June 24, 2017:
My wife and and I are sailors. Well, in truth, I am a sailor and my lovely wife tolerates my silly pastimes and hobbies.
I think my first time in a sailboat was on a friend’s Hobie 14 beach catamaran. As I recall that one time out we got the mast stuck in the bottom of the small lake we were on in southern Manitoba. I think the boat spent more time upside-down than right-way-up.
Somewhere along the way, someone I knew in my youth had a Laser II and I remember being out on that once. We were flying! I wanted so much to buy one, but they were very expensive.
Later, I spent a lot of time in the “SV Cabbage” at the cottage my wife’s folks had at Clearwater Bay on Lake of the Woods (LOTW) in NW Ontario. Cabbage was a small pram-style fiberglass boat of unknown origin. When I say small, I mean that at that point in my life I was far too – well, let’s say large – to be in a craft as small as Cabbage. Cabbage might have been all of 8 feet long, but I think this was a stretch (sorry, I couldn’t resist that!). It almost seemed necessary to step outside the boat in order to tack and it was very challenging to complete this manoeuver with any grace. Neverthless, these issues did not deter me, and I spent many solo hours going back and forth across Clearwater Bay in little Cabbage in all manner of conditions, and I took great pride in making the little boat go where my will would take her, and back home, without capsizing or floundering. Cabbage became like a dear friend to me. I can still envision the letters of her name on the transom that someone had applied using hardware store, self-adhesive, gold and black letters, all of 3/4″ high.
I read everything I could about sailing theory and all things nautical and I became a fairly competent helmsman and novice sailor.
Later there would be a progression of ever-larger craft: like all boaters, I succumbed to “two-foot-itis” and each boat became a stepping stone to something larger.
I can’t account for the hundreds and perhaps thousands of hours I have spent looking through classified ads and “Sailboat Trader” seeking a wonderful – yet affordable – sailboat over the years. I think sailors are inherently dreamers as well.
From a newspaper ad in the Winnipeg Free Press I found and bought a 1973 San Juan 21 Mark I which we named “Caleigh” after our daughter, who had just been born. At this point, along with a friend who was also an enthusiast sailor, I started entering sailboat races. The second summer owning Caleigh we won our division in a week-long race on Lake of the Woods, Ontario, called LOWISA (LOTW International Sailing Association).
Caleigh had a small cabin that would accommodate two people in moderate discomfort. She even had indoor plumbing – a porta-potty! Her cockpit was huge, and although uncovered, was great place to be on a warm summer day. For cooking we used a naptha gas camp stove and a little Hibachi BBQ, both of which had to be set up in the cockpit.
There was another catalyst for the acquisition of a larger boat – although I was happy enough sailing by myself, my heart longed to inflict my nautical hobby on my wife – I mean I wanted to share the joy of sailing with her. So while on vacation in St. Pete’s Beach in Florida, I came across a Captiva 240 which was THREE feet bigger than Caleigh. She didn’t have more by way of equipment or comforts than the Caleigh but she seemed huge to me. And the best part was the price – $1850, which was the amount owing on the slip fees at the marina in Tierra Verde, for she had been abandoned and the marina had just taken legal position of her. After much cajoling and whining to my long-suffering wife, and borrowing the funds to buy her from my mother (who was always supportive regardless of how impractical some of my ideas were) we owned another sailboat. It cost more to ship her up to Canada than it did to buy her.
Like the Caleigh, Cetacea was a shoal-draft boat with a center-board. However, Cetacea’s centerboard was not in a trunk inside the cabin. Rather, it deployed from a shallow, but lengthy, weighted keel, and this opened up a “huge” amount of room in the cabin.
At this point we were the parents of two children, my son having recently been born, and we undertook many weekend adventures on Cetacea as a family on Lake of the Woods. I have very fond memories of those voyages. It was a great way to connect with nature and each other.
To this day, it is probably true to say that my daughter is ambivalent about sailing, although she was always impressed that she had a boat named after her. My son, on the other hand, now professes a strong hatred for boats and all things boating. Clearly, I did something wrong there.
Throughout the time of owning both the Caleigh and Cetacea, I had been very involved in the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons – initially as a student wanting to learn seamanship and navigation, and later as an instructor and Bridge Officer. I rose to the rank of Commander of the Winnipeg Squadron, and I have very fond memories of the excellent people involved in our squadron and the organization as a whole.
My friend, David, and I participated in several more LOWISA races in the summers that followed in Cetacea, although we never repeated the triumphs we had shared in Caleigh.
Up next: Another boat – and a cruising lifestyle?