Gananoque to Henderson Bay (42NM – 8.5h)
We headed out of Gananoque marina at 7:30am on July 19, motored through the cut between Wolf and Grindstone Island. Winds were from W/SW and gusting to 25kts by noon, so we motor sailed with the main with one reef. As the winds shifted more to the west we were able to sail close-hauled but the waves were quite choppy. Predict Wind was telling us that they were about .8m but at times they were more like 1- 1.5m. They were on our starboard beam, and one time a wave actually splashed right into the cockpit. At least I was refreshed after that. Dave had put his pressure bands on as the ride was not the most comfortable and that held the nausea at bay. Once in Henderson Bay the seas were a lot calmer. We tucked around the western point into Whites Bay and set the hook. The bay is surrounded by private homes and there’s a little bit of boat traffic from locals but at night it was very quiet. The holding was great although we pulled up quite a bit of weed but we had not tucked very far into the bay so it could possibly be a bit better closer to shore. At sunset we heard the splashing of waves on our bow and 2 larger sailboats came gently gliding into the bay and sailed around our boat – beautiful!
Henderson Bay to Sodus Bay (58NM – 11h)
Around 7am we started hoisting the anchor and after 15 min we finally had all the weeds off the chain. Once out of the bay we hoisted the sails and were making 4kts heading SW. It was a mixed day and we had to keep the motor on most of the time but were able to add sails in order to get to Sodus Bay before sunset. By 6pm we were anchored in one of the designated anchoring fields in front of Sodus Bay Yacht Club (between the yellow cans marked A to D. Sodus Bay is a boater’s paradise and is often called the “Crown Jewel of Lake Ontario”. It’s the largest bay on the lake. It’s protected from all sides yet large enough to have a number of islands, many marina’s, marine services, and restaurants/pubs. When the weather is too rough out on Lake Ontario sailboats can still safely enjoy a day sail on the bay. In fact, when we anchored we were basically being used as an added buoy for the sailing school dinghies to tack around. There was certainly a lot of traffic here as we were right beside the Yacht Club mooring field and the entrance to 2 other marinas. Lots to see – although the water was a bit murky, but it made up for that in temperature. A balmy 26C right off the back of the boat. 4C warmer than in the Lake.
We took the dinghy over to the little village of Sodus Point, followed along Sand Point and beached it right behind Sodus Point Beach on Lake Ontario. This first little bay just west of the entrance channel when you enter Sodus Bay is quite shallow, so follow the marked channel. On summer weekends there are scads of motor boats rafted here and people wade and swim in the shallow, warm water. A short walk brought us to the Lake Ontario beach which disappointed a bit as the shore was clogged with heaps of smelly seaweed. Walking the quiet roads was a pleasant diversion, checking out beautiful homes along the water and the historic lighthouse which sits in a picturesque park overlooking the lake – a great spot for a Picknick.
Sodus Bay to Rochester (30NM – 11h)
Just like Henderson Bay we had a ton of weeds all along our chain again when we hoisted anchor the next morning. After a short stop at Kaitlynn’s marine where we filled up our Diesel we were on our way west to Rochester NY. It’s only about 30NM and winds were supposed to be very light that day. Knowing we had a full tank of fuel we were resigned to motor most of the way. Little did we know our Volvo Penta had other plans for us…
About 1/3 of the way, just north of Fairbank’s Point, our rpm suddenly dropped for no apparent reason and then the engine just stopped. We were able to start her one more time but she sputtered to a stop again and that was that. We quickly made the sails ready but before we hoisted them, I climbed down the swim ladder with a mask. There was nothing on the prop. Although there was very little wind, we got back under way slowly once both sails were up. That bought us some time to trouble shoot: checking the racor fuel filter, the fuel lift pump, oil and coolant levels. All seemed ok. We were stumped.
Dave called ahead to the Rochester Yacht club to make sure they would have space for us and also to Schumway Marine to find if a mechanic would be available. It was Friday and if we made it to Rochester it would take us most of the day, hoping the winds wouldn’t die entirely. The miles were ticking down slowly as we made 2-3kts at times. About 2 miles from the mouth of the Genesee River and the Harbor entrance to Rochester, the wind became less and less. We took down the main, but the jib was still giving us enough propulsion to steer. Then we got the dinghy down and strapped it to the stern quarter. We had done this before when the belt on the engine had snapped a couple years ago. It was calm enough and we actually were doing 4.4kts towing ourselves into the Rochester Yacht Club, where some friendly members took our lines. Relieved and tired we celebrated with tenderloins and a bottle of red.
Although tired we couldn’t resist a quick drink at the club, maybe meet some interesting people. We had just entered and were ordering at the bar, when a lady beside us greeted us as compatriots. Her name was Kim and we quickly discovered that she had grown up in Port Elgin, the same little Lake Huron Beach town where Dave spent his summers growing up. Other connections were quickly discovered and we met her partner Peter, Vice Commodore of the Rochester Yacht Club. When she heard that I was from Germany she introduced us to Krista, another RYC member who also spoke German. It so happened that this weekend the Rochester Yacht Club was hosting friendly regattas in different classes with the visiting Royal Canadian Yacht Club. By the end of the night we were invited to join the big club festivities the next night with buffet dinner, fresh clams, dance and band. And to top it off Krista would be sending a car to pick us up so we could come to her Summer Soiree and have drinks at her charming little house before the club dinner and party. Wow – glad we decided to go grab a drink at the Club that night instead of going to bed. We would have missed all this.
On Saturday the river was busy with sail boats of all sizes going out to race or just watch. Besides the RYC there’s a marina at Shumways, as well as the Genesee Yacht Club a little further up the river. Skip Shumway, proprietor of Shumways, is also an avid RYC member was super helpful in finding us a mechanic. This wasn’t so easy on such a busy weekend, but that morning the mechanic, aptly nick-named “Sarge” called us and promised to drop by on Sunday morning at 8:30 am. Things were looking up.
Now less worried we enjoyed a lane swim in the clubs newly renovated pool – the only real exercise we felt like in the sweltering heat. After lunch we dinghied around the harbour and then out around the entrance piers to the east for a swim. The big beach on the west side has life guards which won’t let you get your dinghy close to shore, but on the east side we had no problem anchoring the dink in the shallow warm water.
Shortly after 4pm, as promised, a black Audi arrived to pick us up and we were taken to a wonderful couple hours at Krista’s house meeting her friends. She had just moved in a couple weeks ago, but the place was perfectly set up for her little soirée. She scared us a little at first when she started mixing brightly coloured liquids in big beakers. But what looked like fear inducing chemicals turned out to be tasty fruit spritzers served with yummy appetizers.
Later we all drove back to the Yacht Club where a buffet dinner and fresh clams awaited us. Kim and Peter had added us at short notice to their table of family and friends. We got to meet Kim’s lovely daughter Rebecca and her boyfriend Gage. “The Skycoasters”, a local cover band played after dinner. We were impressed by the many brass players in the band and renditions of groups such as Chicago that were very good. They were a hoot, and really getting into the spirit even sporting disco ball hats and funky glasses. At one point they were playing the Beach Boys and brought out a surf board that members of the audience could “surf on” while two strong guys held it up and moved it as if surfing waves. Everyone, even the young racers were dancing. I ended up with a huge blister even in my Birks. Such a fun night. I believe our table was the last to leave.
But we didn’t end up at our boat immediately. Instead we all stopped at Jo and Carol’s “Baby Grand”, a Grand Banks 46 trawler from 1998. It’s beautifully decked out and even features a custom built in electric piano with weighted keys. Check out their site: Baby Grand 46. Jo also has a full set of harmonicas and a guitar on board (and somewhere there’s a 100 year old accordion as well – although it never came out). It didn’t take long and a little jam session started up from Chop Sticks to Billy Joel tunes. Rebecca’s boyfriend Gage, who had been in a band in Highschool asked if any of us knew the song “Wonderwall” by Oasis. He was adamant that Jo should learn it. Poor Jo rose to the occasion and we were all singing along in short order and to us it all sounded pretty good – but I am sure at this late hour we weren’t the best judges anymore.
The next morning came far too soon as we had to be up and ready for “Sarge”, the mechanic, who arrived shortly after 9am on a Sunday. We were already impressed. Anyone who’s had marine engine problem knows how hard it is to come by a good mechanic and “Sarge” blew them all out of the water. Sarge was a US military diesel mechanic for 35 years, and his skillset was impressive to say the least. Our comments had led him to believe that the fuel lift pump was first on the list, and he happened to have our exact engine in his shop from another boat he had pulled it out of. He arrived with a tested and working copy of our existing lift pump on a Sunday morning. He had narrowed down the problem in a couple of hours but It turned out that the fuel hose from the fuel tank to the Racor pre-filter had started to deteriorate had fully clogged. Sarge knew where to get a new fuel line and machine pressed banjo joint so he headed off and told us he would install them Monday morning. The beautiful thing was that because Sarge actually had a whole Volvo Penta 2003T engine in his shop (an older but functioning one) we were able to immediately put dibs on for parts. He also installed the fuel lift pump from that engine and took the old one to see if it would still be serviceable.
As promised Sarge had the new hoses all installed and the engine purring again by 11 am the next day. He impressed me with his prime of the engine as well, it went on the first try! We were so grateful. Unfortunately, we were thoroughly behind schedule now and would not be able to make our rendezvous with family in Whitby across the lake. David’s sister and brother in-law from Calgary were only there until the morning of the 27th and there were 1-1.5m waves and strong winds from the west out on the lake. Even if we waited and did a night crossing we would not be able to make it in time from Rochester across the lake. That’s travelling by sailboat for you – you are at the mercy of wind, waves and your boat. But our unplanned stay in Rochester turned out to be a definite highlight of our trip. A great big Thank You to all those new friends we found at RYC. You were so welcoming and we hope to be able to repay your kindness any time you stop in Gananoque.