SAILING IN AUTUMN ON LAKE ERIE

by nonameharbor / Jan 08, 2009 /

 

SAILING IN AUTUMN

Destination, Put In Bay at Middle Bass Island, Lake Erie

 

Sailing, Barbary Chaapel

 

From the log of Wind Song:

September 23, Cleveland to Vermilion

Magnetic compass course 285 degrees, reciprocal 99 degrees

Seas calm, wind 10 knots

8:45 Cloudy skies, temperature 44 degrees

Hull speed 5 ½ knots

We have Mike along during a school week for this autumnal sail, with a promise to his ninth grade teacher he will keep a journal of his adventure while away from class. He will learn several things along this journey, some of them being about weather, boat handling, the nature of the middle Bass Island area and its history. We all three look forward to the challenge of Lake Erie sailing in autumn weather.

 

Sailing, Barbary Chaapel

 

It’s very chilly. The sky above Lake Erie is pristine, clouds etched beautifully. We are aboard the 24 ft. East Wind, built in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia for serious sailing. Named Wind Song, she’s been in our family for four years now. We are comfortable in her cramped below-decks, used the to idea that she sails rail under in wind above 20 knots (a thrill to watch the waves stream by while lying in one's bunk!)) because of her extra-high mast (Her former owner was a racer.) We feel safe with her slender build and narrow decks, because she has a full, heavy keel. 

9:45 Opposite Crib, 285 Degrees

10:45 Opposite Rocky River

Wind down, turned motor on.

12:15 Changed course to 270 degrees

12:30 Off CEI Plant-Avon Point

At 2:30 PM we make a decision to go into Lorain Harbor to wait out the sudden downpour. The weather has deteriorated, raining very hard and we can’t see. Out we go again at 3:50 on a course of 250 magnetic. The seas are calm, but it still looks rainy. We arrive at one of our favorite little lake towns, Vermilion, at 5:30 and will overnight at the dock. Bill, mike and I will dine at the local seaside restaurant, where for the first few minutes the table will rise up to us sailors, who have temporarily lost our land legs. It is a very peculiar feeling. But that won’t stop us having several of their complementary deep-fried sauerkraut balls.

 

 

Sailing, Barbary Chaapel

 

 

September 24, Vermilion to Put In Bay, Middle Bass Island

Compass course 315 degrees

10:30 AM Grey, overcast day

Wind S.W. 15 knots

Wind Song starts out on a broad reach under main alone - there’s weather coming. At 11 AM Bill reefs the main sail a total of seven wraps and puts on the storm jib for the 18 knot wind. This is a very tender boat. At 11:45 land fades from sight. Our speed is 5 ½ knots and the seas are about 4 feet and the sky threatening. At 12:45 rain, waves, bitter weather. We sight Kelley’s island at 1:30 PM, just the hazy outline of it. At 3:00 PM we change course, 270 degrees for Put In Bay. The rain is quite heavy. We are three yellow ducks in our rain gear taking turns at the tiller. We’re having trouble picking up markers with the binoculars. Thunder! Mike calls out. I hope not! Bill replies. At 4 PM we are off Ballast Island with the depth sounder dropping from 30 feet to 4 feet, so we wear off fast on a port tack and suddenly we see the harbor buoy. At once the rain stops and the sun appears. 4:20 PM, we arrive at Put In Bay 10 minutes ahead of ETA. Looks like we have the place all to ourselves. There’s Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial - we crane our necks upward to look. It was established to honor those who fought in the Battle Of Lake Erie during the war of 1812. And as a monument of peace between the U.S., Britain and Canada.

September 26, Put In Bay

Mike is reading about how Middle Bass Island was formed during the glacial age when massive blocks of ice entered Ohio, leaving deep depressions for water. Lake Erie is the world’s 12th largest freshwater lake. It is very shallow causing violent storms and square-sided, high waves.

We spend the day drying out rain gear in between rains. In the afternoon Mike catches a mess of fish, glad tidings for supper. Black squirrels scamper through the trees in town. This is the only place we’ve ever seen them. Mike spends time browsing the gift shop, the only one left open in town, for magic tricks to add to his professional act. Bill spends the day splicing eyes and mending sails. Warm and cozy below, I look through the ports, read, write, fry fish.

 

Sailing, Barbary Chaapel

 

 

September 27, Put In Bay

At 2 AM a forty knot wind directly from the north quadrant makes our position at this dock untenable. So we move westward to very little extra protection at another dock, not an easy thing to do, warping our way there with dock lines. Still, the wind in the rigging keeps Wind Song’s hull pressed and working against this newer dock, even though it lessened the horrible up and down surge. Mike sleeps like a log as usual - Bill and I are up and down all night.

September 28, Put In Bay to Lorain

We leave for our return to Cleveland and only get past Ballast Island when a deep fog creeps in.

Back to Put In Bay to wait for it to lift. At 10:15 we resume our passage now around the eastern side of the island, setting the boat on 135 degrees, heading for Cedar Point. The visibility is still poor, seas 4 feet and rolling with a wind from the northeast. We are under power past the second light from South Bass at 11:30 AM. Entering the channel to Cedar Point at 1 PM. Everything is closed, so at 2:02 PM we set a course of 94 degrees for Lorain. The visibility is now 1 mile with long swelling seas. At 4:15 we are off Vermilion. The seas moderate at 5:30 as we pick up the Lorain Entrance Light.

September 29, Lorain

We lay over in Lorain Basin due to rain and bad weather reports from the ship to shore radio. At 4 PM we’re glad we stayed…22 knot winds appear out of the north. At 10:45 we double the mooring lines. The water is rising, the surge heavy, throwing Wind Song up, down, forward, backward. Then twisting. Winds are now 45 knots.

September 30, Lorain

At 5:30 AM the boat becomes hazardous. 6:00 AM, the wind lessens to 35 knots, the water recedes below the dock walkway and we return to the boat. Later in th day as we rest and recuperate the marina owner’s wife brings us a plate of still-warm cookies.

October 1, Lorain to Cleveland

The seas are 4 foot rollers as we leave Lorain at 10 AM. Wind is out of the southwest at 18 knots with clouds then sun. Wind Song is surfing waves at 7 knots with that wind on her starboard quarter. But this creates a yawing effect, so Bill puts the boom vang on to give the mainsail more shape. We are abeam CEI at Avon Point at 11:15. Then 12:45 abeam Rocky River entrance. Now we’re surfing as high as nine knots. This boat is a racer! With the crosshairs of crib and lighthouse sighted, we are on a 90 degree course now, bound for East 55th Street. 2:30 PM, time to drop sails. We are home, with many lessons learned along the way by all three of us, and the feeling we'd met the Wind from the North and we'd all agreed to be friends.  This time. 

 

 

 

 

To read about Barbary's books:

http://barbarychaapel.eveusa.com

 

Barbary Chaapel is the Sailing Editor for Wandering Educators.

 

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