A western life (for now)

IMG_2368Time in Ottawa was brief, but good. It was nice to hang out with the kitties, and to see Mom, Sis, Colleen and Connor. After a few more health checks we loaded our life back up in our little red car, and headed north and then west.

IMG_2986.JPGThe drive through Ontario is always the longest, but stunningly beautiful in places. And we’ve done this so often now that we’re starting to develop regular stops. The first was North Bay, with the requisite pub visit. Then in Wawa when we woke up to the requisite snow (sans snow tires, of course):

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IMGA0806IMGA0811This whole trip west happened way too fast this season. Our wonderful house owners in Penticton wanted to leave earlier this year, which means we had to be there early as well. Sadly, this also means we had little time to stop and visit with our many friends along the way.

Cathie and Joe in Selim (Rossport) are dear friends whom we love spending time with. But sadly we had to keep our visit to a few hours this time. And even Thunder Bay was reduced to a couple of nights. Still, we managed some great time with Paul, Julie & Coralie along with Tony and Maryann. Paul, who is recently retired, has discovered the joys of 3D printing. While we were there he printed a new visor clip for our car, and helped us with our tire change through the loan of some equipment.

Of course, a visit to Thunder Bay would not be complete without spending time with Ben & Sherilyn’s growing family. Olivia is my favourite Olivia ever! And now I have a favourite new Molly.

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There are so many other people we would have loved to see, but time was too short, so with snow tires now installed, on we pressed. First stop: Kenora. Then on to the lovely and ever-stimulating Prairies :-( .

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Thank g-d for trains:

IMG_3002We spent one night in Moose Jaw at a motel we’ve now stayed at a few times before. Decent rooms and cheap rates; that’s our ambition. It even has a nearby restaurant full of family nuts 😉 .

IMG_3024We pulled into Calgary and moved into one of our growing ‘homes away from home,’ staying with Donna & Sam. The following day D&S hosted a late Thanksgiving meal, which brought out the whole Phillips clan, including even Tasha who flew in from Toronto just to see us (at least, that’s what I choose to believe 😉 ).

IMG_3023During the few days in Calgary we helped Peggy out a little with her house, patching a drop-ceiling tile. We ate well at home, and at a fancy french restaurant (thanks to S&D), and we got to see Donna’s new office digs … pretty snazzy!

IMG_3031But the highlight — at least for Ann, was learning to play ping pong, or as the snooty-snoots call it: Table Tennis.

 

 

 

IMG_1481The time passed all too quickly, and we had to hit the road once again, making our final push to our winter home in Penticton. This is our third winter here at our Penticton house-sit, so it really does feel a bit like a second (or third, or fourth…) home now.

Unlike previous seasons, the drive through the mountains was uneventful and easy. We arrived in plenty of time, and got to spend a whole day with house owners Leslie & Dave. It’s always nice to see them, and to catch up on their adventures. But mostly it was great to see our little grumpy Maxi is still doing well:

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UkuleleIt’s been a week now, and we’re both settling into our Okanagan life. I’ve joined a local “senior’s” choir (senior is anyone over 50) … two actually. Ann is busy swimming. And we’ve both decided to take up learning the ukulele. We’ve even bought our own.

… did I mention the ukulele lessons are being taught through the nearby Senior’s Centre … yes, we’ve joined that too. I guess this means we’re officially Senior Citizens now.

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Land lubbers once again

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The days out at Woods Island continued on for the next couple of weeks. We enjoyed the space, the simplicity, the solitude. But mostly we enjoyed being with each other. It was grand.

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Our days were filled with kayaking, reading, baking, hiking, and generally just living the good life.

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But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And with the days getting shorter, and the nights becoming chillier, it was soon time for us to get serious about hauling up anchor and moving back to Corner Brook. Given that our anchor had been in the _IGP6713same spot for over six weeks by then, and had held us through gale-force wind and waves, we knew it was well and deeply buried. So we decided to haul up a day before the Labour Day weekend gathering out at Woods … and a good thing we did, for what did we discover? BARNACLES!

The first 20 feet of our chain was absolutely caked in barnacles. As Great Lakes sailors we’re used to dealing with weeds and slime and mud, but certainly not barnacles!

_IGP6715_IGP6742These buggers were thick, and firmly attached to every part of the chain. And they were hard! And sharp!! I needed tough work gloves, a hard bristle brush, and a steel file to remove them. It took what seemed like hours of back-breaking work to get most of them off. And what a mess on the deck! But at least the baby star fish (on our nylon snubber) was kinda cute.

Luckily we did manage to get the anchor up without too many more problems. The following days were filled with dock parties and getting our boat ready to make the short journey back to our yacht club in Corner Brook. It was sad to say goodbye, but the end-of-season dock party was a great way to finish our time there.

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_IGP6749IMGA0760A couple of days after the festivities we hauled up anchor (for only the second time), said our fond farewells to Woods, and pointed our bow down Humber Arm, heading back to our dock in Corner Brook. We arrived, and spent the next few days getting reacquainted with the luxuries of land life; showering with endless hot water, and doing laundry in a machine!

The days that followed were a mix of working to get the boat ready for haul out, and of course plenty of good food, good company, and relaxing times. There was cleaning to do IMGA0783, and work on the deck and engine area IMGA0777. I also “fixed” the alternator problem that I had thought we’d had the whole season. Turns out I’m just not as smart as I thought I was, which I know comes as no surprise to anyone 😉 . The alternator was working just fine all along :( . Nice to know we don’t really need it though.

_IGP6800IMGA0790The days passed by. We slowly but surely worked through the long task list. Oil change, prepare outboard for storage, clean, sort and climb the mast (my turn this year!). As usual, we move slowly. But eventually we are ready for haul out.

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IMGP6823IMGA0799It all goes fairly well this time, and only took us about two hours to get all sorted. This is apparently an hour less than last year (but still an hour and a 1/2 more than most boats). We then spend the next couple of hours pressure-washing the hull to remove all the growth and slime and barnacles, especially on the propeller (no antifoul there). We even had some tiny mussels starting to grow. Maybe next year we should try and harvest them :) .

IMGA0802Work progressed well. We got the frame up one day, and the canvas cover the next. We cleaned and sorted our boat life. Winterized the engine, sorted the car out, and organized all our personal effects for the next six months. There are a thousand different tasks, both big and small, shifting from sea to land life. But we (think) we got them all done.

IMG_2937It wasn’t all work those last couple of weeks. We got invited out to dinner three times (Thanks Gord/Leonna, Jaimie/Nick, Andy/Wendy/Aurora & Roger!). And we took our bestest Newfoundland buddies Paula & Byron out for a thank you dinner at a local restaurant. We spent over five hours eating and drinking and yarnin’. Gonna miss you two! But we’ll be back.

Oh, and the yacht club threw us another ‘going away’ party. OK, maybe it was “technically” a 65th birthday party for the ex-commodore. But we were invited 😉 .

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IMG_1468Departure day finally came. We planned to take the overnight ferry again, so we hit the road around 3 pm (after dealing with a last second tarp rip), and made it there in plenty of time. We were first one’s on the ferry, which meant we were last one’s off. But the crossing was fine, and we both managed to get some sleep.

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IMG_2967IMG_1472The drive through the Maritimes was uneventful, but quite pretty with Fall colours in full bloom (or death, really). We spent one night in Edmunston, at the Happy Motel. Then we pulled into Ottawa and were warmly greeted by Orion and Hammi … oh, and Mom and Kathy where there too 😉 .

After a pub night and a couple of days with our Ottawa family the two of them abandoned us to spend a week in Prince Edward County IMG_0797. We’re putting our expertise as house/cat sitters to work looking after the kitties. We expect to hit the road, heading first to Thunder Bay and then to Calgary, with a brief stop in Rossport. Unfortunately our trip out west has to be fast this time since our Maxi cat needs us soon. But that’s OK. We’ll be passing back this way again next Spring.

The zen of moving slow (or not moving at all)

_IGP6414IMGA0583The tag line on most of our adventures is: Why go fast, when you can go slow. But perhaps we’ve found a way to take this too far. Over one month ago we set sail from our little marina. We traveled a total of about 12 nautical miles (22 km), dropped the anchor, and haven’t moved since.

But why would we? The anchorage here is beautiful. It is fairly well protected, and has excellent holding. It’s great for paddling and dinghy sailing. And people keep giving us fresh cod and bread, and banana-loafs and wild mushrooms, AND keep having us over for dinner on their boats … how can we ever leave???

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IMGA0588So yes, we’ve become a permanent fixture here at Wood’s Island. Our food stocks are holding out well (especially since we’ve been given so much fresh fish), and our friends Byron and Paula, made an addiction-run 😉 for us recently, so we got restocked with enough coffee and booze to last a few more weeks :) .

IMGA0609Of course, it hasn’t all been fun and games. We’ve weathered a couple near-gale storms, some that have lasted for days. We’ve had a lot of rain at times IMGA0584 IMGA0585, and we’ve been swinging quite close to shore such that during low-low tides we have to watch that we don’t run aground. _IGP6313Our boat sticks down 6 feet, and we’ve seen less than 7 feet on the sounder at times!

_IGP6241During one of our gale days we woke up to find our dinghy had had enough, and had made a break for it. The attachment line had chafed through overnight, and our dingy and outboard engine had washed up on the nearby shore. Luckily we had a guardian angel in the form of a Gord, a Wood’s Island resident, come to our rescue. After much effort, he managed to get our dinghy back to us. What a sweet fellow!

So we while away the days reading, kayaking, hiking, sailing, and playing the occasional video game:

 

IMGA0637_IGP6395We visit friends when they arrive at the dock, usually on the weekends. We paddle and walk. We read and talk. Mostly we’re just enjoying life and enjoying each other. It’s wonderful to just spend time with the one you love smitten.

 

We’re looking at another week or so here before we have to haul up anchor (if we can!), and head back to Corner Brook. We’ve got a few boat maintenance issues to deal with (broken alternator, deck re-caulking), and we have to plan our haul out. It will take us at least a week to get the boat ready for winter once she’s out of the water, so we’re looking at hauling around mid September. After that it will be fast dash across the country to make it back to what’s becoming our second home over in Penticton.

But all of that is in the future. For now, it’s back to struggling through this tough life:

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Home is where the anchor lies

_IGP6150_IGP6144Life at the dock … much better than living on the hard, for sure. The boat moves with the water, we don’t have to climb a steep ladder to get on board, and we can use our water system (instead of hauling it up, 10 litres at a time). But there is still so much to do to get the boat livable and sailable. So we settle in for a couple of weeks of boat work.

 

IMG_4107 (1)IMGA0517One of the first tasks was to climb the mast so we could reinstall our lazy jacks, and then attach the wind instrument. This meant going up the mast, all the way to the top. Ann got all pouty and demanded that SHE get to do the climb this time. Hard to argue with a mouing Ann, so up she went.

 

IMGA0543And then there was that other little project of mine that involved installing a water flow meter into our fresh water system. This is the same flow meter that had to be ordered THREE times from Amazon; the first two of which came all the way from China only to be turned back at the last step by Canada Post … grrrrrr. Anyway, this little project turned into another week-long saga which required not less than three sets of fittings from three stores and five full install attempts before it was all working. Ah the joys of boat life… 😉

_IGP6158But of course, life on our boat is not all work. Truth be told, the ‘work’ part really only occupies a small portion of each day. How else can we spend all the necessary time relaxing, and eating, and drinking, and hanging out with friends both old and new.

We had grand times with fellow club mates Byron & Paula, Brian, John and Kenny and Caroline. Cockpit parties are spontaneous once the day’s work is done (and often even before it’s done :) ).

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But we also met some wonderful new friends, including a couple of people I originally only knew via online forums. First was Howard and Elizabeth, and then Bill. I’d ‘met’ them online in a couple of sailing/cruising forums that I dabble (and babble) in. Howard has a boat in Lewisporte (and another down south), and he was on his way back when he reached out. We had a great breakfast together. Then Bill sailed over from the Chesapeake area. He spent about a week changing crew and sorting out a few problems. Great to meet them both.

_IGP6187We then met the crew from s/v Dutch, and Vera & Dominique from s/v Richard Parker (as in Life of Pi). Dutch’s crew (a family of four: Rhiannon, Sebastiaan, Emma & Macsen)  beckoned from the Netherlands. They are sailing their Boreal 44 from Europe, up around Newfoundland to near the top of Labrador, then making their way back to Halifax where they plan to live. We donated the use of our car, and spent some time over at their fancy boat. As a parting gift Emma gave us these beautiful little miniature clogs. So sweet.

_IGP6188Vera & Dominique were dockmates with us for about two weeks. They’ve been on the water for going on two years, sailing from their home in Switzerland. They are making their way back home but came into our marina with some problems with their autohelm, and then discovered they had an engine issue as well.

We spent a number of evenings over at their beautiful boat, or sitting in our cockpit. We shared drinks, and stories. They fed us yummy food, and we happily loaned them our little red car so they could run around town, and even get over to Gros Morne one day. They left us with a full gas tank and a copy of the book that inspired their boat’s name.

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IMGA0527IMGA0525Despite our slow pace the day finally came when we ran out of excuses. Everything seemed to be working on board, order had been brought to the mayhem down below, and we were well stocked for many weeks at sea. So off we went … back to Wood’s Island anchorage.

Here we dropped anchor and have made it our home — at least for the next little while.

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Almost the first night out we met Reg —  one of the locals who spends most of the summer at his place on Wood’s Island. The island was once the largest community in Western Newfoundland, but after “resettlement” is now just home to a few dozen camps/cottages. Reg, who is nearly 80, grew up out here and still fishes all he can. Reg offered to take us fishing, so naturally Ann jumped at the chance (and naturally I said NO WAY!).

True to his word, Reg and fellow fisher Gord showed up at our boat early the next morning to pick up Ann. It was raining, and kinda cold, and they were betting Ann would bail out — not my Annnneeeeeeeeeee! Off she went. But sadly, it all happened so fast we got no pictures. She did manage to catch a beautiful cod though, and we enjoyed the freshest fish dinners for the following three nights.

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After weathering a few good blows now the anchor is good and set. We’re hooked off near the end of our little bay, away from the few cabins and the club’s dock. We dingy over when we want to party, but mostly we’re on our own in the semi wilderness of our island anchorage.

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The slow road home

IMG_1401The days in Ottawa slipped by. We spent more time with Connor and the gang, and drank much more beer due to the bad influence of my baby sister ;-).  Ann’s expensive new chomper (molar) finally got installed IMG_1405and shaped correctly, and we both received a clean bill of health from our new family doctor. We said our temporary goodbyes and headed off towards Newfoundland, and our floating home.

The journey east was uneventful. The flooding that hit New Brunswick earlier in the Spring was long gone. We arrived at our ferry depot in North Sydney, boarded the big boat, and said IMG_1415goodbye to Canada for a few months.

During the crossing Ann assumed her normal ‘on guard’ position 😉

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We opted for the overnight ferry this time, and arrived in Port aux Basques shortly after sunrise. Surprisingly, we both slept reasonably well, so after a quick breakfast, were able to make the drive to Corner Brook. Our fast friends, Paula & Byron, had kindly offered their spare room to us as we got Pachina ready to live on board. This made it SO MUCH EASIER. As usual, we are indebted to all the wonderful people we meet along the way.

We spent a wonderful few days with Byron & Paula and family. Even though they were dealing with a death in the family (aunt), we were welcomed with open arms, and treated to fine food, drink, warm bed, and a constant yarn.

We had plans to move onto Pachina Mia as soon as possible, but weather was still cold and damp. Besides, we had committed to helping install the docks at Woods Island. This was a day-long affair, done with the typical Newfoundland haywire flair. The docks are stored on the island, up a sloping hill. The idea is to attach big wheels to them, then with the help of a skiff, haul them down the hill to the water where we float them into place. Needless to say, it was slightly controlled mayhem. But also needless to say, it all worked out in the end.

IMG_1423IMG_1428After a few days we moved onto Pachina Mia. Thanks to the vigil of our friends Brian, Byron and others, the boat had weathered the Corner Brook winter fairly well. We had a few wet spots, and she had sunk about 20 cm into the ground, but by and large things were pretty good. But living on a boat on the hard is never much fun. It’s cramped, and damp, it doesn’t feel right b/c she doesn’t move, and there’s barely enough space to move around.

But slowly we began to bring her back to life. In addition to just making her livable, we had to replace a transmission oil cooler which had sprung a leak at the end of last season. This job would normally take a competent person perhaps a 1/2 day of work … so naturally it took me more than a week.

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Image of old cooler

I won’t go into the ugly details, but every place on a boat is small and cramped, and none is worse than the engine room. Squeezing my bulk into this tiny space, and then being able to work, was … a challenge. But after much cursing, swearing, blood-letting, and consultations with local experts, we finally managed to get a new one in place.

Early on during the cursing sessions, another new fast-friend at the club invited us for dinner at their place. John and partner Elizabeth put on a grand feast of cods tongue and scallops (two kinds) and lobster. It was grand!

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IMG_2877After that we test the engine, drained much of the old coolant, and got ready for launch. This, of course, was no easy task (“Why is nothing ever easy?!?” … this is my new mantra for the boat). She had sunk into the ground, and our long keel and heavy weight made the task particularly challenging.

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With much help from folks like John and Byron and Brian, we managed to get Pachina Mia back in the water. After a small panic that required the quick change of an impeller, we were floating back at our old dock. It is SO GOOD to be floating once again!

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We’re slowly putting our home back together now. Another minor hiccup with the fresh water system was solved with the installation of a new pump. Hopefully we can get our sails on in the next few days, finish cleaning and stocking, and be off!

Forgot to mention… I had another birthday on the 21st. As they say, the only thing worse than celebrating another birthday is NOT celebrating another birthday, so I’m happy :) .

I received plenty of nice notes from folks, along with a few great presents from Mom & Sis, and my sweet Annneeeeee. From her came sexy undies 😉 , lots of beer!! And a great new collapsible walking stick, which she calls my cane!

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Time to be moving on

_IGP5966IMG_2752The days in Penticton drained away. There was swimming (Ann) IMG_2750, and droning (Mike) , and Maxi to serve … always Maxi. But eventually the days drained away. Dave & Leslie arrived back from their southern travels, and we spent one more lovely evening with them before packing our lives into our little red car to begin the journey east.

It was sad to leave Penticton, but wonderful knowing we’re coming back. Leslie & Dave have invited us back for another winter. So we get to see Maxi again! (And spend more wonderful time at what is feeling like our winter home).

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The drive through the mountains was probably one of the nicest we’ve had of late. There were no storm clouds, no heavy snows or slushy/slippery roads. We actually got to see the mountains through Roger’s Pass. Pretty stunning stuff!

_IGP5995We pulled into Calgary and were warmly greeted by Donna & Sam. They still seem to like seeing us, so I guess we haven’t worn out our welcome … yet ;-). Always great to be back with them — especially when greeted by a margarita!

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We spent the next week hanging out with S&D, and meeting Big Sis Peggy and her Philoneos. One day they invited us to visit Spark Science Centre. The main draw was the visiting exhibit on whales, but it was the kids-oriented displays that caught most of our attentions. Ann was her normal pesty self, so we eventually had to wash her potty mouth out.

One sunny morning while having our morning coffee a sudden cloud blanketed the sky. We looked out to find thousands of Bohemian Waxwings had landed in the backyard. They are migrating north and seemed to target D&S’s place as a good spot for a rest stop.

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_IGP6126_IGP6124IMG_2772We spent our days relaxing, droning, reading, being pestered IMG_2790, and being amused by morning puzzles (or in my case, being amused by the puzzlers 😉 ). After about a week, and to ensure we don’t over-stay our welcome anywhere, we moved our lives over to Peggy’s Place on the Hill.

_IGP6136It’s so relaxing being at Peggy’s place. It’s quiet, and overlooks Fish Creek Provincial Park. Lots of deer and pheasants wonder by. Some people have seen cougars. One morning we watched a coyote hunting in the tall grasses. Great place for walks, and for drone flying … which I did one day when Phil brought little Theo over for a visit.

 IMG_5298 Group shot Theo looking up

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Hole & Hel

To earn our keep, Ann and I went over to Peggy’s other house to help get it ready to sell. We cleaned and painted some of the living room walls. Then Ann and Peggy did some organizing and cleaning while I repaired a few holes in the drywall.

On the weekend Donna and Sam joined the work team. The boys hauled a lot of dirt and garbage out of the garage and over to the dump, while the gals worked on trimming hops, and cleaning up the front patio area. With the help of a neighbour and two kids they were looking after, they laid down new patio stones.

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Sadly, our time in Calgary came to an end. As a departing gift of song, and at the insistence of Ann, a gang of us (Ann & me, Peggy & Phil, Donna & Sam, Monique & Chris) all went to a Martyn Joseph concert. Small venue, great music!

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We finally said our good byes, and once again loaded up our little red Fit, and pointed the bow east once again. With Stan Roger’s ode to Alberta playing, we headed for the flatlands, hitting Moose Jaw, then Kenora, and finally Thunder Bay.

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View of the GiantWe arrived at the Lakehead to spend time with sailing buddies Paul & Julie, as well as to stop in on our wonderful friends Ben, Sherilyn and their sweet little girl, Olivia. We had a grand dinner with the three of them, and even changed out our winter tires. We’re ever-grateful for Sherilyn & Ben’s generosity in letting us store our storage trailer on their land. You guys are the best!

(Unfortunately, we didn’t take any pics while we were there this time. Gotta remember the camera next time).

JulieJulie and Paul (and Coralie) opened their home and their hearts to us once again. We spent a few nights catching up, eating and drinking, and trying to bully Paul into finally retiring. Not sure what he’s decided…

View from PatsWhile we were there Ann visited our old neighbour Pat, out at Sandy Beach Rd. She also got to see where our house used to stand. Beautiful place. Pat is still holding out against the insanity of the City of Thunder Bay. Good for her!

After a few days of revelry we did a short hop to our friends Cathie and Joe near Rossport. Thanks to their generosity, it is here that we are storing our little motorcycles. I wanted to stop in to make sure the bikes were doing OK. But mostly we love stopping here to renew the wonderful friendships, and to relax at this little slice of heaven; a cabin right on the shores of Lake Superior.

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IMG_1373IMG_2821Our stays are always too short, and in a few days we were back on the road, heading for Ottawa. Sault Ste. Marie was our first night, followed by North Bay. We once again drove the north shore of Lake Superior, and were reminded of what a stunningly beautiful place it is.

 

 

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IMGA0481IMGA0477We arrived safe and sound in Ottawa, and have been hanging out with Mom and Sis since then. Ann has been busy getting her final dental sessions in regarding her new tooth. And we’ve both been to our new family doctor. So far, we both seem healthy.

We’ve also seen Colleen and little Connor (who is getting bigger all the time!). They both seem well, and Connor is making huge progress with the autism challenges.

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IMG_1391Otherwise there’s been too much drinking and eating, and being amused by sweet Annnnneeeeeeeeee:

 

 

 

 

The livin’ is easy

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Penticton life continues to be fun and easy. Winter has come and gone a number of times. We’ve had to shovel out more than once, and we had a spat of cold days (-10 to -15 C overnight), but generally it has been pretty nice weather here in the balmy IMG_1317Okanagan Valley.

IMG_1322Maxi the Cat rules the roost and keeps his staff in line. And Ann and I enjoy the warmish weather with the occasional walk IMGA0377, swim (Ann), droning (Mike) IMG_2688, hot tub soak (Mike’s legs) IMGA0415 and generally taking it easy.

On Feb. 8th we celebrated our 30th Anniversary. Holy Crow it’s gettin’ serious 😉 . Here’s Ann doing her best Mona Lisa pose at the pub. Hard to tell who’s who :-)

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We also celebrated Little Connor’s 4th birthday from a far:

Our Penticton house is in the city, but kinda on the edge, so is semi-wild. Our neighbour recently spotted a cougar and bear, and a coyote is apparently hanging around the area. After one of the snow falls I followed these canine tracks through our back yard, down our driveway, and up the hill. I’m sure they were a coyote. So lots of interesting wildlife around.

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Last month Ann spent two weeks volunteering as a chauffeur to the curling stars at the national women’s curling championships, the Tournament of Hearts. It was held in Penticton this year, and Ann decided to volunteer.

She got assigned to the transport detail, which mostly meant she had to shlep players and officials around the city and between airports. Seems like she had a great time though, and even came out of it financially on top when she was part winner of a 50:50 draw: $350!

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As she’s done a few times in the past, Ann also got rather motherly around a few of the younger teams; most particularly the one from New Brunswick. It was all very cute.

IMG_2733Following her stint as a curling driver Ann disappeared into Olympics TV coverage. Even Maxi got seduced into watching.

IMG_2737A few weeks after the curling ended, Donna flew in to spend a few days with us. She’s always a lot of fun.

 

 

 

IMGA0433With her as the instigator we got out to see a few places like Apex Ski Hill, and visited some excellent restaurants. It was a hoot to just hang out with D. Too bad she was only able to stay a few days…

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_IGP5944We’ve got a few more weeks of Penticton life before we start our trek east again. In the meantime we’ll be preparing for the sailing season, and I’ll be working on my droning skills.

 

 

 

All one big blur…

IMGA0295Funny how time can slip away so easily. Hours turn to days and slide into weeks, then months, and no sooner than you can say “Winter Solstice,” or “holy crap I gotta stop drinking so much (Kathy’s fault 😉 )” the season has changed, and a New Year has begun.

IMG_2150Our time in Ottawa was wonderful, as usual. We had a great time hanging with Mom and Sis. Ann celebrated two firsts: turning 55 (making her a Senior Citizen in the eyes of Shopper’s Drug Mart) and officially beginning to receive her retirement pension (as of Dec. 31).

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During our extended Ottawa stay Ann had more dental work done, we spent some great time with Colleen and Connor, and even managed to visit our sailing friends in Belleville. It was great to spend time with Marvin, Gary, Frank & Aloma, Erton & Jenny, and of course Deb & Chris (whom we hope will pass us by in their boat someday soon!).

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Marvin’s cat PITA

But our time in Ottawa did eventually come to an end. We once again packed our life’s belongings into our little red car and began the trek north and then west, stopping in a few places along with way, and visiting good friends in Rossport (Cathie and Joe and Maggie Muggins) and then in Thunder Bay.

 

 

 

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While in Thunder Bay we spent an evening with our sweet friends Ben, Sherilyn and amazing Olivia. And then we hung out with old buddies and sailing mentors Paul, Julie and daughter Coralie. Ann reconnected with many of her work pals, and we had a great breky with my friend & colleague Elle and her Glen. Finally, with a new set of winter tires all installed (not thanks to Honda!), we headed off to Winnipeg and eventually Calgary.

IMG_1270The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was our first stop along the way. It was something we’d wanted to see for a while, so not being under any time pressure, we booked a wonderful AirBnB and stayed for a couple of days. The museum is not something you want to rush through, so this gave us a whole day to follow its path from Inferno, through Purgatorio, and finally to Paradiso  at least that’s how I interpreted the design.

 

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It was a moving exploration of the idea of human rights. Some of it was brutally hard, yet there was light as well. I learned a few new things, and was reminded about the evil that lives in all of us. It is well worth a visit, but give yourself time to take it all in.

The drive across the Prairies always seems the longest part … especially in a car. I’m sorry, but it is flat and boring. I try and see the beauty, but from the inside of a car whizzing past at 100 km/hr, I just don’t get it. At least Ann and her new Fitbit were entertaining…

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IMG_2619We arrive in Calgary and pulled into Hotel du Donna & Sam where we stayed for about a week. Their kindness and generosity is ever appreciated by us homeless vagabonds, and this stay had the added benefit of coming during Ann’s official birthdate.

IMG_2639We along with D&S and Peggy & Phil, had an amazing night out at the Bow Valley Ranch, which is a very fancy (and $$$ — thanks Donna!) place in Fish Creek Park. We ate and drank and toasted the Birthday girl, and even enjoyed some fresh oysters. Fun, fun.

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Over the coming days we just relaxed IMG_2667, played with my drone IMG_2662, and did some cooking and curling-watching IMG_2652. Later that week Donna played hostess to many of the extended family cousins IMG_2624. It was great to reconnect with them all.

IMG_1294IMG_1300After about a week our schedule told us to move over to Peggy’s place. This Chalet du Peggy overlooks Fish Creek Park, and is a wonderful refuge in the midst of this very big and fast-moving city. We moved in and made ourselves right at home. We even got to see Big Connor.

While hanging out at Peggy’s place Ann and I did what we do best. She worked hard to help Peggy organize her files, and I played with my drone.

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IMG_4402One day we even got invited over to play with Phil’s cute and wonderful grandkids: Theo and Vida.

The days slipped by. There were files to organize IMGA0367, walks to take IMGA0360, and snow to shovel IMGA0370.

And droning … lots of flying the drone:

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_IGP5866With X-mas approaching we moved back over to D&S’s to see Monique and Chris (before they left for X-mas in Vernon), and to spend a few more days cavorting and conversing in the house of easy living and fascinating discussion. Ann helped Donna with her files (Ann’s a Filing Beast!), we enjoyed Wally, and we assisted with the Big Meal on the Big Day.

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Our time in Calgary was wonderful, as usual. But all-too-soon the call of the Okanagan took over, and we were headed off to our winter home in Penticton. The drive through the mountains was challenging IMG_1308, but uneventful. We pulled into our  now-familiar BC home just as the sun was going down. Luckily, Maxi-the-cat seemed to remember us.

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So, after digging out from the largest snow fall we’ve seen here in Penticton IMG_2682 IMG_2685, we’ve settled in for three months of easy livin’ … including plenty of drone flying:

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Becoming landlubbers once again

IMGA0132IMGA0142We arrived back “in Canada” via the big ferry and began the  journey back to Quebec (City), and then onto Ottawa. The drive was easy, beautiful, and fast — at least fast compared to the last few months.

Speed of travel is an interesting thing. I’ve heard it said that we experience life at the speed at which we move. At boat speed, which is usually about 5 knots for us (~10 km/hr), life is very different than zipping along at 100 km/hr or more (especially when Ann is driving 😉 ). At boat speed I see things, smell things, feel things in a way that I just don’t while driving in a car. In a car it’s all so clinical. I feel cut off … more isolated.

But of course, car speed also means we can get to places before the next glaciers appear, which is a good thing. Life is full of trade offs. We all gotta find the right balance…

IMGA0144IMGA0147In any case, our zippy two-day journey from Corner Brook to Quebec City was easy and quite beautiful. We found a couple of cheap, but decent, motels, and we even found Donna and Sam’s old digs in Oromocto. The trees were revealing their true colours, and the journey along Bras d’Or Lake  was rather stunning.

Once we got to Rivière-du-Loup we began retracing our route along the St. Lawrence. We saw some of the islands we had anchored beside, and reminicsed about the journey that already seems so long ago.

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IMG_2471IMGA0207On our way down the river we completely bypassed Quebec City. Ann had never been, so we decided to spend a few days in the old city. Ann found us an AirBnB right in the heart of the city. We arrived just as the sun was going down and the drizzle had begun.

Navigating the old city roads is challenging at the best of times. We did manage to find the place after only missing our turns twice. Gilles, the owner, greeted us and we moved into our room which overlooked some of the oldest homes and streets in Canada.

The next day we wondered the streets of the old city. We climbed up to the Plains of Abraham and saw where the battle over Quebec’s soul began. We meandered through the cobblestone alleys, just taking it all in.

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IMGA0189After lunch I went back to our room to rest tired ankles and Ann carried on by herself. She hiked down to the marina and discovered numerous art installations.

IMGA0166She watched a sailboat go through the lock that separates the marina from the St. Lawrence, and she also found the same trimaran that we had met a month (or so) earlier; the one with the young family and all the many, many kids.

 

See August post

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IMG_2524Later we met up for another yummy dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.

IMG_1211After a couple of days we said goodbye to our host and headed for Ottawa. Approaching Montreal, and getting through this big city’s traffic, is always interesting, but we made it and were greeted by Mom, Kathy, and two cute kitties. The accommodations at my sister’s place are not quite 5-star, but at least the company is great.

IMGA0212The following days, which have bled into weeks, and is now looking like more than month, has been a blur of good food, beer and wine, great company, and lots of Connor. It has been great to spend time with niece Colleen and her growing son Connor who is doing great. We’ve been going to parks with them, and Ann even visited his “school” to see how things were going with his program.

 

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While in Ottawa Ann has carried on with her Tooth Saga. Seems that despite all the wine drinking, her gum has healed over nicely and the dentist is now ready with power drill and jackhammer so they can pound a new post into her jaw and glue on a new chomper. I keep offering to build her one out of epoxy and fibreglass, but for some reason she wants to go with the “professionals.” So we’re hanging around Ottawa for a few more weeks to get it all done.

This will give us time to visit some of our Belleville friends, and for me to play with my baby sister some more.

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A fond farewell

_IGP5808 (1)IMGA0018End of season is always a hard time. It’s physically hard just getting the boat stripped down and ready for winter. It’s functionally hard as we try and keep our living space livable. But it’s the emotional side that weighs the heaviest.

Pachina Mia has housed us these past six months. She has kept us warm, (mostly) dry and safe throughout the long journey. She has taken us through some of the most stunning places in the world and has allowed us to live freely and simply. She’s a part of us, and we will miss her dearly these coming wintery months. But we know we’ll be back next Spring to carry on. In the meantime there’s is much to do…

_IGP5800The tasks of getting the boat ready for winter are many and hard. And some are a wee bit scary, such as climbing to the top of our mast to remove our anemometer and lazyjacks. Ann won the fight this year, so she got to go up — to the general applause of the gathered boating audience.

IMGA0026Later that day, with a rising tide, ‘the boys’ moved the tractor and large hydraulic trailer down the ramp and we slid Pachina Mia up onto the pads. She came out with little effort, but then the challenges began as ‘the boys’ led by John and Keith and Ray and many, many others figured out how to get her settled on the ground. With a bit of head scratching, a few failed experiments, and lots of practical engineering, the task was eventually accomplished.

 

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IMGA0087Over the next few days we got her all winterized, cleaned up, tied down, and covered. We’ve been continually warned about the ferocious winds and huge amounts of snow Corner Brook gets (average of 16 feet), so we spent extra time making sure the tarp is as snug as possible. Our spot is pretty protected from most wind, and thanks to our many new friends, we have plenty of eyes watching out for Pachina Mia, so I’m sure she’ll be OK … I hope…

But as the wise old saying goes, all work and no play makes Mike a pouty, grumpy boy. Luckily the friends we’ve made ensured there was no risk of that. Paula and Byron and their daughter Andrea feel like friends we’ve known for years. Byron and Paula are fellow boaters living the same watery dream. They have already helped us in so many ways. And just to add one more to the list, they had us over for a grand Newfoundland supper of traditional island fare. A few days later we all went out for supper at one of the swanky Corner Brook restaurants, and the manager almost had to kick us out. The stories and the laughter just kept rolling long past dessert and well into the night.

If all that wasn’t enough, the whole yacht club got together to throw us this amazing going-away party, complete with food and booze and a live traditional band:

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OK … maybe it wasn’t for us ;-). Keith, one of our other new friends who has been so great to us, was celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary at the yacht club. He invited us to come, so we did. And what a joyous evening. We sang and danced (and drank) until the day turned into the next.

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The following morning Gord and Leona has us all over to their boat for brunch. Such amazing people, and such great food! But geeze, it can be hard to get any work done at all 😉

IMGA0091But work we did, and now Pachina Mia is all tucked away. We tied the last tie, disconnected the batteries, and headed off to Port aux Basques to catch the ferry “to Canada” as they say around here. We’ll spend the first night in Sydney, NS, then head over to Ottawa via Quebec City.

 

 

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It’s sad to leave this place, and to say goodbye to our boating lifestyle, but knowing we’ll be back, and that we have friends like Brian (another wonderful new friend who would give you the shirt off his back … literally!) makes it all OK. For now, new adventures beckon. Adventure, and some catching up on sleep 😉

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