiful to make windowsills incorporating pressed wildflowers, like the Lexan or concrete. It never made it to the top of the project list.

On this trip I decided it was finally time to realize this small dream of working with wildflowers. I didn’t know anything about pressing wildflowers. I had no specific expectations for the end result, only vague ideas to explore.

Our daily routine is to boat all day, then go for a mid-afternoon or evening walk. Collecting wildflowers was the perfect, almost no extra effort hobby. Our location constantly changed, refreshing the varieties available. One rule- the flower must be wild, nothing found in a garden, landscaping, sidewalk planter, or hanging basket allowed. After every walk I spent about five minutes cutting parchment paper, arranging the flowers on it, and sandwiching it in between “A Pattern Language” or “Mexican Cooking”. The only challenge is getting the petals to lie flat. Set it and forget it. And so I did all summer and into fall.DSC01554

Collecting wildflowers makes you a keener observer of the natural world. You start to notice more. Wildflowers do not always, in fact almost never, look strikingly beautiful. Rather, they blend into the landscape and are often located in ordinary locations. For instance, the edge of a highway. You have to pick them out.

This keener observation was not just for the moment to moment of seeing what is really in front of you. I also tuned into patterns, where certain flowers were found, and even more interestingly, the slow progression of when certain varieties came into and out of different geographic regions. This was in part due to the changing seasons, but slowly, subtly, the shifting of biomes too.

In the wild, the most prolific colors are yellow and purple, or simply white. Cultivated flowers have the more vibrant, exotic, tempting hues. But I kept to my rule, and sometimes found rare flashes of red or pink at the edge of a pond or amidst of a grove of trees. Even so, once dried, this color often fades. Your end result is always a surprise.DSC01555

By December, I had somewhere around 100 wildflowers, pressed, dried, and waiting for whatever would come next.

I eventually want to press them between glass and solder simple, hanging geometric shapes, incorporating mirrored sides and edges. This is too complex a task on the boat. Glass in also a taboo, prohibited item here. Something about doesn’t play well with rolling seas.

You can see the end-result X-mas gifts and thank you cards above. Overall, a fulfilling first go. The most enjoyable part of this project was exploring the infinite number of ways to arrange the flowers, composition.

There will be many more wildflowers to discover on the next leg of the trip traversing Florida and the East Coast. More wildflower inspired projects to come.
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Open Waters

Open Waters

Crossing Part Recombined

Location transmitted via Spot GPS beacon every 30 minutes

Our first offshore, overnight crossing
215 miles, 2 nights, 1 time zone, 40 hours later we made it to Indian Rocks, Florida. We left Panama City, Fl at 11pm on a Monday night, arriving to Indian Rocks Wednesday at 4pm. The trip cut off the portion of the Florida panhandle that is shallow and rural with few stopping points. It was difficult, humbling, and thrilling. Sailing at night 100 miles from land in all directions was pure magic. Compass and GPS as back-up, sailing by the stars came naturally and was easiest. 

After 6 months of sailing, we finally did an overnight. Our sailor street cred just got a whole lot more legit. To make it through our first overnight crossing a friend of the family with extensive sailing experience came with us. This made a big difference. We learned a lot from him and we do not have any auto pilot system, so the wheel must always be manned. We took 2.5 hour shifts. This meant the person who drove from 9:30-midnight could sleep until 5am, and midnight- 2:30 am until 7:30. That’s like an irresponsible night at the bar heading to work the next day (admit it, you’ve done this at least once) Not too bad. Definitely manageable. Although, by a third night, I’m not sure how I’d feel about it.

We made it safely to Jerry’s sister’s unused dock right behind her house on a canal off the ICW! I cannot think of a better situation and better place to arrive. Thank you, Jerry and Roni! And thank you to my Uncle Gavin for organizing everything! We are lucky sailors.DSC01532

 

We finally made it to Hobbiton

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Just kidding. These are really unique, beautiful, and well built homes in Charlevoix, Michigan designed by architect and wanna-be hobbit, Earl Young. They’re called the Charlevoix Mushroom Houses. Pretty awesome. My new ambition in life is to live in a house that isn’t comprised of rectangles, and made partially out of rocks. Fun fact of the day: thatched roofs last 70+ years, and moisture doesn’t penetrate beyond the top inch or two. Pretty impressive! Maybe I’ll also buy land and start growing thatching for a roof.

 

To our family and friends that check this blog a lot: sorry for the lack of updates. We have just now started sailing in areas where we get a reliable connection on our ipad so we can tether and post to the blog without a big hassle. Mostly, we’ve been very busy enjoying life, and working on personal projects and reading lots and lots of books (suggestions welcome). More to come!

 

Sailing Aboard Perigee

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S.V. Perigee

Visitor’s Guide
Meeting up

Use the general outline below to pick what portion of the trip you are preferential to. Find and secure a date for travel. We will then build a plan for meeting up about 2 weeks before you arrive. It is best to schedule a date rather than an exact place. If you happen to be super flexible with taking time off then you can pick a place and we can figure out the date as we get closer. We figure it takes more advance notice to get the time scheduled than to get the travel booked.

June: Waterford through Lake Champlain to Montreal

July: Rideau Canal Ottawa to Kingston, Trent Severn Waterway, Georgian Bay, and Northern Canal

August: Mackinaw Island, Lake Michigan down to Chicago

Sept-Nov: Down the Midwestern river system (Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio, and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway) to Mobile, Alabama

Dec-Feb: Gulf of Mexico around the tip of Florida, exploring the keys and Bahamas along the way

March-May: Miami, up the East coast, back to Troy. Notable stops include North Carolina, Charleston, Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay, and New York City.

Logistics for coming aboard with us involve finding a way to get to us in one location and back home at another location. We will help you figure out this portion and build it around the dates you supply us with.

Life Aboard

Before planning your stay please be aware that by typical North American living standards, you will be roughing it.

Amenities:

Electricity: We have it! A solar panel and our diesel engine charge a battery bank that provides us with all we need. There are lights at night. You can charge any electronics you need to. High power items such as hairdryers won’t work unless we have shore power though.

Water: We have that too, but not running from faucets, yet. Eventually we will have a 50-gallon tank that supplies water to faucets in both the bathroom (called the head in boat phraseology) and kitchen (galley). All of the sinks drain, so you can use water in them. Currently we use three 5-gallon tanks that we pour into smaller containers for use on board. Drinking water is run through a Brita filter. We have a solar shower with a pump and sprayer for anything requiring pressurized water, such as dishes or deck cleaning.

Showers: There are no normal showers aboard Perigee. The pressurized solar shower is mobile and can be used on deck or shore. If you really want to use the shower in the head you can, but you have to then carefully dry everything off afterwards. Where and how we clean ourselves depends on the day and situation, including solar shower, marina, public shower, campground, or biodegradable soap in the river.

Bathroom: We use a composting toilet. When you are aboard we will go over how to use it. It does not smell and isn’t hard to use. A large percentage of people who fall overboard and are lost at sea fall while peeing over the side. We encourage you to just go below and use the toilet.

Garbage: We are conscious about what is brought on board because any garbage is a little bit more of a burden than normal to dispose of. If buying things with packaging we often throw the packaging out before bringing the item aboard. We also often can’t recycle or compost. It just makes us more conscious of our consumption pre-disposal and we ask that you do the same.

Climate control: When it is hot we open windows. When it is cold we put on layers. We have a heater, but it’s worthless. We also have an air conditioner, but it only works if we plug it into shore power at a marina.

Connectivity: It’s like traveling anywhere remote, sometimes you have coverage and sometimes you don’t. Of course in Canada or the Caribbean you won’t have any connectivity unless you plan for that. On shore, we can often find wifi though. Once back in the States we have T-Mobile for data on the iPad, which can be tethered to. We also have cellular data through Republic Wireless (uses Sprint and roams on Verizon) and Straight Talk (uses AT&T), so coverage is maximized.

Food: Keeping food is a bit different than you may be used to, because we do not have a refrigerator. We have two iceboxes, which can keep food cool for 2-3 days with $5-20 worth of ice. Often we go without any cold storage. Some considerations given this:

  • Meat is the hardest thing to keep, so we only get it fresh if we are cooking it that day or frozen if the next day.
  • Most fresh veggies only last 3-4 days so we re-stock frequently.
  • We also grow our own sprouts and wheatgrass to supplement where fresh items are lacking.
  • We eat a lot of dried goods like lentils and beans
  • We’ve become really good at not wasting food. Living without refrigeration is like a crash course in how to be most efficient and effective with food.

Sleeping arrangements:

We have several berths (beds) for guests, these include a double-wide futon, a single futon, and an aft (rear) berth, although that is often used for storage. We are well stocked in all of the necessities for a good night’s sleep; pillows, sheets, and blankets. The boat technically can sleep 6, but will be pretty crowded. If you are picky with pillows, bring your own.

Daily rhythm:

You will find that the rhythm of boat life is a bit different than you are used to! On the boat you are more in tune with the rising and setting of the sun. We may go to bed and rise earlier than is typical. Bedtime generally ranges from 9pm-11pm. Depending on where we are we do land excursions either in the late afternoon and night, the following morning, or both. Swimming usually happens at one point or another. We try to do a workout at least every other day. The day usually ends with reading in bed. It’s a relaxed way of life!

Bugs:

During the sunlight hours, we humans own the whole boat; inside and out. But after dusk, we humans generally must retreat inside the boat, and keep insect netting carefully zipped and velcro’ed shut. At night, mosquitos and other unfriendly bugs own the outside of the boat. We have plenty of bug spray, but mosquitos can be pretty fierce along the water.

Costs

When staying with us we ask that you split the costs of food, marina stays, and other activities that we share. We pride ourselves on being exceptional hosts and in normal circumstances love providing guests with good food and drink. On this trip though we need to be thriftier. We will probably go out to eat once with guests and do a grocery trip together. Also, feel free to bring the fresh goods and we can supply the dry goods. 

If we stay at a marina, we will split those costs with guests, but make the decision collectively before deciding to stay at one. Marina stays average about $50/night and generally includes safe, easy docking, hot showers, wifi, laundry, and more. In some locations or weather circumstances, staying at a Marina will be the only safe option.

Packing List

Space is tight, so please pack lightly. If you aren’t sure about something then ask.

We have the following items already onboard, so unless, for example, you have that one pillow you can’t sleep without, we recommend leaving these items at home:

  • Pillows and blankets
  • Towels
  • Mattress or sleeping pad
  • Life jackets: unless of course you have one you are preferable to
  • First aid kit, unless you have specific requirements.

To maximize comfort and safety, please bring the following:

  • Sunscreen: We have sunscreen but we use so much of it that we ask for you to please bring some of your own. We also recommend bringing a face specific cream in addition to the normal cream.
  • Hat for the sun: If you don’t have one we do have a couple extra
  • Sunglasses
  • Raincoat: Hope for the best, expect the worst
  • Bathing suit(s)
  • Water bottle
  • Day bag/ small backpack for traveling off-boat
  • Shoes you can move around in: Examples include Keens, sneakers, crocs, or any outdoors shoe. Hiking boots may be too restrictive. We often go barefoot on the boat but recommend something protective for toes (not flip flops) for someone not accustomed to where stubbing hazards lie. Go barefoot at your own risk.
  • We do not have an EpiPen. BRING ONE IF YOU HAVE AN ALLERGY REQUIRING ONE. We may be many hours away from professional medical help, so come prepared with anything you might need beyond a general first aid kit.
  • Dramamine if you think you are prone to seasickness. We have the pressure point wristbands but do not currently stock seasickness pills.
  • Downtime entertainment: Books/ mags, games, music, sketch pad, crafts, etc
  • Long sleeve shirt for staying warm in the wind
  • Light, long sleeve for covering up in the sun
  • Athletic clothing, i.e. something confortable for hiking, being in the sun, etc.

Safety Briefing

When you first get on board, we will give you a personalized tour and safety briefing based on your level of boating experience. No experience needed!

The golden rule of boating:

One hand for you and one for the boat, meaning when moving about on deck always have one hand holding onto something.

Our policy on alcohol:

No consumption of alcohol when the boat is underway. Otherwise feel free to have all the libations you desire, but you really do not want to have a hang over on a boat.

Man/ woman overboard:

It can happen. Someone can fall in the water with the boat soaring on past him or her. We will go over this on the boat too, but the policy is for those not driving to keep pointing at the fallen person. We then circle around and retrieve them. Please keep in mind that offshore it is easy to quickly lose sight of the fallen person and not know where to get them.

Dangers of the sun (sunburn and heat exhaustion):

  • Apply sunscreen before coming up on deck, and reapply every ~2 hrs
  • Stay hydrated. Always come on deck with a hydrating drink. Remember alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee, tea, & soda will de-hydrate you. To give you an idea of how much water is needed to avoid de-hydration, we each probably drink one bottle every 2 hrs or less.
  • Take breaks frequently; avoid long lengths of time out in the sun. The sun is most directly overhead from 3- 5pm, be especially cautious during this time.
  • If you are getting a headache go inside and out of the sun. Drink water, have a snack, lie down, and even take a nap to help you feel better. You may also want to take a pain relief pill.

Avoiding and coping with seasickness:

Its easy for us to take for granted at this point but be prepared that you could experience seasickness, even though we aren’t on the seas per say.

  • If you have a history of getting seasick, take a Dramamine before coming aboard. It will not help after you are feeling queasy.
  • If you are feeling nauseous, it’s natural to want to go below and lie down. That’s not a good idea. You’ll be better off if you go up on deck and sit or stand.
  • Avoid reading or looking at any screens such as your phone or computer.
  • If conditions allow it, we suggest you take the wheel. This puts you looking out at the horizon and gets you focused on driving instead of the feelings in your stomach.

When you get back on solid ground, it is likely you will feel reverse seasickness. Also known as land sickness, you may still feel the gentle rocking sensation of being on water. It’s fun.

Moving around in a small space:

The boat is a small space. You can easily stub a toe or bang a head. To get in and out of the cabin we use a ladder. It is easy to slip on. Always hold on. Please take extra care to be spatially aware of your body when on the boat.

Getting on and off of the boat:

As one drunken man in Ottawa can attest to, getting on the boat is not as easy as it looks. The boat moves in and out from the dock or wall it is attached to. Always step on with both feet before stepping over the lifelines. Make it a two-step process rather than the one step process you may want to make it. It is safer, with less chance of you ending up crushed between the boat and a hard surface.

Life Jackets:

We have enough life jackets for 8 people. Like most boaters, we do not always wear them. We wear them when the waters are rough, especially if we are leaving the cockpit. We also almost always wear them when paddling the dinghy or kayak. You may choose to wear one at your discretion during normal boating.

Bonus Credit

…For bringing a musical instrument, new music, something extra tasty (extra bonus credit if homemade), a fun game to play (we don’t even have cards!), a stand-up paddle board (we’ll find somewhere to put it), snorkeling gear or just goggles, or any other surprises you can think of!

O’ Canada (Part 3/3)

Quebec to Northern Ontario: A Trip Through Canada’s Historic Waterways

Sails Soar Again on the Georgian Bay

Of all the parts of Canada, we were looking forward to the Georgian Bay the most. Look at our pictures and you will see why. Images we saw while preparing for the trip had captured our imagination. Nicknamed 30,000 islands (as opposed to 3,000 islands on Lake Ontario), the Georgian Bay is the northern section of Lake Huron, formed by the Bruce Peninsula to the southeast and Manitoulin Island to the northwest. After almost 2 months with our mast down, and only sailing Lake Champlain for about 2 weeks, we were ready to get our sails out again. We took this trip with the goal of becoming competent sailors. It was time to embrace the Great Lakes, those vast inland oceans that would teach us much about that.

The Georgian Bay was also the first time since Lake Champlain that friends from home were coming to visit. The subject of how to have friends visit while traveling on a sailboat is a tricky one. I don’t quite think I am an expert at it yet, and maybe never will be, but so far our track record of making it happen is 100%. There are a lot of complicating variables to consider. For anyone living in the real world you have to plan your travel weeks or months in advance. We can only ever estimate when we will get somewhere. Then there is the part of meeting us in one spot but going home from another. So far we’ve only found three solutions to this particularly tricky aspect. The easiest is to keep the same port for where you meet us and where you go home, so it isn’t an issue at all. Unless the place you are meeting us is particularly interested though, then we prefer to find an alternative option. Second easiest is to meet us in a place with good transportation, like busses, trains, or an airport and leave from a place with good transport also. Third, if you are somewhere like the Georgian Bay where neither of those options are possible, get creative.

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Our friends arrive from their journey

Alanna and Nick had to get creative. We met them in Midland where we put our mast up, but to get there they drove to Parry Sound, found a place to park, and then bicycled down. After sailing to Parry Sound with us, they got back to their car and drove down to pick up their bikes as they passed Midland on the way home. Biking took an extra two days and over 100 miles. They tent camped and had most of their food stolen by bears. Allana and Nick are bad asses though, so everything worked out perfectly. They came up with the plan as a better alternative to my original proposition that they leave their car in Midland, and rent a car in Parry Sound to get back to it. The sophisticated travel arrangements all worked out though. We arrived on time, they arrived on time, and we got them back to their car. For three days we got to have great guests aboard.You can learn more about how to visit with us here, Perigee Visitor’s Guide

Having our friends aboard was a treat. Extra company and extra hands for helping out are always welcome. They halved the workload, and make no mistake, boating is a lot of work. For the leg from Midland to Parry Sound we got to explore some well-maintained Parks Canada islands, anchor out amid beautiful rugged islands, swim (a lot!), and live the simple life, cooking together, playing cards, and attempting to have a beach bonfire. Young sailors are an exciting sight to some people. One such man spotted us as we were coming in to anchor and invited us to his boat. It turned out he was a musician. That night we heard saxophone streaming in from the dark wilderness outside. This is the kind of atmosphere the Georgian Bay was.

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Our anchorage that night.

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Exploring by dinghy to find blueberries

We had some rough sailing while our friends were with us. The roughest Sam and I had experienced so far. When the waves got rough, and the sun hot they simply slept through it, adapting to life aboard seamlessly. For the roughest portion, our friends valiantly said they weren’t frightened and that it had been exciting.

The story of our first day out from Midland deserves telling, if only to look back on how far we’ve come and to remember we did make stupid mistakes in the beginning. If we ever think ourselves too clever, we only need to reflect that even as informed as we were, we had to learn some lessons firsthand. So it was. That first day back out we didn’t check the wind speeds. On Lake Michigan and elsewhere, we have run into multiple people who reminisce of being on Lake Huron this summer, “that day the wind blew 30-40 knots”. We put up too much sail, and had a hard time getting it reefed with the powerful wind and building waves. Not the best introduction to sailing we could give our friends. After that we tried to tack with just a reefed jib and the waves were pushing the boat so strongly that it took several attempts to get the bow through the wind. Eventually we gave up and motored for the rest of the time. In an about an hour we learned a lot about sailing. That had been our intent though hadn’t it?

After Parry Sound, we rapidly adapted to sailing as the norm rather than motoring. Of course, after dropping Nick and Alana off we immediately had some of our best sailing. On some days, at least for a portion, we still had to motor because we wanted to experience the small craft channel as it careened in and out and around the partially submerged pink, painted rocks so famously earning the Georgian Bay its nickname. Yes, it was very pretty. It was also very remote. We hardly saw any other boats while traveling, only finding some when anchoring.

We had endless options for anchoring out. Unfortunately they were also sometimes in front of someone’s summer cottage. This doesn’t bother us, but a social pact seems to have been made between boaters and cottagers, as they are commonly called. You aren’t supposed to anchor out near someone’s cottage. No one ever said this explicitly to us, but we heard people reference this understanding a couple of times. For example, “We love boating in such and such area but just be careful you respect the cottagers and don’t anchor near them.” Seeing how prolific cottages were, and that it was possible to anchor near them without being disrespectful or invasive I have to kindly disagree with this attitude. We ended up disregarding it several times. The Georgian Bay is a commons, not private property, so I disagree with the pact on this principle alone. Having a cottage shouldn’t infringe on someone else’s ability to enjoy the water. Of course mutual respect and privacy should always be practiced. To me this “rule” is an example of a no tolerance policy, where people are asked to not consider the unique elements of each particular situation. We did though, and no one ever seemed to be bothered by our presence.

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Blueberries!

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Georgian Bay pink lichen covered rocks

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Characteristic wind swept trees

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A Road Trip Home and Final Farewell

Traveling does not give you a free pass from dealing with the rest of the world. Sometimes things happen that if given the choice you would say, “Not right now please. Right now is not a good time. Maybe we could do this some other time.” But then again, is there ever a good time for certain things? We needed to travel home to NY for a funeral.

My grandmother’s health had been rapidly declining for over a year. Preparing to leave for this trip I knew my visit to her may be our last time together. I won’t go into detail about her health issues. Suffice it to say, she was on hospice when she passed. No one tried to tenuously tether her to this world through elaborate medical intervention. She passed in peace with both my father and stepmother lovingly by her side. I can only speak for myself, but I was relatively at peace with her passing. Her initial decline in health had been a surprise, and difficult to come to grips with, but the end was easier. Saying that does not mean she won’t be missed, just that it happened in a good way as far as death is concerned.

To younger folks, please take this advice. No matter how energetic, physically and mentally able your elders seem, time passes quickly, and their abilities may change seemingly out of nowhere. Just as you are thinking to yourself that you’ll have more time later if you visit a little infrequently this year, their decline may be just around the corner. One year of that habit can become more years without you even realizing it. Get into the rhythm of visiting frequently. You only have now.

The book, “Being Mortal”, has been extremely insightful to me. I recommend it to every human, or at least those who use western medicine. We all have to deal with aging and death someday. It is not a philosophical book. This book examines our health care system for the old and/ or dying. It provided valuable insight into thinking about medical decisions rationally and in the best interest of the patient.

Being Mortal

Needing to get to New York was obvious, how to get to there was not. We were in the most rural of rural northern Ontario. Have no worries though, complex travel plans, in regions we know little about, are our specialty. First I inquired about taking a seaplane. That would be $1,000+ per person though. The key turned out to be always ask someone local. This worked. In about 10 minutes a plan was concocted to go to the only marina close-ish to a bus line that would then take us close enough to a car rental place to get picked up. Since it is so rural you have to request the bus stop in advance or they won’t pick you up. When we got to Britt, it turned out some summer live-aboards were headed to Toronto and offered to drop us off at the car rental office. Our elaborate bus plan was not needed, but you never know when something like this will happen. Never underestimate the kindness of strangers, but never expect it or rely on it either. Be grateful for it when it comes. We always try to pay it forward and when we were coming back from Omi’s memorial it just so happened that there was a hitchhiker for us to help out in kind.

We planned our trip to Omi’s memorial with enough time to spend some in Troy. We left Britt, Ontario on Thursday morning, drove all day, and arrived late Thursday night, 3 months of travel erased in a day of driving. On Friday I had the opportunity to go into work for a day. It coincided well with the assignment I was working on. Seeing co-workers in person, catching up, and saying hello was wonderful. We all went to lunch together and I realized I miss these people! Sam also got a chance to go out to lunch with co-workers. It is just good to know you have those solid connections. In a way, we are playing hooky from a life we will someday return to. It is nice to gain space, then come back and still feel good about it all.

Even better on our surprise visit to Troy we got to reconnect with a bunch of friends. The Friday night we returned turned out to be a Troy Night Out, a monthly, organized night out on town, of the type very common in many small cities. We hadn’t told many people we were coming home because we weren’t sure how much time we would have to see them. Troy is the type of place where you have a good chance of running into your friends, so we left it to fate. It was also good timing to be coming back because a good friend of ours who had been living in the downstairs apartment was moving out, so we could use our visit to help with the move, although she ended up not really needing it. Over the approximately 24 hours we were there we got to see a lot of good friends. It was fun to walk around and surprise people with suddenly being where they didn’t expect us to be.

Co-workers, friends, and… gardens, look at this garden! We returned to a delightful, verdant garden in our side yard. Our friends put a lot of effort into maintaining it after we left in May. Now come August it was paying off big time. The bees, the chickens, the flowers, everything was thriving. You can see more photos of the garden, on this blog post about the green roof shed we built.

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Literal fruits of our labor

Getting some time in Troy was refreshing to be reacquainted with things we know and love, and to see how things had progressed. The same would be true for seeing some of my family. I was looking forward to it.

Omi’s memorial was fitting and perfectly suited the person she was. My family members who organized it put together a thoughtful, touching memorial. It was something Omi would have appreciated. Having time together with family was just as important as having the right outlet for saying goodbye. We had a meaningful meal and got to look at old photo albums together. I even met a family member I didn’t know I had. The best part of the memorial was hearing the stories other people had to share. There was something comforting in hearing other people’s memories reinforce my own. Memories shared made someone I knew only as a grandmother into a person who was many things, to many different people; friend, parent, wife, congregation member, mother-in-law, activist. She added much to other people’s lives. Because I think it’s important to share our experiences and learn from each other, you can learn about Omi’s life here, Ode to Omi

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A memorial suited for Omi

We had never intended to go home while on our yearlong sailbatical. Our trip back home was delightful though, but surprising too. One such thing was unexpectedly getting time to spend with my nephew whom I haven’t yet had the opportunity to get to know very well. Before we left for the trip, he and I set the intention that he come to Troy to visit. It never panned out and I hate saying I’ll do something and then not following through on it. It is all too easy to make plans and never follow through on them. On this trip though, I decided to spend a night back in New Hampshire as extra time with my family and a chance to visit my grandmother’s place to finish my goodbye. Sam went back to Troy to take care of some business while I went on this extended visit. My nephew drove me back to Troy. We got three hours to talk, had lunch together, and visited the house Sam and I recently renovated. I got to see the delightful young man he is turning into and the potential he has for thriving in the future. Those three hours were invaluable, and hopefully we can find time to spend together in the future.

To remove the monotony from the return journey we took the opportunity to become tourists in our own State. A friend’s parents in Buffalo let us stay in a spare bedroom (thank you!). The next day we went to Niagara Falls with her mother, who was such a wonderful host. Also if you are ever in Buffalo look up “black rice restaurant”. I forget the name, but it was affordable and really good.

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Now I understand why people travel so far for this.

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Pulled off the highway near Toronto to explore this abandoned ship. Does anyone know anything about it?

The Remote Northern Channel

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Gulls of The Northern Channel

Slowly, almost indiscernibly, the Georgian Bay transitions into the Northern Channel. Where we left our boat in Britt can be considered pretty close to that transition point. We would discover that the Northern Channel was geologically similar to the Georgian Bay, but more rugged feeling, and far more remote. We were really in the northern wilderness now. Ample anchorages existed, but with fewer cottagers than before. It was stunningly beautiful. The rocks projecting out were more barren and sparking pink than before. For me at least, the remoteness started to take its toll. It was also hard to get off the boat and sufficiently walk around. Islands were either small rocks or too thick with undergrowth to bushwhack. We got some good sailing in and took advantage of our surroundings to explore, swim, and even get some hiking in. Visiting a place like the Northern Channel was a unique glimpse into mostly untamed nature. I am grateful to have had the experience.

The small town of Killarney sits between the edge of Lake Huron and the Killarney Provincial Park. From a far way out, we saw them, mountains, looking large against the backdrop of flatness that made up our journey so far. Killarney is an outdoorsman’s dream, especially for kayaking or canoeing. There is an extensive system of lakes and ponds at the base of the mountains. You can kayak or canoe into new territory for weeks. There is also hiking, sailing (of course!), and several small lodges to support all of these activities.

We really liked Killarney. It was one of my favorite spots in Canada and a key stop on the Northern Channel, providing a respite from the remoteness of it. Killarney was tiny, as in one block of establishment on a dirt road before the lands turns into mountains and woods. They had what counted though; a cute ice cream shop, fried fish worth the praise, nice folks, lodges with music at night, proximity to outdoor recreation, the clearest of all the clear Canadian waters (and the coldest, no swimming in Killarney), and otters that hung around the fishing boats. It all added up to character.

We moored out at the Killarney Mountain House for two nights. The price was right, as it usually is with mooring balls. Even so, for some reason mooring balls don’t seem to be that popular with transient boaters. We find that we are usually one of the only boats taking advantage of them. The best part about mooring at the Killarney Mountain House was that we got to take advantage of all the amenities offered by the lodge, such as the in ground pool, rec equipment, red Adirondack chairs overlooking the channel, wifi, and hanging out in the 1970s style circular lounge (complete with center fireplace).

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Killarney Mountain House

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There is our boat, it’s that one there!

While in Killarney we hiked “The Crack”! by hitching a ride with some KLM staff who kindly offered to drive us on their time off. The Crack! is a moderate 4 hour hike, ending on a glistening white, open rock face overlooking Lake Huron and all of the smaller lakes and ponds I described above. The name of the hike refers to the cavernous crack in the rock you hike through en route to the top. I imagined we’d do more hiking on this trip, ignorantly, because if I’d looked at the terrain more closely I would have noticed the lack of mountain ranges we’d pass through, not that you can only hike mountains, but that’s my preference. We took a risk with getting back because we didn’t have a ride lined up. As we exited the trail I turned to the couple a few yards behind us. Yes, they were headed to Killarney and sure they could bring us too. My first hitchhiking experience was an easy feat to perform.IMG_20150809_111432077

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The Crack!

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View from the top

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Some off-trail rock scrambling (we really like raising our arms to declare victory).

After Killarney, we spent a good amount of time exploring the anchorages in the North Channel, taking stock to spend significant time in them and not just travel quickly through only to experience them when we anchored at night. Doing so, we learned when you read the names of bays, harbors, islands, etc. pay attention to what the name is describing. For example, “snug harbor” sounds like a place I want to anchor for the night. At other times though heed the name as a “you have been warned”, as in we call this place spider island because it’s covered in spiders. We experienced Spider Island. I never thought such a place was possible. Spiders covered trees and webs hung wherever a web could be strung. A spider real estate bubble was taking place on this island. All of the spiders were the same kind. Sam reasoned that this island was good for spiders because a shallow pool lay below it and a soft breeze blew over it, probably carrying the spider-sustaining food source, bugs. Somehow even with my somewhat fear of spiders, yes I admit it, I managed the short scramble up the steep, rocky hill, being extra careful to avoid all spiders and webs. One could say a fear was conquered deep in the wilderness of the Northern Channel, but that just isn’t true. Spiders are still scary.

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How many spiders can you count? The spiders of Spider Island.

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Ignore the spiders and you will be rewarded with this view. Our boat is the one anchored in the center of the further pool.

Our time in the Northern Channel and Canada ended with several stops on
Island. Manitoulin is the largest freshwater island in the world, kind of cool to think about. The highlights were seeing a small waterfall and finding a real grocery store. Our last stop in Canada was chancing upon an island town that had nearly been abandoned except for hunters and loggers, and seeing the tight-knit society that had developed.

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Modest but enjoyable waterfall on Manitoulin Island.

As easily as we entered Canada we were back in the US, this time without dropping any fenders, and another big leg of the trip about to begin; 300+ miles of Lake Michigan.

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Boat cat spotted upon re-entry to US.

Keeping Clean

 

Showers are… a part of our basic first world living expectations

Hygiene is… essential

Cleanliness is… next to godliness— this is an aphorism I’ve come to take seriously lately.

And for us showers are… hard to come by.

So when you have a shower like this:

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That we’ve parted with this for:

Cold Hard Cash Image- frankieleon via Flickr

Cold hard cash. Image credit- frankieleon via Flickr

I no longer remember how nice it is to have access to something I don’t normally have or that I shouldn’t take for granted. I’m not grateful. No. I get pissed. And also more grateful when we do find showers we like. Thank you to all of the facilities who’ve gotten it right! I’m talking to you Montebello and you Chipman Point Marina.

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Credit goes to Chipman Point Marina on Lake Champlain for getting it right.

And then I write a blog post about it.

Let me tell you about this oh-so-popular-in-marinas shower type.

 

 

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Do you see that? It doesn’t even have a handle. Someone took the water saving sink design concept and turned it into a shower.

I’m not even sure that concept was a success in water conservation for sinks, but I’m not going to dig up any studies quite yet. Many of these sinks and showers are still drip, drip, dripping, leaky, poor installation jobs and/or faulty equipment. Anecdotally, I see more leaky sinks than sinks people forget or don’t care to turn off. I have to wonder what the most effective water conservation technologies really are. Water conservation is something I take very seriously, especially considering what is happening in California, and to aquifers around the world. I just question that this is an effective solution.

The biggest issue is not being able to control the flow leads to washing less efficiently. I could have gotten that soap off, except I was too busy using one hand to push the button down, also using up mental and physical energies no longer focused on washing. These energies may be small but they still matter when it comes to showering efficiently. Showering with one hand instead of two certainly does. I estimate that this kind of shower increases showering time by approximately 50%. Like I’ve said though, I’m not being empirical in this analysis.

Those sinks also don’t have temperature control. And neither do these showers modeled after them. Luckily they usually get the temp almost right.

To use these showers you have to take a leap of blind faith, jumping forward to firmly press your palm down on the water-activating button, putting your body or face fully in the water’s path, hoping it will come out a reasonable temperature. It sometimes does. Usually it is colder than ideal. Which personally is better than too hot, a small aspect to be thankful for.

I do have to give it credit for usually getting hot eventually. To make this happen though you have to stand there with your hand slammed down over the shower button for what feels like what can be only described as, “a while”. You can’t just hit it once and get back, because the cycle time is also that of the sink, about 30 seconds, and by the time it does get hot the 30 seconds is invariably, always over. If you miss the re-start push before the current 30 seconds has ended then at the beginning of the next 30 seconds the temperature is set back to tepid and the heating process starts over again. Who can even shower in 30 seconds? And when I’m done and want to turn the water off there is always time left on the push. Time where water actually is wasted.

Too hot or too cold though, both are experiences that one could call character building. These showers push your physical endurance for uncomfortable situations, but I’d rather accomplish that through other, voluntary means, like the self-inflicted jump off the side of the boat into the shockingly cold Northern Channel. That is a character building activity I can accept and endure (have accepted and endured). A shower holds too much potential for being a relaxing, calming, and comforting part of the day. This type of shower requires that you give up anything calming as part of the showering experience.

Overall, these showers are not satisfying, but they do eventually get you clean, which if we are being completely pragmatic, is the end result we are looking for with any shower.

I should mention that it is not quite true that we don’t have a shower. We have a solar shower, but boating is dirty work. With ALL OF THAT SUNSCREEN, that dirt clings onto, sometimes you just crave the good stuff, the real deal, etc. The solar shower is sufficient in the pragmatic sense. Just like these Canadian Marina showers though, it is certainly not a shower for the soul.

To put some rigor and objectivity into how we assess and communicate to each other about our experiences with a shower, we’ve standardized a six point rating system. I know six seems like an arbitrary number. It is not though. It is highly scientific, based on what is universally accepted as the six most important criteria in assessing shower quality. We completed a survey and these findings are statistically significant for the general population in North America.

One point is given to each category, scorer may give half points:

1- Cleanliness

2- Cost: Ranging from free to the cost of an overnight stay at a marina

3- Proximity: Did we have to bicycle 1 hour to this shower, and if so was the bike ride at least enjoyable?

4- Temperature control

5- Water pressure

6- Lighting

Bonus credit can be awarded up to one point extra. For example, .5 bonus points were once awarded to a shower when blackberries were discovered while walking to it.

When you are traveling it does more than show you new cultures, introduce new people, and provide new experiences. It gifts you new perspective. The shower we have at home is glorious. A full on 6. I understand this now. Having that shower is a privilege. After this trip is over I will go home and take a shower. I won’t overdue it. My personal affirmation is that one does not need to shower everyday. We will love our shower and use it with love and gratitude in our hearts. For the experience it provides us with is essential not just for keeping clean, but also for the soul.

Ode to Omi

Saying Goodbye to an Exceptional Human

Mothers Day Brunch 2014 with Omi

Family ties- Mothers Day Brunch 2014

Omi is a version of German for grandmother. She was someone who was a huge inspiration to me and I am extremely grateful to have had in my life. I’d just like to share some memories with you, some that are more personal and some that are quirks that I knew as distinctly Omi.

My perception of Omi was rooted in the narrative of her life from before I knew her, like how she grew up in a split Jewish German household, with a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, how she escaped Nazi Germany to Belgium, adapted to a new life in the US, and of course how she raised three boisterous boys. These facts about her defined her in my mind and were things I am proud of and hold close. I’ve always treated her life story as my heritage to claim as well.

She was the woman who you could walk around with in the woods for hours and identify almost every wildflower and plant she saw. In the family we all know the story of how she once almost accidentally killed herself by eating improperly cooked skunk cabbage. She was more successful with other wild foraging, like puffball mushrooms.

She was a traveler, always exploring, on the move, and immersing herself in new cultures. It would be fun to try and do a tally of how many countries she has visited, but I think they cover every continent except Antarctica

Omi maintained and cultivated an extensive, enviably beautiful garden. Every time I see a ground cherry, smoke bush, bleeding heart, or Japanese maple I will think of Omi.

Omi played tennis until she absolutely could not anymore, and then when she could no longer play tennis she moved onto the ping pong court, and me as well as others can probably attest to being whipped by Omi in both tennis and ping pong. She had a daily calisthenics routine, always making time to care for herself. A magazine clipping hung on the refrigerator of people bent into the shapes of letters that read “keep moving”. It was an apt statement for her attitude towards life.

I will always remember Omi for being frugal and highly conscious of her consumption, a thoughtful consumer, re-using and fixing things where others usually throw them out. She had a disdain for mass produced crap, and the places that sold it. Her resourcefulness was evident in each saved plastic baggy, elastic band, etc, and in every fixed, hemmed, or originally sewn piece of clothing. She was a woman of grace, style, and good taste, with a penchant for high quality goods, something I couldn’t help but be an astute student of. They are lessons I am grateful for.

I will always have memories of Omi constantly correcting other’s grammar because of the pride she took in her own learning of a new language and the beginning of a new life in a new country that she in no way took for granted. I’ll remember the dictionary set always open and frequently used for looking up new words. She never stopped learning.

Omi often gave to charitable organizations and causes she believed in, she was a woman of conviction, supporting environmental and social causes, especially woman’s health issues.

Some of the distinctly Omi quirks I remember were:

Her “gift” of being able to fall asleep anywhere

Her sense of humor and appreciation for small, subtle dirty jokes that caught you off guard, always as you were wondering “Omi what did you just say” she would be cracking up over it.

She could be blunt to the point of it feeling mean sometimes, but the truthfulness was ultimately appreciated and constructive, never with the intent of meanness.

Taking small, not-likely-to-be-missed items, such as another soap from hotels, because she could, because frugality, I’m not sure? We all knew her for this quirk and it was somewhat of a joke.

And of course there is the connection of Omi with food.

I will remember her for tomato salad, cucumber salad, Ruelanden, chocolate cake with mocha frosting and cherries, French onion soup, cauliflower with buttered breadcrumbs, and of course the best lunch ever, consisting of the notorious box from the refrigerator containing pate, goat cheese, smoked salmon, Jarlsburg cheese, a perfectly cooked, sliced boiled egg, with either German rye bread or a croissant to put it onto, with the individual cutting boards we each got as a plate. And always with a choice of jams, marmalades, nuts, seeds, and fruits. You can find some of these foods in the back after the memorial in memory of Omi. I will always be able to find her memory in good food.

A funny perception I’ve held onto is that Omi had the bad luck or skill of cutting her fingers while cooking, some times worse than others, but it was just a thing that happened and not too big of a deal (maybe it was a bigger deal than I knew but this is my childlike memory of it). In my mind I sort of knew her for this and expected it.

It was not until I was older that I realized Omi has a rhythm to her, where things don’t change much. Repeat activities, repeat food. Her routine was always a source of comfort to me. I always knew what to expect.

Together we went to the Mohonk House, outdoor concerts, the Noguchi Museum, Handle’s Messiah, Bronx Botanical Garden, even down to Chile for several weeks, a trip to Washington DC, and always for walks in the woods. For the past few years of visiting, each day of the visit we would go for an afternoon walk together, always with the same route.

Through Omi I learned about composting. A small but significant thing, an attitude more so than a single act.

She was always asking if my hair color was natural, just to be sure I hadn’t ruined what she saw as a gift, natural blond hair. I don’t think I ever will dye my hair, just out of memory for her.

Despite the improbability of it ever working, she never stopped pestering me to quit biting my nails. Sorry Omi, but the nail biting prospects are still not looking good.

A young memory I have is one day getting picked up from daycare by Omi as a surprise to go hiking together. We wandered around the woods being fascinated by the rows and rows of woodland rhododendrons. I will never know why some memories stick so strongly with you and others do not.

The image of Omi as a person, as my Omi, as the cornerstone of our family, will always stick strongly in my mind though. She was someone I am extremely grateful for and will never forget.

I want to take this opportunity, because I think it is very important, to thank my Uncle Gavin for the time, effort, and love he gave caring for Omi towards the end and to my cousin Sarah for her huge contribution in organizing the memorial, and pulling together family photos for all of us. To my entire family, I love you all very much and you mean so much to me. Even with Omi’s passing I know we will stay together and find strength in each other.

2003 (2)

Looking beautiful as she shows off her garden

2003 - Summer - Giant puff balls

Just hanging out with some puffball mushrooms

2002 - Peiking China

Of course Omi would be cuddling with this cute panda bear