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…

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