Almost Trip to Buffalo - 9/8/2004
Almost Trip to Buffalo - 9/8/2004Report Abuse
It took over 13 months, but Kelly III finally made the trip from Erie, PA to Buffalo, NY. For a distance of only 71nm one-way it was a very long trip!!
Here are the details:
Over the July 4th weekend in 2003, Kevin Wells, Troy Cain and I set sail from Erie for Buffalo. Well, we actually set the motor running, but just a mile outside the channel leaving Presque Isle Bay, the motor refused to run in forward gear. It wasn’t until later we realized that it ran OK in reverse. Since we had food and drink for 3 full days as well as a watch schedule, we knew we could stay on the Lake for 3 days. The decision was made to continue as long as we didn’t risk getting back to Erie late and missing work. Kelly III just drifted to the east at less than half a knot. For much of the next four hours we saw 0 knots frequently. The GPS said we were moving at half a knot, so I think there may be a current of half a knot to the east on the southern shore of Lake Erie. Later in the evening the wind started to pick up and we enjoyed a wonderful sail under clear skies with the stars shining brighter than you’ll ever see near any town or city. As we took the helm, each of us found a star that could sit on the spreader and that made steering easy. Troy and Kevin stayed up late talking and enjoying the clear, beautiful Milky Way and starry sky. They steered though the night and eventually turned the watch over to me in the early morning hours. I enjoyed a gray, quiet morning as we sailed toward Dunkirk, NY. As we brought Dunkirk up to the starboard beam, a brisk wind and fine rain beat on Kelly III. Kevin and Troy were catching a well-deserved rest after sailing through the night. I did a little math and figured that if we ran into more light winds then we’d need as much as a day and a half to return to Erie from Dunkirk so I turned Kelly III 180 degrees to return to Erie in time for our work schedules. Being without the engine, we needed to assume that our only motive power was our sails. The rain ended but the breeze continued throughout the day. About noon we caught a weather update that described a monster thunderstorm that was at Toledo, OH but would arrive at Erie about the same time as we would. Rather than risk running into the storm we decided to sail for Barcelona, NY. As we approached the Barcelona harbor, the engine started without a problem and we motored in for a quiet afternoon and evening. When the storm hit soon after dark, we saw whitecaps in the harbor which had a fetch of less than 100 yards! The storm blew itself out in less than an hour while we were safely tied up at the city pier. After a quiet night we found breakfast at a local diner, walking distance from the pier. We listened to the weather reports and local input from the fisherman who were out earlier that morning. We decided that in spite of the 4 to 6 foot waves and 20 knot winds we’d sail for Erie. It was bouncy and blustery with the waves and breeze but within a few hours the breeze and waves were both more calm until finally we were in flat seas and no wind at all. We actually tried motoring only to discover that she just refused to run in forward gear. As we tried different modes of operation, it became clear that Kelly III would run in reverse without a problem! We turned her around in the oily-smooth water and motored for 45 minutes until the wind returned. We still had several hours to sail back to Erie, but it was truly wonderful sailing. Except for a brief episode where Kevin alerted me to the sound of the surf breaking on Gull Point, it was a great sail into Erie. When Kevin pointed out the sound of the waves breaking on shore it took a couple minutes before it dawned on me that we should check the depth – it was only 7 feet and Kelly III draws 5! We immediately tacked and turned towards deeper water. Within a few minutes we sighted the channel into Presque Isle Bay and dropped the sails to try the motor once more. With great relish, we enjoyed a perfect motoring through the channel . . . only to have the motor die as we exited the channel! We were able to restart the motor, but it only ran in reverse! With no other option and 3 miles to Kelly III’s home marina across the bay, we motored in reverse across the bay. Since this was at 2am, we set up my back up nav lights (red & green) on the stern and turned on the steaming light as the stern light. Yes, we were moving stern first through the bay and were entirely legal! (as far as I know, anyway!) That was July 2003.
Fast forward to Labor Day weekend, 2004. Jim Clark, Jack van Arsdale, Troy Cain and I decide to once again set Buffalo as our destination. The Friday night departure is almost identical as there was almost no breeze at all, so we motored out of Presque Isle Bay. Fortunately Kelly III decided to continue motoring without fail throughout the night. Given that the tank wasn’t full when we left Erie, we felt it was prudent to fill up with gas at Dunkirk, NY. Except for a brief delay at sunrise as we deciphered the bouys, the gas and breakfast refill was without incident. The brief delay reading the bouys came from Jim Clark identifying a flashing red light just before 6am. he tells me, "Right there . . . red on, red off, red on, red off . . .". I looked where he was pointing and finally made out the light just after 6am. I said, "I see that red light, wait . . . now it is Green!, wait . . . Now it is YELLOW!" Dear friend, you know now that we spied a traffic light on shore. Well, there was one other incident, Troy’s lassoing of the piling at the gas dock. Without his cowboy effort, Kelly III would have plowed into the pier. We departed Dunkirk with a full tank of gas and an eager anticipation for actually reaching Buffalo. The light winds prevailed and we motorsailed past Sturgeon Point, NY and soon saw the skyline of downtown Buffalo. We found our way into Erie Basin Marina. We had a great meal and drinks at the Pearl Grille & Brewery, just walking distance from the marina. After a quiet night and breakfast in the marina we left for Erie. The winds were forecasted to be 5 – 15 knots from the south, but we saw nothing to speak of until dusk about 8pm. I suspect that the land breeze countered the forecasted wind leaving us with almost nothing. Come evening, though, the reverse was true. The sea breeze was probably 15 knots but when added to the forecasted wind of 15 knots, we had 25 – 30 knots of wind from the south. That gave us a beam reach that was very powerful as we sailed our last few hours into Erie. When Troy first raised the Genoa and killed the motor (yes, the motor had been running for nearly 8 hours!) the breeze was blowing about 15 knots. Jim took his watch as the wind continued to build and about 11pm we dropped the Genny. We were still sailing over 6 knots with only the mainsail. By 11:30pm we had reefed the main and were still sailing at over 6 knots! By the time Jack took his watch at midnight we had reefed again and were still sailing at 5.5 knots! Jim had kept us on course from Barcelona, NY past Northeast, PA. Now Jack was sailing us into Erie. As we were trying to find the entrance channel, Jack had to turn due south, directly into the wind. We saw the knotmeter read 0.0 knots as the wind and waves blew past us. With all the breeze and waves, it didn’t seem like we were standing still, but clearly we were. Fortunately, Kelly III came through again with a lively motoring into the wind and waves. Jack swears we had an uninvited 5th crewman with a firehose spraying the cockpit! After a few minutes of motoring at 5.5 knots into the wind and waves, Jack turned Kelly III into the channel and turned us back onto a beam reach. The waves became less and the breeze seemed more friendly. Jim came back on deck and helped drop the main so we could motor back to the marina. This time we motored across the bay and into the marina in forward gear!
Finally, the “almost trip to Buffalo” became the “we made it to Buffalo” sail of the year!