Heading For Home…

We spent Saturday afternoon on shore where Windsor found a playmate, a Golden Doodle who looked like Ellie, and they played hard for about an hour. We took a short walk before showering, watching a few shows and going to bed. It was chilly and numerous quick showers pelted us, so cuddling up and watching some TV was about all we could do. Sunday we did laundry after watching a few sermons, then we walked the park and talked to a few people on shore before walking to the end of the canal where it dumped in to the Niagara River. Then we headed back to the boat where we had dinner and watched some TV.

Monday morning after I had finished work, we walked over to the Carousel Museum and spent a wonderful few hours reliving our childhood and admiring the art of carousel making before coming home and having lunch. Then we cast off and motored out of the Erie Canal into the Niagara River. The current was fairly strong, but we made steady progress up to the Black Rock lock. The lock is at the entrance to the Black Rock canal that runs parallel to the river, but keeps you out of the current which increases quickly from 1 to 2 knots down by the islands to 5 knots or more at the entrance to the Niagara River. We motored up through the canal, under a few bridges and then into the downtown area near Veterans Park where we looked around and then headed to our chosen anchorage which was in the old salt canal a short distance away. We tied up to a concrete wall which was in a sad state of disrepair, but in decent enough condition that we could safely tie up and spend a few days. Thank goodness for LARGE fenders!

The area was very sheltered; there was a brick wall to the West that protected it from Lake Erie, and to the South, the North and the East were the walls of the inlet. The North wall had been converted to a park; there were some wind decorations and other things that we decided to explore later but it looked like it was going to storm so we stayed put and watched Netflix before turning in.

We had called the marina and scheduled our mast to go up on Thursday, but Tuesday we called as the weather was nice and they said they would squeeze us in. We motored over at 10 and spent the next few hours getting the mast up. Once it was stable, we motored back to the wall and spent the afternoon tightening the rigging and getting the sails put on. We had an issue with the mainsail and one of the dutchman lines broke, so I had to fix that. Once we got the mainsail squared away we called it a day, went into shore, took Windsor to the beach and walked around the park. It was a very nicely done area, lots of wildflowers and butterflies, a few slides for small kids and a nice walking path. It was a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday we headed in to shore after I finished with work, and we walked down to the bike ferry, a pontoon boat that goes back and forth from Naval Park to Ferry Park, to allow people to get over to see the wildlife refuge and Wilkeson Point Park where we were tied up. It was only $1 per person each way, so we went over and because we had Windsor, we just explored the outside of the museum where all the memorials are located. They had monuments to everything, Marines, Army, Polish soldiers, Hispanic soldiers, even Gold Star families! It made for a nice walk and once done, we headed down the shoreline to Swannies for some drinks and chicken wings which were very good. We walked back another way searching for ice cream which we found eventually, hidden behind Hatch, a small restaurant complex at the mouth of the Buffalo river.

We enjoyed some good chocolate ice cream before walking to the front to Hatch where there was a small bar. We got a glass of wine and watched the sailboats head out and race on Wednesday evening. There were at least 50! It was a wonderful sight and there was a good wind to boot. We headed home on the ferry and met a couple on a Tartan 37, headed down South to Florida. We had a nice discussion with them and while walking, got to see a doe and her fawn in the nature preserve. They put on a little show for us posing for the camera, they were both so beautiful; God is truly a Great Creator.

Once back on board, Melanie made an Irish coffee for us and we watched the sun set before heading in to bed. Thursday we went to the Naval Museum and walked around the indoor and outdoor exhibits before coming back to the boat to take Windsor for a walk. There was an interesting array of exhibits, including a WWII destroyer and submarine, and a Vietnam era destroyer. We were beat after climbing up and down all the ladders in the ships, moving between floors to see the exhibits.

After work on Friday we walked to the grocery store for supplies, and then took an Uber back to the boat to pack everything away before heading to shore for one last drink at the park and to take Windsor for a walk. Saturday morning after breakfast we headed into the marina, filled up with water, bought some ice and then sailed out into the lake.

The wind was a good 15 to 20 knots, and after hoisting the sails, we sailed out of the harbor on starboard tack, perpendicular to our intended course so we made no progress until we tacked an hour or so later and started Westward. The sailing was good; there was a 2 foot chop with the occasional three to four foot wave, but we made steady progress with glorious sunshine and good winds. A great way to end a sailing adventure. We heard a report from a boat in Fairport on the radio that they had found a capsized aluminum runabout with at least one body floating in the water. The weather wasn’t that bad, but it was a sober reminder that nature takes no prisoners.

The wind dropped during the course of the day to 10 to 15, and by 5:30 pm we had sailed 30 miles with a mere 17 miles of progress toward our destination. It was going to be a looooong ride. After sunset, I took first watch and the wind dropped down to 10 to 12 knots. We were sailing along around 4 knots making good progress Westward. It was not too cold and the sky was clear so there was a beautiful display of stars. The stars were so thick it felt like the sail was slicing through them like a knife; the Milky Way was on display and looked like a line of a cloud across the sky it was so thick and clearly defined.

As we went further down the lake we passed a huge windmill farm on the Canadian side. All the windmills had red lights on top and they all flashed together, so there was about a 10 mile stretch of red lights turning on and off at exactly the same time, quite an unusual sight to see when you’re out in the middle of the lake. Around 1 am, an orange moon crept slowly up behind us out of the lake, quite ghostly looking, and it stayed orange until it was a good deal above the horizon. Melanie came up for her watch and I went back down for the night. By sunrise the next morning we were along the coast of Long Point close to the shoreline, so we tacked and headed back South towards the US shoreline. Our landfall was Erie Pennsylvania, and we sailed in close to shore before tacking away. The wind held up nicely through the morning and the afternoon and we were able to maintain an easy 5 knots. The wind switched later in the day more to the Southwest, which made our tacks across the lake a little less effective in gathering distance.

Around 2:30 p.m., the wind switched and abruptly dropped, leaving us with 2 to 3 ft waves and no wind to move us through them. Our boat speed went from 5 knots down to less than 2 in a matter of minutes and we were hobby horsing and bobbing around like a cork. We tried to get the boat going again, but the waves were too much and we were not able to get our speed back. We struggled with it for a while before finally giving in and turning on the engine and motoring. With the iron genny running, we were able to charge our batteries and make some good headway in a direction straight towards our objective. We were aiming for Kelleys Island, it was an anchorage we were familiar with and we knew that we could shower, do laundry and prepare for our return home there without too much effort. We motored until about 7pm along the shore and then the wind came up a bit giving us about a knot or so more of speed and some cooling relief from the heat, but not enough to turn the loud motor off and just sail alone.

We had an almost drama when Melanie went below to make some coffee and because the boat was heeling a bit, the flames from the burner started to partially come out of the burner’s volume control knob on the stove. I put the fire out with water, but then we could not turn the knob to close the burner control so we could open the top and put the cover back on. It took me a good half hour of sleuthing before I figured out how to do it, but that left us with only one working burner and another item on the to-do list for me to fix.

We decided that Melanie would take the first watch and I would do the late night watch. We decided to motor until I came on watch, and then we would turn off the motor and just sail so that Melanie could get some sleep. It was an exquisitely sunny day, the skies were clear but towards sunset it started to cloud up a little. The wind came up a little as well and boosted us towards our goal. Melanie went below and rustled up some dinner for us while we enjoyed our evening glass of wine and the beautiful air.

After sunset she took the first watch and I went below to sleep. With the motor running we were able to make between 5 and 6 knots. Around 1:30 Melanie turned off the motor and I came up for my watch. The winds were 15 to 20 and we were making good progress past Cleveland and out across the bight towards Kelleys Island. However the infamous Lake Erie chop reared its ugly head along with the wind. We started to hobby horse in the larger waves which slowed us considerably, so I turned off the auto pilot and tried to hand steer through it, but without any points of reference – no tell tails or horizon to see – it was difficult to sail a straight course. Our wind indicator was malfunctioning and its internal battery kept running down, so to use it I would have to turn it on to confirm a wind direction and then turn it off and manually steer to the appropriate compass heading.

It was frustrating and slow going during the course of the early morning as we headed west. Right around sunrise the wind suddenly increased quite dramatically from 15 knots up to 20 to 25 knots! I rolled up the staysail and laughed to myself; I had just finished listening to the weather forecast and it called for 5 to 10 knot winds in our area. As usual they were wrong. We were fighting a three to four ft chop which made life below very uncomfortable but we made good time as we continued slogging westward until we reached the eastern side of Point Pelee.

Then we tacked and headed South. Soon we were out of sight of land again, just water surrounding us, with the wind slowly switching to the southwest, turning our track from Huron towards Lorain. Our intention was to sail until we were able to make a tack for Pelee Island, but after bobbing around at under two knots for about 15 minutes I got impatient and we decided to turn on the iron genny.

What a difference it made! We were able to roll up the Yankee and carry the staysail and the mainsail and motor straight towards our destination at a healthy 4.5 knots. That changed our expected arrival time from 10pm to 5pm. As we motored on, the shore line of Pelee Island slowly came into view, followed by Middle Island and then the Kelleys Island shoreline and the all too familiar Perry’s monument on South Bass. We were approaching home. It was hazy and humid, so everything looked somewhat foggy, but unmistakenly familiar.

About 10 miles from Kelleys, the wind switched to the south east and we were able to turn off the motor and sail for a while, but of course as it always does, the wind pooped and so the last 5 miles we motor sailed into the anchorage at Kelleys. 2 miles before our anchorage the wind suddenly came up to 25! There were squalls and thunderstorms forecasted for the evening, so getting in was of premier importance.We scooted in to the anchorage, dropped the hook, lowered the dinghy and headed into shore so Windsor could get some land time. It had been almost 3 days since he had seen real grass.

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Back home, anchored in front of the monument at Put-In-Bay

We anchored at 5:15 and we were safely at rest; 7480 Nautical miles. We left Buffalo with the odometer at 7235 and it was straight line trip of 190 miles; we had done a lot of tacking! After dropping the anchor we went in to shore to take Windsor for a walk and to go to the store next to the campground for some chocolate ice cream. They were out of it! We ended up walking into town on the other side of the island where we ate dinner and then found an ice cream store that had our favorite flavor; caveman chocolate. After a good does of ice cream we walked back, collected our shower things at the boat and went in to shore to take a shower. There were storms coming, and we hastily returned back to the boat after showering, making it just in time; the rain started pelting us just as we were closing up the hatch for the night. We had a huge thunderstorm and it rained for hours, but we didn’t care, we were in bed asleep.

Next morning we awoke to clouds and we could tell there was a little breeze because we could feel it behind the trees. We decided to pull our anchor and sail over to Put-in-Bay so that I could work. We hoisted the main, pulled up the anchor and sailed off towards the Bay. Once around the corner of Kelleys the wind increased to about 15 out of the Southwest. It was a nice flat sail; it was good to be back in home waters. We made short work of the eight miles to Put-in-Bay, and soon we were anchored in front of the monument in our old spot. After a few hours work, we headed to shore to do laundry. The clouds gave way to humid sunshine, and our cool spot on the boat became hot and uncomfortable when on the mainland. It took us a while to find the laundry, tucked away out of sight of all the tourism. We got all the laundry finished and while it was running we visited Wharfside and had a cup of coffee. We talked to Bob and Elena, two of the people we knew that worked there, then went to Hooligans for dinner and walked back to the boat.

I had forgotten a load in the laundry; I thought there were two loads and there were actually 3, so after coming back to the boat I had to head back to shore and dry that load before returning. We spent the next few days unwinding at Middle Bass and Put-In-Bay before heading home on Saturday. On the way we scattered Jezzie’s ashes into the lake and then motored in to the welcoming arms of family and friends at our home dock on Catawba Island. We came to our final stop at 7499 miles.

Our adventure was over, but the memories of this trip will last forever. Thank you to all those friends and family who prayed for our safety every day, especially in harrowing situations. Prayer DOES make a difference. We saw it with our own eyes; storms parting to allow us safe passage, God providing a way for our motor to be repaired when we thought we would have to sell the boat, protection from an hour of continuous lightning, His blessing were numerous. Thank you Lord for allowing us to safely take this awesome adventure and to make it home in one piece. Our Lord is truly a great God!

 

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