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!
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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 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!
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.
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!
Christmas Eve my husband, David, had a grand mal seizure while doing last minute shopping in the mall. The event was so violent that he sustained two compression fractures of his thoracic spine, and cuts on his head took fourteen stitches to close. “Stress and sleep deprivation,” were what the neurologist determined to be the cause.
When he returned to work, with the scars still raw, he was fired. “Restructuring,” the CEO like to call it.
After David recovered I said, “Dear, you wanted to cross an ocean. This is your chance. You have the boat. You’re back in good health. And you’ve now got the time. You can look for a new job when you get back.” Then I suddenly added, “And I’ll go too,” surprising us both.
By Day Eight on our passage to Caiscais, Portugal: we had snagged a rogue fishing net that pulled the engine off its mounts; David had to dive into the choppy Atlantic for almost an hour to cut the net loose; we were taking on water through the stuffing box; we had entered a Nortada along the western coast of Europe causing our weather cloths to tear, our radar reflector and courtesy flag halyards to break free, and monstrous seas to develop; and Inia was losing a nautical mile, or a minute of latitude, in the strong south setting current every time we checked.
David, as skipper, felt responsible for the safety of his vessel, Inia, and the welfare of his crew, me.
“Stress and Sleep Deprivation.” Was another seizure in the making? I seriously feared so!
These were just some of the many challenges we faced in our 11,000 nautical mile, year-long circumnavigation of the North Atlantic. As they say, adversity introduces one to oneself. We also learned that the rougher the passage, the more joyful the landfall.
My memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press 2019), is the story of my improbable adventure on the high seas and my profound journey within, through which I grew to believe there is no gift more previous than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and that risk is a good thing … sometimes, at least.