I’m a Boomer and a sailor, and I’m old enough to remember when America’s Cup yachts were made of wood. I’ve been talking about my adventures in boats in these pages, and I want to finish up here before I completely alienate the non-nautical readers.
In the last installment, I had bought a 38 foot Finnish motorsailer, all teak inside and out (though with a fibreglass hull, of course). My crew and I had discovered that the Passat, while a fine sea boat, was sluggish and unresponsive at slow speeds, heavy and overpowered when docking. We were trapped in our slip because of our fear of damaging other boats when landing (taking off was easy, always getting back in is hard).
Passat has a single screw, a full keel, weighs 8 tonnes, has a minimum speed of 3 knots and no brakes. Try driving that around a crowded parking lot. So, in season two, I begged, pleaded and bribed the Dock Committee chairman and got the perfect dock, an open side, not a slip, right near the entrance to the basin, that required no turning to land at. The chairman said he gave it to us because Passat is the prettiest boat at the club (she is), and he wanted visitors to see her first.
Our new mooring made a tremendous difference. We felt confident in going out, knowing we would be able to land without damage to our vessel or others. And we started taking trips. One of the first was to Port Dalhousie, across the lake. We set out on a beautiful sunny day with a snapping 10 knot breeze. Despite my fear of wind (I know I know, I’m a sailor and I’m scared of wind?), we hoisted sail for one of the first times and idled the engine. The next four hours were bliss, just us and a navy frigate (which my ship identification software said was a “private yacht”) for company. We paused at the deepest spot in the lake just to listen.
Seeing the south shore of the lake rise on the horizon had the feel of homecoming. The entrance to Port Dalhousie is between two long piers, the Old Welland Canal. We moored at the local yacht club, plugged in and walked into town for dinner. After that, we stayed up late watching movies on the iPad, and I stayed up even later listening to AM stations coming in from the southern US, gospel and talk and nuttiness.
The crew was up before dawn the next morning in a drizzle, casting off lines before I’d even made coffee. I motored out in my pyjamas, crew on deck doing all the wet work, and me warm and dry in the wheelhouse, As we emerged between the piers, the drizzle stopped and the mist loomed. About 3 miles out, the sun rose over the mist and outlined a lake freighter waiting for the canal. Soon we were surrounded by fog on all sides, only the sky and the sun visible, and it stayed that way all the way back to Toronto, until we saw the spire of the CN tower poking above the layer of mist.
We do oyster and champagne cruises on the side. $250 gets you and 3 friends a 2 hour cruise of the harbour, 3 dozen oysters and a couple of bottles of champagne. I can hold a small dinner party for 4. I can sleep 7 (with some crowding). I can sail with 12 legally. I can spend 3 or 4 days on the boat and have all the comforts of home.
Passat has made me very popular at the yacht club, she’s generally thought to be the prettiest boat we have, with her broad quarterdeck, fit for dancing a hornpipe, her teak decks and her clipper bow. I work on her, I live on her, and, now I have an easy dock to land on, I go out in her. Excuse me, I have to go now, sailing season is here…