Column: Boaters meet up, share stories, and laughs
Dateline: Feb. 17 in Punta Gorda, Fla.:
Woo hoo! So many summer sailors and power boaters who adore cruising around Manitoulin and the North Channel of Lake Huron have arrived to attend the busy, chatty, Florida Cruisers' Net Rendezvous and Pot Luck Lunch Party.
I'm here, too. Yes, the happy count is that 104 of us are gathered and enjoying the huge potluck lunch, conversation, laughter and fun, by the Punta Gorda beach under a spacious open air pavilion. Small white chop on the water, framing our liveliness.
Roy Eaton, our host, known as Manitoulin's Morning Host of the Cruisers' Net Broadcasts each summer, declares, "I'm so pleased with the number present for our 6th Annual Winter Cruisers' Net Rendezvous, to see here today so many good friends and acquaintances, along with new boaters and invited guests. It is hard to believe a number of you have planned your winter visit to Florida to coincide with this party with many attending for the first time."
Jim Corless of Sudbury, commodore of the Little Current Yacht Club, is one of four club executive members who welcome boaters to the festivities. In addition to Jim and Roy, who is rear commodore, are Little Current residents vice commodore Jim Bousquet and secretary Lianne George.
The Cruisers' Network celebrated 10 years in operation this past summer, with Roy Eaton at the microphone. Every morning in July and August, Roy gets up super early to gather national, international and local news. He checks the weather, winds and arrives at The Anchor Inn in Little Current to broadcast updates and call-ins from those at anchor. On days when he isn't available, visiting boaters offer to do a day or two of relief. Thanks to the assistance he received, this past summer 5,520 calls were logged.
Regularly, Roy helps those who are sick or in need or boating assistance and delivers news from home to boaters out in the channel. The work of the Cruisers' Network has been written up in several international boating magazines like Cruising World and Sail. For the past three winters, Roy has been asked to present at the Toronto International Boat Shore about sailing the North Shore. He is, in my opinion, Manitoulin's ambassador of the ever growing community of sailing, boating and safety.
He is also my friend and severest critic when I ask him to look over a story. My fave time is when he has time to sit in the fabulous restaurant at The Anchor Inn in Little Current, having lunch, each summer, while he will proofread a story or a chapter in my next novel. I wait for him to sigh, look at me and roll his eyes at a preposterous sentence. No, I don't put them in there just for the eye roll. My latest book, Manhattan, Manitoulin describes one fun-filled sailing adventure with him.
Lovely Marilyn Lucy, who lives in Punta Gorda, and sails the North Channel each summer with her husband, John, reserved the pavilion overlooking the water. Dave Naples and John Lucy orchestrated the grills to happy boaters. Excellent hamburgers and brats and salads.
Why did I sit at the dessert table, side by side with chocolate brownies, key lime pie, apple pie, cookies and cake? This Weight Watcher reached for my third small piece of Florida Key lime pie.
"I am a grown up and I can have a third piece of key lime pie," I mutter.
Sailor David Odell, of The Vagabond, heard this. "Are you grown up or growing out. I'm watching my weight, too, get higher."
Betty and Leo Hilke, who also live in Punta Gorda, had sailed their boat, Dues Paid, a 42-foot catamaran, a few days ago, down round the lower tip of Florida and up east to attend the Miami Boat Show. With a weather front coming in, Leo and Betty decided they would try to sail back up west to Punta Gorda in time to attend the reunion.
"What a hell of a sail," Betty told me, "We sailed south at 7 a.m. from Miami south and were able to anchor at Cape Sable by 9 p.m. Next morning at daybreak, we sailed back up north in 15 knots, and arrived in Charlotte Harbor, right here at 1:30 a.m. Dog tired. At home, we got five hours sleep, and then drove in our car three miles to get here. Funny, eh? We've been sailing the North Channel since 1990 and love it."
Marilyn and John Lucy, who live in Punta Gorda, have two sail boats, S'More Therapy down here and the other, Ultimate Therapy, is stored at Harbor Vue Marina for the winter so they can sail the North Channel each summer.
While it was lovely, in our minds and hearts, we're all waiting for summer in Northern Ontario, regaling each other with North Shore stories about our sailing adventures. And oh, the fish.
"Why, that wind she was a blowing."
Yeah, yeah, yeah.