Sunday, August 08, 2010

Revisiting Conception

It was 11 years ago when we’d sailed to and from Burlington over a span of 10 days. It was our first real sailing vacation and it was the one that had gotten us hooked on sailing trips. We were aboard Sugar Magnolia, a 26’ Pearson Commander. Sugar Mag wasn’t nearly as luxurious as Sabine. It had 4 bunks inside, the mattress on them was maybe 2 inches thick. The toilet was located under the bunks in the forward portion of the boat. To use it we had to pull up the cushions, lift up the wooden panel and then secure a sarong I’d fashioned into a curtain with a clothes pin for a little privacy. The shower was a foil-lined pouch. Once filled with water the pouch was left on deck and heated by the sun, usually to just barely lukewarm.

It was at Conception Bay in 1999 that I’d taken a solar shower in Sugar Mag’s cockpit. The sun had just set and we had the bay, located just south of Burlington, to ourselves. I stripped down and Todd held the solar shower pouch over my head and sprayed me down. I shivered while I shampooed and soaped. Once I warmed from near hypothermic levels it was nice to feel clean. But I’ll never forget cowering naked in the cockpit with my teeth chattering while the soap ran down my skin.

This time around we left Chipman Point on Tuesday morning and headed north to Burlington. We passed all of the familiar landmarks on the way—Fort Ticonderoga, the slight stench of the International Paper Company’s mill on the New York side of the lake. We passed Larabees Point and saw the cable ferry pass in front of us, and then pass behind us again as it headed back to the Vermont side. The ferry travels back and forth on a cable, and boaters like us need to be very careful not to get to close to the ferry as the cable is only a few feet below the water line.

The Crown Point bridge has since been dismantled and is being rebuilt. But the lake opens wider just north of that point and it looks less like a river and more like a lake. On the western shore we stopped in Westport for a late lunch. I have photos of Todd from 11 years ago feeding the ducks off the dock at Westport. I looked for the ducks when we arrived on this Tuesday.

We traveled further north and crossed back over to the eastern side of the lake. We tossed the anchor just south of Garden Island, in roughly the same spot where I’d taken that shower in the cockpit 11 years before. The kids and Todd went swimming. I spotted a hot air balloon on shore. But mostly I marveled at how far we’d come on this trip, and how far we’d come in our sailing life as well.

Back then we were thrilled to have a functioning toilet aboard. The sink didn’t function and we didn’t care. We used a butane stove to cook, and I drained pasta overboard. Dishes were washed in the lake. Teeth were brushed over the side of the boat, toothpaste spat into the lake. Perishables were kept in an ice chest. Bars of soap were brought onto deck for a bath in the lake or the solar shower in the cockpit, filled from the lake. Potable water was in a 2.5 gallon Poland Spring jug. Careful consideration was given to food when provisioning. Non-perishables were kept in a Rubbermaid bin. Macaroni and cheese was a popular staple, but we bought the kind with the gooey cheese instead of the powdered cheese, this way we wouldn’t have to buy milk and butter too. Muffins and pints of OJ were for breakfast, PB&J for lunch.
For entertainment we brought a “boom box,” CDs and batteries. We had no internet access. We had books and a deck of cards. We still have CDs, but Todd’s loaded most of our CD collection on his iPod anyway. We have a sound system aboard Sabine now, with speakers, the wires to them running to and fro behind the walls. The iPod is controlled with BlueTooth. Todd bought a mobile hotspot thingy so we can have internet access. We have a refrigerator that runs on power. We have a shower (with hot water and tiled walls) and toilet in separate rooms. The mattresses on the bunks are several inches thick. We still play cards and read, but we have the option to watch a movie streamed through Netflix on the iPad.

I look back fondly on the time we spent aboard Sugar Mag and all the time we spent on that restoration, and every moment of Sabine’s restoration. I am so grateful for the opportunity to go on these adventures and to be able to explore the world from the relative comfort that Sugar Mag once offered and that I take for granted aboard Sabine.

That night on Conception Bay I realized that we only had two more full days aboard Sabine. On Friday we would get into a rental car and make the ride back to real life. I tried not to let it bum me out.

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Blogger Taoist Biker said...

I've been too busy to comment at all, but I have been following along with greater or lesser degrees of sheer envy as you've described your trip. This one made me want to visit and take a tour of Sabine sometime in some ill-defined future.

You know, if you haven't upgraded to a full-fledged yacht by then!

August 9, 2010 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Heh, I don't see us upgrading any time soon. We've worked too damn hard these last few years.

I am *so* looking forward to a season that doesn't start with the rush of some major restoration project. I am trying to recall the list of must-dos, and cannot think of a single one. But there are still a lot of wanna-dos. Like installing solar panels? Figuring out what the heck to do with the smelly non-functioning generator... etc etc...

Next leg of the trip starts this weekend... just after I'll finish writing about this one.

August 9, 2010 at 1:25 PM  

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