Friday, 28 June 2013

Lake Erie Interclub - return to Port Dover

We had spent Tuesday in Sugar Loaf Marina, Port Colborne, due to Paul, Sharon and Bob's family commitment. The rest of the fleet sailed to Buffalo on Tuesday and did a round the buoy race, out of Buffalo on Wednesday. I gather both had really strong winds and wave action.
We left at about 10:30am on Wednesday. The wind had been strong most of the night but was forecast to decrease and then diminish through the day. Kestrel and Powder Hound left earlier.
Leaving Sugar Loaf on a grey day.
Between the marina and the Welland Canal are these old, ugly silos. They look ready to fall down but, as
we saw "a laker " drawn up beside one when we arrived, they are obviously still in use.
Out past the lighthouse that marks the entrance to the canal.
There were no "lakers" in evidence as we left. When we arrived we had felt like a Zatarra sandwich, with a "laker" coming into the canal behind us and a tug pushing a huge barge coming out of the canal in front of us.
The wind was higher and the Lake choppier than we had anticipated but we closed all the hatches and zipped down the plastic front of the bimini.
We were motor sailing upwind and when we crashed into the waves a wall of water would
hit the "windscreen" that we were so thankful to have.
It was very hazy and often we couldn't see land. Easy to believe that we were way out to sea rather than on a lake. The wind never diminished and actually peaked at a minimum of 15 knots.

Usually the chimneys of Nanticoke can be seen from way down the Lake but due to
the haze, this shot meant we were nearly home.
We got into Port Dover at about 6:30pm celebrated our return and enjoyment of the race with chicken and shrimp stir fry and a bottle of red.
Bob (crew), Sharon (Admiral and Galley Wench) and Paul (Captain)
Kestrel got home earlier than us. George on Goldfingers returned the next day. Port Dover's boats will be returning in dribs and drabs, nursing their bruises (boat bites as Sharon calls them) and their equipment damage and breakage. But they will have stories to tell and as this Interclub certainly had no shortage of wind, exhilaration and close calls.
And next year we will all be excited to do it again.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Lake Erie Interclub - Port Dover to Port Colborne

We started to race at 7:30am on the leg from Port Dover to Port Colborne, over 40 miles. Mark Set put a tetrahedron out to windward and we had to tack up to it but from there on it was a downwind race with the wind building during the day. After passing the tetrahedron we looked at other boats and as they were not having an easy time flying their spinnakers we opted to delay putting up the Asymetrical. We were going pretty fast with just the white sails up. Again, starting first and having the faster boats catch up and go past us gave us great photo ops and made for an exciting day. I would have loved to have a recording of Sharon's commentary: "Ooooh look at that he  broached", "His sail's in the water ..... still.....still, oh there it goes, no, still in the water", "Wow look at this one come, whoa, out of control, rounding up, no, no, he's fine" etc etc.

Tenacity (red hull) and Goldfingers (yellow hull, with George aboard), both
Port Dover boats, opted to delay putting up their spinnakers.
I think this was Graffiti (couldn't see the name on the side due to the bow wave), it passed
us as if we were standing still.
Here's the required shot of Dreamer, this time sailing 2 spinnakers, with Special K
behind her.
Enigma, another Port Dover boat who is doing very well this year.
After they passed us, they headed off into the sun. That's Shaibu again
on the right.
Kestrel with Simon, Steve, Tanya and Al on board blew by us as well.
After the Nanticoke Shoal marker we decided to put up the Asymetrical as most of the spinnaker boats seemed to be under control and there was not as much for Sharon to comment on. As we had not packed it right two days prior (novice packers) it took about 20 minutes to put up. Unfortunately as I was spelling off on the sail and the helm there was not much time available for taking pictures. Most of the fleet was past us anyway.
Bob flying the Asymetrical from a lounge chair in the cockpit.
The wind had built all day and was occasionally pretty shifty. It was hard to judge but we estimated the swells at 6ft plus and the wind at least 15knots. As we got further East, of course, the waves built, pushed by a West wind. Just after the above picture was shot, with jokes about sending it to Bob's wife to show her how hard he was working, the boat rounded up in a gust of wind, surfed along the top of a wave and dipped the big sail into the water. As it didn't immediately pop back up I suggested (OK maybe I shouted) for Bob to release the sheet however he didn't need to as it had popped the shackle holding the sheet. So then the boat was back up straight, on course, with a big blue flag waving around along side. It took us a good 15 minutes to get her down and back into the galley, again.
With the white sails up we were speeding along and enjoying the occasional surf down a wave however we finished second to last.
We docked in Sugar Loaf Marina and heard all the "war stories". Perversely it actually made me feel better to hear about the number of blown spinnakers (Kestrel, West Wind and Goldfingers all had spinnaker casualties) and other equipment damage (spinnaker poles, blocks, a rudder). Not that I would wish any of that on anyone but it validated my feeling that it was rather an extreme day.
Once we cleared the galley of the sail, again, Sharon was able to make dinner and we barbecued off the back of the boat as only a cruising boat can. Exhausted but exhilarated. 
We knew we were not doing the race to Buffalo Yacht Club on Tuesday as Paul, Bob and Sharon have a family event to go to. When we woke on Tuesday morning to howling wind we were glad we didn't have to make the decision.

Lake Erie Interclub - Long Point Bay Race

A bolt broke on the alternator assembly in Zatarra so we were unable to race until Paul fixed it. Even sailboats have to rely on engines unfortunately. We were not ready to sail until 11:30, an hour and a half after our official start time so instead we sailed out to meet the fleet and take some pictures.
Part of the fleet approaching the last mark. A good windy day as can be seen by the white caps.

At the mark the crew had to douse the spinnaker and round the mark to do the last leg under white sails only.
Some of the fleet after rounding the last mark, heading for the finish line.
It was a day well suited to Port Dover boat, Shaibu, who performs well in strong wind.
Picture taking turned out to be difficult. Bob, Sharon's son, took this picture of Shaibu but I deleted the one he took of the top of the mast and the one of just the hull. In fact I probably deleted about half of the shots I took as the waves made it difficult to focus or even to get the boat in the shot.
We went back to the marina and then over to the Port Dover Yacht Club for a rum party, fish fry, awards ceremony and dancing.
At the yacht club, boats are rafted together, many with their sails piled on their decks so there is
 sleeping room below. There is not enough room at PDYC for all the boats
 so some are moored in the fishing harbour and some in the municipal marina as well.
Rum party in full swing
It must be an Interclub tradition but there always seems to be a piper at some point during the race.
He was on a wooden boat moored at PDYC.
The flags laid out to be presented to the winners of the first 2 races. Port Dover boats were well
 represented in the top 3 placements.
We didn't stay late as we again had an early start in the morning. Paul and Sharon were kind enough to let us stay on Zatarra so we didn't have the early morning drive to deal with too.

Lake Erie Interclub - Erie to Port Dover

Saturday started before the "crack of dawn", literally. We woke at 3:45am for a 5:30am race start. As part of the cruising, or rally, fleet, we were started first. Although, as you get up, you wonder why on earth you are voluntarily going out onto a cold dark lake at this hour, there is also a level of excitement and enjoyment of being part of the event.
We had started the race and were sailing out of the channel, into the lake, as
the sun came up.
There was good consistent wind and we could see behind us more and more boats setting out, as each fleet was started, 5 minutes apart. Zatarra performed very well and it was 2 hours before the first spinnaker boat caught up with us.

It was Lake Shark, fastest boat in the race, whose fleet was started last, that came past us first.
They didn't however finish the race, as, we heard, they had run aground.
Gradually the faster boats came by us, sometimes just one at a time, sometimes in groups, so we were surrounded by the sound of sails, the shouts of spinnaker trimmers and the water under bows. Made for great photo opportunities.
Special K, a Port Dover boat, leaving us in her wake.
West Wind, another Port Dover boat. They ruined this spinnaker 2 days
later on the race to Port Colborne. Racing is expensive!
Of course you can't have photos of the Interclub without a photo of
Dreamer. She is beautifully maintained wooden boat who can actually fly two spinnakers,
but wasn't this day.
The race is run from a large trawler, Commune, and a small power boat (pictured) who sets the tetrahedrons to mark the course, otherwise known as Mark Set. Mark Set powers from one end of the course to the other in any weather.
We put up the Asymetrical Sail and used it until we rounded Long Point and we could see up ahead that a lot of boats were having trouble managing their spinnakers. We attempted to "snuf" the sail but the "snuffer" (a long sock that is pulled down the sail to contain it) wouldn't come down. We dropped the whole thing down onto the deck and then shoved it in the galley. Not popular with the "galley wench" as she had to pretty well stand on her head to get into the frig.
We crossed the lake in about 7.5hrs, very fast! After milling around at the customs dock at Port Dover, getting checked in, we headed for the dock. Made Zatarra "ship shape" and re-stuffed the Asymetrical.
Mike and George had had a good crossing. Mike had managed to stay awake for about half of it. We were all pretty tired so just headed home as George had to take Mike to the airport early on Sunday. I was in bed by 8:30pm.

Lake Erie Interclub - Friday, prep and party.

Friday was spent restocking (?) and resting up. Registration and skippers meeting was held as well as a patio party.
Tetrahedrons to mark the course, pumped up and ready to go.
In spite of the availability of free drinks we went to bed early, as we had to get up very early to race on Saturday.
Mike and George arrived , on Goldfingers, just in time for the party and Mike took full advantage of it. Not in great shape the next day.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Lake Erie Interclub - Port Dover to Erie

Thursday morning (9:30am) Zatarra left from Port Dover for the lake crossing to Erie. My first crossing was a number of years ago. It was on a 26ft boat, overnight, in thunderstorms and blinding rain. This crossing could not have been more different. There was little to no wind. Zatarra is a 36 foot cruising boat. It was a beautiful sunny day and we could see other Port Dover boats ahead and behind us. I spent some time on a lounge chair on the foredeck rather than huddled, soaking wet in a dark cockpit, looking for freighters.
A fishing boat heading home passes Sea of Dreams heading out.
Long Point Lighthouse
After we passed "The Point" we tried to fly the asymmetrical sail but there really was not enough wind so we snuffed it and carried on motoring.
Our big excitement came when the US Customs boat pulled alongside us to enquire about our destination and the number of us on board. They had an extremely impressive and fast boat.

We sailed down the channel into Presque Isle Bay with Kestrel, Simon and Danielle's new J29.
Before docking at the Erie Yacht Club we still had to check in at the Customs Video Phone at Perrys Landing.
Perrys Landing
We were docked at the Erie Yacht Club by 4pm, in time for their Patio Party and to socialise with the crews of other Port Dover boats who come, like us, a day early, to be well rested before the race on Saturday.
Erie Yacht Club at sunset

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Long Point - Mike and snow

Mike is home for a short leave and Chris was also able to get home for a day, so we had the whole family together for the first time since Mike and Aimee's wedding, last summer. The weather co-operated and Mike and Chris went for a swim on Monday. Mike, just to keep up his training and Chris, to continue training for her mini-triathlon in August.
George kayaked with them as the "pace boat" actually "safety boat"
as the pace wasn't much of an issue - slow.
Neither were that keen to get into the water, its still pretty cold.
They both swam the kilometre from the Provincial Park down to the cottage and said that it felt warm enough when they got going. This is further than Chris will need to swim for the race and good practise as it is in open water and she will be swimming off Toronto Island.
The next day, I was "safety boat" and Mike swam again, this time just with his legs. He was in his wet suit and flippers and I wore Georges wet suit as it was quite cool on the water.

The annual summer snow fall has come to Long Point. The Cottonwood Poplars send their seeds out in puffballs that float around and cover the ground just like snow.
The bottom seed pods are yet to burst, in this picture, but the top ones
are ready to let fly.
It coats the ground and floats around just like snow, getting caught in the flowers
and trees and drifting into low spots.

Lavender, in flower, and covered in "snow".

Monday, 17 June 2013

Niagara Wineries - weekend at Eve's

George golfed with the 3 guys that he worked with at Sears, 30 years ago, on the weekend. They used to golf every May 24th before we had children with birthdays around that weekend. They see each other, very sporadically, through the year but haven't golfed for a whole weekend in years. Of course its not just golfing, they also play cards, hang out at Rick's family cottage, eat and drink, re-tell old stories and of course, verbally abuse each other.
I spent the weekend with Eve, at her place in the country north of Burlington. We created a water feature in her garden and did some planting, ate and drank, hot tubbed, and generally caught up on each others lives. Saturday we drove down towards Niagara to tour some wineries.
It was a lovely warm spring day, so nice after all the rain we have had. I drove and was D D, while Eve and Karen did some tasting. It was so nice to see grape vines with leaves and miniature grapes on them.

Because, in the last 6 years or so, we travel to southern Spain or France in the winter time, we see the grape vines when they are dormant. I have come to love the look of the gnarled old vines with their rough bark, in straight rows, held in place with long strands of wire. The vines we saw this weekend did not look as old as the European ones and did not have the same sense of "character" but they were still a lovely pale green, planted on the rolling land that is the Beamsville Bench area.
Lavender beds in front of the vineyard.
We picked up a winery map and in the 4 hours we were there only managed about 2 inches of it. The wineries are thick on the ground. It almost seemed silly to get in the car to drive to the next one as you could see it just down the road. Some are very new, with the landscaping not yet looking "settled". All have been beautifully designed and detailed. All offered tastings at $1 or $2 a taste.
Karen and Eve tasting. This host considered Eve a real challenge but was unable to find her
a wine that she liked as much as the California wines she favours.
We had a delicious lunch at one of the wineries, sitting on a deck, looking over the vineyards. Had a quick stop at an antique store and continued on to the next winery. The last one we went to was a real find. We were shown the cellars with their oak casks and the stainless steel vats for the "un-oaked" varieties. Karen and Eve bought wine and a brick of chocolate there.
The red wine cellar
With the loot.
We finished off the trip at a cheese store in Jordan Station where I got to do some tasting and came away with a delicious Brie like cream cheese and a mouth watering blue cheese from Tasmania.
Back of the car, full of goodies.
The best part of the trip, for Eve, was that she was able to find a Canadian Chardonnay that she likes. Much more reasonable than her California favourite and easier to get.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Long Point - Whats new this year.

In my previous Long Point posts I have pointed out the things that reflect the reliability of the change of seasons at Long Point. However, this year there have been some changes that visitors to the Point should note. Some out of interest and some as they impact the enjoyment of the visit.
Last winter, 3 eco-passages where installed under the causeway road bed, allowing safe passage for wildlife from the marsh to the lake and vice versa. This spring the fences that prevent wildlife from getting across the road were attached to the passages to funnel creatures through.
The largest of the eco-passages allows water to flow between the marsh and the Lake.  It is
reported to be located where Big Creek used to flow into the Lake.
Same passageway, marsh side.
This one is just a mud passageway but has holes along the top so that light can get in.
The third, also a mud passageway, doesn't have holes, so its a dark tunnel.
The other day we saw the "roadkill crew" walking the causeway. What a summer job that would be! They collect all the creature corpses for identification and to keep track of how many are being killed crossing the road. It is hoped that the availability of the eco-passages will reduce the number of creatures killed on that particular road. Especially the endangered ones. There has also been an effort made to provide a variety of habitat in the marsh in the hope that the turtles will not feel the need to cross the road to reach preferred egg laying areas.
From wildlife visitors to human ones. To accommodate the influx of summer "tourists", the County has instituted a number of changes this year:
Reduced speed limits (actually this started last year, so this is just a reminder). The speed limit across the causeway starts at 70km, drops to 60km, in front of the trailer parks drops to 50km and along Erie Blvd at the Causeway Restaurant, drops to 40Km!

The County has also painted white stripes on the road (and the gravel?) to designate parking spots.
163 spots along Erie Blvd
and a few in front of the Abigail Becker parking lot.
The signs that are, however, the most contentious are the ones denoting 4hr parking only. Who comes to the beach for just 4hrs? I believe that the  hope is that people who are coming for longer than 4hrs will go to the Provincial Park. I am not convinced. I believe we will just have some very annoyed visitors, when they get their parking tickets and it will really tie up the by-law officers time, when they should be giving tickets for all the people who park in un-designated areas, often blocking driveways or traffic sight lines.
This idea caused so much controversy that it was voted on at 2 different County Council meetings. The
local radio station reported that it was done to "appease the Long Point Cottagers".
On a lighter note; anyone looking for an investment? Bubbs on the Beach is for sale.

As I was finishing off this post a sea plane landed, just down the beach from our place.

It rolled up onto the beach,
and after a little struggle getting over a sandbar, took off again.

Well, that's a first for us.