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Remember, it's November: a late haulout and a near miss

Don't let the calm water fool you

I like to sail and pay a pretty penny...although not as much as a small econobox car driver on an annual basis...for the privilege of doing so. By sharing costs and balancing off "steel boat restoration" with "plastic boat fun" in my increasingly fume-addled mind, I've been able to justify sailing one boat while I try not to screw up the fitting out of another, beached one.

This is prologue to relating this year's other haulout (I participated in hauling my club three weeks ago), that of Valiente, my 33 foot sloop. Leaving distractedly late from my summer marina berth, I cadged free shelter at my club, although in a rather exposed spot (see above) from the prevailing and gusty mid-fall westerlies, which can swing into NW or even north with rapidity. The previous entry related my last sail of the season, but there was more "fun" in store in the following week.

I haul Valiente in as cheap and "unfacilitied" a location as I can find within reach of bicycle from my home. A glorified series of parking lots in Toronto's "Portlands" called Pier 35 fills the bill nicely...there's not even a washroom on site, no electricity or water can be easily accessed, and the place is overrun with feral cats fed by well-meaning if idiotic white people in nice cars. To top it off, it's downwind from a vast recycling plant. Do not power wash the's pointless unless you seal it in plastic afterwards.

Hauling here means having a tolerance for a little eccentricity on the part of the denizens and the staff. This is a boat boneyard, with several decaying examples of production and/or homebuilt boats that will likely never get as much sea under their hulls as they've had rain on their decks...sooty, sooty rain. One also must do for oneself: I bicycled out at the beginning of the week to erect and rebolt Valiente's somewhat rusty cradle.

Note: My name's not "Smith"
I brought the pads in the boat. I was supposed to be hauled on Wednesday, November 9th, late enough in my view to be courting frosty nights that would trouble my sleep with visions of ice-shattered engine blocks, but the boat yard's boss said that he was behind in hauling due to a crane breakdown, and I would be welcome to haul Thursday afternoon, and to tie up in the channel from which he hauled at any point.

Well, I didn't, because my sailing pal Jeff suggested it was an exposed channel, I thought it looked dodgy and unsafe (and didn't want cat poo on deck) to leave a boat unattended in that channel, and the wind looked strong and potentially very gusty. So I stayed put at my club and doubled my lines. I told Mr. Crane Operator I would be there 10 AM Friday and received permission to stay on our club wall until Friday.

The first thing I noticed, as one does, on a not quite windy but looking like it might get windier Friday morning was frost on the patch of grass the kids fold sails on. The second thing was that two of four fenders were missing. One had gone taking part of a shackle with it. There was slight damage to the rubrail. I was evidently at least partially in the line of fire, if fire was gusting November wind. Fun fact: Colder air is denser than warmer air. 40 knots of near zero will feel worse than 25C precisely because it is.

"Whew," I thought as I chugged off to the grubby, cat-infested place of stowage, "I'm glad I didn't stay tied to that wall. Might have scratched her up, but good".

Truer words...

This is or perhaps was (pending insurance adjuster verdicts) a 1989 Irwin 38 sloop. The colour is because it was in Caribbean charter, where the sun turns gelcoat into chalk. The damage is courtesy of being exactly where I planned to be, plus shredded fenders, plus parted lines and plus torn-out cleats. This boat came loose in only a little gale, bounced off a few concrete walls, hit a booze cruiser and generally got severely slapped about.

It's worse in person, actually. So is standing beside the owner, who was trying to remain stoic.

Anyway, because the poor thing might be so damaged as to collapse on its cradle, an insurance adjuster had to examine it not only for the usual "repair or scrap" verdict, but to determine if it was even safe to move with half its decks torn up and daylight coming out the transom. The yard boss decided in light of approaching high wind to haul me (mostly) out of the water and away from the wall. Suited me fine, even if I was inexplicably listing to port in the slings.
Prior to the 25-30 knot gusts
I may have spilled my drink at this point.

Note that if one's mast is either side of the yellow stripe on the crane frame, one's beverage may develop a leak. 

Also note that attention to detail in the anti-fouling painting area seems to have paid off...that's a pretty clean bottom for a boat in direct sunshine in a murky, weed-choked marina.

You can just make out the chunks missing from the stem of that steel ship off my stern. Done by the wrecked Irwin, alas

After much fuffing about and a somewhat unnervingly slow hoist and lowering occasioned by the newness of the Big Yellow Crane, we settled in for winter. I am leaving the mast in somewhat experimentally as it will greatly increase the speed of commissioning next spring.

Off we go. I always find the sight of either of our boats being moved on wheels a touch nerve-wracking and vaguely amusing. A sort of fish on bicycle image, I suppose.

Winterized the engine rapidly, and will apply selected tarps and charge, then disconnect, the batteries next week. Then, back to the world of steel.

What the world of steel will always feature: 93% zinc coatings


Last sail of 2011: Laying her down in style

I had, with a sailing pal, my last sail of the season today. November 4 in Toronto is quite late as most local boats are hauled for the winter and demasted, winterized, etc., as the night temperatures can go below 0C. I am hauling next Wednesday as freezing isn't expected, so I took the boat out today.

So the last sail of my season was, somewhat unexpectedly due to the honking great high pressure system above Lake Ontario, a bit of a howler. I saw close to 20 knots apparent with nonetheless flat seas because all the wind was coming off the land and was weirdly gusty, probably due to urban heating. The 24 hour Toronto Island record said "8 kilometres of wind, gusting 30".

Well, try and pick a sail for that. We were either crawling under a full main and a No. 2 or we were on our ears at 30 degrees over. Great, technical sailing, however. I was able to luff way up into the wind during the puffs, as the whole "apparent wind" thing was obvious: as we picked up speed, I could steer 20 degrees to windward and thus reduce the number of tacks I had to make the channel to Toronto's inner harbour.

But I insisted, as I rarely do, that we and my pal both wear PFDs. There was NO ONE on the lake except us (not surprising at the air temperature was 8 C despite the full sun). The water's about 9C, I guess, having had a few drops and splashes land on me from the bow. The fact is that even a fit person could be "shocked" into a daze or unconsciousness if they fell in, never mind get hauled out, and the weird, gusty wind meant the boat was getting headed constantly and heeling very rapidly without much warning from the sea state.

I don't always wear a PFD in the summer, but spring and fall I do pretty religiously. I haven't seen a need to wear a tether on Lake Ontario, but I have several aboard, and I sure as hell wouldn't be typing this had I not been wearing on on the Atlantic Ocean in 40 knots of "surprise" wind in the middle of the night.

Now, I think the type of tether, and more importantly, the ease with which one can release from a D-ring, is up for debate, but not the use of a tether at all. That's like saying you don't use a seatbelt because you can never find the damn big red square button on the latch mechanism.

Sailing buddy Jeff says "bah!" to the tether proposition

Anyway, here's some pictures. As mentioned, I was ably accompanied by Jeff Cooper, a man who sailed a great deal many years ago, stopped for a couple of decades, and is rediscovering his love of sailing. So having him aboard is a treat, because all my gear is about 40 years old and therefore he's used to seeing blocks without Torlon bearings or (gasp) winches that merely winch, and do not self-tail!

The start was unpromising, if coolly pleasant. The wind off the land was from due North with a bit of East trying to manifest, but the high pressure and the land station speed of a solid six knots did not promise much in the way of excitement.

Still, north wind in Toronto means "flat sea", and a similarly brisk air and water temperature meant no fog. But because I've been fooled before in the autumn, I opted for a full hoist in the main and the old No. 2 genoa, even though the No. 1 was requested. I had a feeling.

Said feeling might have arisen from watching the incessant turboprop commuter planes that blight the waterfront. They were landing in an obvious cross-wind, jinking and crabbing with intent into the wind.

Judging by the offbeat landing approach (whoops!), there was more than six knots of wind overhead. So we eased off and headed south around the front of Toronto Island to find it.

Of course, you see a lot of nature from a sailboat, particularly when you have the entirety of the water to yourselves. We saw no other boats out on the Lake, not cops, nor fishermen, nor commercial traffic. We both noticed, however, that the leaves were hanging on the branches very late. Some are still in the process of turning red, orange or yellow.

We found a hatful of wind, 15 pushing 20 knots apparent (apparent in the sense that I apparently had a bit too much sail up at points) as we barrelled around the point and "laid her down" heading for the Leslie Street Spit. Too busy sailing in a fairly technical fashion to take shots (this is the part where the nearby weather station was recording "N8, gusting 30", which sums it up for people who know a header as something other than a soccer move), we still saw a flock of what I think were bufflehead ducks fishing in the lake. 

After a brief consideration of how close I should run into the beach on the Spit in order to make the Eastern Gap in one tack (because I hate tacking in channels, even when empty of boats), we transited Toronto Harbour and speculated how many eyes in the towers of finance and condos of glass were on us as we gracefully returned to home base.

Some grace was jeopardized while we removed..and then retied...a debris boom from the entrance to my marina. Obviously, they are going into "pure liveaboard" mode, and it's time I hauled out before something freezes. Ever try to hold a boat still while essentially untying a gate? There's no pictures of that, either. Too busy trying to keep the boat off the wall and the crew out of the water.

It was, nonetheless, one of the best days of sailing both Jeff and I agreed that we've ever had. So long, 2011.