A Solo Cruise August 14-15, 2010
by Robert Mosher W3445
Friday evening I joined the group returning Wayfarers to their trailers at the haul-out ramp. Eighteen boats plus people who had spent the week sailing together. It only became sad when we ran out of boats. By then though, I was mentally getting ready for cruising solo over the weekend. This would be my first solo cruise, and even with all the experience gained during the week of sailing on Georgian Bay and Perry Sound, there were going to be new challenges.
Robert as seen by another Wayfarer earlier in the week in conditions similar to the solo cruise
Saturday, I broke camp and sorted out those things needed for the weekend. I felt really good about my general plans, and fall back destinations. If the wind did not favor going SW I could do a short sail more westerly to the Pancakes, or if the winds were good, farther on to Regatta Bay. If the winds favored a north-east course, there was the north tip of Huckleberry Island. All places that we had sailed to over the past week and that allowed camping. Most places you could stay overnight were marked by a picnic table on the chart, but not all.
click here for larger image
I loaded my supplies onto the boat, and pumped out the bilge. I knew from the weather report on the Canadian VHF channels, that winds would get up to 15 mph, a nice challenge within my abilities. As I headed out past Lighthouse Point the wind was maybe 10 mph. A broad reach took me towards the two Sister Islands. Before reaching the Sisters, I headed upwind behind Rose Island. Earlier in the week, the Wayfarers did this passage on a downwind run, and the wind would magically shift to favor me every time the passage required a change in direction. But today the winds would stay right on my nose. Tacking back and forth, I came under the narrowest part of the channel between Rose Island and Parry Island. The two islands come within 150 feet of each other, with a few rocks, and sandbars thrown in, making a "Z" shaped channel, the end of which is marked by a red and a green buoy. A large motor cruiser heading my way was not slowing. I had maybe 10 boat lengths to work in at times, and he had a wide open 'lake'. As visibility was good I keep tacking up the small passage where it looked like we would meet. On my next-to-last tack, I was headed and had to wear ship, and did a 360° turn. The cruiser came on through, and thanked me for waiting. While drifting backward towards the rocks 40 feet downwind, I waved and keep my mouth shut. Two more tacks, cutting under the Green Buoy and I was through. Pointing tightly upwind off the Rose Island side, I sailed past all the lovely houses, boats, and seaplanes. Passing close off a house with a Wayfarer, and a 27' Vega Albin (my two favorite boats) I saw people waving off their front porch and I waved back.
One of the Martyr Islands which give me a nice quite place to reef
As I sailed clear of Rose and Pell Islands, there was more sea room, and I could head south on broader port tack. Off the Martyr Islands the wind was strong enough that it seemed wise to reduce sail. I sailed up to a sandy looking area off someone's cottage, anchored, and started reefing. I had reef points and bungees to making reefing quick. But I had not yet added a block and cleat to the boom for pulling and keeping the foot of the sail tight once reefed. So getting tension on the aft clew was very makeshift. I tied a short line around the boom, up thru the clew, back under the boom and the line I had just tied, then looped it around the end of the boom, and I finished by tying it off. Not pretty, but it did flatten the sail out a bit. The owner of the near-by house came down and offered any assistance I needed. I indicated that I would need no help, and explained that I was about to move out of the lovely shelter of his island. He wondered where I was headed for. Not knowing the local dialect, I yelled back "Co-peg-og Island" which of course only left him bewildered. I might have said Cope-gog Island, Ahy.
Soon I hoisted the anchor and left the lee behind, noting that the day which had started out a bright gray was getting more and more overcast. A few more tacks than expected and I was back in the clear channel. I then sailed out to the rocks beyond the Martyrs, hung a left and headed up on a broad reach past the northeast side of Good Cheer Island. Soon I was at Copegog Island which was marked by a picnic table on my chart. At this point, a steady downpour began, and the wind mostly ended but did just keep me moving over the glassy water. Coming around the end of Copegog, I caught a strange gust of wind and a wave from a turning ski-boat. Water came over the rail and I stretched from the low side to get more weight over to the high side in hopes of balancing out the boat. It felt rather silly, and maybe even looked stupid. In any case, as things settled down, the young boys and girls on the speed boat gave me a big hand and cheers.
I started looking for an anchorage near the picnic table on the chart. I found a cabin cruiser anchored out, and just a small wet beach area, so I kept looking. After sailing around the north end of the island, I saw a nice three-Wayfarers-wide beach. Sailed in and threw out the Bruce Anchor and landed. The sheer rock walls on either side narrowed down towards the beach and would amplify any boat wakes coming in. So I set up my first pulley system, used the fenders, and rolled the Wayfarer up onto the beach. Shortly after that, the Island Ferry came by, filling the narrowing cove in wild, choppy waves. Unloading the boat, I realized my stove and fuel were still carefully placed on the right hand side of the car trunk. Now starvation was staring me in the face - well, at least a hungry tummy. (Back home on Google Earth I found the dock and picnic table were further down the Island, but I think my cove was better.)
The Wayfaer pulled up on land at the end of the cove
The Island was soaking wet from the rain that had finally stopped. Finding some dead birch trees was easy and supplied good tinder. The second match got the fire going and the firewood brought from the mainland soon caught, then slowly died out. After gathering a good supply of tinder and kindling, I got the fire going for good with one match. Twenty damp matches had became part of the kindling. So now I could cook supper and get warmer in this 80°+ damp air.
My first fire heating up some water
While things where cooking, I wound my way up the south point on 3- to 4-inch-deep moss. Ah, this was going to be a good night. Back at the campfire, I took my shoes off, and did not put them back on until I left. Suddenly I heard the quick wispy sounds of a silenced mini-MAC going off on full auto. I was shocked; this was Canada! Whipping around I saw the aggressor, a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird vainly looking for a snack.
The rock wall showing off the deep sorghum moss.
I got down to relaxing on my camp chair, eating warm food, hot tea, and enjoying the fire. Since it had not rained anymore while I was eating, I gambled it would not rain again. Up on the mossy rock, I laid out a pad and went to sleep in the open. A weird dream of a friendly bobcat entered my head, then realizing it was a silly dream I dropped off to sleep.
Breakfast and lunch cooking near the boat, my sleeping are was higher up and away from the food.
Just in case of bears.
In the lee of the Island, before the winds picked up
The early gray dawn light woke me slowly and gently. With the morning fire boiling water, oatmeal with raisins, craisins, plums, walnuts were quickly prepared. I took lots of time eating and drinking tea. Loading up the boat was done as slowly and leisurely as possible. My feet moved slowly over the deep moss. Before noon the Wayfarer was back in the water. I wanted to go south around Copegog Island, and run back home from further out in the bay. The wind had other ideas though and came up the channel between the islands from the south. Each time I tried to tack, the wind would shift and pin me, pushing me toward shore. I would then do a 360° jibe and head off in the other direction. To make things more fun, the channel ahead was narrowed by a large rock outcropping just under the water.
And then there was my reefed mainsail. It had loosened up over night, making for a baggy sail. A baggy sail just catches the gust and heels the boat, with out giving any forward power. So I was trying to tighten that up. I was actually making slow progress - backwards. Soon I was near the intersection of the two channels and was again on a port tack, but away from the tree line and its effects on the wind. Again pinned on port tack, I started a jibe before getting too close to the rock at the tip of the island. I started coming around with several boat lengths to spare, but suddenly the wind shifted over 45° and hit in a huge gust. I was glad I had been cautious! All thinking left my head as the boat accelerated and all I could do was just hold on. It looked like I would brush the rock with the hull or the centerboard. But no, the boat hit the rock head on and full speed ahead. Despite the rudder, we slid up the best ramped section of rock and stopped. I straightened back up and looked around. My mind and body were flooded with embarrassment and I could not bring myself to take out the video camera. I stepped onto the dry rock, and stood looking at the boat sitting totally out of the water. No one was around, so I quickly re-launched the Wayfarer. As I looked back at the rock, there was not one spot of paint. We had ridden up on the keel band and back into the water the same way. It was a perfect beaching, done more smoothly and quickly than I could ever do it if actually meaning to!
In the quiet bay with Indian Paint Brush
A couple more fruitless tries at sailing up the channel into the wind, and I turned for home on a broad reach. It was the wise thing to do. On the way out of this island group, I saw a little bay with mirrored water. I sailed over and paddled in, heard the hull gentle tap a rock under that smooth surface. Looking back I could see a small gray patch of my paint left behind. I finished tightening the foot of the sail. Then went ashore to admire the red Indian Paint Brush that was quite thick.
When I finally reached the open water again, the wind grew strong and steady and was coming over the transom. Downwind may not give the highest boat speeds, but you do cover ground quickly. Back behind Pell and Rose Island the wind stayed strong while the waves all but flattened out. W3445 and I zipped through the narrow channel, and were soon back into open water. I turned to starboard, heading towards the Lighthouse. Off in the distance I saw the 27' Albin heading home in the opposite direction. Once past the Lighthouse, I sailed on for two miles, turned and made a wide tack back to the launch ramp. Even with the main reefed I hit 9 knots! (My first reef reduces the sail area by 7.5%, not the 15% I would like for cruising.
Coming home towards Lighthouse Point where we had spent the week in the campground
At the ramp, I helped a family get their aluminum fishing boat on top of their van by taking a corner from the shortest person. They in return, helped me get the Wayfarer onto my trailer. With their help, it was an easy, quick job - unlike my usual routine of try, try, and retry. While getting the boat ready to trailer, I tried slowly shutting the trunk. Cleared the items sticking out, and gave it a short smart close. The sound of breaking glass was overwhelming, looking up the rear window was a maze of cracks. Standing there I heard this weird sound which became louder as I leaned my ear over the rear window. It continued to crack for 15 minutes. It took only one corner of a Vang Block between glass and trunk lid. Everyone stopped, asked what happened, and then went into a litany of how awful this was. Unlike when I docked on the rock, I did not fill myself with useless emotions.
The rear window after being "vanged" in
At 70 miles an hour there was no suction out the back window, or wild winds whipping thru the car. By Toronto, a full thunderstorm with rain was in progress. The rear window shelf got wet, but everything else was OK.
The coming storm, as I drive south to Toronto
At the border, I drove up to US customs and handed them my driver's license and said, "I can't find my passport. It's probably back there with that junk in the rear seat." The really nice, pleasant customs man asked what I was bringing back, and what had happened to the rear window. I told him. He wished me a good day, and I was back in the USA.
Film at 11:00, or whenever I learn to edit the video I took.
All and all it was a great trip. Now and then I dream of sailing Georgian Bay, and drift into a sound sleep.