We are on our way home. By car, 3 hours. By sailboat, 3 weeks minimum…. including several long 10 hour travel days and one 30 hour overnight leg. But we don’t mind, as long as the weather cooperates, which, touch wood, it has done so far. We are cruising, but no longer tourists – we are pretty much just going from A to B. Having said that, our cow path home has taken us through friend-filled pastures, which has added to the enjoyment, along with the pleasant Indian summer weather. After a scary cold snap which felt more like winter than early September, we are now experiencing some of the warmest weather so far this year!
Saying an early morning farewell to pretty Wingfield basin we sailed to Tobermory, anchoring in Big Tub Harbour rather than docking in Little Tub. It is deep, clear and calm, surrounded by lovely homes/cottages, and known for submerged wrecks in the foot of the harbour which attract a continuous parade of glass-bottomed tourist boats. The tourists wave and snap photos as they pass us, and leave us in peace overnight. We had our friends Jim and Marilyn over for dinner on the boat as they have a cottage nearby. They came bearing gifts of freshly made cherry pie and pickles, and wine of course, which we enjoyed while catching up over dinner.
Safe in Big Tub, we spill a bad weather day (wind, storms and a waterspout watch), mesmerized by media reports and photos of hurricane damage in the Caribbean, so grateful that our threatening skies are not worse. We plan to leave early the next morning to make a long day run to Port Elgin (60 nm – but the days are shorter now).
However, I wake to the sound of howling wind and lie awake the rest of the night dreading the morning. When the alarm goes off at 6 am, we hem and haw about whether to go, my anxiety obvious. Steve goes back to bed, but at 7 am the wind drops a little – just whistling at 12 knots and not howling at 20 – and I wake him up to get going, steeled by the knowledge that the wind would be behind us once we were out of the harbour. Despite the grey and somewhat lumpy day, we have a good fast downwind run to Port Elgin. The best part was arriving in a strange port after a long day’s sail, to enjoy a delicious dinner with friends aboard SV Gaviidae who had pulled in a couple of days earlier. To cap it off, friends from Lindsay, recently retired to the area, Kathy and Gerald, arrived to pick us up for breakfast the next morning. They took us to their new custom-designed, energy-efficient home afterwards and we did laundry, had a shower and made use of their wifi in comfort while they were off on another social engagement. This is what cruisers love about kind landlubber friends!
The following day Gerald and Kathy join us on Tai Chi to sail to Kincardine, an easy 23 nm run on a pleasant, sunny, but sadly wind-less day. We arrive in Kincardine in time for a stroll into town, and along the waterfront park before having dinner aboard. Gerald and Kathy’s son Jake joined us for dinner, and drove them home. We have not seen them for years, though we go waaayyyy back, so it was treat for us to catch-up and rekindle friendship – the kind where lost decades seem to make no difference to your stride when you’re back together other than giving you more to talk about.
We left Kincardine the next morning and motor-sailed across a dead calm Lake Huron to Bayfield, arriving at 4 pm, just in time for Steve to take the Village of Bayfield’s marina courtesy car (who knew?) to a local marine store to pick up pre-ordered fuel filters. Then we strolled around the very pretty village centre, promising ourselves to return some day. A great-blue heron warily watched us from the rocks on the other side of the river as we left the dock early the next morning, bound for Sarnia. We saw little of interest as we crossed Lake Huron – a couple of commercial fishing boats out early and some recreational bass boats near Sarnia, black sails on racing sailboats – the latest kevlar trend I guess.
We made good time and did not feel like docking in Sarnia (no anchorages there) as we arrived mid-afternoon, so decided to continue on, riding the super-fast current under the Blue Water bridge between Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan – the site of our heart-pounding, engine-conking, back-drifting excitement last year. We registered 10.5 knots and no nasty incidents this time, so were able to relax and enjoy the fast pace and scenery over the next 32 nautical miles, anchoring up a creek near the mouth of the St. Clair river which we knew of from previous year. We celebrated our long 76 nm day accomplishment with pasta and red wine, as the sun set, and enjoyed watching the lit-up freighters pass in the channel ahead – too far to make wake for a change.
The next day was an easy ride into Windsor where we were once again greeted by our friend Alison, whose husband was a keen sailor. So she willingly drove us around to pick up spare parts, replenish propane, and reprovision. She put us up for a couple of nights, fed us great meals and set us back on our cow path after a couple of days. Good friend indeed…
So we resumed the trek home, delighted that summer had finally arrived in mid-September. We put in a good long day down the Detroit River and anchored off the north end of Pelee Island, where we rested up to ready ourselves for a one-shot, calm, overnight passage down the middle of Lake Erie – a 190 nm trip. It is not our favourite of the Great Lakes. Being shallow, it turns fierce when wind and storms kick up – the chop, height and frequency of the waves is nasty, and I had no wish to repeat the painful cracked rib they dealt me last year. We hardly recognized the lake this time as it took on the disguise of a mill-pond. We plotted an overnight course a mile or two outside the main shipping lanes, so the occasional passing freighter gave us something to look at. Being a hot sunny weekend day, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of emergency traffic on Channel 16, including crashed sea-doos and vessels adrift. We didn’t see anything of course, being too far from the shores – just gulls and freighters, oh and a gazillion uninvited guests of the six-legged variety, thankfully not of the biting or stinging variety. We pass the time learning French on our Duo Lingo apps, reading books, eating, doing a few boat chores, showering and napping a little in turns. I enjoy the peacefulness of the lake and am happy to do without the thrill and excitement of storms, engine issues and broken ribs which marked our last Erie traverse. We don’t even mind that we are motoring rather than sailing this time…we are on our way home.
Even without the friend-fest which certainly enhanced our enjoyment of the return trip, it has been a pleasantly peaceful, meandering cow path, complete with the good, the bad and the ugly! In pictures, then, here’s a taste of the trip:
- Friends, of course!
- Speeding downriver
- In between fancy homes and ugly industrial plants on the Detroit River, a patch of marshland with hundreds (literally) of swans
- Recovering Detroit
- Windsor’s new big flag for Canada’s 150th!
- Bridges between the US and Canada
- Nice and/or imposing lighthouses
- Sun setting in the creek anchorage
- The warmest water temperature yet of the summer – 22 C – Steve takes a swim off Pelee Island as the sun sets
- Watching the sun set and rise on the overnight across Erie – the stars, and a very slim crescent moon which did not show its face till 4:30 am.
- Now days are shorter too so it was a long, dark night.
- Watching river traffic
- Our ultra reliable engine (for a change)
- Pretty Lake Huron towns – Bayfield, Kincardine and Port Elgin
The Bad, and the Ugly:
- Bruce nuclear power station
- Industrial plants – US side (polluting?)
- A monstrosity (houseboat/barge/thing) moored in a channel in the Detroit River
- Ugly lighthouse/markers
- A buoy sinking under the weight of cormorant poop
- Bugs! All over the boat…in the middle of Lake Erie. On my book, as I try to read, on my computer as I try to write, in my mouth as I try to eat…
We made it to Port Colborne in 27 hours, after a very good, easy calm overnight run, and tied up at the free docks at the entrance to Lock 8, with freighters coming out of the locks next to us. Tomorrow, the Welland Canal!