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



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



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.


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


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.


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 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,


Share this article...Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Pin on Pinterest
Email this to someone

Leave a Reply