Newsletter August 2019

The wind came blasting in, far stronger than forecast. But before it did, we’d had a fine run down through the Apostle Islands. Now streaks of white filled the horizon, wave crests breaking against the hull began covering us in spray. So, we turned to head back into the marina early in the afternoon and helped tidy up the 30 foot sloop that served as our hosts summer cottage and lake explorer.

1. Sailing with Jerry and Karen on Lake Superior was one more of the special moments of our three month meander across the US.

“Tell you what,” said Karen. “Let’s head over to Bayfield and have us an ice cream, a look around.” The turn our day took brought to mind one of the many lessons cruising taught me.

For the previous two weeks we’d been meandering ever westward, on land, not by sea. David, who is from Australia, had never explored the American west. Fortunately, I have a pick-up truck and slide in camper which I use for occasional US seminar tours. Between tours I store it with friends, one in Connecticut, the other in California. This year, the truck was waiting in Connecticut. We settled Sahula in Tasmania for the southern winter and took off on an extended land tour. Mostly we kept our schedule loose, choosing our route and destinations as we moved along. We both had a few special friends we wanted to visit. Thus our path took us through Vermont, on to Niagara Falls, then into Canada. Three sets of friends, three days with each of them. We continued along the south shore of Lake Superior. At Sault Ste. Marie we dropped down into Michigan and drove almost to the western end of the Great Lakes to meet up with Karen Larsen and Jerry Powlas. We’d been friends since they asked Larry and I for advice and ideas to start what became a successful magazine called Good Old Boat.

2. We found wonderful camping, often right next to burbling rivers, in National Forest Lands as we began to explore the Rocky Mountains. 

Bayfield turned out to be a delightful little town. A small volunteer run maritime museum showed us the rich and often strange history of area which until recently was dependent fully on the fishing fleet. It had once numbered more than a 150 working boats but had now dwindled to about a dozen. The most interesting exhibit to us with our more tropical based upbringings, was the ice road. Each winter, as the lake freezes over, a road is cleared across the ice to connect the nearest island to the mainland. Over a hundred people live there. The children cross to the mainland by boat in summer, by ice tractor in the winter. But occasional mishaps such as when the ice could not bear the load of a full house being transported to a new location, made for the most amazing photographs.

Museum enjoyed, ice cream in hand, we wandered the small downtown area, walked along the docks of the town landing. I tend to read everything and anything and I began noticing simple 8 by 11 posters advertising a chamber music concert at the local church in just over an hour. The first half dozen I sort of ignored. Then I pointed out yet another one to David. “Be interested?” I asked.
“For $12 why not be supportive. Only happens once a year according to this poster,” he replied.
“Okay, we’ve got time to ask Jerry and Karen to drive us back so we can get our truck.” I answered.
But Jerry and Karen were interested too, as they had friends in Bayfield. “Might run across someone we know.”

3. As I write this we have begun exploring red rock parts of southern Colorado and are now at the amazing Mesa Verde before we move on towards New Mexico and Arizona. 

An hour slipped gently by as we browsed the well-stocked bookstore (Yes, I did buy yet another book because of the owners high recommendation and am enjoying it now.). Then we found seats at the local church and settled in for what turned out to be and hour-and-a-half of tear inducing beautiful music played by a mix of professional and semi-professional locals. During intermission, the husband of the pianist commented to us, “My wife has been practicing for this concert all year. Now I hear it played with the other four musicians, and an audience, I see why she does it.” At the end of the second concerto, we, like all the generous crowd of local people who were in attendance, eagerly gave the musicians a standing ovation. But what made the event one I’ll always remember is the warmth which many people extended to us when they learned we came from far away. When they learned we had come from Australia and New Zealand they gave us a standing ovation. They seemed exceptionally pleased we had dropped in just on a whim and responded to the beautifully chosen and beautifully played music just as they did.

Later, over a late dinner with Karen and Jerry, I commented, “almost sorry we are planning to continue westward in the morning, I know if we stayed, we’d have made friends with some of the people we met this evening and had a fine time as we got to truly know the place.”
The lesson I relearned from my voyaging days? Keep your eyes open, your schedule flexible and be willing to try almost anything that was a bit different. I can’t count the number of times doing just this provided the highlights of our voyaging life and introduced us to local people who became life-long friends.

May you have fair winds and interesting encounters

P.S. Looking forward to meeting some of you at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival or Annapolis US Sailboat Show. Just got word the brand new, fully updated and expanded 3rd Edition of Self Sufficient Sailor is fresh off the presses and being shipped to my distributor right now. So, having a big book launching party at my booth in Annapolis on the Friday, at 6PM. Herb McCormick from Cruising World will be there and so will Desiree and Jordan of Sailing Project Atticus.

For any of you who might like an autographed copy, if you follow this link clickhere before September 15th, I can sign books before I leave the country to head back to Sahula for more voyaging around southern Australia. I leave the day after the Annapolis show.