The Storm after the Calm

The morning has come, and started to get the Irish Lass ready for her voyage home.  I had to fill her diesel tanks, however, I was concerned with the location, distance, and hassle of finding a marina with diesel and getting her filled.  So I went and filled my jerry cans and dumped two into her port tank, and went back to fill the jerry cans again.  However, I would wait until I left the marina to dump those into the Port tank.  I do have diesel in the starboard tank, but the fuel is not trusted, if you remember back to us leaving Penetanguishine; there may be water in that diesel.

In the end, the lack of diesel for this jaunt home; will only create worry on my mind.  I don’t have a fuel gauge, and I don’t have a good idea as to how much fuel is guzzled at a particular RPM.  From this I learned gauges for the three tanks are going to be a must for future cruising.

It is a bright sunny morning, slight breeze coming from the east.  We ate, got things ready to go.  Checked the oil in the engine, and other safety checks.  Started the engine and warmed it up, making sure water was coming out of the exhaust.  Everything was good to go.

The weather check said there would be strong winds as we got closer to Hamilton.  So I decided not to put the main up and just sail under jib and jigger (genoa <foresail> and mizzen <small sail at the back of the boat>).  The main is a lot of work and under windy conditions, in experienced crew, I thought it was a good conception for potential wind and sea conditions.    That was one thing I did right, and I was very happy I did.

I called the marina over the radio and asked for assistance from the dock hands, two young men came out to assist.  My main concern is that boat does not turn well in reverse, in addition I have a boat directly behind me just over a boat length away.  Oh and adding to that was the wind, and current in the marina.  When the dock hands came I chatted with them and suggested we pull the boat to the north side of the double slip and offset myself form the boat behind me every so slightly.  Which is the plan we came up with and we attempted to execute it. They would be there to push us off and help with lines.  Well thankfully they were there as the wind and current were not allowing me to go where I wanted to go.  Thanks to them and the Confederation Basin Marina for their help, as they helped fend me off, another close boat.  Thank fully the young man was fast and was able to race around the finger dock to fend me off the other boat.  Well with the crisis averted, we were heading out the harbour out into Lake Ontario to head home to the Irish Lass’s home slip.

Out on the lake it was sunny, warm, blue sky, and a very low sea state.  I should have enjoyed it while I could, had I known what was going to happen overnight and into the evening the next day.  As we headed out we took note of the shipwrecks noted on the charts, and recalled some of the stories from our ghost stories about ghost ships, and the magnetic anomaly that is near Kingston.  All were hoping to get out of the area prior to seeing or becoming a ghost ship like those of the 1800’s.

We are out of the channel and passing Amherst Island off to the starboard, I dump the last two jerry cans into the port tank, still unsure how full the thanks is.  I do know if it is full, we would have no problems with fuel, however, I know that it is at a minimum of half full, as the tank is about 45 gallons, and I dumped 20 in her.  This is a concern for me, and will weigh on me the next day quite heavily if we would have to motor as we did on our way to Kingston.  We unfurl the jib, and hoist the jigger and cut the engine and sail on.  Beautiful sailing small sea state, blue sky, sunny, and just simply relaxing. We set course and are on our way, with the crew in good spirits.

I look off to my starboard bow and I see a square rigger off in the distance.  I don’t say anything to the crew to refresh their memory of our ghost walk and ghost ship lectures.  I did chuckle to myself as the theme of the Twilight Zone or was it the Night Gallery…not sure but some spooky music was playing in my head.  At any rate, all was well with the world, our sails were up motor was off, the wind was coming from behind us and we were good.

This is the ghost ship we seen, don’t really know the name of her. I apologize for the photo, but it kept disappearing and reappearing… hard to get a good picture

Alanna assumed her position at the bow, Johnny and I were in the cockpit, sometimes joined by Sonia.  We were making about 5 knots, which was good.  The day pressed on and so did we the wind was building but still under full jib and jigger.  W needed to make progress to beat the stronger winds that were forecast in the late evening of the next day, as well as we did not want to “park” the boat in the dark. As evening was upon us on our first day the wind picked up, and was still coming from the east and almost dead astern of us.

Off in the distance we could see lights of cities on the shores of Lake Ontario flashing lights street lights and such.  It was now dark, and I was at the helm.  Alanna was down below, Johnny came up as suggested that I go below and grab some kip (sleep).  It was about 2300 hours (11 pm), and it was blowing, not to heavy but we were moving along and I was quite happy.  I said okay, with the wind and being in the open it was a bit chilly, and I was at the wheel for quite a while.  So I said yes thanks I could use a rest.  Looking back, I should have reefed, but winds were not too strong.  I went to below took off my pants, and climbed into the fart sack (bed).  In my quarters, the bed is across the boat, and depending on heel of the boat, I would put my head on the high side.

There was a slight heel so I put my head to the starboard side and feet to the port.  I covered myself with the blankets and faded off to sleep, hoping to make it until 0300 (3 am) or so. At about 0130 (130 am) I felt a slight dip to port, but back again, so I ignored it, I figured that I am right by the cockpit, as there I a companion way that goes directly to the cockpit, mind you I have to climb about 5 or 6 steps to get up there.  I figured if help was needed I would hear a call. I am not sure how long after that, I felt myself sliding down my mattress with the covers to the port side.  I wake up and find myself standing on the Port wall of the boat.  We were knocked down!  I hear the call of help, I am trying to get my pants on and climb up the stairs that are horizontal.  If it wasn’t for the sheer panic on the voices and my exhaustive efforts to get on deck it might have been funny to watch.  I yelled, “turn the boat into the wind”!  Unfortunately, the boat was in Auto Pilot mode, and Sonia and Johnny were trying to hold on and were not able to turn it off and turn into the wind.

After a short time I am sure, although it seemed like an eternity, me still trying to get my fat ass up the horizontal ladder while the ship is over, and panic everywhere; the boat eventually righted itself, and I was able to get up into the cockpit.  The wind was howling, the sea state was double or triple it was when I went below.  We were in the shit, so to speak.  After all, with the wind waves, and the dark; I made the decision to start the engine, furl the jib, and take down and tie the mizzen.  I had Johnny at the helm and I furled the jib in then got the sail ties and used one leg of my lanyard and tied myself to the mizzen mast.

With some help we lowered the sail and tied it to the boom. In the process we lost a few sail ties, but we got her down and secured.  It was dark and I didn’t really want to have anyone on deck with the sea state and wind as it was.

Securing the mizzen sail

Sonia and Alanna down below, Johnny who was cold ask to go down and warm up and nap, and if I would stay on watch. It was now around 0230 and things were under control….for now as we motored on in to the night.  What we were getting was the remnants or Hurricane Florence.  I said sure go ahead, I didn’t realize that as Johnny so eloquently put it (or something similar to) that this tip would strip away his infantile fascination and enthusiasm for sailing.

He came up a few hours later just around dawn.  He sat in the cockpit and asked if I had a bucket. Again, here I kind of chuckled to myself, as when our kids were young, they’d get sick, I would give them a salt beef bucket (just a white buck for the non-Newfies) and I would draw a smiley face in the bottom with a permanent maker.  So a utility bucket was brought on deck to the cock pit.  Where it was used, a few times.  Not feeling well Johnny went below where I wouldn’t see him until 1800 (6pm) later that day. Alanna wasn’t well either, but I think she was able to make it to the head.

The waves were coming in and building they were at a minimum of 10 feet, but much higher.  Sonia would make some bagel sandwiches for us to eat.  We ate and had something to drink.  I would like to say all was good… but really I was worried about the fuel levels.  What the wind was and what was predicted was much different the winds increased to 67 km/h gusts according to Environment Canada, and the wave height was incredible.

Our navigation computer, luckily we had it secured buy the bracket, or we would have lost her overboard.

With daylight upon us, watched the waves and they remind me of times as a kid when 4 buddies are walking on the sidewalk and 2 or 3 other friends come running behind and use their hand and spring up on the first fours shoulders.  That was happening to the waves building on each other.  Compounding all of this the seas were a confused and made it hard for the auto pilot to keep up.

The 42 foot boat which weighs about 28000 pounds was tossed around like a cork, and so were the people inside.  Sonia was trying to make some sandwiches in midafternoon, and out of the corner of my eye I seen her fly across the beam of the boat and smash right into the nave station.  This left her with a bruise that skipped the colour blue and went straight to black.  Thankfully Alanna was there to help her get up.

I was in the cock pit and it seem like we were making NO progress, the Toronto sky seemed to never pass us.  The confused seas would have us doing donuts as it was too rough for the auto pilot.  I would crest a wave, and look around to find the hole that we would be plunging into as we came down. I was starting to stress, the boat was strong and sound and I was not worried about it at all. I was starting to worry about running out of fuel. It was wearing on me something fierce.  It seemed like forever to get to the Burlington Lift Bridge (BLB).

The top of the boom of a sailboat not far from us…he is down, in the valley of the wave, and we are on the crest.

Still worried mostly about fuel, I knew that I was the only one out her and that no one else would be out in this weather.  Then just like an elevator a few waves away up comes the mast of another sailboat.  I was shocked, I couldn’t understand why someone would be silly enough to be out in weather like this…. Oh wait…. I guess birds of a feather….lol .

Like I was teleported all off a sudden I noticed that we were close to the BLB, and looked behind me to see the Toronto sky line finally behind me off to the starboard aft quarter, however, between me and the Toronto sky line was a big Laker crashing through the waves heading for the BLB as well.

It was a great distance behind me, but it soon caught up and passed me…just.  It lined up to go through the BLB as commercial traffic has priority.  I hailed the BLB over the radio and asked if I could follow the Laker in, the answer was no to maintain my position.  Now remember, I was worried about running out of fuel 4 hours ago.  In addition, the water around the pier to go under the BLB, was not green, brown, or even blue… it was white, like the Ottawa River white water rapids white.  The waves were crashing over the pier, and the wind and wave action was making it hard to maintain position.  It seemed like an eternity, but I finally got the okay to proceed to enter the harbour.  I don’t know how wide the opening is but with the waves and wind it was hard to keep my small boat in the middle.  I pushed the throttle forward increasing the RPM in order to battle the wind currents and waves to make way into the harbour’s refuge.  Once out of the waves made safe by the break walls taking the pounding to protect the harbour’s entrance like sentries preventing the enemy, the waves, from entering the harbour.     Everyone was breathing a bit easier now, as the waves were not pounding us, we just needed to battle the wind and get our Irish girl to bed.  Well for a short time.

We motored up to the opening for the marina.  We turned the corner but the wind was not so willing to let the bow come around. Ugh, my thoughts go to stalling the engine, in addition the notion of running out of diesel was still heavily on my mind. I am thinking so close yet so far.

It took a bit of forward and reversing, again in my mind I am back to all the problems of stalling, running aground, and stuck rudder while doing this maneuver.  The wind was being a bastard to put it bluntly.  With some tense time we were able to do it, and had a very good docking. We tied her down good, and gave a little thanks for our safe return.  We connected all the umbilical cords to keep her safe and fed with water and shore power.  The next step was everyone making a run to the washroom. Johnny and I were both racing for the dock head.  This is the first I had seen of him, and Alanna who took refuge in the V birth.  I was very happy with my Canadian built boat, actually the last one built by Whitby Boat Works in Canada, and I feel confident that she will be able to handle a lot.  I just got to get fuel gauges installed.

Next week we will have a more pleasant sail, as Cara and Alex (daughter and her husband) will have their first sail on the boat.

As always please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the blog, and feel free to share with others.

slàinte mhaith

(Good Health!)

(pronounced “slancha vah”)

 

John Fitzgerald

SV Mizz Fitz

Securing the mizzen sail

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