1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: October 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Here comes - er, there goes Sandy...

After much internal debate (and a complete review of every weather and wind site on the net), I decided my best and safest bet was to hang out here in Port Dover and let Sandy do her stuff while I watched from a safe distance - like a couple of hundred miles distance. Interestingly enough, the two day's prior weather was fairly benign - I could have made Buffalo without a lot of hassle, but the question would have been - can I get a safe place on the western end of the Erie Canal to weather the storm. Oh yea, the other question was - do I really want to be 75 to 100 miles closer? The answer to both questions it turns out, was not easily to finding a dock, and no to being closer. Turns out the Erie Canal was entirely shut down, so a dock in the canal wasn't possible.
So here I am, tied up in the commercial docks - the fish tugs that are usually here are off to the west, fishing out of Port Stanley and Erieau. I've got power to run my heater and computer, I've got an internet connection, propane to run my other heater, lots of lines tying me to the dock and I'm reasonably close to downtown, Tim Horton's coffee and other amenities. And I'm currently sipping a nice red wine, so all is good.
Best of all, I have new friends here, LiveBlog follower Brian and his wife Louise, Liam, Hillary, George (whose dock I'm using with his kind permission)...it's funny, but the worst of times - bad weather, boat breakdowns, etc., have almost every time brought out some new adventure for me, led me to new friends and neat places. This time is no different. My only concern has been that Sandy would trash the Erie Canal and make it impossible for me to go south this year, at least on my boat.
Winds were predicted to go to 40, and perhaps 50 knots last night, out of the north. That is 46 to 58 miles per hour for you landlubbers. Lots of rain. We got the lots of rain and winds made it to 45, so fairly accurate forecast for this location.
Fortunately, I'm at the northern side of the harbour where the protection is best, and I'm well tied up, with lots more line at the ready should it be needed, which it wasn't.
btw, this is not Gypsy Wind's first hurricane, since I've owned her, it's the third. The first was Isabel, in Annapolis. Second was Irene, in Virginia, and now, Sandy here in Ontario. Notice please, all those names are female...which leads me back to the point of my last post, lol!
Here's a photo of Gypsy Wind at the docks....

Notice, she's nicely tied up, no winds or waves about her.....about how it was in fact all night long.

And here's one of the forecast just about prior to Sandy going ashore as of Monday at about 6 pm Eastern time....
So what's next you ask? I contacted the Erie Canal today, and the canal will be back in operation sometime in the next week after they have gotten water levels re-established. They drained major parts of the canal to prevent any flooding from the storm and to protect the dams and other infrastructure. Now they have to put the plug back in and wait for the canal to fill.
So I'm out of here on Thursday - winds will be out of the west, perfect for this trip. I'd leave tomorrow, but I have work that needs to be done and there's no rush, since the canal won't be open until next week now.
Oh - one more piece of good news...I have several friends who are on their boats heading south as well - all are fine and their boats are safe. 
I do believe I'll pour myself a glass of wine and have a wee celebration!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Video; Dramatic rescue of crew of HMS Bounty off NC

This US Coast Guard video is compelling, showing the risks these men and women take to keep us mariners safe. The sea conditions are 18 feet, winds to 40 knots. It's a long video, 11 minutes, but worth watching.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Does anyone understand Women?

Oh my, what's Wally going to post this time? Will this be a rant about women in general, women in particular, or just some women? Well, you be the judge here as I tell you about my troubles with the women in my life...
Last year it was Irene. This year, it's Sandy. And we won't even talk about the havoc that Kathy or Sue have wrought...
I'm speaking of hurricanes of course, what on earth would make you think otherwise?
I've finally got the mast down, at Bridges Marina in Port Dover and I'm ready to head for the Erie Canal, after a stop in Port Colborne - another place with some great memories from past visits.
However, just about everyone I know, plus everyone on Facebook, and quite a few from this blog, have emailed, phoned or otherwise made a point of telling me about Hurricane Sandy (and thank you for your concern), now coming up on the Bahamas and predicted to hit the US east coast next week....just coincidentally coming up to bash the Erie Canal.
Last year, Irene pretty much totaled the canal - it tore out two entire locks, and in some places dredged entirely new channels. The rushing waters at some points were more than 20 feet above normal - even damaging bridge structures well above the water. These pictures from Tug 44's website show the carnage.
A nice closeup of the dam at E-11, shows the ribs are sprung and bent backwards. This dam is wrecked.   photos from http://www.tug44.org/flood/hurricane-irene-2011/

This photo shows a view of Erie Canal Lock E-10. The foreground was the parking lot, but now it has become a new channel of the Mohawk River. The white thing in the water is all that remains of the 100 year old Power House. The raging torrent scoured out the foundation and the 2 story masonry building collapsed into the hole.   photos from http://www.tug44.org/flood/hurricane-irene-2011/.

Amazingly, the State of New York completed the repairs over the winter and opened for the 2012 season on time. That was an astounding feat of work, one most people said couldn't be done.
This year, we have Sandy coming up the coast just in time to meet me on the Erie Canal - maybe, since she's clearly still considering it if the weather reports can be believed. 
Now I don't usually object to a woman coming to meet me at the boat, say at someplace nice like Fairport, for lunch, but Sandy will likely have other plans. She may, in fact, prevent me from going south this winter if she floods the locks the way Irene did last year. 
It appears though that the Canal Corp has learned a lesson from last year and are already prepping the system for high water, and Sandy, like most women, isn't sure just where she's going....oh oh, now I've done it, haven't I? I"m watching the hurricane monitoring site almost on an hourly basis, hoping Sandy will decide on an Atlantic cruise rather than upstate New York.
Here's what Sandy's current plans are...notice the Tuesday storm centre, just to the east of the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal.
Notice the Wednesday center, right up just about on the east end of the canal.....oh my!

[Image of probabilities of tropical storm force winds]

The second map shows the likeliehood of 34 mph plus winds on the projected storm path - in other words, on the Erie Canal region. As of Friday night, that's anywhere from 10 - 30%. If Sandy's current forecast bears out, that will very shortly be 80 - 90% and that green colour will be purple, or 100%. I have no idea what colour I'll be at that point...
So, any suggestions on what I should do here? Go west to the canal, stay put on Lake Erie, hire a truck and avoid this mess....buy a vowel maybe? Wait! I've got the solution - I'll buy an RV and head for New Mexico - they never have hurricanes there and it's warm....of course, they've got tornadoes, which are notorious for attacking aluminum cans on wheels.....just ask any trailer park resident.
On the brighter side, the people I've met so far here in Port Dover have been great. Brian, who reads this blog religiously - ok, maybe not quite that fastidiously - dropped by the dock this morning with a cup of Timmie's - bless you my friend....and invited me to breakfast with fellow sailor Hillary - that would be as in the guy who climbed Mount Everest, and not as in Clinton. You can check out Brian's blog here: Dock Six Chronicles. 
Later on, I spent several pleasant hours chatting with Liam - hard to believe we actually got the mast down on the deck today with all the fun we had, but we did. I can see I'll be returning to Port Dover in the future.
Ok, that's it for today....have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wild Weekend in Windsor

Ok, it wasn't a wild weekend in that sense, but I pick up lots more stray readers with that title so it's good for the blog stats! What it was was a wonderful weekend with new friends Paul and Mary Ouellette, of Windsor. 
Here's where I am now, in Port Stanley.

I pulled into Lakeview Marina on Friday to be greeted by Mary. Paul showed up shortly after and once the boat was tucked away, we were off to the best rib dinner I have ever had. Seriously tasty food. Saturday was spent running errands and doing some exploring with Paul and then that evening, we went out for THE BEST T-BONE STEAK I have ever experienced. I say experienced, because to just say 'tasted' doesn't do justice to how good this was. Let me put it this way: bless that cow for living so well, bless the farmer who fed it, bless the butcher who cut that slice of meat, bless the chef who lovingly prepared it exactly right, bless the cute young waitress who brought it to the table...oh, and Paul, many MANY thanks for bringing me there!
That evening, Paul and I sat up and discussed traveling the ICW, which Paul intends to do when he retires on his boat, Winpipe, a Beneteau 36. Did I say discussed? Ha! Paul picked my brains - he may well now be the world's second best expert on the ICW, and it was loads of fun.
Sunday, the weather turned nice, finally, and I got a late start out of Lakeview, ending up at Kingsville in a commercial harbour. 
The original plan was to head across to the American side to Put In Bay, then harbour hop down to Dunkirk and have the mast taken down there. However, I had not been able to contact the club to confirm that it could be done, so I decided to stay on the Canadian side as far as Port Stanley, giving me the option of going to several different places if Dunkirk wasn't available.
From Kingsville, I had a whole two hours of great sailing before the winds died, screaming along at 6.5 - 7 knots in a lovely beam reach. After that, it was chugging along with Yanni, the ever faithful Yanmar diesel, to Erieau. I decided to take a break there, then continue on another 35 miles to Port Stanley. That four hour break cost me dearly.
Had I not taken the time for dinner and a nap, I would have arrived in Port Stanley at half past midnight. Instead, at half past midnight, I was still 20 some miles out when the winds began to pick up. I was able to motorsail for a while (sail with motor running, more speed) and then the winds picked up and went on the nose. And the waves, they picked up to. Now I was slamming into 3 - 5 footers and going nowhere. Worst of all, short of turning around and giving up the 20 plus miles I'd made, there was nowhere TO go. It was Port Stanley or nothing.
Speed is now down to 2 knots, sometimes less, and that's with the sails up. They're doing nothing of course because of the wind direction and there's no point in tacking, i.e. heading off at 45 degrees to get some wind advantage. To go to starboard means a much greater tack than 45° because the winds are off to that side. I'd lose far too much distance and slam even harder into the waves. To go to port meant heading towards the shore, never a smart move on a lee in bad weather.
Poor Aduana (the Wonderpuppy®), meanwhile, was huddled between my legs, shivering in fright. The only good thing about the entire night was that it was warm and it only rained briefly, and lightly. Other than that, it was one of the most unpleasant sails I've ever had, by about a factor of 20. The nastiness finally quit about 5:30, but by then, my mainsail was in tatters: it had been too rough to risk going out to drop it. I was planning on replacing it anyway when I got to Annapolis, and I consciously made the decision not to go forward knowing I was likely to lose the sail, but it's still irksome.
Finally, about 7 am, we turned into the entrance buoys for Port Stanley, a place of very good memories for me. I took those memories with me into the v-berth and went to blessed sleep.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


These big winds just won't quit. I'm stuck in Sarnia today, high winds out of the south and they're continuing tomorrow as well, but stronger. Since the trip from here to Lake Erie is on the river though, with Lake St. Clair in the middle, I'm going to head out in the morning for Windsor. Here's the plan, Stan....and everyone else of course...

I'm at the top of the page, in Sarnia. I follow the blue line down the river, and would normally take that route across the lake. However, as you can see, the winds are right on the nose, at 25 mph. Plus, Lake St. Clair is very shallow - average 12 feet or so - meaning that the wind will kick up fairly short, nasty waves of about three feet. That's not fun. And the current, that will help me get down the river, doesn't help, because the wind against that current makes the waves shorter, and steeper, and generally nastier.
So Plan 'B' is to head to the western shore and hide from the waves while I run south to Windsor. 
There IS a Plan 'C' - hire a truck and head down I75 to Miami and the heck with these damn winds. Fortunately, they're supposed to diminish by the weekend, which of course is when I get to Lake Erie and these south and southwest winds would be working in my favour.
Just who is in charge of this asylum anyway?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Goderich Surprise....

There I was, standing in the companionway, trying to find a perfectly good - or even reasonably good - excuse to not get out the 800 grit and sand down the interior of the cockpit and then wax it. I've been planning on doing this job for a while now - a long while actually. Too long if the truth were known...
The argument with my conscience was getting heated and it seemed like the job was going to get done today, no suitable excuse being found. I'd already written an article for SAIL, done a proposal for another article, sent them both in and updated some other work. There wasn't anything left undone.
Then, I saw a pair of legs, no, make that two pairs of legs, standing on the dock, everything from the knees up being blocked by the bimini. What's this about, since I'm on a commercial dock and there's no traffic here?
Those legs belonged to Al and Susan, who are readers of this blog from this area and who came down to say hello. What a fabulous surprise. Not only did I get to meet two neat sailors and enjoy their company, I did not have to muck out that cockpit now. I had a perfect, guilt-free excuse to not do what I should be doing - sort of like fat free cherry cheesecake, or great tasting non alcoholic beer.
Ok, that third one doesn't really exist, but you get my meaning, and I refuse to believe that cherry cheesecake isn't good for you. 
Al and Susan are now in the last stages of getting ready to go cruising themselves, with Susan's job ending mid next year. They tell me their intentions are to enrich a variety of marine retailers at the Toronto Boat Show this January, since Susan will still have an income, and there's still lots of boat stuff they need. I didn't have the heart to tell them that that aspect of cruising will never change...
Anyhow, Al and Susan, thanks for the visit! I can use all the pleasant surprises like that I can get. I'll look forward to seeing you at the Toronto Boat Show in January, and on the water next summer....AND....down south the winter after that!
The winds have been howling today, making it very pleasant to be tucked up here in the harbour, and it looks like I won't be heading out tomorrow as hoped for, since the winds (I just checked now) are predicted to be S 25 - 30. Why does that not surprise me? Tuesday looks like the day to go, with winds going into the NW, making Sarnia do-able.
Al, if you get this and you aren't busy tomorrow, I forgot to get your email and give you and Susan my card. Drop by for lunch if you're free.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I'm free, I'm free.....sort of!

Well, finally out of Tobermory! It only took what, ten days before the weather cleared up? Left yesterday morning at 7:20 am - winds were still healthy, but way down from what they were. Seas were easily three feet, with a few six footers wandering around looking for someone to smack around. Since I was the only damn fool out there, they smacked me around for a bit.
As predicted, the winds died down fairly quickly, as did the waves, so it was a motorsail to Goderich - a long motorsail, I didn't arrive here until 12:41 am - just over 90 nm, or over 100 statute miles. A long day, but when the winds die down (yes, they're back, they followed me here I think), I'll have a good shot at making Sarnia. I figure sometime next May...if I'm lucky.
For the many times I've stopped in Goderich, until today I've never wandered up into the town to check it out. Since I'm stuck here for a couple of days, I wandered up the hill to look things over. This is a beautiful town, I should have done this years ago. 
The path up from the marina puts you at the top of the harbour, (fabulous views from the top of the harbour looking over the lake), with all the old mansions and it's just lovely. From there, I wandered into the downtown  and noticed there were quite a few properties undergoing construction. I stopped at an art shop and spoke to the owner, who happens to be the head of the BIA here. There was a major tornado here a year ago August - an F3 - that tore the town up. It stripped every tree from the town center, plus tore out a lot of the beautiful historic buildings, which are now being rebuilt.
Fortunately, wiser heads have prevailed, and the downtown is being rebuilt in the same heritage style.  I'd put photos up, but my internet connection here is terrible - this will barely load, so please forgive me.
However, check the town out online, it really is very nice - here's a good link for photos. The center of town is an octagon, and all the streets radiate outwards from it as you can see. There are also some good photos of the hurricane damage, such as the one of a church with a hole right through it, and a before and after of the town center with - and without - trees. They're replanting the trees at the end of November, and investing in several that are 60 feet in height.
More tomorrow - once I can get a better connection. I'll post those photos of the harbour I mentioned. Have a great Saturday night everyone.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Going, going...GONE!

Good morning all you early morning types out here...the winds have, at last, turned as predicted. I'll be casting off the dock in about a half hour or so after walking the pup - at last.

It'll be good to be underway again, heading south for the warm weather. Wish you could join me! So while you're dreaming of warm weather and great sailing for the next six months, here's some pics I shot in Biscayne Bay and in Cuba...which reminds me, be watching for my story on BB in December's SAIL Magazine.
Bye for now everyone....miss ya!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Outta here!

Yep, it's looking like a go! Despite the fact that the winds on Lake Huron right now are anywhere from 25 to 40 mph, by tomorrow morning they will be 15 - 20 and decreasing. By afternoon, I'll probably be using the diesel because the winds are supposed to die off entirely. Maddening. It's either too much wind, too much wind in the wrong direction, or no wind at all. At least it's supposed to be sunny.
Who's in charge of this asylum anyway?
So tomorrow, the goal is to leave very early in the morning and knock off 2/3s of the distance to Sarnia - call it 80 miles, and then duck in to the most convenient harbour. Why not go all the way to Sarnia? Love to, but the winds are predicted to go back into the south tomorrow evening, and increase to about 25 over Saturday. Come Sunday or Monday, they back to the east and then hopefully north again, allowing me to get, at last, out of Lake Huron.
Once in Sarnia, it's onto the river and head down to Windsor for a visit with Paul, who's been teasing me with visions of BBQ ribs and fine wines...at least he wasn't cruel enough to suggest hot showers, a traveling sailor's favourite treat after a long couple of days on a boat. And since I've been docked right beside the showers here anyway...
Anyway, here's Monday's wind pattern for Lake Huron. I'll be just past halfway down, right on the border of the lime and yellow. That's anywhere from 25 - 35 knot winds, and notice - they're right from the direction I'm going in.
Who's in charge of this madhouse again?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Okay, boyz and girlz....here's da plan....dem winds are toynin' around Thoysday night late....dat means da waves, dem big ol' waves, ought to be toynin' not long after dat. Dat's what da forecaster sez, but ya know, ya can't trust dem forecasters. If dey gets it wrong, we'ze gonna have ta shoot 'em. 
So we gonna be ready Thoyday night to bust outta here anytime after midnight, to escape dis place. Any questions? Ok, let's do it! Next stop, Al's restaurant in Varadero, Cuba..... 

Al Capone's former home in Varadero Cuba, now a restaurant

Newspaper article on Capone inside restaurant

 Actually, this is about how I do feel - like I've been trapped here for ten days and it's time to escape. I'll be watching the winds, waves and weather closely from here on out, and as soon as a window appears, I am SO OUT OF HERE!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Free Tartan 27

If you've been looking for a decent boat and are a bit short of cash - and who isn't these days - here's a good boat, older Tartan 27, for free on Craigslist....Tartan 27.
Let me know if you decide to pick this boat up and if so, we'll follow your adventures in rebuilding it here on LiveBloggin' with your very own page!
By the way, the last free boat we moved on this site was a Trumpy -  Classic Trumpy for free, and that was SOME nice boat. I'll see if I can get an update on what's happening with it. 
Also, don't forget to check out the amazing Lobster Cam, featured here on LiveBloggin'...saw a couple of starfish today rambling through the lobster pot. Amazing site.

Where's Wally?

Well, if you want to know, I'm in hiding! Yes...hiding, and if you look at Wally's Weather Widget on the right hand side of the page, you'll see why. The winds are (again!) back from the south, and as you can see, Wednesday's forecast is for 30 - 35 mph winds, and waves to 11 feet. 
That's bad enough when it's at your back, but I'm heading south, straight into them. No thank you very much...I'm tied up to a dock protected from all that wind with nice hot showers about 30 feet away, grocery store about 70 yards, and the laundry and the pub is in between them. If this isn't the perfect bad weather location, I don't know what is. 
Ok - there's one better and that's the free dock in front of the Hooters, in Jacksonville FL - but other than that, this is pretty darn good.

A lot of ocean sailors pooh pooh Great Lake boating as not being difficult - what I've got in the diagrams here might make them rethink their opinions. 
Below is the wind graph for tomorrow - that bright green you see? Them are 25 - 30 knot winds (a knot is 1.15 mph)... I'm at the tip of that peninsula you see about center page. Where I'm going is to Sarnia, at the bottom of the lake (and the page). It's about 150 miles away. Now you see why I'm in hiding?
Wind speeds on Lake Huron

This second graphic shows wave heights for the same time period....that orange colour right about where I am now? Those are three metre waves - for those who don't speak metric, that's about 10 feet. And those are average wave heights. At least one third of all waves will be significantly greater - and I don't want to discover what 'significantly greater' means!
 The yellow is 2 - 2.5 metres and as you can see by the arrows....they're right on the bow, and they don't even begin to subside for about 75 miles down the coast, where they turn into mere 5 - 7 footers. I know, I know, I'm a big chicken. But at least I'm not being a turkey this Thanksgiving.

Wave heights on Lake Huron
So what have I been doing to keep myself entertained throughout all of this lovely weather? Well, I just wrapped up another story for SAIL Magazine about how to handle your dinghy flipping over while you're snorkeling for lobster, and put together a video for it as well which, if my editor approves the soundtrack (it features the Jaws' soundtrack!), ought to be very entertaining.
But the highlight of the past weekend was at the local Legion - I popped in for a quick brew there on Friday evening, and was talked into being the DJ for the following night. Oh yes, you didn't know that was one of my talents, did you? 
So come Saturday we were rocking the house and I got quite the education from the kids at the pub. Since I last dj'd, technology has wrought some wonderful things. For example, rather than all those fancy electronics - turntables, cd players, amps, etc., it's possible to actually run two big speakers - with the iTunes app on your smart phone. 
Yep, it's that easy - so every time the kids had a request, I'd take their iPhone and plug it in to play their song - because for sure, I not only didn't have that music, I'd never heard of the songs or the groups.
Then someone showed me that you could not only play the song, but you could also bring up songs from YouTube on the internet with the video, so that if you had a hookup to a screen, you could broadcast the video along with the music. Talk about cool! Not only cool, but I got paid for the evening. Life is good! 
The other weekend highlight was a visit from my good friend Gord, from Toronto. I cooked up some fabulous steaks, getting them just right and after our night at the Legion (Gord shot pool), we sat up, drank beer till four in the morning and basically solved the problems of the world. I'm sure you noticed how much better things were on Sunday, right? You didn't? Hmmm....more beer maybe?
I even managed to get some boat work done on Sunday, sewing up a torn seam in the mainsail. I'm planning to put together a new video on making a mainsail, using the Sailrite kit, as a follow up to the repair video you can see here on the site. The repair has lasted two years (thank you Kathy!) which is what we were told to expect, and now it's time to replace that sail.
So - now you know Where Wally is. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Buying a Sailboat, Part II

Lots of emails about the last post, thanks for showing your interest. I promised part two of how to buy a sailboat. First of all however, I have to remind you, this information is worth exactly what you're paying for it, and also, just about every other sailor will have a different opinion. So....with that caveat in mind, here we go.

Have you thought about WHY you want a sailboat, and how you would like to use it? If you're buying a car and you spend a lot of time in the bush, you're going to want a four by four, not a Miata, right? Same thing applies to sailboats. What sort of boating do you plan to do? Are you just going to daysail for a few hours on a sunny weekend? Or is your long range plan to cruise the islands of the Caribbean, or perhaps head off to Tahiti (see my post about Tahiti)? Or perhaps just something in between? Or, like so many, are you not quite sure just where sailing might lead you to? That's what happened to me - the plan was to buy a small boat just to sail about in Georgian Bay - and look what happened to me! Oh my, that wasn't the plan at all...
Most people like the thought of a boat big enough to overnight in, have a meal, change into a swimsuit...but not so big that it represents an overly large challenge. Depending on your need for comfort, there are boats from 20 feet on up that will answer those needs, including several I mentioned in the last post.
If your eventual plans are to roam farther afield, and your pocketbook can handle it, you still might be wise to get a smaller boat now, get comfortable with it, enjoy it for a year or two until it feels a bit tight around the shoulders - and then sell it for a bigger boat. 
The advantage to this is that you've not put too much money into owning a boat at a time when you're really not sure you're going to enjoy the sport. As well, the time spent with the smaller boat will educate you as to what you eventually want and need in a boat.
So do you want a monohull (single hulled boat) or a catamaran with two hulls? Lots of people like the room on a cat, but the room doesn't really appear until you're at 40 feet or so - before that, they tend to be a bit cramped, but in different ways than a monohull. Also, they don't sail as well, although for those who don't like heeling, they do sail flat. Lastly, they cost a bunch more.
Next, do you want a lightweight, fast boat, or a heavier, cruiser type boat? Full keel or fin? Outboard or inboard diesel? Single mast or ketch rig?
The questions go on and on....and in sailing, there will never be a definitive answer. For every person, it's different. That's why I suggest to new or wannabe sailors that they go to their local yacht club and offer to crew on race nights. You get a great education in that way - you learn to sail, you learn about boats and you learn about boating, and all at no cost, since you're crewing. By the time you've done a season or two racing, you'll have a pretty good handle on what you want and need in a boat - and it wouldn't surprise me at all to discover that it's not what you thought you wanted.
Ok, this post is getting a bit long - and there's so much more to cover. Comment, or email me if you have questions and I'll try to answer them.
And, Happy Thanksgiving to all (it's Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

So you want to buy a sailboat...

It's going to be a couple of days before I get out of here - just take a look at the Buoyweather widget on the lower right of this page to see the current conditions. Oh yea.....time to sit back and reflect...

A while back, a good friend of mine and a reader of this blog told me she was interested in eventually getting her own sailboat, and indicated that she would wanted some advice. We haven't had the chance for that chat, so I'll give that advice here. This is done at the risk of annoying all the know it all sailors (just like me in other words!) who read this, here's my boat specific advice on the topic.

First, you need to decide just what you want to do, how and where you'll be sailing. I'm making one assumption here, and that's that you aren't interested in a dinghy type boat, but want a small cruising boat. For a beginner, I might suggest something along the lines of the Sirius at 22 feet, or the O'Day 23. These are attractive, well built boats, and trailerable as well. I cruised a friend's O'Day 23 down the west coast of Florida years ago and was quite impressed with it. The nice thing is that you can haul these boats out on a trailer, significantly reducing your costs for winter storage, or a marina during the season.
If you want to look at something just a big more serious, I heartily suggest the Challenger 23, or 7.4 as it was also known. This Canadian built boat was my first cruising boat, and nearly 800 of them were built. It has a solid keel at 3.5 feet draft, standing headroom at 5'10" and is built like a brick outhouse as it was designed as a small charter cruising boat for Nova Scotia waters. It also handles rough weather very well, and having been out in some 30 knots+ weather with mine, I speak from experience. You'll need a 130 or 140 genoa to get any real performance from it however, due to its weight. You can buy this boat all day long at less than $5000. It's trailerable, but you'll want to keep this one in a marina as hauling it in and out is a great deal more work than the previously mentioned boats.
In this same size range, the Grampian 23 comes in for some attention, and if you want a prettier boat with better performance, a Tanzer is a great choice. I just realized something interesting here - other than the O'Day, these are all Canadian boats so far. The Catalina 22 is also very well regarded in this size range.
Moving up towards 27 feet, you get into a lot of choices, and creature comfort increases in leaps and bounds as we grow in size. You've got the smaller C&Cs, Hunter and Catalina, plus the many older boat marques that have come and gone. There are lots of each of these on the market, it becomes more a matter of finding one that suits your pocketbook now. Some will have inboard engines, but many still will be outboard powered. Keep in mind, one of these boats needing some work can be had for as little as $1500 if you take your time and look around.
One special mention here - the Watkins 27. This boat is seriously underrated. I've sailed one, they sail fine, and they are well appointed, comfortable boats for their size. If you come across one of these, don't let the door to door soap sounding name put you off - it's one of the better boats of its size around.
The next step up brings me to my favourite small boat - the Catalina 30. Thousands of these have been built and if I ever again choose to have two boats, one north and one south, I'll get a Catalina 30 for the Great Lakes. This boat is blessed with lots of interior room, good sailing characteristics, and is a handsome boat as well. Because there are lots around, they come cheaply, particularly in the present market.
Enough for now - my next post, I'll discuss the decisions you should make before you go shopping - including the story of my disastrous first boat. Stay tuned folks, and if you have your own notions of what a good first boat is, email in your comments. Love to hear them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WallyLuck strikes again!

Many years ago, a friend of mine noted that it didn't matter how bad things got for me, how yucky the pot I fell into, I always seemed to come out smelling like expensive cologne and wearing an expensive suit. She called that 'WallyLuck'. And she's right - things always seem to turn out right for me, even when things look really bad. I can live with that! Better to be lucky than good - we can always learn to be good, but we can't learn to be lucky, can we?
So, recently, I've been trying to get a 10 pound propane tank on the boat exchanged for a full one, with no luck. No one had the small tanks, at least not in the south part of Georgian Bay when I was there.
I use this particular tank for my onboard heater and since it's getting colder, I need it. That, or a lovely lady to keep me warm at night, but I digress. The 20 pound tank I can exchange at any grocery store, no problem, but it's the smaller tank I've been needing, and not finding.
So today, don't I find a place here that has a 10 pound propane tank for exchange? But here's where the WallyLuck kicks in. The owner of that store, which is on the waterfront, and I, discussed why there isn't a sailboat available for charter on this waterfront. He tells me not a day goes by the entire summer that he doesn't get a request from someone for a sailboat charter with a captain to go out on. He is willing to help me set up a charter operation for next summer, get the dock space, help promote and sell the charters....in one of the nicest and busiest areas of Georgian Bay. Now how good is that?
So it looks like I could well have a new business operation set up in one of Ontario's prime tourist areas next summer. We'll see how this turns out, but I'm excited about it.

Was checking the weather earlier today - as I mentioned, the winds have gone into the south and aren't switching for a while. I could be stuck here until the weekend. Fortunately, the pub is nearby, and the liquor store is a five minute walk away. Life is good...
Took some fabulous photos of Wingfield Basin, I'll post them soon. Lovely spot... pristine, quiet, pretty...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Heading south again....

Hello all - I'm once again underway, after far too long being tied to a dock. I would have headed out of Georgian Bay much sooner than I have, but a variety of issues - personal, business and just plain nasty winds and weather - have held me back.
The personal I've alluded to here a few weeks ago- and thank you for the words of support so many of you have offered me, it means a lot. It's very unpleasant to watch someone you care about launch themselves on a path that will ultimately be painful and self destructive, by hooking up with a pathologically violent individual - whether that pathology is caused by alcohol, drugs or violence (with this person, all three apply), it all ends up the same in the end. I've found out this is not the first time this woman has involved herself with an individual with substance abuse issues, or control issues. Of course, all of this implies that the woman in question has some serious and unresolved issues of her own that need dealing with, to even accept this sort of relationship. For anyone who wants the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, you can read about it at this website link.
Business wise, I've had several writing assignments to complete, which is good. The downside of these two issues however is that they've taken so much of my time that I'm simply not going to get to the Annapolis Sailboat Show this year - which, as those of you who have been there know is a really fun time. Great people, Painkillers at Pussers, lots of boats, more Painkillers....might as well buy the Painkiller cup and be done with it! But I'll miss waking up on my chum's boat in a lovely small marina, where I've stayed during past boat shows. There were some great mornings there as I remember...
Now about the nasty weather - I've discovered that I have an infallible wind predictor on my boat. It's the bow of my boat. Wherever I'm headed, the winds come from there. How does that work, you ask?
First, I determine a course - let's say, I'm heading north. Then I check the weather - it looks good. For example, leaving Georgian Bay, which is heading northwest, the winds were forecast as northeast - a beam reach, great sailing.
However, the winds were either nonexistant, or...northwest. So I get to Wingfield Basin. Now I am heading west. The winds are...you guessed it. West. On the nose. But just for that day. Then they go east, after I've arrived. But only for that next day of course.
My next run is roughly south, heading for Sarnia. The perfect winds would be northwest or northeast. The predicted winds? South or southwest, 20 - 30 knots. And for how long you ask? Three days. I am NOT kidding. 
This time of year, the winds are almost always out of the north-northwest. South winds are uncommon, at least, until Gypsy Wind is ready to head south. Then, we get south winds. So here I stay for a few days.
The good news is, each of you with a sailboat has a similar wind prediction instrument on your boat, and the best part of all? It's free to use, just head out sailing! The winds will come around as required, I guarantee it.
More later this week...despite all my complaining, it's simply gorgeous here - the leaves are just starting to turn, the summer tourist crowd is gone and the beer at the local pub is just as tasty as ever. I'm tied up right next to the showers, and close to everything else that matters - pub, grocery store, liquor store.... And once those winds have turned back to the north, the sailing will be fabulous - and hopefully, that will happen before the snow flies!