Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I remember when I was in the beginning stages of purchasing Annie Laurie. Some shared my excitement, others expressed concern, and others shrugged the reality of it off as a pipe dream. My brother Christopher of course had an opinion on the subject, and I remember his words exactly; “Laura, you can’t just buy a boat. That’s something people do when they’re old and retired!”.

I think of those words every now and then. He may be right, in a way. Perhaps with a lifetime of experience behind me, and accumulated friendships and memories, and maybe even a partner in life, maybe everywhere I go and everything I do would hold more meaning. It’s mildly depressing when I find myself nudging Effie awake to point out a giant sea turtle swimming under the boat, or another breathtaking sunset over the water. She just doesn’t get it.

We’re not far into this trip, but she has already used up 8 of her 9 lives. One night, anchored just south of Cape Canaveral, I noticed she had been unusually quiet. I didn’t think much of it, and didn’t put a serious effort into finding her for a couple of hours. I was having a good time, cooking dinner, dancing to the reggae music station on my Sirius Satellite radio. When I eventually went on deck to see if she’d taken up her usual station in one of the sails, I heard a pathetic, weakened meow. She was under the bowsprit, carefully balanced on the stays beneath it, just above the water. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she looked at me and awaited rescue, not daring to move an inch, lest she fall in.

And the other 7 lives, you may be asking? They vanished instantly a few mornings later, when I awoke to find that she had CHEWED THROUGH MY SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO ANTENNA! I don’t think I’ve been that furious at anyone or anything or any situation since last June. Later as I was fetching buckets of salt water to wash the deck, she was foolish enough to come stand at my feet. So, oh yes, she got the next bucket, all 3 gallons. I never would have thought something so cruel could make me feel that much better, but it did. Go ahead Mom, call the SPCA.

With some careful tampering, and patience I never thought I would find, I eventually coaxed the antenna into receiving a signal again. Effie is forgiven, but my first words to her every morning are, “Good morning! Mommy’s little girl! So tell me, how many lives do you have left?”.

As planned, I met up with Road to the Isles at West Palm Beach, where we waited only 2 days for our weather window to cross the gulf stream. It was a long day, but 14 hrs and roughly 75 miles later, we were anchored in 20 feet of water on the crystal clear Bahama banks at dusk, not a breath of wind, and no land in sight.

That morning, I was up at 0230, up the mast with headlamp on, doing some last-minute fixes with one problematic roller-furling sail, then I relaxed with my coffee while listening to the latest forecast and current conditions. A little after 0400, I set my mainsail, hauled up the anchor and made my way out the Lake Worth inlet. It was generally calm, about 2 to 3 foot waves just outside the inlet, but I came face to face with one square breaking wave that sent everything that wasn’t properly stowed flying, and put the bow underwater, stripping the jib of its sail bag and the line that had it nicely furled, and I dragged the sail under the bow for a couple of hours, that is, until daylight showed me what the wave had done. Light winds and a bit of a swell caused the slack mainsheet to get caught under my hatch cover, and the next puff of wind ripped the hatch right off. It was heading for the water, there was no doubt in my mind it was a goner, but remarkably, it landed on the momentarily-slack genoa sheet, which, with the next puff of wind, sprung the hatch back on deck. What luck.

During my evenings on the waterway, after I had set the anchor for the night, I wrote 5 letters to place in bottles to be tossed into the gulf stream as I crossed. I’m curious to see how far they go, or if they’ll ever be found at all.

My favorite moment of the crossing came after I had crossed the line from dark blue water, almost a kilometer deep, to just a couple of meters of depth in under a minute. That was quite a moment in and of itself, but I find moments of awe can often be surpassed by moments of laughter, and if you’ve never seen a 2 foot flying fish speeding energetically and gracefully over the glossy surface of a green sea, only to unexpectedly smash into a wave, then proceed to somersault and skip sideways like a stone, then you really are missing out.

It’s amazing how fast you adjust to shallow water. I was dreading it, in a way, thinking I’d probably have a heart attack over any approaching dark spot ahead, expecting it to be a coral head, and for an unavoidable one to clip the side of my hull and split it open. Instead, I’ve been enjoying the curious cylindrical creatures, the GIANT turtles, the dolphins that seemed overjoyed at Annie Laurie’s presence, and the shadow of my hull and sails over the sandy bottom 7 feet below.

Being alone isn’t so bad. And when I think about it, I’m not alone at all. Meeting people while sailing is usually a chain reaction. Mine began while at anchor at Green Turtle Cay, when the wind picked up behind a passing frontal system. Dragging anchor in a crowded anchorage is a great way to meet people. Within minutes, 3 dingys converged on my boat and we set a second anchor, which after some adjusting, eventually held. That’s how I met Dave, Sid, and Jerry. Jerry invited me over for a drink that evening, where I met Jim and Jeff. The following day, I noticed Jeff dragging anchor, so I rowed over to help, arriving at the same time as Charlie. That evening, I was intercepted by Charlie while rowing back from spending the afternoon ashore, who invited me aboard, where I met his dad Charlie, and their friends Raffi, Lisa, Brenda, and Webb. Charlie introduced me to Trevor and Brendon, 2 young Canadians who sailed down from Kingston this past fall. Road to the Isles introduced me to another couple down from Nova Scotia, Heather and Peter, and I’ve since met their friends Jason, Mike, and Sward, all sailing solo. And to my great surprise and delight, who else was at anchor at Green Turtle but my old friends aboard Pathos, Mike and Jan, who I met way back in New Jersey on my way down the coast in 2007.

No, I really can’t say I’m alone. When I dropped my anchor, popped my bottle of champagne, and sat back to listen to the songbirds welcoming the setting sun, I thought of my brothers words once more, and was grateful to have arrived at White Sound, Green Turtle Cay on my 29th birthday, and not my 65th.

Monday, February 2, 2009


There she sat. Quietly, proudly, and aside for some fish carcasses left over from an osprey who had taken up residence on my mainmast, and a bit of moss and mold, she was more or less just as I had left her 6 months ago.

Leaving British Columbia was bittersweet. While very anxious to get back to Annie Laurie, I was not anxious at all to leave Squamish. Many times throughout my life, the desire to get out of town or away from certain people has dictated my mo

vement, but aside from not being on the ocean, I had no good reason to leave Squamish. Kellie and Dan were ideal roommates and are great friends, along with becoming Mary-Anne’s adoptive parents. My very brief stint with

the Squamish pipe band added another dimension to my attempted construction of a real life, and I’ll miss the socialbility of the Sunday night practices with everyone. Last but by no means least, I’ll miss Starbucks,

and most of the people I worked with. I’ve been so busy in the last 10 days preparing the boat for the Bahamas

, I’ve hardly given the place a second thought, but I do think of the people. Especially the rare moments of quiet early on Sunday mornings, when my friend Ross and I would just relax and chat about everything under the sun, and I would easily forget that I was at work, and was in fact talking with the store manager.

It’s exactly what I try not to do. Find a place I like, people I lo

ve, and begin establishing a regular way of life. There always comes the time to pull the plug, and it only makes it harder to move on. All of this compounded with the mistake of going downhill skiing for the first time on a real West Coast mountain a week before my flight. Like I needed

another reason not to leave.

So here I am, back in Florida, preparing to leave for the Bahamas. It’s just Effie and I this time around, but my apprehension about sailing to new and shallow waters by myself has been substantially alleviated by all the help I’ve received from both Bill and Shirley (my boat-sitters) as well as Don, Trish, and Cheryl, fellow Nova Scotians aboard Road to the Isles, who I sailed with in Cuba last winter. They have more collective experience with sailing and the accompanying lifestyle than I can fathom, and the necessary humor and stories to match. I’v

e spent most of my evenings aboard Road to the Isles, as well as the colder nights. I know it’s Florida, but believe me when I say, it’s cold! We’ve had a few nighttime lows that have surpassed the lows for the week in Squamish. The breeze flows freely through this wooden boat, and I wake with the cold sun earlier than I can bring myself to appreciate. If it wasn’t for Effie being a threat to Jib’s territory (Road to the Isles’ resident cat), I would probably spend all my nights in

their warm spare cabin and with their good company.

I’m not particularly looking forward to certain aspects of the upcoming voyage, especially the thoughts of being alone for extended periods of time. In anticipation of this, I decided to splurge and invest in a subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio to keep me company. I’ve had it playing in the background for 5 days now while I get the boat ready, and let me tell you, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Having the

option of CBC while in the odd world of Fox ‘news’, not to mention a choice of music for any mood, it’s well worth the $13 a month.

I’ve completed running all my halyards and sheets, and the sails are back where they’re supposed to be. I’ve replaced my batteries, both for starting my engine, as well as supplying electricity for my lights and radios, replaced the oxidized and crumbling anchor chain with new, and have completed a thorough scrub-down of the mold-factory the boat became after sitting dormant for six months.

With just a few odds and ends to contend with, I'll be ready to head down the

Intracoastal Waterway tomorrow morning. Later in the week I will reconvene with Road to the Isles at West Palm Beach, where we'll wait for a favorable weather window to cross the Gulf Stream and the final 60 miles or so to the Bahamas.

All in all, it's good to be home.