And now, from a woman’s perspective.

The whole idea of canal systems is pretty ingenious and the Welland Canal is no exception. I have never seen a bridge with a roadway get lifted up at least 120 feet into the air but that is exactly what we sailed under upon entering the canal. Immediately, we entered an equalizing lock and dropped only about 3 feet or so, and it wasn’t until after motor-sailing 17 miles of remote grass lined banks of the canal that we entered into the lock system.

Husband stood at the bow and while I was at the helm looking like I knew what I was doing as we approached critical signal signs and red/green lights with steel erector set type gates dropping in front of my face, he was taking pictures?  Up to this point, the sun was shining and warm westerly winds were blowing across port side.  We entered the big lock, positioned the boat steady against the lock wall, lock tenders threw what felt like 50 pounds of line at each of us, and as we descended down about 45 feet of cracked concrete lock wall, the skies changed to a torrential downpour and remained so for the entire traverse of the canal which took no less than 7 hours.

After 7 locks total, heavy rains, strained muscles, no food or drinks, and the unnerving experience of passing alongside 68,000 ton freighters so close that I could spit and hit their hulls, I was beyond beat. As a final note, I believe that the ability to move 21 million gallons of water in 10 minutes is nothing less that pure human mechanical genius and pretty amazing to witness.

Sailing Lake Erie….

We left on Friday, July 21 around 8 p.m. The winds were from the Northeast, exactly where we wanted to head, so we tacked back and forth trying to get out from the area between Kelleys Island and the mainland. The wind was supposed to switch to the South later. We tacked a few times until we got to Marblehead. Things were pretty slow going, with our speed only around 3 to 4 knots. We tacked away from Marblehead towards Kelleys on the far East side of the island, and the wind did change and we were, in the space of 30 minutes or so headed straight up the lake towards Buffalo instead of the ferry dock on Kelleys.

It was a beautiful night, warm breeze, partly cloudy and good light on the water from all the cities along the shore. The winds were 10 to 15 knots and we made good progress, it was a great sail. My wife stood watch until around 11:30 and then I took over. The lights of Sandusky and Kelleys gradually faded away behind us. At midnight  I got to watch the fireworks at Cedar Point from a good 10 miles away. They were beautiful, but the sounds were a full 30 seconds behind  the actual display, quite an odd sensation.

In the morning the winds got a little stronger and our speed was up between 6 and 7 knots. It was relatively flat; small waves but nothing like the chop you get around the islands. The wind  totally died in the afternoon when we were near Ashtabula, so we had to motor which I hate. After about an hour or two the winds came up again and we were off sailing in about 10 knots of breeze.
The forecast was 10 from the south, our actual winds were from the Northeast. In the evening the winds really piped up. There were periods of clearing and a very dark overcast, not much light but a beautiful display of stars. I went below around 7 to sleep and was woken up by my wife around 11:30 – there were 2 AIS targets (ships) converging on us and our collision alarm was going off. A cruise ship and a tanker were headed right towards us from opposing directions. We radioed the tanker and asked their intentions; they indicated they would pass ahead of us and they did. The cruise ship passed us about 2 miles off to starboard. It looked like a floating city, even though they were so far away.
The wind gradually increased during the night until it was between 25 and 30 knots. I rolled up both front sails. The seas were very rough, we were off Long Point in Lake Erie, and waves were about 6 to 7 feet and breaking, coming from two directions. I did not want to reef the main in the dark, so without a jib the boat moved very slowly. We were only making 2 to 3 knots at best and the chop was causing us to hobby-horse around like crazy – not good for those sleeping below.
Early Sunday morning the winds moderated, and once down in the 15-20 range, we put out both headsails again and we were off. The sun came up, and with the moderated breeze, we were able to make five knots in the still choppy seas. I went to sleep, and while napping the wind died, so my wife started the motor and we motored over to the Erie, PA. State campground to refuel and take a shower in the public restrooms. There was a paddle steamer taking people on a tour around the Bay – very quaint.

We had been towing our dingy behind us up to that point, but with the rough weather the night before we decided to take it out of the water, so we lifted it up onto the davits. Once secured, we left and headed back out towards Port Colborne, the entrance to the Welland canal. We had nice sail for about a half hour at 3 to 4 knots and then once again like clockwork, the wind died. We sat with 0.0 on the anemometer for a half hour or so before we broke down and fired up the iron genny and motored off to our next destination. There were flies all over the boat hitching a ride, and some were the black biting flies, others looked like mosquitos and were easy to kill. I didn’t see them (mosquito flies) the previous night, so when daylight came, we saw there were squashed dead flies all over the cushions.
Once the flies started biting we started swatting, the boat started to look like a killing field. The cockpit will need a good washing at our next stop! Oh the glories of living outside. We were grossly outnumbered by the flies, it felt like they were conducting bombing raids on us, coming in waves while the two of us with our ack-ack swatters whacked away creating total carnage everywhere. The attacks died with the sun, and as the shore disappeared we took a look at the radar before we lost cell phone reception, the skies were clear above us, but there were storms all around.

We prayed that the Lord would take care of us and keep the bad weather away. I went to sleep for a few hours so that we could both be awake when we reached Port Colborne. The storms stayed away! They pretty much skirted around us to the south and my wife said she saw a fabulous lightning display. Thank you Lord for keeping us safe! We finally motored in and tied up at the Municipal dock in Port Colborne around 3 a.m. It was a nice uneventful trip unlike the night before.

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Safely in Port Colborne at the municipal dock

We woke up at 10 a.m., took a walk around the town and found some good coffee. It is very quaint, reminded us a lot of old Westerville. We mailed a birthday card, came back to the boat and had a good breakfast of eggs and Canadian bacon. We then called the lock master and they were ready for us to go through the locks starting in about an hour. While cleaning the dishes we ran out of water and when I lifted the floorboard to switch us over to the other tank, we found that the bilge pump was not working. Luckily it was a wiring issue, easily fixed in a couple of minutes and we were ready to depart for the locks. Our next adventure…

And We’re Off!

We went to Put-In-Bay with the friend that drove my wife home and anchored in front of Perry’s Monument for the evening. We ended up motoring the whole way due to lack of wind. We anchored and after ensuring we weren’t dragging, took the dinghy in to shore and walked around a little before heading over to dinner at the Keys. We sampled Conch Fritters, a Bahamian delicacy – YUM! After dinner we headed back to the boat and sat out for a little while enjoying the clear, starry skies and then plopped into bed for the night.

We woke on Sunday to a cool SW breeze. We went in to shore for a good cup of coffee over at Wharfside and ended up eating breakfast there. Then we headed back to the boat and had a wonderful sail home. Winds were 12-20 knots – perfect breeze and a lovely sail. We finished off the day with dinner at Orchards, our favorite restaurant. Monday we ended up there again for happy hour and enjoyed coconut shrimp and mussels along with a martini – $5 each! Gotta love Mondays. I got the apparent wind steering for the autopilot installed, we decided our test will be at departure.

Wednesday we ironed up last bit odds and ends; last minute boat and grocery shopping, laundry and final preparation for getting underway. A friend of ours graciously offered to drive us around since our car is now gone. We went to the chiropractor for a much needed adjustment, then off to Krogers for grocery shopping. It was so hot that we decided to by a pint of Graeters double chocolate chip icecream which we proceeded to demolish while sitting outside in the shade. It was good! Then we went over to West Marine for a few last minute things and headed back to the boat to pack it all away. It was so hot – all we could do was lay around and rest until the sun went down, then we took a walk and showered before watching an episode of Midsomer Murders on Netflix before hitting the hay. This was definitely the hottest day we have had so far, the heat index was over 100!

Thursday we awoke early and went for a walk before the heat of the day kicked in. By 10 am it was 90 and very sticky. We put on the mainsail anticipating our new sail cover which comes tomorrow. Then to protect it from the sun we covered it with sheets and towels. The whole process took until noon and by then we were both drenched in sweat. Another day of 90 plus with very high humidity. I spent the afternoon below working – hiding from the sun with a wet towel around my neck to keep me cool.

Later in the day our dock neighbor came by and gave me a ride over to the store so I could pick up cooking fuel and safety flares, the last 2 things we needed before departure. We also took the time to stop at Tofts for the last time and we enjoyed a serving of Caveman Chocolate – our favorite flavor. Then we needed to fix something with our Yankee (front sail). We ended up having to take it down and lay it out on the street to get it fixed. By the time his was all done we were both dripping in sweat so we took the dinghy for a ride to the beach where we waded around in waist deep water and tried to wash the boat to cool off. We put Windsor in for a swim too as he looked pretty hot as well. He was NOT amused. He’s a great swimmer but water isn’t his favorite place to be. Of course we had to give him a bath once we got back to the boat so he wouldn’t stink once the lake water dried. That impressed him even less.

Today we filled the water tanks for the last time and now we are just waiting for my stepson to visit and say goodbye – he’s taking clients Walleye fishing this weekend – AND pick up our new sail cover and then we are off! You will be able to track our position using this link here. We appreciate all your prayers for us for a safe trip. We are on our way! Friday – July 21.

Almost There…

So the inverter came in and after drilling a few holes for the monitoring gauge, we had it installed and running. Hope it holds up. Our test of the inverter did not go well, it turned on just fine and worked as it should but the fridge was on and within 30 seconds our battery alarm went off indicating that the batteries were not holding a good charge. Once more we will have to fork out some moola and get ourselves two new batteries. We researched and decided we will get AGM batteries which behave a lot like the new cellphone batteries; they charge quickly and hold a charge well. So that means we need to finish the wind generator install, solar panels, charging system and the new batteries and then we will be ready to leave.

Our tentative departure date is as soon after the weekend of 7/15 as possible. Our first stop will be Erie, PA and to get into our travel schedule, we will start by taking a number of 2 day sails, leaving in the morning, traveling through the ensuing night and hopefully ending up somewhere the following evening where we can get a good night’s sleep before taking off and doing the same thing again. By doing this we hope to catch up a little to our schedule so we can spend the time we want in the places we earmarked as must visit. So, our initial stops will be Erie, Port Colburne in Canada (entrance to the Welland Canal), Port Dalhousie (exit of canal), Toronto and then Kingston.

My biggest fear is that when we leave, the wind will leave too! The last 3 days we have had great winds, but they were out of the North East which is unfavorable for us. Prior to that we had a week of strong South Westers which would have been great for travel, so we are hoping that when we leave the winds will be favorable to our journey. Summer winds tend to be light but in the end, God is in control, so we will follow His lead as we travel.

July 4th weekend came and went. It poured – 2 inches or more – on Thursday and Friday, and were were starting to go stir crazy being all cooped up in the cabin. But Friday evening the skies cleared and we had a beautiful, cool weekend with plenty of sun and a pleasant cool breeze. I worked at my job to make up for some time I missed, and we visited with friends at a marina in Sandusky.

We had quite a scare at our marina that weekend – I was sitting in the cockpit on Saturday afternoon enjoying a glass of cold white wine when I heard a whump! Hmm – there is a guy at the marina next door that always crashes into his dock EVERY time he comes in. Not that though, sounded more like an explosion. So I stood up and looked in the direction of the sound and there was a huge pall of jet black smoke. There was a powerboat on fire at the gas dock, slowly drifting away towards the homes on the other side of the channel. As it drifted towards the houses, a fireman jumped into a zodiac dinghy in his full gear, and was taken over to the boat where they got a line attached and were able to haul it out away from the shore until the fire department arrived on the East shore.

Then they let it drift towards the firefighters on shore where they were able to put the fire out. All that was left was a melted pile of fiberglass, and the engine block, – the boat burned down to the waterline and sank. All this happened in about 15 minutes, a sobering reminder of how quickly things can turn ugly. Thankfully no-one was on the boat, but the pump attendant did get flash burns. My thought was static discharge. Although it hardly ever happens in summer, Saturday was unusually dry and crisp, and that made the possibility of static discharges quite a reality. We found out later that the boat had 2 fuel tanks, and that the one on the far side of the boat was too far away for the hose to reach, so instead of turning the boat around, they opened up the windows in the cabin and passed the hose through the windows to reach the farther tank. This allowed gas fumes to accumulate inside the cabin where the bilge blower and sniffer couldn’t handle them. Careless and stupid.

We were invited to go out on a friend’s boat on July 4 for an evening of fireworks. We went out and drifted around for a few hours and watched fireworks which seemed to be literally everywhere around us. We were lucky to have a beautiful evening with a spectacular sunset courtesy of our Lord. God manages to amaze me every day with the beauty of His creation, the sunsets we have seen since moving onto the boat have been truly spectacular.

With a tentative departure date set, we started to plan for our needs – what foods we wanted to take with and what other miscellaneous items we needed to have with us. Up till now, all the food we have been eating on the boat except for veggies, fruit and salads were things we bought from our pantry on land. We have been making a concerted effort to eat the things we don’t want to take so we have room for the needed supplies we do want to take along with us. That planning includes food for the dog, so we have a 6 month supply of Windsor’s favorite dog food neatly stowed under our bed. He seems to be adjusting well to living aboard and the three of us have been exercising diligently, walking at least 3 times a day in between me working and us doing our boat chores.

We made a final trip home to pick up a few things and drop off stuff we thought we needed but didn’t. Its amazing how there are things you attach value to and just can’t do without, then you move on to a boat and realize after a month or so that its really worthless and merely taking up space. We stocked up on food we wanted to take for the journey – stuff from Costco and vitamins from our local health food store. Its amazing how quickly you can blast through money when you are buying food! 10 minutes in the store and you are out a few hundred quid! I do not know how large families deal with grocery prices; wages are not going up but food costs sure are.

We headed back to the boat and after unloading all our goodies, we went out for a sail. Our friends who live up here in a condo on the island sailed their Hunter over and we anchored out on the North side of Kelleys Island and spent a wonderful evening hanging out with them. We woke early on Sunday and had breakfast before enjoying a makeshift worship service. We had a contemplative reading , and then sang some worship songs to the sound of an acoustic guitar. Then we headed back – beating into a dying South West wind. After 3 hours and having only made it half way due to the chop from all the boat traffic, we relented and turned on the engine to motor the last few miles back.

We said goodbye to our dock neighbors as they won’t be here again until after we leave, and then headed over for some Tofts ice cream to finish off the day. The next day started out with storms; a big complex of thunderstorms passed through in the morning which made it difficult to work outside. The delays and inclement weather are making us anxious to depart. We pretty much spent the day inside and then went out for a free dinner to Bistro163. The restaurant is a ministry geared to helping improve food security for people in the Port Clinton Area. When you eat there, you can pay more for your meal if you want and then that excess goes to pay for food for patrons that can’t afford the cost. It is staffed by volunteers from the community and local churches. There was even a local group of musicians serenading us while we ate, singing songs and hymns we all know from our childhood. The food was great and next time you are in the area, please support them! Here is a google map link to help you find them.

Next day we woke up to rain – AGAIN!! It did finally blow over and clear up mid morning, but that gave way to some VERY HUMID conditions as there was water everywhere from the morning rain as well as the deluge we experienced the day before. We had breakfast and I took the dog for a walk before knuckling down to work. Around noon we had lunch and then spent the afternoon getting the wind generator installed. We managed to get the pole up but that was about it. 12 holes drilled and then we found out after installing one of the braces that the other 2 were located on parts of the boat where the fiberglass was thicker. Had to run to the store AGAIN and exchange the bolts I had purchased for longer ones so they would fit properly. It was quite a performance; shopping for the wire, bolts and other knick knacks needed along with actually installing the mast ended up taking the whole afternoon. We showered and fell into bed exhausted.

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Wind generator pole – UP

The next day was a write off – we drove to Pittsburgh to say good bye to my mother-in-law. Its a 3 hour drive so that pretty much took the entire day. It rained for most of the morning so there wasn’t any lost time for outside work. Then when we got home we walked and showered and went to bed, only to be woken up by the next round of thunderstorms rolling through. We had left the windows on the lee side of the boat open because it was so hot and humid, and in our foggy sleepiness we forgot. So the dog’s bed got soaked, as did the seating cushion on that side. Ah well, at least the laptop didn’t get wet. It rained and stormed for 4 hours, finally quitting just around sunrise. There were warnings all day prior from our weather apps on our phones to the effect that there would be torrential rain – BOY they weren’t kidding! Our dinghy filled up with water, so I had to pump it out just in case there was more rain later in the day.

The weather held, but we sweated through the day. It was unbearably humid and tried to rain all day. Towards evening the clouds cleared and the humidity dropped, so we decided to work on getting the batteries installed. That was a circus act in the making. The area inside the lazarette (storage locker) is large enough to comfortably fit a small adult. My 6 ft frame was a tight squeeze. Then, add to that you are working at arms length AND not being able to see what you are doing because what you are working on is around the corner out of sight.

Needless to say it took me a good 3 hours to do what a person in a workshop with the tools and access could have done in 10 minutes. By the end of it all I was dripping with sweat and VERY frustrated. I yelled more at myself in those 3 hours than I have in years. After finally getting 1 battery operational so we could have cabin electric for bed time, I called it quits and rewarded myself with a stiff drink.

Next day we worked on the wind generator, the solar panels and the controller which keeps everything synchronized and working properly. We could not fit the generator on the pole with the existing rubber sleeve; the sleeve was too thick. So we had to improvise (duct tape) and with the help of a friend of ours, we got the generator installed on the pole and got the pole mounted and secured – WHEW. The solar panels were a little easier; they only weigh 4 pounds each, so we laid them temporarily up on the bimini top and used bungee cords to hold them in place, with permanent attachment to come later. This allowed us to run the connecting wires to the controller which I installed in the lazarette. While time consuming, this was not nearly as frustrating as my adventure with the battery hookup. By dinner time we had solar and wind sources both hooked up to the controller and everything worked like a charm. We rewarded ourselves with a glass of homemade Sangria and watched a beautiful sunset from our cockpit. The hot weather has broken and we are now less humid with about a 10 degree drop in temperatures, so we are back to good sleeping weather.

So, as the weekend rolls around, my wife is taking the car down to Columbus for the last time and a friend is bringing her back and spending the weekend with us. I will be getting the last battery installed and get the depth sounder tweaked (we thought it was broken – it wasn’t) and then the last thing we need to get is a bilge for the shower and we are on the road. No car once today is over so it will be strange not running into Tofts for a quick ice cream in the heat, but within 5 days we will be gone and we won’t see our dock again until next October.