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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