Misery Bay

The CAP’N LEM is docked in Buffalo New York making preparations to transit the Welland Canal on Thursday June 11th 2009.

After leaving Rocky River, THE CAP beats to windward on the now familiar short tack long tacks required to make progress against the Northeast winds.  A shift in wind directions that accompanies the setting of the sun helps gain the last few miles to Presque Island.  Night navigation gets hampered by the numerous lights on shore near a big city like Erie PA.   I check the chart, the radar, GPS, the horizon looking for anything that moves, anything that flashes, anything that stands out of the ordinary, then again chart, radar, GPS, horizon over and over until I’m well in the channel.  I don’t worry about grounding so much as hitting something unlighted. I jump at shadows. 

 It’s rare to see another boat out this late, but one lone motorboat overtakes me to port well outside the channel and proceeds me into the harbor.  He knows the waters and cuts buoys and corners and is soon out of sight.  I don’t let myself indulge in such for fear it might become a habit, a bad habit.  I shine a light on the unlighted buoys, I confirm my position and I slow down.  Like my father before me, I am a “night watchman” and I let that weight of responsibility hang heavy on my shoulders.  I talk to myself and I listen to what I say, “This mile, tommy, this mile is the important one, the one right in front of you!”.  

At the end of the seawall and before the next buoy, a hard right turn, 90° into a very shallow bay named Misery.  The fathometer rises to 4’ below the hull; I raise the dagger board and loosen the rudder just in case I find the bottom.  No, down again to 8’ and I’m home for the night at Lat. 42° 09’ 29.3” N ~Lon. 080° 05’ 14.5”W having traveled 1491 nautical miles from Two Harbors MN.  At first light, I’m up and out the hatch to see the bay called Misery and marvel that such a place could bare such a named.  One thing I’ve learned in my travels is there is no accounting for the names some places are given.  Perhaps the local history would explain it but to me a quiet anchorage like this in a beautiful boat surrounded by ducks and geese, and people in canoes on a clear Saturday morning is the stuff of dreams that could bring misery to no one.

I get an excited call from Tiny, “Did I see it!”  “No, what?”  “The NIAGARA, The Brig just left the harbor, full sail.”   A picture of a tall ship from the CAP’N LEM is a must.  Daylight changes things and coupled with the close scrutiny of the chart the night before I’m out of the harbor in pursuit.  I watch as off in the distance the Brig NIAGARA tacks,  the sailors on board running to man braces, then hauling to bring the yards around at just the right moment to catch the wind on the other tack before all momentum is lost.  The grace and beauty of a tall ship well handled is a thing to see.  It makes me glad to be a sailor.

The wind is right for my run to Buffalo, and just strong enough to keep me excited and watchful.  I leave the NIAGARA and Presque Island behind in the haze very quickly and  sail 75 miles before coming to anchor just inside the west breakwater of Buffalo Harbor at Lat. 42° 52’ 28.2” N ~ Long. 078° 54’ 09.4” W having traveled  1566 NM to date.



10 Responses to “Misery Bay”

  1. Wojtek Jaskiewicz says:

    Hi Tommy

    I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m enjoying the pictures even more. If you land in Port Credit (which you should) drop me a line. I’ll be happy to buy you breakfast.


  2. stephen watterson says:

    Tommy, so gald you got to see NIAGARA. We are very proud of her here on Lake Erie.

  3. Brad says:

    Welcome to Buffalo. I walked down to the slip and saw you docked. Great looking tri, I always wanted to try one and it’s on my list of things to do. If you are here till Wednesday there is a great showing of boats durring the regatta that starts at 6pm every week.

    Enjoy your stay.

  4. Woody says:

    Hi Tommy, Woody from Marquette here. You sure have made some progress since we last saw each other. Had breakfast with Ted this morning and we talked about you. Spring has barely come to the UP, still cold, wet and generally miserable. In reading your Buffalo post I am reminded of your “good luck” post and our conversation at bereakfast. Inching into a strange harbor at night rather than taking chances is a perfect example of preparation rather than luck winning out. I have always heard that luck was the residue of hard work. Be well……….. Best from Woody & Gracie

  5. Gene Trentham says:

    Luck is the residue of hard work. I like it. Tommy, your adventures to the Gulf of St. Lawrence is of great interest. But, the travels afterward have me waiting in anxious anticipation. I have no idea what may lay in wait for you. I wish I could come aboard with you and expierence what lies ahead. I, and many others will be there vicarously. Broad reaches rule.

  6. John Crawford says:

    Hello Tommy:

    I’ve been following your adventure since Day 1. Share your website with some other CWO’S. Hope they enjoy it as much as I am.
    I knew you were a good and experienced sailor, but I had no idea you were an equally good (and interesting) writer.
    Your Great Lakes travel brings back many fond memories for me as I spent my first 8 years in the USCG in the 9th District.
    We loved it, but found the weather more temperate and comfortable here in the Pacific NW – for retirement.
    People here complain about the rain. I just call it “self-shoveling snow.” They’ve never had to find their car first – before digging it out.
    Regards, jcc / Shoreline, WA

  7. Cliff Stiletto 30 says:

    Saw you motor into the Buffalo harbor the other day and Saw the boat and wrote down your website,Tonight your out of the harbor and must be headed to the canal.Good luck.
    Cliff Stiletto 30

  8. Chi Cli Change says:

    Looks Sunny. What’s that like Tommy? No sun here. No heat here. Chicago is cold and cloudy. Even in June. Save the polar bears.

  9. Barry says:


    I’m spending my Saturday evening reading your posts instead of sailing my own boat!

    Just saw a show about the Northwest Passage on the History Channel!



    Barry- Mental Floss Monroe MI

  10. Chris B says:

    Hey Tommy,
    I looked for you in Erie on 6/5 but looks like you weren’t there yet. I was on a road trip west to Green Bay, WI. Sorry I missed you, but the Niagra at port was almost as fine a sight as in your photo.

    Chris B.
    Bedford, MA