Where to start……Some History

Everyone should spend a week of bliss in a little cabin on the south side of Lake Superior. Clears the vision, clarifies the mind and gives one time to step back and see the larger picture.

Ah, what a week it was. While the cabin was solar powered, the Swedish steam room was run purely on firewood and water. The heat was a combination of ‘way too hot’ and pure relaxation. The waves lapping on the rocky beach; to bed at sundown, rising again with the sun. I guess one could describe it as the exact opposite of the ‘normal’ work week.

On the way home we decided that the way things were going were far from what we dreamed they should be. We made notes, brainstormed and generally came up with a list of things that we thought we would like to do. We even made up a binder that we called “The Plan”.

Now, one of the things on the list was ‘sail around the world’. Mind you, it was not anywhere near the top of the list. That spot belonged to a little cabin in the woods. (Hmm, I wonder where we came up with that idea.) But, we figured, if at some point in the future we were going to sail around the world, then maybe one of us should learn how to sail. You see, we had never really sailed before. We had gone out for an afternoon sail with a friend once, but that was about it. So off I went to learn how to sail. I took a keel boating course from Humber Sailing School in Etobicoke, Ontario. About 8 hours on the water and maybe the same in the classroom and: tada – you officially know how to sail. Ya, right! I thought I knew how to sail, but now when I look back: oh how little I actually knew! Anyway, after taking the course, I joined the Humber Sailing Club which gave me a chance to get some experience and hours behind the tiller. Sailing every spare minute I managed to get in around 100 hours by the time the season ended.

The bug had me – bit me hard. I loved sailing – not just the peaceful time out on the water, but all the other skills that go along with it. Studying weather, learning how to service an engine, navigation, sail trim, etc. – all new stuff to learn. I spent the off season taking courses, educating myself on all that I could to prepare me for the next sailing season. Of course, by this time I had dreams of being on my own boat.

Somehow I convinced A. that owning a keelboat was the next step in ‘The Plan’. It seems that convincing the better half is a rather common problem among those that want to sail away. I don’t want to give away all my secrets, but it involved buying all the books that I could find on the cruising lifestyle. (The ones written by women, for women are best.) I also might have told her that when I got the sailing bug off my back that we would certainly settle down to that log cabin in the woods. Well, what ever it was, it worked because in December of 2003, we purchased our sailboat – a 1969 Alberg 30.

I was in love. What a boat! She was on the hard (on land) in Pickering, Ontario, a good 45 minute drive from us, but I still would go to just sit and stare at her. Sitting there, looking like she was about to dive into the clouds. I loved the old musty (moldy) smell, combined with the smell of gasoline (leaking gas tank) and old oil (dripping from somewhere underneath). Combine all that with the smell of a dirty bilge – ah, the sweet smell of my own boat – nothing could have been sweeter.

I spent hours there on weekend’s completing some of the jobs that I felt were required to be safe on the water. Of course, The Magazines told me that she was too small to be safe and that it was suicide sailing anywhere without all the latest gadgets and electronics. But, when you can’t afford all the gadgets, they don’t seem to be so necessary. I figured that she had been safe without all that stuff for the previous 35 years, how could she become unsafe just because technology had changed. But still there were some safely issues to be addressed. I changed the chain plates (parts that hold the mast up) and enlarged the cockpit drains (where the water should go if a wave comes into the cockpit.) I also changed a couple of the thru hulls (metal holes below the waterline that are connected to pipes that either allow water in or out) that were not as thick as they used to be. All in all though, she was a thick, hardy and generally safe sailing vessel. (Now that we have owned and sailed her for two years, I believe this even more.)

At this point, we (I) were beginning to entertain thoughts of ‘sailing away’. I’ll admit that I had read one too many of The Magazines and Books and that I was beginning to think that I would need a complete refit before sailing. (I no longer believe this.) So, we went to boat shows and priced out and bought those things that we just felt we could not do without. Things like a handheld VHF, self-inflating life jackets, etc., you know, just the bare essentials. Now I wish that I had spent that money on more important thing; things that would have made us more comfortable. A bimini cover and dodger for instance. But you just have to have a VHF in your hand when sailing, right? And you must have a self-inflating life jacket on at all times, right? Well, here’s the truth. I’ve used the handheld VHF maybe half a dozen times in two years and have only put on the jackets when in rough weather which we normally don’t sail in anyways. The VHF already on the boat would have worked just fine and the Canadian Tire life vest for 40 bucks would have worked just as well and could have provided a butt pad when not in use. Oh well, live and learn. What The Magazines and The Books say you need and what you really need are two very different things!

So that is how we bought our sailboat.

Stay tuned for how we got her home from Pickering to Mississauga.


  • Anonymous

    Congratulations on the boat. I’d like to say that some of those things, like the handheld VHF will become much more important when you’re off sailing around the world than they are currently.

    Also, as for the inflatable PFD, it is probably far more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and you will be wearing it for extended periods of time on a circumnavigation, than you will day sailing, as when you’re in the middle of the ocean, bad weather happens, and is often unavoidable. You also shouldn’t sit on foam PFDs, as it can destroy their flotation ability.

  • Mary Jane Henry

    Very interesting blog/site! Have been enjoying it enormously. I have just bought a Tanzer 7.5 and would *love* to be able to find a Toronto marina that would allow me to live aboard. Any suggestions would be very welcome!

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