Tuesday, June 26, 2012


My best friend Josh and his fiancée Alexandra joined us this long weekend. Additionally this was the inaugural trip on board for Cassy’s little dog Dexter who I must admit was very well behaved. The girls and Dexter sunned themselves on deck between quick lock transits and we were in Lac St-Louis by 14:00.

We picked up a good army buddy of mine, Dennis, at the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club (PCYC). Dennis is a character; he had made his way onto the yacht club property and docks where we found him having a drink with some random people on their sailboat. Fortuitously he had picked the right people because there was no space left on the dock for us to tie up to so we just came along side their sailboat so Dennis could hop on. Back out in open water we got the sails up and the engine off and generally spent a very pleasant afternoon on the water. Dennis is not only also getting married but is additionally a wedding animator/DJ. Needless to say the topic of conversation was dominated by all things matrimonial! A lot of good information was shared. I learned a lot. By late afternoon everyone was sailed out so we dropped anchor on the sandbar in the middle of the lake and went swimming. Well the boys went swimming, while the girls were wearing bikinis they preferred to continue bathing only in the sun’s rays. I donned the goggles and dove to see the keel damage incurred the previous weekend (see earlier post). To my amazement the damage was relatively light, small shallow scars. Interestingly the damage was pretty high up on the keel meaning it wasn’t just a couple of inches too shallow, this rock was sticking way up!
The BBQ was fired up and everybody pitched in preparing dinner. Delicious salmon and veggies. The weather was forecast to be calm overnight so we decided to sleep in the middle of the water. After a glorious sunset the booze started flowing and the music got turned up. We had a blast but the four of us who had travelled all morning through the canal faded fast leaving Dennis (always a ball of energy) to his own dance karaoke party! Dennis was ready to party like it was 1999 which was remarkable because the following day he was animating a mega stunt-motorcycle event! He’s a legend!

The next morning after a great breakfast we dropped Dennis off at PCYC and motored over to St-Anne-de-Bellevue, a nice little boardwalk town at the western tip of Montreal Island. We poked around the lake for a while, the girls still laying about the deck enjoying the sunshine. At one end of the lake we joined many boats anchored, a little party spot. Rest & relaxation filled the next few hours. While everyone was napping I started considering our overnight anchoring options on the chart. Josh and I debated the various options, none too soon because the wind picked up quickly and we (and all the boats) weighed anchor to make for safer harbour. It actually got pretty bad and the boat was rocking & rolling in following waves. Incredibly the two ladies napped peacefully below deck on the couches! I was amazed. When we finally dropped anchor in our chosen spot they asked where we were as if nothing had happened. Just goes to show how quickly one becomes accustomed to the motion of a boat (and how comfortable it is down below!)

We enjoyed another delicious dinner and then things got competitive; board games! Couples teams. After much rule checking and relationship testing prodding there were winners and there were losers. In the name of good sportsmanship I won’t name who was who... A good time was had by all and I’m still the Best Man at their wedding.

After a shmorgasborg breakfast we set off down the canal to get through the locks. There was just over an hour wait at the first lock so instead of keeping a holding pattern we tied up at the pleasure craft dock next to a huge motor yacht. We all took a nap and when they came over the loudspeaker announcing the opening we rushed out to get off the dock. I started the engines while Cassy and Josh untied our lines. It was rather windy and once untied was difficult to hold the boat to the dock. I called for everyone to get on but by the time Cassy made it to the starboard gate we had drifted too far from the dock. She wisely did not try to jump (a point in my safety briefing) and we did a whole about turn to pick her up again. You should have seen her poor face as we drifted away from her.

Unfortunately the return trip was not as efficient as the outgoing one and we again had to wait at the second lock. Here the pleasure craft dock was already full and thus we maintained a holding pattern for about 30 minutes. Another sail yacht was also in a holding pattern and we remarked on what a unique vessel it was. Upon entering the lock the sailboats typically all raft up together the biggest going against the wall and managing the lock lines. I estimated this other sail yacht was about the same size as us but since they only had two crew I thought with more hands on board we would take the wall position. This other sail yacht came in after us but was initially headed against the wall behind us. When the lockmaster yelled at him to raft up next to us he changed course and came very close to rear ending us, in fact his wife and I had to push him off. They were an older Ontario couple and once next to us we got to talking; it turns out this was their last lock before heading across the Atlantic ocean to Ireland. They had a 40ft iron sail yacht Grey Cloud he built himself! He had previously sailed down to South America and spent time exploring the jungles. Their French was inadequate so I helped translate the lockmaster’s instructions. I communicated their travel plans to the lockmaster and he told me from the looks of their disorganized vessel their crossing was questionable. I did not translate this part to them. When the lock doors opened we wished them well on their journey.

Another 15 minutes to the marina, a stop at the septic tank pump out and we’re back in our slip. The first time we stood on solid ground in the 60 hours. We unloaded the gear and bid our friends goodbye.
Another great sailing weekend!

Monday, June 18, 2012


“I’M IN!” that was the response from Caroline B. to a weekend cruising invite. Caroline is the newest member of our Rushmore racing crew. She’s a wonderfully active girl who has focused in on sailing as an activity of choice. She’s even chartered a sailboat in the Caribbean (something I should probably do before heading down myself). Due to scheduling constraints she was the only person who could come aboard for the weekend. We were headed for a leisurely two days at the Iles de Bouchervilles (Islands), a small protected nature park on Montreal’s south shore. On hot summer weekends revellers raft up and party hard. I distinctly remember my new marina neighbour first describing these island parties; “if the provincial police tell you to turn down your music just disregard them, the water is federal jurisdiction!” This gives you an idea of what kind of parties go on (and an idea what a party animal my neighbour is!)

We set out late morning, got the sails up and engine off as soon as possible, cracked open some beers (as sailors are wont to do) and tacked downriver in light breeze. Usually we raft up at the islands with other boats from my marina but as we chatted away dodging freighter traffic and speed boats I got a call from my marina neighbour that they were having some mechanical issues and would not be joining. They did however recommend that we raft up with Waikiki, another boat from the marina, Jean-Guy and Josee, a couple I had thus far only said hello to in passing. They were already there and would be waiting for us to tie up to.

As we approached the bay we dropped sails and started the engine. The party was in full swing! There were so many boats; big boats, little boats. Muscle dudes and bikini babes everywhere! Music pumping! Our anchoring spot was all the way at the end and I had to weave through. Now this bay is extremely thin and manoeuvring a 35ft sailboat through the mess was not an easy task! Any wrong turn could cause a collision. To add even more pressure everybody is watching intently! It’s obvious that most revellers have never seen an actual real life sailboat up close! There’s a hush that rolls over the party. Jaws drop, fingers point.The mast, the wires, the ropes. “Look! the Pirates of the Caribbean!” It’s actually quite humourous and we really should take a video next time. Anyway ultimately we reached our spot and tied up to Waikiki. Jean-Guy and Josee congratulated us on successfully running the party gauntlet (they watched our mast approach for afar) and Jean-Guy offered us the “best Bloody Caesar you’ve ever had”. At that point there was nothing more that I wanted in the world and soon I was indeed sipping the best Bloody Caesar I’ve ever had.

We partied and swam in the sun all day. Before having too many drinks I went half-way up the mast and took some photos of the surroundings. Jean-Guy and Josee are great people and we had a grand time. Really glad we met them! We slept well at anchor. The next morning two more marina boats joined our raft and we continued to enjoy the good times. Early afternoon we were the first to depart; with light headwinds, only a little diesel engine and a mast height that prevents us from taking a shortcut, our return can take up to three hours (vs. 40 minutes for our motorboat friends). We weaved our way out again and once into more open waters stayed in the marked channel. There are some shallow areas and it’s especially important to be cautious. As we passed through the last set of safe channel markers into charted slightly deeper waters I increased the throttle a bit to about 4 knots. We were chatting in the cockpit with me standing at the helm when all of a sudden BANG! I flew forward onto the wheel, Caroline slide across the bench. The whole 15,000Ibs boat lurched up and came to a dead stop. We had hit something big, big and hard! Immediately I was sure were sinking! Adrenaline shot up. After making sure we were each physically OK I ran below to see where water was coming in. I grabbed the handheld VHF radio ready call for help. Below many of the floor access panels had popped up & out. The dining table had moved which is crazy because it’s bolted to the floor! I cleared the floor panels away but saw no water below. Up on deck Caroline had gone forward to asses; she came back to report that the anchor had dropped! The 15kg anchor had actually flown forward from the impact and was now resting on the shallow bottom. We hauled in the anchor and I was able to drive the boat away slowly. We were both in shock. That was by far the worst running aground I’ve ever experienced. The rest of the journey home was quiet; coming down from the adrenaline and reviewing what had just transpired. I checked all systems but all in all everything seemed fine and she was handling normally. I will get a bolt and wing nut to secure the anchor (I never thought it would ever come off like that).

I expect the keel damage to be pretty bad. The marina water is pretty gross with algae so I’m not too keen on swimming in it. Next weekend we’re going to Lac St-Louis with friends. When we go swimming I’m anxious to dive and see the damage then. I’ll report back with my findings in a future post.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shake Down

After a night on board in the marina we cast off early Saturday morning heading up river to Lac St-Louis in the west of the island of Montreal for the Victoria Day long weekend. Our friend Abigail joined us to help out transiting the locks. Not only are there two locks and one lift bridge between our home marina and Lac St-Louis but they are the massive industrial locks for the huge tanker freighters headed up the seaway as far as Chicago on the great lakes. These locks are quite daunting. Not only are they massive but each one raises/lowers our “tiny” boat about 60 feet! The huge flow of water necessary to move this vertical distance causes some eddies and turbulence in the lock. Transiting these locks is one of the manoeuvres I am most concerned about on the boat. I’m very uncomfortable transiting with only 2 people on board, especially while Cassandra is still getting comfortable with boat handling. Frankly I just wouldn’t do it. Abigail has been on sailboats since she was a child and has plenty of experience. Her presence was greatly appreciated!
It took us about 5 hours to motor all the way (especially because we suspect that the lift bridge operator had fallen asleep, making us wait about thirty minutes in a holding pattern). The trek was definitely worth it though as we arrived into open water, sun shining and a warm breeze. We immediately crossed over to Pointe-Claire Yacht Club where we hooked up with our friend Jesse’s J24 Rushmore, overloaded with people, food and beer! Eight in total, we were more than happy to take on some cargo and sail in tandem around the lake. Winds were light but everyone was just content to enjoy the first days of summer on the water.

Around dinner time we rafted up together and anchored on a shallow sandbar in the middle of the lake and prepared a potluck dinner.
It was such a pleasure to have great sailing friends on board sharing a delicious meal and drinks on the water.

Unfortunately four of our crew could not spend the night on board so we weighed anchor and motored to the docks for a drop off. I’m always a bit apprehensive of boating at night (sailing or motoring) but we took it slow & cautious and ultimately all went well. We did however lightly run around in soft mud on our first attempt at the public dock. A subsequent attempt at the yacht club dock was more successful. Cassandra and I motored back to the sand bar and anchored a short distance from Rushmore, who were likely already sleeping soundly. Cassandra continues to amaze with her uncanny strength to drop and lift the heavy anchor while I’m at the helm.

The following morning we woke up early and immediately motored back to the dock to pick up my roommate Lucas who had just taken public transit all the way from the south shore to the west island. Surprisingly this journey was simple and only took an hour.
Anchored back on the sandbar the Rushmore crew joined us on-board and we hung out in the cool below deck. Rushmore decided to head home and after bidding them adieu we weighed anchored and raised sails for a day of leisurely sailing around the lake. We explored the south western area of the lake near the Beauharnois power dam. This area was actually quite good for sailing; enough space, good wind and deep enough water that we didn’t have to always be plotting a course through a maze of shoals. Lac- St-Louis is a shallow lake and especially towards the end of the season one must keep a close eye on the chart plotter and depth meter. Everyone got a turn at the helm and trimming sails. By the end of the day Cassandra and Lucas had a better understanding of propelling our vessel through the water by harnessing the power of the wind. I think we hit a speed over ground (SOG) of 5.1 knots!

This would be our last overnight on board and to save time the next morning I wanted to anchor closer to the canal opening. I’ve always anchored overnight on the sandbar in the middle so this was new ground (pun intended). While Cassy was cooking dinner below we made our way across the lake. I thought I had charted a safe little spot near a small island to anchor. It was iffy getting in though and the depth meter was giving jumpy readings. The water’s surface seemed to be flowing fast around us which can be an indication of shallow areas. I had a strange feeling but assessed the risks and proceeded anyway. We dropped anchor but as were letting out some rode BAM the keel hit some rocks. We had a hell of a time easing her out of there but finally freed ourselves. As a new anchorage we chose a little bay just off the Kanawake First Nations Reserve. In fact we could actually see a big tepee on the shore and the next morning a lone native paddled by in a canoe. Here we had much better luck anchoring. It was interesting that being only about 300 meters from the canal we could actually hear the tankers before we could see them. Sound travels extremely fast underwater so below deck, which is half beneath the waterline, we would hear this deep ominous rumbling from their enormous propellers. The wind was blowing from a direction that if our anchor didn’t hold we would drift into the tanker channel. We kept a close eye on this. At one point during the night Lucas heard the rumblings and sensed we were moving, he lept out of his berth and darted above to see a massive ship passing but was relieved that we were still solidly secured. Even though it proved to be a false alarm he demonstrated the best attitude on a boat: When in doubt... check!

Monday morning we were up bright & early to commence the voyage home. Our original plan was to wait for a tanker to pass going in our direction to ensure that we made it under the lift bridge without delay and then a “known” wait time for the locks. While waiting we had a light breakfast (instead of the grand one we had planned for because the stove/oven propane tank ran out). After about half an hour we got impatient and just set off on our own which ultimately proved a very good idea as everything seemed to just open for us immediately! I think we made record time in getting home which was a very satisfying way to end the weekend!

Who has right of way?

Fastest J24 on the water!

Into the locks

Abigail - Sailing Chick of the Week


Rafted up together (let's give them some privacy)

Otherwise known as Windmill Point

After only a few hours at sea Lucas crosses the line into person cartoon courting