After our endless summer (we skipped winter in favour of summer in Australia and New Zealand, and the month of March in the UK), we returned to the coldest, wettest spring in living memory. A disappointing welcome back to real life after lolling about on beaches and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.
Undaunted, Steve immediately left for Midland, where Tai Chi endured the winter wrapped in canvas. He spent frigid days uncovering her, doing repairs and early spring commissioning chores as well as painting the bottom with 3 new coats of anti-fouling paint. I stayed in Toronto, filing taxes and doing other more sedentary but infinitely warmer chores.
We did not spend May Day dancing around maypoles. In pouring rain, with temperatures in the single digits (Celsius), we launched the boat, before it floated off its stands in the deepening puddles. That is to say, I sheltered in the relative warmth and dryness of the car while Steve did a few remaining chores, and then we both watched as the boat yard personnel expertly lifted T’ai Chi off its blocks, settled her in the travel lift, and then lowered her into the water. Steve burped the dripless seal (so that the boat doesn’t sink – a useful precaution though I know not why), started Frankie, the engine, who mercifully cooperated after a few spluttering objections to being woken from hibernation on a cold, cold day after a long winter. So off we floated to our home dock for a few weeks, L16 at Bay Port Yachting Centre in Midland.
We hooked up the shore power, started a small heater inside, and moved aboard. We spent the next few miserable rainy days reloading our floating home from our Midland storage locker and, fueled by home-made soups, we gradually saw the mess recede and our floating home become cosy and comfortable once again.
And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down…. As the water levels rose here, the ramp to our floating dock became steeper, but the impact has been minor compared to our friends in flood zones on Toronto Island, Outer Harbour Marina in Toronto and especially our friends Claude and Marie at Oka Marina on the Ottawa River. We fret about them; our hearts go out to all who have spent exhausting, dispiriting days trying to save their homes, businesses and properties, and those who have lost them or suffered major damage. At the same time, we count our blessings and are grateful for the work we did last year replacing leaky hatches and ports, which helped us stay dry as bones (isn’t that an odd expression?) inside.
Despite the ugly weather, Steve continues to drive through boat chores and projects with determination, boundless stamina, and an almost masochistic enthusiasm while I mostly cower below deck in the relative warmth, secretly plotting our next warm getaway! In order not to feel totally useless, I have also been researching solar panels, charge controllers and over-davit mountings as we plan to increase our solar power capacity this summer to try to better balance our outflows with our solar and wind combined generation. In these wintry, watery conditions you become grateful for small mercies, such as the great individual toilet/shower rooms here with heated floors, strong, hot showers and disposable bath mats! It is a half hour walk to the nearest grocery store in the centre of Midland, but a pretty one. Not encouraging that the dandelions are hardier than I am.
True to the definition of a boat as a hole in the water into which you throw money, we dropped a “few” boat dollars (1=$1K) this winter trying to address some long standing and gradually worsening engine issues – knocking at higher RPMS, overheating, quitting suddenly and unexpectedly and other less than desirable behaviours. Luckily this marina has good expertise and resources, as well as good bathrooms. Their engine and electronics expert, James, addressed several issues including putting in new engine mounts, replacing the shaft coupling, and sending the prop out to be rebuilt/serviced.
Today is our first sunny day in a week. It is still unseasonable cold, but calmer without yesterday’s biting wind. James came to check/adjust the alignment after which we took Tai Chi out for a sea trial. We glided out of the marina and into an empty bay – we were the only boat out there for as far as we could see. The engine purred, rather than hammered, at all speeds, and the temperature gauge was steady and normal. We could almost have sailed back on our combined sighs of relief! Joy oh joy. There is one thing worse than dropping countless boat dollars on repairs and that is spending similar boat dollars with no measurable improvement or cure of the underlying issue(s). We know. We’ve been playing that game for a few years.
So now Steve is stripping wood work above deck, re-energized by the purring engine. And while he does that, I am going back to work in a warm office for a few weeks, a few days per week, to replenish the cruising and boat repair kitty! And we will wait for the blackflies to have their day(s) in the sun before we venture out for ours. We plan to head North in early June, back up to Killarney and the North Channel and then further North to Lake Superior and, hopefully, Thunder Bay, before heading back to Lake Ontario.
PS. Poor wifi and too much fun are my excuses for not blogging this winter….but I still may jot down lasting impressions of our time away.