Tuesday was a delightfully uneventful day. We left Sarnia at 9:15 under sunny skies with a light northwest breeze and motored down the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair. With our detailed chart book of this waterway, it is fun to mark off the buoys as we pass them and note the various factories and buildings.
Homes on the US side Industry on the Canadian side
There was little river traffic. Upbound: One Saltie, and two barges with wedged-in tugs.
One of two Beluga ships we saw Wonder if you call this an outboard motor
We were never sure who was watching and/or driving
Downbound: One Laker and one true barge with a tug pushing her.
Traditional traffic that totally ignore pleasure craft … guess they think of us a gnats
There were the usual assortment of fishing boats and a few large cruisers (sometimes called floating wedding cakes). In Lake St. Clair there were several sailboats trying to catch the “light and variable” winds in the afternoon. The trip across Lake St. Clair is truly boring, unless there is a strong wind and 4-foot seas (which we have not experienced in our three crossings of this lake). One actually looks forward to passing the next buoy!
A cormorant hotel, must have been 200 birds on this one We never did figure out what is was all about
On Wednesday there were gale warnings for Lakes Huron and Erie, from the south veering to northwest around midnight with thunderstorms. Seas are forecast to be 3-4 metres (9-12 feet). We decided we were not interested in bucking gale force south winds from the mouth of the Detroit River to Pelee Island (Southeast passage).
Windsor Marina … the birds own most of the dock calm sea conditions before the storm
We took advantage of our weather layover day by taking the dinghy off davits securing it on the bow. We did further investigation of equipment and found several new near-failures. I cleaned the fridge; a carton of milk turned over during our Lake Huron trip spilling some of its contents. I also managed to get some bread made for our next passages. We feel we are now ready for our Lake Erie crossing and the Welland Canal.
The gale hit at 12:45 AM on Thursday. We were up much of the night because we were facing due west and the wind was coming from the west. There are pilings on the wall where we are tied. We had to deploy our fenders against the hull then put a fender board (3” x 1” x 5’ board) between the piling and the fenders. In the strong blow, our fender board was worked up above the fenders. Our lower rubrail was right against the piling and making a terrible noise. It took both of us to pry the boat off the piling during lulls to get the boards back in place. All of this was during a torrential downpour in addition to the rain. We did not sleep well.
The weather forecast indicated continued gales throughout the day for Lakes Huron, St. Clair and Erie as well as waterspouts on Huron and Erie. Therefore we decided to stay put in Windsor for another day.
The Detroit River runs east-west at Detroit / Windsor and there is a 2-knot current running down the river (west, at this point). The wind was blowing from the west, kicking up quite a chop – waves about 1.5’ high. Since the waves were running against the current, there were steep “standing waves.” We saw a few boats try to go up the channel next to the marina and having to give up the effort. The channel between the marina and Peché Island had larger waves than the main freighter channel because it is narrow and shallower. It was amazing to see seaweed floating against the waves with the current.
28 kts of wind against a 2 kt current created 6 to 8 foot waves …they look small in the photo
We have enjoyed several racing events. Wednesday (race night) the big boats in Windsor had a race on Lake St. Clair that began at 6:30 and did not finish until well after dark. The finish was right at the Windsor Yacht Club, just a little west of the marina, and we saw all the boats sailing down the channel for the finish line, shining flashlights on the telltales on the sail to get the best trim.
Yesterday and today a yacht club in Detroit has been hosting an invitational regatta for Flying Scots (18 foot racing dinghies that are very popular in the US). Yesterday there were three different boats with equipment failures in the fairly strong south winds and the practice race was cancelled. Today, with even stronger wind and waves against the current, they tried to get races started in the morning and early afternoon, having to postpone them. One boat tipped over turtle and the top of the mast got stuck in the mud on the bottom (12 feet of water at one of the marks). There were 20-25 boats racing, and it was fun listening to the race committee over the VHF radio. They finally got 2-3 races in late this afternoon.
We had a delightful sail from the Detroit River mouth to Pelee Island in 12-15 knots of wind from the southwest (we were going southeast) at 6-7 knots. It almost made up for the 3 days we spent in Windsor. The motor trip down the river was easy and uneventful.
Detroit - cars Windsor - gambling
Ambassador Bridge Exit to Lake Erie from the Detroit River
These waves were 4-6 feet due to the shallow water Lake Erie with Pelee Island in the distance
We arrived at the marina at 4:00, having left Windsor at 7:30 this morning. After we got the boat put to bed, we helped a man single-handing a 28-foot Catalina (from Ohio) dock. We ended up having dinner with him at a restaurant about a mile from the marina. It was a very pleasant ending to a lovely day, even though mosquitoes soundly bit us since we were eating outdoors.
Saturday, October 1, 2005. Lake Erie (middle-ish)
We left Pelee Island at 7:00 this morning and were able to sail (6+ knots) until 2:15 this afternoon. The sea is calm and the wind non-existent at this point.
The North/West tip of Pelee Island at sunrise another sunrise … this time with a gull
Navigation aid just North of Pelee in the sunrise In Lake Erie
We have watched freighters passing upbound and downbound in both the north shipping lanes (going to the Detroit River) and the south shipping lanes (headed to Cleveland, Toledo, etc.). We have positioned ourselves between the shipping lanes.
Bug Report Update: I forgot to mention the entry of a new bug in Windsor: the yellow-jacket or wasp. These are always pests in September in southern Canadian cities, and in Windsor they found us. In fact, I was making bread and had a mixture of yeast, water and brown sugar proofing when a yellow-jacket landed in the mixture and would have drowned if I had not bailed it out. On Lake Erie we have the usual flies, but these are really out of it. We wonder if they have spent too much time in the Pelee Island vineyards. They fly into your glass of wine and into your face. They do not seem to have any concern of being swatted to death.
We had an easy, somewhat boring crossing of Lake Erie. We saw a lot of freighter traffic, but all was 5 or more miles away from us. We managed to stay out of the shipping lanes for about 95% of the trip.
Port Colbourne entrance At the marina docks
We took a walk in the city to the check-in docks for the Welland Canal to ensure they were still in the same location. There were 3 large powerboats (2 over 50 feet long) and a 40-foot sailboat waiting to lock through. We went out on the dock to inquire how long they had been waiting. The sailboat had been waiting since 8 AM. It was 3:00 PM when they got the go-ahead to proceed in the locks. We anticipate they will be lucky to get out of the locks at 11:00 tonight, and maybe after midnight.
Wedding Cakes lining up for the entry into the locks
We had a minor infestation of gnats overnight, few flies, but have quite a swarm of yellow jackets / wasps both in the cockpit/ deck and inside the cabin. What a nuisance.
We are stuck. We checked in with Seaway Welland at 7:45 this morning, and found out there was a 6-hour maintenance scheduled for the flight locks (4, 5 and 6).
Sunrise at the marina heading for Lock 8
At 9:30 they let us proceed the 15 miles from the first lock (8) to just above the second lock (7), and then tie up at Warf 7. We arrived there at noon, fixed lunch and waited.
Tied up at Warf 7 Canadian Navigator sloooowly heading into Lock 7
A lake freighter, Canadian Navigator, was coming down behind us, and we had to wait for them to proceed into lock 7 before we were given permission to proceed. The Canadian Navigator is a 730-foot Laker, and its captain was very cautious. It took half an hour for them to enter the lock. We were finally given to go-ahead at 3:20, but did not actually get into the lock until 4:00. As soon as we were out of lock 7, we proceeded with haste to the flight locks (6, 5 and 4), but as we approached, the navigation signals indicated the Canadian Navigator was just settling into lock 6.
Out of Lock 7 bow view Stern view
and who do we see in Lock 6 Our turn in Lock 6 … just starting to lower
Bow view Lowering complete
In Lock 5 … motor off … waiting Barge out of Lock 3
We started making donuts just south of the flight locks … for about 30 minutes. Finally we were given the go-ahead and proceeded into lock 6. When we got to lock 5 there was a further 30-minute delay, but at least we were tied in the lock and could turn off the engine and have a snack. When we got out of the flight locks (4,5 and 6), we drifted down to lock 3, did a few more donuts and finally were given the go-ahead to proceed into lock 3. The time was 7:00 and the sun was setting. The trip to lock 2 was very difficult because it was dark, there were a number of buoys, and some were not lit. We also found a 4x4 plank floating in the canal that we kept trying to avoid. 8:40 PM we entered lock 2. BAD NEWS. As we were going down, we heard the Canadian Navigator was in lock 1 and the lock had some malfunction. There are now 2 up-bound freighters tied to the wall below lock 1 and one outside the channel that was doing donuts until Seaway Welland could inform them how long the delay would be. Eventually they dropped their hook. There were no down-bound freighters at, so we hoped we would not be side-lined once the problem was fixed to allow more freighters to pass us. There were at least 3 vessels up-bound and also stuck because of a hydraulic problem in lock 8 (the first down-bound lock that we had cleared at 10:00 in the morning).
Waiting to enter Lock 1 … tied to shore at LA3 for Lock 2
We fixed ourselves dinner and then prepared to stand watches during the night. It was impossible to know when Seaway Welland would ask us to proceed to the last lock.
Seaway Welland informed us the problem with Lock 1 was fixed at 11:30 PM. Canadian Navigator had to be lowered, exit the lock and a barge enter the lock, be lifted and exit the lock up-bound before we could enter the lock. However, Seaway Welland asked us to proceed immediately to the lock. It was dark. There was no light from a moon. Lights on shore were reflected in the water, making it difficult to see navigation lights and buoys that were unlit. We were tired and nervous. The lights on Lock 1 that indicate the state of the lock were not working, so we had no idea how long we would be delayed before the barge exited. We were worried that the barge would not see us. Finally at 12:45 the barge appeared, shown its floodlight on us (they expected us to be on the left-hand side of the channel; we were on the right-hand side since that seemed to be the logical place to be and Seaway Welland had not given us any instructions.) We got into the lock at 12:45 and were out at 1:00. There was a tug and freighter tied up waiting to go up-bound in the lock, and another freighter inbound in the channel. What a sigh of relief when we exited the seaway at 1:30 AM, 18 hours after we began the journey. We finally tied up at the Dalhousie Yacht Club visitor’s dock at 2:30.
The wall at Dalhousie is very long and it helps when it is 2am and there are no lights to help
Goose Yoga pose – instructor and pupil Brian’s 2 vices …
We spent Tuesday recovering from our Welland Canal ordeal at Port Dalhousie. We left this morning and had about an hour of good sailing. Then the winds became light and variable. Brian tried trolling, but all he caught was tons of seaweed floating down the Niagara River.
US Fort at the mouth of the Niagara River A more peaceful building on the Canadian side
Niagara-on-the-Lake downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club front dock
We got tickets to see several plays at the Shaw Festival. It is oppressively warm … hazy and humid. We have never see the barometer so high. There does not seem to be any indication that the high is moving out soon (which means very light winds, warm humid air).
We arrived in Toronto, full circle on the very dock we were on when we left to go to Georgian Bay in September 2003.
The weather forecast was for gale force winds from the Northeast beginning tonight. When we woke up this morning there was a strong (10+ knot) wind from the north. We decided we would cross Lake Ontario to Toronto rather than wait for the gale to pass, since it was not supposed to hit until tonight. We left Niagara on the Lake Sailing Club at 8:30 and hit incredible waves at the mouth of the Niagara River (south current meets north winds, in relatively shallow (24 feet) water). We decided to motor sail with the main until we were out of the mouth of the river. However, we found out that pulling out half the Genoa helped us push through the waves.
Lake Ontario greets us and outdoes Superior weather Jane … ever watchful
Because of the threat of gale force (35+ knots) wind from the northeast, we decided to maximize speed. We kept the full main and Genoa up and kept the engine going, which gave us a 6.5 – 7.0 knot speed. To add to the excitement, we had rain all the way across the lake, sometimes quite heavy. Thank goodness, once again, for Radar.
We arrived at the National Yacht Club at 1:30 and had lunch at the clubhouse. After lunch we donned our raingear and took the subway to our condo. The kitchen table is piled with mail, and we think our microwave/convection oven has ended its life, but there are no other major problems with our land-based home.
Back at the National Yacht Club and back on the front wall in the same space that we occupied when we began our great adventure … thoughts of Tony are ever present in our minds.
We drove back to the club, had dinner aboard, lit the furnace (it is cool and still raining, so the warmth from furnace has felt good), and slept on board. We reluctantly moved back into the condo for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.