I haven't been around for a while. You may have noticed - or not.
The reason was mostly sailing-related.
This year my wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary and wanted to do something special. This took the form of a month-long trip to Europe.
We spent 5 days in Paris; 9 days between Tuscany (Florence, Pisa, etc.), Venice and Milan then we flew to Athens. This is where the 'sailing-related' part comes in.
Once in Athens we boarded Christianna Vlll - a 60 ft Ocean Star and set sail for a two-week cruise of the Cyclades Islands. We hit eleven of them, including a two-day stay-over in Santorini.
All I can say is: 'Wow!' (& 'that Med-mooring thing is quite interesting!')
Upon arriving home I dropped my wife off as she had to return to work, and I set off aboard Sea Dragon for what I intended to be a 2-day shake down. As a result of our never-ending winter last year I had only had the opportunity to sail Sea Dragon once before heading across the pond. I had just installed a new sail in the spring and had rigged single-line reefing. I wanted to make sure that all the systems were working as I intended to head out on my own for a week or two.
I sailed out to Hope Island with the plan to spend a day or two then come home to provision for a longer trip. Everything seemed to be ship-shape.
The forecasts were sounding favourable for a south/north crossing of the Bay - up to Killarney. I got it into my head that I should take the opportunity as we rarely have the Southwest winds that were expected. The forecast was for SW 15 kts for two days. This would have been ideal. Each day the forecast stayed the same.
I moved across to Christian Island to avoid the bounce caused by SE winds at Hope, and ran into a few friends from our marina.
By the next day the forecast was not favourable any more: nine-zero on the MAFOR (variable winds, less than 10 kts). One of my goals for this summer was to do a solo over-night crossing and I'm a bit of a stubborn bastard so, once I had made the decision to make the crossing I was pretty much committed.
I plotted my course and planned my crossing to arrive close to Killarney after sunrise as there are quite a few shoals around.
I set off from Christian Island at 1500. I timed it so that I would clear the Western Island Light just before sunset, then, there would be open water until I arrived at Gull Island the next morning.
I motored across the glass-calm Bay. There was not a whiff of wind. Still and all though - beautiful afternoon, no sight of a single other vessel. Not a bad life!
I had a lot of time to think as the iron genny throbbed beneath my feet. One thing that came to mind after a couple of hours (I'm not always the quickest on the up-take) was how, like Bilbo Baggins who had left on his great adventure without his handkerchief, I too had left on my unexpected journey without many of the essentials that I would normally stow. You know, things like food and alcohol!
Well, there was nothing for it now but to carry on and provision in Killarney.
I cleared the Western Island Light on schedule and watched it sink into the still-placid waters.
It about 2200 a slight breeze picked up. I optimistically raised my main and unfurled my jib, hoping to get some advantage. I picked up an additional knot.
Now, before some of you safety-conscientious members start to panic about the advisability of hoisting sails while alone in the dark let me just review some of the precautions that I took. Although I had no food or drink aboard, I had made accommodations for my survival. Here’s a list of what I had on-hand in the cockpit ‘just in case’:
• Jacklines run from cockpit to foredeck
• Tether to attach to jacklines
• Self-inflating (hydrostatic) PFD with built-in harness and crotch-straps
• SPOT device
• Portable VHF radio
• FRS/GMRS 2-Way Radio
• Cell phone
• Manual sound-signalling device
I felt pretty safe and confident. I always wear my PFD and use the tether when I’m alone as I know that my wife would kill me if I were to die because of my failure to take simple precautions.
I motor-sailed through the night under a field of unobstructed stars. Magic!
At 0400 I saw a yacht, under full sail approaching off my starboard quarter. Like me the skipper had the steaming light on which illuminated the sails and made the boat more visible.
This captain knew what (s)he was about! I was making 5.8 knots and they were gaining on me. I was sure they could see me as clearly as I could see them. I watched as they got rapidly larger and began to consider strategies to avoid collision. I suspected that the skipper was using autohelm and had dozed off.
After about 10 minutes of monitoring the closing vessel I came to the realization that it wasn’t a boat at all. What I had taken for a sail was the tip of the crescent moon as it rose above the eastern horizon.
At least I didn’t try to make radio contact.
I arrived in the vicinity of Killarney as scheduled and headed for the channel to pass through and anchor outside of Covered Portage Cove.
As I approached the entrance to the channel I changed my mind and made the decision to get a slip at Killarney Mountain Lodge. I was very tired and thought that it would be better to be tied safely to a dock and get some shut-eye.
I tried to raise the marina on the VHF but got no response so I pulled up to their fuel dock to get a pump-out, some diesel and arrange for a slip. All this was done and I looked forward to hitting the rack.
There are very few things worse than pushing the starter button and getting no response. One thing that is worse is to have this happen when one has been awake for 27 hours with a 19-hour watch included.
Luckily I was at a marina, not at an anchorage as I had originally intended, and was able to contact a marine mechanic to come and sort things out.
They arrived 3-hours later. I still had not slept.
After I showed the mechanic where to find the engine and the starter he was able to get the engine going by the application of a couple of tentative and speculative taps with his hammer.
I was too exhausted to ask many questions, thanked the man and motored over to my slip for some sleep.
The starter worked the next day and I was able to leave Killarney and had a great sail over to Little Current. The wind was blowing 20, gusting to 25. I hoisted my main with a single reef and was able to make 7 kts on a close reach before I unfurled my jib. Once the sails were set I rocketed along at between 6.4 and 7.5. I kept the engine on idle as I didn’t have faith that it would start again when I got to the swing bridge.
I got my starter serviced in Little Current (a spot of corrosion on the solenoid. Cleaned it up and now she works a treat) and spent the following two weeks making my way leisurely round the Bay, visiting, and being visited by, friends and family along the way.
So where have I been? Two-weeks sailing in the Greek Islands followed by a three-week solo to the North Channel and around Georgian Bay. Tough way to pass the time!
Here are some pictures from Greece, just to rub it in a bit