Sailing Off into the Sunset

Seagulls laughed as I walked along the shore of Lake Ontario yesterday. The ice that held fishing huts just two weeks ago had begun to melt and the westerly breeze created ripples across the patches of open water. I inhaled deeply and enjoyed the sun on my face.

This is the time of year I begin to get the Pelee Island itch. With spring just around the corner, my thoughts turn to booking our first ferry crossing of the season. And this year’s bookings are especially exciting. 2018 is finally the year that sees the little island in Lake Erie get a new ferry to replace the M.V. Pelee Islander. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sailing aboard the ship built in 1960 then you know this replacement is badly needed.

We’ve had some less than enjoyable moments aboard the Islander – like the time the waves were so big and the side to side motion so extreme, we could practically reach over the side of the boat and dip our hands into the lake. Or the time we sat below deck and watched as water poured in through the windows with ever wave we hit. Or the time the lake was so rough, we were tossed around like a salad. Fitting, since being aboard the Islander is like sailing in a big salad bowl.

I don’t mean to slam it. Looking back now, I can say we’ve also had some comical moments – like the time the waves were so big and the side to side motion so extreme, we could practically reach over the side of the boat and dip our hands into the lake. Or the time we sat below deck and watched as water poured in through the windows with ever wave we hit. Or the time the lake was so rough, we were tossed around like a salad…

It’s that kind of boat. Sturdy and strong, it gets the job done. But I think if you ask anyone, they’d all say the same thing; it’s tired and old. It’s time, time to be replaced by a younger, sleeker, bigger model; something faster and more reliable.

Will we miss it? Maybe a tiny bit…but probably not.

The M.V. Pelee Islander (right) with the M.V. Jiimaan pulling in to dock.
Smooth sailing?
Preparing mentally…
Burrrr, early season sail.
Some things never change.

Naughty or Nice?

My husband Rob and I were out for our nightly walk along the water’s edge in our newfound neighbourhood when the little guy stopped abruptly in front of us, one foot scraping the pavement acting as a brake, the other planted firmly upon his scooter.

“I thought you were walking a goose!” he exclaimed.

Our dog Bailey stood by my side panting and I looked down at him and considered how he might be mistaken for a goose – the long legs and top-heavy body, perhaps?


“No, just our dog.” I replied trying not to laugh.

I was struck immediately by the boy’s confidence and open inquisitiveness, his genuine curiosity and lack of fear. We were strangers to him after all. He had to be no older than seven years old and I looked around for a parent or older sibling as was normally the case in the suburbs from which I came.

“He’s not very friendly though.” I warned as he took a step closer.

“Why not?’ he questioned.

“I’m not really sure.” I answered.

“Maybe it’s the food. Or maybe it’s the family.” He offered, trying to make sense of what might make a dog unhappy and therefore unfriendly.

“Yeah, it’s probably the family…” I conceded, not really having given Bailey’s grumpiness much thought up until then. Motherly guilt was slowly setting in.

“We had a cat once that hated us” he shared. “Maybe he hates you.”

Well, that’s a punch to the gut. I looked down at my dog who appeared to be patiently waiting for this pointless exchange to end.

“Yeah, you might be right.”

“Yeah, it’s probably the family.” Were the last words the boy spoke to us before pushing off on one foot and scooting away.

Wait! I wanted to yell after him. We’re nice people! But it was too late. He’d obviously drawn his own conclusions.

For more of my North End Newcomer stories check out –



A Warm Welcome


We moved recently, not from our Pelee place – we are far from ready to give up that – but from our mainland home. A home we had lived in for 22 years. When my husband and I moved into that home we owned a futon, a record player and a gold fish. Okay, maybe some dishes and other stuff too but let’s just say, moving in was a lot easier than moving out two decades later.

The city we have moved to is a perfect complement to my Pelee life. Where the Island is calm and quiet with very little to do in terms of mainstream commercial activities, Hamilton is loud and vibrant with nonstop action right outside my front door.

One thing they both have in common is the ability to inspire me. The sights and sounds might be starkly different but the encounters I make and the stories they form, are what motivate me to write and share my experiences. Hope you enjoy.

A Warm Welcome

Welcome to the North End, A Child & Family Friendly Neighbourhood the sign read. It was one of many that had been erected around the community. I looked at it and thought about what might have prompted the installation of these signs and when. They certainly weren’t around when I was growing up in the city. Who are they trying to convince? I wondered.

I grew up on East 43rd Street on the Hamilton Mountain in the 1970s and while most of my day to day experiences were limited to the confines of the Escarpment’s edge, we did go downtown from time to time, usually to see the Nativity Scene in Gore Park, visit family friends or shop for something special at Salvo’s. I remember assuming all cities were set up like Hamilton – with downtown being literally down town – and that the term naturally referred to a difference in elevation rather than the city’s core. But I was always happy to return to the 1 ½ story red brick house in my quiet little neighbourhood where as children we could run out onto the streets without the risk of getting hit by a bus, being abducted by bikers or having to search my pockets for loose change with every homeless man I passed. At least this is the way I saw it. What can I say? I was a sheltered Mountain girl. I was well into my twenties before I stopped locking the door on my side of the car every time we drove north of Barton Street. If you had told me thirty years ago that I’d be living in the north end of Hamilton, I would have called you crazy.

So what changed? The neighbourhood or my perception? Both of course, at least to some extent. With months and years of searching and through the process of elimination, my husband and I found it was the one neighbourhood we kept coming back to while looking for a new home.

“Why?!” our Burlington friends asked puzzled by what seemed to them I’m sure like a big unexpected change. What we told them was “this” wasn’t what we wanted anymore. We had stayed in the suburbs long enough. We wanted the excitement of city living, the sights, the sounds, the smells. We wanted restaurants, shops, entertainment and the water at our doorstep. We wanted Hamilton’s North End.

I thought back to the sign I had first noticed in the fall of 2016. Who was it trying to convince? Obviously, it had convinced me.

Thanks for the Memories

I wish I could say we spent every waking moment on Pelee Island this summer. Sadly, I cannot. But what I can say is the time we have spent has been memorable. That is what Pelee has been for us, a series of memory making moments. Countless hours on the beach, collecting beach glass, spotting herons. Parades, cook-offs and concerts. Friends and family and watching my children grow. So, if you haven’t done so already, please read a few of my favorite recollections…

My God…What Have We Done?
Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom
Making Waves
The Habanero Pepper Incident
No News is Good News
It’s All in How You Look at It

Family Pelee Pic


Is That What You’re Planning on Wearing?

My husband Rob owns what I like to call, a Complete Pelee Island Wardrobe. Various pieces of clothing with Pelee Island stamped across them. Hats and T-shirts all packed and proudly worn each time we go across to the Island. Every year a new article of clothing gets added to the collection partly due to the fact his birthday is in August and we’re usually on the Island celebrating. A T-shirt always seems to be the perfect gift. He is, at any given time, a walking billboard for: the annual Music Festival, the Winery, the Community Artworks and the Heritage Centre, just to name a few. Really, my children and I only have ourselves to blame.

On the mainland occasionally people will, upon reading the text printed across his chest, stop and ask him about Pelee Island.

“There’s a winery there, isn’t there?” most people inquire knowing they’ve seen the Pelee brand somewhere.

At which point, Rob or myself (if I happen to be within ear-shot) will break out into our much rehearsed and often repeated, Pelee Island Promotional Speech. If you know us then you’ve heard it and your eyes are probably glazing over as you read this, so I’ll try to get back to my point. Which is –

Go to Pelee. Buy a T-shirt.



Waiting to Rewind

We own a cassette player on Pelee Island, a record player too. It’s old school I know, but it suits our place. It suits Pelee.

While cleaning out the crawlspace of our mainland home recently, I came across our old collection of tapes housed neatly in a miniature storage chest made specifically for such a purpose. Tiny pull out drawers holding all our favourites from the 80’s and 90’s – Manteca, Pat Metheny, Pink Floyd, Gypsy Kings, David Sanborn, Sade, Level 42, even a little Madonna – all preserved in their plastic cases, standing at attention in their dedicated slots. We brought the assortment, and compartmentalized box, promptly to Pelee.

I know most young people won’t know what the heck I’m talking about, and probably can’t even get a visual of what I’ve just described, but my kids can. Our dinner hours on Pelee usually start with my husband Rob heading to the old tape player and choosing a retro tune to play while we all sit eating supper. At some point during the meal, the music will stop and Rob will stand and make his way over to the cassette player to turn the tape over. This practice still stuns our children. It seems like a lot of work to them. Their instant, fast-paced lives leave little time for waiting around for a tape to rewind or a vinyl record to be flipped. But that’s just what we love about it, and about Pelee Island. It forces our kids to stop, slow down, wait and listen.

So this past weekend, when my daughter Megan came upon her dad just sitting on the floor in front of the stereo cabinet gazing idly out the window, she asked,

“What are you doing dad?”

His response shouldn’t have surprised her.

“Just waiting for the tape to rewind.”

Seems it has the same affect on us adults too.

Meg on Beach

A Spring in My Step

Ah, spring. Clocks moved forward, smoke alarms tested, and our first voyages of the upcoming 2017 season reserved.

Getting to Pelee Island isn’t always convenient. Between work, the kids’ calendars, the ferry schedule and the weather, I’m sometimes surprised we get there at all. And yet, we persist. We couldn’t imagine not going. The planning has become as natural as a spring rain, and just as the first Robin sighting signals the return of the season, so too does booking our first ferry crossing to the Island. The anticipation of warm weather and carefree days fills me as I pick up the phone and dial the toll-free number to a little bit of bliss…I can feel the sun on my face already…


Harrison aboard the M.V. Pelee Islander, during one of our first voyages of seasons past.