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I’m back!

I haven’t updated this blog since last spring, when we failed spectacularly to compete in the Everglades Challenge. However, it wasn’t just embarassment that prevented me from writing; I was busy with other stuff.

Mostly I was land-hunting in the North Country.

meadow

I was born in Syracuse, and northern New York is really what comes to mind when I think of Home. Our family has had a camp on the banks of the mighty St. Lawrence River, near Alexandria Bay, for about a hundred years. The happiest days of my childhood were spent there. I think our kids would say the same.

For many years Nancy and I have been thinking about getting a homestead for our own little family somewhere up there. Some miles north of the old camp is St. Lawrence County, one of the largest counties east of the Mississippi, and that’s where our dreams have mostly been constructed. On the river plain are two small but lovely towns, Canton and Potsdam, and they are distinguished by a lively culture and four good colleges. One, St. Lawrence University, founded by the Unitarian Universalist church, is the school my grandmother graduated from a century ago. Another, Clarkson University, is one of the premier science schools in the country. Even better, the county was the center for a back-to-the-land movement in the 70s, due to the then-cheap land available, and many of these ancient hippies (my people!) are still around, leavening an already stimulating social environment.

So for years, we’ve looked longingly at the land there, from the river to the Adirondack State Park, which takes in much of the eastern part of the county. This summer, we decided to get serious about finding a little farm on which we could plant orchards and keep bees, grow a big garden in real soil, and have some actual seasons. I spent most of the summer roaming around the county, looking at property, wrangling with real estate agents, and camping out in state parks. In late July, I found a beautiful little acreage that we could afford, just 10 minutes east of Potsdam. It’s surrounded by nature conservancy land, so we’ll never have condos or pig farms for neighbors. It’s a mixture of woods and meadows that was once farmland, judging by the stone walls and foundations that we found here and there.

Nancy on a wall

The soil is sandy glacial till, and should be rich enough for our purposes; it already raises a fine crop of stones every year. It’s 9.65 acres, so it’s a wide-flung kingdom to folks who’ve spent the last 30 years living on a suburban lot. There are old unkept apple trees, maples, blackberry thickets, and lots of wildlife. There are a few truly ancient trees.

Nancy with a big tree.

It’s really a wonderful place, and it’s ours now.

In Slider-related news, I think that the concept of a small open cruising cat with a modest rig and seating inside the hulls is well and truly launched on the world sailing scene. In the years to come, I hope and expect that other designers will draw similar and better boats, but I’m really enjoying the number of sisterships that have been built and are being used by happy owners around the planet.

Most recently a Canadian builder who sails on the beautiful waters of Georgian Bay sent me pictures of his Slider. He built his boat over the winter, a very quick completion. He used the sail dimensions included with the plans to build his own mainsail, and reports that it was a good sail, though he went sailing so much last summer that he wore it out. He tells me that because he has a narrow harbor entrance, he started out with a trolling motor mounted on one crossbeam, but after a week or so he removed it as unnecessary. Under sail and paddle, he can always make it out, even with a strong wind against him. This has been my experience as well, and I think it’s one of the great advantages of small open sailboats. I go sailing a lot more in Slider than in any of my previous boats. Everything is simpler.

Here’s a picture of Al’s Slider:

Slider sistership from Ontario, Canada

And another:

Ontario Slider again

I really don’t know how many Sliders have been built now, but it’s not a small number. She’s given me an enormous amount of pleasure over the last 4 years, and I hope she’ll continue to be a part of our family for years to come. I can’t wait to sail her on the St. Lawrence, one of the great scenic rivers of the world.

Slider at twilight

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