July 14, 2005
My friends all saved for a rainy day
E. Quinn, Oops I Forgot
In our last entry (June 30, "Not In My Backyard") we whined about how cruisers aren't welcome in a lot of places these days. Much to our surprise, our shameless entreaty resulted in a number of sympathetic e-mails, including a few invitations to come stay. We really appreciate the offers, but those generous souls had better watch out -- there's more than a remote possibility that some day we'll show up at their homes, our dirty laundry in hand.
Since disposing of most of our worldly possessions and moving full time onto our boat, we've become experts at the delicate art of freeloading. Except we don't like to call it freeloading. We'd rather refer to our visits home as "social exchanges", a technique we've honed over the years to ensure we have a place to stay when we leave the boat.
Early on in our cruising, we figured our friends and family members who were still slaving at the salt mine while we were drifting around aimlessly deserved a little adventure, even if it was of a vicarious variety. We'd gladly enrich their lives with exciting accounts of our travels, and we wouldn't even charge them for it. With this in mind, we arrived on their doorsteps with our salt-stained luggage and boxes of colour slides and watched the smiles freeze on their faces. It quickly became apparent that most of the folks back home were quite content with their lives and had at best a detached curiosity about what we were doing. The prospect of listening to a detailed description of our cruising itinerary generated about as much enthusiasm as the promise of an extended lecture series on the mating habits of arctic voles.
We learned that the people who had the most interest in what we were up to tended to be those who had cruised themselves, or were planning to go cruising in the future. For most of the others, we found we were better appreciated as listeners, that we could offer them a new audience for THEIR stories of job changes, house renovations, and their children's antics. We also discovered that the keys to sustainable hospitality are to help out where you can and not stay too long. If you see a locksmith arriving on the day you finally depart, you've probably exceeded the time limit of an acceptable visit. What this suggests is that it's best to treat several acquaintances with your wonderful presence in turn rather than overdosing on only a few.
We're now in Canada for the better part of the summer. "Little Gidding" is on the hard in a Florida swamp, probably acting as a hurricane magnet. We're in full freeloading mode. Our first stop after crossing the border was in the village of Bayfield, on Lake Huron. Eileen had been invited to give a repeat performance at Bayfield's annual Sail & Canvas festival (see our July 8, 2004 entry, "A Bounty of Bayfields"). Months ago, we received an e-mail from our friend Rob on our sistership "Celebrian". Rob had heard we were going to be at the festival and invited us to stay onboard "Celebrian", which is docked in Bayfield. We first encountered Rob in Beaufort, NC, on our initial trip down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. We had rounded the bend from Russell slough and there in front of us was the mirror image of "Little Gidding" -- except "Celebrian" looked a lot cleaner and brighter. Of course, we knew we were going to get along fine with the crew of "Celebrian" since they obviously had excellent taste in boats. Over the ensuing years we crossed paths several times in the Bahamas and the Caribbean until job and family responsibilities drew Rob back to Canada.
When we met up again at the town dock in Bayfield, Rob was keen to hear about our recent travels. He and his new partner Christine are looking forward to cruising again in a couple of years when Rob is eligible for early retirement. We gabbed on about past exploits and future plans until our hosts finally left us for Christine's cottage and we crawled into "Celebrian's" forward berth. But for the fact that "Celebrian" is still much cleaner and brighter than "Little Gidding", it was like we hadn't really left home.
Our destination after Bayfield was Ottawa, Eileen's home town. We decided to split the 400-odd mile trip with a stop in Peterborough, where our friends Dave and Susan happen to live. As always, they gave us an enthusiastic welcome. We also met them during our first year living aboard. They had left their jobs for a year and were cruising on their Niagara 31 "Kari II". We travelled with them down the eastern seaboard to the Bahamas, where they then turned around and headed back home. A few years later, they dropped out again and we cruised the south coast of Cuba together. In intervening years, they've joined us for vacations on "Little Gidding" in Belize and Long Island Sound (see our August 28, 2003 entry "Company's Coming").
On this visit Dave was bursting with BIG news: they had just bought a bigger boat, a Pacific Seacraft 37. Susan's place of employment is conveniently shutting down due to corporate consolidation and this fall they're heading south once more. We pledged to connect up with them in warmer waters, at which time David promised to return their Cuba charts that he had borrowed three years ago and somehow kept forgetting to send back.
When we arrived in Ottawa, Doris, Eileen's mom, had her usual list of projects for us. Doris especially likes David's visits because he's the only man she knows who both washes dishes AND cleans the eaves troughs. We stayed long enough to organize a family barbecue so Eileen's siblings would have physical proof we were still alive, and then headed out -- this time to Port Stanley on Lake Erie. Eileen performed for the 40th annual Lake Erie International Regatta, held between Ashtabula, Ohio, and Port Stanley, Ontario. Our friends Harvey and Gerbrig live in London, Ontario, a half hour drive from Port Stanley. Gerbrig e-mailed us a few days before the regatta stating, "your room in your favourite London B&B is reserved and waiting". We dropped in the day after Eileen's performance.
We met Harvey and Gerbrig the same year we met Rob, David and Susan. They were cruising on "Soulstice II", a Catalina 36. They later moved up to a Catalina 38, named it the same, and joined us and "Kari II" when we explored Cuba's south coast. In London they told us they had recently sold "Soulstice II", after some anguish, but now have their sights on land cruising: they've just bought an RV. "Sounds great," David said. "Does it have a guest room?"
We drove from London to Toronto so Eileen could cloister herself in a recording studio and produce a new album. We're here until the end of the month. On arrival in the big city, we made a beeline for our friend Joe's place. Joe has visited us three times on the boat and is always interested in our cruising plans (see our March 24, 2005 entry, "Entertaining Joe"). As it turned out, he was due for a few days of vacation at the same time we appeared on his doorstep. We generously offered to look after his townhouse in his absence. Our main responsibilities were taking the garbage out on collection day and watering the back yard. Trash disposal was made complicated by the requirement to put various recyclable and non-recyclable items in their appropriate containers. We think we got it right (at least it was all taken away the morning after we left it out on the curb). We might not have done as good a job with the watering. One of Joe's cedar bushes is looking very brown, but maybe it's a temporary affliction.
When Joe got back, we invited him to join us again this winter, apologized for the cedar, and headed over to our friends Peter and Carolyn. Like Joe, Peter and Carolyn have spent several sailing vacations with us, first by themselves and, more recently, with their daughter Teika (see our January 17, 2002 entry, "Teika Goes Sailing"). They live in a Victorian-era house in a downtown neighbourhood. It's not far from Eileen's recording studio. On a previous visit, Eileen helped weed their garden. She removed all the sickly looking plants so that the healthy ones could thrive. When Carolyn got home, she informed Eileen that the healthy -- and only remaining -- plants were, in fact, weeds. Peter, Carolyn, and Teika leave tomorrow to spend a month up at their lake cottage. We have instructions to feed the goldfish while they're gone. They haven't suggested we do anything with their garden.
We enjoy visiting our friends and family. And now that we've perfected our freeloading skills, we think they enjoy our visits too. At least they haven't changed the locks yet.
David & Eileen