From Spring until Christmas, June 15 to December 28, 2015:
The summer of 2015 flew by.
My elderly parents had both died a couple of years ago, and I felt I had more time. Kamo had his passport and Rebecca took him back to the airport in Toronto, where he flew to Grenada, so I could resume my regular life.
There were still those twenty-five grand-nieces and grand-nephews and their parents (my seventeen nieces and nephews and their spouses) and the grandparents (my sisters and brothers and their spouses). We all enjoy each other’s company so the summer was filled with visiting and eating together.
My son Mike was now living alone in a little house in Vienna, south of Tillsonburg, Ontario. I tried to visit him as much as possible to see how his renovations and clearing out of the brush in the little forest around his house was progressing.
Sister Virginia had been looking forward to her time with me. We took the Canadian train with the dome cars through the Rockies to celebrate her sixtieth birthday, visited niece Dana and her husband Dave in Vancouver and flew home. My advice – take the plane out and the train back. That way you will pass through the most spectacular mountains in daylight. The dining car with starched tablecloths and napkins, wonderful food and attentive wait staff was the highlight. Virginia took a shine to both of the good-looking young men who kept the sleeper car beautiful and directed the entertainment aboard.
Oh, yes, did I mention that Richard and I got together once in a while? He changed his 1985 VW Vanagen for a “new” 1993 Westphalia VW van and we took two camping trips in Ontario. One of these was to visit Sister Vonny and her husband Ray, who were hosting another five couples with whom they had cruised. We knew some and would meet others again along the way, a special treat. In fact, Terry and Sandy had their boat Gambit in the work yard when we got to Indiantown Marina.
The big project that I worked on for most of the summer and fall was writing Book III of the Idiot Afloat Series. This book is called Still Floating. After six years of single-handing, I figured I could drop the “idiot” designation. It was the hardest one of the series to write, even though I wasn’t really making it up, just recounting what happened. It covers another three years of the adventure, including 2006, when I met Richard, a great mechanic and a good companion. Okay, we’re still working on the partnership part, but we continue to stick it out and we have had many wonderful times together. By the time I got to the year 2009 in the book, I felt the story had been told. Yet, many good times and adventures followed, but they were the same things that all of us aging cruising couple do out here, and lots has already been written on the subject. I included an Afterword, where I wrapped up or updated unfinished stories of the people along the way. I also described a couple of notable things that happened between then and now. To tell you the truth, I was having trouble remembering what I had already written. In the proofing, I and the other proof-readers discovered I had repeated myself quite a bit, a sure sign I should let it go.
Before I knew it, the book was published. I did four book talks in libraries – a less than spectacularly successful way to sell books, unless you are already famous. Book III was selling well, mostly to people who already had the first two of the series. And Christine was working on converting them to ebooks.
Then it was Christmas and time to go south.
Richard spent Christmas with his three grand-sons and their parents, and I stayed home for my big family’s events around Bothwell, where the best part was immersing myself in a sea of little kids – a sea from which I could escape and go home for a nap when it got overwhelming.
The “new” Westphalia camper appeared before noon on Boxing Day, loaded down with new things that Richard had bought for the boat, as well as my old 15 HP Johnson outboard that he had rebuilt during the summer. I was ready to jump on board. Three days later, after driving south through steady rain and sleeping aboard the camper in Flying J’s at night, we pulled into Indiantown Marina at 8 p.m. Sue and Mick on Jenny welcomed us with drinks and a visit and we crawled back into the van to sleep there one last night.
The next day we uncovered and opened Lucky, dirty on the outside from the sugar cane ash, but pristine on the inside, thanks to mothballs and our little solar ventilating fan in the head. Jess and Alex moved her to the work yard in the Afternoon and we got to work.
Slaving in the Workyard, December 28, 2015 to January 21, 2016:
We knew we had a lot to do after going to the Bahamas and keeping the boat in George Town for three years. The 45% import duty on everything there made the costs of repairs and replacements very high, so we postponed our work until we got back to the States, where we could at least bring replacement parts from Canada.
We slept and cooked on the boat. Richard got the propane stove and water pump working the first day and we got used to climbing up and down the ladder to use the nearby toilet.
The first full day of work, I scrubbed most of the dirty deck and cockpit and Richard installed the new head (toilet to you landlubbers) and the new water pump for the head. His job had him in a tightly cramped position all day. He was still at it when the light started to fail, so I held the flashlight so he could see the small parts with which he was working, and the hair dryer so he could get the hoses fitted together. We finished at 7:30, exhausted.
And so the days went. I cleaned the stern. Richard ground down the bubbled-up paint on the boot line and scrubbed the hull. He sanded the topsides and painted it. Later he put two coats of paint on the hull. I sanded the prop. I cooked, did dishes, vacuumed often, and did weekly laundry. I redid the lettering on the stern and bow of the boat after Richard painted. I took me three days, but everyone who walked by said it was a good job. It looked perfect, from a modest distance. I sanded and painted inside the hard dodger, and it gleams.
There were shared meals and cocktails on the patio some evenings with old and new friends. Some came for dinner on our boat – Bill and Eileen on Moshulu, from near Algonquin Park, whom Richard had known for decades, but I had just met for the first time. And Jon off Captain Cook, an old friend of Richard’s whom I met before I knew Richard. Jim and Lynda of Morning Star, hailing from Vermillion Bay, Ontario, arrived and we reconnected. Murray and Laurel Thompson from Hamilton, Ontario, even stopped by for a BBQ on their way to their mobile home in Bonita Springs and brought filet minyon (sp?) to die for.
We squeezed the painting in between the many rainy days and found jobs we could inside on those days. Many days were much colder than it should be in Florida. Of course one of those jobs was going shopping to stock the boat for the winter, which we did on at least five rainy days. Some nights we watched DVDs on board and I had the luxury of easily accessible internet so I could do email. A bonus – I was able to play a few games of Scrabble with some excellent and keen players.
Finally, on January 21, we were placed gently (splashed, they call it) into the water. More to come, but that’s enough for now. Sharon and Richard on Lucky