Easy to Please
July 27 , 2006
We like it when family members come stay with us on the boat. It helps that none of them knows anything about boats. They'll look at Little Gidding and say something like: "Wow, what a great looking boat you have." They're apparently unaware of all the other gleaming boats surrounding us at the dock. The peeling wood finish and scuff marks on our deck go unnoticed. The sags in our canvas cockpit enclosure appear natural to them. The very fact that Little Gidding is floating upright is enough to earn their awe and admiration. We, of course, don't want to discourage their praise, ill informed as it may be, so we usually nod modestly and remain silent. Why dampen their enthusiasm?
Sadly, we don't get a lot of visits from our families. In fact, in the twelve years we've been cruising full time, the only relatives who have flown down to see us are Eileen's parents and one of Eileen's five siblings. Since we consider ourselves to be very desirable company, we figure the only possible reason our relations have been avoiding us is because we're normally located a few thousand miles from where they live. At least, that was the case until this summer when we brought the boat back to home waters. Our popularity has suddenly surged now that we're within easy driving distance of most members of Eileen's family.
Last month, Eileen's younger sister Shannon and her partner Rob made their way to our marina in Belleville, a two hour drive from where they live in Toronto. Shannon had been promising to visit us ever since we started living aboard, but her careers as an itinerant actor and more recently as a freelance radio producer always got in the way. When we moved south, she moved north: first to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and then to Iqaluit on Baffin Island. We'd e-mail photos to each other: us under a palm tree on a sandy beach; her bundled up in a down-filled parka, looking like the Michelin Man. Shannon and Rob could only come for the day because the next morning she was off to another job stint in Thunder Bay.
It was flat calm. We motored about three miles up the Bay of Quinte to a little cove and dropped the anchor. We ate an early supper and then got underway for the trip back to the marina. The faintest breeze stirred some cat's paws on the water. We raised the sails and asked Shannon if she'd like to steer the boat. "I've never sailed before," she said. David looked at the GPS. We were moving along at about half a knot. "Don't worry," he said. "You'll do minimal damage."
We really enjoyed socializing with Shannon and Rob, but the sailing component of the afternoon was about as exciting as sitting in a Walmart parking lot for a few hours. Our guests, however, thought it was wonderful (or at least, that's what they told us).
Last week Eileen's oldest brother Mike and his wife Nancy drove down from Ottawa for a two day visit. We had enough time to do some actual sailing, which was great since they don't know how to sail. Non-sailors make good crew because they tend to believe us when we tell them WE know how to sail. They'll do what they're told, even if it makes no sense.
Before we got underway, Mike asked what the weather was going to be like. David explained, "The prevailing winds are from the west, but today they'll be easterly."
"Why is that?" Mike asked.
"Because that's the direction we're going to be heading. Tomorrow, when we come back, they'll switch the opposite way."
We got out into the bay and, sure enough, the wind was on the nose. We raised the sails and offered the wheel to Nancy. She turned out to be a natural helmsperson. We told her where to point the boat and when to turn the wheel to tack and she did exactly what we instructed. "You're more reliable than our autopilot," David said.
Nancy expressed a few concerns about the other boats in the bay. "How do I know which way to go so I won't hit them?" she asked.
David began a lengthy and detailed recital of the COLREGS. When he got to the matter of whether or not a vessel on an unknown tack located to windward has the right-of-way, Eileen interrupted and explained, "If the other boat is really big and is going really fast towards you, get out of its way."
"Oh," Nancy said, "That sounds a lot simpler."
In less than an hour we arrived at the same cove where we had taken Shannon and Rob a couple of weeks before. David said, "This is our favourite spot to anchor in the Bay of Quinte." He didn't mention that it was the only spot in which we had ever anchored in the Bay of Quinte. He continued, "After we're settled, we can swim and maybe go fishing."
Mike and Nancy nodded in unison. "Sounds good," they said.
Mike likes fishing a lot. David had never in his life fished in Lake Ontario. The night before our guests arrived, he asked our dock neighbour Egon on Elysium IV where the good fishing holes were. "Try in front of Sandy Bay, that's pretty good for pickerel," Egon suggested.
It was sunny and hot so we all opted for a swim as soon as the anchor was down. As we dried off, David asked Mike if he'd like to go fishing. "Sure," he said. "Where to?"
"We'll try in front of Sandy Bay," David said confidently. "It's pretty good for pickerel."
David and Mike took the dinghy across to Sandy Bay and started trolling close to shore. Mike caught a big clump of weeds. He untangled his line and changed lures. David headed further from shore and Mike caught another clump of weeds. He tried another lure. It also proved good at catching weeds. After two hours, Mike had caught a lot of weeds and had used just about every lure he had in his tackle box. The pickerel population remained intact.
David said, "I'm getting thirsty."
Mike, who is very fond of beer, said, "We're out of here."
Back at the boat, Mike got some beer and wine out of the cooler he and Nancy had brought. Despite the heat, we weren't going to suffer from dehydration. After everyone had gone for another swim and had a drink, Mike got his fishing rod out and started casting off the deck. He didn't catch any weeds, but he also didn't catch any pickerel. Eileen cooked some steaks for dinner. There was plenty of beer and wine. No one complained.
As the sky darkened with the setting sun, we left Mike and Nancy at the cockpit table and went below. "Enjoy the twilight," Eileen said. "We'll make up your berth and deal with the dirty dishes."
After about fifteen minutes, David paused at the galley sink and asked Eileen, "Do you hear something?" Eileen looked out of the companionway screens and saw Mike and Nancy frantically swatting themselves in the cockpit. The air was thick with mosquitoes.
Eileen opened the screens and Mike and Nancy rushed down the companionway stairs. "Why didn't you come down before?" Eileen asked.
"You told us to stay up there," they said.
The next morning, Mike was up early and casting off the deck again. After half an hour he announced, "There aren't any fish in this stupid lake." David cooked omelets for breakfast.
As predicted, the wind had shifted 180 degrees overnight and we tacked upwind back to the marina. Mike and Nancy looked a little blotchy from too much sun and too many mosquito bites. They loaded their stuff into their car. There was no beer or fish in the cooler. "I hope they had a good time," Eileen said as she waved good-bye in the parking lot.
Today, Eileen's older sister Maureen and husband John drove down from Ottawa to go sailing with us for a couple of days. Maureen said, "I spoke with Mike after he got back last week. He was really enthusiastic. He said they want to stay longer the next time they visit."
"It must be the fishing," David said.