Update from Sharon and Richard on Lucky, April 24, 2020

The last time I sent an update about our travels, Richard and I were back on the sailboat Lucky, captained by Richard and crewed by me, Sharon Lehnert.

On October 16, 2019, Crystal, the librarian at the Bothwell Public Library, helped me send my update to the many people on my contact list. There was an oops. We forgot to blind copy the four groups of people I send the updates to. This is not so bad for the family group; it is good if they have each other’s addresses. But I regret blind copying the addresses unrelated to each other as it clutters up your email and one of the recipients could use the group of addresses for nefarious purposes. So sorry. Thank you to those who sent replies and updated me on your activities and whereabouts.

In Oct. 2019, I spent a quite a bit of time sorting, weeding and identifying photographs taken over the years, mostly when I was cruising in the British Virgin Islands and Bahamas. I highly
recommend that you dig out your photos and label them and put them in scrapbooks. Otherwise, they will likely end up in your kids’ garbage when you are gone. (Of course, this only applies to those of you who took photos that had to be sent away to be developed – in the previous century.

On October 30, I went to CAA and bought out-of-country health insurance. Almost $3000! Richard never buys out of country health insurance. Perhaps I wouldn’t need it, but you never know. And as it turned out, Richard really could have used it.

A warning: this update is only about my experiences, from my point of view. Sometimes Richard and I disagree about what actually happened. This year, with COVID19 sweeping the world, all of us have had dramatically different experiences. You are only getting my side of the story. The rest is too big for me to tell and you have probably already heard a version of it.

And another warning: When you go to your doctor for your annual checkup, don’t make light about forgetting the names of people to whom you are introduced. My sister and I did and before I realized what was happening, I was being given dementia test questions with no warning. At the end of the appointment I had no driver ‘s license. I have never had a ticket, let alone an accident, and I’ve been driving since I was 16 (actually 8 if you count driving farm workers on back roads). Now I would like to pay the $550 and take the drivers’ test but, with the pandemic on, everything is closed. Enough venting off-topic.

I spent Christmas day with Richard and his family and on Boxing Day Rick, Rebecca, Richard and I headed south in my car. The car is an SUV, but with three passengers, a driver, and luggage and new equipment for two boats, it was snug.

On Dec. 28 we slept on our boats – very comfy. Then into the boat routine: I washed laundry and put it away, and we moved stuff moved from the car to the boat. Christmas Eve supper was on the patio with other boaters and reunions with old friends.

Richard took out the two old water tanks and replaced them with the new ones he had bought in Toronto. A lot of work but needed doing. Our tanks were old and getting grungy. I was anxious to get the boat into the water, but Richard wanted to keep it on land – cheaper. We bought $200 worth of groceries and carried them up the ladder(!) We got lots of flour and decanted it into the large glass jars from last year. We love home-made bread!

We took Rick and Rebecca to the airport. On January 8, Jesse (the guy who drives the boat- moving machine) moved Lucky to the water, which made me happy. The boat moved gently. I could tell it was happy too. We moved to a dock facing reeds and bushes with big banyan trees above them – a beautiful spot and no climbing of ladders.

Richard became often cranky and easily upset. After we picked up a visitor, nurse Rebecca Lewis, at the airport, Richard kept feeling worse – dizzy and getting very little air. He decided he should be taken to the hospital on Jan. 12 – a very smart call, as it turned out. His friend Richard Brooks drove him, and Rebecca and I followed in my car. A pacemaker was installed in Richard’s chest two days later and, when he was released from the hospital three days later, we spent several leisurely weeks in our spot in the marina while he healed. I got to play Scrabble every afternoon with Canadian Christine. Rebecca is a nurse and took excellent care of Richard until she had to go back to Toronto. We were so lucky that she came to visit! Eventually the bill collector for the American health care system, located in Switzerland, contacted Richard and they came to some sort of mutually acceptable payment plan for his surgery. I think the small monthly payments will extend well beyond his expected life span. By the end of January, we were going on brisk walks and I could not keep up to him. I was able to paint three small pictures of the banyan trees and, later, the Peck Lake shoreline.

Several times we prepared to get ready to leave the marina, but each time we postponed our plans because Richard was not yet healed well enough and tended to overextend himself. I was looking forward to getting away from the marina so we would lose TV reception. Oh, well. I had earplugs and a good book.

The first mention of the corona virus in my journal was Feb. 22, 2020, before we left Indiantown Marina.

Richard spent a lot of time helping Ellen, a feisty 80-year-old woman who was repairing her own small power boat. She took us out for pizza and bought us a big bottle of wine. So did long-time friend Chris Reynolds from Massachusetts. Finally, on March 6, we enjoyed one last group dinner at Guatamex.

The next morning, we left the marina and motored east in the Ste. Lucy Canal. The winds were strong as we went through the lock and to the north anchorage in Stuart, where we anchored for three days, avoiding other people. We then continued to Peck Lake and anchored there.

I enjoyed helming most of the way and it was good that Richard wasn’t stressing his new pacemaker. I had to relearn a lot of the anchoring process, because I flew home early last year when Vonny was in the hospice, so there were many boat tasks I had not done for two years – for example, raising the anchor, washing down the chain and dropping the anchor. I have noticed that I often have to relearn things now. It is unsettling, for Richard too, but I do remember once I have done those tasks again. We will see for how long.

We made an overnight stop in the anchorage in Manatee Pocket on March 10. Like many other anchorages, it seems to be evolving into a storage area, as many people buy a boat and then realize that they have to park it somewhere and marinas are expensive. We anchored in Peck Lake on March 11, and stayed there until March 24 – two weeks. And while we were there, the world changed.

Peck Lake is a wonderful anchorage. There is lots of room, just enough depth, all different kinds of boats nest amicably side by side, and dolphins swim among them. The only annoying boats are the big power boats that race across the channel through the lake, tossing up big wakes behind them and ignoring the speed limit that is in place to protect the manatees.

Between the lake and the ocean is a narrow strip of land where boaters can land their dinghies and walk on short paths to the ocean and along it, enjoying its spectacular views and colours.
We did that every day, and were not close to other people.

On March 15, Richard’s son and daughter-in-law and a grandson Owen came to visit and we picked up them (and the feast and hand sanitizers they had brought) in the near-by park. We all enjoyed the afternoon together on our boat. Before they left Owen blew the conch horn just like a trumpet. I learned that he is a trumpet player, and he got answers from other conch horns in the park.

News on TV about the pandemic grew increasingly more ominous. Trump’s solution – banning Chinese and Europeans, didn’t seem to be working. He declared a national emergency, bringing the total number of national emergencies in effect in the U.S. up to thirty. That didn’t seem to help either. We stayed away from people and Richard made wonderful bread.

On March 17, sister Sandy called and said we should come home. There was talk of closing borders to Canada. Mike called and said the same thing. But we had at least two weeks of groceries on the boat, and were in isolation in paradise. I painted a picture of the shore. At night the sky was clear, with bright stars. There were more boats anchored in the lake than I had ever seen – twenty – and in the morning, most went north. We called and booked our haulout date.

On March 23 we took our mounting bag of garbage to the pail in the park and then walked along the ocean one last time. The next day we headed back to the Ste. Lucie Canal and turned north toward Indiantown. A police boat came alongside and kept pace with us as they examined our passports (without gloves) and questioned us, aliens that we were.

After anchoring in Four Rivers that night, we made it though the lock with no waiting and anchored outside of Indiantown Marina the next day. On March 27 Lucky was put on land. We worked hard for two days closing Lucky and packing the car. Then we had a properly distanced visit with good friends Jim and Lynda Pilipishen, who were also fleeing back to Canada. It was wonderful to be able to sit and visit with friends (or even other human beings!) beside our boat!

On Saturday, March 28, 2020, around 11 a.m., we headed north, with Richard driving all of the way, of course. On Sunday, March 29 at 8p.m., we were home. Richard had driven non-stop, except for bathroom breaks and a brief snooze in the middle of the night! His feet were swollen. When we crossed the border, we were the only car in line and it took a second for the young woman at the booth to hand us a photocopied sheet with our quarantine instructions on it. The next day, there was a lineup stretching back across the bridge to Detroit.

Sorry this epistle is so long, but I figure that in present circumstances you may have time to read it and be glad to have that to do.


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Update from Sharon and Richard on Lucky, October 17, 2019

It has been nine months since I sent an update to you about the travels of the sailboat Lucky, captained by Richard Villmann and crewed by me, Sharon Lehnert. I am writing this on a new Acer computer, since my Surface, at least ten years old, laid down and died. It will be a long slow process for me, but I hope to be proficient by the time I have finished this update.

When I last wrote, on Jan. 3rd, 2019, we were anchored in Baker’s Haulover, near the University of Miami’s north campus. The bright young staff at the counter in the university library were kind enough to help me send that update to you, since I had forgotten how to do it. This time I am writing at my desk, at home in Bothwell, Ontario, Canada. When I run into problems, I call my 16-year-old nephew Julian for help. Richard is still my skipper and living in Caledon, Ontario. I am 76 and he will soon be 80, but we are looking forward to travelling south to Florida in December and living and travelling on Lucky.

Last season, we noticed that there were fewer sailboats travelling in the ICW, and more powerboats. The powerboats sped by without regard for their wake, and some powerboats were very large, up to 100 feet, too large to be tucking into Baker’s Haulover, noted for the many paddle-boarders and kayakers who enjoyed this little sheltered lake.

We went for walks in Oleta State Park, watched movies on TV that my son Mike had put on a stick, swam, showered in the dinghy in precious fresh rain-water, took turns baking bread and cooking, and played Match Four (3-dimensional tic-tac-toe) and cards. We had Mick and Sue over for happy hour or went to their boat most evenings, explored the creeks in our dinghies and went shopping, tying the dinghies off as closely as we could to the stores we needed to get to. Richard dropped me ashore with my paints a few times and came back when I was done painting a picture. He cooked crepes for the four of us. Sue helped me sort out my smart phone a few times. Richard and Mick bought batteries and the seller trundled them over to where I was holding the dinghy off of the barnacles on the dock. When I didn’t want to watch the violent movies that my kind gentle partner loved, I put in earplugs and read.

We left Baker’s Haulover on January 14, going south, and Mick and Sue headed north on Jenny, their Mainship, back to Indiantown Marina to store the boat and catch a flight back to Wales. We would miss them.

Our next stop on Jan. 15 was No Name Harbor, at the southern tip of Key Biscayne. (This was where Vonny and Ray’s boat was hit by lightning a couple of years before. I called them; Vonny could no longer no longer talk due to her brain cancer, which had grown back.

The next day, we filled our tanks with fresh water, and jugs with diesel. Then over to the Sand Key Anchorage, which was so empty we could swim sans suits. Nice and sunny, so enough solar power to answer emails.

We slept at anchor under a full moon, then drifted south on just the sails to Key Largo. The next day we took a 2.5 mile walk to West Marine to buy a new water separator. Water was getting into the diesel fuel.

Wind and waves for the next few days. Several manatee sightings. One came up beside me as I sat in the cockpit and breathed deeply as it rolled over and then sank slowly. Best moment of the trip.

We settled down in Tarpon Basin. Most of January and February were cool and windy. Twice we saw a barge lift sunken and abandoned boats out of the water. It looked like an expensive procedure, involving several divers. No wonder scruffy or abandoned anchored boats are unpopular.

We enjoyed the sunsets and blew the conch horn when the sun touched the horizon. Sometimes others did too. We took the propane stove out of its spot and cleaned off the years of accumulated cooking oil and food scraps. February was cool and windy, with some rain.

Our friend Elizabeth arrived from Toronto on February 27. She and I walked to John Pennekamp Park and went out in the glass-bottomed boat. There was quite a good view if the many fish on Molasses Reef, and we didn’t get wet while looking at them.

One day we rented a car and visited Elizabethann Wyndelts in Key West. She was a friend who used to come cruising on our boat, but whom we hadn’t seen in years. It was a wonderful reunion. And we walked around and looked at the 3-foot long iguanas walking all around the (former) Holiday Inn.

But then niece Sarah sent me a picture of my sister Vonny, who had fallen and hurt herself at home and was now in the Prince Edward Hospice in Picton, Ontario. Vonny had been diagnosed with the brain tumor glio-blastoma multi-form, that grew back faster after each surgery. It was obvious that she did not have long to live, so Elizabeth booked me on her return flight to Toronto. On March 8th we took the shuttle bus to Miami and I rented a car at the Toronto airport. I should mention that I could not have made it through the airport without Elizabeth’s help. The airport is like a giant stockyard, with big herds of cattle cutting across each other in many directions.

The next day I was at the hospice. That night I asked Vonny if she would like me to stay overnight and she nodded her head. From then on, Ray and I arranged to have someone sleeping in the lazy boy at the foot of her bed almost every night. Old friends Doug and Rosemary have a house near the hospice, which made it easier for me to stay in Picton instead of taking the ferry out to Ray’s place every night. There were many visitors every day. Except for getting my own car from home and returning the rental, with sister Sandy’s help, I was at the hospice most of the time until April 10th, when Vonny died. One night, she talked to me until two or three in the morning, but I could only make out one word, “Tom”, the name of her youngest son. I told her not to worry and that Ray would look after him. I think she was saying all of the things she wanted to tell everyone before she died, and it broke my heart that I could not understand her.
In the meantime, Richard had been making his way back to the Indiantown boat yard alone, except for getting his friend Richard to join him for the trip up the Lucie Canal, where he needed help getting through the locks. He used the autopilot a lot, and anchored early in the evenings. He arrived in Indiantown with Lucky April 10th. On April 22 I was getting the garbage out of the garage when I turned around and there was the VW van. Richard had driven almost non-stop from Indiantown to Bothwell!

Vonny’s celebration of life was at the Alexandra Yacht on June 9. Many cousins and other family members were there, but I didn’t get to talk to many of them because I was constantly approached by yacht club members who remembered our women’s cruising days and Vonny’s many years at the club and wanted to reminisce.

Back in Bothwell, the summer proceeded apace. My brother Bill came over and cut down the walnut tree that both Richard and I had hit while backing out of the driveway. I saw all of my 29 grand- nieces and nephews at sister Sandy’s and Brother Bill’s at Easter.

After meeting the gallery manager when I went to a concert at the Mary Webb Centre in Highgate, I was asked to bring in some art, and five of my paintings, mostly of the Bahamas, are hanging there now.

Lots of yard work this year. And I went to Richard’s stress test with him. He passed.

In the VW van, we visited the cottage, on Lake Farcour and then toured around the lake in the little power boat. We drove to Algonquin Park and camped on Rock Bay, where Richard had camped many years ago with his wife and son Rick, when Rick was a little boy. Then we stopped in Keene, and the next night at Presque Isle Provincial Park, a favourite now. We also visited Tom and Ray, Vonny’s husband and son, on the Reach, east of Picton.

Richard bought an old seventies motor home and spent a lot of time repairing and revitalizing it. And I spent a lot of time on it too. I even found a mattress that fits the bed over the cab perfectly – my contribution. And in September we went travelling in the motor home. We like it. It’s roomy and comfortable and we hope to take some longer trips in it next year.

Sorry for the length of this update. Let me know how you are doing and don’t be afraid to ask me to remove you from the list if you find this a bit tedious or have forgot who in hell we are!
Sharon and Richard, on Lucky

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January 3, 2019 Update from Lucky in Baker’s Haulover, Florida

The last update from Lucky was almost year ago. We are back in the same spot, so I will only mention a few highlights from the last year, and bring the journey up to date.

We always love being anchored in the little lake that we call Lake Oleta because it is surrounded by Oleta State Park on three sides and the Florida International University on the fourth. We also enjoy the kayakers, paddlers, dolphins and manatees that frequent the water around us.

Last year we continued south to No Name Harbor, getting some good sailing in while crossing Biscayne Bay. When we got there, we did the usual water refill, shopping and laundry.. I painted a picture of the entrance to the harbour and we went for walks. I sold a set of books. Then south to anchor at Sand Key and explore and swim.

Then south again to Tarpon Basin, good sailing all the way. A long walk on shore in the hot sun with our two propane tanks tied on the bundle buggy to exchange for full ones. Later another long walk back when we discovered one had a hose that leaked. Great fish lunch on the way back. I painted a picture of the mangroves. Jerry and Bonnie came for Happy Hour and had great stories to tell about living on a boat full-time for many years.

On March 10, we woke up from afternoon naps to find Downstream (Rick’s boat) anchored beside us, with the whole family on board and cavorting in the water. And Diny came in the harbour on her boat Adventure quest. She loved discussing her boat issues with Richard.

We continued to sail down the Keys, enjoying living aboard. I accidentally stepped on a porthole while pulling the sails down one day – more work for Richard!

On March 21 I took my paints ashore and painted until Elizabeth arrived on the shuttle bus from the airport. We had wonderful sails with Elizabeth to Isla Morada. I took her on a tour of the mangroves, but lifted the motor up to go over a shallow spot and failed to put it down until much later, thus burning out all of the seals. This resulted in a summer’s work for Richard, rebuilding the motor, all because of my foolish mistake.

More wonderful sailing south, then back north so Elizabeth could catch her bus to her plane home.

Then the long but pleasant trip back north to Indiantown. Well, the bridges were a pain sometimes. Haul out on April 17, and after Breakfast at Crackers with Richard and Renita Brooks, we drove north to Bothwell, and I was back to summer in my little Bothwell house, reconnecting with family, cleaning up the yard, visiting neighbours, book keeping, seniors’ exercises, Virginia’s appointments, Scrabble and Book Club. Richard went back home to his family and Virginia and I went out to Barbie’s many nights for dinner as neither of us like to cook.

I attempted to clean out boxes of old files from the garage, but not much progress made. It’s hard to throw away one’s past, especially when you realize that most of your memory is in these external items and no longer in your brain.

The provincial election came and I canvassed hard, and put up lots of signs, but all to no avail, as the Trump wanna-be became premier of Ontario, instead of my friend, a well-spoken woman from Hamilton who was already a member of the legislature and would have made a great premier. Oh, well.

There was also a month-long VW van trip with Richard to Massachusetts, where we visited Chris and Divya. Divya had cancer and it was the last time we would see her, as she died in the fall.

On the way home, a wonderful drive through the White Mountains, and some stealth camping in the van.

Our trip on the boat this year covers the same route as last year. Although we prepared the boat and planned for the Bahamas, we are thinking it may not happen. Richard is 79 and I’m 75. Richard isn’t as strong as he was and I forget things a lot. Let’s face it. We are getting a bit old for heading out into the ocean by ourselves.

More later, perhaps. I’d love to hear how you are doing.

Love, from Sharon and Richard

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Update from Sharon and Richard on Lucky, June 24, 2018

When I last sent an update, Richard and I were on Lucky, anchored in the Lake at Bakers’ Haulover, just north of Florida International University in North Miami. Our friends from Wales, Mick and Sue, were anchored beside us.

We enjoy this spot. It’s quiet, with mostly paddlers, manatees and dolphins going by. There used to be many long-term anchorers here, but all of the water taps have been removed to discourage them. (We had a good supply of water on board, but still had to use it sparingly.)

Finally, after we had patched our leaking dinghy and all of the big power boats from the Miami Boat Show had passed by our lake, we continued south and sailed on a beautiful wind from Rickenbacher Bridge to No Name Harbor, at the south tip of Key Biscayne – the first of many wonderful passages in the Intracoastal Waterway under full sail this year.

No Name is a good place to get water, do laundry, go for long walks, meet other sailors and walk to the Winn Dixie for groceries, which we did. But earplugs are necessary on the weekend at night, as many powerboats with very large speakers zoom over from Miami then. Their crews tie up to the dock and party all night.

On the positive side, I did a painting of the entrance and found new homes for some of my books.

On Feb. 28, we moved south to Sands Key – four other sailboats there but isolated enough to swim without suits, and sometimes we spot a loggerhead turtle, although not this year.

After a day or two, we continued south and anchored southeast of the first bridge from the mainland to the Keys. We were alone there, except for the manatees of all sizes that we watched cavorting in the shallows. We have seen manatees do this before and think it may have to do with reproduction, although maybe they were just playing. Watching them was a delight.

A relaxing couple of days. Richard cooked crȇpes and baked bread, and we explored Steamboat Creek. We watched another of the good movies that Rebecca had left on the boat – Denial, about the Holocaust.

The next day, after a great sail south, we anchored in Tarpon Basin, which has become our favourite anchorage. Water, propane and groceries are all available there, albeit with long walks dragging the heavily loaded bundle buggy. There are quite a few live-aboards there and most have cars or bicycles to get around. We had happy hour with an older couple that we had met a few years ago, who live permanently on their boat there. We toured Hemingway Creek and I spent a couple of afternoons painting in the dinghy, tied to a mangrove root. Then on March 6th, a great sail back to No Name to meet up with Rick, Rebecca, Colin, Dylan and Dylan’s friend Raj. The boys liked to scamper up Lucky’s ratlines and dive into the water from the masthead. Lots of noisy fun.

Diny, the single-hander that was towed into No Name in the middle of the night last year, arrived. Her boat was leaking and Richard found serious hull problems. We took to calling Diny every night to make sure her boat hadn’t sunk yet. Richard would give her good advice, which she didn’t always take, but talking to Richard seemed to reassure her. It was lovely having a smart phone so we could keep in touch and have access to internet on the boat.

On March 21, we were in Tarpon Basin again, when friend Elizabeth Miller arrived via plane from Toronto to Miami and shuttlebus to the government building in Key Largo. She added life to the boat. Richard gets along well with her and they like to cook together. The next day I took her on a long tour of the mangrove creeks, with the outboard motor tilted up because the creeks were shallow in spots. I had forgotten that the motor can only be tilted up for a short time or it runs dry, heats up and the seals melt. This mistake would seriously restrict our ability to get to shore, but it didn’t show up for a few days. We ordered a new impeller and Steve and Janet, friends from Toronto who have a condo in the Keys, picked it up and delivered it to us at the Lorelei, where we have been reconnecting every year and drinking a toast to Alan, an old sailing friend who died a few years ago. We rowed the dinghy in to see them and it was wonderful to visit with them. The sail south to the Lorelei and back to Tarpon Basin (off Key Largo) was another perfect trip, with good wind both ways.

Over the next two days, Elizabeth found a U- tube video of instruction and the three of us worked on getting the new impeller on the motor.

We rented a car one day to drive down and see Diny, who had her boat hauled out in Marathon. She would try to fix the hull herself, rather than have the boat yard do it, on Richard’s advice. The boat yard owner seemed a bit miffed. He may have expected her to use his staff. We stopped at Boot Key Marina, which seems to have lost its allure for me – trees gone and the front dinghy dock torn away in the hurricane. And it’s become expensive to anchor there, as the dinghy landing fees have been increased.

We had lunch at the Stuffed Pig and made a stop for Elizabeth at the Key Lime Pie Factory on the way back to the boat, in Tarpon Basin.

On Mar. 29, we had a beautiful sail from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (me on the tiller except for breaks) to get back to No Name Harbor so Elizabeth could catch the plane the next day and fly back to Toronto. I walked her out of the park to the bus stop and walked back to what seemed like a very quiet boat with just Richard and me on it.

The rest of the trip was a rewind of the beginning – anchoring at night in spots we have been to many times, and going through many bridges that only open for boats with masts or really big power boats on the hour and half-hour. The bridges seem to be spaced perfectly for a boat going seven knots instead of our five or six knots so, unless we have one of those boats just ahead of us, we do a lot of waiting.

Our last anchorage before Indiantown was the Four Rivers Loop, just east of and below the St. Lucie Lock, a lovely, isolated spot. We took the sails off there and folded them, then packed them below in the quarter berth. Lucky looked a bit naked.

Just after that, on April 11, a vicious storm came through with sixty-knot gusts and heavy rainfall. Lucky dragged several times while we tried to her out of the trees and re-anchor. Eventually the anchor set and we had a good night’s sleep. Richard made crȇpes for breakfast, with maple syrup and dark cherries, a nice find in our diminishing store of groceries, and then we headed for the marina. We anchored outside the marina in the canal as the docks were crowded and the rates had gone up.

After we drove to West Palm Beach and got new parts for the outboard motor, Richard tried to work on it in the cockpit, but decided to take it home in the car so he could work on it in the shop. How guilty I felt for tipping that motor out of the water and causing these problems!

Lucky was hauled out Monday April 17 and we worked all day putting her to bed. Richard was especially careful to make sure no rats could get into the boat. I guess we will know if he was successful when we open the boat next season.

In the morning we got rid of the garbage and put leftover groceries on the free table. After breakfast at Crackers, the cowboy restaurant with Richard and Renita Brooks, we were driving north. Two days later, just before midnight, we were home in Bothwell. The house was warm and cozy, despite a bit of snow outside.

Will we still be cruising next year? At 75 and 78, it’s a good question, but we’re optimistic.

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Update from Sharon and Richard on Lucky, February 17, 2018

This update may reach you a bit too quickly after the one I just sent about the summer. But here I am, sitting in the beautiful clean quiet air-conditioned library at Florida International University, connected to the library internet by the smart young man at the front desk. Richard is working on the boat.

First, a little more detail on computer help for oldsters. Fourteen-year-olds seem to be the best. They are young enough to not be too openly scornful of your lack of skills (especially if they are related to you) and they seem to know everything about computers. Best of all, they don’t have a lot of access to money and can be bought for a reasonable price. Disadvantages are that they have homework, have to study for tests and are often busy with sports and other school activities. And they are too young to drive so you must provide transportation unless their parents are happy to get them out of the house and deliver them to you.

The trip south was the fastest ever for my old car. It performed well. We left Caledon, Ontario at 10 a.m. Saturday Dec. 2 and arrived in Indiantown Marina at 4 p.m. Sunday Dec. 4. Rick did most of the driving and we only stopped the car to snooze from 1 to 3 a.m. for two hours.

But when we opened up Lucky, we were shocked. Hurricane Irma had been fairly kind, but, when combined with incessant rain for three weeks, had made the storage yard impassable for the travel lift. And I guess the rats had been looking for higher ground too. They found it in boats that were not completely sealed. They can scamper up hurricane straps attached to all of the boats. We had not sealed the Dorado vents. What we saw inside was demoralizing. I had stored left-over flour, rice, beans and vegetable oil in large plastic and glass jars with metal or plastic tops. Only the few glass jars with metal tops were unscathed. Everything else had been consumed or transformed into a thick rock-hard paste where the dry goods had mixed with cooking oil, urine and rat poop. And every open surface was covered with rat poop and urine. Thirty plus rolls of toilet paper had been chewed away on one side. But time to work, not cry. I remade the v-berth with bedding that had been in a drawer inaccessible to the rats and we vacuumed and washed and cleaned. Our worst boat opening ever. That night, a couple of rats scampered over the v-berth and woke us up. We caught one in the traps we had set.

We gradually learned about other boats in similar condition. To Richard’s knowledge, it had never happened before. We caught two rats in traps and six on sticky pads. The six on sticky pads had to be drowned in the toilet or whacked with the winch handle. We caught the last one Jan. 20, when we were anchored in Manatee Pocket. It was a treat to not be awakened by rustling paper and the sound of gnawing any more. You can bet we will be very careful when we store the boat this coming April.

On December 7, Lucky was put in the water and life was more comfortable and pleasant. Richard had been coughing a lot ever since he started taking new blood pressure pills his doctor had prescribed for him. He quit taking them and checks his blood pressure every day. So far, it is better than before.

We kept finding cupboards that had been invaded by rats and needed cleaning. Unpleasant, but we got rid of things we hadn’t been using, and I think the boat is now cleaner than it has ever been. We found a used mainsail to replace the one the rats had chewed on. I shopped for groceries several times. Richard kept working with Rick on Downstream. The Perkins motor overheated all the time and needed a lot of work. Rick joined us for meals.

Sailing buddies Mick and Sue arrived from Wales and I invited them for supper since they had no groceries yet. We reconnected with old Indiantown friends Richard and Renita. We met other sailing friends at late afternoon Happy Hours. I found someone to play Scrabble with. I ran errands.

On Dec. 15, Downstream was put in the water, but leaked, so had to be lifted out. The next day it was moved to a dock near us, at the west end of the marina, where a large alligator snoozes on the small beach in the sun every morning, as it did last year.

On Dec. 17, Rebecca, Owen and Dylan arrived and we hosted them for supper. Later, Colin, his girlfriend Eve and Granny Barbara arrived, and we often had dinner on Downstream with the family.

I painted a picture of the entrance to the marina and gave it to Renita for Christmas. She and her Richard hosted all of us for a beautiful Christmas dinner.

When, you might ask, do we get to the actual cruising part of the trip? We did, eventually. It would be the coldest January in Florida in many years, so Richard and I were not eager to head out.

It has been a good year for visitors. Old friends that I have not seen for years have turned up. Sharon Wilken, from Pickering, Ontario, came with three friends and provided a fantastic dinner for us and the rest of the Villmanns, served in the patio area. She is an event planner, so it went off without a hitch. She and a friend slept on our boat, and when she heard the rats scampering over the deck above her head she put in her earplugs and went to sleep. Great crew!

Finally, Downstream 1 and her crew of seven headed out. But they had forgotten their coffee bodum. We had to pick up some things in Stewart, so stopped at the St. Lucie Lock. As Downstream went through with their happy crew on board, the lock tender kindly passed the bodum to Rebecca. Everyone looked like they were having fun and Granny Barbara was sitting cozily in the cockpit enclosure.

Rainy, cold weather continued. Our electric heater ran non-stop most nights. Several boats that had set out optimistically returned with dirty fuel problems, from sitting too long in the yard.

Downstream returned to Indiantown on Jan.3. They had gone out to sea but had to turn back because Owen and Eve got seasick. Soon after that, they all headed north. Back to school and work.

It would turn out to be one of the coldest Florida Januarys on record, going down to 2˚C. It would also be the winter with the most visitors. Rebecca Lewis arrived and endeared herself to everybody she met with her warmth and enthusiasm. We walked a lot, did laundry, and played Scrabble.

On Jan.9, we delivered her back the airport, stored the car and left the marina, finally on our cruise. We stopped at the Four Rivers anchorage, just below the St. Lucie lock. It was quiet and the sunset was beautiful and we were away from the marina, with no glitches. Three powerboats came by, very slowly, with no wake, bless them.

The next day we anchored in Manatee Pocket, just past Stewart. No wakes allowed because of the manatees, and strictly enforced. We discovered that we could do laundry and take showers for $15 – a real treat. There was a public dinghy dock with fresh water, small stores nearby and great restaurants. I walked to Walmart and got more rat-killing stuff. Last rast caught Jan. 16.

Sandy Turney, who helped me with my boat years ago and now runs a home repair business called Handy Sandy on Vancouver Island, came to visit with her husband Lee.

We finished the rerigging job (no wake) and Richard got out his ancient Pfaff sewing machine and sewed new settee cushions. Still cold. Two gas burners with a fan over them for heat.

We moved around to Peck Lake and walked the ocean beach and made friends with Christmas tree farmers from Bowmanville who know my brothers. Small world. A little green boat pulled up to the beach one day and Richard was quite excited. I was the third boat he and Rick had built in their Caledon Boat Works company many years ago, and still looked like new.

On Feb. 1, we stopped in West Palm Beach and Richard got his cruising permit. The next day we went through twelve bridges, with very little waiting. Sailing outside was not an option, as the ocean was extremely rough. We anchored in Lake Boca Raton that night, and Lake Santa Barbara in Fort Lauderdale the next. I had been having trouble communicating with the bridges, and we finally discovered that I had failed to connect the aerial properly when Richard had asked me to.

We caught up to Sue and Mick in the lake in front of the university at Baker’s Haulover and that’s where we are now – very quiet and relaxing. We will stay here until after the Miami Boat Show and President’s day, when the guys with the big powerboats park the damned things and go back to work.

We are very near to the school where 16 teenagers and three teachers were killed. PERHAPS THERE WILL BE SOME MOVEMENT ON GUN CONTROL?

Sorry for the length of this, but caught up now.

Sharon and Richard

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