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Idiot Afloat, Book I, Living and Cruising on Wishbone, Ultramarine Blue and My Detour

Idiot Afloat, Book I, Living and Cruising on Wishbone, Ultramarine Blue and My Detour

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Idiot Afloat, Book I, Living and Cruising on Wishbone, Ultramarine Blue and My Detour

5/5 (1 valutazione)
217 pagine
3 ore
Dec 25, 2014


While most cruising books are an adventure unfolding along a route from place to place, the journey here is that of learning how to cruise. It is about people and boats. The setting for the book is the ICW, the Bahamas and Cuba, but Sharon was a member of the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club in Ontario before she went south. As the relatives, friends and guests revolve thought her companionway, Sharon relates the daily challenges of anchoring, provisioning, navigation and maintenance. She relates mastering boat mechanics, from changing engine oil and draining air from the fuel system to changing the alternator belt. Those not familiar with boats will be shocked to learn what proportion of the day is dedicated to maintenance as opposed to sunset cocktails. She explains how weather guru Herb Hilgenberg (of Burlington) advised her on the weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. Never holding back, she even relates how her boat, Ultramarine Blue, sank under a bridge which she clipped with her mast, fighting an unexpectedly strong current while waiting for a bridge tender to belatedly open a bridge. While much of the book is written in the first person narrative, there are also excerpts from logs and journals, both hers and friends. There are fish and seafood stories. There is romance. It is an unabashed insider’s window into cruising life.

- From Richard Herrington’s review in New Horizons, the RHYC Newsletter, Dec. 2012 - Jan. 2013

Dec 25, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

Sharon Lehnert neé Sloan was born in 1943 and grew up on a Christmas tree farm just outside the small town of Bothwell, Ontario, Canada. She married at 19, and has a son Michael. Sharon graduated from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, with a Master in Library Science degree in 1969. She worked as a secondary school teacher/librarian, a prison librarian and a public librarian, chiefly in Hamilton, before retiring. In her retirement, Sharon turned her old house in Hamilton into Inchbury Street Bed and Breakfast and it operated for nine years until she set off on her sailing adventures. When not sailing the high-seas, Sharon calls Bothwell, Ontario home, where she pursues her keen interests in Scrabble, oil painting landscapes and politics.

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Idiot Afloat, Book I, Living and Cruising on Wishbone, Ultramarine Blue and My Detour - Sharon Lehnert

Idiot Afloat


Living and Cruising on

Wishbone, Ultramarine Blue

and My Detour


Copyright © 2015

Sharon Lehnert

ebook edition Version 2 © 2016

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in the case, of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a license from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.

Published by the Author at Smashwords

Contributions by Yvonne Brioux

Edited and printed by William Sloan, Jr.

Formatted by Christine Thomasson

Cover from a painting by Sharon Lehnert

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Lehnert, Sharon

Idiot afloat, book 1 : living and cruising on Wishbone,

Ultramarine Blue and My Detour / Sharon Lehnert ; Yvonne

Brioux. -- Rev. and corr. ed.

ISBN 978-0-9877509-1-4

1. Sailing. I. Brioux, Yvonne, 1944- II. Title.

GV777.3. L44 2012 797.124 C2012-905134-9

to Vonny and Ray, who led me to sailing,

Bill, who helped me to publish the book,

my father, who taught me to be persistent,

and my mother, who always found time to paint

Table of Contents

Title Page

Verso of the Title Page



Map I - Wishbone’s Route

Map II - Ultramarine Blue’s Route

Map III - My Detour’s Route


1. Going South on Wishbone

2. To the Bahamas on Wishbone

3. Across the Bank, and to Nassau

4. Down the Exumas

5. Making the Change to a New Way of Life

6. Ultramarine Blue

7. False Starts and Glitches: Learning in the Keys

8. Cuba: My First Time by Water

9. Goodbye, Ultramarine Blue

10. My Detour Gets Cruise-Worthy

11. Wishbone and My Detour get to Bimini

12. My Detour, Wishbone and Fair Wind get to Nassau

13. The Fleet of Three Sail Down the Exumas

14. Life In and Around George Town, Exumas

15. Sailing North


Appendix I - From the Seven Seas Cruising Association Women’s Forum

Appendix II - From the Seven Seas Cruising Association Motor Maintenance Workshop



About the Author


My first recollection of sailing is sitting in the cockpit of a twenty-six-foot boat, watching endless rows of three-foot waves approach and sweep under the stern. How long would it take me to get to the side of the boat and hang over it? I wondered. But I stayed still. I knew that, if I moved the least bit, the contents of my stomach would move faster.

There was no land visible behind us. I couldn’t get up to look forward, but knew that there was no land visible there either. What was I thinking when I agreed to do this?

The only boat I had ever been in was a washtub that I captained when I was four. I tried to get my younger sisters to be the crew and row it, but Vonny, the oldest, mutinied and laid her oar, a long stick, on the ground.

Vonny and husband Ray bought a new Grampian sailboat shortly after they got married, before they got the car, the house or the kids. I was a single parent, struggling to work, raise a son and get a degree in library science. I thought their purchase was wildly extravagant.

From time to time, my son Mike and I would sail with them. Mike never got over the seasickness, but eventually I did.

I started to see the good side of sailing: the quaint little ports around Lake Ontario that couldn’t be seen from the road, the friendly sailors who greeted new arrivals, and the new intimacy with the weather that made sailing possible – or not.

I got the bug and bought my own sailboat, a twenty-two-foot Tanzer, already named Wildcat. Sailing in the Thousand Islands alone, cooking on my knees, and gently rocking to sleep in the vee-berth at night – these were all pleasures I looked forward to each summer. Often friends, usually women, came along. But frequently they couldn’t make it and I was left on my own. Sailing was fun both ways, and I discovered more resources inside me than I had known were there.

Racing with a group of friends became a twice-weekly habit, and for a while I was Vice-Commodore of Sailing at the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club. Late one afternoon at the library, my boss was giving me a really hard time for some infraction. After she ignored two of my attempts to interrupt, I got up and left. I knew my crew was waiting on the dock to race. Some things are more important than others.

After early retirement at fifty-two, I kept on racing and cruising, but Inchbury Street Bed and Breakfast, my new business venture, consumed even more time than the job had. It was especially busy in the summer. After eight years or so, I paused in the middle of an endless round of dishes, laundry and paperwork. It was time to really retire.

The ocean beckoned. And with all my experience in the twenty-two-foot boat on Lake Ontario, I was sure I knew enough to cruise the Caribbean. In hindsight, I realize that I had what my father would have called compound ignorance. Not only did I not know much about cruising, I had no idea how little I knew.

Why a book about my adventures? Well, I made a lot of mistakes. If you don’t make the same ones, you will have a better trip.

Several people have said, You must know who your audience is, and write to them. After much thought, I can’t define the people that might read this. It’s not a cruising guide. It’s not a repair manual either, although there are spots where it might be mistaken for one. Perhaps it is just a little antidote to all those glossy cruising articles, where nothing ever breaks, the weather is always perfect, and the cruisers are slim, athletic and beautiful.

My brother said, Use the line ‘Old sailors never die; they just keep trying to.’ I guess that’s how a farmer would see sailing. I hope you enjoy being along for the ride.

Map I - Wishbone’s Route

Map II - Ultramarine Blue’s Route

Map III - My Detour’s Route


April 29, 2002

The mast bumped along the edge of the bridge, and the racing current dragged the boat sideways under the bridge. Water poured through the open portholes into the cabin.

I watched in horror, clinging to one side of the cockpit and standing on the opposite seat, now down near the water. The boat was sinking, drowning my plans and dreams. I screamed, not from fear but from rage, as I watched months of work and most of my savings sinking with it.

A young man came alongside in a personal watercraft, and yelled, Jump on! I looked around at my little world, disappearing below me, and jumped.

Chapter One

Going South on Wishbone

The old pickup truck with its heavy load crept along at fifty miles an hour, slowly heading south. It was December 1999, and my sister Vonny and I were going to Savannah, Georgia with a friend, Jim Yates, for the first time. He was a craggy old Shark racer and commodore of the yacht club I belonged to, the Royal Hamilton, in the Ontario city of that name. His 1980 truck, loaded down with our gear, was going to Wishbone, a thirty-foot Nonsuch sailboat that Vonny and her husband Ray had bought the previous spring. Vonny and I were both in our mid-fifties and had been planning and looking forward to this trip for over a year. We both flew ahead of the truck in our imaginations.

The Bahamas were our goal. We had talked to friends who sailed there, and we had read the cruising guides. The white beaches and clear turquoise waters called to us. Vonny had managed to save up three months of holidays and time off from her work. I was retired from my job as a librarian and had stopped taking bookings at my bed and breakfast.

Dianne and Cliff Newman, friends of ours from the Alexandra Yacht Club in Toronto, and long-time cruisers, had taken Wishbone south on the Intracoastal Waterway, leaving Frenchman’s Bay Yacht Club in Pickering on Labour Day in 1999. They did this for us so that, when we had our hard-earned and limited time off, the boat would be far enough south that we could drive to it in a day or two, and make it to the Bahamas and back in our allotted four months.

Cliff and Diane were a jolly couple that I often saw at AYC parties. One evening, when I was explaining to Cliff that a man I had been seeing told me that his wife didn’t understand him, Cliff said plaintively that his wife didn’t understand him either. Diane heard this, and marched up behind him. Giving him a slap on the rear, she said, Cliff Newman, I understand you all too well! (As I write this, a decade later, Cliff and Diane have given up cruising and live in a Toronto condo, but still joke with each other in that same testy but companionable way.)

They had close encounters with four hurricanes on their way south, including Floyd. Floyd was the category four hurricane that ripped up the east coast of the U.S. with one hundred and fifty knot winds, causing the evacuation of three million people from the area, and dumping up to two feet of water in some places. Cliff and Diane moored the boat in a protected bay and stayed in a hotel – the sensible thing to do.

Most of Savannah’s marinas are in Thunderbolt, a suburb twenty miles east of the city. The boat stopped moving forward near there, just before Christmas. Cliff and Diane had it towed back to the Palmer-Johnson Boat Yard, where the transmission was sent to Jacksonville for repairs. Cliff and Diane returned home to Toronto, and the mechanics at Palmer-Johnson went to work on Wishbone.

We arrived in the old truck on December 29, after two days of driving. Wishbone looked pretty, with her white hull and wide green delineation stripe, as she gently moved at the dock. Vonny and Jim took the dinghy off the deck, inflated it, and splashed it into the water. While Vonny was unpacking, Jim and I picked up a few groceries and fresh fish for supper.

Valerie, an old friend of mine who teaches Scottish country dancing and is a retired librarian like me, was delivered in the evening by her friend Bill, from Port Ritchie, Florida. After supper, we lit a cozy fire in Wishbone’s fireplace.

At sunrise, Jim and I brushed the ice off the deck while Vonny was warming up the motor, and then Wishbone headed out into the Intracoastal Waterway. The sun was just coming up over the fields of ten-foot-high grass that border both sides of the ICW in Georgia. This was a world we had never seen.

The transmission worked smoothly, as Vonny shifted through the gears. Our great millennium adventure had begun.

We worked our way south through Georgia’s looping waterway. Sometimes we looked back to the side across the grass and saw a boat that had been ahead of us. We knew we would have to wind back that way too.

The tides were about eight feet. Once we mistook a range marker for a buoy, and ran aground. We had to sit there a few hours, until the tide rose enough to lift Wishbone off the bottom.

We three women had a cooperative way of navigating. One woman took the wheel, and the other two looked for the next marker. They also watched behind to make sure the current didn’t sweep Wishbone over into shallow water, and moved the little sticky arrow along the chart. When Jim came on the wheel, he just wanted to be given a compass course to steer by, as he would on Lake Ontario, where there was no current to sweep the boat off-course. He didn’t want us to talk about what we were doing all the time. A gender difference? One would need to study a wider sample of sailors to be certain.

Jim turned out to be a good cook, despite the major cleanup required when he was finished preparing a meal. Vonny also cooked delicious meals, and she was neat about it. Valerie and I noticed these things, since the clean-up duties fell to us.

Vonny, Valerie, Jim and I spent New Year’s Eve, 2000, in Brunswick, Georgia, a little intracoastal town where shrimp boats lined the docks. We drank champagne, sitting outside in the cockpit of our boat in our summer clothes. At the countdown to the next millennium, a giant shrimp with illuminated eyes dropped into a huge pot. This was an imaginative leap over the ball dropping down in Times Square, I thought. Looking more closely, one could see that the shrimp was guided down a wire into the pot. A shrimper walking by told us that the previous year, the shrimp dropped in free fall and missed the pot.

A few days later, in the North Lake Worth anchorage, we took Vonny’s son Jesse and his girlfriend Trish aboard, upping the total contingent on the boat to six. We had intended to meet them at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, but we were delayed, waiting to get the correct transmission oil for the old Volvo motor. Fortunately, Valerie had a friend, Shirley Marshall, who lived in Fort Lauderdale. It was Shirley who met the kids at the airport and drove them to the little beach at a bridge near a North Palm grocery store. That was where they met us for the dinghy ride to Wishbone. At the city marina in Fort Lauderdale, Shirley was standing by again to drive us around. This friendly English woman with her brisk capable manner would become a good friend, and turn up often in my cruising world after that, usually when I needed shore side help.

Vonny, Valerie and I loaded up with yet more groceries, and found places to store them aboard. It meant moving the tired crew around several times late that evening, and making everyone cranky. Trish was on the point of tears. She didn’t like flying, wasn’t accustomed to the tiny quarters in a boat, and didn’t know Valerie and me very well. She was also suffering the shock of seeing how uncomfortable this little boat might be, as opposed to, say, a resort. She persisted, however, and over the years she became a good cruiser.

Wishbone continued south to Miami, putting along at five knots, often wallowing in large wakes from speeding power boats. It was a relief to be through all of the bridges in that part of the waterway. Most only open every half hour and we spent a great deal of time waiting. Finally we anchored by the Miami Yacht Club, and dinghied ashore.

The very thought of crossing the Gulf Stream keeps many cruisers in the Florida Keys. The waves in the north-moving Stream can get high and mean if the wind comes from the north. A woman at the yacht club said she and her husband had tried to cross the night before, but it was too rough outside the cut, in the ocean. She told us that there wouldn’t be a window of suitable weather for crossing for at least a week.

Vonny got on the phone and called weather guru Herb Hilgenberg in Burlington, Ontario. On our short-wave radio receiver, we could listen (but not talk) to Herb, who was sitting in his basement. On two-way short-wave radios, he conversed with people on eighty to a hundred boats, who checked in with him every afternoon around three. He would work his way through them, from Greenland to Venezuela, listening to their descriptions of conditions where they were. Herb put the weather broadcasts for the day together with what each sailor told him, and could predict accurately what each would encounter. He could even say when the spinnaker, the big billowy down-wind sail, should come down. We worshipped him.

Chapter Two

To the Bahamas on Wishbone

Herb was a little put out with us for phoning him, and pointed out that sailors didn’t do that. We should have tuned in to his afternoon broadcast. He did tell us it was the last good night to cross for a while, and he was exactly right about that.

We headed out Government Cut, the main thoroughfare for the ocean-going ships going to and from Miami. It was rough for a while, as the ocean met the outgoing current from the cut. But Herb was right. The ocean turned out to be a millpond, with waves less than two feet all the way through the night and across to the little islands of Bimini. They were just fifty or so miles from Miami, but a world away, and our first stop in the Bahamas.

It was the flattest I have ever seen it, and I’ve passed that way at least a half-dozen times since. We set sail for the bright star over Bimini in the east, and

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  • (5/5)
    I really enjoyed it, Steve from the bayou (Lafayette, LA)