Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Quickly We Forget

Marinas often have an informal book exchange located in the laundry area. I haven't found great quality books in ours, unless I want to reread Cujo, but I do find a few magazines. Recent Hello mags offer guilty pleasure. Old National Geographics are good for rainy days. Fresh Macleans supply snappy reportage on current affairs. Yesterday I found a couple of big glossy sailing and boating magazines. I like to refer to such publications as 'boat porn' because like regular porn, they often leave the reader drooling and fantasizing about completely unattainable vessels. In Yachting World I read an opinion piece about why we keep going back to sea; apparently it's because we have short memories. And I quote: "Sailing follows a mathematical formula. While this varies from individual to individual, based on the voyage type, the pleasure quotient is generally agreed to be 70 per cent anticipation, 30 per cent reality and the ratio of fun to non-fun days is 2:1... the start of a voyage, the end of it and the bits spent secured to land are the most interesting." In essence we forget the bad parts of boating and only remember the good. 'Never again' means 'maybe next year'.

The Vendée Globe is regarded by many as the ultimate in ocean racing; the only single-handed non-stop race around the world without assistance. In the 1992 Vendée Globe, Bertrant de Broc had to stitch his own tongue back on without anaesthetic after accidentally biting it off. In 1996, Peter Goss was forced to operate on his elbow with a head torch and a hand mirror. I'm not even going to pretend I endure comparable hardships. All I wanted to say is that I'd totally forgotten how cold it gets on a boat this time of year. I mean completely and utterly forgotten. And I swear, as I sit in the cockpit writing this wearing wool socks and pyjamas, a sailor preparing to haul out just walked by and said, "Are you STILL camping out?" I said, "Sure, this is just when things start to get interesting..."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hard Old Eye Candy

Boating is a macho and male dominated pursuit. At most marinas, it's safe to say that men outnumber women at a ratio of 10:1, probably more. I am not counting couples in this wholly unscientific statistic. Of the 30 or so boats moored on my dock, there is a lesbian couple down the way on a sailboat and a woman who owns a powerboat and frequently stays aboard with her boyfriend. 'Single' women owning and/or living on boats are rare. In the entire marina of about 300 boats or so, I know of 3 or 4 other women who live aboard alone or own their own boat. That puts the ratio at about 100:1 around here. Startling, even if it's actually half of that - a situation akin to Alaska where men outnumber women and women become a sought after commodity. I am going somewhere with this...

One of my neighbours reminds me of a Tony Soprano character; late 40s, Prada sunglasses, Italian loafers, social visits from the cops and a predilection for entertaining chainsmoking bottle blondes on his boat in the middle of the afternoon. Whenever I pass by, he's all "How you doin' sweetheart?" and "Darlin' where you been?", a real smooth operator - about as subtle as a ten ton truck. I was walking down the dock a few weeks ago and the smooth operator was in the cockpit drinking beer with a few friends. I saw him nudge his buddies as I approached. Then he jumped onto the swim platform and started chatting me up in front of his pack. I asked a young guy I know what this sort of male behaviour meant. Why was he nudging his friends before I approached and shamelessly chatting me up in front of his pals? My young friend said, "I think you must be the dock eye candy." This is not the answer I was expecting...

I am a woman in my late 30s who could stand to lose 20 pounds. I don't make any pretense to being a sex symbol or a femme fatale. But I guess from a biological perspective, primates will be primates and if there's a shortage of females to court, you take what's available. Around here, that makes me eye candy. So if you want to feel alive go to a cemetery. If you want to feel thin, go to a weight watchers meeting. If you want to be eye candy, come to a marina. My young friend suggested I remind the smooth operator that candy might taste good, but if you bite it the wrong way, it can break your teeth.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tempus Fugit: Even the Monarchs are skipping town.

My neighbour said, "I think we're calling it a day" as he and his wife hauled stuff off their big old Sea Ray. And then there were just a few reckless souls living aboard. The countdown has begun to the official end of the season. Boats are being hauled out of the water every hour. Staff has been whittled down. People are no longer eating outside. Even the mosquitoes have called it quits, thankfully. But there are still a few Monarch butterflies left, stragglers on the big annual migration to the warmer climes of Mexico. I think the Monarch has the right idea.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Morning Has Broken

Oy, someone didn't want to get out of bed this morning (love those little tic tac teeth)...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Men Overboard!

Creepy. A body washed up right next to the marina yesterday afternoon. When I was Googling for news on the event, I discovered that a surprising number of bodies wash up in the Great Lakes. Unidentified bodies. How does it get to the point where you disappear into Lake Ontario and it barely makes the news? And then I got to remembering an old statistic from boat school somewhere down the line. More than half the men found in the water have their pants undone. That's because they often fall overboard while peeing. Men, be careful out there. I am the first to acknowledge that those extra dangly bits of skin come fraught with all sorts of problems and danger.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Complacency in the Wild

The raccoons are a pretty regular event onboard now whether I leave garbage in the cockpit or not. Hell, the dogs don't even bark anymore when the coons climb on the boat at 3am. The other night I heard quite a commotion. When I looked into the cockpit, there were three very large coons throwing my rubber boots around, tossing the dog bowls into the air and flinging the garbage bag to and fro. When I opened the door, they jumped off the boat and stood by the dock box looking at me the way teenage boys look at a parent who turns down the volume on the stereo. I am now sleeping in the santized and re-functioned aft berth, formerly the poop deck. The aft berth is underneath the cockpit. Most recently when I heard the roving gang of reprobates come aboard, I couldn't even be bothered to get out of bed. I just kicked the ceiling of the aft berth a few times, like a parent banging the ceiling with a broom handle when the stereo is too loud upstairs. And I heard them slowly shuffle off the boat.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Well Hello Boys...

I spend a lot of time and energy training the Yorkie NOT to jump on or off boats by himself. At the beginning of the season, we had it down pat. And then I got a bit lax, allowing him to jump on and off a tugboat or my boat now and then. Dogs don't understand the concept of 'sometimes it's okay'. They subscribe more to the school of 'give me an inch and I'll take a mile'. And so now, much to the Yorkie's confusion, our original rules have been reinstated. The danger doesn't come from jumping; the danger comes from missing, especially if he's not supervised. Or if an engine is running. But during our morning pee today, we came across a big red Canadian Coast Guard boat moored up right in the middle of the marina. Ira trotted over to the boat, sniffed a crew member's leg and hopped aboard. The Yorkie's casual style indicated he was very comfortable aboard Coast Guard vessels. I expected the dog to start regaling the crew with stories about all his years in the Navy or some such. Ira was duly reprimanded for taking liberties with Crown Assets, but I had to credit his taste. Maybe I can send him on a tour of duty protecting Canada's Arctic sovereignty.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Marina CSI

I am certain that on occasion, true romance is forged from the rough collision of metals; like a love match resulting from a fender bender during rush hour. But gentlemen, I can assure you, the drunken destruction of a woman's property is not usually the way to her heart. We prefer the immense pressure placed on carbon for millions of years that creates diamonds. But I digress. On Saturday morning I got up and noticed skid marks on the dock by my boat and a mat like the one you'd find on a car floor. I didn't think much of it until I went to open my dock box and found the clasp and lock already smashed off. I rummaged through the dock box, searching for the things I'd rather keep than lose. Everything was in order, but something was afoot. I sprung into Marina CSI mode with the clues I had at my disposal. It slowly dawned on me that there must have been a collision between my dock box and the drunken would-be Lothario who drives his scooter up and down the dock. I walked down to the end of the dock and made a positive match between the mat lying on the dock and the scooter parked next to Lothario's houseboat/den of iniquity. The scratch marks on the scooter were also consistent with the height of the scuffs on my dock box. I had managed to solve a mystery at 7.30am, faster than Nancy Drew, all while operating on a serious sleep deficit. Impressive.

And just out of curiosity, I waited a couple of days to see if the perpetrator would come forward himself. Human nature rarely disappoints; a confession was not forthcoming. But when confronted, he was sheepish and quick to admit to the collision. He was even a bit flirty, but not outrightly lewd like he had been a couple months ago while making a gamey proposition at a dockside party. When he came to fix the clasp himself today, I made myself scarce, not wanting to lead the Lothario on to believe that this incident might open the door for a great romance, let alone any brief or indecent coupling. I issued a flat thanks before leaving and went on my way, reminding myself not to be effusive since this wasn't the same as a favour from a man who fixes something of mine that he didn't actually break.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Long Weekend or Nobody Pees on Baby

A small photographic retrospective of the Long Weekend. They say time flies when you're having fun, but I find it almost stands still. And so it did this weekend in what turned out to be the longest weekend in recent memory. I took three separate trips to the island on two different boats. Good times were had. Pictured below is the view from the wall over on Hanlan's Point looking back toward the city. I was standing on two of three boats rafted together. Watching the annual airshow from the beach, the dogs were forced to sit under an occupied beach chair for shade. And they had to *gasp* touch. The strung out half asleep dog doesn't seem too bothered. We were front and centre for the airshow with jets flying at dangerously low and deafening altitudes over the beach. While out for a swim, the lifeguard rowed over to say we couldn't go past a certain point because we would be in the 'crash zone.' But I had to wonder if an extra 30 feet would really make such a difference if a jet hit the water or the sand. And isn't defying all the laws of gravity, physics and common sense half the fun of an airshow?

Nothing beats a reflective Husky surveying the city on the way back from the island Monday night. We had some city slickers onboard for the third and final trip to the island. They wandered off the beach to seek shade because they were wearing jeans, motorcycle boots and other non beach attire in temps of 30 degrees. When we couldn't find them, I suggested maybe they were reading a wilderness survival guide over in the bushes. My friend quipped, "Yeah, it's called 'How to Survive a Day on the Beach.'"

Monday, September 7, 2009

Battling the Stink

I'm in love with the weather right now. Constantly sunny and about 25 degrees. The perfect temperature for hauling Sadie's mattress out of the aft berth and scrubbing the foam and cover on the dock. I came home last night and there was a pervasive smell of mildew, poo and dog hanging about in the cabin. And the other day, a little girl came onboard, stuck her head in the aft berth and declared, "It stinks in there", the way an adult never would. That was the last straw for me. And maybe it stinks because the Yorkie uses the aft as his personal toilet if he's not under supervision. All my scrubbing and spraying and covering the mattress over the months has done little to allay that smell. Mix in a bunch of nighttime humidity and voila, you've got a poop deck! Getting the mattress out of the boat was like wrestling a Sumo. Then pretty much everyone has to come over and see what you're doing. What's that crazy dog lady up to now? Stay tuned, who knows what she might do next...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Indifferent Muskrat

Lately while walking down the dock at night, the dogs catch the scent or sight of something and run off madly chasing the phantom scent or sight until it disappears noiselessly into the water. My human eyes and nose are not privy to whatever this creature is lurking around the dock. I assumed it must be a rat. And I was close... I was chatting to a new employee Dave, who walks up and down the docks checking for visitors to the marina. I told him about the dogs' behaviour. Dave said it must be the muskrat. He continued, "Calvin (another employee) hates that muskrat something fierce." I wondered what could provoke someone to hate a muskrat. Dave concluded, "But I think the muskrat is pretty indifferent about Calvin." Indeed, I concurred, I'm sure the muskrat is quite indifferent.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Fall from Grace

Now that I no longer look like America's most wanted, I wanted to celebrate with a nice post about the Fall: the ephemeral nature of the seasons, the winding down of a glorious time onboard, great friends and good times, blah blah blah. What can I say, I was lacking material because of all the sunshine and butterflies flying out my ass. And then the boating blog gods sprang into action. While vacuuming the endless supply of Cocker Spaniel hair in the cockpit, the stair I was standing on collapsed. I smashed my leg and hit the fire extinguisher release lever, spraying toxic yellow powder all over EVERYTHING. Maybe it was the chemical poisoning that got me thinking about a few of my boating mishaps...

Injuries I have sustained living on a boat: too many bug bites to count, endless cuts, bruises, burns and infections, two dog bites, a cat bite (which landed me in emergency via the Police boat), a near drowning, a few insults and a concussion. All in all, nothing too serious.

Things I have lost living on a boat: a phone (everyone drops a phone in the lake at some point), shoes, a frying pan, a couple of boyfriends, a laptop, and an actual boat. The brand new laptop was an interesting story. I fell off a crooked dock after two large scotches aboard a boat with some noisy old parrots and the self proclaimed mayor of the island. Had I foreseen the future, I would have just foregone the brand new Mac Powerbook and sidled up to one of those fancy big city scotch bars and ordered two rarefied shots for $1500 a piece. Hindsight and all that.

But, come November 1, they will still have to drag me kicking and screaming back to land...