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1986 Transfer Trip

Day Four: Port Elgin to Tobermory

Tuesday, June 17, 1986. Aboard Serenity

It's a 45 mile stretch where you either go all the way forward to the finish or all the way back to the start.

Tuesday morning brings clear skies and much less wind, but colder temperatures. The lake has a big swell rolling in, a remnant from yesterday, but the waves are smaller than they were the night before.

We are fortunate that there is a beachfront restaurant, and we have coffee and pancakes. So far our galley stove hasn't seen a pot or pan, except to boil some water for coffee or soup for lunch.

By eight we move out of the slip and over to the fuel dock. Port Elgin has diesel available, so we top off the tank. Everyone makes a last visit to the shoreside head, and then we are off, motoring out into some rather big waves.

As I mentioned earlier, there was some damaged rigging on the other boat, Voyager II , and a telephone call had been made back to various people in the organization to let them know. The usual plan would be to have the next group coming north bring the replacement gear, in this case a new halyard and an alternative mainsail. Unfortunately, the message got scrambled to "bring the gear to Port Elgin". As a result, later that day, a friend of ours, Dick, arrives by car at Port Elgin with the replacement parts, only to find that we have left port hours before.

Dick looks out into the lake and asks: "They went out in that?", pointing at the big swell still rolling it. "Yup," says the harbormaster, "you shoud have seen what they came in on!" We'll have a good laugh with this story when we find out about in a week or so!

Back out on the lake, we have just enough wind and room to sail close-hauled for our destination, Cape Hurd, about 45 nautical miles to the north-northwest. The wind has backed a little to the west, allowing us to sail. The waves are still more on the nose than we would like, and we decide that to punch through them at more than 4 knots we will have to motor sail. Another day of diesel engine racket!

Our courseline takes us well off shore, and we cannot see any details of the coast. Looking at the chart, it appears very rocky and lacking any good harbors. It's a 45 mile stretch where you either go all the way forward to the finish or all the way back to the start. There is really no place practical for stopping midway.

It's another long day on the lake, slogging towards the tip of the Bruce penninsula at 5 knots. It's the old routine of half an hour on the tiller, two hours off. We are back in the "lead boat" status. For the first twenty miles or so, our companion boat, Voyager II is close by, but as the afternoon goes on, she lags behind. We try to raise her on the radio, but there is no answer. She continues on the same course, but she is now a mile or more behind us. We press on toward Cape Hurd.

The air is much colder, and there is no relief from the chill. Even though it is very sunny, I just can't get warm out here today. I need more layers. I am also dog-tired. There is a nasty motion on the boat as we fight our way through 6-foot-plus waves, but I decide to go below and try a nap. Normally, I would not be able to tolerate this much motion in the confines of the cabin.

The Scopolamin patch is a powerful drug. I sit below, the cabin swaying around, and not a trace of nausea. It certainly works. But it makes me feel light-headed and a little woosy. Ray's been yelling the course to me when I've been steering; he thinks I am losing it.

I can't wait to get to Tobermory. I am really running out of gas. We have been out on the lake for three straight days, and the weather has been terrible for the last two. It is so damn cold I can't imagine it is June; it feels more like November out here. I am feeling terrible; I think I have a cold. And that damn patch on my neck keeps me "spaced-out" all day.

With the major portion of our open water sailing behind us, I make a decision: to hell with this patch. About midway up the Bruce and five miles offshore I rip it off my neck and throw it overboard. I hope the fish don't get woosy from it. It might keep me from getting seasick, but it makes me feel terrible. I am done with it.

Eventually, we reach Cape Hurd by late afternoon. It is hard to mark the time because the sun stays up so long. It's mid June, the longest days of the year, and we are several hundred miles north of home, which tends to make them even longer. We have daylight to well past nine at night.

From the lake, there are three ways to approach Tobermory. The shortest is also the most shallow. We defer to a longer, but deeper approach that is better marked with buoyage. This delays our arrival in Tobermory for another 45 minutes. Finally, we get there. We can tie right along the town dock. Twenty feet away is the Harbour View Motel. I make a decision.

I am jumping ship! I have had enough of rotten sleep in wet sleeping bags in a cold, pitching, vee-berth. I am going to get a motel room. I'll have a warm bed and a hot shower that will last for an hour. My shipmates look at me with suspicion: why do I want to do that, they seem to ask. Haven't I been having fun?

Amazingly, a room only costs about $24/night. The innkeeper explains that it is "off-season"; up here, summer hasn't started yet. I think he is right.

I drag my gear off the boat and into the motel room. Everything I have is wet, and I hang it out to dry. The room heat is set to a toasty seventy-four degrees. I take a long, long, hot shower. I crawl into a nice bed with crisp sheets. It's in a warm room that doesn't move an inch. Finally, sleep comes. Eight hours or more of it. Cruising; it hasn't been that fun today.

Continues with Day Five: Rest in Little Tub.

Copyright © 1995, 1996 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved.
Page Last modified: October 19, 1996