Sunday, 26 August 2012

Port Colborne to Niagara on the Lake

August 25: I checked in with Seaway Welland at 7 AM. They told me to get some breakfast and listen to channel 14. 20 minutes later they told the guy in the power boat it probably wouldn't be until noon. So we had breakfast and watched the shipping go past us into the canal. By noon they had run out of ships and we got to follow Garganey (Hong Kong) into lock 8. They had a fair head start on us, but we caught up and passed them just above lock 7 where we ducked into an inlet and tied up. Garganey kept "sliding the wall" at a crawl while the Algo Steel came out of lock 7 and went past us all upbound. Garganey continued and we waited for an upbound power cruiser then followed. We waited our turn behind them all the way down, going in circles waiting for the locks to turn back for us. We had a little excitement with a cross current in one of the flight locks, apparently because only half the valves were working, minor scratch on the starboard side...

It was about 2115 by the time we cleared lock 1, so we headed for Port Dalhousie. It was packed, so we tied to the wall on the DYC side, BBQ'd and went to sleep.

August 26: We motored, then sailed over to Niagara on the Lake where we took a mooring at the Sailing Club. It's good to be back in the land of reciprocal moorings ;-)

It was stinking hot in town today and we strolled slowly, staying as much in the shade as possible. Niagara on the Lake is packed with very international tourists and is a little overwhelming after he likes of Little Current. We had lunch at the Prince of Wales Hotel, then retreated to the shade of the residential areas, then the breeze on the mooring. Traffic in the river was equally hectic, with many heading out and back for a Sunday afternoon sail and jet boats full of tourists "Saute Moutons XX" departing for the whirlpools up river. Things got much quieter as the sun went down.

Tomorrow towards Coburg bright and early. The forecast suggests maybe spinnakering...

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Friday, 24 August 2012

Scudder to Port Colborne

August 23: Although we had thought of staying an extra day on Pelee Island, there didn't seem to be much to hold us there. The name "Dragon III"was still on the dock where Adam carved it in 2005, but there were no bicycles to rent, we'd already had the perch dinner, and .... So we cleared harbour at 1000 and pointed the boat at the tip of Long Point.

From Pelee Island you can steer an almost straight course towards the other end of the lake, as long as you deke a little to stay the right side of the hazards around Pelee Passage. The shipping has to go about 5 miles further south to clear the shoals below Point Pelee, so the straight line course keeps you north of the traffic as well.

By 1100 I had hoisted the main purely for shade and rigged a preventer to keep us shaded even when the shore breeze dropped to nothing. By mid afternoon we had enough lake breeze (and no shade) to justify unrolling the jib, then rolled it back up a few hours later when the breeze died to absolute millpond calm. The wind came back at sunset with about 7 from the SE and we could finally turn off the engine. After dinner we watched a movie in the cockpit as the Algoma Guardian slowly passed us 3 miles to the south, watched carefully on AIS and visual.

2300: Now Laura has gone to bed and I'm standing watch out here on my own. I love sailing at night! By morning Long Point should be in sight.

2358: Just saw an amazing shooting star! The half moon set bright orange in the west, just like the sun. The sky is clear, dark and starry overhead, with a little haze on the horizons. The blooms of lights from cities around the lake are visible on the haze and there's a little island of light at the masthead from our nav signals. The rest of the sky is full of stars, sharper and clearer than my eyes can resolve. I just saw another shooting star, not as bright as the first. Truly awesome out here!

August 24, 0715: We changed watch at 0300 with the wind clocking at about 8 knots, then changed back a little while ago as the wind died and the engine went on. At least we both got a sleep shift with no engine. I didn't see any more shooting stars, but it was still a great night.

There was a power boat / sail boat collision somewhere on the lake in the wee hours. Laura heard it on the radio. It wasn't us, although we did take evasive action to avoid a few freighters. The AIS means we can start doing that before we can even see their lights, so the evasive action can be a pretty small change in direction. We're now approaching the tip of Long Point where I will take evasive action to avoid meeting the bottom. I know from last trip that the shallows go out further than charted ;-)

0926: Long Point successfully evaded, Nanticoke generating station just visible off the beam.

1430: stopped for a final swim in Lake Erie, then in for fuel, pump out and a rest. Tied up at the town dock about 1600.

2030: The CSL Atlantic Erie just came through the final bridge and pulled over to the side right in front of us. Two big tank trucks have been there for a while and more are rolling up now, plus a big Beatrice dairy truck and a collection of others to load them up so they can carry on. We're going to get a good night's sleep before we tell the seaway people we are here. We don't want to go right now... And they definitely run a 24 hour show!

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Windsor YC to Scudder

August 22: North American industry seems to be alive and kicking, at least judging by the stink and smog over downtown Windsor/Detroit. I'm doubly glad we're moving quickly!

The skies are a little bluer downstream at US Steel.

Forgot to mention, yesterday the knot log turned over 10000 miles, which averages about 1000 a year. More some years than others ;-)

Motor sailed from the mouth of the Detroit River to Scudder on the north end of Pelee Island in winds starting at 5 knots and tapering off to zero by the time we got in at 1730. This end of the island isn't as busy as it was last time we were here, but the locally caught perch dinner at the pub is still good.

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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Stag Island to Windsor Yacht Club

August 21: With the wind shift this morning we swung across the 2 knot current and into the water ski course, so we headed downstream before fixing breakfast. The river seems much more interesting at 8 knots than it did at 4 on the trip up. No sailing today, even once we reached Lake St Clair. We fueled at Belle River, then headed back out into the lake to avoid the thunder storms on shore.

WYC answered our radio call and guided us in to their wall with just less than 6 feet of water, so we are sort of floating. The club is celebrating 75 years in 2012. Tuesdays appear to be bridge night, the card game.

Laura has added a Black Crowned Night Heron to her bird list, having been surprised by one at 4 AM, looking in the head window from its perch on the side deck. Tough call who was more startled, but the heron squawked loudest.

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Gully Creek to Stag Island

August 20: Gully Creek is the labelled shore feature closest to where we anchored last night, but we didn't actually see a gully or a creek. We set out about 730 and sailed in what remained of the shore breeze until about 930 when I invoked the three knot rule. Now it's 1030 and the wind is filling in from the west in a complete reversal.

We seem to have a hitchhiker today, a little sparrow who pops into view now and then, even though we're 10 miles offshore. I don't know how long it's been aboard, but I'm sure there's enough bugs to last. Maybe it eats spiders!

The west wind swung north, then faded out as we went under the Bluewater Bridge at Sarnia and into the St. Clair River. We anchored in the side channel behind Stag Island. There's a water ski slalom course laid out at the south end of the island, so we got to watch some wake boarding tricks while enjoying our supper.

I haven't seen the sparrow since early afternoon, so I think he must have abandoned ship.

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Monday, 20 August 2012

Killarney to Kincardine

August 15: The weather window was closing, so we headed out between George and Badgely Islands and motored most of the way to Tobermory, getting in around 1930. The Aloha 34 Silver Darling out of Goderich was motoring just a touch faster and wound up on the dock a couple of slips down.

August 16: Awesome breakfast at Craigie's! Met Don Currie at the cash. Bagatelle had just come in for crew change and was headed back out to beat for Sarnia to keep schedule. The wind honked out of the south and the rest of us stayed put for showers, laundry, provisions, etc.

August 17: Wind honked harder from the WNW. We could have gone, but it wold have been a really wild ride, with no turning back. We toured the national park visitor centre and took the short walk out to Dunk's Bay. When we got back the crew of Silver Darling let us know we'd had visitors, so we went looking further down the dock. Right at the end of the harbour we found Jim and Bonnie on Aqualibrium. They had crossed from Killarney that day and were wet and tired despite the relative shelter of the islands. We shared our last smoked fish and other goodies in heir cockpit because it was less bouncy than ours up near the entrance.

August 18: We hit the gas dock shortly after they opened and cleared the harbour before 8. The wind was forecast to back, so we sailed high of the rhumb line to Kincardine and managed a long offshore arc that avoided tacking. We got in about 1930, but Jim didn't make it 'till midnight, since he had to wait for crew and had to beat.

August 19: We had a great brunch downtown with Jim & Carol and Bonnie & Manny, who then took us for a tour and groceries (Thanks!). It was really strange to be in a car! Then we headed down the Huron shore and dropped our anchor about half way between Goderich and Bayfield. Laura made awesome pasta along the way, with lots of garlic, and the sage she picked in McGregor Bay.

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Thursday, 16 August 2012

Croker to Killarney to Tobermory

August 14: We carried the spinnaker as far as we could, which got us down behind Amerdoz Island where the wind backed, then died to nothing. We motored down through Little Current and were right on time for the 3 PM bridge swing when I saw Bagatelle tied to the dock just east of Wally's. Didn't have time to stop and chat.

The wind filled back in courtesy of a little storm cell that was not quite on our path, so we sailed on down Lansdowne Channel and anchored in Killarney Bay, just east of Covered Portage Cove.

August 15: A look at the forecast said we should either go to Tobermory, or wait three days for the next chance, so we skipped the fish and chips in Killarney and made an uneventful passage straight out between Badgely and George Islands, then between Club and Lonely Islands, then in past the Flower Pots just as the sun was getting low. Most of the way was motoring weather, with sun-tanning on the foredeck away from the noise.

We got into Tobermory about 1900 and the wait for fish and chips was over 30 minutes, so we went back to the boat for sausages. Chips and groceries will have to wait for morning.

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Gore Bay to Croker Island

August 13: we picked up some frozen trout at the dock, then hoisted the chute for a nice reach down the channel in a light breeze. After investigating the Benjamins and Croker west side harbour, we wound up with a lot more privacy in the bay on the east side of Croker Island.

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Oak Bay to Gore Bay

August 11: Our anchor held just fine in the cove, although it wasn't much of a challenge. We had a nice run down to Gore Bay, where we found a lot of other cruisers still hunkered down on the docks waiting.

The voice on the marina radio directed us to F dock, but we came to a definite stop in the mud on our way there. When I looked around, there were Alison and Rod standing on the end of D dock to give us better directions, and a dinner invitation. The Coq au Vin was great!

Ralph, Mary and Marj joined us for coffee the next morning, a tour of the CYC flotilla, lunch and dinner before continuing on their Northern Tour. Dinner at the Cafe by the Bay was excellent (reservations recommended, it was packed). Ralph had the steak, I had the fish, our waiter was amused.

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Mosquito Harbour to Oak Bay

August 9: Mosquito Harbour lived up to its name last night. And then it rained... This morning there was a crisp breeze from the NE, so we reached NW to the islands along the north shore. We didn't quite make Eastern Island (where there are huge heads carved of Farquhar Butter from Manitoulin) but cut through the islands all the way over to the north shore. We then zigged and zagged back and forth between the rocks, down past Hogg Island then back out into the main channel at McTavish. We followed the north shore of Fox Island then ducked into Oak Bay.

It seems the weather forecast had a lot of people doing the same thing, so we were way up at the far end before we could find some shelter from the NE and avoid the mobs in some of the side inlets. The wind is forecast to rise to just short of a gale in the North Channel with gale warnings on all the adjacent bodies of water. We should see the strongest winds tomorrow morning. The little cove we picked provides great shelter and the holding seems good after getting the anchor through the weeds on the second try. We'll know for sure tomorrow.

From here we'll head towards Gore Bay to meet up with Ralph and Mary and Marjorie.

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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

McGregor Bay to Mosquito Harbour

August 8: After 5 lovely nights in McGregor Bay we rejoined the cruising throngs today. Last night our nearest neighbours were barely in sight and tonight they are yacking about who's anchoring to close to whom.

We followed Meander, a Hunter 36, all the way out today, then wound up tied beside them in Little Current. Approaching LC there were more than half a dozen sailboats in close proximity and headed in the same direction to make the noon bridge swing. That definitely fits the definition of a race, but cruising etiquette doesn't permit rolling the other guy and stealing his wind and it's hard to power through the other guy's lee with just a cocktail jib ;-). In LC Laura did laundry (Killarney is a much better deal) while I provisioned (LC is best since Tobermory) then tea and on our way. We followed a couple of power boats out, then round the corner north to Mosquito Island and the harbour behind it. We're hoping the name refers to the shape of the island, not the insect population.

T-Bones were the order of the day at the Foodland, so we had pork T-Bones for dinner tonight, with gorgeous lamb and beef T-Bones in the fridge for later in the week. The anchorage is filling up even further now, mostly with people Laura met while doing laundry. I guess that's to be expected when we pick for proximity to LC. Tomorrow's NE winds should be just the thing for getting us further west into more interesting territory.

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With the Whittons in McGregor Bay

August 4: We had a lazy morning swimming and taking it easy, knowing that we weren't going far, then headed back out into the main bay to meet our local guide.

John Whitton was a fine fellow and my great uncle. He passed away last February at 91. He and his family have always enjoyed their time with the community at McGregor Bay, so a second memorial service was planned for August 5.

John's son Ian met us in the middle of the bay and guided us in through the "Old Channel" near Harrison Rock. The chart was not encouraging, but we never saw less than 8 feet in the tight passage through the narrows and anchored safely in front of their cottage on West Sampson Island. It had been a long time, so there was a lot of catching up to do over a delicious rib dinner. The weather was light over night, but blew up to over 30 knots from the west for the service the next afternoon. Laura kept watch over Dragon III hanging to two anchors in the very sticky clay while we remembered John in the small Anglican church around the corner and up the bay. Lots of people arrived quite wet after the boat ride through the wind and waves.

August 6: We bid the Whittons farewell this morning and managed to find our way back out without incident, thanks to a large collection of waypoint breadcrumbs I had scattered behind us on the way in. Rather than buck up into the westerly that was pushing 20 again, we turned east and wound up back in almost exactly the same spot as on our first night in the Bay. This time, we covered almost all of the distance under sail, and I had more time to enjoy the beautiful views as the navigational details were familiar.

August 7: So nice we stayed another day and explored a little by dinghy.

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Rous to McGregor Bay

August 3: The wind clocked as predicted overnight, and the whole anchorage turned 180 degrees without incident. We made a fairly early departure to hit Little Current before things got too crazy. The August long weekend is "Haw Eater Weekend" in LC and by Friday night it will be in full swing with no dock space available. We managed to fill and empty all the tanks and stock up with groceries by just after 11, so we caught the noon bridge swing with ease.

What little wind there was evaporated so we motored the rest of the way around and into McGregor Bay. Our path narrowed and narrowed as we followed the pencil line laid out on the paper chart by June and Richard. McGregor was uncharted until recently, so we didn't even attempt it in 2005. Although the details vanish from my iPad charts just inside the Bay, the full #2206 chart was viewable with the new chip on the chart plotter, but only at the high magnification setting.

Much of McGregor Bay is cottage speckled, but the channel we worked our way into is in Killarney Provincial Park. Surrounded by mainland again, we're wondering if we'll hear wolves tonight like we did in Beardrop. The loons may drown them out, but we will be sure to take up the ladder as a precaution.

The country is much more typical of what we would expect on a canoe trip, rather than by cruising boat. We have this anchorage almost completely to ourselves, a rare treat. There are a couple of boats in the next little pool, but they're only visible half the time, depending on how we're swinging on our anchors.

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Thursday, 2 August 2012

Turnbull Island to Rous Islands

August 2: We set off before 9, despite the squall watch, in order to work our way back towards Little Current. The west wind filled in behind us as we motor sailed, then just sailed, until it was up over 20 by mid afternoon. We backtracked above John and Aird Islands, through Little Detroit, then out into the channel and south of Eagle, Hook and the Benjamins. We went up for a look at McTavish Island on the north side and it would make a great stop some other time, but it's exposed from West round to NE, which is where the wind's predicted to be.

We sailed down between Amedroz and Bedford, then up into the very well protected harbour between East and West Rous Islands. It's not so inspiring, but it will be fine for tonight.

Today was a really good bird day! It started with a bald eagle, white head very obvious this time, swooping down past the boat with a fish in his talons, then flying over to a rock for a good breakfast. It finished with a pair of loons swimming quite close to us in the harbour as we made dinner. It's dark now, but there are geese out there somewhere honking at the full moon!

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Beardrop to Turnbull Island

August 1: It took quite some doing to get the anchor up, but we were able to drive it out. Laura said she knew when it let go because the bow popped up about a foot. The harbour was down to four boats by the time we left.

We had an uneventful sail to Turnbull Island, falling in behind Allison and Rod so they could lead us in from the NW side of the island. We followed their path, even when they went on the south side of the rock pile where the Ports Guide showed a path on the north. We never saw less than 16 feet and made it out the same way the next day.

After anchoring we saw a pair of eagles soaring over the harbour and landing in behind one of the other little islands. Unfortunately, we didn't find them or any traces when we dinghied around to the other side of the island as part of our explorations. The Ports mentions bald eagles, but these ones didn't have the signature white heads.

We also landed on a small island in the bay and claimed it for Her Majesty, although she may not be paying much attention, what with the Olympics and all. Rod and Allison also went dinghy exploring, fortunately to windward, and discovered the limits of the battery capacity for their electric motor.

After our adventures we got together for a delicious mixed grill dinner in the cockpit of Leading Edge. We brought lamb chops and Greek salad that blended well with the steak and grilled veg. It turns out Rod likes lamb after all!

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