Log #2a Toronto to Tobermory

July 24, 1998 in Log Series 02 - 07, Logs by Series, Series 02 Toronto To North Channel, The Logs


Log #2a Toronto to Tobermory
(My first proper log)
Thunder Bay, Ontario

Aug. 13, 1998


We left the Toronto Hydroplane and Sail Club at 2040 on Friday July 3 on schedule.

Actually we had said we would leave some time between 1800 to 2000; however, considering all the last minute details that wasn’t bad. We had a nice send-off with several friends and relatives to see us off. Father David Mulholland gave a blessing to Veleda and all who sail in her.  The last person to leave was a repair technician who was repairing the modem on our laptop. Amid waves and horns and shouts of “Bon Voyage” we motored out through the Coatsworth Cut into Lake Ontario.

(Kazia observing Judy putting lines away as we leave the dock)


There were five of us on board (besides Judy and me were Suzanne from our home club,THSC, Brian, a friend and member of the Toronto Power and Sail Squadron, and Kazia, the daughter of a friend of Judy’s who was completing an adventure requirement for her Duke Of Edinburough Award) for this first leg across the lake and through the Welland canal. We had an enjoyable night crossing on a good broad reach for most of the trip, arriving at the reporting dock in Port Weller at about 0200. We called to go through right away, but were requested to wait until 0500 when we could go through without any delays. So we had a couple of hours sleep, and started over to the waiting wall of Lock #1 at 0515.

The trip through was grey with occasional rain. We were the only boat being locked through at that hour. This is the way we wanted it as we have done this several times before and always found a night or early morning transit the fastest.

Log_2a_Welland_2       Log_2a_Welland_5         Log_2a_Welland_4

The roughest lock was Lock #3, the first of a group of three locks in sequence. Another little strategy we learned to prevent our stern from surging into the lock wall was to lock our rudder to port when we were portside to. The inflow of water would then react on the rudder keeping our stern out. Our bow tended to surge out anyways.  After almost bumping our wind generator into   the lock wall, this became a valuable technique for us.

Suzanne (from THSC) left us at Lock #7, as Terry had followed our progress from lock to lock in his pickup truck, and had arranged to rendezvous with us there.

Log_2a_Welland_3                  Log_2a_Welland_1

There was only one more lock to go, 18 miles up, and it was a small rise of only a few feet as a control lock, not even necessitating lines. We arrived at Marlon Marine in Port Colburne at 1323 for a good transit time of only a little more than 8 hours. There, Dennis Gibson a CPSS friend left us and we stayed the rainy night at the marina before setting off the length of Lake Erie.


We set off again at 0815 0n July 5 and unfortunately had little wind the entire length of the lake.  We motored and motor sailed the entire lake in one long leg, arriving in Amherstburg at 1910 on July 6 ( 47 hours ). En route  we had calm clear weather. In the evening, we could see fireworks from the U.S. shore, as most of the 4th of July fireworks were postponed because of rain that night. We anchored in our favourite cove of Horseshoe Bay on the northern tip of Bois Blank Island just across from Amherstberg. Our distance from THSC is 245 nautical miles to date. In Horseshoe Bay there was not much swinging room, as there were 2 other boats already there. So, we anchored in 15 feet of water, tied off to a tree on shore, and as there is a current from the Detroit River surging lightly into the cove, I again locked my rudder to starboard to keep my stern from swinging the wrong way. There was no diesel fuel in Amherstberg, so I topped up my tank with two gerry cans of fuel I keep lashed on board.

 We motored up the Detroit River, Lake St Claire and the St Claire River arriving in Sarnia at 0335 on July 8. The trip from Amherstberg to Sarnia took about 18 hours travelling time up bound. (Downbound takes only about 12 hours) As we were approaching Windsor, we saw a tall ship slowly gaining on us. The silhouette of this stately vessel was a gothic tower spreading from a wide base at its deck, chainplates and lower shrouds lifting the eyes up the masts in line and the booms with sails tightly furled up to the slender masthead. As it came closer we recognized it as the NIAGARA, the replica of Admiral Perry’s ship from the war of 1812. As it came abreast of us, I dipped my Canadian flag, a tradition of saluting a navy ship. However it did not return the salute. It was a lovely sight motoring up through the misty river.Log_2a_USS_Niagara_in_Detroit_River

About 2300 while motoring up the west side of the St. Claire River by Marine City, I had to execute an emergency 360 turn to starboard to avoid a STUPID ferry that just barged out of its mooring without making any signals. I gave him several blasts on my horn before he even saw me and then tried to stop. There were a couple of tight situations where two large lakers were passing each other while abeam of VELEDA. Night sailing up a river is interesting and challenging. The buoys have to be carefully watched as even a few feet outside the channel will take you from 34 feet to three feet or less. The main buoys are lit, but the spar buoys have only reflective tape. Going up the edges of the river have less current than the middle, and so we skirted up the shoreline. The current increases as you get closer to Sarnia, with the current under the Bluewater Bridge being 4 to 5 knots before getting into Lake Huron.

LAKE HURON –  Sarnia to Goderich

Winds were light and of course in the wrong direction. We started motor sailing to Goderich at 1030 0n July 8. The first obstacle was a line of fishing buoys which we initially tried to avoid going between, but soon realized they were in a long string that went for miles. So we went between them, not coming very close to any of them. Most nets are well sunk and a boat should not snag on them as long as the buoy is given a wide berth. I had a good chance to observe the setting of nets our last cruise up into Lake Superior when I went out with a commercial fishing boat for a day. The buoys are floats to suspend the nets at a certain level, well below the drafts of all pleasure craft. The buoys with sticks and flags attached are the end sections of these net strings that the fishing boats snag in order to haul the nets up. These net strings can go for thousands of yards, and thus it is difficult to go around them. Just give the floats a wide berth.

Anyhow we motor sailed on to Goderich to arrive off the breakwaters at 2200 after sunset, in a pea soup fog (visibility about 30 feet!). Remember, Veleda dose not have radar. Realizing our charts were over ten years old, and a new breakwater configuration had been constructed since, and we were not sure where the main entrance was. At one point we started following a line of lights thinking they were lights on the breakwater, looking for the entrance, only to find out we were following a road along the shoreline! We crept back to our original GPS waypoint and started feeling our way in again. We could make out one side of a breakwater, but could not see the other side, and thus did not know if we were going in on the proper side.

Thankfully, there was little wind and the sea was calm. We finally felt our way inside one breakwater and saw a couple of green buoys inside. We followed them in. Then we specifically went outside the channel until we could see the inside wall of the breakwater and dropped the anchor for the night, totally uncertain as to exactly where we were, except we knew we were outside the main channel.

In the morning the fog was not much better. I heard a fog horn! One blast every two minutes. A ship or another vessel was making way somewhere. We had a radar reflector up. So, for the first time since I was in the navy, I sounded the fog signal for a vessel at anchor, namely a rapid ringing of the ship’s bell every two minutes. I took my cue from whatever vessel was making the underway signal and followed his with rapid ringing of our ship’s bell (which I removed as a decoration from the main cabin and rang it on deck, nice and loud!).

After an hour or so, the other vessel stopped making the fog signal, and so did I. About 10:00 a.m. the fog cleared and we found ourselves properly located outside the channel in the outer harbour, adjacent to a secondary entrance to the commercial harbour. We later found out the vessel making the signals was a 600 + foot bulk carrier entering the harbour and warping itself around the peculiar warping dock they use in Goderich. I was legal, legitimate and safe where I was, but I still moved into the inner harbour later on in the morning.

I had a chance to talk with the local Coast Guard people, and requested a courtesy safety inspection. We couldn’t find the other package of new flares, and the white safety ring we had wasn’t large enough for a 32 foot boat, and thus we did not get our safety inspection certificate. We plan to remedy this at Tobermory. The Harbour Master was a pleasant enough chap who gave us a ride up into the town.  We had lunch and bought some supplies, toured the Marine Museum and then set sail again in the late afternoon, hoping to do an overnight sail to Tobermory.

To Port Elgin

Our intention was to go to Tobermory, but around 2300 July 9, the waves were over 6 feet, and we were pounding into them. Then the heads started backing up. Every 10 minutes or so, I would have to go down and pump the heads to prevent it from overflowing. We felt we could not tolerate this situation all the way to Tobermory, and were half way between Kincardine and Port Elgin. As Kincardine was downwind, we put about and went in there, arriving at their fuel dock at 0235. In the morning we pumped out, refueled, and cleaned the heads , then went over town for breakfast. Kincardine is a pleasant little town. We slipped at 1000, motorsailing up the peninsula. It was a lovely day, so we decided rather than a marathon sail to Tobermory, to put in early afternoon at Port Elgin. It was a good boating centre with clean showers washrooms, restaurants, and a lovely park and beach. we needed the rest and enjoyed our first early relaxed day in a week!

To Tobermory

We left Port Elgin at 0810 and for a change, sailed most of the way to Tobermory, arriving alongside TIMBLEWEED a Choi Lee 31 at Bob and Patti Johnston’s cottage in Big Tub Harbour. They are Kazia’s parents. Kazia is a 16 year old who wanted to come for this first stage of the trip for part of her qualifications for the Duke of Edinburough award. She did well for working with strangers on a different boat sailing long distances including  several overnight sails, and doing a lot of sail handling and navigation. We stayed alongside TUMBLEWEED for the night and watched the first dive boats and glass bottom boats come into Big Tub to view the wrecks there. We were  only about 35 feet from the SWEEPSTAKES, a wreck in 15 feet of clear Georgian Bay water.

That afternoon we shifted into the main harbour and because the marina slips were full, we moored alongside LEYENDA another sail boat belonging to some other friends of Judy’s. Judy spent a lot of time in Tobermory when she was at university. She came up every weekend with a group of friends from Toronto who were divers and helped on one of the dive boats.  Bob Johnston brought his Choi Lee over to the mast crane at the main dock, and we helped him step his mast. The crane was an ancient “handraulic” wind up affair, but we managed without any damage to the boat or ourselves.

That evening we were joined by Linda Duez, a teacher from my old high school in Mississauga who was going to join us for the next leg of our trip up to Gore Bay. We sang the night away at the Crows’ Nest pub down at the docks. They had a good folk singing group that sang many sea shantys. There was a lady who had an excellent soprano voice who was called up from the audience to sing with the group. Similarly there was a young woman who was a very good percussionist and did a great job using an ice bucket as a bongo drum. We left at 0945 the next day heading to the North Channel.

(To be continued with the next log)

Aubrey Millard

On board VELEDA at Thunder Bay, Aug. 23,1998