Sue Williams earned a degree in occupational therapy from Queen’s University, and practiced OT for over thirty years. In 2016, she left the health care field to focus on writing. Sue lives in Guelph, Ontario.
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…
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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!
Lynn 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.
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 delivered by the mailman! 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!
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.
I 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!
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.
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.
It was a beautiful warm afternoon in mid-June. What a fabulous historic town and library! What great support from Lisa O’Leary, the library staff, and Furby House Books!
We had such a good time!
As an aside, at this event we met a really neat person who had spent years sailing the Caribbean, Diane Taylor. Just so happens Diane also wrote about her adventures. Her book is “The Perfect Galley Book: Yarns, Recipes & Tips from the Heart of the Ship”. We were thrilled to find a copy at the Naval Marine Archive in Picton. If you are lucky, you can find yourself a copy of this wonderful book, too.
And, guess what! We have been asked back to do a repeat performance in the fall 2019 speaking series, “The Next Chapter” held Wednesday mornings at the Mary J. Bensen branch of the Port Hope Public Library.
The library, once again in conjunction with Furby House Books, has invited me and my husband, David, to do a presentation of our year-long adventure on the high seas, what precipitated the voyage, and what we learned by it. There will be an audio/visual presentation, and I will be doing readings from my memoir. Afterwards there will be time for questions and answers. Books will be available for sale and signing.
Mark your calendars! We will be there Wednesday October 23rd during Ontario Library Week, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Hope to see you!
David’s Aunt Caroline introduced him to sailing when he was very young. That’s when his dream of crossing an ocean began.
Years after completing our two transatlantic crossings, David and I visited Aunt Caroline in Portland, Oregon.
During our visit, I mentioned to her that I was writing a memoir about our year on the high seas. She listened intently as I read through the prologue and chapter one, in which she was mentioned.
With tears in her eyes, she then said, “I want you to hear to something.” She retrieved her phone, accessed her voice mail, and to our amazement, replayed the voice mail message David had left her from an outdoor phone booth in the Azores after our first ocean passage of 23 days. She had saved this message on her phone for eight whole years! Listening to it, of course, I cried too!