Gems to be Found Near Home

I often drive on Highway 400 between southern Ontario and places north, and I always pay attention to the road signs marking where to gas up, where to expect construction, and how much farther I must go to reach my destination. But, truth be told, seldom, if ever, have I given any thought about the exit signs along the way, and where they might lead. That is, until now.

Friday, David and I had a book event with South Simcoe Probus in a venue called the Gibson Centre in new-to-us Alliston.

In just a little over an hour from our home in Guelph, Google Maps guided us through Alliston’s charming tree-lined streets, by well-kept older homes, and passed a bustling sports field. What a lovely town, I thought. Then … wow! The Gibson Centre appeared up ahead, standing proud and stately, like a Parliament building in Ottawa. I don’t know what we had expected, but this was definitely not it!

According to the website, the building was originally a farm implement factory built by the Mercer Manufacturing Company in 1889, designed in the “second empire style”, perhaps explaining its Parliament Hill feel.

In 2001, it was donated by the Gibson family and the “Gibson Centre for Community, Arts and Culture”, a non-profit organization, was created. As such, it is now home to many groups, like the South Simcoe Probus; it holds exhibitions, musical events, and live theatre; and it is an intrepid supporter of the local arts and crafts community. A gem, just a few minutes off the busy Highway 400; Exit Highway 89!

Following our presentation, David and I ventured to downtown Alliston where we discovered a second gem, Taqueria El Norte, tucked in its main drag!

In the boldly painted intimate space, we savoured chips and guacamole, street tacos, and craft beer. The Mexican fare was fantastic and the service, second to none.

I won’t travel Highway 400 again without feeling a tug towards the Alliston exit, also wondering what gems might lie beyond the others.

Come to think of it, just maybe David and I should plan a few day trips and further explore the region in which we live!

“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

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








Returning to Port Hope!

cover pictureOne of the very first events following the release of my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press), was at the Port Hope Public Library.

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!

20190819_143053As 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.

furby house booksThe 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!






Almonte Presentation & Book Signing

An Ottawa valley town named after a Mexican general? True. Almonte, Ontario, a scenic, historic mill town … on the Mississippi River! Yes, I said that right. The Canadian Mississippi River! A town named after General Juan Almonte, a Mexican who never really was connected with Canada. How did that happen?

Well, it seems local Canadians admired the man, according to an excerpt from the Almonte Gazette, July 30, 1970 “as he was a man of uncommon frankness and had plenty of courage, he stood up for the rights of his country in stalwart fashion and gave Uncle Sam enough vigorous back-chat to make things interesting.” Alrighty … guess that’s a good enough reason to like the name Almonte!

And when the previously chosen name of Waterford was rejected because it was already taken, Almonte was selected. The rest is history! Check it out here.

Almonte is a small community about 30 minutes from Ottawa. It is an historic, scenic mill town known for its arts scene, beautiful Inns and B&Bs, galleries, boutiques and antique shops.


It is also home of Mill Street Books, owned by Mary and Terry Lumsden.


Mill Street Books was selected as one of Canada’s top 10 most beloved bookstores and has received glowing reviews from its customers. It is very clear this independent bookstore, through the hard work and dedication of its owners and staff, has created something very special, adding to the charm of this community.

I am so very fortunate to have a book event in Almonte on July 25th. I, along with my husband, David, will be doing a presentation and book signing at the Mississippi Mills (Almonte) Library, 155 High Street, 7 – 8 p.m., for my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press).

All of this is made possible by Mary Lumsden, Mill Street Books! Thanks Mary!

Notice for Mill Street Blog Post

For more details, see: Facebook events page



TYPE Books in the Junction

Launching my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press), into the world has certainly been an exciting adventure.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this journey has been working with the intrepid owners of independent bookstores; The Bookshelf in Guelph, Furby House Books in Port Hope, the Nautical Mind Bookstore on the Toronto Waterfront, and the Novel Idea Bookstore in Kingston. Each of these independents have a unique history and character, and have notoriety far beyond the communities in which they reside. But, they also play a special role for those who live in the neighbourhoods around them, enhancing the mosaic that makes a community a community.

It is with great pleasure that, on July 9th, I will be spending time at TYPE Books in Toronto’s Junction, 2887 Dundas Street West, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

TYPE Books is the creation of Samara Walbohm and Joanne Saul, book lovers who in 2006 had the courage to launch a new independent bookstore on Queen Street in Toronto, just when big-box stores and Amazon were popping up, and independents were closing. Thank goodness for the determination of these women, and all the other independent bookstore owners, who have preserved through the changing economy, and continue as gems in the fabric of our local communities.

I will be doing readings from my memoir and, together with my husband, David, we will provide a short visual presentation with some of the backstories of the book. A Q&A and book signing will follow.

The theme of the night is “A Taste of Summer”. This is in response to the wonderful news that Ready to Come About has been included in the Globe and Mail’s recommended “summer reads” for 2019. Keeping with this theme, another local gem in the fabric of the Junction, Amira Eskenazi of Valis Foodcraft, will be serving up tasty picnic finger foods!

It should be a fun night. Hope to see you there! And thank you, TYPE Books, for this opportunity!


Sue at Type Books in Junction

Port Hope Presentation and Book Signing


“In the fall of 1996, we bought a single-masted, fin-keeled Tanzer 26 and christened it after David’s grandfather’s boat. The Killarney II marked the end of cottage rentals and the start of marina-to-marina sailing on Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte, which carried on through the boys’ teenage years.”

That is a quote from my memoir, Ready to Come About, being published by Dundurn Press.

Our Lake Ontario sailing was limited to brief jaunts during David’s two weeks off. It was anything but “extreme sailing” and, in no way prepared either of us for what lay ahead. A decade or so later we found ourselves alone in a 37 foot boat circumnavigating the North Atlantic Ocean.

Killarney II Picture_0002

A Lake Ontario stopover on the Killarney II was along the wall in the Port Hope Municipal Marina, where we experienced the quiet, the small town friendliness, the fishermen coming and going, the lovely beach, the unexpected arrival of Shad fly season and the infamous Port Hope storm surge! That night will be etched in our memories forever!

Port Hope Library

Now, almost 21 years later, my husband and I are returning to Port Hope, this time by car.

The Port Hope Public Library, in partnership with Furby House Books, has invited David and me 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, readings from my memoir, Ready to Come About, and a Q&A. Books will be available for sale and signing.

If you are in the area, I hope you will be able to join us for this event.

furby house books

Friday June 14, 2019 at 1:00 p.m.

Port Hope Library
31 Queen St.
Port Hope, ON
L1A 2Y8


Kingston – A fitting place for a book signing

Kingston Ontario is an historic Canadian city, but also a place of significance for me.

In May of 2007, Kingston was the last familiar port of call for Inia before heading into the mighty St. Lawrence River on a sailing journey that would ultimately cover 11,000 nautical miles, two transatlantic crossings, and 14 ocean passages with a total of 86 days at sea, all in the space of a year.

Inia was tied up to the wall in Portsmouth Harbour with the limestone walls of Kingston Penitentiary, then an active prison, in the background.

Inia in Kingston

Kingston also marked the beginning of my often challenging, ultimately rewarding 37 year professional journey as an occupational therapist.

queens emblem

Autonomy, self-determination, and the right to live at risk, values central to both journeys, are explored in my memoir, Ready to Come About.

So it somehow feels fitting that I will be signing copies of Ready to Come About in the heart of Kingston’s downtown.

Join me at the Novel Idea Bookstore, 156 Princess Street, Kingston, on Father’s Day, June 16th between 1 and 4 p.m.

Novel Idea Photo

Book signing in Picton

I am pleased that one of my first book signing events will be at the Naval Marine Archive – The Canadian Collection, in downtown Picton, located in beautiful Prince Edward County on the shores of Lake Ontario.


We were first made aware of the Naval Marine Archive when our boat, Inia, was at Waupoos Marina. Our good friend and dock neighbour, Craig Archibald, told us that this is a “must see” place for anyone into boating. He was right! I was blown away with the incredible collection of books, art, models and displays. It is a truly unique place that you should not miss if you are in the Picton area.

I will be there on Saturday June 15, 2019, from 1 to 3 p.m. with copies of my memoir, Ready To Come About.

The address is 205 Picton Main St, Picton, ON K0K 2T0 in the heart of downtown.

For those from the County, just to let you know, there is local content in the book. Anyone heard of Green Island?