We moved up our departure date to September 9th to take advantage of a favourable weather window for crossing Lake Ontario. Of course, Mother Nature, had her own plans – we woke this morning to intense fog with a near visibility of zero. An early reminder that the weather is in charge and not us. No worries though. We waited until the fog burned off which just meant a late morning departure for Sensai (one of our pod-mates) and Wild Horses.
A big surprise for our departure – our two best friends, my maid of honour and Mike’s best man, both made surprise visits to see us off. And both of our dock slip mates were also there as well as others from our dock. It was a very special send off and one that means the world to us.
Also memorable – our pod-mate, Sensai, experienced engine issues on departing. We had already left the dock so the decision was to carry on to meet up with our other pod-mate, Brise. No worries though, Sensai was in good hands with lots of expert sailors to assist them to replace their mangled impeller and get off the dock.
We met up with our third pod-mate outside of Kingston and travelled along behind them under motor across Lake Ontario to Henderson Harbour. Easy to anchor here and then a quick check into the States and to get our US cruising license. Sensai joined us a few hours later.
Tomorrow we are off to Oswego Marina, the start of the Oswego canal and where we will have our mast unstepped and put on deck on Monday.
It is hard for us to believe it but we have now entered our final week in Canada. So far, the weather for our departure date of Saturday, Sept 10th and the whole of that weekend is looking quite good. Of course, we are keeping tabs on Hurricane Danielle and Tropical Storm Earl that have been brewing in the Atlantic but, so far, they don’t seem to be too threatening. Still, our eyes stay peeled to the National Hurricane Centre so that we are well aware of anything else developing along our intended route.
Besides weather watching, we are finishing off a few last-minute tasks:
Task One - Updated our navigation charts for both Aquamaps and Navionics
We like the redundancy of having three ways of accessing marine charts for navigating through the waterways – Navionics, Aquamaps and, of course, good old paper. Navionics and Aquamaps are both electronic chart systems, which we prefer. They are updated far more regularly than the paper and the GPS integration allows us to know exactly where we are on the waterway. Where does the paper fit into all of this? Well, they are exactly what the doctor ordered for our pre-planning as they give us a better overall view of an area.
Task Two - Switched our phones from our Canadian-only plan to a package that will suit us better as we travel beyond our borders.
We decided to go with a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) option called Fongo. It is a Canadian company and we were able to port our existing phone numbers over to the new service. Of course, all VOIP systems (think Skype or WhatsApp) require an internet connection of some sort to work (data or wi-fi) so we bought a couple of Canada-US-Mexico data SIM cards so that we weren’t totally dependent on wi-fi. At the end of the day, our little switchover has been almost seamless for our family and friends. And the best part? With Fongo they can always contact us for free (and we can contact them for free) no matter where we are in the world. Fantastic!
Task Three - Built our fender boards to protect our very delicate fibreglass hull from the rough canal walls.
This was all Mike and done quite brilliantly. We are ready!
Oh yeah, and visit with family and friends!
This has really been the highlight of our summer but, in the last two weeks, we have been so humbled by the number of people who have gone out of their way to wish us well, and so many who have reached out to support us in any way they can. People have shared gear, charts, advice, and stories of their southern adventures taken or those coming in the future. Amazing.
Truly, we have loved every moment of these connections – from those reaching out to us through the website or email or stopping by our boat or chatting with us as we walk Ocean. It has been the treasure of this adventure, without a doubt. Yes, we feel that we are leaving for the trip of a lifetime, but we definitely do not feel that we are doing it alone. Besides the two other sailboats that make up our travelling pod of three, we have a whole community of incredible people wishing us well. Geez, that is pretty special. 😊 A big thank you from the crew of Wild Horses!!!
The biggest job has been building our wooden mast cradle. Since the New York State Canals have bridges as low as 15 ½ feet high, we have to remove our 62 foot mast and lay it on deck. The wooden mast cradle is the structure that will support our mast from the Oswego Marina in Oswego, New York all the way through the Oswego Canal and then the Erie Canal. The mast will finally be re-stepped in the Catskills, about a third of the way down the Hudson River.
Mike’s design for the wooden mast cradle has three purposes:
1. Be simple to install when the mast is taken down in Oswego. We want to be able to easily set up the cradle when we get to Oswego.
2. Limit the disruption to us moving about the boat. This is important for comfort and safety. We need to be able to move about the deck without stubbing toes or banging heads. We also want our full cockpit enclosure to remain intact in case we run into some snotty weather.
3. Be extremely stable. This last point is the most critical. We want the mast to stay put in its cradle regardless of waves, weather or turbulence in the locks.
Oh, and provisioning. We have been stocking up on some of our favourite or “must have” items, mostly just to make our first few weeks less stressful. Although stores are available all along our route, we won’t have a car so doing a big grocery run will be more work than normal. Of course, all this provisioning means that we have to find places to store everything. Our cupboards and cabins are already filled with our everyday stuff so where does the extra stuff go? Under the floorboards of course!
Only a few weeks left until our planned departure date of Sept 10!
July was a very busy month for us. Normally “busy” for us means boat projects, but not these days. Our big boat projects have been completed and what remains (installing the water maker and a few maintenance items) are not essential until we cross the Gulf stream in late December. No, our “busy-ness” is mostly appointments, paperwork and, on the fun side, visits with family and friends! As it turns out, the two-year delay due to the pandemic was a blessing for us. Yes, we would have been “ready” to leave in 2020 or 2021 but it may have been a rush of finishing off projects, frantically completing paperwork, maybe skipping a few details and, basically, skidding into home plate i.e. throwing off the dock lines.
Our reality now? We have time to appreciate. We can sit for hours and chat with special lifelong friends over drinks, have lots of family visits, and talk at length about our trip. It makes our hearts sing to keep in touch with all the important people in our lives.
Of course, our reality is also peppered with finishing off Ocean’s paperwork and vaccines (thank you Carling Animal Hospital and Dr. Clement for making this so easy for us!), appointments for Covid boosters, eyes, dentist, doctor, finances – all that stuff that is easier done in person. We are also stocking up on provisions we can only get in Canada (Swiss Chalet sauce, Clamato juice…), and making sure we have the critical spare boat parts we might need underway.
August will also be very busy. The biggest and most important task will be building the mast supports for Wild Horses’ mast for our travel from Oswego Marina to the Catskills in New York. This part of the journey takes us through the New York State canal system where bridge clearances can be as low as 15.5 feet. Sailboat masts greatly exceed this (ours is 61 feet) so the mast has to be taken down and put on the boat deck, supported by wood structures. We, and the two other boats travelling with us, will be designing and building the structures for our three sailboats. An extremely stable set up will be critical to avoid damage to the boat or, even worse, a mast going into the drink!
Outside of that, we will be crossing more T’s and dotting more I’s as we get closer to our target departure date of September 11. And, hopefully, we will be fitting in more visits with family and friends 😊.
Oh, one more thing, Happy 5th Birthday Ocean! Our little sailing pup is celebrating her birthday today!!
We are just a few months from our departure and are thankful that we are at a point in the pandemic that we can connect more with people. Our travelling plans are something that we chat about freely and lots of questions for us tend to come up. Here are just a few of the most often asked ones, and our current responses. I say “current” only because we are always learning. I plan to update this information once we have some experience behind us.
Will our residency change? Nope. We will be moving about from country to country but the rule is that everyone has to be resident somewhere for tax purposes. We keep our ties to Canada via our bank accounts and mailing address so we will be considered factual residents. And, yes, our yearly taxes will continue to be paid to the Canadian government. Yuck but necessary.
What about income? Mike and I are both fortunate to have government pensions. While we are abroad, we will still get our regular monthly payments into our Canadian bank accounts. From there, we can withdrawal in local currency, or in the case of US dollars, we use Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange to virtually buy and deposit US currency into our US dollar chequing account (sorry, “checking” account as per the American way to write it). Just a note – not all US accounts are created equally. For what we are doing, we needed a “true” US account which allows us to withdraw US funds while we are physically in the States. Many US accounts set up in Canada only allow you to withdraw US funds in Canada.
How do we keep our OHIP coverage even though we are out of the country for more than 7 months? Simply, we don’t. While we are travelling through the US for the first 5 months of our journey (from New York to Florida), we will get travel health insurance. Once we leave for the Bahamas, our plan is to have expatriate insurance through Allianz Insurance. This insurance is expensive but will cover us in case of serious illness or health events. It will also get us back to Canada should we need long term care.
And, routine healthcare? We will go to local doctors and dentists. Although we do not have our own experience (yet) with healthcare in the islands, we have many friends who have gone to doctors and dentists in the Caribbean and can attest to the fact that the care is exceptional and far less costly than similar services in Canada.
How do we connect with family and friends back home? There are lots of ways to do this. Many sailors simply buy local SIM cards for their phones and call home over Zoom or Skype. Americans can make use of GoogleFi which allows you to call worldwide seamlessly (not available to Canadians yet). For us, we have patched together our own solution. We want to keep our current Canadian phone numbers to make things easy for family and friends, and we finally found our solution with Fongo, which is a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) like Skype. It is Canadian-made which makes it easy to port our phone numbers over to the service. Phone calls and texting are made over an internet connection so we will purchase local SIM cards to keep Fongo functional and also to connect locally, in whatever country we are in. We are hoping that this solution will meet most of our needs. If not, we will adjust and adapt.
What if there is an emergency and you are not in cell tower range? Our internet connections will come from both free wifi and from cell towers. Free wifi is very limited these days with most businesses locking down access. Even now, most of our internet connection comes from hotspotting our phones, which means that we need cell towers. Our experience is spotty with getting reception – sometimes it is great (like this morning in Beaurivage where I am literally looking at a cell tower in the nearby city of Gananoque) and other times it is non-existent or nearly non-existent. Most of our cell phone use is entertainment based but we also use our phones for weather and emergency calling. No cell service is serious at those times. Our back up is our Garmin InReach. It uses a satellite network so will be reliable. With this device we can get emails, texts, check weather and even send an SOS. The downside is that using it is pricey and slow, making it just for emergencies, but we are glad to have it.
What about football season? I know this question seems oddly out of place and trivial but if you know Mike and his love for the NFL, you wouldn’t be surprised to see it in this list 😉. For most of football season (September to January), we will be in the states so we hoped to find an unlimited data option in the US to stream games (when our travelling days allow this). The closest we could get is a 100GB option from MR. SIM Card but that should do the trick. Will football still be a priority when we are off exploring? We shall see! This could be the year that the Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl and we would hate to miss it!
How long will we be gone? This is a big question and we are fortunate enough to not have to make that decision today. We don’t have jobs to come back to or a home to maintain. But, like most people, we will dearly miss our family and friends. We plan to travel back home every few years for in person visits and to make use of Zoom for all the days in between. No, our decision to keep going with this lifestyle will be only about joy. If we stop loving it, we will look to another adventure to inspire us. If, however, our experience just grows our wanderlust, well, Wild Horses will be our home for a long time 😊.
Do you have a question for us or advice for our travels? Send us an email! We would love to hear from you!
Our pending journey down to the Caribbean is not a minor trip. It has taken quite a bit of research, planning and work. And, of course, we are not done. We have lots of crossing the "T"s and dotting the "I"s items to do on our checklist this summer before we hit the biggest item on the list - throwing off the dock lines and taking off.
We have realized over the years that this type of adventure isn’t just interesting to us, but is intriguing to many others. We get lots of questions about how different things will be (how will we do laundry, what about hurricanes, how does Ocean manage etc.), which we love to chat about. At the end of these conversations, one of the common comments we hear are “You are brave”. Or, “I could never do that”, “I would love to do that some day” and, the direct “You are crazy”. 😊
Are we brave? Not really. Motivation is a big driver. Our need to make this dream become reality pushes us forward, tackling things that seemed impossible only a few years ago. For Mike, it is doing big electrical projects on the boat, including designing and installing our kick-butt power system. Don’t get me wrong – Mike is really handy and any carpentry or plumbing tasks are done with ease. But electricity is different. Small mistakes can have big consequences. But he gets the jobs done. Why? It is necessary. And hiring someone else to do it not only cuts into our travel dollars, it can also take lots of patience as you wait for the tradesperson to have free time to work on your boat. Like with all the systems and maintenance on the boat, Mike does solid research, makes plans, and then, well, he gets on with the job.
When I started sailing, I had an immobilizing fear of spiders and heights. Now, I have a daily ritual of de-spidering our boat (aka spider-land). And, heights? Well, I am the one who goes up the mast to do any checks or maintenance. Like I said, motivation is key. The first spider and the first mast I had to tackle was terrifying. I wished it away, I delayed, and I tried ways to get around the task. Then I took a deep breath in and got on with it.
And for sailing to the Caribbean, well we are handling it much the same way. We do our research, make plans, create lists (so many lists!), learn, prepare and, yes, execute. Each baby step, gets us closer to our goal. So, no, we are not brave. We are busy 😉.
This journey south will take us to places we have never been, teaching us new skills and testing our mettle. For sure there will be obstacles to overcome, some small and some downright scary. But there will also be the bliss – quiet, calm moments in the perfect anchorage, being close to nature, meeting new people, cultures and ways of living. A balance of challenge and joy.
And that is really what it is all about for us.
Yes! Wild Horses is in the water. Our launch yesterday (May 11) went very well. The crew at Loyalist Cove Marina are experts so it was stress-free watching Wild Horses get lifted out of her cradle by the travel lift, then carefully driven to the launching well and set in the water.
Stress-free is something we needed in spades as our lead up to launching was quite the roller coaster. Here are the Coles notes:
What went well
It is the “see below” bits that raised our heart rates and frustration. So let’s get into it.
What didn’t go so well
Sigh. Thankfully issues came up mostly one at a time. In other words, we would solve one issue before the next popped up. This is much easier to manage so it mostly kept questions like “why is this fun?”, or thoughts of selling the boat, at bay. Mostly 😉.
Now Wild Horses is docked at our temporary slip at Loyalist Cove Marina. We will spend the next few days getting her ship shape on the interior, stocking up the fridge and freezer and readying her for the short trip to Trident Yacht Club. Our plan is to arrive at our club on Friday afternoon.
The boating season has begun for us and, this time, it will see us going south to the Caribbean!
Spring commissioning of Wild Horses started in earnest on Friday. Her winter cover was removed, her canvas cockpit enclosure was reattached and she was thoroughly tidied up inside. My gosh – she looks like a sailboat again!
We have set our launch date from Loyalist Cove Marina for May 11 and cannot wait to get her back in the water. And this year, she will be launched and she will stay in the water. Winter covers, antifreeze, ice and snow are all history. Yes, borders have been opened and vaccines, boosters, masks etc. have all made it possible to live a new normal life within the pandemic. We will finally be headed south to the Caribbean this fall.
This summer our home base will once again be Trident Yacht Club. From there, we will finish up a few boat projects like installing our Rainman Water Maker. We will also get Ocean’s required vaccinations and tests for international travel and other “we-are-actually-finally-going” tasks. 😊
Our planned departure date from Canada is September 10. Not that this will definitely be the day we leave but it is the earliest date we are planning for, weather permitting. We cannot wait!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.