Cleveland,OH to Tonawanda,NY
If you have read my previous post you’ll understand my fascination with Lake Erie and all the wonders it can make for a sailor. Well, this post will also be very close to what I wrote before. Me being Lt. Dan again, big waves and bad weather are also subjects to this post.
Cleveland – Euclid
It was hot and humid that afternoon when we decided to leave the safety of our slip in Whiskey Island marina just west of downtown Cleveland. Funny thing is as soon as we left the slip where our boat Paradise rested for the past month another boat came in. It was like a Mc Donald’s drive-in. A couple of miles just east of 55th street marina’s safety the breakwater was behind us and Lake Erie was back in business. Just over an hour I’d had enough of 6 to 8 foot waves breaking on us from all directions. Fortunately a small bay just east of Euclid’s water-treatment plant gave us enough protection for a relatively peaceful night sleep.
Euclid – Fairport
I was familiar with this area as I rode my bike here very often but it was nice to see it from different perspective. Shores of Eastlake and Willoughby look much nicer when sailing than on its beaches. Relatively calm Lake Erie made possible for us to cruise up to 5 knots and we were close to Headlands State Beach Park just before sunset where we anchored in a small bay which turned out to be private beach. This is probably a good moment to mention that on our way we wanted to have the car so the “only way” I figured to do it was to ride a bike between the points where we are mooring on our way and the previous place where we parked the car. It may sound complicated but it is not. For most of you who know me and now read these lines it would not be a surprise but for others let me do a short brief. I am into rowing since I was a teenager. Most of the rowers would probably agree that one of the best practice for endurance is biking. Lots and lots of biking. Back in Serbia a friend of mine Svetozar and me used to bike quite often. In time biking became one of my favorite activities so I decided to do what I always wanted to do. Go for a long trip on a bike. Sailing from Cleveland to NYC made me think that this might be a perfect opportunity. So I will bike along the shore every day for up to 50 km/30 miles to get the car and drive the way back. This was the first stage on my almost a 1000 km/600 miles long bike trip.
I had to do a few things on my way back to Cleveland so I came back to Headlands State Park after sunset and the park ranger refused to let me park my car inside nor to walk back to the beach so I had to wait the next morning. Adventure never ends!
Fairport – Ashtabula
Locally, the town of Ashtabula in Ohio is famous for its strange weather patterns. Usually it is worse than anywhere else in Northeast Ohio. Sailing to Ashtabula was a bit rough but still ok. We came to the harbor in early afternoon and anchored just off the local beach park. Being relatively protected by the breakwater made it possible to take both of our kayaks. I took my bike to the beach and rode back to Fairport. This took a bit longer than I expected so I was really tired when I got back and bit grouchy. Natalie left for town to get food while I stayed on-board and tried to pull myself together. Poor route/stage planning made me ride for 7 miles longer than I should. The night was peaceful and we had a good sleep.
Ashtabula, OH – Erie, PA
It was beautiful the morning when we left Ashtabula. The wind picked up just about noon and we had a couple of hours of relatively smooth sailing. The wind died but it left big waves again. Motoring to the safety of Erie harbor was not so smooth. The charts had marked a bay, more like a small lake North-East of Presque Isle as a good anchor point. This place was amazing! Presque Isle Marina and lake was the best anchorage we came across while sailing the Great Lakes. Our original plan was to have a good nights sleep. We ended up staying almost four days! The biking trails in the park are great! The ride back to Ashtabula was nice, too. When it gets dark you can enjoy the stars and silence. The first night one of our life-vest got discovered floating in the bay by fellow sailors who were on their way back home from a three and a half years sailing trip to Michigan.
Leaving Erie with good winds we had few hours of nice sailing. Later, the wind changed direction and got stronger and the Lake became rough, again. After a couple of hours we were thinking about another port of refuge. The small harbor of Westfield was our only option. Active Captain/Navionics is the software we used. The reviews said nothing good about current conditions in Westfield port. It is shallow and the bottom is covered with sea weed. Anyway we decided to try it? The lake was not getting any better! It was exactly like they wrote. We tried to anchor in shallow waters but the weeds made our efforts obsolete so we ended-up stuck to a harbor wall with our propeller completely covered with sea weed. My greatest fear was to get weed inside of the impeller pump. With the boat finally secured using almost all the fenders available I jumped into the water to clean the propeller and make sure we have no problem with impeller. After almost half an hour in rough water we were fine. The wind was still strong and even though the direction was somewhat favorable it was way too strong for sailing. Our only choice was to stay here for the night. Later that night wind stopped and the next morning continued to blow now from a completely different direction.
Westfield – Dunkirk
The wind was not good the next morning… We were still stuck against the wall in Westfield harbor. It became quite obvious we were not sailing this day. We were basically motored all day and not making more than 4 knots per hour. After a relatively mild storm we ended up in Dankirk harbor later that day. We met Brian while getting tied up to the free wall who kindly offers to save me a few miles on my ride back to Erie. He took me all the way back to Erie. Back to the Presque Isle Lake again. The fellow sailors were still there enjoying this beautiful place. Back to Dunkirk, shrimps in the basket and a movie in Paradise’s aft room.
Dunkirk – Buffalo
The next day boating was not good. The Wind took over again and build-up waves and when it is like that Dunkirk’s wall is not the place to be tied up. We got ourselves ready to go as soon as it was possible. And yes, it was rough. Like a cherry on top of everything we experienced while sailing Lake Erie. I think we did 2.5 to 3 knots so math says 7 to 8 hours. Guess what? It was 8 hours straight. Being on the other side of the breakwater in Buffalo Harbor gave us the courage to anchor where we should not. It was nice though even when it was obvious that the rain would continue for the rest of the night.
Buffalo – Tonawanda
The next morning the boat was soaking wet! The rain stopped, hooray. It took us quite a bit of time to make the boat ready for the final passage to Erie Canal. While getting ready to leave we realized that few police officers were looking at us for some time now and soon after a Coast Guard patrol boat showed up but they decided we are no threat. We were not bad guys staying in Terminal A that night. We were cold and needed rest. It seemed deserted. It was. At least some parts of it. Motoring along the Buffalo coast was cold but nice. We had been to Niagara Falls before. Rowers left their tags on the walls, winners for this and that year. I liked that. Buffalo is a nice place for rowing. The First lock and second draw bridge are on this passage. It was great to be back here. My grandma told us about Niagara Falls when we were kids. We arrived to calm waters. Nothing but canal for a while now. Sure we can use some rest. When we tied up to the wall across from Wardell’s Boatyard in Tonawanda our Great Lakes adventure was over! It was beautiful and scary, cold and demanding. We discovered some peaceful places along the way and had some rough weather. Back when we were still waiting on stands in Sturgeon Bay there was an old guy, sailor with his wife polishing their boat who said: ” Sailing the Great Lakes even in late Spring…Good luck with that!”