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Summer's end getaway

Once home, then away
While the (finally) warm weather can be expected to persist locally for some weeks yet, the arrival of Labour Day and the reboot of the school year is usually considered the end of the summer here in the Great White North. Consequently, time was carved from boat restoration and grubbing for dollars for a few days' rest and relaxation aboard the soon-to-be vended Valiente, the sloop of blue that, while basic on the amenities, is no slouch in the sailing department.

There's a Canadian Coast Guard station in Cobourg Harbour featuring life boats I estimate at about 15 m.
Of course, actually going on a sailing getaway is by definition not really restful or relaxing; far from it. From the cat-minding arrangements to the hauling of gear and provisions down to a vessel usually stripped out for daysailing...and not to mention the oil changes, fuelling up and minor repairs customarily the province of the Skipper...there was a good day's worth of shuttling from house to dock before we decided the best way to reach our chosen destination of Cobourg, a town some 70 miles to the east and a perennial favourite harbour of ours, was to commence sailing at 2200h and go at it all night.
This, if you're lucky. Photo (c) 2010
Of course, this decision was predicated on the anticipated transit time of 12 hours, the forecasted winds (port beam or just aft) and the practical consideration of arriving in full daylight, not that the approach is particularly tricky. The decision did not take into full consideration the length of the preceding day nor the energy expeditures involved, meaning that while Mrs. Alchemy and myself were not fully exhausted by the time we slipped the lines, we were a touch cranky. The first three hours were, in lieu of sufficient breeze, just motoring. The clearly visible storm clouds aft emitted the occasional rumble and flash, but stayed away. Their passage to the north-east did eventually produce sufficient breeze to justify sailing with the No. 1 and full main, and so off we went with 90-minute "deck naps" as we spelled each other off on the tiller. The missus got considerably better air than I did, as she favoured coming inshore, whereas I sailed old-fart style to my preferred bearing, losing 1.5 knots in the process. Thus, when daylight came, we were closer to shore, but with less breeze; we switched on for the last bit from Port Hope to Cobourg Harbour.

After arriving at noon with a fully rested offspring, we just decided to stay awake. Note the 60 foot steel schooner in the background of the northwest corner of Cobourg Marina.
We have watched this relatively modest town (save for its grandiose town hall, built as if Cobourg was destined for grander things) evolve from the standard Southern Ontario template (lots of Victorian brick, lots of small businesses on a gradually decaying "Main" street, usually called "King") into something part Toronto bedroom community to retiree-magnet and alternative lifestyle mini-Mecca. There's a lot of geezers here...hell, I recognized a couple...who have bought condos and Toronto interests here: There's an unexpected number of health food outlets, places in which to buy yoga mats, and fair-trade coffee shops than any circa 20,000 population town should by rights have. More condos near the modest if deep harbour are going up...they can be seen in the background, and the semi-industrial aspect of the old Cobourg waterfront has been nearly obliterated by stylish retirement living.
Fuel dock, with fuel guzzler and newish condos aft.
We like this town, however, even if it's always been a push to get here in one passage. The exception was in 2005 on the return leg of the second photo below. Despite the summery conditions, this was taken in mid-October on the way to Belleville, and on the way back, the weather went decidedly autumnal, but with a 30-knot half-gale from the NE. We went Cobourg-Toronto in about nine and a half hours, a point-to-point record that still stands for sheer SOG.
2014: Cabin Boy stretches out on park anchor
Same anchor, 2005, with four-year-old Cabin Tyke: Note the absence of condos in the background.
Anyway, Cobourg is offering the right sort of investment mix and savvy that, given its relative proximity by car to Toronto (close, but not too close) should see it remain attractive and forward-looking while small towns around it fade. Hell, I saw more LED streetlights erected by the town-owned electrical utility in Cobourg than I've seen in Toronto.

Cabin Boy is slouching. He's within a centimetre of Mrs. Alchemy's height now.
Our son enjoys Cobourg because, not being car-owners, we don't "go anywhere" in the usual sense, although we cycle long distances and visit friends in other parts of our city frequently. This is the obligatory "comedy shot" by the former jail/currently pub in Cobourg.
Not pictured: Manicles and nearby cannon.
Cannon and boy, 2005. Quizzical expression still in full effect.
After finding some sort of medicinal coffee treatment, we stumbled around to see what was different. The local chandlery, Dean Marine, was having a moving sale, which seemed a little eerie after the news of the soon-to-close West Marine in Toronto and last week's shuttering of Genco Marine in downtown Toronto (thus finishing my wife's handy part-time employment). Mr. Dean himself is returning to a smaller shop by the marina, which is only steps from where we first found him in the early 2000s on our first trips to Cobourg. He had no idea Genco's Toronto shop had closed.

What makes a captain? Apparently, it is the hat.
Fifty percent off cheap skipper's caps was too much for my son to resist, filthy Tilley knock-offs not being his style, and Dean Marine was compensated.

No, I don't have a better shot. I was distracted.
When amongst a large selection of them, I like to look at boats, he wrote with absolutely no surprise whatsoever. I spotted this evidently 1970s IOR-styled racer at the end of a finger; its name starts with "G" and it's at least 60 feet and, according to a random guy on the dock "doesn't go out much". Probably because it needs a crew of six minimum to work it, I would imagine. Pretty thing, however, and sporting bucket-sized winches.

Peter Tielen and family on HMP, his custom CS 36
 I would have made better note of the name but I was distracted by the appearance of HMP, Peter Tielen's boat. Peter is best known as the proprietor of Holland Marine Products and as so often happens on Lake Ontario, a decent wind brings acquaintances together. But Peter had to fix an engine overheating issue and we weren't able to share a beverage. Instead, some swimming happened.
This buoy was so off-station (in about 80 cm. of water) that we considered salvaging it. It would have fit Alchemy admirably.
The beach at Cobourg is pure sand and is shallow a long way out. It's perfect for aimless splashing about, if, given this summer's tepid temperatures, a touch brisk. Later that evening, Mrs. Alchemy and myself warmed up in the cockpit with some nautical beverages. This gave us, docked as we were next to the long pier separating Cobourg's public beach from its harbour, a sort of anthrologist's blind-view of the habit, which we've noticed for over a decade, of cars going down the pier toward the lake, stopping for one to five minutes and then driving back into town. Is there a black-cloaked drug dealer standing at one end? A hyper-efficient prostitute cycling through her clients like the Rule 3700? A collective amnesia that manifests on four wheels? (Oh, yes, now I remember: There's a featureless lake at the end of this thing.") We have no good ideas, other than that we lost count around 100 cars and two tumblers of marine sunset lubricant and still have no compelling hypothesis as to why the good folk of Cobourg are driven to drive up and down their breakwater.

More sitting and standing than swimming, really.
After unrecorded meals and wandering in circles getting the boat kinks out, we set back for Toronto on the promise of an ESE five-knot breeze that might have gone S to 10...a marginal day at best, although what wind there was promised to blow in the right direction. After an hour or so of chugging along (dependable, but noisy and somehow a failure in a sailboat), we decided to unleash our Secret Weapon, the massive cruising kite I bought years back and fly maybe twice every three seasons, as it's happiest at under 12-13 knots on a broach reach. Given that our son just spent a month flying spinnaker on 420s, we felt he could contribute as we literally forget how to fly the thing year-to-year.
Ancient block on ancient bow with reasonably fresh tack line. The anchor had to be lashed to the deck aft of this.
She's a beauty, however.
Eventually, we got the lines sorted and the course laid and managed to sail mostly above five knots, with the occasional drop to the high threes. Sailors will understand that a nice, slow sail is better qualitatively than a faster motor point-to-point, and where possible, extra hours spent on the water in transit under sail are permissible and even desirable. This was that sort of day.
The always-fascinating "PORTS" publication, or at least, more fascinating than helming.
As our son has grown, he has exhibited both the sullen laziness of the incipient teenager aboard and actual enthusiasm and competence of the born sailor for the business of sailing. His comfort at the helm of a 12-foot dinghy, however, does not always translate to easiness at the helm of a 33-footer flying a sail large enough to blanket our house.
Seriously. It's big enough that I'm going to bring it over to Alchemy as a light-air chute.

He did a good job, however, and was most helpful on deck when we encountered a spot of bother later in the day.
The wind was light, but sufficient to keep this pulling.
We tend to go a fair bit offshore to clear the Leslie Street Spit that juts out several miles on the east side of Toronto Harbour.
 The main was up, but I questioned if it should have been, thinking it was on occasion blanketing the chute. Later, the wind started increasing slightly before falling light again, and I wondering if the No. 1 would have been a better choice.
So nice.
Instead, I did an experiment: Wing-on-wing with an asymmetrical spinnaker. I preventered the main to port and steered slightly off dead-downwind. This took some concentration, but we added nearly a full knot to our SOG.
It worked until it didn't. I should have known better with a skinny-arsed IOR boat.
 A sudden wind shift to the south plus a fairly rapid increase in wind speed caused the spinnaker to "hourglass" around the forestay, and during the prolonged period I had to use the preventered main to blanket the mess while the wife and son laboured mightily to unscrew it and get it down on deck without ripping the expensive cloth, we pointed toward land (Pickering, actually) and picked up speed to above five knots on main only. Eventually, and it was a long, tiring eventually, the spinnaker, undamaged thanks to carefulness on the part of the crew, was rebagged and stowed in favour of the No. 2, for during the unscrewing exercise, the wind had rotated about 40 degrees, we had come toward land about 2.5 NM, and the angle to Toronto was now just aft of the beam.

Also, not raining.
The seas went to about 1.5 metres (five feet), nothing to worry about, but as they were coming the length of the lake, they had a near-oceanlike rolling quality we never see with the more typical westerlies. The wind was twice to three times the forecast strength, and we took off like a shot.
Our 120% sized  No. 2 is elderly, but it remains my favourite sail.
We did 20 NM in three hours flat, a very good run indeed for what was supposed to be a mostly motoring day. Not pictured are the occasional surfs during which we broke eight knots, a rare-ish achievement outside of spring and fall.

Hard to see because we are coming off a big 'un: 7.4 knots. Hull speed is supposed to be 6.9.

This was a common sight as the sun set. We roared back home.
We arrived home right at 2200h, a fitting symmetry for the short getaway. More sailing was had, and of a higher quality, than we expected, which is always nice, but then when it comes to sailing, we hold to the premise that having a good day of it sometimes involves extending oneself.
Playground tackle. 2005

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