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Bon Vivant Delivery Trip (1994)
(Port Credit to Lion’s Head)


This is the story of a delivery trip of the S/V Bon Vivant from Port Credit, Lake Ontario to Lion's Head on Georgian Bay.  

I bought Bon Vivant, a C&C Redwing 30, without sea trial and on the promises of the broker, that the boat is great and the engine, an Atomic IV, runs perfect. The boat had Harken Roller Furling and it had North Sail Main Furling. 

This was going to my little adventure.  Big, for me, boat with an  inboard engine and I wanted the boat in Lion's Head.  I could truck it there but that was no fun. 

The delivery trip meant that I had to cross Lake Ontario, go through the Welland Canal, cross Lake Erie, up the Detroit river, across Lake St. Clair, up the St. Clair river to Sarnia and then up Lake Huron past Tobermory which is on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, and down Georgian Bay to Lion's Head. 

I had bought a GPS and was going to learn how to use it on the trip.  I bought a new VHF radio and antenna as there was no VHF radio on board.  I mounted the antenna on the stern rail and we could call the coast guard if we had to and also listen to the weather forecasts.  

I had bought all the charts for the trip and the waypoint books for Lake Ontario & Lake Erie, and the one for Lake Huron, Georgian Bay & North Channel.   I had the charts, I had taken a basic navigation course and I had a GPS.  I had recruited two crew from work to help with the transit through the Welland Canal.  

What could go wrong?

Port Credit to Port Colborne
My crew and I got to Port Credit around 10 A.M. on a Saturday morning but I wanted to make some wooden boards to help fend off from the very rough lock walls.  As it turned out later we did not use them as we bought straw sacks for that purpose.  

Now it was time to leave!  Turned on the blower, waited the obligatory 5 minutes and tried to start the engine.  Ah - one needs to pull the choke out the whole way.  The A4 came to life and as the crew cast off I engaged reverse which made a horrible noise.  I asked the broker about it as he was helping and he told me it was normal.  Apparently it is but I never did get used to it.  Gave the engine lots of gas and lo and behold we backed up and even into the right direction.  

We were under way at about 14:30, one and half hours after planned time. I had plotted the course for Port Dalhousie as I had not had enough time to figure out the GPS.  Very little wind and so we sailed for about 1 hour and then motored the rest of the way. The jib furls nicely. The mainsail seems to work except that the sail does not have a good shape and the cone/stocking interferes at the top of the sail. The boat moves well with little wind and or little power.

As we got nearer to the south shore of Lake Ontario we scanned the shore with binoculars and saw a tall building.  My guess was that it was a tall building in St. Catharines.  Port Dalhousie is situated in St. Catharines.  So now we steered by the tall building as it had the right course and eventually the light house of Port Dalhousie came into view.  

We docked around 19:30. I was so happy about that I stopped thinking. My first crossing of Lake Ontario in my boat!  I should have immediately refilled the on board tank from the two 15 liter jerry cans and then refilled those. Instead I left that to next morning and found out that I need to re-fill the jerry cans as there no gas to be had once in the Welland Canal.  What was I thinking?

That cost us an extra hour that morning and a subsequent extra 3 hour wait at the canal. I met someone in Port Colborne that had been locked through about 20 minutes before I got to the waiting dock at Welland. STUPID!

Since I had bought the boat without a seatrial I discovered the following as we crossed Lake Ontario:

The steering is the absolute pits when motoring or in light air.  If I make an adjustment to the rudder that I think, normally, would make the boat change direction nothing happens. If you then make a further slight adjustment the boat  course changes drastically.   

I will hate sailing downwind (If that is possible in this boat). The foil that is supposed to be the rudder is a joke in terms of controlling the boat. Next boat will be a stern hung rudder a la the Redline 25 or the Nordica type boats. At full speed, when motoring, the rudder dances in your hands and it becomes really hard work to stay on course and a slight lapse of attention and you will do a slalom down the course. 

Backing up except with nearly full power does not work either. Getting it out of a narrow slip is going to be an adventure. Granted I am not the best helmsmen when it comes to docking but........

Things that don't work:

  1. The fuel gage - my guess is that it is the sending unit, which cannot be gotten at unless you take out the engine and then the gas tank. 
  2. The depth meter - but maybe it will need further testing with known depth below.
  3. The knotmeter  - why - because the sending unit is not there, surprise, just an empty through-hull. To fix that will require a new knotmeter plus sending unit, about $350 to $500.
  4. Battery # 2 - won't start the engine.  
  5. Battery selector switch is broken. 
  6. Bilge pump does not reach into the bilge.

Things that work:

  1. The compass seems to pretty well on.
  2. All the interior lights work except in the head - probably a burned bulb. 
  3. There is a light in the engine compartment, which is very, very nice. 
  4. The head works. 
  5. The pump for fresh water works. The switch is flaky.
  6. The roller-furling works very well
  7. The main sail furling is a pain in the ass but works. 

Next morning I looked for a marina, found one and gassed up and then continued into the Welland Canal.  We had a fair wait and as time passed 5 or 6 more boats joined us in the queue.  Anyway, we started up the locks (Welland Canal) at 14:00 or so and were past lock 7 by 17:30 or close to 18:00.  I did not think that the flooding of the lock caused to much turbulence.  We had no problem keeping the boat of the lock walls.  

At mile 10, or so, the engine quit and we drifted onto shore. Bill, one of the crew, saved the boat from getting scratched on the rocks by getting wet. I dragged out the anchor and got it set up.  This was a rather unpleasant surprise.  Here we are in the Welland Canal and the engine won't work.  

Tried the engine again and it worked enough to get us off the shore and going for 5 minutes or so and then it quit again. I threw out the anchor this time and we stayed put in the channel. A little pleasure tug wanted to help but I had opened all the hatches, removed all of the stuff out of the lockers and opened up the engine compartment in order to cool down the engine to see if that helped. After 10 minutes or so the engine started again. As long as we did 2 to 3 knots we were fine. Only 15 more miles to go at 2 knots. Interesting!

Eventually I nursed the boat speed up to 4 knots with a few heart stoppers were the engine almost stalled again. Cleared the final lock at 22:30.  There is a public dock near the last lock and I tied up the boat.  We had managed but it was very late and we were all tired.    

Bill had flagged down my daughter, which was cruising around Port Colborne looking for me. She had my mother in the car as a helper. Great stuff!

Locked up the boat, made sure she was secure and now it was time to head home.  First thing was to drop my mom off in St. Catharines and then head on to  Port Credit where I picked up my Suburban.  

Bill lives in Port Credit and dropping him off at his house was easy. The other crew member, Ursula, lives near Warden and Kingston Road. Dropped her off. (My daughter, Joanna, by that time had driven herself home.) Got to Whitby around 1 A.M. and decided that I would gas up and get up at 6:00 AM to drive back to Port Colborne.  Did that.

Took the boat from the municipal dock to Marlon Marina. 

Left the boat at the marina with instructions to check and if possible fix them.  On my return later that week the resident mechanic had looked at the fuel system and as best as he could determine, air had gotten into the system and not enough fuel was being provided for sustained engine load. 

He had primed the fuel filter and had run the engine and it seemed to be fine. I had noticed that when the engine quit that the fuel filter did not seem to be full of fuel.  It seemed to be only 3/4 full. 

Will need to keep a small amount of gas handy to prime the filter when necessary and make sure that the bowl is always full when motoring. 

The boat now has:
1) A new second battery ($130.00).
2) A new battery selector switch($ 40.00).
3) A new sending unit for the fuel tank. Installed an inspection plate
on the cockpit sole so that the sending unit could be installed.
4) The charger works and so does shore power.
5) The gas tank hold 60 liters plus.
6) New locks for the lockers and duplicate keys for companion way and
engine ($20.00).
7) A pump ball so the fuel filter could be topped up ($15.00).
8) Labour for all the stuff plus 3 days of dockage.
Total cost some $600 plus.

There is enough personal storage but I would almost think that the Redline 25 had more room, as it had no inboard. Need to work out the storage problem. 

Even though there are 5 berths there is very little space left over to accommodate the personal belongings of 5 people.  I would say that it could sleep 4.  Two in the v-berth, one on the main cabin settee, and one person in the quarter berth.  

Port Colborne to Port Stanley:
For the next leg my good friend Bruce wanted to come along and we arrived at Port Colborne by truck, i.e. my 3/4 ton Suburban, at 01:00 Friday morning.  My daughter had her graduation ceremonies on Thursday and we went out to celebrate after.

Had all the gear stowed, including two survival suits lend to us by a fellow sailor, by 03:00 and then studied the GPS I had bought. Caught some shut-eye and got up around 7:30. Needed to get some more supplies but my starter on the Suburban decided to quit. So we went shopping by foot and then grabbed a cab back. Called CAA and had the truck towed to the nearest garage. It is still there waiting for parts. Should be ready by this Thursday.

The plan is to go from Port Colborne to Port Stanley, a distance of 95 nm.  We could sail along the U.S. side of Lake Erie but we don't want to deal with U.S. customs.
It was a nice sunny day when we left Port Colborne, but no wind until late afternoon when the wind started to fill in as we came just about abreast Long Point.  We unfurled the genny and motorsailed to Port Stanley, about another 10 hours or so. 
This saved gas as otherwise it would have been very interesting.  Probably would not have made Port Stanley.  There are no other ports in between When we did fill up the bill including led substitute was $76. 

We had a nice 10 knot breeze all night.  It was just great sailing along at night making sure we stayed clear of the gas wells and steering by the GPS.  

I had bought a soft-bottom zodiac type dinghy before the trip along with a hand pump so that I could pump up the dinghy as it wasn't going to do us any good deflated. So I pumped up the dinghy during the night while we sailed to Port Stanley.  Tied it on the port side, which would mean we would have to dock on the starboard side from now on in

For a waypoint I had entered the main buoy of Port Stanley.  The GPS did the trick.  We looked for it with the binoculars when we got close.  The GPS beeped when we had about 50+ feet to go.  Great accuracy and I was well pleased. We tied up at the Fishery & Oceans wharf outside the bridge.    It was now about 04:45 and we needed sleep.

Being on a delivery trip and having to be back at work by Monday or Tuesday does not lend itself to leisure time and sleeping in.  Got up around 10 A.M., had a huge breakfast, steak and eggs, scouted Port Stanley and found that the gas dock was on the other side of the bridge.  Went back to the boat and motored over to the gas dock.  I think we went on fumes.  

Entering Kettle Creek Marina


Kettle Creek Marina

Port Stanley to Rondeau Park:

Left Port Stanley at 13:30 and went through a bit of a thunderstorm and arrived at Rondeau Park, a distance of 35 nm, at 21:00.  I don't remember if we sailed or motored but I think we motored.  The entrance to the Rondeau Park marina is a bit tricky.  Had some food, crashed and got up early for the next leg.

Rondeau Park to Amherstberg:

Left Rondeau Park at 7 A.M. and had to motor into a 15 knot breeze.  The boat seems to really motor well as we were able to do 4.5 knots against the wind and the waves.  We were the only ones out there.  Nary a sight of another boat and as we were keeping a sharp lookout did not look behind us.  All of a sudden we heard a whistle and we just about jumped out of our skins.  One of the tugboats that attends to the oil drilling operations on Lake Erie wanted to know if we were okay.  We were okay, shook-up but okay.  I wish I had a picture of us in this 30 foot sailing boat with a huge tug steaming alongside us and the crew of the tug asking us if were okay. 

At one point I went below to check on things and the hatch was leaking and getting the v-berth wet.  Being below in 6 foot waves is not pleasant.  Better get back up on deck and get some fresh air and look at the horizon.

By noon the wind had eased but as we rounded Pelee Point it looked as we were going to get caught in a bad looking thunderstorm if we continued on to Leamington.  

We changed course and headed for Peele Island which was only about an hour away.  We had to cross the shipping channel to do this and of course there was a "laker" chugging along.  We crossed in front of him, quite safely, but we were still surprised at how fast the distance closed.  In the mean time the thunderstorm went elsewhere and by the time we docked at Pelee Island the storm had cleared and the sun was shining.

There is no gas to be had on Pelee Island on Sunday's.  We were low on gas so we looked at the charts for the nearest port.  Colchester was a 20 mile run so off we went.
The wind came up and we motorsailed on a broad reach doing 6+ knots.  When the conditions are right sailing, even motorsailing is just fabulous.

Colchester has a very nice little marina. The entrance is a bit narrow but the marina is open till 22:00, a rarity. All the other marinas along the way were shut by 20:00. 

Got some gas and some coffee and went for a walk.  While we were taking the break and trying to figure out if we should continue we heard what sounded like a little girl crying on the marina VHF.  

As we listened the story unfolded as follows:  The "little girl"  turned out to be a woman alone in a power boat.  Her male friend had fallen overboard and she could no longer see him.  All she knew about boats was to press the button on the VHF and pitifully plead: "Help me, Help me".  She did not know the name of the boat, or the colour, or the size and she also did not know where she was.  The U.S. Coast Guard kept on asking but all they got in reply was "Help me, Help me".  The coast guard seemed to locate her whereabouts and dispatch help.  We never heard it confirmed but the presumption is that her companion drowned.  A lesson learned.  Make sure that the crew can work the VHF, that they know how to get a position either of the GPS or the charts and better yet know how to operate the boat so they can work a rescue in a "man overboard" situation.

There was no bus service from Colchester so at 21:00 hours we left  for Amherstberg.  Interesting passage at night. We had a powerful flashlight and we kept on looking for the next buoy in the channel and then making sure that the marking of the buoy corresponded with buoys on the chart.  

We were in the commercial shipping lanes and there are lots of flashing red, green, white, and yellow lights which makes it tough to pick out the lights of the channel. My friend, Bruce, had sailed in and around Montréal and the St. Lawrence Seaway so he knew about ranges and how to steer by them.  Once in the Detroit river things were easier except for this "laker" right on our heels. We left the channel or rather stayed on the outside of a buoy and let him pass.

We finally made Amherstberg at 02:00, very, very tired.  There was a small marina there and depth was marginal, around 5 feet and so I picked an empty slip and docked.  Bruce kept on mumbling about: "What happens when the owner of the slip shows up?"  There were other slips and either the owner would use another slip or if he insisted on his slip we would move.  Goodnight Bruce!

Amherstberg to Windsor:

Left Amherstberg for Windsor at 11:00 after a good breakfast.  I had gotten lucky and had picked an empty slip.  We arrived in Windsor at 15:00. Tied up the boat. Told the marina manager that we would be back by the week-end, called a taxi and aught the 18:15 train to Toronto. Caught the 23:13 GO train to Whitby and arrived at home around 00:30 hours. Kinda tired!  Next day I went to work.  Yuk!

Windsor to Sarnia:

Next week-end which happened to be the July 1st Canada Holiday week-end the plan was to leave Windsor and go like hell and get as far as possible up Lake Huron and maybe even make Howdenvale.  

We drove to Windsor, parked the car, and got the boat ready.  Left the dock and as we are motoring we notice that the engine is overheating.  This is not good.  We have to motor upstream to Sarnia and the current is against us.  We turn back and go into the old slip.  I ask questions as to what would make the engine overheat.  The answer: impeller.  What is an impeller?  Oh - there is a pump and it sucks fresh water and pumps it through the waterjacket of the engine.  Okay - crawl into the quarterberth and look at the engine.  Found the pump.  Quite a chore to loosen the cover.  Almost got seasick and it also happens to be about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Yes - the impeller is broken.  Who has an impeller.  Search the phonebook.  It is getting late and the shops will be closing as it is a holiday week-end.  Found a marina store that carried the impeller but he is 15 minutes away and he wants to shut a 17:00.  After some pleading he says he will stay open until we arrive.  Grab a cab and get there in time and we get a new impeller.  Now to crawl back in the quarterberth in the heat and install impeller.  

It is around 18:30 hours and we leave the dock a second time.  The engine is working and not overheating.  Good.  On our way to Sarnia.  We stayed just outside of the buoyed channel while crossing Lake St. Clair since there was lots of commercial traffic.  We then motored up the river following the buoys but around 23:00 fog set in, thick fog, very thick fog.  What to do?  There were no marinas and continuing was not an option.  I went outside the channel and anchored.  I kept anchor watch and it was pretty unnerving to sit at anchor and watch the big ships come up the channel.  If they stray we are toast!  At one point I had an outboard running at full tilt getting closer and closer.  I dove for the air horn and gave five blasts.  The outboard was throttled back and voices called out.  Eventually a zodiac with a couple of guys in it appeared.  These fellows looked like pirates and I still suspect that they were up to no good that night, probably smuggling.  I called out below to tell the crew that we had company.  I wanted these guys in the zodiac to think that there were lots of crew below.  It seemed to work as they then took off at high rate of speed.  Whew!

I woke Bruce up around 06:00 as I could no longer stay awake and went to sleep.  I think the fog lifted around noon.  We threw on the engine and continued up river towards Sarnia.  I love travelling by boat and watch the scenery go by slowly.   Going up the St. Clair river is not awe inspiring but it was still very nice.  Eventually,  by around 17:30, Sarnia hove into view and we decided that we would go under the Blue Water Bridge and out into Lake Huron and then try for a slip for the night at the Sarnia Yacht Club.  All of Lake Huron flows into the St. Clair river and the current underneath the Blue Water Bridge is 5 to 5.5 knots.  We stayed close to the Canadian shore and ran the engine just about flat out and we made headway at a rate of 3/4 knots.  It took is 1/2, maybe 3/4 of an hour to pass from the river to the lake.  

During this time there was lots and lots of traffic, both pleasure and commercial going out into Lake Huron and coming in from Lake Huron.  In the middle of all this pleasure traffic was one of the biggest "lakers" going downstream from Lake Huron I have ever seen.  It must have been steaming along at what I believe had to be at least 10 knots.  This was quite the picture - a big laker surrounded by what looked like hundreds of pleasure boats coming towards us and all you can hope is that his steering is in tact.  There are no brakes!  

Stylized picture of the Blue Water Bridge from:  http://www.bwba.org/frames.html



The day we passed beneath the bridge there was more traffic along with that big, big freighter.  On the right top corner you can just make out the Sarnia Yacht Club. 

We found the entrance to the Sarnia Yacht Club and followed the buoys to the gas dock.  Took on some fuel and yes they had a slip for the night.  

Sarnia to Grand Bend:

Next day it was blowing 15+ knots but we were on a delivery trip so out we went into a churned up Lake Huron, time was 09:00.  I wanted to make Bayfield and then next day we were going to try for Howdenvale.  We basically motorsailed with the wind on the nose and by 16:00 hours we knew we would not make Bayfield in daylight.  I have a big aversion to entering a harbour I have never been to in the dark.  So we turned the boat around and sailed back towards Grand Bend.  This turned out to be a very pleasant sail.  What a difference between going against a 15 knot breeze and running with it!  It never ceases to amaze me.  We entered Grand Bend around 17:30, gassed up, got a slip for the night and then looked for a nice restaurant.  
We lucked out.  We found a neat little place that served fabulous food or maybe we were just real hungry and no matter what it would have tasted great.  A couple of beers along with the meal and it was time to turn in as I wanted to leave very early, like 06:00 to at least make Kincardine and maybe with a bit of luck Port Elgin.  

Grand Bend to Port Elgin:

Six o'clock comes along pretty fast when you are tired and just want to sleep.  I could not get Bruce going so I started the engine and was going to leave and let him sleep.  That got him going.  We made coffee and had a quick breakfast and cast off.  I believe we were under way by 06:30.  Lake Huron was like glass and the sun was hot and a million little biting flies wanted to dine on us.  We cranked the motor up and did 6 knots for the next 14 hours, never even a whisper of a breeze that day.  Luckily we had the Saturday paper and we made flyswatters out of  successive sections.  When we finally pulled into Port Elgin the boat was just covered with dead flies.  Got the bucket out and it was quite a chore to clean the boat.  My ladyfriend was waiting for us in Port Elgin to chauffeur us back to Toronto as it was Sunday night and we all had to be back at work next day.  

This was Bruce's last trip on Bon Vivant as he died of a stroke in May of 1995.  He and I had made plans to go sail on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior so we could say we had sailed all of the Great Lakes.  Unfortunately it was not to be!  He was a fantastic sailor.  He had, at one time in his life, gone out and bought a 28 foot Hinterhoeller boat, had the seller show him the ropes and then he went sailing.  Just a natural talent!  I still miss him and it is now 2006.

Port Elgin to Howdenvale:

A week later and this time it is my turn to take the boat all by myself to Howdenvale.  Left Port Elgin on a nice sunny day and with a decent breeze which meant I would be sailing for a change.  We had motored to many hours getting the boat to Port Elgin.  Threaded my way past Chantry Island and then started to look for buoy N2 which is out in Lake Huron but marks the spot where one has to turn towards land and thread oneself through the "fishing islands" and big rocks into the outer bay in front of Howdenvale.  From there, with binoculars, one can make out the Howdenvale government dock and the inner bay.  It was a fun trip and I tied her up at the government dock.  

Howdenvale to Lion's Head:

I don't remember if I left the boat in Howdenvale for another week or in fact took her next day from Howdenvale to Lion's Head.  For this last leg a local friend of mine and his cousin came along.  It was an uneventful trip as there was no wind so we motored up the east side of Lake Huron past Stokes Bay and Johnson Harbour and towards Cape Hurd.  At Cape Hurd we found the buoys to the pleasure channel and an hour later we docked in Tobermory.  I don't remember if we needed gas but very probable and also needed some lunch.  

Left Tobermory and there was a bit of a breeze but it petered out after an hour so we went back to motoring.  It is aprox. 15 nm from Tobermory to Cabot Head and about the same from Cabot Head to Lion's Head.  I don't remember what time we got in but I think it must have been around 18:00 or so.  Tied her up in my slip and notified the Lion's Head harbour master that I had sold my old C&C Redline 25 and this was my new boat.

Things learned were:

  1. Don't buy a boat on anyone's say so.
  2. Do a sea trial
  3. Carry spare parts such as impeller, points, sparkplugs and coil. 
    Don't trust a surveyor's report if there is nothing specified about the engine or instruments

The GPS is a wonderful instrument and don't leave home without it.  I had had taken basic seamanship and coastal navigation from the Power and Sail Squadron so I can get there without the GPS but it sure is convenient.

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Copyright by Peter Deppisch, February 2006