This weekend, as anyone on Lake Ontario knows, was not an ideal sailing weekend. It was cold. It was windy (48 knot gusts on 35 knot steady winds) and, depending on where you were, wavey.
Winds were NW, so the North edge of the lake was spared the waves. The southern shore wasn’t quite so lucky, with 1-2 meter waves. I know these aren’t huge, but they can be unpleasant, especially when they’re sporting foamy tops like they were this weekend.
I will stop here, momentarily, to mention that I have sold my Contessa 26 to a wonderful young man from Quebec City. In its place is a larger sailboat – with more room for my family and more room for me to stand up. Its a lot more boat, on the order of double the weight. And so I digress.
My new sailboat, a rare Alberg 29, is located at the Niagara-on-the-Lake yacht club, pending a nice sail across the lake. For those who have been anywhere near Niagara-on-the-Lake or Youngstown NY, you know there’s a shoal at the mouth of the river, formed by silt being deposited as the water slows down entering the lake. It’s called the Niagara Bar. Further, there is an intereresting current in the river – more lumpy than simply moving water. None of this, of course, bothers me.
On Saturday we attempted to sail the Alberg home. I am still trying to get used to the strange, distant, hydraulic wheelsteering, which is so much less responsive than a Contessa 26 tiller. Over the bar the NW wind pushing past the opposing current raised some hellishly steep froth, and coupled with the sudden decrease in depth, resulted in water that, for the first time in my sailing life, significantly scared me. It wasn’t the height of the waves (around 3 meters) it was the steepness. They were like walls of water. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life, and would like to avoid any possible repeat.
After about 15 minutes of trying to battle through this, of burying not just the bow, but the forward part of the cabintop up to the mast, I decided I’d had enough, and turned about and took her back to the yacht club, where she still lays. Hopefully this weekend will be more favourable for the trip. At least it will be warmer. It snowed not far form here this the other day…
I would like to say that the Alberg 29 pleased me to no end in these conditions. She is, in every way, a seriously seaworthy boat. Like a giant Contessa 26, really. One you can even stand up in. I had concerns about moving away from a boat I trust so much to an unknown quantity, but this experience totally put me at ease in her seakeeping abilities.
The experience also reminded me of the importance of a safety harness – which I wasn’t wearing. After dropping off one ledge of water and finding myself only attached to the boat by the deathgrip I had on the wheel, I am going to purchase an inflatable PFD with integral harness at some point this week, and not sail without such in the future. They aren’t cheap, but as I reminded myself when my feet finally came back in contact with the boat, life isn’t cheap either.