Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Getting to the North American's

TIME MACHINE is safely in a slip at EYC in Toronto. But not without a story.....

Heather and I decided to delay the commencement of the transport until first light on Friday. The prospect of rough conditions in the dark was a bit daunting and the forecast was for moderating conditions. As we left the shelter of NCYC (did not touch bottom) we were greeted by a 15-18 knot wind at a True Wind Angle (TWA) of 75-80,. perfect for motor sailing. So up went the mainsail and we were off. The whole Western Erie basin seemed to be a giant washing machine. Big sets of waves from the North East. Moderate sets from the North and occasional waves from the North West. It made for some spectacular submarining and washing of the foredeck. As we approached Point Pelee and Pelee Passage light the winds kicked up to 20-25 knots and went forward to a TWA of 20-30 degrees. The main was still providing some stability, but no drive. Eventually we had to sail a course below our rumbline in order to keep the main from flogging. By about 3 pm the wind had started to slacken and continued to turn to the East, so we struck the mainsail and continued on a direct course to Erie Yacht Club. The evening saw a super moonrise and also a freshening breeze (on the nose of course). Our ETA at the clearing mark of Presque Isle Bay was at dawn, and sure enough, as we approached the sky lightened and we were in full morning light as we tied up at Erie.

Because of the unbalance sailplan and the confused seas, autopilot was not able to hold course. I ended up hand steering for most of the first 8 hours. I got a bit dehydrated, which set off a chain reaction or headache and mal-de-mer. It's hard to hold down water, when the sips just hit pure stomach acid and come boiling right back up....

Anyway, while we were pushing towards Erie, Bill had his own story.... He had purchased a Greyhound ticket and when he got to the bus station they told him that the bus would be 10-15 minutes late. No problem.... 30 minutes later, he asked "where's the bus". Oh, it just frove right by without stopping because it's full, was the rely..... If you can get to the Howard Street bus station in 45 minutes, you can get a bus there to Erie, otherwise we can't help you.... I never heard of such a thing! So Bill talks his workmate into a highspeed run to Detroit and just barely makes the connection. He gets to Erie and there are no taxis and no phonebook to look up a number, but fortunately there is someone with the number in their cellphone memory. So he gets a cab to the motel and gets some sleep. At 7:30, he get my NEXTEL alert that we are in and comes down to the yacht club to meet us.

We top off the diesel tank and set off for Port Colburn. It should be a 9 hour ride. Winds are 18-20 RIGHT ON THE NOSE and the seas are a very short 4 foot mess. The boat gets slammed pretty hard, knocking the wedges out of the partners. It takes the better part of 3 hours to cover the first 10 miles. After about 4 hours, things do quite down, first the seas lay down, indicating that there is lighter wind ahead and then the breeze moderates to a zephyr. We are once again making good time to the head of the canal. As we approach Port Colburn, I am getting a bit worried about the number of freighters that we are seeing. Just as one goes over the horizon in front of us, another one appears from behind us. We get to the small boat dock and phone in to the Welland Seaway control room. They explain that there are currently 10 vessels in the canal, 8 on anchor in Lake Ontario and 3 waiting in Lake Erie. It's going to take a while. Initially they think we might go through at 2300, then they say 0200 with a tallship, then the tallship doesn't show up and it becomes 0400, then 2 large motor cruisers arrive and it becomes 0730. The last statement was the most telling... "If we don't get you in the canal in the next hour, it be a really long time!" WOW.... Anyway, the last upbound vessel clips the arresting gate in Lock 8 (the top lock), which takes it out of service for the freighter, but it's still OK for pleasure craft and the 3 boats, TIME MACHINE, LeRoi, and the blue boat (can't remember the name) enter the canal.... It has been 11 and a half hours of waiting!

At Lock 8 the hands explain that they have never seem things so congested. They put us through and an hour later we arrive at the top of Lock 7. There is a boat in the lock, upbound, a boat on the wall, MARINE TRADER, and another group of pleasure craft upbound. It takes 2 hours to cycle the lock 3 times and then it's our turn. We quickly figure out a good way to control the boat and Bill and Heather see what a 55 foot drop really looks like. Then it's off to the triple step... We come into Lock 6 with no delay, but they don't close to top gate for 20 minutes. The water from 6 is used to fill 5 and MARINE TRADER has not cleared 5 yet... Soon they are ready and again we drop. The lower gate opens and we slide into 5. Once again, we wait for 4 to clear so that we can fill 4 with the water from 5. We then drop to 4 and make the short run to 3. The toll is collected and they flush us down. We make a short run to 2 and just as the doors at the lower end start to open, the engine sputters and quits. It won't start. We are drifting back toward the Blue Boat and across the lock. LeRoi backs down and takes a tow line and soon we are under control and moving towards 1. It was a good thing that we all got to know each other at the top of lock 7, during the delay... Bill and Heather bleed the fuel lines and we find lots of foam and air in both the filter (low pressure) and the High pressure pump.... The engine fires up again right away and seems OK. However I don't want to push it, so I ask LeRoi to take us in raft and take us through lock 1. As we get to the bottom of 1 I refire the engine and we steam out of the lock at full throttle. Yanny is purring like a new kitten. We get most of the way to the Lake Ontario entrance and I decide to put 5 gallons of fuel in. Our fuel consumption is hard to know, because of all the idling. We then turn back toward Lock 1 and motor back at full throttle. We turn around at the small boat dock and since yanny seems fine we head for the Lake. It has taken 9 and a half hours to transit the canal!!!!

As we come out into Lake Ontario we see 8-10 freighters sitting at anchor waiting to head up the canal. When the Welland Seaway said it could be a 'Long Time', they were not kidding. The CN tower is clearly visible so I point Time Machine just west of the tower and go below to lay in the last leg on the Garmin. ETA is 1930. Winds are from the SouthWest at 6-7 knots, not quite strong enough to blow all the exhaust fumes into the boat. We hoist the #3 to dry it and check the battens. None are broken. Bill and I repair and replace the wedges around the mast at the partners and we get the boat cleaned up. I am a bit worried about things at EYC. I did not get any replies from them and I don't know if they will let us stay. If they don't, I have no backup plan. We get to EYC and tie up at the guest wall. I head for the gazebo bar and ask the bartender if there is someone there who can help.... It turns out that the Director.Facilities.Water is standing right there. He claims to have never gotten my eMail.... After checking things on the board in the office, he tells me to pull into the slip next to his own boat (XTC) since he knows that it will be empty for at least a few days. I give them permission to move the boat as needed. We then move the boat and get her properly moored in the slip. We head back up the bar for some drinks and order chinese takeout, delivered right to the bar. Soon, bellies full and sufficiently lit, we turn in for a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we need to get the morning train....

At 0400 hours. WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOOP.... It's the damn VHF radio. I had turned down the volume, but the DSC alarm is not affected. We probably woke up half the harbor! At first I didn't know what it was, 2 seconds later I am getting untangled from the sleeping bag, forcing my way through the garbage bag and sailties and I kill the power to the VHF. Bill says, "that's one hell of an alarm clock".... funny guy. We get another 75 minutes of sleep and then it's really time to get up. We finish the last minute packing, set up the dehumidifier, double check that the batteries are charging and that everything is OK. The CANPASS number is posted in the porthole and my name and cellphone number are posted. We shoulder our bags and make the trek through the 'friendship gate' to Mimico yacht club and to the main gate there where there is a pedestrian gate. The cab is there 4 minutes early and we are on the way to Union Station.

Tickets are bought, the train leaves at 0750 exactly and we are only 10 minutes late arriving in Windsor. Dennis is the man! He saw quite a backup at the tunnel, so he takes us over the bridge. It's Bill and my first time over the river. We always took the tunnel. On the initial approach to the bridge, the cars are stopped. Soon the problem clears and we make good speed across to the customs. We are passed through, pay the toll and soon Dennis drops me off at home, and then drops of Bill and Heather.



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