This is my fifth season sailing and I had the best sail yet last week.
I was out with a buddy from work.
The plan was to sail across Georgian Bay in the south (from Midland to White Cloud Island), then head up the Eastern side of the Bruce Peninsula to Wingfield Basin (Cabot Head), then cross back over to the East side of Georgian Bay, coming in around Franklin Island (just North of Parry Sound) and back to Midland.
The challenge was that we had only 5 days in which to make the trip.
The first leg was supposed to be Midland to White Cloud. The wind was on our nose the whole way North and backed to stay on our nose when we turned West. It took us 9 hours of beating into 15 knots to make Hope Island, which is about 20 miles from Midland and 40ish miles from White Cloud. We stayed at Hope and planned on an early start across the Bay.
Next day: no wind!!! We motored across to the West Side. No BFS here!
The forecast was for NE 10knts veering to E 15knts. Great winds to head up the peninsula. We left White Cloud wing and wing with a light westerly pushing us at a heart-pounding 2.5 - 3.5 knts.
By the time we made the turn to head North the wind had dried right up. We doused the sails and turned on the kicker and decided to make for Lion's Head for lunch.
A fog had settled in giving us about a mile visibility and it was raining. Not exactly what the weather gurus had foretold.
We had made our turn to West after Cape Croker and started past Barrier Island when I saw some fluttering in my telltales. What the hell, let's hoist the sails and see what happens.
No sooner than the sails were set but the wind kicked right up. It seemed to be the NE wind that was promised. This is nice.
The wind kept building and building from the North East until we were flying along at over 6 knots. The wind and waves were building, the wave heights getting up to over a metre. White caps were forming and foam was beginning to spray from the crests.
We approached Lion’s Head under full canvas, with the jib vibrating and the main taut. We still intended to head into the town for lunch. As we got closer to the turn down to Lion’s Head I suggested that we keep going for Wingfield. The wind direction was right and I was having too much fun to stop. Craig agreed so we adjusted our course to a more Northerly heading and headed up the coast to Cabot Head which was now visible on the horizon.
The winds increased and shifted to a slightly more Easterly direction putting us on a close to beam reach. The waves were now approaching 3 metres in height and were breaking all around us. The boat speed never dropped below 6 for the 4 hours that we were sailing toward Wingfield. Each time we surfed down a wave we yelled out the speed that showed on the GPS. The fastest we saw was 9.3 knots! There was a period of 10 – 15 minutes in which the GPS showed we were traveling in excess of 7 knots.
I decided to turn on the VHF, just so that it was ready in case anything went awry. The only broadcasts seemed to be Coast Guard communications. At one point a Hercules aircraft flew at a low level, across our path. We saw it later in what appeared to be a search pattern.
We were getting closer to Wingfield when I started to worry about how we were going to get the sails down in the wind and waves. Wingfield has a very narrow channel going in with rocks on either side. Sailing in is possible, but definitely not preferable.
As it turned out, by the time we got close to the entrance the wind seemed to have lightened up a bit. I put the jib in the lee of the main and we were able to roll it on to the furler quite easily. We turned into the wind, I clipped myself on to my newly installed jacklines and headed up onto the deck to take down the main. The waves were still very steep with short periods, so it was quite a balancing act hanging on and easing the halyard. It turned out going a lot more smoothly than I expected though and I soon had the sail on the boom. I didn’t bother with the sail ties at this point.
We motored in to the calm waters of Wingfield Basin and dropped anchor for the night.
A great day of sailing!
I have to say that the boat handled admirably! I have always been a bit concerned about its durability – it doesn’t seem to be designed for aggressive sailing. But she rode the waves effortlessly, and, even without the sails reefed, didn’t feel to be under any stress.
Another thing that pleased me was my autohelm (Ray Marine ST2000). It handled most of the steering for us. When I took over I realized the force on the tiller. The tiller pilot kept up with the strain.
At Wingfield we went ashore to explore the Lighthouse there. I started chatting with another sailor who had arrived shortly before us. He told me that he was getting wind speed readings of consistently 25 – 26 knots with periods reaching as high as 32 knots.
I’m sure for some of you these conditions would not be worth mentioning, but for me, given my lack of experience, my 26 foot Nash, 3 metre (10 foot) waves and 32 knot winds, it was definitely an exhilarating experience.
Here is a chart to give you a rough idea of the route: (we covered approximately 36 nautical miles that day.)