Why would anyone willingly leave a New Zealand summer, complete with perfect sailing weather and long, long days to spend three weeks in the dark and freezing winter weather of Toronto and Chicago? As Larry and I listened to the dire weather reports; blizzards, sub-zero temperatures, thousands of cancelled flights, we too began to doubt our sanity. But we were committed. We’d been invited to be speakers at two different boat shows. We’d agreed because this gave us a chance to help Herb McCormick introduce the bio he wrote about Larry and I. Herb has long been a friend. He worked his tail off on this project. His publisher- Paradise Cay Publications, for the past 18 years has handled all of our books, our website our mail and even occasionally our bill paying. We owed! Luck and an amazing cast of characters made our trip to the frozen north absolutely great.
The most important luck was the weather – when we took off from sunny, warm Auckland, the weather in Toronto was still brutal – planes were just starting to get off the runways there. Our pilot warned us there was a chance we would have to divert due to bad weather. But then the arctic winds abated and we landed 21 hours later on runways clear of snow with temperatures not too far below freezing. It soon changed, dropping to 20° below Freezing (that’s minus 28°C) but because of the second bit of luck we were ready for that too. A week before we got on the plane to leave New Zealand, we’d gone north to visit Di and Alvah Simon. The two of them had spent a winter in the Arctic1 and insisted we borrow appropriate coats. Di is taller than me, the coat she loaned me was black. I have a pair of shiny black leather gloves from times we spent in the UK. So I was able to keep warm when I had to walk outside but, I also looked and felt a lot like a penguin. (It was Bob Bitchen of Cruising Outpost who first made the observation, I was a bit chagrined. Then I looked in a mirror – flopped my arms and agreed.)
I am sure most of you have gone to boat shows, enjoyed the experience. But what made these two so special for us was meeting up with other sailing writers who we know from various exotic anchorages, strange places and previous events in our lives. In Toronto we got together with Paul and Shari Shard who have spent more than a dozen years making a TV series of as they cruised, plus Tania Aebie, Wally Moran, Amanda and John Neal and Lisa Copeland. Between socializing and doing seminars, it was Wally who then dreamed up the idea of doing a live online chat which he called a Cruisers Hangout. “Simple,” he said. “We let as many people as we can, know we’ll be live on line tomorrow night. We go to our hotel rooms, get on line then log on to a link I’ll give you, then we just talk and answer questions.” Of course nothing is ever simple when multiple people are involved, when the internet connections are often not up to par and each of us has different levels of computer skill. But by the time we went on air (or should I say the internet) by the time we got a few minutes into the conversation about 175 folks were listening and watching and sending questions our way. You can see the results of this by clicking this link
We had six days between our time in Toronto and when we had to be in Chicago. So we diverted to visit a very favorite friend Peter Legnos who lives and builds boats and other wild glass composit things such as arctic weather bouys near Mystic, Connecticut. We first met Peter back in 1971 in Cartegena Columbia. As so many cruising folks will tell you, friendships made afloat can be long and lasting. Best of all, even though you sail off and don’t see each other for years at a time, when you do reconnect you pick up right where you left off. Fun thing about that sidetrip was the chance to once again fly on a propeller driven airplane with no barrier between us and the pilot. Larry and I weren’t the only ones who found this a surprising change from regular air travel. When we joined 10 other passangers departing from the farthest corner of Toronto International Airport and climbed onto the Turbo-prop, Air Canada plane that was to take us to Hartford, Connecticut two other passangers asked the pilot to pose for a photo. I couldn’t resist snapping away.
Strictly Sail Chicago – the folks who put this show on should hire me as a walking advertisement. First is the venue – to get to the boatshow hall, which is way out on Navy Pier, you have to walk through one of my absolutely favorite museums – the Smith Museum of Leaded Glass Windows. Stunning displays of really old leaded glass including a whole panorama of brilliant Tiffany Glass panels line the long galleries. I never got tired of trying to decide which was my favorite. Second is the seminars – every hour there were at least seven different topics to choose from. Over four days some attendees were able to take in 24 different seminars with speakers ranging from Gary Jobson, to Herb McCormick and several top racing sailors, for the cruising sailors Nigel Calder, the Shards, John Kretschmer, Lee Chesneau plus a dozen others. Larry and I presented 8 seminars in four days. Topics from various speakers ranged from weather to boatchoices, from diesel engine installations and cruising budgets to earning as you cruise. The boatshow folks provided us a booth with plenty of room at the far end of the hall. Herb McCormick based himself with us. Two of my facebook friends, Paul Shroder and Dennis Hinz who both live near Chicago, organized and cared for us so we could spend lots of time chatting with folks who stopped by. But since we had space for half a dozen chairs right in our booth – it was more often like a sailors rendezvous and we had time to chat with lots of old friends and make some new ones. We really enjoyed meeting (and hopefully encouraging) many potential voyagers including a surprising number of young couples who are ready to set off before their children leave their toddler years.
Of course, since I have listed just two reasons we enjoyed ourselves so much – there has to be a third. As tired as we often were by the end of the day, we still were able to enjoy the excellent food we found in Chicago and share evenings with folks who had come to the show.
I didn’t have much time to look around at the show, but one wish – I’d-had-that-when-we-could-have-used-it – item I spotted was a miniature steady cam, i.e a mount that lets you keep small video cameras, like the waterproof go-pro, level with the horizon – it’s made by Horizon True www.horizontrue.com. I know it’s not really important to have something like this on board to get out sailing. But so many folks enjoy making videos as they sail and I know we did too. Being able to mount the camera then let it take photos while we worked around the boat, definitely would have added spice to our DVD’s.
We flew out of Chicago the day after the show ended. The temperatures plummeted, the blizzards were scheduled to blow in within hours of our departure. The flight westward was very bumpy for the first few hours. But 20 hours later we were back to summer, headed towards our island home. Within a week, Taleisin was up on the tidal grid where two young cruising sailors are earning some freedom chips as they help me empty every single thing out of her interior. Soon I’ll take a scrub brush and hose inside and wash her down – polish the brass and scrub her bare teak floor boards. Such a stark change from the blistering cold and dark of Toronto and Chicago – but it is all connected by that special sport that Larry and I have enjoyed for half a century – cruising around the waters of this world under sail.
May the rest of your northern winter be far milder, may your southern summer by gently.
Lin and Larry
1 Alvah’s book, North to the Night is really interesting and often enjoyable reading but has me convinced we made the right choice, keeping Seraffyn and Taleisin out of extreme high latitudes.