Tag Archives: Essex Shipyard

Mooring Malaise

One month ago today I sailed Errant with my brother and nieces. An unchallenging but thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with moderate wind, plenty of sunshine, and leisurely hours to catch up after too long apart.

An almost perfect day of Lake Champlain sailing. Perfect except for bumping the keel on the bottom. Twice.

Lake Champlain Water Level

A virtually snowless winter, followed by a relatively drive spring and an extremely dry summer has resulted in the following precipitous drop to Lake Champlain water levels.

Lake Champlain Level, August 22, 2016
Lake Champlain Level, August 22, 2016

One month ago (July 21 recorded approximately 94.75 feet) I hit bottom exiting and entering my slip. Despite some recent upticks in water level due to heavy rain over the last week, Lake Champlain water level has nevertheless dropped below 94.5′ So at least a 3″ drop since I rubbed Errant’s keel on the bottom.

In other words, nature hasn’t solved my problem. Far from it!

Mooring Malaise

It’s an odd feeling, eleven thousand pounds (and change, plenty of change) of sailboat stuck in a slip at the marina. Unnerving really.

And my options were few. Haul out. Hang tight and hope for rain. Think about other problems. I’ve tried and applied all three options. Denial worked best. For a while.

A fellow sailor suggested that it’s possible to push Errant sideways away from the dock enough (6 feet? 12 feet?) that she’ll miss the “hump” when I reverse. He knows because he lived through the same problem some years ago when his sailboat was in my slip.

No other good ideas have presented, so the plan is to follow his instructions. I’ll be requisitioning helpful dockhands plus line handlers aboard. But given persistent reverse-steering troubles this summer, I’m not feeling overly optimistic.

And there’s another obvious problem. If/when I manage to liberate Errant from her slip, what then? There aren’t any other deep water slips available…

I’ve come across a hopefully viable solution. I’m replacing one of my existing moorings at Rosslyn with a Hazelett mooring system.

Hazelett Elastic Moorings

Classic Sailing Yachts on Hazelett Elastic Moorings
Classic Sailing Yachts on Hazelett Elastic Moorings

Relatively shallow water depth in front of our beach and boathouse combined with a relatively open moorage (we’re exposed to heavy seas especially during strong north winds) combined with a heavy sailboat with ample windage makes mooring challenging. Our existing 200 lb. mushrooms with conventional chain and buoy moorings are grossly inadequate for mooring Errant. But it turns out that industrial rubber bands offer some interesting advantages over chains and mushrooms.

Hazelett Mooring System
Hazelett Mooring System

Less scope. Less jerking. Less corrosion, wear and tear, ice damage, etc. I’ve spoken to a nearby sailer with similar exposure who’s had great luck with his sailboat on a Hazelett elastic mooring. Todd, the fellow who runs the waterfront at Point Bay Marina (across the lake) has also testified to the performance and reliability of the system. They’ve switched over their entire mooring field. Seems like I should have explore this route long ago.

The first installer recommended by Hazelett never followed up despite a half dozen communications and a couple of weeks, so Todd from Point Bay will be installing our new mooring. It’s a two elastic band model with a massive 4’x4’x2′ ballast. And it will hopefully be installed in the next few days. I’d been hoping for last week, but conditions delayed installation. A delay that ticked by painfully slowly as I monitored lake levels and worried about extracting Errant from her slip. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some good news soon!

One Month Lost

So today I’m checking in, performing some routine maintenance, and quietly consoling Errant. I’m apologizing for neglecting her. I’m promising to resolve her situation ASAP.

I’m admitting regrets, admitting and then letting them go. Moving on. Or planning to move on as soon as I have a mooring!

Tomorrow I’ll follow up with installer, and maybe the next day I’ll try to free Errant from her “landlocked” slip. Sideways. If I can muster an army of assistants. If I can overcome my hesitance to temporarily anchor her in front of our house until the permanent elastic mooring is installed. I have some reservations about that, but that soul-bearing another day.

Shakedown Sail 2016

John Davis sailing Errant on May 22, 2016.
John Davis sailing Errant on May 22, 2016.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be joined by my friend and Essex, New York neighbor, John Davis, for Errant’s 2016 launch and shakedown sail. In addition to legendary wildlife/lands advocate, author, activist, and adventurer, John’s a very capable sailor.


We arrived at Willsboro Bay Marina around 7:45 AM, and Errant was hanging in the travel lift by about 8:15. I touched up the cradle pad marks with bottom paint, and we splashed her.


All day the conditions were overcast and cool-ish. Morning was windless with satin smooth waters, but conditions  improved as we made it out to the road lake. Gradually freshening as we approached The Four Brothers (islands), winds mostly ranged 6-12 knots.

John Davis raising the main on Errant on May 22, 2016.
John Davis raising the main on Errant on May 22, 2016.

We crisscrossed Lake Champlain between Willsboro and Shelburne until we reached Whallons Bay, then tacked back upwind to Charlotte before heading west to Errant’s berth at the Essex Shipyard.

Both Essex marinas appeared to be empty as we approached, however a single blue powerboat graced the otherwise dramatically illuminated but eerily uninhabited scene.

Independence Day Precursor

  What better way to celebrate the 3th of July than a sail with Charlie and Charlie? Charlie (my brother) and Charlie (my father-in-law) spent a lazy afternoon aboard Errant, sailing light winds and enjoying welcome weather — hot and sunny with nary a cloud or raindrop insight — after what feels like a month of rain.

  Both Charlies spent time at the helm, and both helped with an exceedingly ungraceful return to my slip at the Essex Shipyard. I decided to back into the slip in order to make boarding slightly easier now that Lake Champlain water levels have flooded over the docks. Gven the tight quarters and Errant’s less-than-agile reverse maneuverability (exaggerated by my still “green” command), I made a decision to enter the channel bow-first, pivot in the slightly larger opening in front of my slip, and then back into the slip.

Bad choice!

Too much momentum and a strong pull to port when reverseing contributed to a botched pivot. Did I mention tight quarters?

  Fortunately, my brother wields the force of Paul Bunyan and enough boating experience to anticipate our problem before it was too late. He managed to fend us off at midship, and helped me restore the pivot. Two friendly boaters from neighboring vessels assisted from the totally submerged finger, guiding us safely into our birth.

One of these days I am going to become as comfortable docking Errant as sailing her. Better yet, I hope to become as comfortable docking Errant as I as I have been docking powerboats for a quarter century. Stay tuned…


Second Sail: Sailing from Willsboro to Essex with Mark

Sailing Errant "home" to Essex from Willsboro after purchase. (Sept. 7, 2014)
Sailing Errant “home” to Essex from Willsboro after purchase. (Sept. 7, 2014)

What a lovely way to take ownership of a new sailboat. Perfect weather. Perfect following wind. And a good friend (and great sailor) to accompany and coach me.

I have to admit that it still hasn’t fully sunk in that this is now my boat. All day it felt like we were borrowing it. I’ve had this experience before, most notably with Rosslyn, the home where my bride and I reside in Essex, New York.

Mark coached me on navigation, paying especially close attention to depth as we sailed through the Four Brothers Islands. We experimented with the equipment (auto pilot, etc.) and with the operation of the vessel. At one point in the afternoon, shortly after dropping the sails to motor into the Essex Shipyard, Mark suggested that I spin the wheel to discover what a tight turning radius the boat could execute if/when necessary. It was a little startling and truly informative. She can practically pivot in space!

Here’s a gallery of photographs from the day.

And here are a couple of fuzzy photos that my bride snapped as motored in to the Essex Shipyard.

Motoring Errant past Rosslyn en route to Essex Shipyard.
Motoring Errant past Rosslyn en route to Essex Shipyard.
Motoring Errant toward Essex Shipyard.
Motoring Errant toward Essex Shipyard.