Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Quiet Day in Beardrop

July 31: We just left the anchor where it was, quite sure it would hold through anything today brought. The OPP were around to check on people and take collision reports after last night.

The guy in this little Grampian 23 stayed as well. He has been up the Welland and into all 5 Great Lakes since leaving Toronto in early June. I don't think we're going to pull that one off.

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Beardrop Harbour Mayhem

July 30: The sun has set not long ago, but we have not gone below. We are watching for squalls in Beardrop Harbour. There's a nasty looking line that has swept through the Soo and is headed our way. Coast Guard warns to expect torrential rains, winds to 45 knots, hail, lightning, fire and brimstone. I'm hoping at least some of that doesn't materialize. Modern connectivity allows me to watch live radar feed for the area on my phone. I'm not sure if that's better than the old fashioned version where we just watched the sky.

Today we had blueberry pancakes for breakfast and shared a little with Rod and Allison while looking over the charts. We both set out westward around 1030. We took an inside route direct to Little Detroit, then along the north shores of Aird and John Islands. We sailed all the way in winds that oscillated quite a bit in speed and direction between 0 and 15 from the south to the west. It was a beautiful sail in beautiful country. We saw lots of other places we could easily have picked, then settled on Beardrop Harbour at about 1500. Once in, it was clear we weren't the only ones with that idea and we shared the large harbour with 20 or 25 other boats.

Dinner was T-Bone Steaks as big as our heads. We planned for leftovers, but somehow there were none ;-)

I didn't want to post this until I knew how it ended. The squall rolled in about 2240 after being visibly violent on the horizon for quite a while. Laura says it peaked at 2257 and we were back to moderate winds and still raining heavily by 2330. At peak I saw gusts of 44 knots, with sustained winds in the high 30s. There was some carnage in the harbour. Many boats dragged and radio traffic indicates at least one collision. I think I saw it happening, a sailboat dragging sideways downwind at about 3 knots. Most of the power cruisers were in motion by the end of it, but they seem to have upped anchor and powered to more or less hold station. One of the sailboats that dragged has his running lights reversed, with red on the starboard side, making it difficult to figure out his motions. In our running commentary we referred to him as "the moron".

We held rock solid. So did the boats right around us, so it wasn't as exciting as it might have been. Also, there was next to no fetch so the waves were minor. I had the engine running just in case, but found no use for it. The light show was really intense! I enjoyed it a lot more once the lightning was behind us, lighting up the whole harbour and making it clear where everybody wound up.

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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Little Current to Eagle Island

Quote of the Day July 28: "Not a cloud in the sky, horizon to horizon, sunset will be dreary!"

And it was like that all day too, which meant pretty limited wind. Still, we managed to sail much of the way from Covered Portage Cove, down the Lansdowne Channel, and around to Little Current in a hint of breeze from the East. We had to hang around a while before the 3 o'clock swing allowed us past the bridge, into the channel, and on to downtown Little Current. The bridge is celebrating its centennial this year and somebody said he thought it was the oldest swing bridge in North America.

Since I was last here, the Port of Little Current has dramatically expanded and improved the transient docking facilities. The whitefish is still delicious at the Anchor Inn, and they still have free wireless, but so does the whole harbour now. We had a finger dock fairly close to shore on A dock at the west end of town. A little farther out would have been good, since we brushed the bottom on our way back out.

We made phone contact with Allison and Rod in Gore Bay and agreed on a general direction and radio contact for the next day. Then we walked the length of the wall, noticed some enormous power yachts from Grosse Pointe, and picked up some smoked fish at Wally's on the pier.

Ice cream for dessert is always good!

July 29: The wall, or the docks at the east end would have put us closer to the grocery stores for provisioning this morning, but the load was still manageable. The fridge is packed with meat and vegetables again. We did most of our shopping at the Valumart then rounded it out with some lamb from the Foodland. Definitely a good provisioning stop. There's also a butcher at the bottom of the hill, unfortunately closed on Sundays.

Although the forecast called for SW, the wind was persistently on the nose as we motored out of LC, up and around Clapperton Island, and past the Benjamins. We were still motoring when we saw Leading Edge appear from behind Hook Island under sail. At that point we were able to bear off for the only half hour of sailing we got today, down to the east end of Eagle Island. We followed them up the back of the island to anchor in the bay.

The sailboat symbol in the lower middle of the chart shot is the famous Benjamins anchorage, the must see of North Channel cruising.

After getting the boat settled we went over to Leading Edge for the rest of the afternoon to compare notes on our adventures, with cool drinks and fresh cherries. We only adjourned for dinner, fresh whitefish on their boat and ours. Ours was certainly delicious, with Greek salad and potatoes, and fresh strawberries for dessert. Grocery days are really good.

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Friday, 27 July 2012

Bad River to Killarney Bay

July 26: It's always easier getting out, no angst just following the plotter track we came in on. Motored until there was room, then reached off uneventfully under NE breeze almost all the way into Killarney.

We stopped at Killarney Mountain Lodge for a fill and empty on the way into the channel, then on to the brand new docks at Pittfield's General Store. We got some groceries, did laundry, and heard from Richard and June on their way in through Lansdowne Channel. We took advantage of the fish and chips fresh off the boat while the dryers spun.

We docked next to June and Richard at the Lodge. The grocery selection in Killarney is limited, but we managed steaks and mushrooms for six between two BBQs, with fresh salad and beans imported by Will and Sandra. It was great to see some familiar faces and enjoy dinner on First Light III. After dinner we enjoyed live entertainment in the Lodge bar, with the added plus that we were indoors through the mosquito hour. Probably the most time we have spent indoors so far this month ;-)

July 27: Patched the head tank up this morning, as the old patch had slipped a little in the pounding on the way to Bad River.

Then off down the channel and barely out of site of town to Powderhouse Bay. Repeated tries found only weed and chocolate pudding with the anchor, so we moved up to Covered Portage Cove where we found much better holding, halfway out into Killarney Bay with a nice breeze from the NE. Even the outer part of the Cove is well populated today.

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Richard's Island to Bad River

We stayed another day at the Richard's Island anchorage and it was a busy place. In addition to the usual boat traffic, the same seaplane landed and took off right beside us enough times we got kinda blasé about it. But it started out exciting, so there are pictures. The little lodge in the background is a step up from most of the local cottages, but there's plenty of posh real estate.

July 24: We headed out about 0815, but it was well after nine by the time we cleared the rocks of Point au Baril Channel. It was a beat into messy waves, but with a bonus wind shift at about 1400 that let us tack through about 40 degrees so we were at anchor in Bad River well before dinner time. These rocky entries and exits are a little nerve wracking, but the sights once you get in make it worth it!

There is rock all around us, with some Group of Seven trees and a family of vultures soaring on the thermals from the sun soaked rocks. We are sharing the anchorage with 4 other boats, 3 of them sail and there's almost a quarter moon showing as the sun sets amidst high, wispy, fair weather clouds.

Tonight is our sixth night at anchor since leaving Tobermory, so we are scraping the bottom of the barrel for sustenance. Tonight was Fusili Alfredo with Crab. Obviously we need to rush to Killarney for supplies. And for connectivity, as there's only a hint of a signal down here amidst the rocks. And to meet up with June and Richard if we are going to see them before they head south.

July 25: Supplies will have to wait! Spent a gorgeous morning doing nothing much at anchor, then took the dinghy up the Devils Door Rapids. With low water it's just a fast moving bit of water between the rocks. Once up I switched to oars. Last time I was here I hit a rock and broke the shear pin less than 50 metres further up. This is part of the lower reaches of the French River, a fissured coastline almost like a delta of granite, with water and marshy clay caught in the cracks. Much of the marsh is now high and dry, and marsh plants are moving out onto the exposed surfaces. Except for the granite. There's about three feet along the granite waterlines that's missing the long term growth of lichen.

The anchorage is filling up today, with another half dozen power boats in by lunch time, probably to shelter from the southerlies that could make it to 20 this afternoon. Speaking of lunch time...

After lunch the weather "dis-improved" to persistent rain and occasional strong winds. It's the first day so far to get me thinking that one of those full cockpit enclosures might be nice, as we sit below eating our dinner (tomato and wild rice casserole with corned beef and cheese). The wind has gotten lighter and moved around to the north east, which should be good for tomorrow.

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Monday, 23 July 2012

Franklin Island to Richard's Island

July 22: One should really know enough to avoid any place named Shoal Narrows. True to its name, it was really narrow, and shallower than indicated on the chart.

We started the day with pancakes at Franklin Island, then motored upwind out the channel to the Bay. Turning up Shawanaga Inlet let us unroll the genoa for an extended reach down to Turning Island, where we took the inland turning up around Tonches Island, almost to Point au Baril Station. These tight turns and occasional shallows negotiated successfully, we rounded the lighthouse and decided to give Nares Inlet a try.

The entry is tricky and exposed, but well marked on the water and the plotter. There's one shallow spot that could be a problem if the Bay waves were bigger, but the day had been fairly light. Once in, there's a nice little bay, then a couple of turns, then the narrows (marked with a fish because a pushpin or a house seemed wrong).

We approached slowly and were doing well until the tightest part, where there's about 20 feet between the buoys. The thump was gentle, but brought us to a halt and the little bit of current turned us sideways. There was deeper water just ahead of us, so Laura took the anchor out forward. Rotating the boat got us about four feet further, but we weren't getting any more, so it was time to kedge out the way we came in. The people in the cottage overlooking the narrows came out in their outboard and offered help. We thanked them, and said we would try it slowly and gently on our own for now. With the anchor out in deep water behind us, I was able to pull us back out by hand and we hung there for a little while tidying up.

Remember the nice little bay? We went back there and anchored, snacked a little and made dinner plans. We would have been good for the night, but the 1830 forecast had a wind warning for Georgian Bay. We would have been fine in the bay, but getting out could have been dodgy. Once again, we went out the way we came in, back past the lighthouse and into a very well protected bay off the channel facing Richard's Island. We were settled in early enough for steak before sundown and scrabble before the light faded completely.

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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Wingfield Basin to Franklin Island

July 21: It was just like a typical Partridge Bowl (happening in Kingston today), a close spinnaker reach that eventually requires a takedown as the SW wind backs a little or the course titans up... except this one took us all the way across Georgian Bay, about 40 miles at over 7 knots most of the way. Today's conditions were definitely worth waiting for.

Out in the middle of the Bay we met up with a wayward and exhausted Dragonfly. He settled in on the corner of the companionway and didn't budge for over an hour. Then he flew around the boat for 10 or 15 minutes before we lost track of him. I don't know if he stayed aboard somewhere we didn't see, or even if he had ridden with us since Wingfield. He was certainly huge, more than 3" head to tail!

We came in past Savage Rocks and a whole lot of other named rocks at the south end of Franklin Island. There were lots of Georgian Bay White Dolphins frolicking as we passed. (The waves really do look like dolphins when they break and splash!) We came up the inside channel behind Franklin, quite cautiously in some of the shallow and tight spots, then dropped our anchor near the north end.

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Tobermory to Wingfield Basin

July 19: We took it easy this morning, enjoyed our coffee and tea watching the traffic and savouring the cool air we had been missing for most of the trip so far. We made a trip to the grocery store for a well filled cart full of heavy groceries, especially drinks, then wheeled the cart all the way back to the boat along the docks. It was smoother than expected and we were very conscious that shopping carts could probably plunge as easily as young girls on bicycles, but there were no mishaps in either direction.

We topped off the tanks, then motored out for a look at Flower Pot Island. The island is unremarkable until you come around the corner where two flower pot stone formations show up really well from offshore. The view from the lake lets you see the geology as a whole, with many similar structures visible. Unfortunately it was a little lumpy out for pictures, so you'll have to look up the Five Fathom National Park website.

We tacked outside Bear's Rump Island, then back towards Wingfield. The 15+ NE gradually faded to zip and we motored the last few miles to get in by about 1800. We were sharing the basin with just two other boats until a third came in about 1900 as we were making dinner.

After dinner we dinghied over and explored the ruins of Gargantua, a huge wooden tug that apparently burned to the water line after being run aground in the basin. (Google says there was 20 years between the grounding and the fire, likely started by a careless sailor's BBQ in the early 1970s, which sort of takes the romance out of it.) With the water being so low, a lot of the structure is revealed above the water. There's a cottage on shore that looks directly out over the wreck, which must be interesting.

The wind is coming up now, but we are snug in a very well protected harbour.

July 20: With the wind still up from the east, we decided on another lazy day in harbour. More determined souls ventured out through the cut, but with reduced sail.

I spent the morning wiring up and playing with the circuitry designed to monitor the engine speed. For those who care, it's a voltage divider with a Zener diode to shape the decay waveform off the coil into a single TTL pulse per spark event. The result is something I can monitor with an Arduino micro controller to track and record, and even act on engine speed, temperature, oil pressure, etc. I have no good reason why, other than the idea of a computer monitored Atomic 4 being perversely amusing.

Laura spent the morning at least equally well, reading murder mysteries.

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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Deja Vu

Last night at sunset I fished a bicycle out of deep water with an anchor...again.

A girl, riding along the dock, missed a turn at the corner above and drove into 15 feet of water. It was clear enough that some reached for boathooks while I was getting the anchor. Yes, the girl had already been pulled out.

I got it on the second cast. A cold and grateful girl went home with Laura's rescue sweatshirt to keep her from shivering.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Pointe au Barques to... Tobermory

July 17: There was more wind than expected at anchor last night and there was still about 20 WSW when we set off this morning. After about half an hour of close reaching to go across the bay and up the American side, with gusts over 25, Laura asked how far to Kincardine. I was thinking something similar, so now we are on a fast and fun broad reach towards Tobermory, which will be about a 90 mile day.

Part of cruising is being ready to follow the wind. The American shore of Huron doesn't look much more interesting until the very top, so we will detour back to the Canadian side where we know it's interesting.

The wind clocked substantially, as forecast, so we came up to close hauled in the early afternoon. The waves were still huge and behind us. Surfing while close hauled is an odd experience, but one worth repeating!

The wind died at sunset and we motored on to Tobermory, tying up about 0300 right across from the gas dock. There's red flashing radio mast or something that's visible 20 miles out from Cape Hurd, while the actual Cape Hurd red nav light is only visible 7 miles out. The two of them lead us right into the inside approach, where the buoys are reflective, but not lit.

We slept late this morning and are having a lazy day on shore. The harbour is busy with dive boats and glass bottom tour boats and all the tourists needed to fill them. We just watched the ferry load and leave for Manitoulin Island. Tobermory is focused around the harbour, with all the services you need (and plenty you don't) all right there. Ports like this are really nice to visit and Tobermory has plenty of transient sail traffic passing through or staying a day or two like us.

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Up the Thumb

July 16: I was only recently informed that Michigan looks like a mitten. At 1330 we are about to pass close by Harbour Beach, the last obvious stopping point on the east side of the thumb. Wind started at nothing, then built slowly to about 10 S. Vassily is doing a surprisingly good job steering us wing and wing.

Immediately after passing the harbour the wind rose to 15. It always does that when Laura takes the helm. The shore has been mostly sandy and low so far, with deciduous trees, much like the Canadian side. We're a mile or so offshore, enough to get us 40 feet, but well away from the freighters we can still see going by.

By sunset we had dropped anchor just past the Pointe au Barques lighthouse, had a swim and dinner from the BBQ. It's a little overcast, but cooling off, with about 10 SW that should swing W for a good reach tomorrow if we can rely on the forecast.

I got some really cool pics of this sunset with the big camera and I'll share one once I get them out of the camera and processed. It's not film anymore, but it still gets better with the right post processing ;-)

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Kelley's Island to the Detroit River

July 12: The Seaway Marina on Kelley's Island has tons of space and 12 foot depth even in the back corner. 1.75 a foot is not so bad. Although there is a car ferry, most people seem to come over on foot and get around the island on a fleet of rental golf carts at $14 an hour. There wasn't nearly as much to be found in downtown as you might have expected for something labelled as "downtown" on the map.

From Kelley's we did a drive by of Put In Bay, which looks like the place to go on your power boat to party your brains out. Not many masts in the harbour. Pointing the boat straight at the Detroit River, we narrowly missed Middle Sister Island. We were able to sail well into the river, but gave up when the current overwhelmed us around the BASF plant.

Mid afternoon we heard a Canadian Coast Guard alert about a bomb threat in the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel. Then the USCG took the lead, establishing a safety exclusion zone due to an "incident" in the tunnel. They never did tell us what the incident was, but dropped the exclusion in time for us to motor through and anchor off Grosse Pointe. Apparently the tunnel survived.

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Sunday, 15 July 2012

Port Huron to Port Sanilac

July 15: Tonight's stop, Port Sanilac is one of the "Harbours of Refuge" built by the Army Corps of Engineers with the help of the State of Michigan. It looks like a fortress, made up of a series of steel cylinders 20 or 30 feet across that could defend against anything Lake Huron has to offer. The name apparently derives from a Wyandotte Native Chief, rather than anything to do with cleaning up the lake.

We are in slip 7, more or less in the middle, with a view straight
up Main Street to the town's only traffic light.
The marina has great docks, now with ladders to get up onto them with the water so low - it looks like it's about 2 feet lower than designed for and that matches reported levels. The wifi works fairly well (but not right from the boat), there's laundry right at the dock, and excellent ice cream in home made waffle cones just next door. Definitely a good spot to stop, although I haven't seen a grocery store yet.

We gassed up and pumped out this AM then once more under the bridge against the current, sometimes under 3 knots over the ground. A gentle SW let us make reasonable progress, but went to bed about noon as black clouds built on the shore. We motored through a series of squalls in the early afternoon, with some sailing in between. From the radio it sounded like the weather was more severe south of Port Huron, with threats of 50 knot gusts and hail. We got off easy with winds in the low twenties and sheets of rain. By dinner, steak and salad, we had clear skies, calm winds, and clean underwear.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Big Plunge

Tonight we are on the wall at a mostly empty PHYC, free recip. The boats are gone but the circus is still here for the Blue Water Festival or some such, with rock bands and amusement rides and an endless parade of power boats. Many of them are getting valet parked by forklift just across the Black River from us (bottom).

This AM we breakfasted, then sailed out to watch the start. There wasn't much wind. Some boats were totally on top of it. Others not so much, like the double handed boat that was accidentally called OCS in following start. The radio exchange with RC was one of the entertainment high points.

We cabbed it to Kroger and back for groceries. KYC is a rare club with 2 grocers within easy walking distance.

Tomorrow we head off up the American shore of Lake Huron. This is a big plunge into unknown connectivity. Updates may be delayed, but we'll be having fun. The water is so blue here, and very swimmable.

The sun is setting but the bridge is going up on Huron Street.

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Friday, 13 July 2012

Another Beach, Another Sunset, Another Freighter

... or two. We motored on past the three ring circus in Port Huron and are anchored off the beach just far enough west to be out of the current. We also have great view for tomorrow's start. The sunset looks just like last night, but here's one of the freighters.

I was wondering if they notice they keep seeing the same sailboats, because we keep seeing the same freighters.

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Grosse Pointe

The clubs and marinas in Grosse Pointe are very exclusive. Last night we anchored just offshore of two of them and enjoyed this gorgeous sun setting over some very intimidating real estate.

To stay in the spirit of the locale, we brunched on eggs and smoked salmon.

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Big Mac

July 13: We were just passed by Vortices in the middle of Lake St Clair. She's a J/145 (PHRF -18) on her somewhat belated way to Port Huron. We were doing 4 knots under sail while she was doing 8 under power.

The Bayview Mac div IV doublehanded fleet starts tomorrow at 1240. "Don't even think it!" says my co-skipper.

Finding a spot near Port Huron may be dodgy tonight.

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fairport to Kelley's Island

July 11: We planned an early departure with the fishing boats. The fishermen didn't show before we left at 0645. The wind is very light and we are motoring towards Kelley's Island, about 60 miles away. This will take us offshore past Cleveland and into the west end of the lake.

There are similarities and differences between this trip and our last time this way in 2005. Both times we had smiling, bearded young men who were an enormous help getting up the locks. In 2005 we pushed on at full speed, Kingston to Port Dalhousie and Port Colbourne to Pelee Island directly. Stopping overnight is definitely more restful, but strangely enough, takes more than twice as long. Last trip there were more deadlines, target times and logistics to manage. This time we left the Georgian Bay Regatta as a maybe, so the only urgency is getting to some more northern scenery. Last time I dawdled my way from Windsor to Sarnia, so we should be able to get through that section faster unless the current is really heavy in the rivers.

Let me repeat for anybody who wasn't listening: hot running water is a huge plus for comfort and convenience, much more than I expected.

1515: We're in 47 feet of water and land is barely visible on the horizon. This really is the shallow end. The wind picked up about 1400 and we are broad reaching at almost 6 knots with 15 miles to go to Kelley's Island.

We got in about 1800 at the Seaway Marina and wandered in to "downtown" where we got a good dinner, but struck out on groceries, as the market had minimal produce and no meat but sausages.

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Conneaut to Fairport

July 10: During the night we did a few dipsy doodles at anchor as the wind went to an offshore night breeze. We think at least one of the swings was due to current produced when the John J. Boland came in and did a three point turn out in the dredged part of the basin. The three point turn was deduced from seeing her stern in at dawn. Have unloaded, she departed about 0830, just before we did.


The lake is lumpy, with a light breeze from the NNE and we are passing Ashtabula at about 4.5 knots. Another cruising is sailing east for a close pass. On port, they altered to go below us, seaman like despite the dangling bumper. Laura is reading and highlighting the Ports for Georgian Bay, so maybe we have had enough of Lake Erie. Only problem: there's still a lot of it between us and Lake Huron ;-)

Just counted 23 little fishing boats visible around us. Probably looking at us with the same thoughts I have looking at them: "Where the hell is the fun in that?" Right now, right here we are strongly out-voted.

1330: With sails slatting we gave up and are motoring towards Fairport. 1630:

We pulled into the river at Fairport, gassed up and took a slip at Grand River Marine Inc. on the west side. The entry is very industrial with great piles of sand, gravel, and salt, but it gets greener further in.

We had dinner at Pickle Bill's, a funky riverside eatery featuring local and not so local seafood. We started with King Crab, then followed through with locally caught Walleye and Perch. Worth a visit if you're in town.

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Erie to Conneaut

July 9: Pronounced Connie-Ott according to the guidebook, it's about 20 miles west of where we started this morning, but it was a long way east to get out of Erie Harbour, and then back again. We're anchored in the outer harbour and happy that the sunset is bringing cooler temperatures with this clear sky. Lamb chops on the BBQ take lots of attention, but it's worth it.

Tomorrow offers 3 or 4 options within 40 miles, which is a real switch from few and far between on the north shore.

I've changed the settings so you can leave comments if you like.

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Monday, 9 July 2012

Port Colbourne to Erie PA

July 8 we got up bright and early and motored out into Lake Erie. The forecast was for NE winds, but they must have been somewhere else. It was pretty flat, which is actually kind of a blessing for Lake Erie, where the shallow water can build pretty big, square waves.

We were playing scrabble in the cockpit, keeping an eye out for other boats, when the beeping started. There are too many things that beep around here, so it took a while to figure out it was the Autohelm. It was beeping because we were way off course, which isn't obvious with no land in sight. It was trying hard to keep us on course, but the motor that drives the wheel wasn't doing anything useful. Scrabble was interrupted for a while, and just when I got the J!

Laura steered while I tackled the motor drive. A plastic mounting ring had broken, allowing the electric motor to back off a little from the gearbox. (a high ratio gearbox turns fast rotation from the motor into slow rotation for the drive belt pulley) This allowed the motor housing to rotate a little, wearing off the alignment pin and eventually twisting off the power wiring when the motor rotated in the housing instead of turning the gears. A new pin improvised by breaking off the shaft of a 1/16 drill, some soldering, some 3M 5200 to stick the mounting back together, a lot of electrical tape and we were back in business. The gearbox is much quieter with a shot of WD40 and the J helped win the game.

An older boat means older systems so there is always something that needs attention. This is either a bug or a feature depending on your mood. There's considerable satisfaction in making something work, or work better. Mood and circumstances determine if that satisfaction outweighs the frustration of a breakdown. Today the satisfaction won, in a large part because the breakdown was mechanical, easy to diagnose, and fixable with stuff on board. If the motor had been burnt out it would have been time to open my wallet, as the unit is pretty much an antique. Lucky thing the electrical / electronic stuff is so much more reliable.

The satisfaction level was boosted way up when we took advantage of our new hot water to shower on the way to Erie, rather than arriving hot and sticky and looking for shoreside facilities. I wish we had added hot water sooner.

We motored on until just before we reached Erie when we had enough wind to sail to the harbour entry. We arrived about 1730 and radioed Wolverine Marina because they had a sign on the entry wall. They gave us directions to their courtesy dock which is convenient to the US Customs videophone. We never would have found it on our own. From the harbour the Sheraton Hotel is fairly obvious and is connected to a facility across the marina entry by a pedestrian bridge. The bridge clearance is about 70 feet depending on water level and you go under the bridge and behind the hotel to find the courtesy dock. The shallowest water I saw was about 10 feet.

The videophone is under the observation tower on the pier beside the hotel and there was a lineup. A lot of US power boaters were coming back from some event in Port Dover and the customs people were overloaded. Some gave up in disgust when they couldn't get through. Quiet Canadian perseverance got us properly checked in without too much delay, then back out under that disconcerting bridge and on the Erie Yacht Club.

EYC is quite an impressive installation, with plenty of water into the gas dock, although it gets shallow in other parts of the harbour. Unfortunately no reciprocal privileges unless your home club has sent a card. Maybe we should add them to our mailing list, or issue cruisers with blank reciprocal cards. Now that we're out of Lake Ontario we may be on our own.

Erie Harbour is well protected by its own Presque Isle Peninsula, locally pronounced as presk aisle. The water inside is brown and doesn't inspire swimming. Most people seem to prefer the beaches on the outside of the peninsula, all of which is a state park.

On the morning of the 9th we have a nice NE wind and still haven't decided what to do with it... Probably continue along the south shore towards Ashtabula OH.

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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Up the Welland Canal

From the Royal Hamilton, we sailed most of the way to Port Dalhousie where we stayed at the yacht club and took advantage of the chance to gas up for the canal. We made an early night of it so that we could get going first thing. It is less than an hour on the lake from Port Dalhousie over to Port Weller and into the check in dock.
At the dock we met the crew from Nuala, who encouraged us to check in quickly because they were just about to start up the canal and had been waiting quite a while. Here they are a little later on.
When we checked in we heard that we would also be sharing the lock with Griffon, a Coast Guard ship. We saw a lot of her bow that day, often much closer to us than this.
We shared the front of the locks with Nuala throughout the day as we made our way up the escarpment. The first 7 locks come in quick succession and each rise about 50 feet, so the top of the mast is below the edge of the lock wall when you drive in. Going up is a real workout, control the lines and fending off the wall since the water rushing into the lock really pushes the boat around. We were exhausted by the time we reached the top.

The middle gates in the flight locks (4,5,6) are extra tall to span the height of both locks. Lock 7 is the worst for the turbulence and the last one you get to before a long motor through the canal to Port Cobourne, passing traffic like this along the way.

At the end of the day we tied up at the Port Colbourne municipal marina and found the bus stop for Graham to catch a ride into Toronto. Laura and I spent a lazy next day hanging around Port Colbourne watching the kids jumping into the old locks to cool off.

Upgrades and Technological Trials

You can skip this one if you're not interested in on board systems, both high and low technology. On the low side we now have hot water, heated by the engine, an enlarged opening for the port lazarette, and a tuned up Atomic 4 engine with minimal water in the fuel tank. On the higher tech side we have added an AIS and DSC enabled VHF radio that listens to the GPS, new speakers for the stereo and a relocated and upgraded chart plotter. Somewhere in the middle we have custom canvas pockets for holding phones and iPads close to the charging outlets, and a permanently mounted LED anchor light above the renovated Bimini canvas.

I installed a Quick Nautic (Italian for "crazy expensive") 16 litre hot water tank in a more or less unused area of the port lazarette previously devoted to emergency firewood. Its most compelling feature was dimensional. It was slim enough to fit through the hatch opening, something I really wasn't. The hatch was 10.5 inches across, while the distance between the front and back of my rib cage is 11 inches unless somebody hugs me really hard. A little jigsaw work and the hatch opening is now 11.5 inches and you can hardly tell the difference.

The plumbing for the water heater was pretty straightforward on the hot water side, a tee into the pressure water line feeds the bottom of the tank and hot water comes off the top of the tank to the faucets. On the engine side it required a complete replumbing to catch the hot jacket water at the thermostat before it was mixed with the bypass water on the way to the exhaust manifold. Details can be found at Moyer Marine and involve a plug and a tee and a bunch of hose, but just try to find a tee with a half inch male pipe thread and two half inch hose barbs on it. Of course, one can be assembled from a collection of 5 different bits of brass... Similar stories for the other bits and pieces so I really jingled as I left Home Depot. But hot running water... Priceless!

The water heats up quickly when the engine is running and is still warm enough to be good for doing dishes the next morning which was a real feature washing dishes this morning so we could have clean plates for breakfast. There's about 6 minutes worth of shower temperature water and a continuous flow of tepid water with the engine running.

Just after the jib ripped on that first day we started the engine, only to have it die again. Restart, Die, Restart, Die, give up and sail... About 24 hours later, it seemed prudent to get the engine sorted out. Sailing into Newcastle was beyond our confident skill set. The Atomic 4 was tuned up before we left with points, condenser, impeller, etc. so it had to be fuel, right? Heeled on port tack tilts the fuel tank so it sucks up any layer of heavier stuff, like water, in the bottom of the tank. I drained the float bowl, the fuel pump, and replaced the fuel filter / water trap. That got the engine to run for about a minute. Eventually I drained multiple liters of watery stuff by siphon down the fuel circuit and got the engine to run reliably. A little pondering and googling tells me I was a victim of ethanol phase separation and what I was siphoning off was more like vodka than water.

Our Navman chart plotter used to sit where the ginger ale is in the photo and would lose its position fix every once in a while, but only in tight situations. Moving it so the antenna is a little farther away from magnets and metal seems to have improved the situation. Adding a new chip provides coverage of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North Channel. Caution when ordering C-Map chips: they have changed the coverage areas without changing the part numbers so you may not get what you ordered.

Laura has done a fantastic job with all sorts of boat canvas. She rebuilt the Bimini with geometry to suit the solar collector and a new window that's better finished than the pro windows on the dodger. Note the little anchor light permanently mounted with electrical tape at the upper left. We also have a bulkhead pocket for iGadgetry and a strip of pockets for those bits that were always cluttering up the galley counter. The iGadgets charge directly from the battery through a cigarette light plug adapter.

We located a pair of PolyPlanar speakers on the cockpit bulkhead in the holes that used to hold the defunct SR Mariner gauges. They are right beside the ST 60 speed/depth and wind instruments, but there doesn't seem to be any interference. One place we are noticing interference is anything electronic next to the Autohelm. Its compass is thrown way off by the radio mic or the camera set on the seat beside it.

The AIS radio is a Standard Horizon Matrix GX2150. It is taking its GPS feed from the old Garmin GPS 76 and the wiring was straightforward from the instructions. It has all the new DSC capabilities that we haven't figured out yet, but works just fine as an old fashioned "pick a channel" style radio. The AIS features are simple to use, allowing us to identify all the large vessels in the area and know which direction and how fast they are traveling. This has already been great use for avoiding collisions by avoiding close approaches. The other standout feature is the remote mic in the cockpit with control of all the features that are available on the front panel.

Their manual is a little opaque in places, but there's evidence somebody involved has a sense of humour. "11.7 Channel Name: When radio mode (NORMAL) is selected, the display will show a name under the channel number. This name describes the use of the channel. The radio has the capability to customize the name by the procedure below. Example: CH 69 PLEASURE to HOOKUP...."

Coming soon, adventures in Autohelm repair ;-)

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