I was in a funk and having trepidations about crossing eastern Lake Ontario with its potentially large waves, especially if the thunderstorms, in progress, didn’t abate. Having just arrived back from two days at home, I had decided not to continue northwesterly through the Trent-Severn Waterway and on to Michigan due to the late date and likely onset of winter weather before being able to get out of the Great Lakes. Now, it looked like the best course of action was just to return, back to Lake Champlain by reversing my route and going back through the two canals I had just traversed. That felt like failure.
Furthermore, the mast had to be raised and tensioned, and it all seemed like unnecessary problems when my originally planned route was no longer a goal. I felt depressed and helpless, in spite of previous experience ocean voyaging in inclement weather. I wanted to go home and sell my boat and take a nap! I announced my decision to my lone crewmember, and he reluctantly concurred.
The next morning, everything looked different. The storm was breaking up and the sun beginning to show through patchy clouds. I had a change of heart and decided I needed to face up to the challenges and adventure that the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence Seaway would offer. Not to do so, would surely haunt me.
We raised the mast, and I plotted a magnetic course bearing to the channel entrance we needed to make at the end of Lake Ontario. By mid-afternoon we were motor sailing, under a jib sail, eastward on Lake Ontario, bound for Sackets Harbor, N.Y. located nearly thirty-five miles away.
The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and visibility was excellent. We marveled at the smokestack of a power generating plant that still loomed large behind us after twenty miles. Sailboats passed us, going the opposite direction, and marking our course. Still, I took occasional position fixes off a newly installed GPS just to practice and to get in the habit of getting regular position confirmations.
At 8:20 p.m, we were in the channel off Henderson Harbor and entering the Black River. Sackets Harbor lay another few miles ahead, but its dimly lit, entrance location was in doubt as we approached. A sailboat dallied nearby, so I simply sailed by close and asked for directions to confirm the exact entrance location. Dead ahead! At 9:15p.m., we found our previously arranged slip and secured the boat for the night. We planned to leave it at Navy Point Marina while my crew and I took separate one-week vacations with our families.
Ten days later we departed Sackets Harbor bound for Clayton, N.Y. after visiting the Sackets Harbor Battlefield site that played a critical role in the War of 1812. We also relished, for a second time, the fabulous breakfasts offered by the Tin Pan Galley, a local eatery heavily frequented for good reason.
Our course was around Cape Vincent with morning sunshine and a slight chance of late afternoon showers. As we left the Black river and motor sailed up our course, we had to stay well off Point Peninsula and Grenadier Island to our east, while still gaining enough northerly direction to clear Cape Vincent. This forced us to keep a healthy Northwest course against the large waves that came eastward, off Lake Ontario, through the opening between Galoo and Main Duck Islands to our west. It made for a rolling ride as the wind-pushed water met us broadside. Another course, however, would involve venturing too close to a lee shore, or proceeding further west away from our destination.
My crewmember soon became seasick and had a miserable day, until we gained enough distance to clear Cape Vincent. After turning northeasterly, and putting the waves off the stern of the boat as we passed along Wolfe Island, the motion was easier. I offered to put in at Cape Vincent, but Steve was starting to feel better, and we elected to go on to Clayton where we arrived in mid-afternoon.
The next morning it was my turn to be sick. I woke dizzy from a chronic inner ear problem that acts up periodically. We stayed in Clayton for the day, doing laundry and taking time later that afternoon to visit the Antique Boat Museum located there.
The museum holds a large collection of old outboard engines, canoes, power racing boats, and runabouts of the types used in the Thousand Islands area. It offers a nostalgic look back at the local boating interests over the past century. One high-powered racing boat on display, facetiously named SNAIL, dominated local powerboat racing for nearly a decade. The sleek, highly polished boat, definitely does not leave an impression suited to its name!
Our next destination would be along the Thousand Islands and St. Lawrence River to tackle the St. Lawrence Seaway to Sorel-Tracy, Quebec. While voyaging the Seaway, we will leave the United States and face the big freighters, several large shallow lakes, and other challenges of the St. Lawrence Seaway. More adventure awaits out there—somewhere just over the bow.