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.

A telephone voice mail message saved

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!

Here it is, heartfelt and real, and part of the story of my memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press 2019)

Hope you enjoy it.

 

I Grew … We Grew Together

(I originally wrote this article as a blog post on the Nautical Mind Bookstore website.)

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.

P1000796aBy 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!

P1000657IThese 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.

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The Stories Behind the Story

Of course, there is always a story behind every story. Bit by bit, the details of what precipitated my memoir, Ready to Come About, are getting out.

Earlier this month, the historic waterfront bookstore, Nautical Mind, posted an article I wrote called “I Grew … We Grew Together“. This article discussed an event that, in part, led to my bizarre decision to sail the Atlantic Ocean with my husband, David. It also described just a little bit the many challenges we had on this improbable adventure on the high seas. Perhaps what I like most about this article is the title, because it sums up what I feel to my core, that this experience was life-altering in ways David and I could never have imagined possible. Thank you Nautical Mind Bookstore!

Just this last Tuesday, Dundurn Press published an article I wrote called “Writing is a Lot Like Appliqué“. The following is from the prologue to my book:

This was David’s dream, not mine. Far from it. I loved family and friends, our dog, our home, my job as an occupational therapist. Appliqué was my idea of a thrill. I didn’t have an adventure-seeking bone in my body.

I have had a life-long interest in fibre-arts. In this article, I talk about how, much to my surprise, I discovered that the process of writing is, in lots of ways, similar to that of creating an appliqué. Coincidentally, the cover of Ready to Come About is based on one of my appliqués! I am thrilled! Thank you, Dundurn Press!

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Then the Guelph Mercury Tribune published an opinion piece with the following headline:

Guelph author Sue Williams felt compelled to tell life story

Jeremy Luke Hill talks to ‘Ready to Come About’ author about her true life adventure and personal journey

In this piece Jeremy Luke Hill, Publisher of Gordon Hill Press, recaps an interview he had with me regarding the writing of my memoir. Here is the link to the interview. Thank you so much, Jeremy, for your interest in my book and for the support of the Vocamus Writer’s Community!

If you are interested in these “stories behind the story”, you can access each of the mentioned articles by simply clicking on the links provided in this post.

 

 

 

Still Flying High!

There are some positive life events that simply will never be forgotten. Your first romantic kiss. (David claims I kissed him first). Your wedding day. Birth of your children. The arrival of grandchildren.

For ocean sailors, that first landfall.

For writers, an acceptance following so many rejections.

For me, another such event was the night of the book launch of my memoir, Ready to Come About.

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This was held last Thursday night, June 6th, at the eBar of Guelph’s iconic bookstore, The Bookshelf. I was blown away by the size of the crowd that came out to wish me well, so many that I was unable to have time meet with everyone.

I am deeply grateful to all who attended the event and want to say “ A BIG THANK YOU”. It was you who made the night successful: family, old friends from years gone by, new friends, neighbours, Waupooian sailors (if there is such a word), my childhood best friend, my OT colleagues and classmates, my roommate from university, fellow writers, writing instructors and mentors, and people I met for the very first time.

Also, a special thanks to Randy Litchfield who did such a great introduction, to the eBar staff that worked hard to make the night a success, and to our son John and daughter-in-law Emilyn, with Nathan Smith, for the music … and the performance of Nathan’s song, “Set Sail”.

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Days later, I am still flying high.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart!

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Occupational Therapy and My Memoir: they actually have a connection!

My grandparents, while in their early sixties, the age I am now, were diagnosed with severe progressive neurological disorders; my grandfather had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, my grandmother, an aggressive form of Parkinson’s. They lived in a modest stone house, downtown Hamilton, Ontario. My mom and dad were their main, almost only, source of support.

While my parents cut the lawn, shopped, and banked for them, I followed my grandmother as she shuffled around the kitchen making a Finnish staple, “Pulla”. And I watched my grandfather put classical music on their Hi Fi, usually Sibelius, then hook himself up to a tube connected to his liquid “lunch-in-a-bag” hanging from the chandelier in the centre of the living room. He had lost the ability to swallow.

Even though I was only around eight at the time, their struggles made me ache. But I also marveled at their ability to still find joy in their shrinking worlds. And their desire to hold onto what independence they had, shaped me, profoundly and forever.

In high school I was told about the profession of occupational therapy, and that, at its core were: the view that there are lots of ways to live a life; the belief that autonomy and self-determination is what makes us whole; and the assertion that we have the right to take risks.  In that instant, I knew I was meant to be an OT!

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My career spanned several decades, throughout which I embraced those core OT values – that is, as a professional, with my clients. However, as a parent of three sons, sometimes I wasn’t so sure.

Ready to Come About, being released by Dundurn Press this May, is the story of my improbable year on the North Atlantic, and my personal journey within, through which the mom in me ultimately became convinced there is no more precious gift than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and risk is a good thing… sometimes, at least.

Given the OT subtext of Ready to Come About, I emailed OT Extraordinaire, Sue Baptiste, to ask if she would be an advance reader. Her answer was an immediate “yes”, and her praise, swift and high.

To my delight, here is what she had to say:

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Recently I joined Sue for a wonderful lunch in Hamilton.

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Thank you so much, Sue Baptiste!

 

Book launch date is set!

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I am so excited to announce the book launch for my memoir, Ready to Come About, being published by Dundurn Press.

Come and join David and me in the celebration! We will have refreshments, live music and readings (yikes!). The book will be on sale, and there will be a cash bar.

Details:

Thursday June 6, 2019 – six to eight p.m.
The eBar at the Bookshelf
37 Quebec Street 2nd floor, Guelph

Here is a little blurb about the book:

It wasn’t a midlife crisis. She wasn’t running from the law. She didn’t have an adventure-seeking bone in her body. In the wake of a perfect storm of personal events, Sue suddenly became convinced that, in her sons’ best interest, she had to get out of their way. And her husband, David, needed to follow his dream to cross an ocean. So she’d go too.

Ready to Come About, Sue’s debut book, is a compelling memoir about her improbable adventure on the high seas, and her profound journey within, through which she grew to believe there is no more precious gift than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and that risk is a good thing… sometimes, at least.

Early Praise for Ready to Come About:

I love Sue’s book, a startling, swashbuckling sea adventure, and all the hilarious and terrifying details of that, combined with the very personal story of lost connections and deep love. It is a remarkable story — heroic and inspiring.
Miriam Toews, author of Women Talking

A thrilling adventure, a profound love story, and a testament of self-discovery that will make you cheer. It is not only an empowering memoir, but also a very fine book.
Barbara Kyle, author of A Traitor’s Daughter

Hope to see you at the event! If you need any more information, such as where to stay in Guelph, please contact me below: