“All hope lies in one’s openness to experience and ability to change.”That was Alvah Simon’s takeaway from his year in the Arctic ice aboard Roger Henry, his harrowing, “sojourn into the darkness.” I re-read Simon’s North to the Night recently—for like the fourth or fifth time—and I finally no longer feel inadequate, like my own cruising experiences are diminutive in comparison. After all, where did Simon freeze himself and the Roger Henry in over the winter? Yep, Canada. The exact same Canada where we and our good ship Del Viento just survived a long, cold winter.
Yes, I can hear the skeptics now: “But Alvah was alone.”Of course he was, that’s why he had it much easier. Did Alvah have to constantly remind two kids not to leave the hatch wide open? Did he have three other bodies exhaling warm, moist air that would condense on the cabin walls? No, he had a cat.
In fact, Simon had it easy as he chose to winter-over in a part of Canada where mold doesn’t grow on the inside of your boat. Do you know how many trips Simon had to make in the cold drizzle to buy yet another gallon of vinegar so he could wage his battle against the nasty stuff? Zero.Because Simon has long been a hero of mine, I’m going to stop with the comparison. Even though we’re now more or less equals, he was first and that’s worth something.
But we’re now facing a challenge Simon could not have imagined.Where to Alvah the coming of spring meant a speck of moss spotted on a tundra stone, to us it is the roar of bow thrusters echoing through our hull as an 85-foot Nordhaven sidles in next to us, blocking our access to the spring sun.
Here on our docks in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, we grew accustomed to the long, lonely winter, the isolation, the quiet. We made our own rules, with plenty of space between us and our few hearty neighbors. We became a community, bound not by familiarity, but by shared adversity. Through the long, dark winter, we’d nod as we passed each other, heads down, along the 300-yard trail to the showers or laundry, too much cold and drizzle to stop and chat.
|It was a month ago now, on|
a freezing cold morning that
I rented dive gear for the day
so I could check our zincs
and scrub the bottom. That's
a 7mm suit doubled up over
my thighs and torso--the
And the irony is painful, how now that I finally have the weather to do a little sanding and touch-up the varnish on my toe rail, I can’t. The couple entertaining friends on their stern deck is barely five yards away and downwind of where I need to work.But our winter in Victoria was much more than adversity and our spring is much more than the crowds that have descended. We’ve made many friends, some of whom we’ll leave behind and some of whom are cruisers we’ll likely cross paths with in Mexico. And we are going to miss Victoria. We bonded with this pretty, resource-rich city, everything we want and more just a short walk away.
The end of the month is advancing fast. When it arrives, it’s hard to believe we’ll be gone.But do have hope, Alvah. As we prepare to leave Victoria, to go north to the light, we’re open to the experience and I know we have the ability to change.