Shake-Down Cruise of the Snow Goose

by nonameharbor / Dec 11, 2010 / 0 comments

Part 1


This is an account of our first cruise into waters unknown to us in preparation for a much longer journey some years later. On a shake-down cruise a sailor hopes to find out how good his/her sailing and navigation skills actually are in a storm, etc. situation, how the ship performs, listing any defects or problems that might arise - fixing them at sea if plausible. Did we stow enough food, clothes, emergency medicine, spare parts, books? Up until now we’d sailed on weekend cruises since taking delivery of our 30’ Dufour Arpege in March. On this journey are wife, husband, teenage son. Being who I am, it didn’t occur to me to wonder if we’d could handle all the sea might offer or be scared or yell at each other or all of the above - me, thinking only to have an adventure.


7/26 E. 55 St., Cleveland to Wheatley, Canada

From Bill’s log:  0900 5 knots, SE - compass 295 degrees - sea calm - sky overcast

We swing the compass on the break wall light and Muny Power stack - two bearings. With reciprocal it is 2 degrees off magnetic compass course. So during our journey we’ll figure that into the equation when plotting a course. At 0900 we drop the genny. This is the big workhorse sail, genoa, made of sturdy material, flying at the prow. We had not yet bought the silky, huge, yellow reacher favored by racers in light wind. Now we crank up the Volvo and run with mainsail. At 1450 Bill, just awake from a nap, spots a buoy at what he thinks is the international line. He tells Mike and I we steered 35 degrees off course. Now there is a beam sea, rolly, so mainsail down. And a motor oil leak in the bilge. So Bill changed course to 330 degrees. At 1830 we hail a white sailboat called White Opal out of Niagara on the Lake. They are lost, too. Some quiet laughter aboard boats before we both consult our charts and head for the tip of a peninsula we can see to the north. Turns out it is Wheatley, Canada, a silent fishing port with all their vessels at dock. After some consideration for the following seas pushing us it was decided we were actually 12 to 15 miles farther along - at Pelee Point instead of Fish Point when Bill awoke. What he’d had thought was the international light was really the SE shoal light. We tied up to an old barge overnight. The White Opal crewmen had heard about a pie-making lady up the road and immediately took off to find a pie. I was still under the impression all boat cooks must carry ice in coolers, so I pulled out the hamburgers to fry for our supper on the alcohol swing stove. At 330 I awakened as the docks came alive with big engines, the commercial fishermen slipping away.

7/27 Wheatley to Scudder Bay, Pelee Island, Canada

From Bill’s log:  0830 - wind 8 knots, on our nose - compass 200 degrees - sea 1 to 3 feet - sky hazy

We start our day under power, no sail. At 1040 we change course for Lighthouse Point, now motoring 245 degrees. After almost tangling with the fishing weirs east of the harbor (thanks to Mike’s quick eye, we didn’t) we arrive exactly at our destination. At Scudder we raft with Ray and Lois and their crew (two sons of friends, on break for the summer from college) aboard Sea Breeze, already at dock, for a quick hello, planning to move to our own dock space. To raft means we tied off their boat’s side. The dock master is very rude when he tells us to move. Customs clears us for a three week stay in Canada. After a supper of cold cuts the six of us go for a walk along the aquamarine water. We stop to buy a watermelon for evening dessert and laugh as we 6 sailing types jive along the shoreline, full of the day’s joy and sun, full of ourselves, as Ray, the tallest and African-American, balances the watermelon on his shoulder.

7/28 Scudder, Pelee Island to Detroit, Michigan, U.S.

From Bill’s log:  0815 - wind calm - compass course 302 degrees - sea calm - sky clear

Lake Erie is a great, flat mill pond with visibility unlimited. At 1500 we pass Colchester Reef to starboard ¼ mile away. Seems like no time until we see Detroit buoys and three lighthouses. At first we are intimidated, tiny us in the river channel with ships. With a double- decker sight-seeing boat coming toward us a small speedboat passes us and to our amazement the occupants moon the people on the sight- seeing boat. Our first boat streaker! Hey, music from Cobo Hall as we pass, a folk festival in progress, a welcome. Sea Breeze and Snow Goose dock at the very large Memorial Park Marina. Our friends from St. Clair Shores, Bob and Joan, pick us up. We spend the night at their house and the next day make a trip to the fabulous Thomas Marine Store where one must spend money or leave very unhappy. Back on the boat 7/29 we found Lois has already departed as scheduled back to Cleveland, leaving Ray, Mark and Larry to sail north. Bill and Ray have their measure taken as visiting sailors, spending an evening aboard various local yachts, being properly wined.

7/30 Detroit to Port Huron, Michigan, U.S.

From Bill’s log:  1045 - wind10 knots - compass course 45 degrees - sea calm - sky cirrus clouds

A clear path of buoys guides us across Lake St. Clair in the shipping channel. Lake St. Clair is an unbelievable blue with scenery reminiscent of a Dutch Canal. I decide to try a pot roast in the pressure cooker on our gimbaled stove. I’m pleasantly surprised. It didn’t fall off or explode, even in the wakes of big ships. We see a quaint church with step leading right down to the water. I wonder if this is for baptizing? The eastern side of Lake St. Clair is unpopulated and beautiful, part of an Indian Reservation. At 0245, way past our bedtime, we arrive at Port Huron. Port Sarnia was dark so we didn’t dare try to make for that shore. Back in the shipping lanes in the wee hours when we were drifting along, half asleep, suddenly there was a massive glare and a hot feeling on the back of our necks and a huge, deep blasting horn that scared the bejayus out of us. One of those super tankers had crept up behind us. I just bet they laughed when they saw us jump. Next morning: We’ve made another dock master mad at us. Couldn’t see where to dock last night and woke up this morn in front of the pump-out station. He fretted until we were on our way.

7/31 Port Huron to Goderich, Ontario, Canada

From Bill’s log: 1130 - wind 15 to 18 knots - compass course 36 degrees - sea 1 to 2 feet waves - heavy clouds

With our fingers crossed we motor with all sails flying to fight the swift current funneling from Lake Huron under the Blue Water Bridge. By hugging the right side under the bridge we find a little less current, rev the Volvo to 2000 rpm’s, bearly making 1 knot wayward speed. And breath a big sigh of relief when at last we spill into Huron. At 1335 at a charted red buoy we change course to 50 degrees for Bayfield, staying a considerable distance off shore because of the dangerous Kettle Point Reef. At 1700 abeam Cape Ipperwash and Kettle Point seas swelling to 3 & 4 feet. At 2330 we can’t find Bayfield Light. Sea swells now 6 to 8 feet. Dusk: We spot the Power Plant at Pt. Douglas in the distance and mistake it for fish weirs. We just can not find Bayfield Light. So we change course to 30 degrees for Goderich, which is visible. Goderich is a sailors’ haven, complete with Canadian Coast Guard stationed there.

8/1 Goderich to Kincardine, Ontario, Canada

From Bill’s log: 1105 - wind 5 knots - compass course 320 degrees - sea 3 feet, abeam - heavy clouds

Mafor, the Candian weather reporting system (complicated until we hear it being broadcast for awhile) , indicates fine weather. At 1620 we are abeam Clark Reef with Kincardine visible. At 1645 we enter Kincardine Harbor and raft off Sea Breeze who is already at dock.

8/2 at 0430 I awake intuitively and discover Snow Goose has swung away, having been tethered by her bow line only. We retie, find a dock of our own, then back to sleep. Only to discover in the morning a surge during the night caused our bow line to wear almost through, held only by one strand. Kincardine, while most picturesque, is not good docking in swells from the west. We’re staying here today to rest and have fun at the local Chinese restaurant this eve with the Sea Breeze crew. And did I say we really like Canadians!

8/3 Kincardine to Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada

From Bill’s log: 0830 - wind from south 5 knots - compass course 18 degrees - sea calm - sky overcast

We’re sailing about 2 miles off shore and overshoot Port Elgin! We did not consider the might of following seas. We instead enter South Hampton past Chantry Island - no wharf or anchorage, so we turn around and head between two sandbars with inches of water covering them behind Chantry Island and head 210 degrees for Port Elgin. There is a dangerous entrance with beam seas, shoals all around the approach and entrance. We tie up at 1530. I feel like Snow Goose is in a goldfish bowl! The local people stroll by, lean over our rail to peep into our cabin. After dark there was a rural carnival atmosphere in this port - bands, ice cream cones - all very pleasing, refreshing to us. The White Opal is here - like seeing old friends. A kitten follows us back to the boats. Larry and Mark say they now have a mascot aboard Sea Breeze. In the night we hear it mewing on our deck. Mike gets out of his bunk and takes it to town to find a home for it.

…to be continued

For more photos click on Journey of the Snow Goose at: