Monday, July 4, 2016

Sailing from Sarnia to Port Dover - Day 2

My alarm starts to wail at 5am and I wake up immediately, get dressed, and put the kettle on for some hot coffee. Both David and Tony are awoken by the commotion and help me prep the boat for departure, which consists of disconnecting the shore power cable, pulling up the fenders, untying the dock lines, and taking that all-important morning leak off the dock. It is still dark outside so we flip on the navigational lights as we slowly putter out of the marina. The pre-dawn departure gives us a jump on the day as we have a lot of miles to cover. We glide out of the marina and once again pick up the favourable side of the current which whisks us along nicely and gives us an extra two to three knot push. We are immediately struck by the magnificent buildings of the General Motors Renaissance Center, which are situated right on Detroit’s shoreline and are lit up by LED lights that change colours every few minutes. As we motor past Detroit’s downtown we get to Windsor’s showpiece – the Caesar’s Palace hotel and casino, also situated right on the shoreline.

There is very little traffic on the water – just the odd fishing boat, no doubt occupied by odd fishermen. We are soon past the downtowns of both cities and reach a terrifying looking industrial wasteland on the US side that we learn is a steel plant. It looks like something out of a steam punk novel – tall, rusty, unpainted towers, eruptions of fire from flared gas, ominous black structures, huge pieces of machinery, smokestacks belching out thick grey plumes of smoke, pipelines running everywhere and giant piles of what looks like coal and gravel. In short, it’s horrifyingly beautiful. Sailing on the Great Lakes allows you to see what resource extraction and heavy industry actually looks like. Of course I don’t like the pollution caused by these plants, and it is stomach turning to imagine what contaminants such places are dumping into the air and ground, but it does give you a bird’s eye view of where all those nice materials we find in our fancy vehicles, and houses actually come from.

Marty joins the rest the crew in the cockpit and I head down to the galley to make breakfast. The menu for this morning is peameal bacon, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, sliced tomatoes, toast, blueberry jelly, and a big jar of uncle Michael's "Wrong Side of the Tracks" hot sauce to dump on everything. The boat has a full oven and two burners - all powered by propane, so I crank up the burners and get the campfire toast going on one and the bacon in the other. Once the bacon is done I move onto the scrambled eggs. I crack open one egg using the countertop, rotate over to the pan, drop it in and then repeat, just like my mom taught me when I was a boy. On the 11th egg, tragedy strikes. As I am shifting to dump the egg in the pan the shell crumbles and the egg drops down in the small space between the oven and the counter. Dammit, I think, and quickly crack the last egg of the dozen before reaching for a paper towel to clean up the mess. I bend down and reach below the stove to wipe up the egg but…there's no egg. I get right down on my hands and knees and peer into the space below the stove and there is nothing there besides bread crumbs, dust, and some assorted bits of dried up food particles. The egg has not slid onto the floor and there is nowhere else for it to go, so I decide I must have imagined the whole thing so I stand up and look in the pan to count the yolks.  There are 11. The egg carton is empty and there are 12 empty shells in the bin. I look down into the crack between the stove and counter and can see some slimy egg marks there – clear evidence of a dropped egg, but there is no egg in sight.

"Marty, come down here for a second," I holler out into the cockpit. He comes down, I tell him the story and ask him to try and find the missing egg. No luck. Each of the crew in turn take their place in galley and use their best sleuthing skills to deduce the fate of the missing egg but we all come up blank. This discussion extends well into breakfast and together we decide the only logical explanation is that there is an interdimensionary portal on our boat and somebody in a parallel universe is wondering where the hell that broken egg on their kitchen floor came from.

We stuff our faces and the boys clean up dishes while I watch the helm. We are nearing the end of the Detroit River and ahead of us is Lake Erie and the long, dredged shipping channel bordered by huge channel markers that will lead us through the shallow waters. Once we are through the channel and into deeper water we make a turn eastwards and point ourselves in the direction of Point Pelee. By this time a beautiful and steady north wind has kicked up so it's finally time to shut off the engine and get out the sails! The crew comes up and I give them a briefing on the operation of the lines and soon we have both the main sail and jib out catching plenty of wind. The force of the wind is pushing us along nicely at 7 knots and causing the boat to heel rather sharply and I can hear things starting to slide around down below so I head down to the cabin and give Tony the helm. I rearrange some of the gear and get everything secured and when I get back in the cockpit I learn that the severe motions of the boat has caused Marty to barf up his entire breakfast, but luckily he made it to the swim platform at the stern so it all landed in Lake Erie for the hungry fishies to snack on. David has his legs out, bracing himself into the cockpit and his face is overcome with a sense of panic. "Is this normal??" he asks.

"Right, I forgot to mention the heeling. Yep, perfectly normal," I reply. I just love scaring the shit out of people on sailboats.

For the next three hours we experience sailing like it's meant to be. The wind is hitting us at 90 degrees, which is an excellent point of sail, and pushing us along quickly. There are few gusts and the winds speed is steady at around 16 knots. I am thrilled that we finally found some wind, as I was starting to think the calm conditions would force us to motor the entire trip and the boys wouldn't get a chance to do any real sailing. I find out later from Tony that at one point when the boat was on autopilot he was by himself sitting in one of the cockpit chairs, which hang off the back of the boat, while the rest of us were down below. He was starting to feel real drowsy and as a precaution he tied one of the dock lines to his leg just in case he tipped overboard! I had a vision of us returning to the cockpit to find a pair of jeans being dragged behind the boat and wondering what happened to Tony.

We sail towards Point Pelee, passing Leamington far to the north and Pelee Island and the islands of Ohio within sight to the south. The Point extends far into Lake Erie underwater creating a dangerous, reef strewn hazard, but we look closely at the charts and carefully cut through the reef avoiding the shallow spots, which shaves a few miles off our journey. We have shifted our heading more northwards now towards our next destination – Erieau – and since the winds have also substantially died out we fire the engine back up and take down the sails which puts the boat back on a level angle, just in time for lunch.

Lunch consists of a giant package of mixed sandwich meats, aged cheddar cheese, chopped vegetables, Thai chicken soup, prepared salads and, of course, the giant bag of Costco buns. As we are chowing down Marty notices Tony's eyes shifting from the dwindling bag of buns to the storage space in the galley, surely wondering if he just might be able to cram it in there today. Marty assures him it's simply not physically possible, and then continues to consume an especially large lunch, making up for losing his breakfast over the side of the boat this morning.

We have about 40 miles still to go, so between the rounds of naps and rounds of beers Marty and I introduce David and Tony to two brand new things. The first is Death Metal. Admittedly one of the less popular genres of music to the general public, Marty and I have been metal fans for a long time so we hit them with a nice sampling including Gojira, Five Finger Death Punch and ISIS and from their head bobbing, smiles and toe tapping I can tell they both really like it. Though not death metal, we also give them a listen to Rob Zombie's new album, tersely entitled The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, which sounds like an odd title, unless you are familiar with Rob Zombie's discography, in which case it makes perfect sense. 

The second thing we introduce them to is Lake Erie Balloon Hunting. We invented this sport last year during our trip to Sarnia. Though most kids think that when they release a helium balloon at a birthday party it floats right up to heaven, but what actually happens is it gets blown onto Lake Erie, waiting to get sucked into some poor sod's impeller or tangled around a prop, or maybe even eaten by a lake turtle. So the game is to keep a lookout and collect as many balloons as possible. Once we start the game we immediately spot something floating far off in the distance so we adjust our heading to intercept and get the boat hook ready. Marty takes the lead on this and stands at the ready looking like a harpooner. I slow the boat as we approach it and Marty jabs out and captures a fine metallic blue balloon on his first swipe! On the balloon is printed "West Geauga Wolverines" which I later discover through 10 seconds of internet research is a high school football team in Cleveland.  Go Wolverines!

Excited by our first kill, we now employ the binoculars full time and before long another prospect is sighted. This one is a little more agile and avoids capture on the first pass, but we eventually harpoon it and pull it on board. This is a real beauty – a sparkly greenish balloon with a bug-eyed birthday giraffe that looks like he just got goosed with a 2 x 4. We tie our trophies to the cockpit arch as a warning to other balloons cowering in the shadows of the lake, and we continue our hunt. 

It's now mid afternoon and Marty offers to whip up a batch of Turkish coffee so he disappears into the cabin and returns later with four cups of muddy, black, sugary, grounds-infused coffee substance. It is sickly sweet, chewy and does taste much like the coffee I remember drinking in Istanbul. He reminds us not to drink the last gulp because first, we'd puke, and second it's possible to read your fortune by swishing the grounds around and peering into the cup. Well I did that and mine appeared as a giant diarrhea explosion so I was not looking forward to my next toilet visit.

After coffee it was time to hit the beers and change up the tunes. I promised Tony that we'd have some selections of country music so we put on a Spotify country mix just to see what it was like. I will say that some of the songs are okay, although tales of lost dogs, tractors, corn fields, GMC's, unfaithful wives and the open road don't make a whole lot of sense when you are on a boat in the middle of a giant lake with no land in sight, but we sure liked the songs about drinking – those we could relate to. David pulled up some of the best country song titles and read them aloud: 

At the Gas Station of Love, I Got the Self-Service Pump

Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed

You're The Reason Our Baby's So Ugly

I'm So Miserable Without You It's Like Having You Here

How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away

I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better

You Done Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat 

We soon tire of the country mix and somebody pulls up Billy Idol and we crank up the Vital Idol album. It felt like a wedding party on the water when Mony Mony came on and we filled in all the missing eff-bombs, right on queue. 

As we get closer to land a strong evening breeze develops so we set the sails and are transformed from a power boat to a sailboat once again. A thick swarm of bugs had slowly collected on the boat (and on us) so the breeze helps a bit in clearing some of them out. As necessity is the mother of invention, Tony comes up with an ingenious system for simultaneously keeping the beer cold and the bugs out. He simply takes one sweaty, oily, smelly glove and slips it over the entire beer can, voila!

David stays at the helm as we enter the Erieau marina. This one of my favourite marinas and towns on Lake Erie as the town is small and very friendly while the marina is top class and has a swimming pool for those hot summer days. I ask David to dock the boat and he pulls her up gently just like a pro while the rest of us jump off and tie the dock lines to the cleats. It feels great to have a short walk and stretch after a 14 hour and 95 mile sail.

Before I know it the crew flies into action with buckets, hoses, brushes and soap and begin scrubbing all the bugs and crud off Bella Blue. While they are doing that I start working on dinner, which is really nothing more than putting a giant pan of Sheppard's pie in the oven and chopping up some vegetables.

We crack a round of beers, and as we are admiring the now gleaming sailboat some dude comes walking up the dock, and I know he means business because he is carrying a bottle of Molson Export. Anybody who can drink that nasty junk has a rock solid constitution and probably a lot of drinking stories.  He introduces himself as Marc Gagnon, showing off his outrageous Quebecois accent. Marc is rather short, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and a ball cap, and looks to be quite plastered.

“So what do you do Marc, besides being the official marina greeter?” I ask.

“Well, I used to be a painter,” he replies. “A house painter.”

“What do you do now?"

“I am just waiting for a customer to call so I can go be a painter again.”

“So you are still a painter?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Would you like a beer?” I ask, taking the conversation in an entirely new direction. I offer Marc a nice Stella Artois tall can and I think it might be the first good beer he's ever had in his life as the single tall can pushes him over the edge and he starts talking like a crazy man.  He tells us that he’s in the process of building a spaceship so that he can get back to his home planet, but is having trouble finding the parts he needs. He also tells us that his nickname is Mister Magoo, because when he smiles his eyes practically disappear and he runs into things. We all like Marc right away so we take turns having our picture taken with him, to serve as mementos just in case he stumbles off the dock and is never seen again.

We decide to take a walk over to the friendly neighbourhood brew pub to pass some time while the Sheppard’s pie is cooking. Tony had brought along a Wilson volleyball, just like the one from Cast Away with the powerful, bloody face emblazoned on the side. We have grown to love and respect Wilson so we leave him in charge of the boat and tell him to keep an eye on the food and, if he has time, to see if he can find that damn missing egg.

 We give Marc Gagnon the slip and begin walking to the downtown area which is just two blocks away. As we are walking we hear a commotion up ahead and all of a sudden a giant Winnebago comes screaming around the corner, swerves, and comes fishtailing down the road at top speed, headed directly at us. Raw instinct takes over my body and before my conscious mind could comprehend what was happening, my arm was extended, my palm turned upwards, and I was running towards the driver’s side of the mighty behemoth. At the exact right moment a hand emerges from the speeding monstrosity and connects directly with mine, creating an earth-shattering slap and a perfect high five! We watch the Winnebago blast down the road and wait to see if a cop car would come burning around the corner in hot pursuit, but nothing of the sort happens so we just mosey on over to the Bayside Brewing Company and order up a round of barleys.

We get seated on the patio, which has a lovely view over Rondeau Bay to the north, and enjoy our bevvies. It starts to cool down quite rapidly so Tony asks the waitress for a blanket and she brings out a stunning Mexican loaner poncho. Tony looks so comfortable wrapped up in his poncho that the rest of us feel bad when we tell him it’s time to go because we are all starving. I thought he was maybe going to steal the poncho and we’d have to make a high speed getaway in the sailboat, but his good senses prevail and we leave without committing any crimes, except maybe some sort of fashion crime as none of us have showered or changed our clothes yet on the trip.

Back at the boat we consume a giant platter of Sheppard's pie washed down with plenty of wine. Sadly, Marc Gagnon was nowhere to be seen so we couldn’t invite him back to party with us on the boat, which makes us all quite sad. Fortunately a few more beers break us out of our melancholic state and we wind up another game of Settlers of Catan and enjoy more beer and some great music. We all love music so much that we decide right here that we are starting a band. We will be known as "The Urinators" and the genre will be country metal. We get right to work on our first single with the help of David's guitar, Tony's spoons, Marty and my shrieking vocals, and an alcohol-fueled state of diminished sensibility, but we lose interest after about five minutes because we suck, and shortly thereafter I am out cold.

No comments:

Post a Comment