Friday, August 12, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip - Conclusion

This is the third major sailing trip we’ve taken on Lake Ontario and in the two week period we sailed a total of about 439 nautical miles which averages out to about 29 nautical miles per day, which is approximately 5 hours of sailing at an average speed of 6 knots. This is the first time we’ve explored the US side of Lake Ontario and we loved it. It was especially good being able to share this experience with not one, not two, not three, but four sets of friends, and having Baby Beau on Board was a real pleasure and brought back a lot of memories for Ana and I from when our kids were that age and we were doing yearly sailing trips on Lake Erie.

Being able to explore the Great Lakes by boat in this way is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. Of all the people who live in Canada, how many will ever get to do this? Even the majority of people that have boats on these lakes don’t often do longer range trips like this. Arriving to a new town or city by boat is an adventure completely unlike what you experience traveling by road. Cities look and feel different. You do different things. You meet different people. And I don’t use the term “adventure” lightly. Every moment you are on the water is exciting, as you never know what will happen. Weather dictates everything. You are putting your life in the hands of your vessel. You sometimes need to make critical decisions quickly, with potentially severe consequences. I would say it is not for the faint of heart, but provides for an experience unlike anything else. On this trip we suffered an overhead wire entanglement, a grounding, rough lake conditions that turned us back, then on land, of course, Ana’s scooter crash. But mixed in, and overwhelming those were moments of peace, tranquility, ecstatic excitement, love, joy, and comradery.

I love these lakes.

We’ve now covered a significant portion of Lake Ontario. Although we have many more places to explore on the US side, we now have a good base of knowledge of the area. There’s much more to explore in the western end of the lake where we are situated with its many cities and marinas,. We’ve been through the Thousand Islands three times now and have a good feel for it. What comes next? One potential trip we were discussing at Andrew’s would be to sail SeaLight up to his place in one shot over a weekend. Then launch  a two week trip from there all the way down the St Lawrence to Montreal which is only 150 nautical miles. From there Quebec City is only 125 nautical miles, passing Trois-Rivieres along the way. This would expose us to heavy river currents, tidal currents and some very challenging anchoring and docking. But what fun it would be to explore these cities by boat! We could finish up the two week trip at Andrew’s, then do the big run back home the following weekend. There’s a lot of moving pieces, but it’s possible. Alternatively, we’ve thought about exploring the Finger Lakes and the Erie Canal, but that trip is a little more complicated as it would require taking the mast down and either leaving it in Oswego or hauling it around with us on the boat. It is possible to do a full loop, westward through the Erie Canal which exits in Buffalo, then we’d have to take the Welland Canal to get back into Lake Ontario. Might need longer than two weeks for that one!

It's taken me several weeks to complete the journals for this trip, and in the meantime we’ve spent two amazing, spectacular, surprising, and adventurous weekends sailing to Hamilton, just two hours away from our home port. You don’t always need to go far to have fun!

With that, the 2022 sailing trip comes to a close.

(ps. if anybody is interested in seeing the exact route we took, here is a link to the online Google map. The black line is the way out and red is the return trip.)

Thursday, August 11, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 15 - Stunning Sunrise, Port Colborne, Home to Newport

5 am came fast and as the sun rose we slipped off the dock, down the channel, around the break wall, and back out into the lake. Today was Friday and we had decided to make the 60 nautical mile run home to Canada, stopping at Port Colborne to check back into the country, fuel up, and have lunch and a swim then make our way back to Newport. Tony and Angela had to leave the following morning so we considered spending today in Wilson then doing the overnight run, but the weather was looking potentially stormy and we didn’t want to take the chance.

This morning’s sunrise was spectacular and I tried waking up Stella but she wouldn’t budge. That left Tony and I in the cockpit to enjoy the show and the ride. Once the crew was up Angela and Tony made these incredible breakfast burritos and we devoured them, then went for a morning lake swim and bath shortly after that. The water was still a balmy 25 degrees, even way out in the lake.

I don’t want to complain too much, as I know what a hassle it is to cross the border by car, but checking in with customs was a real pain in the ass. We arrived at the fuel dock at Port Colborne, called customs, and were on hold for a full hour. The officer who finally took our call was a cranky grouch and had to have each of our full names and addresses painstakingly spelled out, despite us all being Nexus members and having already submitted all of our information through the ArriveCAN app, whose purpose as stated on the website is to “modernize cross border travel”. I think they should just buy the amazing app the US uses, as their system is fast, efficient, and flawless.

We cruised back out in the lake and tried to anchor near the beach at Port Colborne but it was far too shallow to get in, so we anchored further out and had lunch and a swim. By the time we were ready to leave, the wind had really picked up so we started sailing. It was an awesome, high speed sail with the boat heeling over suicidally and wind ripping past the sails. While I was loving the boat tearing across the water I looked over and noticed Ana in utter pain as she was trying to hold on, body stiff and tensioned. Ah, I’m such a dummy, the Bird wipeout! Her bruised body was hurting worse than ever so we turned into the wind, dropped the sails, and motored back, which was much more comfortable.

By early evening we were pulling into our slip at Newport Yacht Club. We got SeaLight tied up, shore power plugged in, and air conditioning turned on when all of a sudden…the AC quit. Have no fear, Captains Kris and Tony were on it. Cushions were ripped off the salon seats to expose the AC, tools were readied, seacocks shut, clamps removed, hoses replaced, filters cleaned, system primed, and after an hour or more, and several pounds lost in sweat, the AC was back in action, blowing stronger and colder than ever. It was beer time.

We had dinner on the boat then assembled at the marina parkette along with a dozen other members there hanging out, making dinner, and having fun. I don’t know what time it was when we went to bed, but I can tell you I slept like a rock and didn’t open my eyes until close to 9am the next morning.

It was nice to be back.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 14 - Narby’s, Dinghy Marathon, and a Pizza Party

Tony, Stella and I were up with the sun to get an early start on the sail to Point Breeze. Stella was up strictly for the sunrise experience, but as the sun was obscured by the overcast sky, she went immediately back to bed. There was a strong wind warning for Lake Ontario today but once we got through the channel and into the open lake we found the wind to be excellent and waves slight, so we hoisted the sails and had a lovely, quiet ride without the engine. Finally, some help from the wind instead of it blowing directly from where we’re trying to go.

As we approached Point Breeze (also known as Oak Orchard), I saw a large breakwater running parallel to the shore with entrances on both the east and west sides, then past this was a channel running into the marinas. When Ana had booked our marina slip with Four C’s Marina she was told to keep to the right side of the channel. I could see the channel, but I wasn’t sure if it mattered which side of the breakwater we should enter in. There were no buoys and the electronic charts showed both sides to have insufficient water, which wasn’t of much help. So I chose the east side as it was closer. As we approached, I watched the depth sounder: 12 feet. 10 feet. I slowed the boat down to a crawl. 6 feet. 5 feet. Then a grinding noise and a sudden stop. We had hit bottom and were stuck. I slammed the engine in reverse and pulsed it. Nothing. I had everybody stand on one side of the boat to heel it over a bit. Still stuck. Fortunately, the wind was blowing us away from the shallow spots, which was good, but it was insufficient to move us. I looked over to the breakwater to see a steel structure with a beacon on top, and an idea struck.

Tony and I jumped in the dingy then I had Ana pass us the main sail halyard and a bunch of extra line. I tied a couple of lines together and to the halyard and we took the dinghy to the breakwater, tied it to the safety ladder and got off with the rope, then wrapped the rope around the steel base, and shortened it up by hanging off it and snugging. This pulled the top of the mast down, thereby lifting the keel, and Ana was finally able to reverse the boat off the ground and back out into the deeper water, just in time to avoid being seen by the pack of sailing school kids coming out in their bathtub boats. Whew, close call! I hate showcasing what not to do when sailing…but it seems to happen more frequently than I care to admit.

We went around on the west side and had barely enough water to float us, then found our way up the channel and into our slip. I was feeling a little beat so I had a short nap while the others organized a few things on the boat and went for a little walk around the area to have a look. There didn’t seem to be much of a marina office, but Tony did find a house that looked like part of the marina so he went in, yelled hello a few times with no response, then used the washroom, no problem. Except we found out later it’s somebody’s house. Tony had mentioned the toilet paper was of a much higher quality than the standard issue marina half-ply variety.

Once I had my cat nap we dinghied up to the Oak Orchard Yacht Club and found Lydia and Daryl. I tell you, these guys acclimatize fast – they took us down the docks, introducing us to people, then across a long dock leading to the shore over a shallow swampy area, pointing out several turtles and frogs in the water they had given names to (“There’s Timmy, he has a great personality…for a frog.” “Oh, there’s Fuzzball, lovely turtle but very possessive of his favourite rock.” “Oh yay, there’s Fredrico, a very shy turtle but amazing sense of humour once he gets going.”). They then led us into the clubhouse, introducing us to more people along the way, showing us some little known areas and features of the building, then told us the entire history of the yacht club. This is exactly why you partner on these trips with ultra social powerboaters – send them in to do the hard work!

After our tour we jumped in the dinghies to go gunkholing up the river and we travelled for a long, long way, seeing a hundred different species of birds, frogs, toads, and I think we saw a cat on the deck of one of the riverside cottages. We went for so long that the ladies were starting to have a retail attack so we needed to find a store, fast. Captain’s Cove Motel and Marina was the closest and looked the least abandoned so we tied the tenders up nearby a collapsed bridge and walked up the hill to check out the store. Now I didn’t go in, but it looked solid hillbilly, and I was happy when the girls returned unscathed, but there were reports of taxidermied squirrels caught in the act of fornication, plus they came out carrying a bag of Dinosaur Barbeque potato chips so at least they were able to buy something. The shopping got even better when we dinghied a hundred metres back down the river, then walked up the highway to Narby’s Superette & Tackle. It looked real sweet so we all went in. The older lady at the counter looked very unpleased to see customers.

“Afternoon! How are you?” Ana asked.

“Terrible,” she responded. “All alone.”

“Oh, why?” Ana continued.

“Can’t get staff. Nobody wants to work. So I have to. Pffft.”

Nobody else said hi to her and we just got shopping. There wasn’t much in there. The Narby’s Tackle branded merch was pretty picked over – just winter gloves and a few squashed hats left. They had a few basic boat parts, some jugs of oil, a small selection of groceries, and a cooler full of low grade beer. Fortunately, there was a small ice cream collection, so most of us grabbed one of those – I got a yellow banana Minions popsicle which made me think, “KEVIN!” so I just had to have it, but it ended up tasting disgusting. Up at the counter as we were queuing to check out, Stella and Ana found those grab jugs of small candies like mini-tootsie rolls, red hots, blue whales, gumballs – that sort of stuff. All 5 cents each. Stella put her bag of candies on the counter and said, “I can’t believe these are only five cents each. Nothing costs five cents.”

“They used to be one cent. Pffft,” the clerk lady said as she grimaced, took a guess at how many candies were in the bag, and rang her out. As we were leaving a man came into the store and told the clerk lady he wanted to have a look in the tackle shop, which was located in a separate building beside the one we were in.

“Oh GREAT! Now I have to lock up THIS store and go over THERE,” she said with fiery eyes, staring at the hapless customer wanna-be. “FINE, go back there and wait. I’ll be there when I get there.” She pulled herself up painfully then shuffled out from behind the counter and pushed us out then locked the door and that’s the last we ever saw of the crusty clerk lady. I felt like she needed a hug, but nobody was offering.

With the retail therapy complete, we traveled down the river and back to SeaLight for cold drinks and an incredibly lush charcuterie board assembled with care by Ana and Angela. After demolishing that we went for a walk around the marina and boat storage area and I snapped a cool photo of the three ladies in front of a disintegrating pirate ship. I think they should use it for their next album cover.

Everybody was beat from the day’s heat so we all took a big nap and didn’t emerge until 6:30, then packed back into the dingy and motored back up to the yacht club for Pizza Night. The yacht club was full of people, all nice and friendly people, and we had all you can eat pizza, delicious IPAs, Caribbean Mules, and even pieces of pie for dessert. Lydia and Daryl even offered to sponsor us for a membership.

We hung out for a good long time, long enough for Stella to pick up a rare Oak Orchard Yacht Club hat which she will wear with pride. At the end of the night somebody tossed us a bottle of cleaner and a rag and we wiped down our table, getting it all ready for the next party.

With that, we headed back to SeaLight, did a bit of trip planning for the next day, and hit the sheets.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 13 - The Origins of SeaLight

8am. Another blistering hot day. Good time to be at the Rochester Yacht Club with their beautiful pool.

Our friends Daryl and Lydia came over for a visit. While we had been sailing up and back from the Thousand islands, they had been deep diving into Rochester and Sodus Bay, mainly because driving their big power boat as far as we went, with its twin 454 fuel demolishing engines would soak up their next six years’ worth of travel budgets. We introduced them to Tony and Angela then caught up on all our news and adventures. Imagine being separated from friends at home for a few days, then meeting to catch up on all your news and adventures. It would be a mighty short conversation. Not so on sailing trips!

We helped them get undocked then they began the next leg of the trip to Point Breeze, 32 nautical miles eastwards. As for us, well, we went swimming, watched the kids from the local sailing school going back and forth in the channel practicing their skills, walked to the shopping plaza, had a late lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, went swimming again, and soon it was time for dinner. We walked over to Silk O’Laughlins, a busy Irish pub on the channel, and were seated at the last table, right near the chain link fence at the edge of the property. From where I sat, it looked like Ana and Angela were in county lockup. The meal was pretty ordinary, but things got exciting when the sun set and all the mayflies hanging out in the trees above us descended into our hair, clothes, bags, drinks, and plates. We learned that mayflies do not pair well with Yuengling beer and nachos.

For our last night in Rochester (and first for the Henriques) we planned a night session at the lovely outdoor seating area between the clubhouse and the burgee bar, seeing as we had so much fun the first time around last week. Cigars, Planation XO Reserve 20-year-old rum, craft beer, gin & tonics, chips, party mix, LED candlelight and, for me, a fresh shirt, and everything was right in the world. This particular spot had generated a magical moment for us twice now. It may be my favourite place on Lake Ontario.

By this time, Ana was starting to feel the pain from the fall and she was moving slower and slower. I was thinking a few shots of rum might help her but she didn’t go for it. I had a feeling the full body pain was going to get a lot worse before it got better. But she was grinning and bearing it.

During our chill session I told Tony and Angela about our interesting experience at the boat earlier in the day when they had gone for a walk. A man who had arrived with his wife on a boat called Real Cream walked by our boat and stopped when he saw me on it. He introduced himself as Mike and asked where this boat came from. I told him the story as I knew it of how it had been a charter boat in the BVIs, then was purchased by a Canadian couple and sailed back to Lake Ontario, where it sailed for many years then was sold to the man we bought it from, who also sailed it on the lakes but also took it to the Caribbean for two seasons.

“It’s called SeaLight?”

“Yep,” I said.

“Did it used to be blue?”

“Uh, yep,” I said, rather surprised.

“My friend is the one who bought this boat in the BVIs. I helped him sail it up to Canada.”

I was dumfounded. I invited him on board to see the boat and showed off all the improvements that had been done over the years. He told me the boat was fairly beaten up after its stint as a charter, but that his friend had done a lot of work on it. And the owner we bought it from had also done a great deal of work and upgrades. The most surprising thing he told me was that the boat used to be white! His friend painted it blue, then the guy we bought it from had it put back to white. He also said that SeaLight was the original name of the boat. That made me happy.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 12 - A Bird Tumble, Oswego Tour and Evening Sail

What a difference a day can make. We awoke to a beautiful, sunny, hot morning. The dystopian Oswego of yesterday was gone and replaced with an Oswego full of promise, life, and probably craft beer.

Tony and Angela made us all a delicious breakfast then we walked together towards downtown. Oswego is split neatly in half by the Oswego River which, if you follow it far enough, leads into the Erie Canal, which in turn will take you to New York City and from there the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world you would like to go. This is why I wanted to come to Oswego, as this is the town we will be returning to someday (inshallah) when we make our first trip to the Caribbean, unless we choose to go the very long way around through the St. Lawrence River.

We reached the bridge that crosses the river and the ladies turned east in search of consignment stores, Marshalls, and other value retail while Tony and I struck out west, across the bridge, towards the downtown area. We stopped midway across the bridge to admire the first of the seven locks on the Oswego River and the pack of kayakers who paddled into it then slowly rose as the water poured into the lock, and one 11 foot vertical rise later, the doors of the lock opened and they continued paddling upstream to the next lock.

We continued wandering into the historic downtown and came across an old armoury with a YMCA sign out front. After doing enough rounds of the famous dance to attract attention, we went inside and the manager on duty gave us a tour of the facility and filled us in on the history of the place. From here we walked up and down the streets of Oswego, seeing stately buildings, shops, restaurants, cool bars, a grocery store, and as we approached the water we came across the marinas. Along the way we noticed many electric Bird scooters propped up on street corners, lying on grassy boulevards, and leaned up against buildings. Bird is a company that rents scooters via an electronic console mounted on the scooter and a smart phone app. We both started fiddling with our phones to download the Bird app and get our credit card info entered, which took an incredible amount of time and effort, and I never did get mine working, so Tony spotted the both of us for scooter rentals. We were off!

Bird scooters are extraordinary. They are a testament to the fact that 95% of the energy used by a vehicle is used to just move the mass of the vehicle itself around; your weight is practically a rounding error. Not so with a scooter. These lightweight machines and their barely noticeable battery packs can whiz you around at up to 25 kph for something like 40 kilometres on a singe charge. Our friends Daryl and Lydia have an electric scooter on their boat which they store in a closet, and it has little hooks for hanging shopping bags and even a small trailer hitch for towing buggies or wagons!

Tony and I cruised around the marinas, down to the nautical museum, all throughout downtown, down a canal-side trail, and finally back up and over the bridge we had crossed over earlier, then a few blocks up to a second hand store where we found the girls. They handed us the bags of their purchases and we handed over the scooters then we walked back to the boat and left them for their second round of shopping.

Back at the boat we had some bbq sausages and a beer then got to work changing the primary and secondary fuel filters on the boat – something I had meant to do first thing in the spring but had somehow not made it to the top of the list and had been bothering me, as fuel issues are almost always the main culprit when your engine starts acting up and we didn’t want that. Somewhere along the way Tony had found a canvas repair person in the marina and talked her into patching up our rip.

Several hours later the ladies returned. Angela looked charming as usual. Stella was very fashionable. Ana had scrapes on her arm, legs, feet and bandages stuck all over her.

“What happened?” I asked, panicking.

“Mom fell off the scooter,” Stella said. “Flipped right over it and rolled across the concrete road.”

I was flabbergasted. She didn’t have mark on her face, her hair was neatly tied back in a bun, and she looked calm and collected.

“Are you serious?” I asked her. “What happened?”

“Well, basically we were running away from the cops. We weren’t wearing the mandatory helmets, Stella isn’t old enough to drive one, and we were riding them places we weren’t supposed to. So when we passed a cop car we hit the throttle and scooted out of there,” she said, all Daisy Duke like.

“OK, sounds good so far, but how did you fall?”

“I was turning back to make sure the cops weren’t gaining on us and all of a sudden I was in the air.”

“Did you hit your head?”

“Nope, my bun saved me,” she said as she caressed the knot of hair at the back of her head.

“I can’t believe you’re even walking right now.”

We decided that one full day in Oswego was enough to get the hang of the place, so at 7pm when the canvas repair was complete, we left the dock and started upon the 45 nautical mile sail to Rochester. We had a perfect moment along the way – the setting sun was casting a gorgeous orange glow over us as we enjoyed a glass of wine in the comfort of the heavily pillowed cockpit. We took turns answering critical life questions such as:

“If you could only drink two kinds of liquids for the rest of your life what would they be?”

“If you could only visit two more countries in your life, where would you go?”

“If you could only eat one meat, one fish, and one vegetable for the rest of your life, what would you choose?”

It's amazing what you think of when sequestered to a sailboat cockpit for hours and hours.

We made it to Rochester around 2:30am and docked with no issue. On the way through the channel, Tony had been diligently searching the shore for something.

Angela asked, “What are you looking for?”

“A canvas repair shop,” Tony said. “In case I put my arm through the other side of the cockpit!”

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 11 - Six Footers, Oswego, and Tossed Pizza Salad

For the first moment of the trip, I found some time to do some writing in the morning. Normally when it’s just us I have all sorts of alone time on the boat – during the overnight runs, the early morning departures when everybody goes back to bed once we’re underway, during the afternoons in marinas when the girls go shopping. But when you have friends aboard, there’s no time for that nonsense. It is non-stop action all the way, especially during a trip like this when the weather is beautiful. But the forecast had come true and today was rainy and windy.

By 10 the thunderstorms had passed and it looked like we had a window to make the jump to our next location – Oswego. The strong winds were blowing south but we’d have good cover for the first fifteen miles of the trip as we hugged the shoreline moving westwards, but at that point we’d have to turn south and face the waves directly. Hopefully it would be manageable.

After Tony snuck into the marina office and underhandedly paid for the dockage (just like he did with the fuel back in Kingston – some people just can’t be trusted with a credit card), we launched and found ourselves alone on the water, but suitably sheltered from the wind. The worst thing in sailing is being rushed, or having to be somewhere at a certain time. We could have stayed in Sackets for another day and night, but we had to be back in Newport by Saturday morning, and there were an awful lot of miles between us and there. So I made the call to leave. But I was regretting that decision when we made the turn around the headland and headed south into the lake. Some of the waves were five to six feet with a short period which was causing the boat to slam up and down into the water, crashing menacingly, tossing us around.  The wind was blowing at 20 - 25 knots but gusting to 30 at times. After a mile or two of that I gave up, turned the boat around, and we sailed back into the cover of the headland, dropped the anchor, and had lunch, hoping the winds would lose strength. I was loathe to return to Sackets, but didn’t want to risk things by continuing on in such bad conditions.

After two hours of waiting the winds had weakened a bit so we secured everything down and powered back into the open lake. The waves were now down to four feet and manageable so we agreed to continue on to Oswego by engine and autopilot.

“What do you think about the water conditions?” asked Angela.

“It’s going to be fine, looks good, no worries,” I replied confidently.

“Then why are you the only one wearing a lifejacket?” she noted.

“Ah ha, you got me there. Yeah, we’re probably going to die, but I prefer a slow, lingering death.”

 The remaining 30 nautical miles ride wasn’t terrible, and SeaLight handled the waves well, but it was slow and took six or seven hours. We arrived in the early evening to a dull, grey, dreary Oswego. On the way into the harbour Tony took a stumble and put his hand right through the canvas, whoops! Nothing a little duct tape can’t fix.

We reversed into our slip at the Oswego Marina then made an immediate and unanimous decision to get the hell off the boat and go find something to eat in town. We halfheartedly put on rain gear and started the trek into downtown, accidentally taking the furthest route possible to the closest restaurant – The Press Box, which we discovered later we could practically see from the marina. The walk was wet and depressing. Any city looks like hell when it’s raining and cloudy, but Oswego looked particularly bad.

The Press Box was your typical American Sports Bar and the food was nothing special, but it filled the gap. They did have one interesting item on the menu called “tossed salad on pizza”. I had to ask.

“Excuse me, what is the tossed salad on pizza?” I asked the server. “Surely it’s not just a salad tossed on top of a pizza, right?”

“That’s exactly what it is. The cook just throws the salad on top of the pizza. Very popular item. Healthy choice.”


On the way back to the boat we stopped to check out the marina washrooms. The door was propped open with a bucket and there was a guy inside cleaning fish at the sink. It smelled terrible. Tony pointed to the coded lock on the door and asked the guy if he knew the code.

“Sure, it’s 1436, but you don’t need to remember it,” he said, wiping his face with the part of his jacket arm not covered in fish slime.

“Why not?” asked Tony.

“Because somebody carved it into the door frame, see it there?” he said as he pointed his scaly and bloody knife towards it.

“Right, thanks man!”

Back at the boat, I pulled out a USB key Andrew had handed me back in Kingston and stuck it into the tv. A brand new horror movie “Black Phone” started to roll. I actually remained awake for the entire movie. It was excellent.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 10 - Dredge Marking, Compass Hijinks, and Sackets Harbor

I awoke early and headed straight up to the house to have coffee with Andrew. Like me, he’s always been an early riser, so quite often when I’m at home and my phone starts buzzing at 5:30am, I know with certainty who it is.

Before long, Tony (another early riser) joined in on the coffee session as we waited for the girls to get ready, and when they did they decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood. We took the opportunity to get into the lake and mark that high spot on the bottom that SeaLight’s keel had run into yesterday so that the dredger could be redeployed this week. It was again a hot a lovely day so the swim felt great.

It was around noon that we were finally ready to go so we pushed off, waved goodbye to Andrew and Victoria on the dock, had one last look at Holmes Mansion, then were on our way. As we had made two prior trips to Thousand Islands with Tony and Angela we decided to head back to the US side and visit some of the towns we missed on our way here. We stopped briefly at Portsmouth marina in Kingston for diesel and a pump out, then set a course south and east towards Sackets Harbour, which is located in the most northeast corner of Lake Ontario. But there was something wrong. The autopilot was acting crazy. I would lock in a heading and the boat would hold it for a minute, then start straying to the west. I reviewed all the settings on the autopilot controller and it all looked fine. I reset it to factory default, then did the required calibration sequence which requires you to do a series of slow 360’s in the boat. No dice. I then started checking all the wire connections deep in the belly of SeaLight, crawling around her most sensitive inner parts. Everything looked good. I checked in Tony and Angela’s cabin where the autopilot’s fluxgate compass was located to make sure there was no metal around it. All good there, nothing but a fabric lunch bag nearby.

Back at the helm I started fiddling around with the autopilot controller again, and somehow changed the default language to Korean.

“Oh shit, I changed the language to Korean!” I said.

“What??” said Ana. “How did you do that”

“I don’t know, I was just pressing some buttons and poof, Korean.”

“You better change it back.”

“I can’t read any of the buttons, it’s in Korean!”

Of course I couldn’t find anything in google on the Raymarine menu structure so I sat there, out of options, until Stella came over, pulled something up on her phone, held it in front of the autopilot screen, and sweet English magically appeared, instantly. Stella is now my go-to IT Helpdesk.

My next move was to start pulling wires out and reconnecting things but before I got started on that, Ana’s googling found that a metal or magnetic item even within six feet of the fluxgate compass could result in the behavior we were seeing. So Tony and Angela went back down into the cabin to look. Nope, just that innocent fabric lunch bag…with a damn magnetic latch! The lunch bag was removed, the autopilot’s pristine operation was restored, and we stopped the boat for a celebratory swim.

We arrived to Sackets Harbour in the early evening and tried dropping the hook in the anchorage marked on the charts, but it must have been a flat, shale rock bottom as we could not get that anchor to stick into anything. Ana called Navy Point Marina and they found a slip for us, just barely big enough to side-slide SeaLight into. After getting docked we mixed up some drinks and walked over to a nice seating area overlooking the bay for a sundowner. The evening was beautiful, but the next day’s forecast wasn’t looking too beautiful at all – high winds, rain, thunderstorms.

After a delicious dinner of butterflied pork loins, grilled foil packs of potatoes, and fresh veggies, we went for a walk into the town, in darkness. The only thing open was the Boathouse restaurant with this phenomenal garden patio, but there were also a number of cute shops and houses along the main street, as well as a military museum.

We decided to call it a day, and return to explore tomorrow if we were unable to travel because of the weather. Tony and I had one more drink in the cockpit to the sounds of an auto-generated country music playlist based on “Buy Me A Boat” by Chris Janson – the Olson family currently hottest trending (and perhaps only) country music song.

Friday, August 5, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 9 - Transition Day, Prime Rib, and Fancy Toilets

It was transition day. The halfway point of the trip. Time to turn around and start heading west. After a round of swims and lake baths in the warm water of the beautifully calm anchorage, we pulled anchor and started the easy 10 mile run through the Bateau Channel to Andrew’s place. Yesterday we had hung out a hammock between the headsail and the mast so this morning we all took turns swinging and lounging as SeaLight slowly motored her way down the calm channel.

Andrew was there to greet us as we maneuvered SeaLight into the dock slip, right beside the huge barge. We tickled one rock with our keel on the way in, but adjusted our approach a bit and easily got her docked and tied up. A round of hugs ensued, then Andrew asked if we'd like to take the Diamond Level docking package again this time which included free electrical, free water, gasoline top-ups, unlimited ice, free laundry service, and all the booze and food we could consume. We’d been very happy with this package in the past so we stuck with it.

Pat and Melissa asked for some time alone to untangle the complicated mess of gear they had stuffed into the aft cabins. As they had arrived before us on the first day, we didn’t know how much they had brought, but every day they had been pulling out a new cool piece of kit, so I expected the load was substantial.

Ana and I went up to the house to have coffee with Andrew and Victoria. They took us on a tour of the house to see all the new goodies they had procured since the last time we were there. We first saw their new ultra luxurious, ultra automated, Japanese-inspired, feng shui toilet fabulouso. It had everything – auto-lowering seat, LED night lighting, retractable sprayers with rear and frontal cycles, water massage settings, auto flush, odour control, auto dryer, auto-sanitize, heated seat, temperature control. If this spectacular unit didn’t provide you with the cleanest and happiest ringpiece on the block, then there really was no hope for you. The lower level now boasted a huge fitness coach machine with a 7 foot high screen that swung open to reveal an inventory of dumbbells, kettle bells, tension straps, and other fitness gear. The touch screen allowing you to select any of hundreds of prerecorded workouts - yoga, pilates, cycling, stretching, and similar painful programs, but the one that really grabbed my attention was the hot dog speed eating course by American competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut. I would definitely be checking that one out later.

After the tour we looked out from the expansive deck to the dock and we could scarcely see the surface of it for all the gear that had been heaped on. We walked down to investigate. The pile was extraordinary. Andrew looked to the pile, then to the boat, then back to the pile.

“How did they fit it all in?” he asked in wonder.

“Ever seen those Narnia movies? The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? You know that closet that opens into an entire world?” I said.


“That’s how sailboats work.”

“We’re going to need a front end loader.”

Before long, Pat’s parents John and Judy arrived with our friends Tony and Angela and our sweet daughter Stella – new crew for the return trip! We had a nice visit, they got the tour of the palace, and then we gave John a bottle of whisky to celebrate his 70th birthday, which he had so far been spent driving for four hours through traffic on the 401 highway and would require another four on the way home. Pat pulled some more Narnia magic and crammed all their gear into his dad’s truck. We had a round of hugs, said our goodbyes, gave Beau a big kiss, and they were on their way after such an incredible week.

Ana, Angela, Stella, and Victoria went out food shopping while the boys stayed home and didn’t do much besides having a couple of rum and cokes on the boat, visiting, and occasionally checking in on the gigantic prime rib roasting on the smoker. We got off easy.

Soon, the ladies had returned, as well as Andrew and Vic’s friends Adrian and Sarah, so once all the groceries were packed away we all gathered on the deck and had a great time visiting, laughing, and telling stories. Adrian and Sarah are really cool cats – we had met them the last time we were here, but got to know them a bit better this time around. As mealtime approached, their neighbours Don and Jan also arrived and soon we were gathered around the dining room table with whopping huge prime rib slabs on our plates.

After a whole lot of food, drinks, and laughs, the day caught up with us and we retired exhausted to SeaLight. Week two had begun.

2022 Sailing Trip Day 8 - Superman Pull, Talking Like Pirates, and Creeping Out Beau

Has there ever been a more beautiful day to wake up to? Clear skies, warm temperature, a quiet anchorage, and clear cool water. I was the first one up so went for a long paddleboard ride circumnavigating the bay. Pat and Beau appeared not long after that and took a swim/lake bath and paddleboard ride themselves. Once everybody was up we made a big bacon and egger breakfast, complete with Corona beers, to start the day out right. After a bit of lounging around we pulled up the anchor and set a course back to Canada. With all the turns and lack of wind there wasn’t much point sailing, so we motored all the way to Gananoque, nerve centre for the Canadian side of the Thousand Islands. As expected, the check-in to Canadian customs was long, overly complicated, and ungratifying – pretty much the opposite of entering the US which was all done through a simple phone app and video call. Canada forces boaters to dock at an approved location before calling in, so we found a nice piece of unoccupied dock and got just close enough for Pat to do a Superman leap. The girls then tossed him two lines and he pulled them simultaneously, Superman-style, and powered the boat into the dock. Since we were there, and waiting on hold, we took the opportunity to dump all our garbage and recycling, and fill up the water tanks. We didn’t stick around long enough to ask if there was a charge for any of that.

We powered back out to some nearby island groups, which are clustered close to Gananoque. I had picked out a couple of potential anchorage spots on the map so we motored to those, but at each one we found issues – too shallow, not sheltered enough, not enough room to fit SeaLight, private cabins on shore. Beau too was having a bad day and at one point something weird started happening to his face – it started getting all squished up, and he was making this strange sound, then a tiny drop of water fell from his eye and I realized he was crying! First time we’d heard him cry all trip. It lasted a about 5 seconds then Melissa pulled out another of those baby sludge packs – this one some strange combination like Salmon and Radish – and once she squirted a few cubic inches of this organic glue into him he was completely happy again. We searched for an anchorage unsuccessfully for at least three hours, then finally decided to head to Lindsay Island, one of the westernmost spots, and along the way towards our friend Andrew’s house where we’d be travelling to the following day. We’d anchored in Lindsay several times before and it's a great spot so we motored in, set the hook, then cracked some beers and started talking like pirates. There is nothing more fun than talking like a pirate. Try it. Say, “Argh, would one of you limey cabin boys hand me that tube of butt paste. Me pantaloons have been chafing me arse all afternoon.” See, I told you it’s fun.

During the pirate talk and drinking Ana came up with this profoundly good idea. Beau was getting tired of all his regular toys like the boat engine key, a bungee cord, the spider web dusting broom, the bimini snap tool, and the bottle of diesel additive, so Ana grabbed this blue rubber pastry brush we use for saucing up meat on the bbq and showed it to him. He seemed interested at first, and reached out and touched it and as soon as his fingers caused the tiny blue rubber fingers to move, he recoiled in disgust, making an awful face. Ana, noticing the reaction, then rubbed it on his cheek which completely creeped him out and made his body shiver as he drew away. What fun! We kept the game of “torture the baby” going for quite a while, in fact right up until our friends Andrew and Victoria pulled up in their fancy Regal 32’ bowrider and we tied the boats together for happy hour, round 2.

A stop at Andrew and Vic’s enormous mansion in the Bateau Channel is the only constant in our trips to the Thousand Islands. You see, he has a wonderfully huge waterfront property, an executive house with every piece of automation and smart home technology you could imagine, a long range telescope to spy on the neighbours across the channel on Howe Island, a huge dock with enough depth to host a sailboat, an endless supply of rum and fancy beer, three extra bedrooms, free prime ribs from his meat supplier, an ice machine in every room, high tech toilets and showers, a dog, a truck to borrow for getting groceries and, most importantly, an outstanding sense of humour. Vic has an equally outstanding sense of patience to put up with his shenanigans (and mine when we visit). One thing I like about Andrew is he really understands our needs. For instance, he knows I like my slips freshly dredged, so earlier in the week he had arranged for a dredging company to tug their gigantic barge over and clear out thousand of pounds of rocks and mud from the dock area, for an extortionate amount of money. He’s just that kind of guy.

As we drank a few rounds of rum and cokes we caught up on news and had some laughs. They claimed it was a social visit, but he was really here to inspect our boat. You see, gypsy sailboats tend to bring down property values, and property value is very important to Andrew, so he made us take down all the beef jerky we were drying on the lifelines. It was a fair compromise for free dockage.

We tried talking them into staying for dinner, but they had to get back to their palace to discipline the butler, so we were left to finish off the day by consuming an outrageous quantity of amazing skewers Pat and Melissa had brought along – delicious marinated pork chunks, beefy mushrooms, wads of haloumi cheese, and fresh peppers, all seared to perfection on SeaLight’s ultra hot bbq grill.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 7 - Bass Boats, Clayton Shoppes, and Hull Scrapes

As we motored south of Wolf Island along the glassy lake surface at 7:10am we heard a strange drone of faraway powerboat engines that was approaching rapidly. We looked to the east and saw four boats approaching at high speed. Bass boats! They ripped by us in turn, moving at maximum speed as they jetted off to their fishing holes. My enthusiastic waving was unreturned as the drivers were laser focused on the paths ahead of them, driving carefully, as an errant wave or wake could flip those boats right over. Bass boats are designed specifically for fishing and have huge outboard engines, extremely low waterlines, and flat surfaces from which to fish from. From the same direction came another three boats, then five more, and for the next half an hour we were passed by at least a hundred bass boats, indicating an American tournament and it must have been a big one because I’ve never seen so many bass boats together in one place in my life, and there probably aren’t this many fancy bass boats in all of Canada. I could almost smell the chewing tobacco, Bud Light, and atomized bass lure scent enhancer from our cockpit.

We soon reached the town of Clayton, New York and tied up SeaLight at the public docking area. After breakfast we geared up for a walk to stretch out the legs after a long night on the water. Clayton is a picture perfect American town, and the largest on the US side of the Thousand Islands…at 1900 people. Directly beside the docks is the Antique Boat Museum, and there we saw a poster for the Bassmaster fishing tournament, which had kicked off this morning and would continue for three days. We made note of the weigh-in times later this afternoon so we could return to see what it was all about.

With Beau strapped into his stroller and enjoying the ride as his eyes darted back and forth taking everything in, we walked the short distance into the main downtown area, which is located right on the river with stunning views, cute shops, bars, restaurants, and was already filled with people. We went into one shop called RAKS Clothing, Footwear & Gifts and Pat went gaga over the huge selection of OluKai sandals and shoes. Melissa loved the clothes. Ana was looking at everything. I hung out with Beau, criss-crossing the same aisles in the store over and over until I couldn’t stand it anymore and grabbed Ana then the three of us walked further down the street and found ourselves some nice Adirondack chair to sit and enjoy the view over the water and teach Beau some bad words.

Melissa and Pat soon joined us and we explored the rest of the downtown finding, among other things, the Clayton Opera House, a kick-ass hardware store where I picked up a few doodads for the boat, and the Eagle Shoppe – I have no idea what they sold but that fancy suffix really gave me some ideas on how I can class up my writing. Which of the following sentences sounds more classy to you?

I sat down on the toilet and took a shit.

I satte down on the toilette and took a shitte.

See what I mean?

It was time for drinks and lunch so Pat, Beau and I found at table at the riverfront Bella’s and ordered a round of manly Peach Daiquiris then sipped them with our pinky fingers in the air while the ladies finished up their retail explorations. They soon joined us and we enjoyed a lovely lunch while Beau charmed all the ladies at the surrounding tables – man, that kid can hold an audience!

After lunch the lads went to the Antique Boat Museum while the ladies returned to the shoppes. The museum clams the largest freshwater antique boat in the US with over 300 boats on display, most out of the water, but a few beauties actually in the water which are operated regularly. The boating and fishing culture in this area goes back right to the founding of these countries and the Thousand Islands has been a playground for water lovers all this time and continues to be. As we were winding up in the speedboat gallery we spotted the girls coming up the street so joined them and we went over to the Bassmaster weigh-in which was underway.

The whole thing was very weird. Fox Sports had professional cameras everywhere and wrestling-style overexcited announcers hosting the proceedings and introducing the fishermen. That was not the only wrestling parallel – some of these fishermen have wrestling names: The Clown Prince, Little Joe, The Spinnerbait Kid, Big Mac, The General, and even crazier, as each one came out their theme song would blare from the giant speakers. Thunderstruck, You Got Another Thing Coming and other overplayed hard rock classics were well represented, but one guy’s song was Baby Shark, and you should have seen Beau smiling at that one. Each fisherman came out from behind a curtain carrying his bag of five fish. He would reach into the bag, pull out the two biggest ones he had caught, then hold them up in front of him with arms outstretched, smiling widely, and the announcer would reveal the total weight of his five fish. Seems 25 pounds was a big number, and a couple had bags over that weight, while many were under, as low as 17 pounds. But everybody got a round of applause for however many pounds of slaughtered fish they brought home. 

As we walked back to the boat we realized the wind had really picked up and the bay water was choppy as hell, not just from the wind, but also from the dozens or hundreds of boats zipping around. When we arrived at SeaLight we saw her being rammed into the dock from the wind and wake and realized we had not positioned the fenders properly and the hull was being scraped by the wood. We pushed her out and repositioned the fenders then assessed the damage. It was mostly cosmetic, but looked awful. I added that one to my list of fall projects then we all had a little nap.

After our nap, and a search for ice that took Pat and I nearly an hour, we pushed SeaLight off the dock and motored away. Ten minutes later we realized we had left a fender tied to the dock so we circled back around, had somebody on the dock toss it to us, then were off for good. We sailed a short distance north to an anchorage at Picton Island and were shocked to find ourselves the only boat there. A beautiful, warm lake swim ensued then we made a gorgeous dinner of pork tenderloin, zucchini, tiny potatoes, and lots of red wine to wash it down.

We finished the evening by turning off all the lights and sitting in the cockpit, enjoying the silence, the warm air, the darkness, and the solitude of a beautiful anchorage in the islands.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

2022 Sailing Trip Day 6 - Sodus Bay, BLTs, and the Overnight Run

We threw off the dock lines at 5 am and started making our way eastward towards Sodus Bay. After helping us off the dock, Ana went back to bed leaving Pat and I alone to pilot the vessel and soon Pat had mixed us up a beer and Clamato and we were gnawing away on the giant tub of pretzels as we powered through the water with the wind directly in our face.

Pat and his two brothers have been living around marinas for so long they have become birders, but for boats. Birders are those curious folks who can recognize the look and songs of any kind of bird and spend all their available time trying to spot as many and as wide a variety as possible. The Doerr boys do that with boats.

“See about two miles off our starboard side, that’s a 33’ Sea Ray Amberjack, looks like a 1997 model.”

“Off there in the distance, looks like a Sunseeker Tomahawk 41, 1995 model. Twin 260 horse Yanmar diesels, but I heard they vibrate a lot over 2200 rpm.”

“It’s so damn foggy on the lake, but can you hear that Azimut passing by us? I’m guessing it’s a 2008 43S by the purr of those 435 Volvo Pentas. Nice hardtop on those boats.”

“Check out that Hatteras 50 Convertible, looks like a 2005, man I’d give my left nut for that beauty. Nice lines.”

That’s the one line that can get you into the game. If you are with the Doerr boys and a fancy looking powerboat drives by you can say, “Nice lines,” and they will all nod in agreement and it makes you feel like you’ve earned a little bit of boat cred. Try it sometime.

After everybody was up, Melissa and Pat made us these delicious BLT bagels for breakfast and shortly after that we were pulling into the gas dock at Sodus Point Katlynn marina. Sodus Bay is a large, protected harbour with the small village of Sodus Point and its marinas to the west and a few other docking spots and restaurants scattered throughout the shorelines of the bay.

The kids working the gas dock did a pump out and diesel fill for us. Pat noticed the unusually short time it took to fill the fuel tank.

“How much did the fuel cost?” Pat asked me.

“A hundred and fifty,”  replied, all cool-like.

“A hundred and fifty?? We got all the way from Newport on a hundred and fifty bucks worth of fuel? That doesn’t even get my boat over to the gas dock at Dover.”

“Actually we last filled up in Port Dalhousie the weekend before. We burn about one gallon per hour,” I said, lovingly patting the topside of SeaLight.

I really felt like I should let Pat pay for the fuel so that he could brag to his buddies back at Port Dover about his cheapest fill up ever and give him a great story, but before I could do that the gas dock kid grabbed my credit card and disappeared.

We decided a swim was in order so we motored back across the bay, got anchored, then jumped in the 26C degree water for a glorious swim. Little Beau floated around joyously, kicking his feet underwater, splashing his hands, but mostly just laying there, chilling out. The sun was out and shining brightly but there were many clouds building on all horizons and rain was in the forecast.

We did some trip planning after our swim and decided that we’d make the overnight run to the Thousand Islands later today, but would first check out the village of Sodus Point. We tried getting a slip at the Sodus Bay Yacht Club but they didn’t have any room for us so told us to tie up to one of the mooring balls in the bay instead. We had a hell of a time getting attached and it took us a few attempts, but we finally got it. We then launched the dinghy and motored into town.

Sodus Point, population 900, is a cute little town. It is clearly a boater place, as the main street is home to several marinas and boat fix-it shops, as well as a few restaurants and bars. We picked up a few boat supplies at the chandlery, and they even managed to straighten out my bent up anchor pin from the telephone line incident at Wilson. We then embarked on a walk to explore the wider town but got as far as the gazebo in the nearby park when the sky opened and the rain started to fall. We sheltered in place for long enough to get bored and realize the rain was not letting up, so then hustled back to one of the restaurants for drinks and nachos. I couldn’t help but laugh at the young servers, two of which asked us if we’d like a kids menu after they noticed Beau. Sure, he’s a chunky kid, but considering he has only two teeth, I’m not sure how they thought he’d be able to manage a plate of chicken fingers or a hot dog. No, Beau was happy with his baby formula and ground up meat and veggie paste that came out of those tubes that magically appeared from Melissa’s pocket whenever they were called for.

We cut our Sodus Point adventure short due to weather and dinghied back to the boat on the “Wet Bum Express”. Stowing the dinghy on SeaLight is even worse than deploying it, and for the time we were actually able to spend in Sodus, it may have been more efficient for us to just swim into shore. First you need to tie the dinghy up to the stern of the boat, detach the 57 pound outboard engine, lift it up and onto the boat, then secure it to the outboard motor mount that is attached to the stern rails – an excellent back and shoulder workout. Next, you have to walk the dinghy up to the front of the boat, rig up some lifting lines, then attach those to the main sail halyard line. Once this is done, one person stays up front with a boat hook to keep the dinghy from scraping the side of the boat, and a second person goes back to the cockpit, attaches a winch handle to the winch, and starts grinding away, which slowly raises the dingy – an excellent arm workout. Once the dinghy has been winched sufficiently high, both people are needed at the front to flip it up and over the lifelines then set it down on the topside of the boat, then tie it down with ropes to keep it from flying off. By this time you’re tired and need a drink, which is exactly what we did while the ladies prepared dinner burritos down in the galley.

After a delicious dinner, we were back underway, out of Sodus Bay, and pointed north-east towards the Thousand Islands. We finally had the wind in our favour, blowing from the north-west, and experienced four hours of beautiful sailing under 15 knots of wind with nobody on the lake except for us. Of course, the wind eventually shifted eastward, and strengthened to 20 knots, and by midnight it was directly in our face so we had to lower the sails and fire up the motor, providing a rough and noisy ride as we pounded through the building waves.

Ana and Melissa had taken the first shift, then Pat and I took over at 2am. I hadn’t been able to sleep much so I dozed off in the cockpit for the first couple of hours while Pat was on watch. The night was long, it was dark, and it was bouncy. But as dawn approached the wind eased, the lake fell flat, and the outlet which led to the St. Lawrence River and the start of the Thousand Islands came into view. it was the beginning of a new day.