64 Midland Ont. to Meaford, Ont.

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John rigged a line from the mast gooseneck fitting to just above the balance point of the mast and then to the gin pole crane hook. Doug cranked the winch and slowly Tranquility’s mast lifted off its deck supports until it was hanging vertically above the mast hole in the deck. From below, Ruth and I guided as the mast as it made its slow decent through the main cabin to the plug it slips over locking it to the keel of the boat. Wire mast stays were quickly attached and we were a sailboat again. Ruth worked miracles below, finding a way to store the disassembled supports in the forepeak. We jokingly call the forepeak our attic, as it has become the depository for bulky items such as folding bikes, and now mast supports. We finished our rigging and cleanup work just as it started to rain.

When John and Barb returned from the Abacos they had a house built. Two bedrooms and a bath up, living room, half bath, and a kitchen/dining room down. A covered porch surrounds three sides. We all affectionately call it a hobbit house and will someday have something similar if we ever decide to come ashore. We spent the evening enjoying dinner and listening to the rain run off the porch roof. Plans to sail off to explore Georgian Bay were finalized and we headed home to Tranquility during a break in the rain.

The next morning our rain gage indicated we’d received 4.5 inches during the afternoon and evening rainstorms. Roads to the marina had flooded, as had the basement of John and Barb’s new home. Our cruise plans were put on hold. Instead I volunteered to help clean their basement. Ruth stayed with Tranquility and rested, she had caught the bad cold and sore throat I just got over and was feeling terrible. The 95-degree heat and 90 percent humidity seemed to make her cold much worse than mine.

Penicillin finally cured what turned out to be strep throat for Ruth. The penicillin cost $4. However, the pharmacy charged $11 to fill the prescription. The doctor who saw her for 5 minutes charged $25. The only way we could see a doctor was go to emergency at the local hospital; the admitting charge was $225. Getting medical service when traveling is not cheap. However, the taxi, Barb taking Ruth to and from the hospital was free as are all the finer things in life.

We took advantage of our rain and medical delays to watch the Atlantic Challenge long boat practice. John is active in the Atlantic Challenge program for young adults. Every other year they take their 38-foot long boat and the crew John has helped train to compete against other boats. Last year the competition was held in Denmark and the Canadians won.

I was invited aboard and watched intently as 10 rowers worked as a team to maneuver 14-foot oars from their stowed position along the seats to their outboard rowing position. The coxswain gave the command and we were off. We rowed smartly past the square-rigger at the dock. I felt like I was in the 1700’s riding a long boat out from our ship. The coxswain invited me to row and I eagerly took the place of the #9 oarsman. I got whacked in the chest by the long oar a few times before I found the rhythm and then settled into the rowing pace. Once upwind, the oars were shipped, the masts and sails raised and we had a great downwind ride back to the dock. It was a unique ride.

After months of motoring it was a thrill to be sailing again. Ahead was Eriskay with John and Barb leading the way to Lost Bay, a small nook barely visible on the charts. We threaded our way in through openings in the rocks just wide enough to allow a boat to pass and found a snug anchorage complete with plenty of fresh blueberries as we explored ashore.

Family connections with friends are ever expanding. Faces are slowly being added to names we’ve heard about while cruising. In Midland we met John and Barb’s daughter Jennifer. Now in Meaford we had a reunion with Tom and Marilyn on Samum and met their son Ross and Marilyn’s sister Jennifer over from Scotland along with family cousins from New Hampshire. To add to the family theme, my brother-in-law Steve and cousin Norm joined us for a long weekend.

Samum was first over the line for the start of the race. The wind had died and it was close to being a drifter. However with Tom at the wheel, Steve and I manning the genoa sheets and Norm cranking on the winches we felt we had a winning combination. We held our position and were first to finish. However on corrected time we were well down in the fleet. We’ll turn Norm, a powerboat owner into a sailor yet.

While the boys sailed, Ruth, Marilyn and Jennifer shopped, relaxed on Tom and Marilyn’s deck, had counted cross stitch lessons, and had another yummy Marilyn meal.

The haunting sound of a bagpipe floated out over Georgian Bay as Tom played his pipes for us. It was thrilling to hear our personal concert and became the perfect wrap up to our stay in Meaford. We were warm and comfortable on Tom and Marilyn’s deck overlooking Georgian Bay, but it was time to say good by to their generous hospitality and head back to Tranquility.

We grilled steaks, watched the sunset and talked late into the evening about many things: our travels, different boats, retirement, aging, and dreams not yet realized. In the morning we parted, Steve and Norm going back to the world of work while we readied Tranquility for new adventures.

Marilyn spotted us on the horizon at 6 AM as we headed across Georgian Bay. She called on the VHF to wish us well. Later that morning on the other side of Georgian Bay we heard Supra calling Eriskay and we realized that the waters of North America are our neighborhood and we meet friends wherever we go.

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