Category Archives: Sailing in Lake Erie

July 20 – The Welland Canal

We had quite the adventure yesterday in the Welland Canal. It started off at 6:00 am, with our engine not behaving properly. We had to really rev the engine to make the boat go. Dennis noticed this immediately and was quite worried that the engine would overheat. Eventually though, as we approached the holding dock, the engine started behaving properly. At the Port Coborne Marina, we had backed into the slip and it was full of weeds, so maybe weeds had been caught on the keel or prop. At any rate, everything was now working!



At the holding dock, we met up with Goban, this was a 40 foot Hughes from the 1970s. The couple that owned it had just bought it in Sarnia three weeks ago. They were having quite a time with the boat. It was well built, much heavier than ours, but had been in the charter business in the Caribbean for years. The owner was 94 years old and helped Michel get the boat ready. Michel was so worried about him because they were working in the extreme heat (35 degrees!) for hours, but the man seemed ok. The boat had seen better days though. Nothing worked on it! No running water, no refrigeration, the dodger and bimini leaked in the rain, most of the gauges did not work, the sails were old and worn out.
The reason we learned all this was because MIchel and Jane (the couple that owned the boat) were at the Port Colborne Marina just two slips down from us and they came over the night before the Welland Canal adventure and told us all about their trip. First of all, Jane had never really been on a sailboat except for a small one years ago, so for her to take on a three week trip under those conditions, was very admirable. Michel was an experienced sailor and nothing seemed to faze him. They have (perhaps had) a ten year plan to get to get the boat ready for their retirement.
At the holding dock, we explained to Michel that our engine was not quite right and he laughingly said, “It is good thing we are here – we may have to tow you!”
We then called the Seaway Welland lockmaster and he gave us the green light to get through the first lock. We were thrilled! Sometimes it takes 16 – 17 hours to get through the locks. We would probably be through in six hours, the weather was cool and we didn’t have to go through with a big boat. It was just Goban and the Split Crow.
The first lock (Lock 8) was so easy. We dropped only four feet and didn’t have ropes to hang onto. We then had to motor for almost twelve miles through the canal before we reached the rest of the locks.
Everything was going very smoothly until suddenly we could hear shouting and Michel calling the Split Crow on Channel 16 (the emergency radio channel). We looked behind us and could see billows of smoke coming out of their boat, and everyone waving their arms frantically. (Goban had aquired tow helpers – Myrna and Charlie – to get them through the locks). Dennis answered the radio and Michel told him that the boat was on fire! We headed back to help and by the time we got to them, everything was under control. We called the Seaway Welland lockmaster and told him that we were going to have to tow Goban. So, we towed them along for a while. Here is a picture of them – notice how nobody is really looking too worried!

The lockmaster told us to get to a certain point, then tie up along the wall and get the boat fixed. Most likely, you cannot tow another boat through the lock system.
So, we tied up and found out what happened. Michel had heard a bunch of alarms go off (water temperature, engine overheating, etc) and simply turned them off and carried on. Within minutes, the engine had overheated and smoke was coming out of the cabin. Michel ran down with the fire extinguisher and opened the engine cover and realized that all the antifreeze and coolants had blown out of the engine. The smoke was actually water vapor. It did look quite spectacular though!
Here is a picture of Dennis with the Goban owners after he helped them out.


We called the lockmaster to let him know what was happening and he then contacted us on our cell phone. Dennis went over to help and refilled the engine with coolant, checked the water pump to make sure water was coming out of it (there was a little bit, not much but a little bit) and the engine started. We called the lockmaster back and he gave us the go ahead to proceed. We set off again, with Goban following. Suddenly, we heard more shouts and when we looked back, their little dog was running alongside the boat on the dock! Michel turned in, grabbed the dog and set off again! By this time, we were hysterical with laughter! What a situation!
We eased into the next lock and the lockmaster asked Michel if he was planning on leaving the dog behind. Apparently, they captured this on camera. Hopefully, we won’t be featured in a training manual dealing with what NOT to do while going through the locks.




The next couple of locks went smoothly. The two of us were able to handle the boat and there was not too much turbulence. Then, as we were heading to Lock 2 (the second last lock), we got another radio call from Goban that their engine was overheating and that they needed to be towed. So, we circled back and tried to get the towing rope, but it was all snarled and knotted. Charlie and Myrna frantically unsnarled it while we went around them again. Meanwhile, we called the lockmaster on channel 14 and Dennis explained the situation. He told us to tell Goban to call him immediately. Michel called in and the lockmaster told him that he had to call in if there were any problems. It was just luck that a freighter wasn’t barreling down the channel.
We crawled up to the lock, towing Goban and let them go just before we entered. Dennis said that if he couldn’t untie the rope safely, he’d have to cut it. We didn’t want it going around the prop!
We successfully dropped another 40 feet and started out of the lock, when Michel’s engine would not start! Good grief! Dennis radioed the lockmaster and told him that he would tow Goban out of the lock. Meanwhile, Goban was bouncing around sideways and running into the wall. We started BACKING UP in the lock towards Goban. Dennis said, “They better have that rope ready!” Miracuously, Goban’s engine started and they limped out of the lock. Only one more to go!
The last lock was actually anti-climatic. Both boats went through easily. We looked for the first place to tie up and got off the boats. Originally, we were going to head to Port Dalhousie (and we’re sorry to have missed it) but there was a strong wind warning out for Lake Ontario (25 knots) and we were so tired that we decided to stay put for the night. We were safe. Goban however, carried on. They said that they could sail to Port Dalhousie. They called today though and let us know that they made it safely!
In all, we had been a little worried about the Welland Canal and hadn’t slept well the night before. Thank goodness we didn’t know what was in store for us! We dropped 328 feet in a span of eight hours and had a great adventure along the way. Hopefully, today’s ride to Toronto Island will not be as exciting!
Here are a couple of pictures of us going under the QEW.


Finally, here is a picture of the Split Crow all safely tied up. Notice who is swimming in the canal!

We ended off the day on a good note – Diane came for a visit and brought us supper – KFC! Thanks, Diane!!



July 18, 19 – Port Colborne

We made it successfully out of Lake Erie! It is a pretty nice lake although much warmer and more shallow than Lake Michigan or Huron. Tomorrow, we will be in Lake Ontario if all goes well with the Welland Canal. It can take up to 16 hours to get through so it will be a long day!
Port Colborne is a great place to visit by boat! The marina is quiet and clean (although in order to get to the office or leave the marina, the walk is .35 km – I measured it on my bike). The downtown, including a grocery store, is easily accessible – you can walk the four blocks (once you get out of the marina, that is) and there are many nice bike paths. The path I rode on follows the locks and is really interesting because you can watch the boats go through.
The cycling here is incredible – there are several trails (all paved) that go around the entire Niagara region – 140 km. You can do the entire loop from Port Colborne to Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Niagara -on-the-Lake, St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland. The paths are well marked and have rest stops along the way. Lake Erie is linked with Lake Ontario via cycling trails. Looks interesting to explore!
Here are some pictures of Port Colborne – the first one is of the first lock that we have to go through.

The second one is of a ship going through – you can see the bridge in the background.

The third picture is of an old bridge that is now part of the cycling trail.

The last one is of the Robin Hood Flour grain tower that was used in the 1940s during the war. It could hold over 2 million pounds of wheat!

That’s it for today – I am going biking and Dennis has gone to check out the locks and possible pay the lock master in advance. It is $200 to lock through but well worth it – it beats going over the falls!

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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Sailing in Lake Erie


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July 17 – Long Point

We had planned to go to Erie, PA but because the winds were so favorable, we decided to head directly to Long Point. I had to go jogging first (most unpleasant in the heat and humidity even at 6:30 in the morning). We left at about 7:30 and sailed the whole way. It is nice to sail with the wind! The ride is so much more pleasant! It was a long day – we got in at around 7:00 and went swimming right away because it was so hot! The water was very refreshing and even cool.
The only yucky part of the day was just before we turned the corner to the anchorage, we spotted a deer carcass in the water. Most unfortunate, especially since we are right beside a wildlife refuge.

I am glad we came across to Canada today. Tomorrow, we are supposed to get a north east wind, so it would have been right on our bow all day.
No pictures today – nothing new to see.
Tomorrow is Port Colborne and then…the Welland Canal!

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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Sailing in Lake Erie


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July 16 – Geneva, Ohio

OK – totally uneventful day – very easy ride from Cleveland to Geneva. The only thing of any interest along the way were the nuclear cooling towers.

Lake Erie nuclear cooling towers

We are at the Geneva State Park Marina and it is very nice. There is a great bike path throughout the park – all paved. The marina is vey quiet and clean. We met some boaters from Cleveland who had been to the North Channel and they remarked that they could not believe the cleanliness of the water. We can’t believe the condition of the water in Lake Erie! Supposedly it is much cleaner than it used to be and in the larger part of the lake, it certainly is. I think that because the lake is so shallow and so warm, a lot of stuff grows easily. Apparently, the zebra mussels have cleaned it up.

We went out to eat in Geneva at the seediest place I have ever been in! I followed Dennis’ advice though and ordered a hamburger. “Don’t order anything else in a place like this!” The hamburger was pretty good actually but the clientele was certainly interesting. I felt like I was in an episode of Sons of Anarchy…

Here is a picture of the bottom of the bar stools – this is to keep the bikers from poking each others’ eyes out!

Geneva is very similar to Wasaga Beach and they have an old ferris wheel in the downtown area.

We are off to Erie, PA tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be in the 90s! After Erie, we are crossing back into Canada. We are hoping to get to the Welland Canal on Saturday morning.


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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Sailing in Lake Erie


July 14, 15 – Cleveland: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Science Center, Whiskey Island

We will be leaving Cleveland tomorrow morning, heading to Geneva, then Erie, and then we will cross back to Canada and be near Port Dover. We have had a great time in Cleveland even in the heat!
We toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yesterday and I would totally recommend it if you were in Cleveland. I wouldn’t say to make a pilgrimage to the place, but if you’re in the city, then it worth while. Some of the highlights were seeing the many stage costumes worn by Elvis (sequined jumper!), The Beatles, David Bowie, Diana Ross and many many more. We saw Elvis’ purple cadillac, Janis Joplin’s porsche and toured Johnny Cash’ bus!




Today, we toured the Great Lakes Science Centre. It was interesting however, it was certainly not as good as the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology or even the Ontario Science Centre. We had lots of fun though.



We also saw home of the Cleveland Browns. The stadium is huge!


The most fun we had though was at our marina – Whiskey Island. The name should say it all! We arrived, totally confused because were expecting someone to come out and catch the boat, and to arrange for Customs. Nothing like that happened – this is the most relaxed marina we’ve ever been in! The best part though is that there is an outside bar and grill – Jimmy Buffet style. Live bands play on Friday and Saturdays throughout the summer. The two bands we saw were excellent – blues and great dancing songs – no heavy metal or anything like that. We met lots of nice people. I would totally recommend this marina – just for the atmosphere – very casual and very friendly! The only drawback of any marina in Cleveland is that it is quite far away from the main downtown or from a grocery store. Other than that, it was great!


So, tomorrow we head east!


Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Sailing in Lake Erie


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Friday, July 13 – Cleveland

Friday the 13th started at 3:00 am. We were anchored at the southeast end of Pelee Island with a gentle east wind blowing. At 3:00, that changed – a 20 knot southwest wind kicked up and both of us woke up right away. We had to leave the anchorage because we were worried that we would get blown into the shore. Luckily, we had planned on leaving as soon as we got up and had the dinghy hoisted as well as everything battened down, so it was just a matter of getting the anchor raised and motoring off. After a couple of attempts, with the windlass shorting out, we managed to break free of the mud and clay. It was a good thing because we were only in 12 feet of water!

I have to wonder about all the government cutbacks, especially in Environment Canada because that wind was not supposed to happen! Anyway, it all worked out and we motored away from Pelee Island. By 4:30, we were actually sailing and watched the sun come up (well, Dennis watched the sun come up – I was sleeping in the cockpit).

We had a good sail in to Cleveland and docked at Whiskey Island. We had a very confusing time with Customs though as we needed to go to the video phone which was located at another marina. Luckily, Tom the manager took pity on us and had one of his employees, Beverly, drive us over. It was very simple to do once we got to the phone. We were expecting a bigger deal like we had in Drummond Island where the Customs come on the boat and search it.

Since we got up so early, we had to lie down for a couple of hours to sleep and now are ready to see the sights! More updates tomorrow!


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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Sailing in Lake Erie


July 12 – Pelee Island

This is our last day in Canada for a few days. Tomorrow, we are hoping to go to Cleveland and then we will move up the Lake Erie coast on the American side for a couple of nights (Geneva and Erie) because the distances are shorter. So, my turbo hub and phone will be shut off until I find wifi.

The first picture today was taken at the elementary school.


I wondered about that – seemed pretty radical to have to post a sign like that!

My second picture is of the pheasant farm:

Inside the big cage, are hundreds of pheasants. The cage is huge but is covered with netting. In the fall, all the pheasants are let go and hunted. Apparently, this is quite an event on Pelee Island. I wouldn’t want to be doing yard duty at the school while the hunt was on!

This morning, I went for another bike ride and found some neat things. The next picture is of a giant pile of old grape vines. I am not sure what will be done to them.

20120712-154600.jpg I drove around in the centre of the island and found acres and acres of grapes. The winery has over 600 acres. I also found a lot of soya beans being farmed. Pelee Island has a unique climate – it is on the same latitude as northern California and because Lake Erie is so warm, the island is ideal for farming things that are difficult to farm elsewhere in Canada.
As I was driving around, I found an honesty stall of produce (the produce is laid out on a table with a cash box and you are expected to be honest and pay up). Here’s a picture of what I bought (and yes – I was honest!).


We are anchored out on the east side of the island – it was getting too warm at the marina. It is nice here. Cool breeze and good swimming! Tomorrow – Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Sailing in Lake Erie



July 11 – Pelee Island

Dennis wanted to leave the anchorage bright and early this morning but I slept in until 7:30! I am on holidays after all, so I didn’t feel too guilty. We left as soon as I got up and were tied up at Scudder Marine by 10:00. Dennis got my bike out for me immediately and I drove around the entire island (30 km – very flat and pretty) and did some sightseeing.


The school has nine children from K to 8 (five of the kids are in kindergarten!) and three teachers. The high school kids have to go to the mainland unless they do some distance education and two students are actually getting their high school diploma on-line.

I had to take a picture of the shoe tree – modern art on Pelee Island!


After lunch and a swim at the beach (the water is really warm), we ventured off to the Pelee Island Winery and had the tour! It was very interesting and we sampled five different types of wine. We had to ride our bikes back (another 9 km) and Dennis was a bit whiny because his bike is so small (the wheels are about the size of dinner plates) so I volunteered to drive it back. Huge mistake! I can see why he is so slow getting anywhere – you have to pedal like a crazy person to get anywhere! Needless to say, I won’t be volunteering to do that again. 🙂

As you can see, “Old Pink” has made an appearance…
Anyway, we had lots of fun and I will tour the island again tomorrow before we go back to the anchorage and do some real swimming before we head out to Cleveland early Friday morning.



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Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Sailing in Lake Erie



July 10 – Pelee Island

We have officially been to the most southern point of Canada! We are anchored out on the west side of Pelee Island and are watching the sun go down. We left the Detroit River this morning and headed to toward Pelee Island with the cooling towers of the nuclear plant clearly visible for miles. It took us a long time to get those out of our sight. We sailed again today and it was great! It also kept Dennis occupied – he was constantly trimming the sails and making minor adjustments of lines and other nautical things. This was good for me because I like to listen to CBC’s Q from 10:00 until 11:30.

Last night, we met up with Rick and Michelle. Rick bought many of Dennis’ North Channel and Georgian Bay charts through Kijiji. He and Michelle are going up to the North Channel – leaving on Thursday – in their 25 foot C & C sailboat. They are very nice and we wish them the best of luck on their trip. I hope the weather is good for them!

On our way down the Detroit River, we saw some wildlife:

It must have been a good day for birds because as we went by a bald rock close to Pelee Island, we saw this colony of birds:


We got anchored safely and went swimming right away. According to the boat thermometer, the water temp is 31 degrees! It was quite warm but still very nice! The water is clean and there were many schools of tiny little fish around the boat.

We took the dinghy ashore and walked along the pebble beach. It was a bit painful on the feet but I didn’t complain (too much!). We walked almost to the end of the island – it has a sandbar at the end that had hundreds of seagulls.


We walked back through the forest area (on a path!) and saw all sorts of interesting vegetation that we don’t see in Parry Sound! The picture of the tree is neat because it looks like it is growing from both ends.


The forest is full of birds and mosquitoes (although the mosquitoes don’t bite unless you stop and admire the vegetation) and it was much cooler in the forest as compared to the beach.

We had another swim once we got back and are now getting ready for bed. Tomorrow, we go to Scudder Marine and will tour the island in search of Margaret Atwood!



Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Sailing in Lake Erie


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