September 16, 2011
Just back yesterday from ten great days sailing eastern Lake Ontario and the upper St Lawrence River, with a few adventures along the way in Trillium, my c 1970 Hughes 29. Herewith an account.
Set out on Labour Day, single handing from Waupoos, destination Kingston, when had both a near death experience and popped a chain plate in short order in the first hour of that first day. Was sailing into a north east wind, which continued to blow consistently over the next few days and all the way to Gananoque, the remnant of a system affected by offshore hurricane Lee. There were a lot of boats, heavy cruisers leaving the marina that morning as the Collins Bay club was visiting that weekend and many were heading back to Kingston that morning, a clear and bright one with a 15 knot north east wind blowing. I was well past the Green Island shoal and out into the lake headed for the Upper Gap, beating against a pretty good sea, aware of two or three boats in the vicinity, when I got distracted with something or other, locked the helm, went below for a minute. When I came back up I was startled to see a large Nonsuch had crossed my path and was now ploughing along safely hard off the port bow. I certainly had not seen him and I have no idea if he saw me, considering how commonly autohelms are used now (I don’t have one), so it was a near miss, a near collision, and a sobering event right at the outset.
I continued to sail along, and shortly thereafter was puzzled to observe that the starboard stays seemed a little slacker than I am accustomed to seeing them on the leeward side in a stiff breeze. I glanced over to the port shrouds and was dismayed to see that the forward lower chain plate strap had pulled out by about two inches, displaying a couple of bent bolts in the process. (photo attached.) Paradoxically, it was almost a positive event. After the recent prior incident I was glad to be alive to notice this. I quickly tacked about, took all sails off, and went forward to take up the slack in that shroud’s turnbuckle, which put some tension back on the forward shrouds. The mast seemed quite stable at this point.
All of this was a bit of a disappointing development rather early in this long planned expedition. (The previous evening I had noted that the horizontal deck plate covering that chain plate had lifted out of its bed by a half inch so I had examined the internal side of the chain plate, which consists of a vertical fibreglas box fixed to the inside of the hull but could ascertain nothing although I had wondered then if something was beginning to move.) At this point I did not know what to do, and contemplated turning back. However I turned on the motor and decided to proceed through the Upper Gap into Adolphus Reach. Again saved by the diesel engine, as I was a number of times on this trip, so if I ever mention electric boat motors again please interrupt, as these diesels can and do get you out of messes.
I made a phone call to my good friend the Ambassador to ask for advice. He was planning some sailing the following day, this year in an Alberg 22 fitted out with a Chrysler 9.9 outboard motor, a virtual jet engine for that vessel. He suggested that I stop at the nearby Bath marina and he would catch me up the next day and effect a repair, and that is exactly what happened! The ambassador duly arrived the next afternoon. He purchased some epoxy, and we knocked the plate back into place and began by pouring unthickened epoxy into the chainplate box, with yours truly inside the vessel (the head, to be precise) trying to keep the box’s open bottom plugged by primitive methods (but not my thumb, it’s the Ambassador who is Dutch, not me), unsucessfully as it turned out as we ascertained the next morning. However the Ambassador did finished the job by stuffing thickened epoxy into the top end of the box and this must have done the trick, as when we challenged the chainplate repair on another beat the next day when we sailed out of Bath, (almost 24 hours later) as we tacked up the Reach past the Brothers Islands to Kingston the next day in some rain and wind the thing remained rock solid and has ever since.
After a night in Kingston we sailed south into Lake Ontario to Main Duck Island the next day, again on a 15 knot north easter, it being Thursday by now, and an overcast day, with a glorious sail on what I called a broad reach and what the Ambassador calls quartering, Trillium surfing along. I soon lost sight of the Alberg, as the Ambassador seems to have magical powers to make any boat move twice as fast as decently could be expected. He also had the advantage of once again taking a short cut east of the Melville Shoal while I set my own course through the Lower Gap and stuck to it this year, having learned that much from last year’s experience on the same route. About halfway there Main Duck Island came into view, always reassuring despite the use of a GPS, as I am not comfortable whilst sailing out of sight of any shore line, and the passage at three hours was quick indeed, Trillium with a small 90% jib that I made this winter, and starting with second reefed main at Kingston, shaken out to first in the Lower Gap, and then to full main when abreast of the Pigeon Island light. Incredible sailing. That narrow stern with its overhang lifts the boat right off the breaking waves and she boils, skates, slides and surfs along.
The difficulty, if there was one, came on arriving at Main Duck and when I had to go forward to get the main off (that roller furling jib is a marvel.) The waves were six footers on occasion, and it is impossible in those conditions to set the helm under motor power and have more than a few seconds of getting the boat to hold her course just off the wind to allow the single hander to go forward, get the sail down and lashed to the boom. I am working on a better technique for that. Also unnecessarily added to the challenge I put the bumpers out whilst pitching around still well offshore. Am learning to save that job for calmer waters in harbour. Took the precaution of wearing two life jackets as well as the ever present safety line. This was the part that I didn’t enjoy at all. Nevertheless I was finally able to turn to boat about and seek out the range which leads the sailor into the narrow channel and then into the small protected bay on the Island, itself a challenge.
Had the added worry now of realizing that I could not see the Ambassador’s boat, the mast and red hull of which by now, had he arrived, should be visible to me behind the trees on the small islet which protects the harbor. It was with great relief when, I as approached the inner channel, while mentally preparing to call the CG to report a missing sailboat, that the good man appeared, strolling along the stone beach towards me carrying a chair! He had arrived an hour earlier, had his boat moored to the islet, and was sitting down on the beach watching me struggling offshore! Relief! Had a celebratory cup of tea (and a beer), and enjoyed a quiet night there, with just one other boat in the harbour.
Awoke the next day to brilliant sunshine and blue sky and a much reduced sea (and north east wind.). Main Duck still remains free of the previously planned major industrial wind farm which was to be sited in the shallows to the south west of the Island, as a result of the provincial moratorium on offshore Great Lakes wind projects earlier this year. One wonders how long that will last. It is a jarring sight to sail past the now industrialized west half of Wolfe Island with its many mega machines not so silently revolving in the wind. Both of these areas are in migratory flyways and the body counts at Wolfe Island are proving the machines to be meat grinders for bird and bat populations. Have seen a video of a Bald Eagle being felled by a blade there and it’s a pathetic sight. We have an infinite appetite for energy in this country (you can find some of the worst offenders in marinas) and these machines are not going to satisfy our profligacy.
Motor sailed back to Kingston on calm waters (what a difference a day makes), past Pigeon Island and this time through the Boat Channel south of Simcoe Island (and over the cable of a cable ferry that operates between Simcoe and Wolfe Islands) along the way, on a brilliant sunny day, with much less interesting sailing but beautiful vistas.
The Ambassador was off home Saturday morning, and I was joined by another friend in his personnally hand built and welded Bruce Roberts design steel hulled sailing vessel of twenty seven feet, a capacious sturdy beast, motoring on this occasion as in his wife’s company. On a continuing north east wind I was expecting to motor to Gananoque also as was our plan for the day, so off we set. It soon became apparent however that the 15 knotter made for glorious sailing and I was able to tack back and forth down the great River on the north side of Wolfe Island, and on reaching the head of Howe Island separated from the Roberts as they motored through the protected