After weeks of delays, weeks of work, and weeks upon weeks of planning, TearAway was finally launched. The hope was that we would get to the marina in the morning, that the surveyor would show up and give the final thumbs up, we’d drop her in and go by 10. Of course, none of that happened. The surveyor did show up, and told me he’s worried about us. The boat is in fine shape, but it’s a small boat and is in fine shape for summertime lake and coastal cruising, not for crossing the lake at this time of year, nor for the North Atlantic. Unfortunately, this fueled my existing fears. However, others who actually have made the run encouraged us to go.
We loaded stuff into TearAway, trucked her to the water, and lifted her into the air, off her cradle. Gabe slapped a quick coat of paint to the four spots where the cradle’s pads were, then a swift move to the side and she was free of the ground. Slowly, she was dropped into the water, reminded of her natural state.
Then, a flurry of activity to verify everything was safe and good before removing the safety of the crane’s straps.
- Check all of the through hulls.
- Check the bilge.
- Check the engine.
The bilge had water in it, but no one had thought to check whether it had water before being lowered. It turns out one of the hatches was left open and there was rain water collected. Then, get the engine fired up. This took a bit of time. Apparently, I hadn’t gotten all of the air out of the fuel lines. Eventually, bled of all air, the engine fired up. Check the shaft is getting its drip, drip, drip of lubricating water. Off with the straps and she’s on her own.
We moved to a dock to finish getting things on board and stowed enough to head out. This took a little more time than hoped. The surveyor came to make his final pass through, noting all of the things we’d done in the last several weeks. Finally, at about 3pm, with a full tank of fuel, a full spare tank, full of water, and full of hope, we shoved off, waved goodbye to Jenn, and rounded the corner into the river. Jenn came around to the ferry dock and waved another goodbye and the boys danced for all they were worth on the deck. Finally, we were really underway.
Before long, we were cutting between islands and heading out into Lake Ontario. TearAway was listing a little to starboard because the mast is laying along that side and most of the heavier items are on that side. She’s sitting low in the water with all the weight of what we need to go for the winter. And, without the mast and sails up, she feels a bit funny. Nevertheless, she has a good balance and there’s little movement while standing in the cockpit. We got a little bit of wave action to feel how she’s doing and it’s acceptable, though nothing like big waves that we need to be prepared for.
Then, a “securité” call came across the VHF radio. This means there’s something for all ships to listen to. In this case, it was a weather bulletin. We changed over to the weather channel to hear that potentially dangerous winds may be coming. At this point, we had some choices. We could continue toward Oswego and stop at Main Duck Island. This would be closer to being on route to our destination, but there’s nothing at Main Duck and we’d be out of cell service. Or, we could turn in behind Wolfe Island and go to Cape Vincent, as we’d originally planned to do. This is what we chose.
As we came to the head of Wolfe Island, a place notorious for its rocky shallow bottom, the radio blared again. This time to let us know there was another ship in the area. The new radio is an AIS receiver, so it’s able to “see” big vessels and give us their information, including their speed and bearing. Thus, it can calculate whether anything around us might be a collision hazard. This alarm happened before we were able to see the vessel because it was around the corner of the island. That’s cool, and proved practically what I’d hoped it would do in theory.
Rounding the island and heading down river toward Cape Vincent, we really started to notice the sky… menacing… ahead of us. The radio blared a weather warning. This time, more urgent, not just a “securité” audio message, but a beeping alarm with text indicating a weather alert. Sudden changes in weather were causing a line of high winds of 50 knots or more coming through Kingston, heading right our way. Lightning started flashing a couple miles away. Light rain started. As we came within sight of the Cape Vincent breakwater, the sky opened up and rain came down in a flood the likes of which I’ve seldom seen in my life. Like an afternoon monsoon drencher. So thick it’s hard to see the outline of the landmarks you’re familiar with right ahead of you.
Meanwhile, people at home were watching the weather and getting alerts of a 75 knot wall of wind crossing right where we had expected to go. I pushed a button on our SPOT (thank you Linda and Chris!!!!) to let the family know that we were doing alright, just not where we wanted to be yet. We motored around the Cape Vincent harbour area, not quite sure which was the public dock, following what I thought was based on our charts, watching the charts and the depth finder and wondering. I chickened out, fortunately, and decided the depth finder was more valuable than the charts, and turned away from the approach to a dock. However, I didn’t make it far fast. I had a bunch of weeds gathered on my prop, and probably on my keel, from that approach. We got them cleared off and moved on to a more hopeful looking dock, not really caring at this point whether it was the public dock, and tied up. If this wasn’t where we were supposed to be, we’d move, but it was unlikely anyone would be coming out to tell us to in this rain!
I gathered up the necessary documents and stuffed them inside layers of my foulies and went off to find the border patrol guards to get checked in, sloshing through ankle deep rainwater in the deserted streets. They were not there. I would later learn he was there, but the doors were locked and he was in a back room and didn’t hear my knock.
A warm dinner, and then I read aloud the beginning of “My Old Man and the Sea” as boys settled in… until the snoring started. One meager protest… “I’m just resting my eyes” was all it took and then everyone was out for the night.
This morning we got checked in to the country. It turns out the border station here closes. Two days ago. They were there, packing up the computers and locking up. Fortunately, there was still one connected that he was able to run us through on, after a few phone calls to find out what to do with us. But, without a printer hooked up, we have a sticky note with a number on it so we can have a fax of our cruising permit sent to us as the port in Oswego.
Perhaps tomorrow, if the wind map doesn’t change again overnight, we’ll be heading out. If the waves on the lake are horrible after this strong west wind, we’ll turn around and come back. Otherwise, there’s a chance we’ll be in Oswego by tomorrow night.
Cross your fingers for us!!!