Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Pentanguishene to Toronto Aug/Sept 2004

Departure day. Friday AUG-20-04
After years of planning we are finally on our way!! First change of plans: We are now going around the great lakes since the Trent Severn system is periodically closed by Parks Canada strike. The last thing we want, is to be stuck in the system, if they go on full strike. With Bill Chalk on board to help with the long passages we take off from Penetang about noon heading for Hope Island. We stopped in Methodist Bay to allow waves to settle, arrived at Hope Island about 2000.

The next morning we were up early, to make the 50 mile crossing of Georgian Bay to Wingfield basin. As we motored out between Hope and Christian Islands, north west winds, 2-3 meter waves on the nose and a broken bowl convinced us to return to Hope, and give in to the weather. First lesson of cruising: wait for weather!!

By Sunday, winds were more cooperative, and we enjoyed a great sail with reefed sails across the Bay. We were still learning about the new systems installed this summer. So when the windgenerator was going crazy as the winds picked up, we had to pull out the manual to find out how to shut it down, (turn manually out of the wind) but at least Ross had installed the string to do it!

When it was time to douse the sails, and enter Wingfield Basin, the main came down on the cabin top, the sail stop was missing, and the new starter didn’t want to do its job. Emptying the lazarette, and a screwdriver shorting across the solenoid solved the problem, at least temporarily. We anchored safely near Gargantua, (wreck).

Tug rafted to wreck -- Wingfield Basin

RAFT docked in Little Tub Harbour

Next morning we toured the lighthouse, and wreck. Ross & Bill fabricated a new sail stop (screw and piece of wood), and Ross installed our old (backup) starter. Then we were off to Tobermory, from here on it we were travelling in areas we had never been to by boat. Let the exploring begin! We stopped in Little Tub Harbour, hoping to be able to buy charts (we did not have papercharts from Lake Huron to Lake Ontario) but none were available. So we mosied down to Big Tub to anchor. Here we would have our first opportunity to test our new windlass and chain. We were anchored in 39’ of water with 125 feet of chain out, anticipating 25+knots of wind, and the harbour really doesn’t allow for much swinging room.

We hoped to leave for Sarnia the next day(Tues), but we knew better than to leave for a 160 mile trip south, with south/southeast winds blowing 25+knots. Guess we get another day to explore Tobermory, While Bev did laundry, Ross & Bill walked to Marina Store to see if have sailstop—no luck buying one, but we did find our lost one, caught between toe rail and stanchion. While we waited the weather we continued to be visited by a number of tour and dive boats, going down to check out wrecks at end of Big Tub.

Finally Saturday, we finally had a weather report predicting NW 10-15 and we were off. Raising the anchor (yes it did hold all that time) we discovered that our reaching pole was missing, guess we had left it mistakingly on the deck and it had gone for a swim. Another thing to add to the shopping list.

The overnight sail was mostly downwind, this was our first opportunity to experiment with watches, and learn how to use the radar to find freighters. Both worked out well. When we arrived at Sarnia Yacht Club, first thing we needed was a pumpout (we had been in Tobermory too long) and a rest.

While in Sarnia, we had our first experience of the incredible kindness total strangers would offer us all along our trip. We were looking for charts, reaching pole, propane and a furling centering bearing – Ross had discovered on his morning routine boat check, only ½ of the split ring was lying on the foredeck. The boaters at the yacht club recommended we see Steve at the Rona store – and Steve bent over backwards to help us, even lent us his car to go downtown to get the charts. Returning his car to the store, we were met by a lady who looked at us funny and said “you must be visiting cruisers: and we replied “you must be Steve’s wife” Guess Steve is always this helpful. We did get some charts, but no luck on the furling bearing. Bev remarked that the furling bearing looked like a hockey puck. So Ross & Bill go to the local arena and the maintenance staff gave them 3 pucks. Off we go to Windsor.

Bluewater Bridge -- Sarnia, Ontario

Sharing the St. Mary's River

We arrived at the Windsor Yacht Club as the sun was setting and helped into a “well”. The currents, flowing down the St.Clair River we experienced leaving Sarnia and getting into Windsor are new to us. But we are learning fast. Windsor Yacht Club is a beautiful club, lovely restaurant/bar overlooking Lake St. Clair, teak floors in the washrooms and has a fabulous machine Shop which they let Ross use it to fabricate our “hockey puck furling bearing”. By noon we were on our way, motoring through Detroit, and sailing across Lake Erie to Peelee Island.

Peelee Island is the most southern point in Canada, and we would have liked to take some time to see the winery and bird sanctuary. But with all the delays we had had so far, and Bill’s wife looking forward to his return, we left Peelee early in the morning and motored to Rondeau Bay, where a local sailor told us we could anchor, even though the charts looked like it has too shallow. No problem, as long as you anchor as soon as you enter the bay which we did. We thought we had finally had a day with nothing breaking, until Ross noticed that the new alternator was not charging – good thing we had the old one as a backup, and Ross could swap it out

Although we were able to get paper charts in Sarnia for the St Clair and Detroit Rivers, we were sailing Lake Erie with electronic charts only. They work fine for the “big water” but lack details for the ports and anchorages. Bill used to visit Port Bruwell and thought we ought to be able to get into it. However when we arrived there, as the sun was setting, and hailed a powerboat, we were told that “he hits bottom” so we had to alter our plans. The forecast was for light & variable, the night was beautiful, Port Colbourne was 75 nm ahead, so we decided to go for it.

Entering the Welland Canal

In the locks, Bill on deck

We checked in with the Welland Canal Control at 8 am that morning, expecting (hoping) we had to wait for some time, to catch a little sleep before going through the canal. Our luck, we would be going through at 1030. That did give Bev enough time to check out the farmer’s market and buy a mop with a wooden handle at the Bargain Store, our replacement boat hook which we would need for the locks. We had an excellent passage, never sharing a lockage and arrived at Port Weller in just over 7 hours. We tied up at the pleasure craft dock, and slept.
RAFT's crew at Port Weller -- north end of the Welland Canal

Before we left, Ross changed the transmission fluid. He had been concerned about the transmission all through the canal. We hadn’t been able to maintain our usual motoring speed, regardless of RPM. Checking the manual, we discovered that we were not supposed to motor for more than 25 hours without coolant, and we had motored 30 hours continuous, crossing Erie and the canal. The next day, Lake Ontario was foggy and like glass. Definitely a motor day, where is the wind when you need it? Babying the motor/transmission, we safely arrived at Lakeshore Yacht Club in Toronto in the mid afternoon where Ross’s father was waiting for us to take us back to Barrie.

It had taken us 15 days to go from Penetang to Toronto by boat, but less than 2 hours to get home by car.

Now the fun starts, we needed to get the new starter, and alternator fixed and deal with the transmission. It would take 6-8 weeks to get a new transmission, or we could get ours rebuilt much faster. Despite our rocky start to our trip, we were still committed to getting to south this year, rebuilding the transmission seemed to be the only option.