Book launch anniversary, one year today …

June 6, 2019 … A beautiful spring evening, a capacity crowd; family, friends, fellow-writers, classmates (from 40 years ago and before!), sailors (Waupoos B-dock), non-sailors, people I met for the very first time … to celebrate the launch my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press). What a night! It couldn’t have been a more perfect start a book’s life!

June 6, 2019 The Bookshelf, Guelph
Chalk drawing by Emilyn and John
Fantastic music by Emilyn, John and Nathan
Set Sail by Nathan Smith

Here is just a small sample of what Ready to Come About has been up to since:

Thank you all for your continuing support of me and my writing.

A Tribute to New York City

In the original draft of my memoir, Ready to Come About, I chronicled all the ports we experienced on our year long circumnavigation of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Writing is hard work. And editing is, at times, painful.

For word-count sake, I had to cut out many sections that I cared deeply about. One was of our time in New York City.

In light of the monumental challenges it’s now facing in dealing with Covid-19, I resurrected that outtake. As a tribute to this great city and its courageous citizens, here it is.

New York City – Early May

By the time we entered New York City Harbor, weather conditions were deteriorating at such a rate that we nixed our plan to anchor at the affordable 79th Street Basin and, instead, set our sights on Liberty Landing on the Jersey side as the closest place to run for cover.

While David went below to radio ahead to reserve a slip, with Inia heeling a good twenty degrees, I sailed on between Staten Island and the city’s famous skyline dodging freighters, cruise ships, naval vessels, tug boats, sailboats, and a myriad of ferries going every which way.

It was exhilarating to be part of this distinctly New York City scene, so much so that I temporarily forgot about the impending storm and began to helm with one hand while snapping pictures with the other, until David resurfaced and his jaw hit the deck.

“Sue, do you have any idea where you’re going?” he asked, a hint of panic in his voice.

“Of course. To the Statue of Liberty. Then hang a right,” I responded, spontaneously taking a photo of him while I was at it.

That’s when he requested my undivided attention for just long enough to drop the sails, after which he’d take over the wheel.

Around 1300 we pulled into the congested Liberty Landing marina, and motored by several finger docks loaded with boats all bouncing in the chop. No sooner were we secured then the heavens opened and all hell broke loose.

High winds blew sheets of frigid rain across Inia‘s deck the rest of the day and the whole night through.

When the front passed, a gleaming new morning emerged, and the two of us sat in the cockpit sipping coffee, staring at the iconic landscape. When we had changed our route to head offshore from the Canadian east coast instead of the States way back when, David assured me we would hit New York City on our return trip. And here we were, aboard Inia, only a short shuttle ride from downtown Manhattan. But, we had time and money when he had made that promise, and I was painfully aware that we had long since run out of both. So I wasn’t about to hold him to it. Just as I was going to say so, he began:

“We are so late and so broke—”

“I know. I know. And I understand,” I interrupted, in an effort to spare us both.

“Hear me out,” he persisted. “What I am saying is this. We are so late that a few more days won’t make a difference in the whole scheme of things. And we are so broke that a couple more hundred on the Line of Credit won’t either. All you should worry about right now is finishing your coffee and changing out of PJ’s. We have a water taxi to catch in less than a half hour!”

Over the next few days, we suspended all our cares and we did Manhattan. For one of the most populated regions in North America, it was surprisingly compact and easy to navigate. Every block or two was a recognizable landmark; the Empire State building, Carnegie Hall, the World Trade Center site, Central Park, and the Museum of Modern Art, to name a few. The skyscrapers, department stores, yellow taxis, billboards, right on down to the manhole covers on the sewage system, were fantastically familiar too. Street vendors sold pretzels and hot dogs from their steaming carts, just like I had expected. And everyone was in a mad rush, just like I knew they’d be. What I didn’t expect was the transformative energy that emanated from it all.

These streets were alive with people from all corners of the earth and all walks of life, rushing maybe, but with a sense of belonging and purpose, as if unified and inspired by the pervasive spirit of human endeavour and accomplishment. It was as though the city’s sidewalks were gathering places; its vibrant arts and music scenes, public temples to human creativity; its trade and industry, pillars to aspirations, hard work and dreams come true; and its cultural diversity a monument to the communal urban soul.

I discovered, one didn’t need nature or solitude or an ocean to experience spirituality; it could be found right here in Times Square.

Never say never …

When I was growing up, if anyone would have predicted that I’d cross an ocean in a tiny vessel someday, I’d have suspected they were high, or demented, or both. I didn’t like boats. I felt no fascination for the sea. And I had zero desire for outdoor adventure of any kind. But, while late middle-aged, that abruptly changed. Suddenly, as a result of a perfect storm of personal events, I found myself on a small sailboat with my husband, David, circumnavigating the North Atlantic Ocean.  What’s more, it was my idea!

Also, until I was in my early 50s, I never thought of trying to write a book. Not once. Not even for a brief second. However, that too abruptly changed when, as a result of our improbable, often perilous, journey, I found myself with a story that I felt compelled to tell.  Six and a half years, many creative writing courses, and many, many revisions later, I completed my memoir, Ready to Come About. And to my sheer delight, it was picked up by Dundurn Press for publication. Coincidentally, it’s official release date was a year ago today.

And, as recently as a few years ago, I was the least ‘social media’ literate person on earth, and proud of it. Up to my early 60s, I didn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, and I didn’t have the slightest clue about video conferencing. But thanks to having granddaughters, as well as having a book published, I’m now liking and sharing and retweeting like it’s old hat.

To top that, just this past week, because of social distancing, my husband, David, and I did a presentation to The National Yacht Club via Zoom. So, I expect I’ll be talking chat boxes and hosting and waiting rooms with the best of them, soon too!

To this day I maintain I’ll never jump out of an airplane. But, I guess, you just never know…

Road Trip!

David and I Just rolled in from a couple of days of “clubbing” in Eastern Ontario!

First stop Tuesday morning was the Kanata Probus Club where we were greeted by their friendly team of event organizers and spoke to an lively group in the beautiful sanctuary of the Kanata United Church.

Then a three hour drive in teaming rain to Picton for an event at the Prince Edward Yacht Club. What a great evening, meeting new people, seeing old friends, and enjoying the hospitality of the County!

Bright and early the next morning we headed to Kingston where I attended a women’s book club for an afternoon of thoughtful conversations, and lots of laughs!

That evening we gave a dinner presentation to the Collins Bay Yacht Club, a close-knit group of boating enthusiasts. Thanks to the organizers for a great Greek meal and to the club for its interest in our story and its warm welcome.

This was a whirlwind road trip, with four events in three communities over two days. The only hangover from this kind of “clubbing” is lingering good memories. 🙂

Such a pleasure to share some of the stories behind my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press) with lovely audiences everywhere.

“Swap Talk” Grand 101 FM

Tuesday night David and I had the opportunity to be part of the award-winning Grand 101.1 FM program, Swap Talk, hosted by Rob Dutton and McKim Eccelstone, in their Fergus studio. We were there to promote our upcoming presentation as part of the Elora Adventurers speaking series.

If you are ever in or around Centre Wellington (Fergus and Elora) on a Tuesday night at 7 p.m., I suggest you tune into 101.1 FM to catch their show and find out what’s going on in the area. Rob and McKim are quite the dynamic duo: informative, inquisitive, and enthusiastic interviewers, and just a lot of fun to listen to.

The Elora Adventurers was founded ten years ago by Rick Goodfellow and Ian Evans. This intrepid pair of adventure-seekers created the group to provide the community with the opportunity to hear stories about all manner of personal adventure by residents of the region, from “worldwide travel to other passionate pursuits”.

We are grateful to Rick and Ian for inviting us to be part of their speaking series. I will do readings from my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press), and, together with David, will present a slide show of our improbable, often perilous, year on the high seas. Our presentation is Thursday, February 20th, 7:30 p.m., at the Elora United Church, and it is open to anyone wishing to attend.

For those of you who missed the live broadcast, here is a recording of our conversation.

Grand 101 FM Swap Talk Interview

A Look Back and A Look Ahead … with Gratitude

New Year’s Eve, a year ago today, while writing my very first post on this site, I looked forward to 2019 with a mixture of giddy anticipation and fear, knowing my memoir, Ready to Come About, would be launched into the world.

What followed was a whirlwind journey, beyond my wildest dreams. After the phenomenal launch party at the eBar in Guelph, there were interviews, events at libraries and bookstores; talks at book clubs, yacht clubs, and service clubs, hither and yon.

Ready to Come About book launch

And, to my delight, over this time Ready to Come About was recommended by the Globe and Mail, the Mississippi Mills Public Library, the Port Hope Public Library, Mill Street Books, the Bookshelf, Indigo Guelph, The Nautical Mind, and, just before Christmas, Canadian Yachting. What’s more, my memoir has been on Dundurn Press’s bestseller list for going on six months, and it is currently being reprinted!

Thank you Dundurn Press for publishing and reprinting Ready to Come About.

Thank you to family, friends, strangers who’ve become friends— simply everyone who has read, shared and gifted copies of Ready to Come About; to all the organizations and publications that have shown interest in hearing my story; to the Guelph Arts Council, Vocamus Writers Community, B-Dock in Waupoos, and Brian Henry of Quick Brown Fox for generously spreading the word; and, to my husband, David, who has worked tirelessly, with evangelical zeal, to get my memoir ‘out there’. I feel truly blessed by all the love and support it and I have received.

After a little siesta over the holidays, I will again hit the road running, with eleven book events in January alone.

Check out my new ‘Events’ tab at the top of this page for details of my 2020 schedule. It’s exciting, albeit a bit dizzying, just looking at it!

Once again, thank you everyone! And sincere best wishes to all for the New Year!

My Interview with Lynn Pickering

I was honoured to be interviewed by Lynn Pickering for her weekend radio program on 99.3 County FM, “The County Writes … the County Reads”, about my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press).

20191024_125327Lynn is a veteran radio/television producer, researcher, writer and interviewer who lives in Prince Edward County, or just “the County” to locals. She is an excellent interviewer, and one really nice person! I was so pleased to have met her and to have had this opportunity to talk about my book.

My interview aired Sunday, November 3rd on 99.3 County FM, “the Voice of the County”. In case you missed it, here is an audio file of the entire interview, including a musical piece by my youngest son and his wife, John David Williams and Emilyn Stam.

The Missing Map!

Almost every day I am receiving wonderful comments about my memoir, Ready to Come About; in person, by email, social media and, believe it or not, even in handwritten letters through the regular post! I am thrilled the book is resonating with so many readers.

Along with the positive feedback, I am often hearing, “I wish there was a map of the route in the book!” I agree!

So, I am providing readers with a link to a map in PDF format. You can download a copy here:  The Voyage of Sailing Vessel Inia

Or, if you’d prefer, send me your mailing address via the “contact me” tab at the top of this page, and I will gladly mail you a glossy card of the route which can do double duty as a bookmark.

Map of SV Inia Voyage

 

 

The Night the Lights Went Out

Where were you in the blackout of 2003?

At 4:11 p.m. Thursday, August 14, 2003, the lights went out across Ontario and eight northeastern U.S. states. Fifty million people lost power. There was chaos in urban centres, as subway trains, traffic lights, and pumps at gas stations stopped. There was also an incredible coming together of people to share for a brief period of time a unique experience in today’s modern world … the wonder of a night sky unobstructed by human influence.

This was one of those life events that everyone seems to remember where they were at the exact moment. David was at home with Brian.

“Don’t go out, Brian. It’s not safe,” David said.

“See you later,” Brian yelled back as he headed out on his bike to revel in the unique blackness with friends. As I say on my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press), risk is a good thing … sometimes at least.

Killarney II in KincardineI was on our twenty-six foot sailboat, the Killarney II, moored in Kincardine Harbour with our son John.

The year before, he had won a competition at the Kiwanis Music Festival in Guelph. The prize was a week at the renowned Kincardine Summer Music Festival camp, for lessons and performances with some of North America’s greats. We were thrilled, and immediately looked for accommodation. But, by then, everything was booked. There were no cottages available. Even the local motels were full.

David, ever the optimist, said, “Hey, let’s sail the Killarney II there.” He added that, once we were on Lake Huron, we’d be in shooting distance of the North Channel which, according to every single human being who’s ever been there, is the prettiest place to sail on the planet.

Since the Killarney II’s home port was Hamilton, Ontario, getting to Kincardine by boat meant going from Lake Ontario through the Welland Canal to Lake Erie, across to the St. Clair River, up to Lake Huron, then many miles more along the western shore of the Bruce Peninsula. I pointed out he only had two weeks of vacation. In my thinking, it simply wasn’t doable.

True to form he responded, “Anything’s possible if I just put my mind to it!”

He enlisted the help of friends of ours, two couples with sailing experience, to move the boat. He cancelled our slip in Hamilton. And he arranged haulout at the end of the season in Wiarton, on the other side of the peninsula.

Our friends each took week-long stints to move the boat to Sarnia at the southern tip of Lake Huron.

From there, David and I, with our poodle Leiah, sailed north to Kincardine, with stops for the night in Grand Bend, Bayfield, and Goderich. Full disclosure, David sailed north while I read books, sun tanned, and cuddled with Leiah underway. My favourite part of the journey, was eating burritos at a Mexican food stand in Grand Bend!

But, once again, David was right. We arrived in Kincardine days before the camp began, where I spent three glorious weeks aboard the Killarney II, in the marina, in the company of our son, John, and our trusty dog, Leiah, and experienced phenomenal concerts in little churches, bagpipers on the main drag, the lovely boardwalk with its native gardens, the inside of an actual lighthouse, and yes, the historic blackout of 2003.

Once the camp was over, I went home to Guelph. And David, with the help of our oldest son, Ben, sailed the Killarney II through the night to Tobermory, and then several more days to round the tip of the peninsula and travel down the other side.

With the Killarney II laid up on the hard for the winter in Wiarton, David stumbled on a ‘for sale’ ad for an Alberg 37, the ocean-going vessel of his dreams. It was sailing vessel Inia, and she was lying, in all places, in Hamilton Harbour!

We purchased Inia that winter, and sold the Killarney II.

The Killarney II did make it to the North Channel the following summer, just not with us.

David, and I, ultimately sailed Inia over 11,000 nautical miles on two transatlantic crossing in the space of one year, starting and ending in Hamilton Harbour.

David and I are happy to be returning to Kincardine and Tobermory Saturday September 28th to present Ready to Come About at the Bruce County Library’s Culture Days! Perhaps we will see you there!

Bruce County Twitter Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Seasons

One of the significant details about our two transatlantic crossings was that they were completed within the space of one year. We crossed our outbound wake in Lake Ontario 365 days precisely on our return to Whitby Harbour; May 25th 2007 departure, May 25th 2008 return.

My memoir, Ready to Come About, describes how we experienced the changing seasons.

Summer in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence:

Evening, I took the first shift, nine to midnight, my customized watch kit by my side. The temperature was pleasant, the sea state calm, the sky a bright sapphire long after the sun had set. It was near the summer solstice, when evening twilight lingers and the night is its shortest.

Fall heading towards Madeira:

Daytime, the ocean was dark blue-grey tinged with bronze, the air a light mauve. The sun, in its south declination, was low and at an angle relative to our northern latitude, not only creating the longer nights, but also this subtle change of palette and glow. Despite the absence of the typical hallmarks of fading gardens and dropping leaves, it was unmistakably fall.

Winter moving south to Cape Verde:

These same seas that seemed playful in the light of day felt sinister at night. And, as it was just past the winter solstice, the nights were long. David pointed out, optimistically, that since the sun had reached its most southern declination and was moving higher and we were travelling to lower latitudes — twelve degrees lower, to be exact — daylight hours would start to increase. But as it stood, our sunrise was at 0800, sunset at 1800. If not for the moon, we would have fourteen hours of darkness on the ocean.

Spring in the Erie Canal heading home:

As we moved along, midday temperatures crept up, burning off the early morning chills. Treetops were turning lime green and mustard yellow, pussy willows were budding, patches of crocuses and daffodils were fragrantly in bloom, cyclists and joggers were hitting the towpaths in droves, and quaint villages were coming out of hibernation to prepare for the seasonal influx of boating business. Everything and everyone along the canal was coming to life. It was spring, the season of renewal and new beginnings. And we were heading home.

So, it was somewhat appropriate that one of the CDs we brought along with us was Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.