Monday, April 20, 2009

From Cleveland to Port Dover

My friend Andrew bought a whoop-ass boat from a repo liquidator in Cleveland a few weeks ago. With the ice completely gone from Lake Erie it was time to go pick up the vessel and transport it back across the lake to Port Dover, where had had arranged a slip for the season. He asked me and another friend, Justin, to come along to give him a hand piloting it back to Canada. The boat is a 33 foot Sea Ray with twin 454 V8 engines and every onboard amenity you can imagine including tv, refrigerator/icemaker, stereo, electric toilet, gps, radar and free alcohol, though no topless servers this day, as it was very early in the season and a little chilly. We had Ana, the kids and Andrew's girlfriend Jess drop us off in Buffalo, where we rented a car and drove to Cleveland, then stayed overnight at a hotel. We stopped en route in Erie, Pennsylvania for a burger and beer at TGI Fridays, which promptly put me to sleep in the passenger's seat for the remainder of the ride. A planned early departure turned into a 12 noon kick-off due to several unforeseen circumstances such as missing supplies, marine stores that don't open until 10am, bad navigation in downtown Cleveland, and a small mishap at the fueling dock which resulted in 25 gallons of petroleum pumped into the waste tank of the boat instead of the gas tank which had to be suctioned out.

Once we were finally underway, we found lake conditions to be absolutely perfect. It was about 17 degrees with a minor wind of 10 kph and hardly a boat to be seen. We began working our way up the US shoreline, about 2 to 3 miles offshore. We kept the boat at 3,000 rpm which, Justin advised, offered the best tradeoff of speed versus fuel consumption. At that rate we were doing about 21 to 22 mph which was a nice steady comfortable pace. Upon the approach to Erie, which was about 5 hours after leaving Cleveland, Andrew decided it would be best to fill the gas tanks before making the run across the lake to the Canada side. After several cell phone calls we learned that the pumps at the regular marina were having issues and the only place that had fuel was the private Erie Yacht club, who only reluctantly agreed to sell us gas. After 45 minutes of waiting for them to find somebody to turn on the gas pump, during which time we paid a visit to the club bar and caught some lip from a drunken sailor, we finally got fuel and were able get back underway. This was the part of the trip I was originally most nervous about, as Lake Erie is home to hundreds of shipwrecks and known to turn deadly with fast changes in weather. Luckily for us, the wind was steady and smooth and gave rise to waves that were no more than 5 or 6 feet at the highest. The trip across took about two hours and was interrupted only twice, first by a strange engine noise which didn't reoccur, and second by me nearly running the boat into two feet of water at Long Point. The final two hour trip across the lake culminated in our triumphant entrance into Port Dover harbour, evidenced by nobody as the marina was almost completely devoid of boats. The ladies and kids arrived shortly after our landing, and after a few minutes of phone chatter with Canadian customs, we were cleared and free to go! We all squeezed into the van, stopped at Callaghan's for a quick fish feed, then drove back to Paris, nicely finishing off a relatively uneventful Lake Erie navigation- which is exactly what you want when crossing large bodies of water!

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