Leamington and the Bass Islands - July 2-7, 2008
Leamington and the Bass Islands - July 2-7, 2008Report Abuse
July 2-7, 2008
Leamington and the Bass Islands
After a lazy morning, we got a late start at noon for our 5 day trip living aboard Kelly IV. Our crew this trip were Bob Zimmerman and Keith Otto. Although the forecast included a threat of thunderstorms (so what’s new on Lake Erie?) they were not expected until midnight. With this favorable forecast we headed north out of Sandusky Bay for Leamington, Ontario, 45 miles away. This is very much the same distance that Bob and I sailed on our first trans-Erie sail in 1992 on Kelly I, my Catalina 25. At that time we wanted to see if it was reasonable to take the family across the lake. To test the possibility, Bob, another friend, Dick Beamer, and I sailed our 25 footer across from Erie, PA to Port Dover, Ontario. It turned out to be such a great trip that Kelly I, then Kelly III sailed to Port Dover about 20 times over the past 15 years.
This sail proved to be a terrific example of just how wonderful sailing can be. With a comfortable breeze of about 15 knots out of the southwest, Kelly IV bounded across the nearly flat green waters at a brisk 7 knots. Keith, Bob and I took turns at the helm enjoying the superior sailing experience. As we cruised north of Kelley’s Island, the steady breeze brought on gradually building waves, but they were still well under 3 feet. The sky was just cloudy enough to dull the sunshine, yet bright enough to require us to wear our sunglasses. It was warm enough to encourage short sleeves and cut offs, but cool enough to make the trip oh so comfortable. As we passed Pelee Island the sky was showing some darker grays to the far west of us and the waves were a little steeper and maybe even a little higher. We crossed paths with a commercial freighter as she sailed across Pelee Passage between Pelee Island and the long, flat point that juts several miles into Lake Erie, like a smaller cousin of Long Point in the central lake.
By this time the wind had gradually shifted into the west, even hinting at becoming northwesterly and the approach into Leamington required a beam or close reach. As we were sighting the Leamington harbor lights and preparing to drop sail, the waves became short, steep, rollers that, while not breaking, still hit Kelly IV on her beam and rocked her from gunnel to gunnel. Thankfully, the experienced crew had properly tied down our gear before leaving Sandusky and the motion was merely bothersome, not dangerous. We did test the autopilot and the poor machine found itself reduced to going in circles by the rock and roll!
Our timing couldn’t have been better as we tied up in the Leamington Municipal Marina with just enough time to build a tarp cover around the bimini in an effort to keep the impending storm from dousing the cockpit. Yes, the storm hit us only 30 minutes after we tied up about 8:00pm. It is a good thing Kelly IV made such good time sailing across the lake!
Given the storm and forecast for a lousy Thursday, we signed up for 2 nights and had a relaxing day in port. We enjoyed a walk through town to discover the “World’s Largest Tomato”, Gilligan’s Bar (Where’s the Skipper & Mary Ann?), and suddenly found ourselves with a déjà vu experience when we sighted a Heinz plant so familiar we thought we were walking the North Side of Pittsburgh! It turns out that Leamington has a huge Heinz food plant of its own and has a nifty tourist welcome center built like a very large tomato. The day cleared up, became warm and sunny as the afternoon turned into evening.
With bright golden sunshine bursting through the portlights it was easy to wake up and take off for another terrific sail. This time we made tracks for Middle Bass Island, passing on the western side of Pelee Island. The breeze had clocked around to the Northeast and held strong with an easy 10 to 12 knots pushing Kedlly IV at a smooth, consistent 5 to 6 knots. We passed the Leamington ferry port to port as it was headed back north from Pelee Island to its home port. We set our course to proceed almost due south until we hit the latitude to cut cleanly between Middle Bass Island (MBI) and South Bass Island (SBI). Our next turn was to the south, carefully clearing the shoals west of Sugar Island, then Keith tacked Kelly IV smoothly into the anchorage at the southeast of MBI, just north and clearly in sight of the Perry Monument on SBI.
Although we discussed the assembling of our Port-a-Bote dinghy, it never happened. We relaxed aboard, observed the various and varied neighbors including several other blue hulled vessels, a very long and sleek racing sailboat, a beautiful green hulled yacht with a clipper bow and a small assortment of powerboats, all but 2 of whom departed the anchorage before nightfall. Many sailboats but only 2 trawlers spent the night in the calm, peaceful anchorage.
We decided to put into Put-In-Bay (PIB) to replenish our ice, get a hot shower, dump our garbage and generally play the role of sailors in port. Since PIB was only a mile or so away, we felt we needed to make a real sailing event of the trip by circumnavigating Rattlesnake Island to our west. Given the very exclusive appearance of the island, we joked and made up stories about James Bond characters, villains and deceitful government operators. Even the name “Rattlesnake Island” invoked connotations of strange and wild goings-on. Bob took the helm for the pleasant and wonderful sail going first northwest, then west, then southeast and finally northeast before turning west again into PIB. Given the July 4th Holiday, we anchored in the busiest situation I’ve experienced. Fortunately, Bob and Keith are both experienced and we snagged our hook on the bottom for a safe and uneventful anchoring.
After a taxi ride, and shower, we walked around town to get the lay of the land and visit the Perry Victory and International Peace Museum. As the orchestra was warming up on the museum steps for a summer evening concert, we made our way to “The Longest Bar in the World”, a must-see while in PIB. A couple beers later and we were on our way as another terrific dinner waited for us on board. As you might guess, Bob and Keith took turns with our dinners, so each one was a most wonderful repast. Our dinners included shrimp, steak, chicken, pasta, and other mouth-watering delicacies.
This brings us to Sunday morning, our last day on the water. The day dawned bright and clear, but with very little wind. We plotted a course between SBI and MBI, keeping Ballast Island to our port. As we went by it seemed there was a small channel we might have taken, but we stayed the course we charted the night before. Without much beeze, we motored merrily along until about 3 hours out, midway across the northern side of Kelley’s Island (KI), the motor began struggling, as if getting no fuel, and gave up the ghost. Since the breeze was trying to build, we decided to give the sails another try and although the speed was slow (1 – 2 knots) it was much more fun sailing than motoring. A tricky bit of tacking by Keith enabled us to safely cruise past the green can to the northwest of KI. The light northeasterly puffs kept us going south along the eastern shore of KI. Given the light wind and sometimes easterly headers, our track was inching gradually westwards towards Kelley Island’s shallow water off the easternmost point. As we slid over the thin water back into deeper, safer, more comfortable H2O, we saw that our ETA would make for a very late drive home. Conservative thoughts prevailed (all of us had to work in the morning) so we called for the towboat to get us back to port. We cruised quickly behind the skilled towboat operator and found ourselves back in our slip by 6pm.