Day 14 – Eastlake to Ashtabula
By 5:10, we had coffees poured, the lines cast off and were slowly motoring out of the Eastlake harbour, quite happy that we’d discovered another new spot on this fine lake. The weather was hot, the wind was light and, fortunately, it was not nearly as buggy as the day before. The entire trip was 35 miles and around 9 am we stopped the boat and jumped in for a morning swim and bath. Even several miles offshore the water temperature was still over 30 degrees, so you didn’t get that spine shattering shock when you jumped in; it was more like leaping into a giant bathtub.
Arriving in Ashtabula gives you a glimpse into the area’s industrial history. To your right is a series of giant coal piles and these huge machines on railway tracks which pick up the coal from railway cars, dump it into the pile, then later scoop the coal from the pile and load it into freighters. After about a mile of industrial landscape, you reach downtown Ashtabula which, as far as I know, is the only town on Lake Erie that offers visitors free docking, free water and free pump outs. The only thing they do not offer is electricity, and with a forecast temperature of 33, it’s tough to get by without the boat air conditioner. But we do leave the boat at the public dock for a while as we walk into town for a coffee at Harbour Perks, a groovy little cafe steps from the water. The kids and I hung around there for an hour or so reading magazines and playing chess while Ana hit the local Goodwill store, one of her favourite retail spots on the lake.
We returned to the boat, waited for the top of the hour when the lift bridge opens and piloted her a short ways down the river to the Ashtabula Yacht Club, when they do have electricity and do offer free dockage to associate club members. By this time the temperature in the boat was 97 degrees Fahrenheit, so it took a quite a while for the ac to cool things down, which gave me time to get the grill fired up, sit in the covered cockpit and cook up some sausages for lunch.
We checked the forecast and both Friday and Saturday were looking to be extremely windy and stormy so we decided to spend a few more hours in Ashtabula, then do an evening sail all the way back to Port Dover, which was a 75 mile trip, but would get us back early Friday morning and give us the whole weekend back in home port.
We walked back downtown and hopped from one air conditioned shop to another, picking up a super cool orange Ashtabula t-shirt for Magnus (I assured him that nobody in his class would have a shirt with a big black coal digger picture on the front) and a round of ice creams. Our plan was initially to leave after enjoying dinner at Briquette’s, an excellent local southern style rib restaurant, but instead we decided to get take out then have dinner on our way across the lake, as everybody was still full from the lunch sausages. So we grabbed our food, hustled back to the boat, and did a high speed undocking in order to make the 5 pm life bridge opening, which we did, but just barely.
We soon had the sails set, motor running and were headed directly across the lake for Canada. The home stretch is always very exciting, as it represents the final leg in what always feels like an epic and fresh journey every time we do it. Magnus was desperate for a swim, so we stopped twice along the way and we all jumped in to cool off, even Stella who has been reluctant to swim in the deep parts of the lake. Once again, swimming off your own boat, in the middle of a giant lake, on your own schedule, is an exhilarating and empowering feeling and there is really nothing else like it.