Spring has been depressingly slow, cold and wet in this part of the world. We are less affected than our friends on Toronto Island and in other flood zones who are still surrounded by water, industrial pumps and sandbags. They feel positively waterlogged and beleaguered. And on the other side of the world, friends in South Africa are dealing with a horrendous storm followed by devastating, dangerous fires along a beautiful part of the Garden Route coastline.

We are relatively well off and conscious of how lucky we are. However these highly unusual weather occurrences are disconcerting for long-term cruisers like us. Especially as we prepare for a trip into the largest, deepest, coldest and most remote of the Great Lakes. Lake Superior alone could hold all the water of the Great Lakes PLUS two more the size of Lake Erie. It’s the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. Apparently, Superior could cover the continents of North and South America to depth of 1 ft / .3 m. I have not done the math – just quoting Great Lakes Sailing here. In mid-summer, the sun sets 35 minutes later on the west shore than on the southeast coast! Distances are much greater, locations for supplies, (especially fuel) and maintenance are fewer and further apart and the range of weather and sea conditions much greater, as some have found out the wrong way. Whitefish Point area alone has claimed at least 240 ships including the Edmond Fitzgerald in 1975.

Steve building the frame for the new solar panel

All this to say that we need to be prudent and careful about the condition of our boat and its equipment before setting out on this vast lake. Skipper Steve has been busy for 2 months now, working on a long list of boat projects – regular maintenance, repairs and improvements. And no, our boat is not unusual in this regard – it is par for the course to which other cruisers and live-aboards can and do attest.

Here is just a small sample of the jobs on his list – mostly checked now:

  • Paint boat bottom with 3 coats of anti-fouling
  • Scrape, sand and paint port side toe rail (6 coats) and bowsprit.
  • Fix broken bilge pump
  • Fix spreader light and inside light bulb replacement
  • Change oil on dinghy motor (3 x due to wrong part ordered)
  • Install charge controller, new frame and new solar panel
  • Replace charge controller for existing panel
  • Check rigging, put on 3 sails
  • Repair profurl for staysail
  • Update electronics software
  • Re-calibrate autopilot
  • Replace life raft straps
  • Check and stock spare parts

Meanwhile, I went back to work on a short-term contract to help out at my old company, to whom I feel a debt of loyalty due to past mutually symbiotic work contracts, and to pay the repairs-and-improvements bills. As we’ve said before, BOAT = Break Out Another Thousand. The contract work has been fine, rewarding and fulfilling. The arduous drive back and forth and increased pressure on my time, not so much.

But Steve has soldiered on and I have helped out where I can. Here is a little piece of his Captains Log. I planted a herb garden in a shoe organizer (credit goes to Julie and Dan on Gaviidae for the idea).

Happily for us, we have enjoyed this lovely marina and the little town of Midland. Of special note, our favourite restaurant here – the Explorers Cafe, hosts monthly special menu evenings (which sell out instantly). We went to a Portuguese evening – a 5 course dégustation menu with wine pairings – which was really enjoyable, educational and exceptionally tasty! We met up with friends in the cute little town of Creemore.  And we have soaked up peaceful moments here – a pink dawn as I leave for the city, a quiet evening, a beaver swimming, several families of geese passing by.

These photos taken by Steve from the top of the mast show our surroundings best.

We’ve had some fun too – a trip home for Mia’s recital and my birthday gathering with the family. And for Steve’s birthday, a weekend with the grand children aboard. I was able to pick them up in the rental car after work/school one Friday and bring them home again to Mom and Dad (who enjoyed a restful weekend) on Monday afternoon. We took them cruising on Saturday to Chimney Bay on Beausoleil Island and had perfect weather for our little trip on Saturday. They even enjoyed playing on the beach and in the water, which was, surprisingly, not too cold. But Sunday turned miserable so we motored back and took them to Castle Village instead.

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I wrap up my contract next week and we hope to leave on Thursday for the summer cruising season. I look forward to being retired again, to spending time plotting routes, planning ahead, checking weather and navigating tricky waters. Mostly I look forward to beautiful, calm anchorages. I pray the mosquitoes don’t carry me off.

But the prize for hard, relentless work and boat acrobatics goes to Steve. Sadly, the worries of system failure, boat bites and unexpected issues never go away. This is the less glamorous side of cruising. The one that macho sailors pretend doesn’t exist while drinking beer and telling yarns on the dock or local bar. I am too much of a realist. But I also feel that acknowledging this pain sweetens the reward for this labour – pleasant cruising and perfect anchorages.

It is suddenly summer! So fingers crossed….