New England Trailer Sailors

Thoughts of a Nomadic Sailor on Lake Champlain

By Barbara Garland

August 2, 2003

Where do I begin - I guess at the beginning. With no Roger, Whale sitting in the boat garage, and a grandchild due I had a hard time thinking that being on the MOANE/NE-TS Champlain rendezvous this year was possible. But the first glimmer of hope was in a sympathy card from Bob and Linda - come sail with us on our new Catelina 36 for one of the weekends of the rendezvous. Ok that's 3 days - what about the other 5 - what about the baby that was due. Tony and Ed answered the first question with "just come we'll figure things out". By mid June my heart was saying go but the details were still not figured out. Justin arrived on June 20 and though I knew I was leaving my daughter and a 2 year old with a 1 week old baby I knew I had to go. I got home to a phone call from Joy saying she would love to have me sail with her but she couldn't be on the lake till Wednesday.

I was packed up and ready to go Saturday morning - stopped at the launching ramp to see if others needed help and then went to Mallett Bay Boat Club to meet Bob and Linda. We loaded "Change of Heart" and by early afternoon we were sailing. I was treated royally - good food, good company and an absolutely beautiful boat. How could I ever get on a Mac 26 again. For 3 days I enjoyed the luxury of a private cabin "with a door", hot and cold running water and the feel of a 36 ft keel boat under me. My meager offering was to do the dishes after meals - a luxurious task with the hot water.

A little piece of reality set in on Sunday when the group started to anchor off South Bluff on Valcour. We, of course, couldn't go in on the beach. For the last several years "Whale" has been the first boat in on the beach and I would help others set anchors. After we were settled Tony sailed by and I asked if he wanted help. The answer was yes so I went down to my cabin "with a door", changed into my bathing suit and hopped aboard "The Beep". What a reality check. It was so small and tippy. That thought didn't last long as there were things to do - get the anchor out, drop it, swing around, get a stern line out, and get ready for "By & By" - the next boat in. Life was back to normal.

I left Tony and Jack to help the others and swam back to "Change of Heart" to get sun tan lotion and a shirt. After swimming back to shore the amazing events of the week began to unfold. I got to see all the old friends from last year (of the 16 boats - 14 had been on the lake last year for the rendezvous). It wasn't long before there were memories and the tears began to flow. The first time The tears came I was in a group with 3 other women - and before I knew it, I was surrounded by warm hugs and a love I couldn't have imagined from a group of people, many of whom I see only a few times a year. There were more conversations, some more tears over the afternoon and evening. Except for the fact that Roger and "Whale" weren't there, it was a typical Champlain Rendezvous.

Monday dawned beautiful. The north west wind settled in and most of the group headed south to Converse Bay - a place Roger had described as his favorite anchorage on the lake. I had figured I was never going to get there again - and here I was - headed south - first boat in the pack again. We agreed that if "Whale" and Roger had been there they would have given Bob and "Change of Heart" a run for their money. "Puff Stuff" showed us how it might have been - only 15 minutes behind us at Essex. The evening started with happy hour on "Change of Heart" - when you have that big a boat it's easy to fit the crews of 8 or 9 Macs on board.

We'll skip the plumbing issues on "Change of Heart" and jump to Tuesday morning. It was time to move on to another boat. I packed my gear and stood on deck hollering to Ed and Tony "OK which one of you am I sailing with today". Tony had his anchor up - Ed was still working on his so Tony volunteered.

OK back to reality. I'm now on a 26S - similar to "Whale" but very different. I've been on "The Beep" before so I knew what I was in for. Every thing has its place but it's NOT arranged like "Whale" (to say the least) and of course I don't know where things are. Tony had his stereo going - playing "Come Sail Away" and off we went. A change of jib - I had to remind Tony he had a crew who knew how to do that and was happy to do it.

We were heading north on the lake in light winds toward Willsboro bay for my first dinner at the restaurant at the marina. Roger had avoided it "all his life" as it now has become evident. The restaurant was not to be for me this time - it is closed on Tuesday. (if you haven't kept track I'm up to Tuesday). Willsboro brought the next dose of love in the form of Pam (and Bruce). Pam is the self proclaimed group hugger and I knew when I saw her she wouldn't let me down (Bruce didn't either). Again a feeling of warmth and love surrounded me.

There were several cars at the Willsboro launching ramp so we all went out to dinner. I had a quiet dinner with Bob and Carol, Gerold, Carol and Willy. The rest of the group was at one big table. They hadn't started to eat when we were done. The others headed back to their boats and I joined the large table. 2 hours and many laughs later we piled into 3 cars like a bunch of teenagers and headed back to the marina.

OK now it's Wednesday - and I hop onto Ed's boat for more sailing north. We spent the day in nice conversation and Ed got to know a little more about Roger's background. We arrived in Deep Bay and Joy on "Stardust", boat # 4 for me, arrived a short time later. The group finally was all together - again more old friends to see. We were invited to dinner on "Puddlehopper" with Steve, Karen and Tabby and then headed into the beach for a bon fire, singing and great conversation.

There came the third experience of the week. Bill, from "Mental Floss" had a broken rudder a couple of hours from the launching ramp on Sunday. He explained to me his thought process. He headed back to the ramp - figuring the week was lost - then thought "Roger wouldn't do that - he'd build a new rudder and go sailing". Bill did just that and launched again on Tuesday afternoon in Willsboro Bay. Bill proceeded to tell me another story. He and Roger had spent time together at last year's Christmas Party. He had told Roger of his hope to buy a summer cottage on the lake he keeps his boat. Roger's comment was - wouldn't it be nice to sit in your house and look out at your boat anchored in the water just out side. Bill paused - a long emotional pause - and then said - and that's the last conversation I had with Roger - and 2 months ago we closed on the house. Every time I sit and look out at the boat, I'll think of Roger. There were other words and a hug or two and I was again surrounded with the love of the group.

Thursday was a quick sail to Burton Island. Sailing with Joy is a joy. She and her boat are one. It was a pleasure to sail with her - and 2 females on a boat sure make changing easier. I spent the afternoon swimming and enjoying the company of the group. As I headed back to the boat for dinner - Steve (boat still un-named) was sitting on a picnic table. Steve is new to the group and I stopped to chat - and apologize for my tears. It was at least hr later that one of his sons came to fetch us. Again I was wrapped in the warmth of a caring person - who, though a stranger to me a day ago, understood the grieving process and was willing to allow me to be where I needed to be.

We had the whole group together in on shore on Thursday evening and I spent some time talking about Roger and the memorial service. Several people hadn't been able to attend and I shared several thoughts. Don from "Off the List" our Florida sailing companion suggested singing "For He Was a Jolly Good Fellow" in Roger's memory. Again I was surrounded with warmth and love from many.

Joy and I had a great sail back to Valcour on Friday. Though not in a race - it was obvious to many that though we left hr to 1 hour after many, we were one of the first to arrive at Valcour. The leaving late was partially caused by a broken tiller and again Bruce from "Charis" and Sam from "Puff Stuff" came to the rescue with the tools necessary for them to affect a repair.

Saturday morning meant heading back to Mallett Bay. Joy wanted to continue sailing for the weekend so I stowed my stuff on "Off the List" and sailed back on "Mental Floss" with Bill and Siobhan.

The evening at Frank and Sonja's was the typical MOANE party with singing, food (bring your own) and talk. Frank and Sonja offered me a bed for the night and I took up their offer. We visited 2 boats up the creek on Sunday morning and I checked the launching ramp to make sure all were safely headed home.

What amazes me is - though we see each other infrequently - there is a sense of community with this group that I wouldn't have imagined. I felt drawn to be with them for the week - though I didn't know how thing would work out. That sense of being drawn to this event , as well as being drawn to other things in my life in the last 3 months since Roger has died, is incredible. As I write this (August 2) I'm drawn to sail in Maine next week. I have 3 boats to sail on - the nomad is headed out again AND I CAN'T WAIT!!

Post Script
I would like to thank all those on the rendezvous for their support and especially, Bob and Linda, Tony, Ed, Joy, Bill and Siobhan and Frank and Sonja for hosting me.