Nothing like a late night swim to bring ones self face to face with ones own mortality.
Last night the ice slabs were pounding the bow of the boat. Every ice slab contact is a boat shuddering, sledge hammer force that causes you to pause for a second to listen for the sound of running water. I put on my boots and parka and went out to push away the piece of evil that was currently percussing on the hull. I’ve done this dozens of times; a 2×4, lean into it, sending the ice off into the night for my neighbours to deal with. So with typical male macho gusto, I leaned in to it – getting the momentum of the ice moving away from the boat, then pulling back to admire my work … ooops.
There is a point of no return, I know, because I found it.
Eager in its attempt provide tangible proof of evolutionary theory, Darwins hammer reached out and tapped me lightly on the backside. I stepped out … my mind screaming “noooooo” and began to dance. It was a slow motion number, composed primarily of a pirouette with arms wheeling but catching nothing. With the ever so coherent thought ‘I can’t believe I’m going in …’ I stepped sprightly away from the safety of the dock.
So there I was, gazing up through the gloom, the pale yellow haze of the surface of the water some 3 or 4 feet above me, experiencing this ‘shock and awe’ of my own creation and wondering what to do next. The cold hit as I was kicking to the surface and reaching for the dock. The cold was heart stopping.
Looking down at the water from the dock you don’t really get a sense of how far above the surface of the water the top of the dock really is. Looking at the dock from the water level will change your perception perceptibly. There was no way I was going to be able to heave my waterlogged, and shall we say fleshy frame, back up onto the dock. I hollered for help, wondering if anyone would hear me, my mind instantly snapping back to the problem of how to get back onto the dock. That’s when it hit me – the tangible realization that I was indeed mortal. The exact thought did not have any words, but was composed of the emotional realization that I was actually in a position here where I might not make it. It was all very new and rather stunning – this whole mortality thing.
Something just touched my back! I spun around to find the slab of ice, that evil beast of monstrous proportions coming back to sniff at its thrashing victim. Then in an unbelievable act of silent benevolence it presented its own back as a scalable surface, a stepping stone to that cliff towering above me that was the dock. I clamored up onto the the ice and gingerly stood up. Experiencing the joy of rebirth and with new found ease and grace I stepped back onto the dock. Taaadaaaa. Ya, I meant to do that…
Now I have the shakes.
Shamefaced and embarrassed, I scuttled back to the safety and warmth of the boat. Ahhh – heat, the smell of lake water and the gentle sounds of ice slabs grinding the hull. Home, sweet home.
I have dreams of sailing around the world on our Alberg 30. Here is a blog of people who are living my dream on their Alberg. Following is a beautiful, almost poetic quote from their site about crossing the Atlantic.
It is difficult to describe what it is like out there. The water stretches out around you, constantly moving, constantly changing. Waves run across waves, and wind makes the surface dance. Occasionally another ship or boat breaks the vista – but we saw very few this trip. The sky is arches unbroken overhead, and you see the clouds move under it and the weather as it comes across the water. Everything is vast; away from the many small distractions of land there is a sense of privacy, time to explore your own thoughts, a sense of how little we are in relation to the world we live in. Sunsets and sunrises surround you, the stars overhead fill the sky on a moonless night, the moon provides more light that you are aware of when surrounded by manmade lights. You spend time standing watches, navigating, changing sails, cleaning, maintaining, taking care of yourself and the boat. Time passes, and then as your journey comes to an end you have to make the adjustment to dealing with shore life again…
Here is a photo from their crossing: “There is no easy way to capture on film the sense of vastness you get when you are on the ocean. Sunsets spread across the horizon. Here we try to share a small portion of what we see.”
Warning: completely off topic post here…
My wife has recently upgraded and refreshed her scrapbooking blog. Check out the new design at www.scrapscene.com. Maybe leave her a comment telling her how great it looks.
End of off topic post.
We woke up to -30 deg C this morning – possibly the coldest March 6 on record for Toronto. The ice flows stopped banging the hull somewhere around midnight as they froze together. Downtown Toronto appears to be floating on the surface of some mystical lake of steam. My truck barely growled to a start this morning while my beard grew a layer of frosting. My ear tips are frozen again…
I, for one, can’t wait for global warming to get here.
The weather forcast was correct right up to the wind speed part – that’s where they really screwed up. The winds last night were over 50 knots (58 mph, 95 km/hr) for more than 5 hours. The wind gusts went over 100 kms/hr many times. We were up every 1/2 hour or so until well after 3:00am checking the boat and the docks. This morning there is damage everywhere. Two of the docks are snapped in half, 4 boats lost either parts or all of their plastic covers and at least one BBQ is gone.
So … the snow, ice pellets, and rain – all predicted and all came to pass, all easily dealt with. However, the dangerous part – the wind – that, they missed.
The weather forecast for today is: 100% chance of … SUCK!
I took a weather forecasting course a couple of winters ago to add to my ‘black box.’ It was there that I came to the conclusion that the ‘science’ of weather casting is rather inexact. I mean, predicting the weather 24 hours out is not all that difficult, you can actually get some pretty good odds, but beyond that, it’s pretty much a crap shoot. Lately, our local meteorologists seem to have taken up the daisy method of predicting the weather. (Find a daisy, and one by one remove the petals while saying ‘He loves me, he loves me not.’)
Well, today … they got it right!
Earlier today, from the Environment Canada web site:
Winter storm warning in effect.
Tonight..Snow at times heavy and local blowing snow changing to freezing rain mixed with ice pellets this evening then to rain near midnight. Snow and ice pellet amount 10 to 15 cm. Wind east 50 km/h gusting to 70. Temperature rising to plus 1 by morning.
Friday..Cloudy. 60 percent chance of wet flurries late in the morning and in the afternoon. Wind east 50 km/h gusting to 70 becoming southwest 30 gusting to 50 in the morning. Temperature steady near plus 2.
About 2:30 this afternoon, I drove into a wall of snow which has been blowing steady every since. Now, about 10 mins ago, we noticed a change in the sound of the snow hitting the plastic – we’ve got ice pellets. So far today – they are 2 for 2. We will have to see what happens around midnight – looking for a 3 point play.
How does this relate to living on a boat? Well, it’s really more about sailing. If weather forecasting here at the dock is a gamblers paradise, what is it like when sailing where the forecast is something you base life decisions on? How do you deal with the uncertainty?
What’s up Duck?
This new duck showed up here a couple of days ago. I’ve never seen a wild duck like this before – looks more like a domestic farm duck to me. Anyone know what this is?
Norm is my neighbour – one boat over from us. He is an S.B. (Not S.O.B. – just S.B. See my previous post here for a definition.) He too blogs about life aboard. Here is an excerpt from his most recent post:
The fact is, living aboard throughout the winter is in some ways even more fun than living aboard over the spring/summer/fall. First and foremost, the “Others” have clearly departed, leaving the marina blissfully otherlesss. The marina is now the exclusive domain of the tight knit Liveaboard community who while formed by people from all walks of life – from students and the unemployed and the retired, to doctors and lawyers and teachers – share so much in common, namely an appreciation for a simpler lifestyle, a passion for boats and living on the water, and a shared experience overcoming obstacles to being successful in this lifestyle: Much like a floating insane asylum. (Actually, there are no doctors, lawyers or teachers here.)
Check out The Cheryl & Norm Sailing Page – it’s a good read!
A comment that a reader posted on my Winter Live Aboard and Lake Ice post got me thinking about sounds on a boat. I am sure that dirt dwellers who come aboard our boat are amazed by the myriad of new sounds they hear. There are dock-lines creaking in the chocks, halyards banging against masts, waves lapping, docks groaning, ducks quacking – the symphony of marine life. Yet I hardly hear it anymore. The cacophony of life on the water blends into the background and as long as the sounds are there, my subconscious can relax – all is well.
BUT – add in a sound that is not supposed to be there and WHAM – you freeze what you are doing, your body slams to attention and all ears are pricked intently – listening … listening… What was that?! Listening for the sound that strikes fear into the heart of every sailor – the sound of running water. Sometimes I even go so far as to check my bilge – just to make sure that water is not silently rushing into my home.
Sometimes you figure out what made the sound (a pot shifting in the cupboard) and you can relax. Other times, you never do quite figure out what made the sound in which case that sound is imprinted on your mind and you are tuned into it – in the back of your mind listening for it – hoping to never hear it again.
Then again, most of the time the marine band plays on, the music fading into the background and all is well.
We are getting hit hard today. It’s been snowing for a good 12 hours now and it is still coming down. Last night it was quite windy too – we were banging around pretty good until I ventured out to tighten up the dock lines. It is also very cold – up to -26 with the wind chill. So getting to work is going to be a lot of fun today. At least I don’t have to shovel the driveway.