Tag Archives: Watercraft

The storm blew in, and took me with it!

You know, it was just one wonderfully warm evening last Tuesday when I stepped aboard Lifeline and prepped her to motor to the ramps. The prediction for weather was some increasingly heavy rain and I knew I was pressed for time. There was a temptation to raise a sail one last time, but I would have to bend the foresail back on. I didn’t want to take the time.

I snapped some pictures of the docks as I walked out and again as I motored away. Mostly empty, they seemed lonesome and the quiet about them unnatural. It was a good year. I was absent more than in the past yet those times when I came down there were always many others enjoying the marina and the boats. I sighed and turned back to the task at hand, motoring out across the lake to New Galena ramp on the east side of the lake. Lights hadn’t been installed in the new parking lot at the Hollenbeck ramp where the State’s marina is, and I was most definitely out ‘after dark’.

Half way across the lake, I decided I’d raise my keel board. I didn’t want to run aground in the dark only a few feet from a dock. It’s shallow on the east side, too shallow for my counterbalance of lead to be sticking down. Besides, I was motoring and didn’t need the counterbalance to begin with.

It’s fifty cranks of the winch handle to raise or lower the keel board. The handle rotates close to the wood edge of the companion way and I knocked my fingers a few times. I was alone on the lake, so being below wasn’t too big a deal. I had the tiller tender set to hold the rudder for a steady course for a few minutes while I worked the wire and wheel. That’s why the ‘bump’ was such a surprise when I lost my balance.

What made the boat heave over was the wind! The weather front hadn’t arrived with rain yet, but the wind ahead of it was stirring. I took another fifteen-degree push from starboard and lost my balance again. Holy cow! What’s going on?!

Back at the tiller, I could feel the wind blowing across my face, and Lifeline blowing sideways across the lake. I adjusted course to starboard, bringing the bow toward the New Galena channel, yet I was still moving sideways. I increased the motor speed and turn right again. I was still slipping sideways in this wind, and I couldn’t see any signs of it on the water in the dark. Another large gust caught the boat and heaved me over again.

Mindy was watching from the ramp and couldn’t understand why she could see the mast light seeming to drift toward the shoreline instead of the docks. She said later she was just amazed; right up until the wind hit her at the shoreline. Then she understood. She went to the truck and pulled the trailer down to the ramps. She was backing it down when I finally turned Lifeline into the docks.

Except that Mindy was on one ramp and I was coming in to the one beside it. There was no chance I was going to get into where she was and ‘drive’ right onto the trailer. Not tonight. Not in this blow. I jumped up from the tiller and grabbed the lines I had on the port side, bringing them onto the starboard. I tied off as securely as I could while Mindy brought the trailer over one lane. The wind was whipping up whitecaps on the open water and the exposed dock was being beaten about handily. I was grateful the wind didn’t let me pull in there. That dock might have gotten on the trailer before I could get the boat on it.

Now, the trailer down in the water put the winch out in knee-deep black and COLD water. I knew I wanted dry clothes in this wind since it was going to take two hours to get the mast down and everything rigged for the road. Mindy hadn’t even thought about being in the water so she was rather surprised when she turned and saw me dropping my trousers and kicking off shoes. She had grabbed the boat hook to push Lifeline out far enough to get onto the trailer while I snapped the winch strap to the bow. It was so COLD my ankles HURT!

I had Lifeline snapped to and hauled to the winch but she was still floating and beating herself on the dock. I jumped up onto the dock and took the boat hook from Mindy. She went to the truck and started inching the trailer up the ramp. It’s really difficult to push on a Catalina 22 with only the point of and/or the hook on the end of a five-foot aluminum pole, against a 25-knot wind! Little-by-little we made it, though, and Lifelike has but a couple degrees ‘heel’ she’ll sit with on the trailer this winter.

The rest of the night went smoothly. The rain didn’t come in ‘til we were near finished. The trees on the shoreline broke the wind once we pulled away from the ramps. The lights at New Galena gave us plenty to work under, and they were almost WARM with their halogen glow. The turnbuckles came loose, the gin-pole snugged tight, and the mast came down slow and controlled (thanks again, Kevin). We pulled away in under an hour-and-a-half, towing my mistress behind me with the help of my wife.

My trousers? Oh, no, I didn’t forget. Those I retrieved as soon as she hauled the boat out. Those overhead lights weren’t really warm…

(It’s really nice to ‘blow’ through a thousand words for fun.  The other three thousand tonight went toward school)


Under Way, Under Sail…and the Moon was absent

Tonight was the shake-down cruise.  The wind was up at 10 – 15 and gusting higher I’m sure.  Lifeline was a sturdy as ever under the strain of the sails pulling her forward through the water.  With full sail she leapt up to 5.1 knots, pressing forward and ignoring the ladder I left down and the propeller that doesn’t quite come out of the water.

Around the sailing circle we went, falling off on a starboard tack (wind from the right side), not testing a close haul but still beating upwind toward the Alum Creek beach.  I opened up the angle to the wind and reached (wind at 90 degrees to the right) toward the dam to the south.  No groaning or whining, Lifeline pounded the water, the bow wake splashing up onto the deck and the port side taking water over the gun’ls.  I opened up the sail more and ran down wind toward the Galena ramps.

A jibe is a maneuver that requires some extra attention.  The shift in the rudder brings the wind across the stern of the boat and the boom completely across the boat from one side to another.  Uncontrolled, it has at least caused damage to persons and boats.  At worst it has taken down masts and stays.  I had no such difficulty this evening.  I loosed the port side (left) jib sheet and let the sail fly.  I hauled in the boom until it was over the port side rail.  I pulled the tiller toward me and the rudder dutifully turned Lifeline to port.  The wind brought the boom over my head to the starboard rail and I eased the mainsheet out to run on the port tack and still downwind.  Trim the jib with the starboard jib sheet and Lifeline was pulling at the reins again.

Running with the wind has its disadvantages.  One is not feeling just how fast the wind is really blowing since one is sailing with it.  I learned the hard way when sailing in Florida and took to coming up into the wind, still shifting the boat counter-clockwise around the sailing circle.  The wind put us on the starboard gun’l as I trimmed the sails up taut.  We handled it well but I was getting tired in the cold that this wind was bringing.  I headed up into the wind and dropped the jib.  It took a bit more time than it usually does when I’ve knocked all the rust off my skills and by the time I looked up from closing the forward hatch I was blown another two-hundred yards up the lake.  Fortunately there were only two other boats on the water this night, and they were full of instructors and students.  I knew they would be alert outside their boats as well as in.

I pulled in the main and beat upwind on the port tack (wind from the left).  The wind gusted and put us on the gun’l once more.  I hiked up onto the deck with my feet on the opposite seat.  There would be no leaning backward, I had not rigged the tiller extension handle.  But the wind eased as I drew near the west side of the lake.  Down to the State’s marina channel we went, rounded the channel buoy, and completed the sailing circle.  Lifeline and I were back on the starboard tack and heading for ‘home’.

Another thirty minutes and she was tied up in her slip.  The mainsail cover was slipped over the boom.  I brought the jib sail in its bag back up on deck.  The bottom of its bag is vented and will let the sail dry through the coming days.  Navigation lights came on.  Cabin lights came on.  The motor didn’t want to go into reverse.  Hmmm… Thanks to Tom for fending me off the dock and giving me a good shove about when getting under way.  I didn’t rig the Cunningham yet.  I’ll have to do that before class on Sunday.  I did have to hand pump the bilge and the cockpit.  The scuppers were clogged.  It wasn’t the first chore I wanted to do this year but it wasn’t too nasty, what came out of the hull valve and lines.  It was just cold.

Last night I looked out the front window of my home and watched the moon appear full out of the clearing clouds.  A line of thunderstorms had gone through, tornado warnings were about the area, and racing was cancelled.  I thought I might see her bright tonight as the clouds cleared off, but she kept her distance ’til late and I left Lifeline to witness her passing overhead from the slip, should the clouds decide to give way.  A month ago, the snow was still melting, the air was still cold, and Lifeline was still on her trailer.  This night, we sailed under a cloudy sky, but the moon was there behind them, we know, and we sailed under her just the same.  I’m count’n it as the first for the year.  ‘Til Sunday, Lifeline… I’ll see you again then.  In four weeks, moon, we’ll come looking for your full beauty again.

Battle of Lake Erie – 2013

Friday; August 30th – we stole up toward the lake as if conducting our normal routine to visit Findlay, OH. Preparations were in work and this gave us some time to be closer to the area of dispute. The letter was out from the Bicentennial (cover for our militant action group) organizers that the World Court had determined the islands, Port Clinton, and Toledo were to revert to Canadian government control.

Saturday; August 31st – Our cover for the foray to the Lake was to look over a boat in Sandusky Harbor Marina. (http://www.yachtworld.com/boats/1978/Irwin-37-2537909/Sandusky/OH/United-States#.UiXRdTasiFw)
We stopped to see a second vessel, then went onto Port Clinton. A festival was in progress. Looked for all intents as though Canada was allowing ‘business as usual’. The Knights of Columbus were having their annual perogie and fish fry. Mindy and I enjoyed quiet lunch at the Underwood Grill, a clandestine meeting place for Patriots. We took the Jet Express Ferry to Put-in-Bay to meet up with our compatriots. Ominously, two Canadian vessels (warships, actually) were moored at the Port Clinton City Docks. The oppression was obvious and the platoon of soldiers in the vicinity indicated all was not normal.

We met with our team almost moments after arriving in the Bay. A meeting was called and we would get underway on Millennium Falcon III as soon as we got aboard. We missed our courier rendezvous with Brad and Meg Wareham from Chicago because of the call for this meeting. We were supposed to have news of a Chicago contingent of ex-patriot Ohioans from there, but whether they made it or not we can’t say. A circumnavigation sail around South Bass Island was our cover for the meeting. Brian and Melanie Ross and a friend joined us from Southern Cross. Assorted fruits and ‘nuts’ were out, some fine area wine, and smiles abounded while we planned the protest events for the next couple of days. Canon fire was heard as we left the harbor. Apparently, the ‘new’ governors were enforcing the new border. Tensions were rising. Our Brig Niagara was in port from our Pennsylvania naval detachment, but the Canadians’ vessel Friends of Good Will (likely a politically elected name) was rumored to be en route.

Sunday; September 1st – The morning was quiet, overcast, and foggy. Our skipper decided to reconnoiter the bay by kayak. It is a laminated wooden construct. This natural material allowed him to blend in with the entire environment better and it’s construct gave him a much lower profile in the water. He was gone for more than an hour, and we were relieved to see him when he returned. The skies were clearing.

Mindy and I were strolling about the island and the town, listening and watching as we enjoyed the sights. More strangely dressed people were about in all the areas of the town. It was obvious the Canadians were present. Another camp was established on the grounds of the National Park. A smaller group than ashore in Port Clinton, but well armed, none-the-less.

We were elated when patriot troops arrived ‘guns’ blazing and thundering. TBDBITL* (ta-biddle) company came into the harbor in a blaze of pomp, ‘firing’ off their weapons as the ferry brought them to the waterfront. They proceeded to parade through the town and around the square. The Canadians and their militia squad cleared the streets in the face of this formidable force! We knew when they stopped in front of The Roundhouse, faced it, and played Hang On Sloopy that victory was going to be ours. The company, ‘instruments’ blazing, marched off to an undisclosed location.

Back on the Millennium Falcon III, we listened to another foray by TBDBITL into the Canadians’ encampment. It went on for a couple of hours. During the ‘concert’, the 1812 Overture was played and the Canadian’s opened the engagement with pyrotechnic fire. Badly directed, it missed both the shore skirmish and the Niagara. Put-it-Bay was OURS!! We celebrated by exploding the arms barge’s entire store of pyrotechnics. What a fabulous show. Were it not for the pending actions of Monday, one would have thought it a tremendous fireworks display!! We had a front row seat to it all.

Monday; September 2nd – The skipper had us under way early. ‘Safety Squadron’, a flotilla of more than fifty ‘privateer volunteers’ was to muster off the Bay at 0800 to escort Niagara and her counterparts out to meet the British and Canadian fleet. This was our ploy. We would sail under the guise of ‘escort’ vessels to keep unsuspecting boaters from interfering with operations by the tall masted fleet. Then, we would turn on them at the Niagara’s signal and bring this border action to a halt. The islands and Port Clinton/Toledo would remain in U.S. hands. “Don’t Give Up the Ship”, Perry’s battle flag repeating Stephen Lawrence’s last words was our rallying cry.

We stood off for two hours, gathering our safety flotilla. Southern Cross, with the Ross’s, and Tropical Dreamer, Ron and Vicky Fantozzi, Mike Grey, Jeff & Bernie Marshall and Gordon Fowler, Alum Creek Sailing Association had shown it’s force in this coming fight. An hour’s sail/motoring out to intercept the enemy we peeled off and shadowed our vessels from about 500 yards off. Called by our controllers, under the name Fanautical, we took up positions flanking both fleets. But if we thought we were going to be the only ones in this fight, we were wrong!

Thousands upon thousands of boats and yachts, steamships, and one barge were present. The ‘warship’ fleets were nearly prevented from converging due to the number of smaller sailing vessels come out to observe the fight. The U. S. Coast Guard had a cutter present that had to get under way to separate out as best as possible the smaller vessels, most ignoring any attempted blocking action by the Safety boats.

In the end, Niagara bested Detroit and in the treaty signed on the barge, the international border between Canada and the U.S. reverted to that which has stood in two hundred years. All vessels departed the area. only two were known, out of the thousands, to require assistance. No collisions (of consequence) occurred and all vessels retired to their respective home ports.


*TBDITL – The Best Damn Band In The Land – acronym for The Ohio State University Marching Band

Note: It was a bit difficult to write this and I haven’t done as well as I might have. The difficulty comes as the reality of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria is the ‘real thing’ when it comes to battles like this. This weekend, thousands upon thousands watched a ‘show’ of sailing vessels not seen on the Lake in two hundred years. Yet, two hundred years ago our country was embroiled in just such a combat action as those taking place in south-west Asia. Some of us were there this weekend to commemorate the sacrifices and bear witness to what our nation has become because of the sacrifices of sailors, marines, and farmers,..yes, farmers gave that we might have peace along a three thousand mile border. People around the world are still fighting for the kind of peace we have in our country. I give thanks to God and his grace for our two nations.

Let’s nail this plank down for good

Sailing is supposed to be about more than riding the wind.  There is the character that one builds into the boat, and the character built into the owner by the boat.  All in all that’s a lot of ‘plank nailing’ and ‘chart plotting’.  And then there is the character shown of both by nature’s treatment of that team when on the water.  And last nights ‘race’ at Alum Creek I’m afraid showed some flaws in both.

I’m not a ‘light wind’ sailor, I’ve discovered.  I could not feel or find the wind last night when others were able to glide along on a whisper of air.  I felt like the keel weight 20,000 lbs instead of 2000 lbs as I sat there at the helm and watched them pick up speed, Lifeline seemingly at anchor.

But then, there was some solace.  Only one boat crossed the start line within five minutes of the horn.  Lifeline took nine minutes, which would legally be four minutes late and result in a ‘Did Not Start’, or DNS.  I eventually found some way to move her forward, but her heart wasn’t in this tonight and it seemed nothing I could do would coax her forward.

When a heavier wind (I jest, it made maybe 7 knots) found us we were half a mile behind.  I was pretty excited as we stayed out away from the trees to ride the full of what breeze there was.  We made up nearly the entire distance between us and the rest of the fleet!  We rounded the first mark and I was prepared for Lifeline to catch those others trailing when it seemed the anchor dropped again.  The two boats behind us closed in and shadowed us from the wind.  There was nothing to do.  I had made a tactical error and been effectively stopped.

Being between these other two boats meant if I turned either direction I would be unable to fill the sails with air, blocked by either one of their sets of canvas.  And neither gave way.  They would simply slid past Lifeline far enough to give us the wind, at which point Lifeline’s sails shadowed theirs.  They would slow, we would pass, and the whole routine came full circle.  It is a miserable way to ride.  Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet was out at the second mark in full air.  The gap from front to back widened.

Finally, rounding the second mark I gave a wide berth to the other two boats and in an unusual move I sailed more than fifty yards downwind of these two nemesis. We all three picked up the full wind the rest of the fleet had enjoyed and beat up toward the finish line.  Lifeline and I managed to close about half the distance, but still crossed the line well after the leaders…and the followers…and their followers.

We did not finish last, in either the class or the fleet.  But I know I finished last and let Lifeline down as well.  In my heart, the race and my pride were more important than having time on the water and enjoying what air nature would give us.  In my heart I finished last for the two of us.

It was a good lesson.  Let me hit that nail one more time and put this plank in place.  It was a good lesson.