Life is truly for those who have the courage to take the helm.
Just ask 74-year-old Margo Wood, the co-author of Charlie’s Charts, a series of cruising guides ranging from Costa Rica and Polynesia to Seattle and Alaska’s Glacier Bay. The guides assist sailors to identify anchorages as well as towns and river entrances where marinas are located.
In her autobiographical account A Prairie Chicken Goes to Sea, it is clear from growing up in Northern Alberta’s Grand Prairie region to navigating Desolation Sound and beyond, Wood has maintained a sense of adventure and direction, almost always staying true to her own inner compass.
while planning for a trip to New Zealand, she met her late husband
Charles Wood, withwhom she would later sail the world to locations such
as Thailand, Polynesia, Mexico, Bahamas, New Zealand, Norway and
But after his death in the 1980s, Wood decided she would not resign herself to a landlubbing life of monotony and continued to honor his legacy by sailing, often single-handedly.
The experience gave her increased confidence but also helped her realize she could still enjoy life and continue sailing, even alone.
Now retired at 74, she continues to publish guidebooks on critical passages and side trips along B.C.’s coast, which she will present at 7 p.m. Friday at West Marine Express. The event will include a slideshow and a book signing.
Q: What’s special about cruising in lower mainland B.C. and Puget Sound?
A: People don’t have to go all the way to Alaska to see beautiful scenery. They can get a lot of information on anchorages and passages along the B.C. Coast and Fiordland, a recreational area along the B.C. Coast. A lot of people don’t go there because it’s off the beaten path; they go to Alaska or Desolation Sound instead. But there’s so much that’s very beautiful that’s just beyond the lower half of the province. Even if you only have a three-week holiday, you can visit some very isolated and beautiful parts of the coast.
My whole life I always thought you had to go to Polynesia or Mexico or Bahamas, but we’ve got such beautiful cruising areas right here. People could be enjoying what we have right here.
Q: What will Friday’s presentation focus on?
A: My slide presentation starts in Victoria, goes up the B.C. coast, up southeast Alaska to Juneau, Glacier Bay and Sitka and back, so it basically follows the information given in Charlie’s Charts.
Q: After your husband died, you mentioned your decision to keep sailing helped you process that grief. Can you explain?
A: At first, I tried to take several friends out for day sails, but I’d go down to the boat and bring food aboard and we’d have a nice sail and then they’d leave and I’d end up cleaning up after them so I decided I would be better off alone.
That first trip I took when I left, I thought it would be the last trip I took on the boat, retracing the first trip we took to Desolation Sound. I told my daughter I’d be gone a week because she was so concerned and then, at the end of the week, I phoned her because I was having such a great time. I realized I could still enjoy boating and I could still enjoy life, period.
It was a real turning point in the grieving process, actually. And from then on, I just wanted to keep going up the coast and exploring the different inlets and anchorages I hadn’t seen previously.
Q: You recently turned 74. Do you still sail?
A: I sold my boat about a year ago, after I got a quote of $50,000 to rip up the decks that needed repair. I thought I can’t justify that kind of money on a boat that old so I sold it to a few woodworkers, and it worked out well for them because they could fix it without having to invest a large sum of money. Although I was sad to see it go, my heart said no but my brain said yes.
Q: You said a lot of people, women, especially, question your sanity when you tell them you sail alone. Why do you think that is?
A: People don’t realize how rewarding and satisfying doing things on your own can be. To be there alone and hear the loons in such a beautiful setting, it’s really food for the soul.
There is tremendous satisfaction in just taking one day where you have your plans and you see them through. But then to come to an anchorage where you’ve been enjoying the process and the rest at the end of the day and listening to your favorite music in a beautiful setting, it’s a tremendous satisfaction that they’re missing.
Once you develop confidence in the boat and you know how to handle it, there’s just joy in doing it rather than fear.
Q: Your book A Prairie Chicken Goes to Sea was incredibly inspiring. What was the message you were trying to get out?
A: Part of the reason I wrote the book, was for my son and daughter. But the other reason was that I’ve met so many women that go boating because their husband wanted to go sailing and just sort of tagged along, and I want them to know it’s okay to be scared, but eventually you can learn to be comfortable on the water. It’s a real pity that some can’t relax enough to say it’s okay to give it a chance. I’ve had a lot of women say it helped them hang in there and enjoy it. That’s been really rewarding for me.
Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, you’ve only got one time to live each day so make it worthwhile, the other days you don’t want to waste them.
Fortunately, I was married to a man who wanted to do things, too. I was more than happy to say yes, let’s go for it. If he would have been a stick in the mud, it wouldn’t have happened, but then again I probably wouldn’t have married him.
Charlie’s Charts, will be available at the event for $36. For more information visit Wood’s web site at www.charliescharts.com.