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NOTL couple are breaking up with winter

Since selling their greenhouse business, Colin and Maureen Dodd spend six months of the year living on their catamaran

A few weeks ago, Gill Deacon, host of CBC Radio’s Gill's Jukebox, read an email written by a couple from Niagara-on-the-Lake. This Local reporter turned up the volume to hear Maureen and Colin Dodd request a song to go with the theme ‘breaking up with January.’ Here is their travel story.

It was, according to Maureen Dodd, a “moody day here in Dominica,” when The Local caught up with her and her husband, Colin Dodd, while they were sitting on the boat they call home for six months each year.

“We might have some serious rain clouds coming over any minute,” she said. And sure enough, 20 minutes into the conversation, the Dodds escaped the rain to the interior cabin of their Lagoon Catamaran, the Island Drifter II.

It wasn’t too long ago, though, that the couple were owners/operators for 40 years of Dodd’s Greenhouses on Concession 2. After they sold the business in 2021, and their beloved Great Dane, Miles, passed away, they were able to make their retirement dream of living on a boat in the Caribbean come true.

The greenhouses took a lot of their time and energy. “You always had to be there because it's a living plant. It was a real hands on business,” said Colin. “To walk away from that all of a sudden, it's like, wow, that's freedom.”

The Dodds have been sailors since 1997 and belong to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Yacht Club, spending the summer months sailing around the Great Lakes.

In 2005, the couple boarded an airboat charter from Saint Lucia to Grenada, and “were sold right away.” Since then, “it was our dream to buy a boat in the Caribbean and sail around in the winter time,” said Colin.

Upon retirement they moved to a small home in Old Town, and bought the Catamaran during COVID. They spend the winter months exploring the islands between Grenada and St Lucia, known as the Lesser Antilles, and they store the boat on land, in Grenada, during the hurricane season.

While they have had no damage to their boat from hurricanes, just these past few weeks many boats in their area have been damaged by what is known as a swell that comes up from the ocean floor. Maureen said that unusual weather patterns are causing “bigger and bigger swells” to come into the bay. They feel it was luck of the draw that they chose to anchor in a spot that was protected by these swells.

“If you're fairly close to shore,” said Colin, “the waves start to break, and it grabs the keel and kind of picks the boat up or breaks your anchor loose, and then you're just headed to shore.” There is not much to do in those types of situations, explained Colin, “some get lucky and land up on a sandy beach, but others go up against rocks.”

In bad weather, the pair take turns on anchor watch. “You're basically taking turns sleeping and staying up to just keep an eye on your position during the night so that if you do start to slip, you pull up the anchor and you motor away,” said Maureen.

The Dodds were coming off of two nights of anchor watch and were “just dead dog tired,” said Maureen, “but then you have the times when it's so calm and it's so beautiful and the water is crystal clear blue all around your boat and that's your backyard.”

Marine life is abundant from the Island Drifter II. Whales, dolphins, turtles and stingrays swim by and “you can jump in the water and snorkel with any type of marine life at any given time,” said Maureen.

The combination of the culture and the environment of the islands is also a highlight. Using a dinghy to bring them ashore, Colin and Maureen explore waterfalls, local markets and get to know the locals.

Even so, they have found a “huge community of Canadians, especially in Grenada, for some reason,” Maureen said.

While Colin admits that sometimes he misses the greenhouse business, they realize that, for them, life has really slowed down. “It's a cliche that I didn't understand until we started doing this,” explained Maureen. “It takes longer to do everything, like when we get groceries, that's all we did for the day.”

They keep busy on the boat with knitting, reading, snorkeling, and “then we're just chilling,” and being mindful and taking the time to prepare a meal, for instance.

“When we bought this boat we wanted to have a boat big enough that if family or friends wanted to come down, that we could host them and that brings us a lot of joy,” said Colin.

Next year they are thinking of heading south to sail around San Blas Islands, an archipelago comprising approximately 365 islands and cays in Panama.

“We probably wouldn't go through the Panama Canal,” said Maureen. Colin explained that “pretty much everybody goes from east to west, because you go with the trade winds and the currents.” If they were to go through the canal, they would have to sail “all the way around or make the tough trek back (through the canal) into pounding headwinds.”

They also have no interest in sailing across the ocean. “We're just happy floating around here right now,” said Colin. “We are fulfilling our need for adventure,” added Maureen.

The song that the Dodds submitted to Gill’s Jukebox? ‘We just disagree’ by Dave Mason. “Okay, maybe not so fair that I'm sending in a breakup song because we've had a really awesome January,” said Maureen, but “I just love that song. It’s the best breakup song ever.”

If you have a breaking up with winter story, please email [email protected].