The Books

Idiot Afloat Book I, II and III are now available on Kindle:

Idiot Afloat: The Series

Many of you have read Book I and Book II. Several people even said they couldn’t put the books down until they finished them. And some said the books made them laugh. (But some are friends and might say that anyway.) My sister Sandy told sister Vonny that she enjoyed it more than she thought she would. If you know Sandy, and what she thinks about Vonny and me disappearing every winter to live on boats, you will understand that that is high praise indeed!

Now Still Floating  Book III: Alone on My Detour to Two on Lucky is available. It continues the story of my travels on My Detour. It’s no longer Idiot Afloat because I think that, after six years,  I’m no longer an idiot, but you be the judge. Partway through the book, there is a big change in my sailing life, which brings unexpected adventures.

For information about how to order the hard copies of these books, please go to the bottom of the page.


 

Idiot Afloat Book I:

Living and Cruising on Wishbone, Ultramarine Blue, and My Detour

Idiot Afloat Book I Living and Cruising on Wishbone, Ultramarine Blue, and My Detour

$20 (includes shipping to Canada)


Please note the cost of shipping to the United States will vary depending on your location. Please email me for an exact quote before ordering at sharonlehnert@gmail.com


 

Foreword

My first recollection of sailing is sitting in the cockpit of a twenty-six-foot boat, watching endless rows of three-foot waves approach and sweep under the stern. How long  would it take me to get to the side of the boat and hang over it? I wondered.  But I stayed still. I knew that, if I moved the least bit, the contents of my stomach would move faster.

There was no land visible behind us. I couldn’t get up to look forward, but knew that there was no land visible there either. What was I thinking when I agreed to do this?

The only boat I had ever been in was a washtub that I captained when I was four. I tried to get my younger sisters to be the crew and row it, but Vonny, the oldest, mutinied and laid her oar, a long stick, on the ground.

Vonny and husband Ray bought a new Grampian sailboat shortly after they got married, before they got the car, the house or the kids. I was a single parent, struggling to work, raise a son and get a degree in library science. I thought their purchase was wildly extravagant.

From time to time, my son Mike and I would sail with them. Mike never got over the seasickness, but eventually I did.

I started to see the good side of sailing: the quaint little ports around Lake Ontario that couldn’t be seen from the road, the friendly sailors that greeted new arrivals, and the new intimacy with the weather that made sailing possible – or not.

I got the bug and bought my own sailboat, a twenty-two-foot Tanzer, already named Wildcat. Sailing in the Thousand Islands alone, cooking on my knees, and gently rocking to sleep in the vee-berth at night – these were all pleasures I looked forward to each summer. Often friends, usually women, came along. But frequently they couldn’t make it and I was left on my own. Sailing was fun both ways, and I discovered more resources inside me than I had known were there.

Racing with a group of friends became a twice-weekly habit, and for a while I was Vice-Commodore of Sailing at the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club. Late one afternoon at the library, my boss was giving me a really hard time for some infraction. I got up and left. I knew my crew were waiting on the dock to race. Some things are more important than others.

After early retirement at fifty-two, I kept on racing and cruising, but Inchbury Street Bed and Breakfast, my new business venture, consumed more even more time than the job had. It was especially busy in the summer. After eight years or so, I paused in the middle of an endless round of dishes, laundry and paperwork. It was time to really retire.

The ocean beckoned. And with all my experience in the twenty-two-foot boat on Lake Ontario, I was sure I knew enough to cruise the Caribbean.

In hindsight, I realize that I had what my father would have called “compound ignorance”. Not only did I not know much about cruising, I had no idea how little I knew.

Why a book about my adventures? Well, I made a lot of mistakes. If you don’t make the same ones, you will have a better trip.

Several people have said, “You must know who your audience is, and write to them.” After much thought, I can’t define the people that might read this. It’s not a cruising guide. It’s not a repair manual either, although there are spots… Perhaps it is just a little anecdote to all those glossy cruising articles, where nothing ever breaks, the weather is always perfect, and the cruisers are slim, athletic and beautiful.

My brother said, “Use the line ‘Old sailors never die; they just keep trying to.’ ” I guess that’s how a farmer would see sailing.

I hope you enjoy being along for the ride.

Prologue, April 29, 2002

The mast bumped along the edge of the bridge, and the racing current dragged the boat sideways under it. Water poured though the open portholes into the cabin. I watched in horror, clinging to one side of the cockpit and standing on the opposite seat, now down near the water. The boat was sinking, drowning my plans and dreams.  I screamed, not from fear but from rage, as I watched months of work and most of my savings sinking with it.

A young man came alongside in a personal watercraft, and yelled, “Jump on!” I looked around at my little world, disappearing below me, and jumped.


 

Idiot Afloat Book II:

Cuba, Bothwell, and Boot Key Harbor: The Cruiser’s Divided Life

Idiot Afloat Book II Cuba, Bothwell, and Boot Key Harbor: The Cruiser’s Divided Life

$21 (includes shipping to Canada)


Please note the cost of shipping to the United States will vary depending on your location. Please email me for an exact quote before ordering at sharonlehnert@gmail.com


 

Foreword

In the winter of 2000, my sister Vonny and I took her (and her husband’s) thirty-foot Nonsuch from Savannah to Miami. From there, we crossed to the Bahamas. We lived and travelled on the boat there for three months before returning to Florida. Then it was shipped north and we went home to Ontario.

We both decided this was what we wanted to do in our retirement. It took the next year for this to happen for me. I had already retired in 1994. Between  the spring of 2000 and the summer of 2001, I sold my Bed and Breakfast, disconnected from organizations and friends, and sold, stored or gave away most of my belongings. My twenty-six foot sailboat was replaced by one big enough to live on.

In September 2001, I moved onto thirty-two-foot Ultramarine Blue. That winter, I sailed in the Keys and briefly to Cuba. In the spring, on April 29 2002, my boat and I had an unfortunate encounter with a bridge just south of Fort Lauderdale. I recovered but the boat didn’t.

The next boat was My Detour, a thirty-foot Nonsuch. It was the same model that my sister Vonny and her husband Ray had. In the winter of 2003, we sailed our Nonsuches together in the Bahamas. In the spring of 2003, Vonny, Ray and their son Tim drove back to Canada and I continued north to Georgetown South Carolina and stored my boat there.

The full story of those trips – the bridge accident, the things we learned, and the mistakes I made – is told in Idiot Afloat Book I.

This book, Book II, starts in in the spring of 2003, when I arrived back in Ontario after those adventures. It covers three summers in Bothwell, and the two winters in between on My Detour, in the Bahamas, Cuba and the Florida Keys, taking the story up until the late fall of 2005.

Cruising is a fluid lifestyle, and people float into and out of a sailor’s life all the time. Sometimes paths cross again, maybe many years later, and sometimes the connection is a one-time thing. Internet access helped communication, but it was then and continues to be spotty or expensive or both. I have included their emails, or bits of them, when their stories were a part of the narrative.

The cast of characters in this book include my very large family, many of the people I met in the first three years of cruising, and some of the new people near whom I anchored. A list of people in order of appearance and with brief introductions is include in an appendix.

I hope you will enjoy these people as I did while we were together.

Prologue

Four a.m., mid-January, 2004    Somewhere in the Old Bahama Channel, north of Cuba

Gripping the wheel, I sucked in my breath as another wall of water swept out of the blackness and into the cockpit. The autopilot didn’t work in waves this size, and it was difficult to hand steer. Before I got the course corrected, the big wishbone boom whipped across the boat, and the sail, despite being reefed, tore again. Zlatko jumped up from below, where he had been trying to sleep between his watches. We managed to keep sailing for a while, but then the sail ripped clear across and had to be lowered.

Holding my breath, I tried the motor. It started, but our speed dropped from the seven knots we had been doing under sail to just four knots. Then, an hour later, the motor fell silent.

We were sixty miles from a port. Very large waves were tossing the boat around, it was pitch-black, and we had no means of locomotion.

How do otherwise sane people get into a spot like that? And how would we get out?


 

Still Floating Book III:

Alone on My Detour to Two on Lucky

Alone on My Detour to Two on Lucky

$23 (includes shipping to Canada)


Please note the cost of shipping to the United States will vary depending on your location. Please email me for an exact quote before ordering at sharonlehnert@gmail.com


Foreword

In the two Idiot Afloat books before this one, I told the story of my travels and adventures as a single-handed cruiser.

I stumbled along, making mistakes and learning by them. Despite a couple of found and then lost loves, and way more mechanical breakdowns than that, it was exhilarating to be away from a desk, out of the city and making my way through an unknown waterscape alone.

I wasn’t alone all of the time. People outside of my normal circle of library staff and political junkies became my friends. They showed me the mysteries of small motors, navigation, weather, tides and currents.

The scenery changed when the boat moved. The water made it always beautiful.

The time spent in Cuba was other-worldly to me, a place of many faces, depending on the angle from which it was seen. The accounts of other cruisers emphasize this.

With the failure of My Detour’s old motor, the story widened to include living aboard – staying in one place and becoming part of a floating community.

My ever-growing family and my roots in Bothwell became part of the tale. With aging parents, I had to confront my own approaching old age and prepare for it. Hence the summers of work on the little $1 house.

The narrative resumes in this book in the late fall of 2005. I was reconnecting with many old friends, and making plans with the cruisers I had met. The new motor had been installed and it was time for the adventure to continue.

The journals, emails and ever-decreasing vestiges of memory are there to draw upon. Let’s see what happened next.

Prologue

I peered out into the black ocean. I was on the little sailboat, Lucky, pointed east to the Bahamas. My companion was on the wheel. I wondered if I had made the right decision when I shipped my boat north to sell. I had given up my independence to live and sail with the man beside me.
He had been living and sailing alone for most of his life. He was used making decisions without consulting anyone else. It was his boat.

What made me think we could be partners?


 

How To Order:

Idiot Afloat Book I Revised Edition, is $15 plus shipping:

Canada: $5 shipping

United States: shipping starts at $11 and will vary depending on your location. Please email me for an exact quote.

Idiot Afloat Book II is $16 plus shipping:

Canada: $5 shipping

United States: shipping starts at $11 and will vary depending on your location. Please email me for an exact quote.

Still Floating Book III is $18 plus shipping:

Canada: $5 shipping

United States: shipping starts at $11 and will vary depending on your location. Please email me for an exact quote.

There are several ways you can get either hard-copy book.

You can order directly through our website using the Add to Cart buttons above (prices already include shipping to Canada) Or you can send a cheque made out to Sharon Lehnert, plus $5 for shipping in Canada. United States orders will require a shipping quote, but shipping will start at $11.

Mail cheques to:

Sharon Lehnert,
Box 468, Bothwell, Ontario
Canada, N0P 1C0

Email your mailing address to me at sharonlehnert@gmail.com so that I can have the book mailed to you.

Or: Pick up a copy at Nautical Mind, on Queen’s Quay in Toronto, or the drugstore in Bothwell or Glencoe. Ontario,

 

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Halfway through the Summer Sojourn in Ontario

Weatherwise, summer started August 1 this year. This meant that May, June and July were pleasant for working on my boat – except when it was raining, which was about one third of the time.

Richard helped me get started on painting My Detour’s deck when we got home mid-May, and it’s all finished now except for a few little details. But it has been three months. There are almost weekly inquiries and /or viewings of the boat, but so far, no offers.

At the Sloan Reunion, Dad’s elderly siblings and an assortment of us cousins and spouses and kids and their kids gathered. I know most of my cousins and their spouses, but have mostly lost track of the next 2 generations down.

Mom couldn’t remember who anyone was, but remembered and belted out all three verses of “What a friend we have in Jesus” at the special service for the Sloans in the Anglican Church in West Lorne, built by one of our ancestors. Dad hobbled from the van to his wheelchair and back several times, and enjoyed seeing everyone one his first day out of Beattie Haven since he tripped and broke his leg in March.

Grand-niece and nephew Hannah and Julian came for sleepovers, brother Bill and wife Connie brought their twin grand-girls to visit, and Richard and I went camping and canoeing.

We also had an art sale of Mom’s paintings, and there was a lot of work to prepare for it. We didn’t make a lot of money, but many more of Mom’s paintings are in homes where they will be loved.

Richard and I went to our first tractor/truck pull in Florence, and agreed it would be our only one. Grand-niece Hannah spent the whole thing with her hands tightly over her ears. Women and boys and girls competed as well as men, and it was impressive when the mighty machines came roaring down the track.But it was noisy and smelly.

Of course, Mom and Dad and sister Virginia also require lots of attention and care, and Richard likes a little now and then too. And there are many other family members and friends I like to spend time with. So no painting or book-writing right now. But it is a good retirement, just not what I had expected.

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April 12, 2009: Lucky Heads North

We left Boot Key Harbor for the final time this year on March 28. Before that, while waiting for Elizabethann to come, we took a short trip up the Spanish Channel, and tucked in behind Porpoise Key for a few days.
We picked up a lobster pot on the way, and I was on the wheel when we realized why we were going so slowly. But another day, it was Richard who picked up a pot, so we were even. He gets upset because he has to go under the boat to get the float off the prop, and the water is only in the low 70s.
Our chosen key was quiet and protected from the wind, and we explored the area in our dinghy. Porpoise Key is surrounded by mangroves and inaccessible by foot, as we suspect most of the little keys in sight were.
We found a little fishing port on Big Pine Key, and a landing at the end of a road, where permanent live-aboards keep their bicycles and go ashore with their dinghies. But it is miles from anywhere by foot, so we went back to our boat, and watched the birds and fish go by. We saw a dozen dolphins herding fish into the shallows for their supper some nights.
Back in Marathon, we waited for the wind to die down so Elizabethann could come sailing with us. I read a murder mystery to Richard to take his mind off his sore back.
A potential buyer for My Detour offered to wire me money for my boat, but backed off when I offered to drive over to his place in Ocala to get the money instead of sending him the detailed information about my account that he requested.
On March 27, Elizabethann arrived, and sister Sandy called to tell me Dad had broken his leg and I should fly home right away. I stalled, and now, two weeks later, he seems to be doing fine, and is getting good care at our little local hospital. He says I can make up for neglecting him now when I get home. Sandy is terse and hangs up.
The southeast wind was still high on March 28, and we sailed through five-foot waves to get over to Moser Channel, and surfed under the Seven Mile Bridge. After that, we flew up the inside of the Keys on just the genoa. We picked up a free mooring off Shell Key the first night. Richard was tired, having steered all day through the floats from pots, and two ounces of rum put him first into a jovial talkative mood, then into a sound sleep after supper.
The next two days were easier – less pots with the end of lobster season.
EA ands I found a place to go ashore in Tarpon Basin, and had it approved by the county commissioner, who was eating lunch in the little park behind the county building when we tied up. She even showed us where the washrooms were and told us all about the artwork in the lobby. She told us about the python problem in southern Florida too. Peoples’ pet pythons have escaped and multiplied, and can hide very well in the Everglades.
It gives Tarpon Basin a whole new feel.
We anchored in the cove past Jewfish Creek. This time, instead of being empty, it had five big trawlers lined up in it. Richard says I told too many people about it, but I say anyone can look at a chart.
We than anchored off Sands Key, which has beautiful clear water, and a little keyhole lake to dinghy to. Tiffany Rose followed us in, much to our delight, and had Richard’s crêpe breakfast with us the next morning. We visited Boca Chita, but were attacked by very aggressive mosquitoes. The crew of Tiffany Rose was driven off the shore of the keyhole lake by the bloodsuckers too, and at dusk we had to have screens and netting up. It was almost the only time this winter it was warm enough for mosquitoes. Other than that, the anchorage was lovely. We saw rays, turtles, dolphins, many water birds, and, in one spot, dozens of lobsters peering out at us, taunting us, I thought, because lobster season was over.
We sailed to Dinner Key to anchor among the wrecks (both boat and human) there. Elizabethann left us in Coconut Grove to take the Metrorail /bus back to Key West, after we saw Dave and Christopher on shore. Christopher ran full-tilt into our arms to welcome us.
Then back to Hurricane Hole with Tiffany Rose, where we swam, and taught them to play Farkle.
Going back into No Name Sunday evening, we went around the shoal, which must have had 200 boats on it. Music played, kids splashed around in the water, and the really cool people stood around in groups in the water, drinking and visiting. It’s a party that happens there every Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting.
Kika, on Different Drummer, hailed us on our way in to NO Name. Dennis and Kika, Richard’s friends from Alaska, were anchored out by Stiltsville. Later, we all went for dinner at the Sailors’Grill, overlooking the harbour. It was a chance meeting, they going south and we north.
That night, the wind let up for a while, and I woke up at midnight, breathing the fumes and listening to the noise of three generators being run all night upwind of us. I decided that, instead of just lying there being annoyed, I would do what I could to improve the situation.
I crept out without waking Richard, dressed, and paddled to the first boat, a large sailboat. I knocked on the hull and when the skipper, a young man came out, I explained the problem and asked him to turn the generator off. He did. I repeated the procedure at the next boat, a very large new powerboat. A young couple came out, and the man was not apologetic. He said he had to run his generator all night so his motor would start in the morning. I suggested he should go to a dock or a larger anchorage with a setup like that, and he hustled his apologetic wife inside and shut the door.
The third boat was a very large sailboat, Therapy, tied to the dock. Her owner said no one had ever complained to him before, and suggested I had a problem, if I couldn’t tolerate the noise and CO fumes from his boat. He had been tied to the dock for several nights, which is not permitted, and the next morning police kicked him off the dock. His wife gave us a very dirty look when they motored by us to anchor, and they didn’t wave good-bye when we left later.
In the morning, Richard thought I was telling him about one of my dreams.
Now we are in Lake Oleta, at Baker’s Haulover, between Miami ant Fort Lauderdale, and will stay here for two weeks, before going north to Indiantown and driving home.
Potluck tonight on Tiffany Rose, with Newfoundlanders Marilyn and Victor from Whisper.
Happy Easter!

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March 29, 2009: From Sharon and Richard on Lucky, drifting around in the Keys

The bilge remains bone-dry, so our 5200 fix has worked.

Rebecca Lewis, who has often sailed with me, arrived Feb. 9 at Florida International University, and we called Richard on the hand-held and he picked us up.

Life was a little easier for us while she was on board. Richard showed her how to fill the dinghy with gas and start it. She lifted it on to the back deck and back. He showed her the proper way to do dishes to save on salt water and she was a good student. She hauled sails up and down. She played Scrabble with me, and 3-way cards. She slept out in the cockpit every night.

We sailed to Key Biscayne (to No Name Harbour and back to Crandon Park for water and fresh fish). What started as a day sail in Biscayne Bay turned into a trip, and we headed south into the Keys.

We stopped in the most isolated anchorages we could find, where we could swim and snorkel around the boat, or dragging behind it. With the Chartplotter, we can edge into places we wouldn’t dare go before. We also got good at finding places to go ashore, which are few and far between.

It got windy, so we went to Tarpon Basin, still at Key Largo. It has all-round protection from wind. After a day spent searching the shore, we found a place where I could let Rebecca off at a resort dock where she could walk up to highway 1 and catch a bus. (We had learned not to ask if it was permissible, as everyone said no, which would really make you a trespasser if you then did it.) After Rebecca left, the boat seemed really quiet, and now we are looking forward to a visit from Elizabethann, an old friend that I met the first year I was sailing and stayed docked in Snug Harbour on Stock Island for a month. She has come sailing a few times since.

We sailed south to Tavernier Creek, and dinghied in to see Alan of Sinbad and his girlfriend at their dock. He lets us bring our garbage and get water, one of the nicest things someone with a toehold on land can do for a cruiser.

It made me happy to be able to connect with sister Sandy and her husband Gerry, who had driven south for a big ship cruise out of Miami. They came down early and spent a couple of days with us at Islamorada. Lunch and Happy Hour at Lorelei’s, $100. I ordered a bushwhacker and both Richard and I were very silly after he helped me finish it. Gerry picked up the larger half of the tab.

They came out to see the boat but declined sleeping on it, even though we offered them the v-berth. Could it be the cold showers on the swim platform, or the contortions one must go through just to get into the v-berth and lie down? Or the fact that everyone can hear the most intimate details of everyone else’s toilette, even though they try not to listen?

They opted for the $159 room in a quaint hotel that overlooked our anchorage and had a dock we could land at. We brought in our garbage and water jugs, and enjoyed hot showers in their room, so we feel they got their money’s worth.

The next day we all went to the big marine flea market on Plantation key in Sandy’s and Gerry’s van. I felt sorry for them when they took us back to the boat and we saw the traffic into the flea market backed up for many miles on the other side of the road. It must have taken them hours to get back to Miami!

After that, we had good sailing and more anchoring in isolated spots, away from traffic noise, and other peoples’ generator noise and exhaust.

But now we are in Boot Key Harbour, Marathon, where all boats in the Keys seem to end up and get stuck. We’ve been here almost a month!

There is a cruisers’ net in the mornings, a great dinghy dock, yoga in the park, a weekly potluck at the city marina, a pay phone, Scrabble, a nice laundromat, hot showers, water, trash disposal, and free pumpouts.

It comes at a price – $46 a week for those of us who spurn the moorings and anchor. But we have been able to connect with friends not seen in a long while, like Chris and Divya on Maggie M and Bryan on Omami, and Matt and Sue on SueSeaQ.  Not as much socializing as I like, but Richard prefers a more solitary style, and it is his boat. But he loves to teach people to play Farkle.

We had some electrical power issues, but went to Battery Shack  and got two new regulators for the alternators, and had them connected correctly, and everything is ok now.

I broke down and bought a cell phone, #305-304-6593. And we leave the VHF on more, so I don’t feel so disconnected. And I go on the net every few days and call the Scrabble players together for games. I painted a picture yesterday of a boat sitting in the mud off Boot Key.

Richard twisted his back lifting groceries from me on the dinghy, and he’s been in a lot of pain and can’t move much. The wind is supposed to get up to maybe 30 knots tonight and stay up for the week, so we’ll stay in Boot Key a few days more as we are anchored in a good spot. It’s been a good winter so far.

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