Sometimes giving up during a delivery is the better part of valor. This was the case when we attempted to deliver the Bayfield 32 Arthur had bought from Port Credit to Waupoos via one long mid lake jump this October 23 & 24th.
We arrived at Port Credit late afternoon and began the long process of unloading the car stuffed full of supplies and equipment down Port Credit Harbour's long "O" dock. Situated at the south end of the marina Windaway waited for us in the very last slip, a few hundred feet south off starboard side the Ridgetown blocked the lake Ontario from view. The docks were quiet in this mid week late afternoon, deserted for all but a couple emptying their boat for the season which made the going easier as we shuttled load after load down the dock.
Ann was absolutely marvelous methodically organizing the influx of material we brought aboard as Arthur dealt with settling yard bills. I temporally installed my Gramin antenna large screen GPS at the below decks navigation station never fully trusting un-calibrated equipment. ,Bristol Marine had not completed any of the contracted mechanical work on the vessel which should have set off the first alarm bells, but the conditions and weather window as good as it gets for late October in Ontario.
It was 17:00 whence moved her up to the fuel dock and growing dark as they finished the oil change, abandoning the remainder of the requested service. The fuel docks has closed for the night which meant another delay as they went to find fuel and I re attached the inner stay for the jib which was tied to the mast. At 19:00 hrs we bid Ann goodbye and headed out of Port Credit Harbour in the dark. No sooner had we cleared harbour when the first harbinger of problems to come came less than 100 feet beyond the Ridgetown the engine quit suddenly with a screech and groan. The wind was fresh and the night brisk, but not too cold as we raised her sails and set course east . PErhaps hastily I thought who needs an engine when you have wind and sails as she had passed survey with flying colors.
The sails ran out easily and filled quickly, it was perfect close hauled sailing. I had planned a mid lake course falling roughly 6 to 12 miles south of the Canadian shore on a heading of 87° to allow for southerly drift. The night was brisk but not too cold yet as she showed a steady 6.6 knots as we passed the four sisters.
Two hours out we passed Toronto 4 miles south of Giberalter Point, the lights of Toronto and muted purple arch of Sky Dome presenting a beautiful panorama which my camera was unable to capture under the conditions. A view reminding me once again what a world class city Toronto has become.
East from Toronto the shoreline falls away fairly quickly and there was that creeping elation of going to sea again. Relaxed after the first few hours this increasingly cold, exceptionally clear night seemed so peaceful. As the shore receded we decided on an very abbreviated watches half hour watch cycle to minimize our exposure to the bitter chill under the clear October night with blazing stars. Everything was going perfectly.
By midnight we were far enough south as to be able to pick up the tower lights on the USA shore with some of the best visibility I have experienced. The wind holding steady at between 12 with an occasional puff to 20 knots with light seas of perhaps 3 foot waves as she surged eastward under the brilliant night sky punctuated with flickering ribbons of northern lights above the Canadian shoreline.
Watches changed the night deepened as we worked our way east a friendly star resting in the corner of the dodger window as a reference as none of the instrument lights worked. Our routine was set ass we made good progress eastward. I had forgotten there is little that I like better than crawling under a warm sleeping bag tucked into some a leeward corner of a salon for a few minutes sleep with the predictable noises of passage making to lull me to sleep.
Approximately 02:00 hrs the wind began to shift easterly forcing us further south of our intended course but our eastward progress was still making progress so I made no change hoping the wind would back to the north. Somewhere in the early hours of thursday we crossed into USA waters. I was wakened to a concerned voice asking if we should reduce sail as the wind had freshened with regular waves sending spray cascading aft over their dodger to reach the cockpit in an icy shower. A hurried position check at 03:00 showed we had finally reaching a position of 43:36.72 ° North 78:34.04 ° West. Far too far south to continue without tacking.
We furled the genny as I found the jib below decks and then fought my way forward with it on the slippery deck. The crude lifelines that had seemed adequate in harbour now filled me with dread as there was almost no place for me to clip my safety harness to, clipping it to the toe rail made it difficult to release and the lifelines outright scary. On a positive note I gave thank for my forethought in re connecting the inner forestay so at least we didn't have to deal with the roller furling on the bowsprit. The jibs sail hanks were in poor repair and difficult to open forcing me to lie on the foredeck and pry them open with my knife, then the clasp came apart in my hand forcing me to tie the halyard to the jib. As waves washed over me was thankful for a the full exposure suit's tight cuffs keeping the icy water from getting inside. It took several tries to finally get it up with a true rats nest of halyards repeatedly wrapping themselves in the rigging. After far too many attempts the jib was set only to find the and filled we were back under way.
Within a few minutes it was clear that with the reduced sail and deteriorating conditions that a single tack mid lake to off Scotch Bonnet was not to be in the offering for us. Once we tacked the best heading that was possible left the lights of Oshawa slightly to port as our regular watch cycle resumed.
By dawn we were still deep mid lake not far east of Darlington making little progress eastward. Further attempts to get the engine to work produced little but more frustration and a cabin filled with an nasty burning rubber mist warning of dire consequences were we to continue our attempts to motor sail. With the greatest reluctance in full knowledge there was little choice but to search for a safe harbour along the coast to put in at in order to make repairs.
By 08:30 hours we were within cellular range and began to contact viable harbours in search of facilities where worse came to worse we could haul out. The early attempts were contact attempts were ill fated due to limited reception as we tried to tack eastward in the shifting wind.
All eastward progress became impossible as we hopelessly tacked back and forth 5 to 6 miles south of the nuclear station at Darlington. Our hearts dropped as slowly we established contact with Darlington, Oshawa and finally Whitby. Oshawa was deep in the process of closing for good and no longer operating and haul outs. Whitby, now experiencing the overflow and windfall from Oshawa harbours closing in 2003 would not even consider haul out unless, we booked next seasons summer slip which was unacceptable.
It was now mid morning with brilliant sunshine and excellent sailing conditions at any other warmer time of the year but we were stuck unable to make enough eastward progress without power. Reluctantly I had to reach for my mechanics hat and began a though inspection and analyst is of our engine problems. Step by step we discovered one after another stupid and almost genny rigged gremlins guided by the ever present symptom of the smell of burning rubber even though engine temperature was reading only 180 °.
For the next several hours we tried first one tack then the other running the engine at intervals so as not to completely overheat it. Slowly we found and eliminated the gremlins moved items which were resting against her exhaust and muffler system. Tracing the twisted and difficult to access cooling system back to locate the overheating problem. It was so frustrating as even though the temperature gauges showed hot they never went much above 190°. Finally, only proving what a difficult overnight passage can do to logic I dove deep into the starboard locker rooting long abandoned junk aside filling the cockpit with yet more remains.
Still holding our position which varied from a couple of miles to 4 miles of the Darlington generating plant the frustrating task continued. The ever helpful Wayne at Darlington Marina was willing to assist us entering the harbour but even that was out of reach unless we could get functional power. The wind had dropped and even with the full genny we had no hope of making any eastward progress.
At long last I reached the deepest part of the aft bilge where the through hull was located, only to find that someone had shut it completely off. Stupidly and with great relief the noisy lister growled back to life.
The lake fell still, forgetting its earlier ill nature and our tired spirits soared as and we began the remaining 4 or five miles her Lister rattling away en route to the Darlington harbour entrance. As the miles began to shed we encountered a tug with spud barge with tender on her hip crossing our bow south of the cement plant. This was the only other traffic since a couple of isolated sailboat's in stalwart sail bastion of the PCH Mimico area.
Timing was almost perfect as we approached the parallel harbour break walls we could see a small boat making out of the break walls. It was Wane, the new owner of Port Darlington Marina coming to offer assistance and guide us in the now extremely shallow channel.
By now poor Arthur could not be heard as his voice had disappeared to a soft croak during our night of exposure. As we made our way up the shallow channel carefully taking our lead from Wayne the changes to this port were pronounced. Wiggers Custom Yachts now dominates the entrance with a wide varies of serious vessels alongside and ashore. Just as we made the final jog into the new condo part of Port Darlington Marina we could see Ann walking down the dock to greet us.
As we tied our lines and headed for a bowl of soup and a beer I could find no damming faults of their new boat. Nore would I have changed any of my decisions along the way, at this time of year on Lake Ontario you only get one weather window to attempt a open water delivery. True it was a gamble from the start, and I knew it from the start. On the other hand the boat is in safe harbour and by launch next spring. I know her long list of shortcomings we accumulated will be rectified. The final leg to Waupoos where Ann and Arthur live an enjoyable shakedown and experience for them both. For all the difficulties we proved the boat worthwhile and she now safely in Port Darlington where discretion is the better part of valor.
In closing and in thanks to their helpfulness I offer kudos and thanks to Wayne and Port Darlington Marina. I loved this little oasis in the 70's and was saddened when the Gills sold it however Wane maintains the tradition for hospitality and professionalism that Port Darlington has always been famous for. For all of those of you who ply the shores of Lake Ontario, providing you have adequate draft to make it to Darlington Marina I recommend it highly enough.
This autumn's spate of deliveries, and Edgar's death bring new perspective to my own cruising objectives. I am getting too old for wet slippery foredecks in the dark, but in limited doses it is still a lot of fun and I would not pass up for anything. There is at least one worthwhile suitor for Naughty Lass future so who knows what the future will bring.