Saturday, September 22, 2007

2007, A season to remember...

The 2007 season is drawing to a close, and what a summer it has been. TIME MACHINE and her crew have been physically tested, mentally tested and had to press on through marathon activities.

This year has seen the melding of crew's from TIME MACHINE and WIZARD, with great success. The athletic level of the crew has been ratcheted up several notches. Considering the ferocious conditions we saw at the North American's, we would have been retiring instead of competing had we not been physically up to the task. We have also seen the crew concentrate and work for every 1/4 boatlength, whether it was on the distance races like the Mac or a short windward-leewards at the NOODS or T-o-L or N'As. At the top of the J35 fleet, that's what it takes to stay with the big dogs.

In addition to the tremendous commitment and skill of the crew, the boat has improved. This spring we made a significant adjustment to the rig tuning and we were able to try out the sails which had been recut and re-shaped over the winter. At the NOODS we showed much better boatspeed, both up and downwind. This carried forward through the whole season, and was even noticed at the NCYC midweek races where TIME MACHINE started showing up in the top 10 overall-corrected. Thanks to our sailmaker at Quantum, Wally Cross for his work on the sails. The biggest test of TIME MACHINE was the last regatta, the North Americans. The boat was tested by 30 knot winds and large seas. Except for a torn #3, all the systems worked and we did not suffer any major breakdowns.

So what were some of the highlights....
  • NOODS - beating BILL'S WILD RIDE
  • MILLS TROPHY - holding the boat together in a 30-35 knot run down the lake with a shorthanded crew
  • MAC - coming from mid fleet to take a podium finish, ahead of FALCON
  • T-o-L - just plain great racing, even though we couldn't put together 4 flawless legs (hummers)
  • Transport home from Cheboygan - A fun time with BILL'S WILD RIDE and FALCON for Heather and Carol
  • SUMMER SERIES - stuffing JBIRD, 3-niner at the pin end of the line one Wednesday
  • FALL SERIES - Great results both in fleet and overall
  • Transport to Toronto - Tough conditions for Heather and Robert, but we made it safely to Erie. A great, if long ride through the Welland to EYC
  • The NA's - A best ever result in the toughest conditions we have sailed in!
  • Transport home from Toronto - Perfect ride up the Welland with Paul and Dennis. Picture perfect ride to Erie. All night sail and record time from Erie to NCYC with Jeff.
A special thanks to all the crew and families, both the regulars and occasional folks. You all contributed and I hope had fun! In no particular order.... Alice, Bill & Heather, Fred & Wendy, Shawn & Carol, Dennis & Cathy, Paul & Doreen, Igor, Jon, Jim & Marcie, Dale & Sheri, Tim & Julie, Jeff & Marilyn, Jeff & Beth.... and all the guests and friends who we got to know along the way.

Thanks to our supporters... Wally Cross (Quantum), Todd Jones (Thomas Hardware), Richard McCurdy (Ockam Instruments), Winston Beckett (UK Toronto), Rob Cornelius (Etobicoke Yacht Club), Lester Lashaway (Toledo Beach Marina).... and many more.

Fair winds, comfortable seas, good health and happy times!!!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

NA Championships, the transport home...

After loading a small mountain of stuff back on board and attending the awards ceremony. It was time to say farewell to Etobicoke Yacht Club (EYC) and the crew that was driving back. Paul, Dennis and I pulled our lines aboard and headed out into the lake. It's about 25 nautical miles from EYC to the mouth of the Welland Canal at Port Weller. Of course, the wind was directly on the nose or at just enough of an angle that it didn't seem worth the effort to set the mainsail. It was a pretty good pounding!

When we were about 2 1/2 hours out, we heard RITUAL, another J35, call in to Seaway Welland control advising that they were 90 minutes out. Paul and I were afraid that RITUAL and SISTER, who had left a big earlier then RITUAL, would enter the canal before we got there. This could result in quite a delay since we would be alone. So the plan was to call in to Seaway Welland at a point when RITUAL was 20 minutes out to announce our ETA. The plan worked great. When we arrived at the small boat dock, there were the other 2 J35s. I purchased our ticket and called into the control room from the shore-side phone. There was a tug-barge in Lock #1 and we were next. While I was taking care of the ticket and call-in, BLUE WATER, a large power boat came in. They were able to join the 3 racers for the trip up the canal.

The tug-barge came slowly out of the lock and we got the green light. In we went with fenders and fender boards fully deployed. SISTER and RITUAL were rafted together and we were alone, with BLUE WATER behind us. As the lower gate closed we got the signal "Going Up" from lock attendants. The rush of water started and we were slammed up against the wall. The fenders and board groaned and squealed, but did the job. With Paul on the bow hauling on the bow line and Dennis fending off as needed and Robert hauling on the stern line and controlling the throttle, we were soon up 50 feet up from where we started. Only 6 more to go.....

Did I mention that a COLD FRONT had come through. It was really starting to get cold! It's a short 2 mile motor from Lock #1 to Lock #2 where we were able to pull right in. Again the force of the water pulling at the keel was impressive, but this time we had confidence in our fendering setup. Now it was a really short transit to the bottom of Lock #3. We shifted our fendering system to the port-side and as we approached the lock were asked to moor on the wall, since another tug-barge combination was in the lock. After about 30 minutes, we were able to enter the lock and ride the frothing water to the top. The ticket and transit form was given to the lock-master and we were on out way to the bottom of Lock #4/5/6. This is a step lock where the top of 4 is the bottom of 5. We had to wait again for about 30 minutes for the boat ahead to lock through 4 and 5, so that 5 could be refilled to provide us with the water needed to fill 4. Soon we were able to enter and rode by turbulence to the top. As we got to the top, one of the deckhands advised us that they would hold us at the top of 4 rather than the bottom of 5, again due to the delay in getting the leading motor vessel through. It was now the wee hours of the morning and bitterly cold.

One treat while waited was to see the FONTENAC creep out of Lock 5 into Lock 4 next to us. All 222 meters of her slid by and then lowered away, until only the top of her stack was visible. The rumble of her 9,600 B.H.P engines was impressive. And then it was our turn to fire up the 27 B.H.P power plant and move into Lock #5 and #6. By now it had become fairly routine.

After leaving Lock #6 I warned Paul and Dennis not to get too comfortable. Lock #7 is the oldest and roughest. The walls are not as smooth and there are sluice openings about 2/3 the way up that roar as the water enters from above. The sluice openings in the wall are about 3 feet across and 6 feet tall, just the right size for the fenders and the edge of the boat to slide into. This would be a disaster of epic proportions and was to be avoided at all costs. So when our lines were set, I looked up and we were directly aligned with one of these dreaded openings. Once again we heard "GOING UP" and the roaring started. Each lock has its own characteristic water flow. The first 6 had started off with a moderate lift rate and then a big surge in the center of the lock. Lock 7 started with water surging from everywhere and the boat seemed to fly up the first 30 feet of the wall. Now we were approaching the sluice opening. I engaged the engine and it required full throttle to slide forward along the wall so that we could clear the opening. As soon as we cleared, we drifted back and the keel got caught in the flow coming out the same opening. It took a huge haul to keep from getting pushed far off the wall.

Did I mention that it was cold!!!! As we left Lock 6 the fog was coming up off the relatively warmer water. Soon we had patches of zero visibility, which combined with a nasty breeze to make things really frigid. It's a 14 knot run from Lock 7 to 8. With about 3 miles to go, the engine started to act up. It was air in the fuel lines again. Paul and Dennis opened things up and bled the lines which got us going again. We never lost the engine completely. As we approached lock #8 we had to wait about 15 minutes for SISTER and then we were put through.

The small boat dock is right off the top of Lock #8 just beyond Bridge#21 and we quickly tied off. It was 6 AM!..... After getting 3 hours of much needed sleep, we used Dennis' car to drive to SAMBO's cafe for a hearty breakfast and then back to TIME MACHINE where Paul and I bid farewell to Dennis. We slipped our lines and headed out into Lake Erie for the 60 mile transit to Erie. To start, the wind was moderate and on the nose, but within about an hour had shifted enough to the South that we could set sail. As the morning wore on cushions were brought up and we alternated getting in cat naps. about 4 hours out from Erie the winds shifted to the East and picked up in strength. The waves were getting larger and TIME MACHINE was starting to surf. We saw regular 8-9 knot surfs in the last hour or so.

Jeff had driven the Passat from his house to Erie and called to confirm the location of the customs video-phone. We eased in and tied up at 19:30, half an hour ahead of schedule. We dropped off Paul, cleared customs, loaded on Jeff and his gear and dumped 5 gallons of fuel in the tank. By 20:10 we were off again, next stop North Cape Yacht Club.

Once around the headland that protects the bay, we hoisted the main and turned to our course. The wind was from directly aft and the mainsail would not settle down as the the boat was tossed by the waves, so we settled for sailing a bit more to the South, anticipating a shift to the South. As things were now more controlled, I went down for a sleep.

When I awoke at just before midnight, Jeff was just shutting off the engine. He had set the #3 jib. The wind was at 140 degrees angle and blowing at 16-20 knots. The boat was flying with surfs to 9 knots. These are the conditions that every sailor hopes for on a transport. A reaching wind and an open sea! Jeff went below for a sleep and I kept watch for the next 30 miles. There wasn't much to do, the autopilot was tracking nicely and the wind was very steady. At about 03:30 I went down below and brewed a pot of coffee. I think the smell woke up Jeff, who gratefully accept a cup.

We both stayed up for a few more hours as the wind started to slacken and soon we had to restart the engine. I went down for a sleep and must have been really tired, because I did not notice the engine having air problems again. When I did come up, Jeff told me there was trouble and right on cue,.....rrrr.....rr..r.....rrr....rrrrrr, the RPMs dipped. I got the tools out and opened the engine cover and did the bleeding, this time at full RPMs. Right away things were better and we continued on.

As we came through the Pelee Passage, the foredeck was dry enough to drop the #3 and pack it without getting wet and we dragged up the #1 (Frankenstein) and set it. There is a special feeling about passing into home waters. Something about being in familiar territory. As we skirted past the Hens & Chickens and passed between the North Harbor Reef and North Harbor Island we could see Middle Sister Island and the plumes off the Fermi nuke plant. ETA was 17:30. With very minimal cell phone service we setup to have Dale meet us at NCYC.

The closer we got the NCYC, the more breeze we saw. We took the #1 down and stowed it and as we passed the West Mark we rounded up and flaked the Main on the boom for the last time. A short run and we came through the entrance without touching bottom. A quick pumpout of the holding tank and we were in our slip at 1745. Dale arrived at 1810 and we dropped off Jeff at his house before proceeding to Dale's house where the skipper got a much needed shower and a wonderful dinner. Dale then brought me home to Ann Arbor.

The next day, Wednesday, Paul picked me up at home, we stopped for pint at the Leopold Brothers (mostly to let the rush hour traffic settle) and then went to Paul's house to pick up the Passat. It was the last piece in the puzzle.

Great weekends are measured by the stories we tell. This was a weekend which will be talked about for many years.

Thanks to the whole crew of TIME MACHINE. Everyone did a part...

NA Championships, Day #3

What a difference a day makes. Winds were a pedestrian 10-15 knots with moderate chop on the water. Perfect conditions for the #1. The RC got us started right on time and we crossed with the fleet as everyone setup for the last rush to the starting line. With about 40 seconds to go we tacked over to Starboard and headed for the line. We were a bit late. All of a sudden all I see in front of us is SHORTHANDED crossing on port-tack. Jeff give a mighty pull on the tiller and utter a few choice words. Suddenly, SHORTHANDED tacks and is now sitting right on our air. Not only did they foul us, but then they hurt us by covering. Should have pulled the Red Flag (protest). We tacked out to clear our air and started to work towards the top mark. Something was not right and our boatspeed was not up to par. Coming up on Starboard towards the port layline, there is SHORTHANDED again. They look like they are going to try to cross, but they won't make it, They tack, but a bit too late. We need to alter course to avoid smacking them. Another possible foul. As we approached the starboard layline we had MAJOR DETAIL sitting right on our weather hip. We couldn't tack until they did. They pushed us about 3 boatlengths past the layline. We finally could tack and spent the rest of the race playing catchup. Finishing position was 14th, not good.

Between races there was a big discussion about what to change to get our speed back. The biggest key seems to be getting our nose out in clear air. Jon and Jeff worked on some different mainsail settings. We had a bit of a delay as the RC relocated our racing area out of the way of the CC-99/115 course. They got the line set and soon we were in the 5 minute sequence again. This time we made our final tack at just the right spot and we defended our hole to leeward. At 5 seconds we were moving really fast and ready to turn up to close hauled. BANG, it's the last start and all but two of the boats is on the line. BILL'S WILD RIDE did not sail, since they had locked up their 1st place finish and SOCIABLE had the forestay explode just as they made the final tack onto starboard. The sound of 0.325" stainless steel snapping is hard to miss even in the chaos of the start.

Our boat speed seemed better as we worked up the course. There were a few close crosses and we lee-bowed a couple of boats. At the top mark the crew work was stellar and we picked off 1 boat. Heading down we debated going to the #3, as the wind was picking up, but it was decided to stay on the #1. There was a pack of boats that all looked like they were setting up to round the right end of the gate. We decided to stay out of the fracas and set up for a gybe drop around the left end. Good thing. As we rounded I looked back and there was 5 or 6 boats all together with two boats joined by a blue spinnaker at the tops of the masts. BLUE MAGIC had gotten hooked on the kite from SISTER and was getting slingshot around. It didn't take long for the kite to shred and BLUE MAGIC was left with a long blue flag off the mast. SISTER retired.

There wasn't much time to look at things outside the boat. We had work to do. Picking the shifts, making perfect tacks, driving fast, hiking hard..... As we approached the top mark we lee-bowed a trio of boats and held them off. It's nice what you can do with good speed. The set was perfect and launched down wind for the last time. The 3 boats behind were all pushing hard, but we positioned ourselves between them and the finish line while managing to stay out of their wind shadows. It was textbook one-design sailing. Final result was 7th and it felt good.

The final standings are to be found here We finished in 8th place out of 17 boats. The racing was so close and the ability of the crews so good that pretty much any of the top 10 boats could have won the regatta. Congratulations to Bill Wildner and his crew on BILL'S WILD RIDE for a masterful performance. We will see everyone again next year at North Star Sailing Club, the site of the 2008 NAC.

NA Championships, Day #2

The cold front that caused all the big breeze out of the South West passed overhead just as we were pulling into the slip on Day #1. It brought a minor shower and more importantly a windshift to the North West and even more pressure. As we prepared to head out onto the lake, XM weather was forecasting 15-25 knot winds. It was that and more.

The morning started with a bit of angst and running around as the #3 jib had not come back from the repair loft. At about 0915, Winston Beckett delivered the sail along with the news that it had required the combined efforts of several people and 5 hours to completely rebuild the head of the sail. "We did a proper job of it", he said, "should be stronger than before". So, armed with our weapon of choice, we slipped our lines and motored out of the harbor. Instantly, you could tell that the conditions would be rough and tumble. Even though the wind was 'off-shore', by the time we got to the race course area, waves were running 2-3 feet. The instruments were showing a steady 25-28 knots with gusts to 31 knots. Doing our usual pre-start spinnaker hoist did not seem prudent.

The Race Committee (RC) boat was in the area, but something was not right. She was abeam to the waves and rolling quite violently. Soon word came over the VHF that they could not get the anchor to hold in the 150 foot depth. They soon dropped the biggest anchor they had along with 900 pounds of chain and got that to hold. During the 60 minutes that it took to establish the RC boat position, the fleet was reaching back and forth. Did I mention that it was COLD FRONT.... Air temperatures were 15C lower that on day #1. It felt like the wind chill was below freezing.

RC called all the boats into the area and with a loud canon shot, they hoisted the class flag to start the 5 minute sequence. The start was wild. Boats flying this way and that. Bowmen hanging onto pulpits and getting launched into the air as the boats dove into the troughs of the waves. Our start was off just a hair, which in this fleet means we got spat out the back. A quick tack and we were off on Port tack looking for clear air. There were 5-8 degree shifts in the puffs that were blasting us. It was hard to get in synch and keep the boat moving. At the top mark we put up the 1.5 oz kite, in order to preserve Big-Red (0.6 oz). It was a white knuckle run to the leeward gate, where the douse was perfect. We had confidence that we could handle the big breeze, now we had to sail faster. The second downwind leg saw MAJOR DETAIL roll under us and a 12th place finish. Not the way we wanted to start the day.

Race 2 was delayed a bit as one of the boats finished under jib and main. Soon we were back in sequence. Wind conditions were just as strong as in the first race, but the gusts did not seem to have the same power. On the start we make our last turn onto Starboard and held up most of the fleet, leaving ourselves what looked like a huge hole that we could dive into. And dive we did, but the extra speed that resulted from the stiff breeze meant that we closed the hole too soon and when we turned up towards the line, there was Paul in the bow calling us on the line with 2 seconds to go. The starting gun fired and we heard the dreaded words.... #16 over early. So back we go....This time we settled down and really worked to catch the shifts. We caught several boats on the first windward leg in part by coming in on the Port layline and spinning at the mark just a couple of feet from the oncoming starboard parade. The runs were controlled and the douses were textbook. On the second windward leg we tacked on almost every shift and made small gains each time. Again, on the downwind leg we got passed by a boat, SOCIABLE. We started dead last and still pulled an 8th place finish.

Race 3 saw lots of boats changing to #1 or #2 genoas. There was a spirited discussion on TIME MACHINE about us changing also. However, I had noted that there was significantly more pressure at the top of the course than at the bottom and we stuck with the #3. Our start was again poor and we had to tack off behind most of the fleet to clear our air. The boat was under canvased for the first 1/3 of the leg, but as we got closer to shore our boatspeed improved as compared to the boats with big headsails. By the time we got to the weather mark, I was really happy that we chose to stay with the #3. We did switch to Big-Red for the run, and there was a dramatic improvement in boatspeed. It was neat how 20 knots of breeze felt almost sedate. Rounding the leeward mark we set our sights on picking of a couple of boats, but only managed to hold our position. On the downwing leg, BATTLEWAGON managed to sneak inside us when we were delayed in executing a gybe. We sailed neck and neck with them to the finish only to see them catch the last surf and nip us by what must have been inches. It was One Design racing at it's best!

Coming back to the club we took care of the boat. She had done a wonderful job of taking care of us. The crew was spent. The RC radioed that they might still be out there in the morning, given that the primary windlass was dead and they had to haul in 900 pounds of anchor and chain. Kudos for them to even get the races run.

We had just completed 3 windward leeward races in the biggest and toughest conditions ever. We left the dock with 90 fingers and toes, and returned with 90 fingers and toes. Yes there were lots of bumps and bruises and certainly there was a feeling that we could have done better.

NA Championships, Day 1

Weather forecast.... Southwest winds 10-15 building to 15-25 in front of a very strong cold-front that should be over the area at 1700.

We head out to the course at 0930 and the lake is very lumpy. The wind has been out of the South and Southwest for the whole night. In preparation for the first race we sail a bit to weather on the #1 and down on Big-RED. The boat feels solid and the crew work is flawless. It really helps to have the 9th man.

We gather at the starting area but find that the RC is not quite ready. The AP is hoisted and we wait. About 30 minutes later the AP is dropped, only to be rehoisted as some boats had sailed too far away. Finally, the class flag is hoisted and we are in our 5 minute sequence. Jeff works to get us in a good starting position, but doesn't have a feel for how aggressive the fleet is and we are all confused by a last minute shift in the wind. It works out to be a poor start. Heading up wind we battle and cross with the tail end of the fleet and pick up a few positions on each leg, mostly due to brilliant crew work at the roundings. Final result is a disappointing 13 out of 17.

For Race 2 I call the tactics on the start. We port approach and make our last tack to Starboard with11 or 12 of the fleet above us. We defend our hole very aggressively, turn down to reach for speed and then at 4 seconds up we go and launch off the line. GENERAL RECALL! It proved to be our best start of the regatta and all for naught. We restart and pull just about the same sequence, launching off the line with good speed, just not quite as good as just previously. The winds have piped up by now and we are working hard at the top end of the #1. Puffs are up in 18-19 range. At the top mark we round in 5th or 6th place. Setting of Big-Red and then gybing right away gives us clear air and we hold even with the leaders all the down. As we proceed down, we see the wind pick up even more. The #3 comes up on deck and we stuff the #1 in the cabin. The rounding is around the right side of the gate (leeward drop) and we sheet in the #3 and start blasting upwind. Dennis is taking readings on the other boats (almost all of them with #1's or #2's) and we are smoking all of them. Better point and better speed! We get to the top mark and pull off another perfect set just in front of FALCON and hold our position to the finish. It's a 4th and everyone is feeling good.

Now it's really starting to HONK. Winds are up in the solid 22-26 range. The rest of the fleet is busy changing to their blades. Soon we are setting up for the start again. Still working the port approach, we are a bit late making the last turn and end up too close to pin. At the gun it sure looks like we have boats over early on both sides of us. Then the call comes in.... Over early #,#,16,#,#,#. How could they see us? Anyway, back we go to get behind the line. We are last boat to clear the line. The boat is still very lively and we work really hard to pick the shifts. As we approach the top mark we have already passed 4-5 boats. The set is perfect and charge down the course. By sailing deep in the puffs and up in the lulls and by gybing early we picked off some more boats. We do another leeward takedown and sprint back upwind picking off another 2 boats on the way up. At the top mark, it's a quick gybe just behind FALCON and a run to the finish. We hold off a charge from a group of boats behind and take a 6th place. Not bad for starting DFL!!!!!

As we motor back to the club, we notice that the panel at the head of the #3 has simply exploded. We knew that the stressed were big and we can't pinpoint what may have overstressed the sail. Immediately the cellphone starts working to find someone to repair it. When we get back to the dock I see Andrew Kooiman (Regatta chairperson) and he puts me in contact with the local UK loft. Dennis ends up driving to East Toronto with our #3 and Andrew's #1 (poked spreader tips through the sail). The initial word is "can't fix this", followed by "OK, we can rebuild it". It requires 5 hours of labor and the sail is brought back to us in the morning by Winston Beckett. As you will see in the posting for Race Day 2, we needed it!

Pre-Regatta Activities

The drive from Ann Arbor to EYC was not too bad. Some poor soul got on the 401 highway going the wrong way which caused a 2 1/2 hour delay for me, but I wasn't on any kind of deadline and so there was no need to get impatient.

Tuesday night a storm came through and blasted the harbor. TIME MACHINE was heeled over 10 degrees at the dock and the wind instruments showed 50 knots. It was an omen of things to come.

Wednesday morning and the phone calls start coming in. Dennis and Paul are on the way, but get delayed just enough that they will be late picking up Jon at the airport. I hop into the Passat and make the run to the airport. When we get back to EYC, Paul and Dennis are there. Bill and Heather are checked into the hotel and soon Jeff and Dale appear.

It's really nice to have the whole team. Loads of stuff are placed in the cars and taken to the hotel or just plain packed away. We spend hours going over every fastener, bolt, nut, split ring and screw. Things look pretty good. The spinnaker blocks from WIZARD are installed and the regatta mainsail is bent-on.

Even though we are still concerned about our crew weight, we all gather at the motel and decide to hunt down an Indian Restaurant. We end up at a really nice authentic place and have a great meal.

Thursday is weigh in and measurement day. First thing in the morning we hop on the scale. We are doing good, but there is one last person to go. We get the last few items off the boat, check the float lines one more time, replace almost all the bungee cord on the boat. The Main, #1 and the 3 kites are brought up to the lawn and all measure in OK. There is a bit of scare when the roach of the main proves to be "absolutely max", quoting Winston. The measurers come by with the hull templates and verify our float line positions and then later in the afternoon they measure the black band on the boom and the spinnaker pole length. We are official!

The skippers meeting is held and we decide to head out on the Lake where the race committee for that night will run a J35 start. The way they run courses is totally confusing so we end up just sailing with the other 2 J35s up to windward and then down to a mark and back up wind. It's a good time to get our sea legs and get a feel for Lake Ontario chop.

Since the weigh in was complete, we hunted down what looked like a Mexican place, but it turned out to be Italian. Fred turned on the charm and asked Joe (our server) if he was Italian. NO, I'm Sicilian! was the reply.... It's like asking someone if they are American and they reply, NO, I'm a Texan. Funny how it's all the same all over the world. It was a great dinner and we all turned in early to be prepared for the early boat call.

See the next posting about the actual regatta!

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.