Monday, August 6, 2012

2012 Lake Erie Sailing Trip – Day 1, Friday

Boat vacation.  Our third annual two week excursion around Lake Erie was about to begin and we were ready.  In fact, we had never been so ready.  Our lovely 33 foot Hunter sailboat, named Bella Blue, had been carefully prepped, packed and pampered in preparation for our departure, and she was yearning to go, as we were.

We arrived at Port Dover around 3pm, packed away our gear then gave her an extensive cleaning from bow to stern, and by the end of it she was gleaming and bug free.  We threw off the dock lines around 6pm and encountered a beautiful, strong east wind which carried us under sail power at over six knots (six knots is about seven miles per hour), providing an excellent start to the trip.

As the sun was setting, we rounded Long Point and changed course, pointing her south west, heading directly down the middle of the lake towards the Bass Islands, approximately 140 miles away.  The waves out in the lake had become quite large so we decided to fire up the engine to give us a bit more speed.  The diesel engine started easily and ran least for a few minutes, and then she died.  So we started it again, got it running for a minute, then it stalled.  Although not a life and death situation, it was enough to instill a certain unmistakable level of panic on the boat.  Bobbing around in four to five foot waves on a moonless night in the middle of Lake Erie with a disabled engine and two small children is enough to tie your stomach in knots.

I pulled out my engine manual and started troubleshooting and within minutes was pretty sure that I didn’t have a clue about diesel engines.  I tried my best to appear confident as I tried a few things, and was pretty sure that it was a problem with the fuel getting to the engine, but after an hour of trying, we turned the boat south toward Erie, Pennsylvania as that was the closest port where we could find a diesel mechanic, and we weren’t comfortable with sailing toward our final destination with a non functioning engine.  Fortunately, the wind stayed strong so Ana sailed the boat toward Erie as I continued trying to fix the engine, and in the process got soaked in diesel and probably a little stoned from the fumes as I started noticing small kittens running around the boat, speaking to each other in what sounded like Finnish.

I eventually gave up on the engine, said goodbye to the kitties and went out to the cockpit to join Ana and get some fresh air.  It was actually a lovely sail as the sky was clear and filled with stars and the wind provided a fast least until we approached the entrance of Erie harbour, at which point it completely died, and were left with having to call Boat US for a tow.  Luckily we were current on our $65 yearly membership which provides for unlimited free towing in US waters, so we were soon met by Eric in his tow boat and he tied up to us and gave us a slow ride into Wolverine marina..  We arrived around 4 am so after we got docked I went over to the US customs video phone, tried calling a dozen times, received no answer, then returned to the boat not at all surprised as this is exactly what happened last time we arrived in the middle of the night and tried to check in.  We were asleep by 5am and woke up two hours later to a brand new fresh day in the USA.

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