Archive for the ‘Lake Ontario’ Category

Last Night on the Lakes

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I departed Oswego in a gray fog and rain.  It was a warm rain though and the wind was right for my last sail on Lake Ontario.  Well, for most of the afternoon, anyway.  Then it died, backed and came up again demanding I fight against a headwind for the few miles to the lee of Grenadier Island.   It was there I spend my last night on the Great Lakes anchored southeast of the island at Lat 44° 02’ 37.1” N ~076° 20’ 38.9” W in 6’ of water.  My memory reviews past anchorages and ports-of-call but mostly I remember the people.  So many wishing me well, far winds and of course “luck”. 

This night takes me back to the first night aboard anchored of Sandy Island on Lake Superior and the ice that growled its way past the hull all night long.  That was 74 days and 1804 miles ago.  The excitement and sense of adventure has not dwindled.  I’m not tired of this yet.  Onboard the CAP’T LEM, sleep brings rest in spite of the tens of times my eyes open wide awake to check the position, the wind, or a noise out of the ordinary.  The first look out the hatch at a new day is always filled with anticipation.  The best is yet to come.  I am the happiest man I know.

It was by design that I came to the Lakes to start my voyage.  I knew instinctively they had great lessons to teach me, lessons about the boat, sailing alone, being alone and not being lonely, planning ahead, treading the dawn lightly, and thinking before acting, meeting new and wonderful people.   All these things will be priceless at sea and later at life.   My prayer tonight? “Dear God, keep me teachable.”

Oswego NY

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

There is a visitor to greet the CAP’T LEM in Oswego, NY as I tie the vessel to the waiting wall just below the locks.  He’s not the usual onlooker curious about the strange little sail boat come to their town, but a Dragonfly.  He has perched himself on the topping lift halyard.  I didn’t see him come aboard in my busyness and his stillness would have kept him hid were it not for his magnificent colors.  His eyes and they are hundreds as is the nature of insects, are a collective blue in contrast to the green strips of his body.  I’m dumbfounded by his beauty and by his size.  As bugs go he’s big!  I capture him… with my camera of course.  I would not hurt this creature for the entire world.  What if he were the last of his kind, the only one left to escape the ravages of pesticides, radiators and windshields?  No way would I even so much as bother him save for the camera in his face.  He does have a face, or I perceive it as such anyway.  There are the eyes and almost a nose and a mouth turned down in a frown of great wisdom.  He will live a lifetime in two month then be gone.  But now, he is CAP’T LEM’s guest-of-honor for these brief moments.  I’m smitten by his loveliness and look him over carefully.  His metamorphose must have been flawless so perfect are his stain glass wings and the posture of his abdomen.   I wonder if he grew to this size after emergence from his life as a nymph or did he come forth as he is now.   I know very little about insects and can only guess at the struggle he endured to cast off the old body to become the royal creature before me.  Now, here he is, totally unaware of his own beauty simply being what he was meant to be, a Dragonfly.

My thoughts run wild thinking the CAP’T LEM is much like a chrysalis to me.  It wraps me in warmth and safety in a harsh environment.  Perhaps there will be profound changes for me brought about by the struggles of the voyage.  I hope so.  If I think deeply and sail softly, the time alone spent in retrospect and contemplation will surely bring outlooks and attitudes such that my last days, like my guest’s, may yet be my best.    

My Guest-of-Honor

My Guest-of-Honor


Wings of Glass

Wings of Glass

Lake Ontario

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The winds of Lake Ontario have been most kind to me, coming from the northwest just stout enough to hurry me a long at 5 to 6 knots.  The progress is tallying up now but I’m determined to stay in the moment and not agonize over the many miles ahead.  The lakes are too delicious to miss a single bite.  Tomorrows miles will come soon enough.

Long after sunset, I find my way into Oak Orchard Creek.  The chart doesn’t show anywhere to anchor, but still I have a feeling about the place and I find it even in the dark.  I come in at an idle. Dead slow is not slow enough to take in all the peace of the night.  The trees overhang the bank, their shadows long on the water.  A frog sings in the undergrowth a low song.  I hope the love of his life will hear and come.  I step lightly to the bow and as quiet as I can bring out the anchor, but the noise of the chain disturbs even me.  Hand over hand I lower it to the bottom putting out just enough line to give the CAP’N room to swing in a breeze I cannot even feel.  The frog stops singing but only for a moment then starts again.  I become part of the peace.   It is a river right out of Wind in the Willows.  In the morning Ratty and Mole will come rowing by.

A light wind in the right direction is a blessing.  The day is passed reading, adjusting sails, mending small holes in the trampoline before they can become big holes.  I’m far enough out not even the fishermen come by. 

The dying winds of sunset leave me drifting.  Rather than motor to an anchorage I decide to start doing what will become a regular practice out at sea.  I’ll hove to and spend the night on the lake.  Checking my position I’m satisfied I’m clear of any shipping lane for Rochester and bring down limp sails.  My lights are burning bright.  The only waves are the echoes of the dead wind and long gone motorboats.  I go to sleep easier than I thought I might and only wake now and again to check the horizon.  The sleep is restful and when the thunder wakes me a daybreak, I’m ready for another day.  And yes, it is a red sky in the morning.  This sailor takes his warning.

There is a thunderhead to the west of me and a thunderhead to the southeast of me.  I fear lightening.  I know to not be touching metal during a storm.  I dress for insulation and stay well inside.  I turn of all electronics and unplug them.  I even put on my mittens lest I touch something I shouldn’t.  I watch the mast for Saint Elmo’s fire.  I start the motor and head for a spot between the two thunderheads.  If I’m struck, what will happen?  Will it burn my stays, melt my sail to the boom, kill Betty (my wind-gen), eat my antennas or just plain scare me to death?  I had rather not find out.  It will not be a matter of luck.  Remember, I don’t believe in luck.  It will be the results of the physical properties of the boat and the proximity of the storm all coupled with forces I do not understand like static charges and thermodynamics.  That doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I take any action I can to break the chain of events necessary for lighten to occur and thus decrease that probability. I clip jumper cables to the stays and let them trail in the water.  I camouflage myself in order the lightening might overlook me.  Actions have consequences.   I am the chicken of the sea and I count the seconds between flash and thunder (what’s that old rule, every second is a mile away?  I forget) and run for open sky.

A hard rain washes the deck, then is gone with the dawn.  I have drifted only two miles in my sleep.  Toward noon the passing storms leave me with a gift of wonderful north wind and CAP’N LEM sails handsomely on to Oswego.

In Oswego Harbor I tie to the river wall just below the locks at Lat.47° 27’ 32.0”N ~ Long. 30’ 34.1”W having traveled 76 nm in two days and 1758 nm to date.

My anchorage in Oak Orchard Creek NY was Lat. 43° 22’ 13.3”N ~ Long. 078° 11’ 33.3”W.

Oak Orchard Creek anchorage

Oak Orchard Creek anchorage


From Lat 43° 22’ 13.3N ~ Lon 078° 11’ 33.3”W

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

On Oak Orchard Creek, the fishermen leave early.  The sun lightens the sky.  My anchorage is calm and I’m slow to rise.  I think of the past week and the trip through the Welland Canal. 

The first lock on the north side dropped the CAP’N LEM from the level of Lake Erie toward the Level of Lake Ontario a full 3 feet.  Then, it was two hours of motoring at 5 knots to the start of the remaining seven locks, each dropping us 47 feet for a total of 329 feet.  To me, the locks were a celebration of mankind’s ingenuity.  I wonder at that moment of discovery the first person visualized how it could be done.  Did they think “Water falls, and because it falls we can make it rise and with it we can rise ourselves!”   But no, I read about locks only to find they developed over long periods of time.  No flash of genius, no cry of “Eureka”, just slow steady progress of an idea passed on, mistakes made, lives lost, until now and mighty ships up and down with the closing of doors and opening of valves.   Still I’m humbled by the giant doors closed behind us holding back an inland sea.  As the water recedes in the lock small leaks in the doors spew out angry streams through cracks and seams.  Water wants its freedom, too.

The CAP’N LEM is the only vessel in each lock.   I’m reminded how rich I am in water.  Millions upon millions of gallons of fresh water spent in lowering me on my way.  More fresh water than I will drink, bath, wash my clothes in, water my lawn with… in a lifetime.  Such beautiful extravagance.  And to make me even for aware of my water wealth, it rained.  In the rain I tend the lines and promise myself to ponder about water and not complain when it rains and be ever mindful when, as I will, waste it, so as never to waste too much.  Of all the things in the world, save for air, it is the one thing most valuable to my life.  Then bells sound, the north doors open and we’re on our way.  So after twelve hours of travel through the Welland Canal we come to Lake Ontario and rest at Lat. 43° 15’ 19.6”N ~ Long. 079° 03’ 41.7”W on the Niagara River.