On my fiftieth birthday we took Cat’s-Paw IV out for our maiden voyage. She is a Fast Passage 39, a cutter designed by Bill Garden and built in Sydney BC in 1985. The boat has a cut away fin keel with a huge skeg and she is a double ender . We had put her new sails on the day before and we tried out all of them. We sailed from Fulford Harbour to Thetis Island, close to Vancouver Island and proceeded to have a lovely dinner aboard. Ten years later we are on the other side of the continent in Traytown, Newfoundland anchored in a hurricane hole and I am contemplating what to do with the day. Should I sail downwind in light winds so I can contact my children and my Mom on my birthday, should I beat up into the wind to get to a new anchorage to see what is there or should we just stay put in this lovely spot, explore the wreck of an old schooner and try to find some blueberries to pick.
We have lived on the boat for the better part of eight years. We left her in New Zealand for 10 months while we went back to Yellowknife for Barry to get a new hip and to top up our cruising kitty. Then this last winter we lived ashore for 11 months, first with our son-in-law Mark, our daughter Jennifer and their two boys and then in an apartment in Sydney, NS.
We have had adventures for a lifetime. Some of the highlights were exploring small town Mexico on the inside of the Baja, attending the Pacific Island Festival in American Samoa, climbing a working volcano in Vanuatu, New Years Eve in Sydney Harbour, Australia, getting to know the people of Indonesia, tea plantations in Sri Lanka, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, St. Helena Island, Sugarloaf in Rio, the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and the icebergs off of Newfoundland.
We have almost circumnavigated the globe, visited 43 countries and made lasting friendships. The ocean life we have seen has been amazing – we’ve had pods of dolphins playing in our bow wave, orcas sounding right in front of us after diving under our keel, humpbacks breaching. I have swum with sharks – hammerheads, lemon, white and black tips and we have seen turtles galore, getting to experience leatherbacks laying their eggs in Australia. From the cockpit we have enjoyed the antics and majesty of boobies, penguins, puffins and albatrosses.
We have no regrets!! In making the decision to quit our jobs, sell our home and sail the world we have enriched ourselves immeasurably. I am not the same person I was ten years ago. My views of the world have changed, my need for material goods has diminished and I try to take pleasure in every day and what it brings. After living in 390 sq. feet for 10 years the need to have a 3 bedroom house is non existent. We have also realized how lucky we are to live in this great country of ours. Canadians are welcomed worldwide and everyone likes us except for one disgruntled French sailor in Rodriguez who did not like the noise our wind generator made!!
I am so lucky in the partner I picked. After 41 years of marriage he still puts up with me. Our relationship changed once we moved on the boat. When he had to, he put his foot down and insisted that I listen to him and do what he thought was safe and prudent. At times it nearly drove me crazy, but we have only had one major scare, (in the Marquesas in the Bay of Virgins where we dragged our anchor and ended up on the rocks next to shore) and a number of “Oh, Shit” moments. I am sure there would have been more if he had let me do it my way!! We make a good pair, I am the hell bent for leather type – let’s get there as fast as we can, while Barry is the calm, steady, cautious sort – the wind is supposed to pick up in two hours, let’s reef now.
The boat has brought us safely through everything we have asked of her. We have been in two big blows, one in a squash zone between Bora Bora and Suwarrow, and the other in the Mozambique Channel when a thunderstorm blew up to 50 knots.
She has also swallowed up a lot of our funds, keeping her safe and updating her equipment. The most recent being the major overhaul we did in Trinidad. We stripped the hull and repaired the osmosis, had her repainted and replaced her chainplates. After ten years, the things we bought new are needing to be upgraded and we find ourselves reluctant to spend great amounts on her because we are unsure of how much longer we want to continue cruising.
Some days I think that I am good for another few years. To complete our circumnavigation we need to go through the Panama Canal and we will tie the knot off the coast of Costa Rica. Barry keeps saying “How can you say you have circumnavigated without seeing Europe?” I find that missing the lives of our family, our aging mothers, our children and grandchildren is the hardest thing. We don’t know where we want to settle down – remember we sold our home, and that decision looms in my mind.
At sixty I find myself becoming more anxious in new situations – I never used to be. Barry takes the helm whenever we go into a new anchorage (which is almost all the time) and my heart races and I am sure my blood pressure spikes if there is anything out of the ordinary. When we get injuries, it takes longer to heal. I can’t crank the winches like I used to, the other day I had to ask Barry to finish bringing in the genoa and that really bothers me. I am uncomfortable sometimes when Barry goes forward because his balance is not what it was in his youth. He also has diminished hearing and I worry that I will say something vital and he just won’t hear, and he wonders why I shriek at him sometimes – getting old sucks. On the other hand I started collecting my Canada Pension Plan and while it is no way adequate to live on, it certainly will help and I will get the senior’s rate when the next James Bond movie comes out!
Would I do it again – in a heart beat. Was it financially prudent – NEVER – but as I have said a number of times, you can always work! We are still healthy and pretty fit and there are lots of places in the world we haven’t seen yet!! Sail on!