Guest Interview Penny and Lawrence Talbot

Penny and Lawrence, just before setting out on their voyage down to San Diego, from Anacortes

So, Penny, tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?

Lawrence and I have been cruising for…. 35 years??? Four different boats – Our first was a 26 foot sailboat, which we took up and down the local coast around the Vancouver area. Ironically, there was never any wind.

That and the lack of space had us move into a 26 foot Campion power boat, which we lived on until son number one came along (Lawrence was going to Law school and we couldn’t do apartment and boat at the same time.. boat won). When we started a family we moved up to a 30 foot Campion Trawler, which we lived on for three more years until son number two came along and then we moved ashore but kept the boat. We usually spent four weeks every summer cruising the gulf islands, Desolation Sound, and the Broughtons with friends with kids the same age, who owned a 36 foot sailboat, Waegbora.

When our youngest , Andrew, was about 19, we took him away for a short cruise with other new-to-boating friends who had just bought a Meridian power boat – they had their son with them, a good buddy of Andrew’s. We realized really quickly that if we wanted to cruise with sons and their friends (and they still wanted to come along occasionally) we needed a bigger boat

Lawrence saying goodbye to Pagoo – after 25 years, going to another berth and more adventures!

Nordhavn had always been our dream boat (especially the 62!!!!) but common sense told us we could afford to build a North Pacific 43.. so we had one built that was our Forever Boat. We should have called it “Go Big Or Go Home”…It had everything on it and then some!

Malahide, up North – cruising with Kona, and Valerie, our original cruising companion from Waegbora

Shortly after that, our friends decided their Meridian wasn’t the boat for them and bought… a Nordhavn 60. We had mutual discussions about our dreams, and suddenly offshore seemed like a good idea. We had taken the 43 around Vancouver Island with our friends on a N50 (Colibri, Christopher and Diana Dent) and our friends with the N60 (Sea Level II, Kim and Cam Kemp). We made the decision to look for a Nordhavn, and looked into what was available in the sizes we thought we could do… 46, 47, but nothing smaller…we would visit a boat only to find it was already sold- we found Northern Ranger through Frank at AAA Yachtfinders International in Anacortes, WA. she was practically not even on the market yet, but we visited, and fell in love. The owners were in a bit of shock – I don’t think they expected her to go quite so quickly and I’m not even sure they were ready to let her go… but luckily, the time was right for all of us, and she became ours. Also, she had already been imported into Canada and registered as a Canadian vessel, thus saving us paying duty to import her – so that was a huge bonus!”

Our new forever boat!  Northern Ranger!

Why did you choose Nordhavn?

It had always been our dream boat – since first seeing the 62, Lawrence had fallen in love with Nordhavn. That boat especially embodied what a seaworthy ship would look like – to him it was very similar to the Northland Prince, a cargo ship that his father (a Naval Architect) had designed in the early 1960’s which cruised up and down the PNW and eventually went off to the Falkland Islands and was used as a transport ship by the British during the Falklands War in 1982. Every Nordy we have seen, old and new, have been immaculate and capable and well built. The craftsmanship we saw in all the Nordhavns we looked at blew everything else out of the water. Lawrence became an avid blog stalker, and started up some on-line relationships with Nordhavn owners… ( ie… Nancy on Duet… the wife is always the last to know…)

What has been your cruising highlight so far?

I would have said it was circumnavigating Vancouver Island, which was exciting and fun and full of incredible sights.

Colibri, Sea Level II, and Malahide, circumnavigating the island..

Now that we have taken the first leap and cruised down the coast to San Diego and Mexico, I think that we would have to say that getting down to the Sea of Cortez is the new highlight. Our first series of overnighters, where we realized we were capable and it was actually pretty fun – that was huge for me.

Another sunset.. on the way South, on the Cubar leg of the trip

Something that has been a highlight although it doesn’t have anything to do with WHERE we have been.. has been the development of friendships with people over the past five years, since we first started planning our longer trips. We started going to Trawlerfest, where we met the Dents from Oregon, the McKenney’s from Australia, of course we were with our old friends the Kemps… Denis and Mary Umstot off of Teka III… ( my mentors and role models!)… I finally met Nancy and Ron from Duet, now a 50 Nordhavn, not their 46. Then we became involved with the Cubar 2016 group, and made many more friends… lots of Nordhavn owners, but other boaters as well, with incredible stories and histories … people that we can imagine running into for years to come ( figuratively, of course)..

New friends

Trawlerfest 2012

2013 Circumnavigating Vancouver Island

Do you travel with an animal/s on board?

We have a 12 year old cockapoo, (in Australia they are what… spoodles?) Kona, who has always travelled with us, but lately he has gotten a bit shaky and we never were able to train him to go ‘potty’ on the boat. We took him up to the Broughtons for one last trip, and my experiences of having to row him to shore, then scramble over rocks and up through the underbrush, hoping not to find the grizzly that had been spotted there in the morning…and having him spending a lot of time shivering and shaking, when in the past he was always a willing participant in our adventures – made me realize it was kinder to leave him home with our sons and the cats.

In your past life what did you and Lawrence do?

Lawrence is still a lawyer but he is winding down.. hopefully. I was a teacher until I decided I would rather be there for my own kids, take them to their sports etc, and volunteer in their activities, so I became a “stay at home’…

Penny, if there is one thing Lawrence does that irritates you while underway what would that be?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha that’s hilarious! How about falling asleep when he’s at the helm. Darn auto pilot!!!

And it’s only fair I ask Lawrence the same question, so Lawrence, if there was one thing Penny does that irritates you what would that be?

That’s tough – not because there are so many things, but because there are so few (really going for brownie points here). To be honest, I sat and thought about this a long time, and I really couldn’t remember anything that was more than a momentary annoyance, and therefore not worth mentioning! But, I have to say something, so I guess I’ll go with when I really want to press on and get somewhere, and she really wants me to slow down and fish – although that’s not so much an issue down in Mexico (where we troll at cruising speed) as it was in the PNW when trolling speed is significantly less than cruising speed! Ask me who wins…….

Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?

Not so much running out of things…. more like too much of something… when we don’t pump the heads out often enough ( on the 46 you have two very small holding tanks). Nothing worse. ‘nuff said. Too soon since the last episode ( like , Saturday).

It is irritating to run out of milk. I need my cup of tea every morning and not having milk in my tea is not conducive to a happy wife. Lawrence is well trained and has learned to bring me tea in bed. Totally civilized habit!

Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers?

I love to fish – and Lawrence indulges me…although I’m not much into killing: we don’t fish for sport, we fish to eat, so I dispatch my catch as quickly as I can, and usually we just get enough to eat for a few days. We have only had one year when we probably caught more than we needed, but we were up north, the huge wild coho were jumping onto my line… just too exciting.

As for gathering, I have had years of provisioning experience so hadn’t really worried about it, but the trip down to San Diego made me rethink the gathering part – I should have paid attention when someone told us at a seminar that if you don’t generally eat something, don’t go to Costco and buy a case lot of it just because someone suggested it might be a good meal on a dark and stormy night. Kraft dinner is still Kraft dinner, at a calm anchorage or in a ten foot following sea. I have a case of it left, squirrelled around the boat. The microwave kind if anyone is interested. However, the Costco trail mix with smarties and nuts and raisins was a huge success. I had a container with four compartments, one for each of us and an extra, on the bridge every night for whoever was on watch, one compartment each. I found that digging through the mix to find the smarties kept me occupied for hours. No one complained (much) about the picked over bits. And besides, I knew where the extra bag was.

I think that we will be living off of the food I bought for that one ten day trip, for a few years.

Why did you name your vessel Northern Ranger?

Northern Ranger I was the name of the boat when we bought her (she is a “I” as there is already a “Northern Ranger” registered – a passenger and freight ferry in Newfoundland). Her original name was “Rediviva”, which was changed after she was imported into Canada by her second owner (we are the 4th owners).… We have had two Pagoo’s (common name for the hermit crab genus “Pagurus” that Lawrence used to study in his former life as a marine biologist, as well as the name of one of his favourite books (about a hermit crab) as a child). Mithril ( Lord of the Rings, Lawrence’s favourite book growing up ) Malahide ( Talbot Castle in Ireland, and the NP 43 did look like a big White Castle, and we didn’t really want to name her after an American Hamburger chain). I loved the name Northern Ranger because it meant something to me (I was a Sea Ranger, which is an older Girl Guide.. and we live in the North…) So we kept it.

What other names did you consider?

see above!

What is the one lesson every boater should learn?

Basic stuff always makes sense – but maybe the art of patience – if it doesn’t feel right to go out, don’t. And you can always (almost always) turn back if you aren’t comfortable. Waiting out the storm, even if it means your friends leave without you!! You can always catch up!

Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise.. Sea Level is waiting for us, having arrived earlier because we were waiting out the weather. We were rewarded with this amazing sunrise!

What is your favourite anchorage and why?

BB (Before Baja) I would have said something like an anchorage up on Northern Vancouver Island… up an inlet…Bacchante Bay… fresh water stream for kayaking, water so clear… shrimps to be caught.. absolute solitude. Now, with so many new anchorages in the Sea of Cortez to choose from… Isla San Francisco was spectacular. Paradise. The snorkelling, the kayaking, the walking, the pink sand, the sunrises, the sunsets… the green water… but we have many many more places to visit, so this could change.

Another beautiful beach, another long walk… another day in paradise

What is your favorite Marina and why?

Same thing… I would have said I have a soft spot for Echo Bay in Simoom Sound up in the Broughtons. We first went there when our older son was a year old or less… fished, paddled, met wonderful people, (Julie Andrews! How cool was that!!) and have been going back ever since. (MONSTER wild coho two years ago… just amazing)

Now – Puerto Los Cabos Marina in San Jose del Cabo – we got “stuck” there during the Cubar while we waited out the weather, and it was our first experience with a marina in the Baja… it was just too much fun, breakfast at the little Container restaurant there, with the other cruisers… afternoons at the beach … snorkelling, walking, going into town … which has amazing restaurants… and art galleries.

Another great evening out…

We could get used to this!

What is your favourite quote and why?

“Schedules are meant to be written in sand at low tide”… words to live by. We have usually cruised by ourselves with our kids, and maybe one other boat, our best friends and their kids, over the years. Schedules were something we made up as we went along. The only things we knew for sure were the first day and the last. The rest was unimportant. The last few years, there have been some pretty hard and fast schedules made, for obvious reasons.. time constraints and a goal mean that you do need to be moving along at a good clip, know where you are going to a certain degree, and get there when you are supposed to. Those days when you just sit back and say “wait.. this is nice. Let’s just… stay for a while” are my favourite. Oh, and “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”. Just because.

Planning meeting on sea Level II… where do we go from here…

What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?

There are many different levels of funny… going to bed with our boat floating happily in our carefully scoped-out little bay held by our perfect anchoring job with allowance for our carefully calculated tidal range, only to wake up with her high dry and sitting on top of a great big rock in the middle of the bay (the only rock in the whole bay) and threatening to fall over (luckily leaned the right way to stay on the rock), may not be classified as funny!

Having your kids cook you dinner, serve you up on the top deck of your little 30’ trawler, then go and wash the dishes for you… and in doing so, drop every single dish you possess, and every dish of your anchoring buddy (aforementioned best friends) into 35 feet of water … not funny at the time ( although everyone else laughed hysterically, I was hurting for my poor son)… but in hindsight, it was pretty amusing. And we learned how to use paper plates over.. and over.. and over again.

What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?

Wish I could say we never made one. But in 35 years, probably heading out when we shouldn’t have. (see answer re: patience)….Several times. In several boats!. Either crossing the bar at the mouth of the Fraser River when we should have stayed in our marina that day… twelve foot seas were not uncommon there. Going up The Strait of Georgia (oops, the Salish Sea) and being caught in the middle trying to get from our marina in the river up to Powell River.. and listening to our friends on Waegbora, (same friends… 36 foot offshore capable sailboat vs 30 foot cork that bobbed and rolled in the smallest sea)… who told us it was FANTASTIC out there… we kept on going… baby in bed, back in his little cabin, me sitting there practically comatose.. Lawrence with white knuckles at the helm, … when we finally arrived at the marina in Powell River, I was throwing a line to my friends, who were jumping up and down and exclaiming what a fabulous sail they had… If memory serves, I hit him as soon as I stepped off the boat onto the dock. And made them buy the wine with dinner.

Northern Ranger meets our old cruising buddy, Waegbora…

What is your most hated boat job?

Penny – Before Saturday : I would have said vacuuming. We have never had a good vacuum and they always fall apart and I am on my knees with pieces of vacuum in my hands, sweating and swearing. After Saturday: finding that the forward head holding tank is actually situated right under my drawers and the poopy smell coming out of my drawers is in fact effluent that has leaked out through the edge of the lid of the holding tank because we didn’t pump out in time or enough. Someone had to clean it out, and someone else was “too busy”. Turns out cleaning effluent is a “pink job”. Who knew???

Lawrence – I don’t think there’s any particular job I hate, but what does frustrate me is not yet having the time to do a lot of things myself – a product of still working. Thus, when time to use the boat is limited, you want to spend it cruising, not working. I am actually looking forward to “retirement” so that I do have the time to tackle a lot more of the required work myself (but then I may well find a number of things I really don’t like doing!).

Tell us a little something about Northern Ranger?

She is a 1999 46’ Nordhavn. Her first owners took her down the coast through the Panama across the Caribbean and up to New York… they then shipped her back to the West Coast and sold her. Her next owners had her for a very short time, and sold her because she was too slow. Her third owners bought her, brought her into Canada, and used her to go up and down to Alaska every year, and basically lived on her for nine years. They took very very good care of her – she was immaculate when we bought her. Unfortunately one of her biggest vanities is her teak. Feet and feet of varnished teak. Larry , her previous owner, was retired. He would do it every year. I have made an effort to touch it up, so that she was shiny when we went south, but I despair that it won’t last through the summer. We will be looking for someone to do a thorough strip and varnish job next fall before we start up cruising again!

She is a great boat, we absolutely adore her – we had a lot of work done on her by Philbrooks in the spring of 2015 to prepare her for the voyage south. Would I like a bigger boat? Oh yeah maybe. Is she big enough? more than big enough for us to live aboard, after all, we lived on 26 feet for a number of years and 30 with a baby for three. If a 62 or a 57 or a 50 came along and begged us to jump ship and go bigger would we? Possibly, but then the costs of maintaining the boat would go up too. This is about retiring! And that is one seaworthy little hull. Plus if we have any questions about her, we just have to ask our friends and longtime 46 owners Ron and Nancy – they are a wealth of knowledge !!!!

Three Nordies:  Colibri, Sea Level II, and Northern Ranger I at Isla San Francisco… beautiful

What is the one thing you are most afraid of?

Penny – Probably losing Lawrence overboard when he goes up on top to put out the stabilizers. We wear life jackets, we do have a jack line system we are going to rig up.. one day…he usually deploys before the weather gets snarly, but once in a while, he has to do it underway… the thought of losing someone overboard freaks me out. We used to have wrist bands that sent out a signal and would set off an alarm if we were 30 feet away from the boat… that went with Malahide when we sold her.

Lawrence – I guess I would say the person overboard issue, particularly on open water passages. We have the requisite safety equipment to minimize the possibilities, but I think I am perhaps too realistic (pessimistic?) about the actual chances of finding and pulling someone out of the water, especially in bad weather or at night, and particularly if just the two of us are on board. We follow the usual protocols of not going outside alone at night, wearing lifejackets while outside, letting people know when you are going outside etc. but there is always that one time you forget or neglect to take the appropriate precautions, for whatever reason, that could lead to disaster. The great advantage to a trawler (and especially one with a Portuguese bridge) is that you probably hardly ever have to go outside, and when you do you are well protected by the bridge – still…………

The other thing would be running out of time and having to give up cruising for health (or other) reasons before having the opportunity take the boat to all the places we want to go and seeing all the things we want to see

What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?

I think there are a few! But for now.. I love the picture of the sunset as we came out of Juan De Fuca and turned Northern Ranger SOUTH.. first leg of our adventure, with my older brother on board as crew.. knowing that this was it.. anticipating that first overnight…. exciting!

Turning south, at Cape Flattery…sunset

A selfie, with the crew, to start the trip!

What would you never leave behind (besides each other) when heading out to sea?

Penny oh dear, I have to say my computer/cell phone/ipad. That’s three, but they all do the same thing… keep me in touch occasionally… and I have my books on all of them, so I can read… we have charts on Lawrence’s… I can write my blog… my music ( I’m country, Lawrence is not…so earphones are necessary when I indulge myself in a little Toby Keith) but if it were to be something NOT electronic…camera and something NOT gadgetry, Hat, Sunglasses, and Sunscreen.

Lawrence For me, it would be our Nespresso machine, a good supply of expresso pods and biscotti! I can live without just about anything else….

Lawrence tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows?

Well, I have to confess I racked my brains on this one and couldn’t think of anything suitable for a family blog. Penny certainly knows where all my skeletons are buried…..

Penny Something that no one knows about us? OK… how about our first date was on Lawrence’s dads Starcraft aluminum runabout, when Lawrence and some diving friends wanted to go up the coast for a dive, and I came along (as eye candy??? LOL.. a potential cook?)..for a DAY trip…we got “we got “marooned”… broke a propeller blade, developed a leak, ran out of fuel and had to be towed to safety by a large tugboat, had to resort to eating beef stew out of a can cold for dinner (one of us was a vegetarian) and spent the night with four of us sleeping in the small cuddy cabin of the 18 foot boat on wet floater coats…

An inauspicious start to a long and stellar boating life together!

And finally, where to next?

With the boat in Costa Baja marina in La Paz, we are in phase one of the grand adventure – (well maybe it’s phase 2, as phase one was the trip down)…exploring the Sea of Cortez. We will try to find as much time as we can take to go down and play – hopefully as the next year or two unwinds, things will fall into place and we can make a decision about where do we go from here? South? South and then east? South and then west? Or back north? (I HAVE to go to Alaska.. it’s just one of those things..)… right now we are in the process of selling our house in the lower mainland – we still have a place up in the interior of BC on Horse Lake near 100 Mile House, for fishing in the summer and ice fishing in the winter if I so desire. We are not sure where we will live when we sell, and there is still a son, a dog, and two cats, that need a place to live too… lots of possibilities and permutations! Stay tuned!!!

Thank you very much for your time, will be watching this year’s progress closely.

Good luck with your travels!

And their blog site at: Northern Ranger

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