It was a beautiful sunny day, as we headed down the canal, after leaving the tow boat astern. Still not 100% sure of what the lake would be like with regards to waves and such. So with trepidation we headed south to the mouth of Lake Erie. Once there the wind was from the South West, which was perfect for us. We charted a revised course and headed towards Port Colborne.
We flew just the Genoa, and had the motor going as the winds were just not very strong to make reasonable sailing time. As we turned out of the shipping canal, and rotated the Irish lady to her new heading, we picked up speed to 7.2 knots. It was sunny warm, and a calm sea state. With the exception of the motor running (noise), it was what the doctor ordered after the days stressors. The auto pilot was engaged, and we sat back and relaxed and enjoyed the calm waters as we headed to our new destination.
Every once I a while my mind would start to find problems, or worries. In other words I started to manifest stress. I would try to quickly extinguish them as fast as they started. I would go back to conversation I had with a gentleman pipefitter I work with. He was asking me question, and typically, the conversation turned to what if this breaks or what if this goes wrong. Don’t get me wrong Trevor B. is not a dream stealer, but a supporter. I told him no matter what the problem is the answer has to be on the boat. He smiled, as if to say, “you got this John”! I found just the smile on his face and the look in his eye a form of approval and support, that is really unexplainable by words, it was a feeling exported to me through the earths ether. Thanks Trev! Using this conversation as a way to remind myself whatever problem I have the answer will be on the boat.
With my mind semi at rest, Johnny and I sat back snacked as two big guys would drank water to stay hydrated in the sun, and enjoyed the day taking turns dozing. As we motored I would compare our position on the water with places I knew, like Leamington, Ontario, to the North. Leamington is just before Point Pelee.
I went back, in time when I took my daughter Cara to a hockey tournament there. It was a fun time, we were there for two days, and I miss watching my kids compete. Oops shit, as I slip back into a negative cycle. As I remember at the hotel of the hockey tournament my car breaking down. I remember running around on a Saturday trying to get it fixed. I start to think about what could go wrong on the boat, then I switch back to the memory of the car, and remember the outcome. As usual it all worked out, the fix was a simple one and Cara and I enjoyed the time in Leamington and the hockey tournament. LOL there would also be, as a Canadian, no thought of Leamington, without Stompin’ Tom coming to mind with his “Ketchup loves potatoes” song. Thanks Leamington!
As I look to the South, I get my first impression of Pelee Island, I was struck with the size of the island. I didn’t realize it was so big. I visited Point Pelee, with my family as a kid, camping all around Ontario, but I guess I was not able to remembered, or maybe comprehend the size of the Island. I do remember that Point Pelee was a protected bird sanctuary and is a National Park, but back to the island. I was impressed, and looking at the charts, I realized that we were crossing the ferry route, looking both ways not boats in sight. All is good. Much to my chagrin, I started to think about work, while on vacation. I remembered that one of my old bosses, used to take vacation here on Pelee Island with his family to go bird watching. I wonder if he is there now, was the thought of the moment. As I scan with the binnos, I notice a small island to the west of Pelee Island, I look at the charts to find an Island called East Sister Island, Provincial Park. Between the East Sister Island and Pelee Island, was another small Island called Hen Island. I go back to Pelee Island, and find myself in wonderment again with the size, and the shape, almost a rectangle, and also the most Southerly point in Canada. So that is two down for me, came the realization. I have been to the most easterly and now the most southerly. Now it is just the North and West to go, lol half way!
As we past Pelee Island there was a Canadian Coast Guard vessel, to the east of the island. I wondered what they were doing. A good friend of the family, Rob W. was an officer, a captain I think. One of his jobs was to check buoys. I wondered if it was him.
Okay back to reality, and checking our position, and having a look around, and to tension started to rise and although too late I noticed a fishing net across our path that stretched out quite a way. Too late to change course, I did that face scrunch we all do when you know something bad is imminent. We sailed over the net with no problems even with the motor running. I picked this style of boat for many reasons I wanted a full Keel, in case I needed to beach it for an emergency repair on my travels. The full keel also protects the rudder and prop. Well, I guess there is another reason for a full keel, to help fishing nets slide under the boat away from the prop and rudder. Nice job, Ted Brewer on the design. We met 2 or 3 more fishing nets before the dusk settled in.
With evening came a few changes, the wind started to diminish, and threating clouds started to roll in. I reviewed the weather and knew that there was a chance of rain and thunderstorms. As night settled in Johnny took the watch and I grabbed some kip. In the very early morning I came on deck and relieved Johnny from his watch. It started to rain, so I took a cushion and sat in the companion way, deep under the dodger, and the companion way hatch closed. I was dry and somewhat comfortable.
As I kept vigilance, looking for markers, ships, and other items that maybe of concern. I noticed a quick flash out of the corner of my eye. I quickly look at the charts, thinking how the hell I had missed a light house out here. Wait why would there be a light house out in the middle of the lake, with no shoals. Then another quick flash. Turning my head I seen the quietly advancing lightning clouds. The flash I witnessed out of the corner of my eye, was very interesting, as I watched for the flash, and without disappointment the lightning lit up the clouds again. The cloud was in the shape of an incandescent light bulb, with the bright lightning in the centre of it. As an electrician, I thought that it was so cool. It was like I was in my own cartoon, and when the lightning would flash, I would pretend to have an idea. I may have been a bit over tired… but it was fun for a bit. That was until I looked to the North, and noticed a major storm over land. With mild rain and the odd storm cloud around us, my hope was that the major storm would stay over land and not come to me. Thankfully it did.
In the early morning, the rain had stopped, and the sun came up, however, the fog rolled in and was pretty thick. The visibility was maybe a mile or less. Again keeping an eye out, I scanned the horizon and seeing nothing I turned away for not even 15 seconds, and as I turned back I noticed the front end of a Laker of to my port bow (front left of the boat, for you not nautical people). This drove home the point of how fast these ships move. I quickly flashed up the radar, and we kept it on without incident and the fog lifted.
We closed in on Port Colborne, and emailed Port Colborne Sugarloaf Marina. They were very accommodating. As we pulled in to the harbour, right beside the Welland Canal entrance. I radioed the Harbour Master, and she sent two helpers to the area where I was to dock the boat. Making a big loop so that I could come into the dock at good angle, we docked without incident. We tied the boat off, and my daughter Cara came down to pick us up. I paid my fees for dockage, and we had a bite at Don Cherry’s at the marina before our trek home. The food and beer was great, and much enjoyed. While walking down the dock, someone noticed me from work, and said hi. I really wish I could have stayed, as the marina life looked like fun, and everyone was being very social and had a very good vibe. Thanks Sugarloaf Marina!
Next week, we go through the Welland Canal, where I go from what do I do now, to a feeling of luck, to almost losing the boat in the canal. Tune into learn how Kenny K. and Gerry K. worked swift of mind and hand to save the Irish Girl!