Wednesday 30 March 2011

Today's Quick Hit

           "Life gets rough, life gets tough, so tell me what you gonna do about it?"
                                                                                                        -The Specials

           Go sailing!

            It's been seen everywhere, but it is worth seeing over and over again.   James, pay attention!  We'll make you a sailor yet.

     Meanwhile, in other news, it's snowing.  Again.


    Thanks for checking us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock"- link us, follow us, refer, us, tell your friends, and keep coming back.

Dock Six 2011 Starting Lineup Announced!

     "Well, beat the drum and hold the phone, the sun came out today!"
                                                                                      -John Fogerty

      As the Dock's Opening Day nears (16 more sleeps!), this season's roster is firming up, subject to last minute contract negotiations and/or trades.  After last year's stellar season, culminating in a solid run of weather through Halloween,  this year's  Dock Six team  shows some serious staying power, with veterans returning and some promising new talent  filling key positions.  It looks like we might be able to take it all the way again this year!

     Jim and Jill have been tweaking "Carpe Diem",  getting ready to lap the bases, Jim and Marianne have been spending a lot of time in the bullpen with "Cranky",  James assures us that "George Too" will be hitting for the fence as usual...with less time on the DL than last season.  Our switch hitter Jack is on the bench, but so far hasn't revealed which bat he is going to swing. Gavin and Sylvia are pitching and catching on "Persephone" (ahem), and Hilary will once again be our utility man in the outfield.  Last years rookie, Jordan, looks to be seasoning into a solid designated hitter with Saphira, while "Whiskeyjack" is going to imporve over last year's record stats and "Legacy" will pinch hit.

    Roster changes:  Steve has been traded to the American League.  He'll be sailing out of Erie, but "Drifter" might remain on the Dock, leaving the possibility open for a mid-season trade.   Called up from the Pittock Lake minors is solid prospect Eric with his DS 20, "After School":

     Welcome aboard, "School's Out"!

       There are a number of seats still open- hopefully we'll have a solid bench before the All-Star break.  As the players are announced, you'll get all the stats and positions here.  Stay tuned.

     Thanks for taking the time to join us, and I hope you had fun.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock"- follow us, link us, and pass us along to your friends.

Sunday 27 March 2011

The Low-Buck Files

       "She keeps naggin' at you night and day, enough to drive you nuts..."

     Boating can be an expensive lifestyle.  In fact, the third most popular topic among boaters, running right behind "Weather" and "You Think Those are Real?"  is "I Can't Believe How Expensive ______ Is!"   To enhance discussion, there's a whole subset of  nautical cliches devoted to the crazy high cost of boating:

Boat= Break Out Another Thousand

A boat is a hole in the water you pour money into.

The six most expensive letters in the alphabet are M, A, R, I, N, and E.

     Let me know when your sides hurt from laughing so hard, and I'll stop.

     Or, I can stop now.

     Good call.

     Yes, boating CAN be as wallet-emptying  as hitting a peeler bar after a day at the casino, but it doesn't HAVE to be.  A few years ago, I started documenting my "low-buck" projects.  What qualifies as a low-buck project?

1) Gotta be under $100 US, or equivalent currency.

2) You must have done it yourself. Although, if you found someone to work on your boat for less than $100, feel free to post contact info.

3) bonus points will be given for elegance and ingenuity.

   My first foray was a cockpit table.  I needed a cockpit table. Well, I, personally, didn't need a cockpit table, but SWMBO did, and I need a warm place to sleep, so you can see how the stars aligned on this one. I sussed out commercially available, marine priced cockpit tables and promptly gagged. So, I thought to myself, "Self, you could make it yourself for a lot less." One problem. Well, four actually. 
1. I have limited woodworking skills, 
2. limited woodworking tools, 
3. and limited time. oh yeah, and 
4. I am cheap.
So, I went to plan "c".

     I spent some time eyeballing the cockpit in question:

     Then I moseyed into action. I bought one of these for $29.99

     A frenzy of measuring, remeasuring, cutting, screwing, drinking, varnishing, etc. later, and this is how it finished up:

    As an added unplanned bonus, the table is reversible-  install it aft of the wheel while Dockside for easy companionway access, mount it ahead of the binnacle while underway.  When not in use, it simply stows under the salon table below.

     I used up the rest of the table I sacrificed for the project that started this thread, and built a hinged double sided chartboard:

        It's sized to fit standard charts folded in quarters. Course can be laid out on the clear cover with grease pencil. Next step is to build a pair of hinged stowable knees in the cabin of my boat to create a small-space nav station.

     I needed duckboards, or a cockpit grate if you will, to replace the nasty looking deteriorated weird rubber mat that graced whiskeyjack's cockpit when I got her (see pics in first post of this thread). I priced having a teak grate custom built, my daughter burst into tears when I told her she was not going to be going to college, so then I decided to find an alternative. I bought two 8' cedar 2x6s and ripped them into 1 3/4 x 1/2" strips, measured and patterned my cockpit floor, started cutting and epoxying and gluing and screwing and varnishing and $32 later, this:

     is now this:

     My low-buck dinghy needed a place to live. So I had to build some low-buck davits.

  I built a cockpit table for a friend's boat. $25 worth of mahogany and pine, $5 worth of epoxy and varnish:


$5.99 Sunbrella remnant.
Scrap of pvc pipe.
$5.55 of line.
Being able to sleep in past sunrise, and keeping the hatch open when it rains? priceless.

     One issue on almost every small boat is no room for a garbage can. Another issue on "Whiskeyjack" is the amount of dead space below the galley countertop. Think, mark, cut, trim, screw together a couple of pieces of scrap luan for a lid, sand, varnish, Ta-freakin' DAH!

       Along the way, I have learned that this stuff can be a hell of a lot of fun, and there is some real satisfaction in learning a new skill or refining what I thought I already knew.  The money part was a big motivator as well.  The more that you know how to do, the less you have to pay someone else to do it for you, and the less you pay for necessary maintenance, the more you can spend on unnecessary frills, like more expensive rum.

     Let's see your own low-buck projects.  Fire me an e-mail and some pictures and I'll add them to the "Low-Buck Boating" page and make sure you get proper credit.  

     As always, thanks for taking the time to join us here on the Dock.  If you like what you've seen, please  pass the word, link the site, become a follower, or just tell your friends!

Breaking News! First Freighter of Spring!

         "And sailors push off from the docks and pray the gales will hold..."
                                                                                            -Great Big Sea

          Is it???

     Could it be???

    YES!! THIS is the real first sign of spring!!!

  The Welland Canal is open and freighters are moving on the Lake again- the lower lakes are ice-free!

Small boats, Great Lake, Zooming In..

     "Ooh, a storm is threatening my very life today..."
                                                    -The Rolling Stones

      At the end of our last thrilling episode, we were looking for shelter.    When a storm kicks up on Lake Erie, the wind usually howls from the West,  pushing the lake East in the form of big nasty waves.  Therefore, when looking for an anchorage to wait out the weather, the smart at-risk skipper wants a bay that will provide some protection from those waves coming from the West, ideally with a navigable river or two for added wind and wave-buffering comfort.   Long Point Bay is the answer to an imperiled mariners' prayers.

   Long Point is the er, long, uh, point you see in the picture above, aimed vaguely east.  The longest freshwater sand spit in the world, Long Point's benevolent shelter fostered the growth of thriving fishing, lumbering and agricultural enterprises over the past several centuries.  The bay enclosed by the point is almost 500 square kilometers

      As groundbreaking and cutting edge as we are here on Dock Six, we aren't the first to seek shelter on Lake Erie.  Humans have been using Lake Erie as an aquatic highway for millenia, from the Neutral Indians onward, and unfortunately there is no record of the first unscheduled landing.  There is however, a record of the first landing by hapless in-over-their-heads white guys.

  In the winter of 1669, a band of French explorers and two missionaries, Frs. Dollier and Galinee, wintered over on the north shore of the bay at the spot where Port Dover would later grow.  French New World exploration was the 17th century equivalent of the Apollo space program... if NASA was run by the Vatican.  The French monarchy, encouraged by reports from explorers returning from fruitless shortcut-to-China searches, dispatched more intrepid adventurers to explore, map and claim all the land  and riches they found.  Oh yeah, and since the Roman Catholic church was bankrolling a substantial part of these forays, priests were in command of many of these wilderness treks, bringing the capital-G God to any and all heathens encountered, which is the long way of explaining how Dollier and Galinee ended up here.

     Apparently so relieved at surviving the Lake and the winter, and eager to do their part for their king and their God, the priests erected a cross with the King's "arms" at the site.

With that, the north shore of Long Point Bay became French.

      It didn't mean much.

      In the spring of 1670 the missionaries and their paddlers set off farther west, and never returned to the Bay.

     By the end of the next century others had discovered the bounties of the bay, and mills, forges, farms and ports were born, grew and declined.  The only port that continually grew and thrived was Port Dover.

     In future posts, we'll explore Port Dover and gunkhole around the bay.  I hope you'll join us!

Thanks for joining us here on the Dock!  If you like what you see, bookmark us, link us, follow us or just plain pass us on to your friends!

Small boats, Great Lake, Big Picture.

     "But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime..."
                                                                              -Big Country

     When I started scribbling this (mostly) non-fictional account of doings on the Dock, I figured the Chronicles might be a way for the Docksters to keep in touch during the off-season,  keep up on local gossip while the boats are hull-wet and document our refit projects throughout the year.   In the interest of getting some feedback and connecting with other local sailors, I flogged my shiny new blog on , , , and , forums that I have haunted for the last few years, picking up and throwing out advice and information.  My thinking was that if a half dozen or so of the folks on and near the Dock read what I wrote and added their own contributions, then  the Dock Six Chronicles would  be doing what I expected when I came up with this brainfart. 
Well, here we are, a month into this trainwreck, and the results are in:

More than 3000 page views!


The adventures of Gavin and Sylvia and Jack and Jim and Jim and James and Maryanne and Brooke and Jill and Steve and Jordan and Bas and Inky and Finn and George and SWMBO and me and all the rest have been read by people in the United States (our biggest audience), Canada, the UK, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Russia (!), Norway (?) and Guam (!!??!!)  to name the top Ten.

How cool is that?

This Rebecca Black-like instant popularity has presented a challenge, however- context.  Or, more accurately, lack thereof.  See, I figured I was writing largely for an audience who knew what and where Port Dover was, and understood the basics about Lake Erie, or at least the Great Lakes in general.  As it turns out, apparently Port Dover, Norfolk County, Lake Erie, and Ontario for that matter are largely unknown quantities in Guam.

So, in the interest of desperately holding onto our audience, this would be a good time to take a break from plot development and focus on fleshing out the setting of this saga.

   There seems to be something about the extreme southern regions of every country that makes them a little different from the rest of the surrounding nation. The Riviera is nothing like Normandy, Brixham isn't Cambridge, Melbourne's not Sidney and New Orleans sure as hell ain't Kansas, Toto.  

    I am not going to theorize on the reasons why this downward-bound eccentricity occurs, I just know that it seems to hold true.  Maybe it isn't a matter of direction as much as it is proximity to a large body of water, but if it was only water, Baffin Island would be much more interesting than it actually is.  So, it seems like the "south" part is an integral component of this spell.  Adding more empirical evidence to this theory is the fact that Norfolk County is not like any other place in Canada.

Norfolk County is on the South Coast of Ontario, which puts it on the North shore of Lake Erie.  "Lake" is a misnomer.  At almost 26 000 square kilometers, Lake Erie  is more accurately a freshwater sea.  In fact, as seas go, Erie is a contender.
The Dead Sea is smaller. 
 The Aral Sea is smaller.  
The Chesapeake Bay is smaller
Long Island Sound is smaller.

                                                                             Here's the Lake from space, courtesy of NASA.

As much as Erie could be considered a sea, an argument could also be made that the lake is simply an extraordinarily large pond.  What bragging rights Erie claims in area, she gives up in volume- the Lake is the shallowest Great Lake, with a maximum depth of 210 feet and an average depth of 62 feet.

All that area and so little depth is some nasty math.  Storms roll in quickly, and  the waves are like ex-wives- square and mean. Prolonged winds will cause the whole lake to move, resulting in water level fluctuations measured in metres over less than a half day.  Over the last four centuries, Erie's furious weather has accounted for hundreds of shipwrecks.
                                                                                       Image courtesy of

    When the weather starts to howl a prudent sailor heads for shelter.  Good shelter means that a port will inevitably grow.  Shelter-wise, it doesn't get much better on Lake Erie than Long Point Bay.  We zoom in on the Bay in the next post.  Stay tuned.

   Thanks for checking us out!  Get the newest posts first(ish) by becoming a follower, and please spread the word.  Feel free to link the blog everywhere!  It makes a great Christmas gift!

Thursday 24 March 2011

The Crew

     "Turns out not where but who you're with that really matters..."
                                                                       -Dave Matthews Band

     You've met some of the regular rapscallions who make this dock a Dock with a capital "D."  Captains and Admirals and boats, however, require Crew.  Crew are necessary to a) praise and compliment  the exceptional nautical prowess of the Captains and Admirals and b) to accept the blame for any failure of prowess mentioned in a), and c) to provide booze and/or snacks.

     Yes, you back there, I see you have a question. What is the difference between Crew and Guest, you ask?   Very good question, very good, yes, thank you for asking (don't forget to tell your friends about the blog), er...

Aha!  Got it!

Crew is any guest who comes back again!

    Some may define Guest as one who is along for the ride, and Crew as one who participates in the ride, which is likely correct on larger vessels (ie "yachts") but Dock Six ain't home to Carnival Cruise Lines-  our boats barely have room for Crew, let alone deadweight Guests.  If you get offended by being asked to handle lines, gut fish, fetch beer, getting yelled at by the Skipper because you should be on the OTHER starboard side, dammit!  Then you are a Guest...
which brings us right back to the Dock Six definition, because Guests don't get invited back!

(See what I did there?)

     Anylabel,  sometimes Crew develop into Captains in their own right- rumour has it that Jack's Crew, Walt,   may have his own boat in the water soon. Jim ands Marianne's Crew moved onto their own boat and begat their own Crew, Jordan, who now Captains Saphira.  The graduation of Crew to Captain is bittersweet- it swells a boatmaster's heart to see someone else take the bait he has dangled and get hooked, yet there is sorrow in the fact that the search for a booze and snack provider begins anew.

     We have been fortunate to have some great Crew over the last few seasons.  Regulars are Dave and Steph.

   I'm pretty sure Steph took that shot herself,  hence the camera strap leading out of the photo.  I don't remember any attempted on-board strangulation.  That is what I will say in my deposition, as well.

    Dave is a mechanic by trade and a blacksmith by choice.  His great taste in beer and music coupled with his intelligence, willingness to get dirty and help out and his general good nature make me proud to call him not just Crew, but Friend.

     Steph is a bubbly French-Canadian writer who is the organizational side of their team. When Dave and I are noodling our way through a boat project it is Steph who cracks the whip and gets us back to reality.   For a woman who doesn't have a driver's license, she is also a hell of a helmsperson.  Her course is always arrow straight and her grin is ear-to-ear.

     A couple of times a season, my parents (yes, somebody WILL actually claim me as their spawn), Art and Liz, will join us for an evening on the boat, and a tour up the river.  Art loves to sail...

while Liz is nervous... for about half a bottle of wine.  Then she becomes a tour guide with ADHD, pointing out everydamnthing in a hilarious stream-of-consciousness monologue.

     "Mom, you don't have to monitor the depth- we're still tied to the dock."

     Sam and Abbey also join us occasionally during the summer, when they are not working or at school or summering at camp in Vermont or on Cape Cod (yes, the kids have a richer vacation life then we do.)  Healthy, vibrant, intelligent teens, they have developed their own lives and loves, and boating isn't at the top of their list, but they indulge us occasionally.  Note the strained grins of tolerance:

   Thanks, Sam and Ab.  We love you!

    Gavin's brother Garnet Crewed on both Persephone and Whiskeyjack last season.  He lost the anchor while aboard Persephone and lost the wind while Crewing on Whiskeyjack, but he has expressed an interest in coming back this season. Amazingly enough, he's also been invited back.

    Offering free booze can make anything, even losing an anchor, forgivable.

Hey, by the way, thanks for taking the time to read our adventures.  If you like what you see here in the Chronicles,  please spread the word!


Wednesday 23 March 2011

Uh oh.

          "You've gone a million miles.  How far'd you get?"
                                                          -Bruce Springsteen

        Looks like our secret garden might be less secret than we thought.  Wandering around the interweb, I stumbled upon this:

      Luckily, we're kinda lost in the background, but if you look close you can see the transoms of Whiskeyjack and 2 Can't Anchor Us.  Judging by the other boats in the background, this picture was taken early in the 2008 season.

       In an effort to close this blatant security leak, The Chronicles has dispatched our Web Image Nullification  Officer:

A crack hacker with a deft touch on the keyboard, I expect that we will be invisible again in minutes,  hours,  uh...

Hey, by the way, thanks for taking the time to read our adventures.  If you like what you see here in the Chronicles,  please spread the word!

Reason # 9 Why Summer is Better Than Winter

       "Hang onto your hope, my friend..."
                          -Simon and Garfunkel

        Endless summer is a dream.  Endless winter is just a freakin' nightmare.

     This is what we woke up to this morning:


   Three and a half weeks until the Dock opens, and stately Jones manor looks like this?!!?
     Mother Nature has a mean sense of humour.

     Hey, by the way, thanks for taking the time to read our adventures.  If you like what you see here in the Chronicles,  please spread the word!

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Rum Review, Volume One

     "So raise your glass, if you are wrong in all the right ways..."

     In addition to being bodacious boathandlers, superior sailors, amazing anglers, complimented cooks, ruggedly handsome men and beautiful women, Docksters also drink rum.

     A lot.

     Which may explain the delusions in the first sentence.  Except the "beautiful women" part.

     Since rum is an integral part of Dock life, I took it upon myself to research, review, ruminate, rate, rank, rinse and repeat a variety of rums.  This exhaustive examination could not be accomplished by simple observation, or empirical extrapolation.  Nay, nay, ingestion was in order.

     A lot.

     No, no need to thank me, my fellow Docksters and thousands, dozens, numbers of loyal readers.  I just wanted to give something back.

    Here's the Top Five:

    5.   The Kraken


                I discovered this rum on a trip to the big LCBO in Brantford.   The unique name, steampunkish bottle and label combined with the dark colour and high alcohol % promised an interesting taste experience.  A spiced rum blended in the US, the suggestion  of a multi-generational pedigree is fiction, but entertaining fiction. When I cracked the seal on the screw cap,  the fragrance was subtly spicy, with an emphasis on subtle.   It tasted smooth.  Too smooth.  What was in the bottle was far tamer than the label.  It is a pleasant rum, and a conversation starter.  If all this sounds like being damned with faint praise, it's not. At the end of the day, The Kraken made the Top Five, and many other rums didn't.  I suspect many calls this season to "Release the Kraken!"

4.  Screech

          It ain't fancy, it ain't smooth, but it's a legendary bottle of Canadiana.  THIS is the stuff that makes kissing a cod not just possible, but seem like a damn good idea.  Don't even think about drinking Screech straight unless you're trying to self-medicate a raging case of tuberculosis.  Or trying to impress a pretty redhead from Gander.  A shot of Screech is best served with a schooner of Keith's as an I's the B'y-lermaker.  Even the hangovers tell a story.

3.  Gosling's Black Seal


     A Bermuda dark rum, Gosling's has the history that many rums have tried to imitate.  Dark, and smooth, with a smoky aroma, this is the go-to rum for a Dark and Stormy, that combination of rum and ginger beer whose invention is credited to Gosling's.

2.    Sailor Jerry

         Like the Kraken, Sailor Jerry is a high octane spiced rum blended and bottled in the US.,  Also like The Kraken, this is a relatively new rum which works to evoke a bygone era, by trading on the legend of tattooist pioneer Sailor Jerry.  This rum, however, excels where The Kraken merely exceeds.  A wonderful bouquet of spices that dance across your tongue and leaves your nose swooning  makes this a rum suitable for sipping, mixing or use as a cologne or air freshener.  The stuff smells and tastes THAT good.  It is almost as good as ...

1.  Pusser's


         Gosling's has a longer continuous distilling history, but Pusser's has a longer legend.  Resurrected in 1979, Pusser's is crafted in the British Virgin Islands, using a recipe with over three centuries of history in the British Navy.  THIS is grog!    It even comes in a bottle with a cork, as Neptune and the Admiralty  intended!
Uncork the bottle and you can smell the history.   This is a spirit that almost demands ceremony.  Pour a finger or two in a glass and sip it slowly as the sun settles toward the horizon - you can feel time slow down. The most expensive rum in the survey, it is a rum rationed out on special occasions on the Dock...  like days that end in "y."  

         Just like any list, no one will agree with all the choices here.  Those who disagree are wrong, of course, but they are entitled to their opinion, as woefully ill-informed as it may be.  I am always willing to hear other points of view.  Feel free to come on down to the Dock, with your favourite bottle. I'm always willing to do more research.  

   Hey, by the way, thanks for taking the time to read our adventures.  If you like what you see here in the Chronicles,  please spread the word!                                  

Sunday 20 March 2011

The Rookie

      "Taking a break from the role of the everyday boy..."
                                                                   -Wang Chung

     The youngest captain on Dock Six  (I gotta come up with a catchy name for us- Dockers?  Docksters?  Hmmm, might be time for another contest,)  Jordan may be one of the most influential.  Here's what I mean:

    Two seasons ago he was sailing with his 'rents on their S2, "Tempus Fugit."  I've always admired S2s, so I first met Jordan and his family in passing, as Tempus left Dock 2 and sailed past us, or as  we waved at each other on the water.  Turns out the Crankies are his grandparents, and they mentioned that Jordan really liked Chirp.  I asked them to pass on my thanks, and to let him know that he's welcome to come and join us for a sail anytime. Then last season, I notice a cute little daysailer in one of the nearshore slips on the Dock.  The Crankies proudly pointed out that it was Jordan's.  Jim said, "He's got the bug bad.  He's always drawing boats,  bugging to build boats, watching sailing videos, so he finally convinced his mom and Andy to get  that little boat, Saphira."

     Jordan filled most of the summer of '10 with sailing school-  he passed CYA White Sail levels with ease,  and  earned his Skipper's hat!  The kid has sailed "Saphira" all over the Bay, and probably has more miles under his keel than many sailors with less hair and more waterline.  Pretty impressive for someone who isn't even thirteen years old yet.
     Now that he had a boat of his own, he set himself  to convining his grandparents that they really needed a sailboat.    It wasn't too long before Jim and Marianne brought home Cranky, another boat that Jordan is hugely enthusiastic about.  See what I mean about influence?  The rookie has the makings of a successful broker.
   One of my goals this season is to get Jordan behind the wheel of Whiskeyjack-   a competent, confident designated driver would be a valuable asset on the Dock!

    Jordan even has his own blog:

Dock Six Shoreside: Tributary Tutorial #1

      "I've roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps..."
                                                                    -Woody Guthrie

      Although it may be the Center of The Universe, Dock Six is a small part of a much bigger picture,  Long Point Bay.  We'll gunkhole the Bay in future posts, but before we can gunkhole we need water in the bay to float our boats, and that water has to come from somewhere, and one of those somewheres is the Lynn River.  One of the fringe benefits of the location of  stately Jones manor in Simcoe is that we live just hundreds of yards (and metres for that matter,) from the Lynn River, and the slow route from Simcoe to Port Dover, the Lynn Valley Trail.

   Friday was one of the first truly gorgeous days of the year;  warm, sunny, perfect for walking dogs.  So, Louise and I leashed up the mutts,  strapped Finn into his bark collar so he didn't disturb the Trail's wildlife, grabbed the camera and set out.  It doesn't take long to leave any semblance of urban life behind:

      The arborial diversity in Norfolk county is unique.  Along the Trail you sometimes feel like you could be in Northern Ontario,  British Columbia or the Maritimes, all within a kilometer or two.
     The main trail is an abandoned rail bed, largely smooth and arrow-straight, but there are numerous unimproved trails which meander along the river, allowing access to a forgotten and almost erased agro- industrial past.


I was glad that Finn was wearing his bark collar- it meant that I could sneak up on the first returning Canada Geese I had seen.  Now THIS is a sign of spring!

    Finnegan also noticed that bark collar = stealth:

       Finn was overjoyed at finally being able to get THAT CLOSE to those feathered honking things.  The bark collar did not survive the swim.  Finn is likely not too upset about that.  


Winter Show RoundUp

     "We're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside..."
                                                    -Emerson, Lake and Palmer

     The Dock is officially locked down and empty on October 31 every year.  Most of us start counting down to Spring Splash Day on November 1.   By November Deuce the refit lists are written, parts priced, and budgets set.  Then, we bide our time. We grit our teeth through the introduction of winter, try to control the twitches shakes and fraying tempers commonly known as the DTs (Dockless Tortures).  Just when it seems that winter will never end, when we all have started to run out of places to pile the snow that the *&^%!*&# plow has dumped in the driveway (Again.  For the third time.  Today.),  a dim glimmer of light appears on the January -grey horizon...

     Show Season has started!!!

     The Toronto International Boat Show is a mid-January necessity for SWMBO and I.  In the past, we've made it a daytrip, but this year we decided to take advantage of one of the weekend hotel packages offered. This is definitely going to be our SOP in the future.
 $95 a night got us a comfortable lakeside room on the 27th floor of the Westin Harbour Castle.  You read that right- ONLY NINETY-FIVE LOONIES!  got us this view:

    Parking was also cheaper than at the show, and there was a shuttle bus running between the hotel and the show on the half hour.  Comfortable, convenient, cheap.  I liiiike it!

    Saturday morning we catch the first shuttle to the show, where we are to meet Gavin and Sylvia.  This is a "comfortable shoe" show-  it is BIG.   BIG space filled with a BIG assortment of boats, some little but most BIG, BIG outboards (no wisecracks about my offseason BIG belly, smartasses),

and BIG pricetags.

 It is also kind of contradictory, because while it is a big show, with a lot of vendors, there are a number of vendors all vending much of the same stuff.  I counted four booths flogging steam mops, and pontoon boats were EVERYWHERE!     In contrast to the profusion of over-engined patios on pontoons, the sailboat selection was smaller than in years past.  This year there was no Macgregor 26, no BIG Lagoon catamaran, No Island Packets (SWMBO was disappointed).  On the bright side, the location occupied in past years by the Mac 26 powersailer display had been transformed into a Caribbean lounge, offering Canadian beer and rum from Barbados, jerk chicken, and a steel drummer playing all the cruise ship hits.  Gavin and I, being the pecunious small boat sailors that we are, sniffed at the fit and finish of the 30-40-something foot Hunters and Beneteaus and Catalinas we tromped through,  unable to justify the $250K + price tags.  SWMBO and I oohed and ahhed at the upholstery of a Sabre sedan, but giggled at the idea that a boat with a half-million dollar-plus pricepoint doesn't have an oven... but does have 4 televisions.

           The only cruising catamaran on display was a newcomer to the show, a Gemini 105Mc.  This is a boat that has a strong following and after poking throughout the boat, I can understand why.  There are a LOT of  features packed into a relatively small space.  Sylvia fell in love!  Click on the link below for details.

  One boat that Gavin and I agreed represented comparatively good value was the 28 Magnam, from Polish builder TES.  The fit and finish was miles ahead of the North American production boats in the same size range, at a lower price point-  ONLY $80 000-ish.

   Need gear?  It's probably here, from dinghies to docks, chart cards to greeting cards. Need a break from browsing and spending?  Head over to the indoor lake.  This is a really cool part of the show- the rink at the Ricoh coliseum is filled with water, and you can try out a kayak, canoe, paddle boat, or watch wakeboarding demonstrations, or enjoy the antics of Duma, the Wakeboarding, Dinghy Driving Wonder Dog.

On Sunday, we browsed the small boats, and met up with ScottB from and .  It was great to share a beer with somebody I had only shared bandwidth with previously.  Scott sails a Hunter 33 on Georgian Bay, and I am pretty sure I didn't beg too hard for some crew time- Georgian Bay is beautiful cruising country.  Good to meet you, Scott.

   I got some good ideas for my next small boat project,

     and one boat that we kept coming back to is the Hobie Mirage Tandem Island.  Kayak, trimaran, sailboat, paddleboat, this is one flexible package.

      Louise and I both agree that one of these is on our "When (if) We  Ever Actually Have Disposable Income" list.

      There are worse ways to spend a weekend in January.

     In February, Cranky Jim and Marianne  went to the London International Boat Fishing and Leisure Show. Unlike our Toronto Boat Show quartet of tire-kickers, the Crankies were playing for keeps.  They bought a boat!  According to the update I got from Marianne, they have sold 2 Can't Anchor Us and replaced her with the smaller aluminum fishing boat they bought at the show.  Get me some pictures, Crankies!!

     This week, I invaded Hogtown again, this time at the invitation of Hilary, and we hit the opening day of the Toronto Sportsmen's Show.   I was just browsing (it is really a weird feeling to not NEED new gear or parts or just stuff for any of our flotsam), but Hilary was on a mission.  Newly retired, he has decided to take up flyfishing.  After wandering through the gun dealers, crossbow dealers, fly-in hunting and fishing resorts we stopped at the Peregrine exhibit.  What regal, confident birds. Look at those eyes and you may rethink your place in the food chain.

   After checking out kayaks and camping and foul weather gear dealers, we managed to find the flyfishing section.

       Hilary hooked up with Ken Collins, the owner and head guide of Grand River Troutfitters.  Ken is an affable, knowledgeable flyfishing teacher/guide.  He has a passion for the sport, and the art, of flyfishing, and he effectively conveys that enthusiasm to others.  Here he gives Hilary a crash course in rod selection:

He's a little blurry because he is always in motion- casting, retrieving, gesturing, explaining with his hands.  Here he demonstrates to Hilary how big his catch will be with the new rod:

     Hilary got a great deal on an Orvis fly fishing package- rod, reel, line, carrying case.  It was such a successful day for him, I got put to work helping to haul his haul.

    As big as the Toronto Boat Show is, it is well-organized.  Every patron through the door gets a guide with a map and vendor locations, presentation times and locations,  the signage is plentiful and clear, and the layout logical- one hall leads into another, which leads into another.
   The Sportsmen's Show was at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Very little signage, a confusing guide which was available only in self-serve racks also filled with complimentary newspapers which looked a lot like the guide,  and the show was apparently scattered through a number of  largely separate rooms on different escalator-accessed levels.  The reason I say "apparently" is that on our way home, Hilary and I came to the conclusion that in our hours of wandering, we must have missed at least one display area, because we didn't see any fishing boats or general fishing gear,  boating supplies or the advertised fishing pond.   If anybody affiliated with the Toronto Sportsmen's Show is reading this, c'mon guys, would a couple of arrows hung from the ceiling really break the budget?

    Less than four weeks until the Dock is open again for the season.  I think I can make it.

   LAST CHANCE!  The Contest closes at midnight tonight, EST.