We rang in the New Year in Grande Case making our best effort to be fast asleep, but became suddenly aware that 2016 had arrived by the sound and light of fireworks being launched from the beach 200 yards in front of where we anchored.

We had gone out for dinner earlier in the evening and had wandered around the community afterwards around 9 that evening. We couldn’t find any trace of a big celebration, and with the Christmas winds having set in a week or so prior we had been bounced around every night since we could remember and called it a night. 15 minutes later we were asleep.

For those that don’t know, the Christmas winds have nothing to do with Christmas, but are stronger than normal trade winds that are enhanced due to a high pressure that lies north of the Caribbean and tends to come late in the year. Winds flow clockwise around a high pressure system (in the northern hemisphere) so on the bottom end this results in an east wind. Last time I checked, adding two vectors pointing the same direction (east) gives as resultant with a bigger magnitude. This year, it was a high pressure ridge that was responsible and it decided to come right at Christmas. Last year it came in November, and winter back home came early. This year it came later and so did winter back home. And people back home think incorrectly think I have no idea what their weather is doing like it is totally unrelated. If you’d had a white Christmas we probably would have slept better between Christmas and New Years!

Anyway, the reason we packed it in so early is that the night before New Years Eve the Christmas winds were blowing steadily and it was particularly squally. We could feel Altera spin sideways, heel over in the gusts and then realign with the wind as the anchor chain went bar tight. Neither of us slept well and I have no doubt that we had gusts exceeding 40 knots as I found our dinghy had been flipped over when I climbed into the cockpit the next morning with the outboard engine fully submerged in the salt water.

With a bit of effort I managed to flip the dinghy upright and then lifted the motor onto Altera’s stern rail and rowed Magnus ashore. Fortunately, all I had to do for the motor was disassemble the carb and clean it, remove the spark plug and pull the cord a few times to watch water spray out and reassemble. The motor started on the second pull and I left it running at a fast idle for a few minutes to hopefully purge the salt. I really appreciate the simplicity of owning a 2 stroke motor.

On New Years day the Christmas winds finally abated, I’d guess around 4 am as were both soundly sleeping when we woke at 5 am to a trembling dog in bed with us with more fireworks nearby as the sun was breaking over the horizon. The celebrations in the Caribbean really are something! At 8 am I took Magnus for his morning walk and walked through the community to find the New Years party was still going, and I even had a huge guy give me a new years hug with a beer in his hand. Explains why it was so quiet at 9pm the night before. We were just far too early.


With New Years being a a popular time for making resolutions and making plans for the year ahead, We’ve spent the past week struggling to figure out what 2016 does and doesn’t hold for us. Here is what we know:

We will be taking a break from cruising this fall.

There are certain aspects of home life that we miss, and parts of boat life that get frustrating. We believe that if we cruise again in the future we would prefer to be commuter (or part time) cruisers. This keeps you fresh, and allows you much more flexibility to fully explore cruising grounds without having to continually be making big seasonal moves to avoid hurricanes or winter.

We are not going to sell Altera and buy a catamaran this year.

Although sometimes I lust over them, an open ocean going one is going to cost twice what we could sell Altera for and 3 times more to maintain.  And yet the destination is still same, even if it takes a little longer to get there.

Our tentative plan, subject to change, is to be on Georgian Bay in August.

There are parts of Georgian Bay that I still want to explore and September and August would allow that to happen during my favourite part of year. Part of me wants to explore Newfoundland and go up the St Lawrence, but this a long haul. The only reason I’m really considering it is knowing that if we cruise again, and if it’s not on Altera, there is a good chance that we will be buying a boat outside of Canada and for tax reasons will be reluctant to take it home.

Where we will end up is uncertain, although it may not be far from where we started.

Waterloo and Guelph are the two cities that do seem to keep coming up in conversation. Although with the weak Canadian dollar and stronger US economy, seeking employment south of the border has been discussed too. This of course assumes that Trump doesn’t get anywhere near the presidential office. If that happens we may not want to be any closer than Europe.

We will not be jumping into home ownership.

 Neither of us has any desire to own a house when we return, at least not in the short term. The Canadian economy is struggling and I suspect it will get worse before it gets better. Maximum flexibility and the ability to relocate quickly if the need arises will be important. No more passing up good career options because of a geographical restriction.

Besides, I calculated that it cost us more per night to own our last house than it did for our stay at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Renting the similar house under todays market conditions was somewhere in between. I’m sure we will take the plunge someday, but not this year.

A month or so of travel in Europe this fall?

 This is an idea we have discussed, as once we return to the ‘rat race’ time off will again be a scarce commodity. We haven’t found a good reason not to take a bit of time while we have it and for motivation to live well within our means to make an even longer tour of Europe a possibility a few years later.

And what are we planning to do with Altera?

Given the current Canadian economic backdrop, the falling dollar and the limited demand for boats equipped for cruising on the great lakes, part of me is tempted to sail up to Newfoundland, enjoy the summer and then sail for Annapolis and put Altera up for sale, which I suspect is the best option financially. My desire to see a bit more of Georgian Bay can mostly be achieved with a charter boat in the North Channel. But life isn’t all dollars and cents.

The most likely outcome is we will keep Altera for one more season on Georgian Bay (if we end up in Ontario) to figure out what we are doing next. If we could find a way to make the commuter cruising life work and decided that is what we wanted, we would keep the boat indefinitely, but I suspect it is unlikely. So the likely outcome is that we will return to being Hobie Cat sailors so that we can sail closer to home, occasionally on Georgian Bay and have time to catch some of the local summer cultural events that we always seemed to miss after our weekends became spoken for as owners of a cruising boat. It will be a hard day, but we would rather see Altera continue to be used for what she is good at than spend her days sitting at a dock.

This article has 3 comments

  1. Sounds like you have lots of options to choose from. I’m sure you will both come to the perfect decision. So enjoy the present and the future will come soon enough.
    Happy sailing, Nan and Grandad ? ?

  2. We would love to see you three again and would welcome you to come to Newfoundland. The Bay of Islands awaits you !!!!!!!!