Tag Archives: Lake Champlain

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.

Bottoming Out… Twice!

This afternoon offered a mixed bag of sailing pleasures and pains.

Tiptop on the pleasure side of the equation was being joined by my brother and nieces. Beautiful conditions – sunny and dry, breezy and gusting 9 to 19 knots – offered the perfect bonus.

But, on the painful (or at least, not-so-pleasurable) side of the equation was “kissing” sunken debris with the keel. Yes, you heard that right. Big frown. Bottoming out is never, ever pleasurable.

Upside

Downtime with my brother, a globetrotting diplomat, is a rare luxury. Doing so while sailing was the highlight of a roughly weeklong visit by my brother’s family.

This is the third summer that my nieces have been enjoying sailing adventures aboard Errant, but it’s the first time that we have forgotten to bring their comfy life preservers. Both nieces were less than thrilled to wear the onboard emergency jackets, but they were good sports nonetheless. In fact, it turns out that the oversized orange PDFs make pretty good pillows!

Downside

Unfortunately the day’s painful element was bumping the keel on the bottom. Twice. Lake Champlain water levels continue to drop, drop, drop. I still have enough water in my slip, but there’s a hump (debris?) in the bottom that I bumped on the way in and out of my slip. Not hard enough to cause significant damage, but concerning nonetheless.

A fellow boater who used to keep a sailboat in the same slip some years before suggested that I try what he had done: have several people on the dock push the boat out sideways to clear the hump before reversing. Sounds doable but dodgy, especially given the steering problem I’ve been experiencing. So, what next? I still don’t know. Stay tuned…

Thanksgiving Windsurfing on Lake Champlain

Thanksgiving Windsurfing on Lake Champlain
Thanksgiving Windsurfing on Lake Champlain

Happy Thanksgiving from windy (but still not frozen) Lake Champlain!

Thanksgiving Windsurfing on Lake Champlain
Thanksgiving Windsurfing on Lake Champlain

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than scudding back and forth across the lake on a windsurfer?!?! For this adrenaline-charged adventure with my intrepid bride I give thanks to the wind, the lake, health, and dry suits. Oh, and I almost forget, an especial thanks is reserved for our oven that was busy roasting the turkey while we were chasing gusts and bumps. Happy Thanksgiving!

Lake Champlain Windsurfing on November 23, 2015

Lake Champlain Windsurfing on November 23, 2015
Lake Champlain Windsurfing on November 23, 2015

Errant may be on the hard for the winter, but there’s no reason we can’t take advantage of a good breeze on Lake Champlain, even if it’s November 23.

Lake Champlain Windsurfing on November 23, 2015
Lake Champlain Windsurfing on November 23, 2015

Not the windiest of days, but cold water and colder air, so we bundled up in our drysuits and hoods.

Thanksgiving Windsurfing on Lake Champlain
Late November Windsurfing on Lake Champlain (Source: Elizabeth Bickford Wells)

Update: I just received two November windsurfing photographs (the one above and the one below) from our Vermont friend, Elizabeth Bickford Wells.

Late November Windsurfing on Lake Champlain (Source: Elizabeth Bickford Wells)
Late November Windsurfing on Lake Champlain (Source: Elizabeth Bickford Wells)

Lake Champlain Water Level: Up, Up, UP!

Lake Champlain is Rising Up, Up, Up
Lake Champlain is Rising Up, Up, Up

Any time water levels rise significantly I inevitably, anxiously flashback to the 2011 Lake Champlain  floods. Until recently my concerns were first and foremost the flooding of our boathouse which spent nearly two months underwater during that miserable month four years ago.

This year the lake level roller coaster’s been a little different. We started the spring/summer with unusually low Lake Champlain water levels.

This year the lake level roller coaster’s been a little different.

For one thing, we started the spring/summer with unusually low Lake Champlain water levels. On the up side, this was exciting because it meant that we had 10+ feet of sandy beach in front of our stone retaining walls, typically what we experience in July. We anticipated enjoyable beach time with our nieces when they come to visit us soon. On the down side, boaters on the lake had begun to worry that extreme low water levels late in the season would be inevitable and potentially dangerous. (Think shallow bays, river deltas, shoals, etc.)

Lake Champlain water level continues to trend up, up, up. Rain is supposed to abate after today, June 23, 2105 (via USGS)
Lake Champlain water level continues to trend up, up, up. Rain is supposed to abate after today, June 23, 2105 (via USGS)

But there’s been another consideration too. This is the first spring that we’ve been balancing ski-surf boat use/planning with sailboat use/planning. And — as the graph above clearly indicates — those early season low water levels have dramatically and rapidly flip-flopped. Lake Champlain water levels today are high. Really high!

The rising Lake Champlain water level threatens our dock and runabout.
The rising Lake Champlain water level threatens our dock and runabout.

And this means that we’re worrying about the lift/docks. The runabout is nearly at the top of the lift range. If the water rises any higher we’ll have a problem, especially on a rough day. The dock is already getting doused with waves and will need to be pulled back in tomorrow.

Essex Shipyard’s docks are at best flush with the water level. In many instances they are actually lower than the water level.

And the marina, Essex Shipyard’s, docks are at best flush with the water level. In many instances they are actually lower than the water level. That’s not ideal for boats that rely upon fenders to minimize the change of damage. The fenders sit on top of the water, eliminating any protection, and instead boat owners cobble together “spider webs” of spring lines to keep boats from colliding with docks or other boats.

Lake Champlain water level has exceeded out Essex Shipyard dock, June 23, 2015.
Lake Champlain water level has exceeded out Essex Shipyard dock, June 23, 2015.

The photos tell the story. Pretty. Inconvenient. Worrisome…

Fingers crossed that Lake Champlain water level begins to fall. Soon!

Lake Champlain water level has exceeded out Essex Shipyard dock, June 23, 2015.
Lake Champlain water level has exceeded out Essex Shipyard dock, June 23, 2015.

First Sail 2015

My father at the helm and my sister assisting with Errant's navigation. First sail of the season!
My father at the helm and my sister assisting with Errant’s navigation. First sail of the season!

Today was the picture-perfect start to the sailing season. The sunshine and warmth and wind delivered an auspicious rebuttal to yesterday’s chilly, drizzly launch. And even more fortunate, I was joined by my father and sister for the sail south from Willsboro Bay Marina to the Essex Marina.

Lazy Day Log

The mostly north-northwest wind varied 6 to 12 knots with very minimal wave action. We motored north out of Willsboro Bay and raised our sales as we rounded the tip of Willsboro Point. Smooth sailing all the way, and approximately four hours of catch-up time. My father sailed most of the way, and my sister helped with the charts/navigation and even spent some time at the helm.

Docking still revs up my anxiety meter, and while I know this will change as my skills/confidence improve, I arrived at the Essex Marina with a twinge of dread. But light winds, forethought, and ample good fortune served me well. The boat responded perfectly, and my crew stacked the odds in my favor. A huge relief!

Projects on the Horizon

Errant feels ready for a summer of sailing. I’m excited as I look forward.

I still need to rig one or two reefing points. I’ll try to take care of that over the course of the week plus a handful of other projects that I still need to tackle including ordering and installing new halyards, ordering and installing new name, sealing a couple of slow topside leaks. But all in all, Errant feels ready for a summer of sailing. I’m excited as I look forward.

Water Level Worries

Unfortunately recent rains have elevated the Lake Champlain water level by 2+ feet, and the waves are now breaking over the marina’s docks and fingers. I had to set up a temporary spring stretched across the channel just to keep Errant off the dock. Fingers crossed that the rains will diminish in the lake level will begin to fall.

Third Sail: Sailing with my Father

Sailing with my father, September 2014
Sailing with my father, September 2014

A perfect day for sailing! Warm and sunny, winds variable 0-15 knots, and — best of all — a chance to wile away the day on Lake Champlain with my father.

My dad taught me to sail 30-35 years ago (a story for another post). It seems appropriate that for my first day sailing Da Capo (soon to be Errant) without my friend Mark at my side, coaching and encouraging, I should have my father onboard to balance out the sailing team.

Thanks, Dad!

Winds were light but mostly steady making for easy, enjoyable sailing and plenty of time to swap sailing stories. My father didn’t grow up in a sailing family, but he learned to sail in his teens and twenties with friends. He shared a couple of fun adventures that I’ll recount anon if he offers his blessing.

From start to finish our sail was a delight. He sailed much of the time, and Da Capo performed predictably, reliably, and 100% enjoyably. Even docking, a hurtle I’m yet to perfect mentally or in execution, proceeded smoothly.

All told, it was a confidence inspiring outing.

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.

Off to Visit Da Capo

Owner showing Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014
Owner showing Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014

Up early this morning, excited and antsy. I’ve studied the photographs of Da Capo so much that I feel like I’m already familiar with the boat, as if visiting, boarding and poking around will be more like déjà vu than a first encounter.

Owner showing Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014
Owner showing Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014

Willsboro Bay Marina

We drove to the Willsboro Bay Marina and parked. The seller had given me his slip number and directions from the parking lot, but I’d already stopped by the marina several times during bike rides to “spy” on Da Capo (as if gazing at her from different angles would help me discern whether or not she’s the right sailboat for us.) I knew exactly where she was berthed, and now I could finally climb aboard.

We walked across the lawn between The Upper Deck restaurant and the dock where Da Capo is berthed. I pointed out the sailboat to my bride as we strolled down the dock busy with boat owners cleaning and polishing their sailboats.

Owner speaking with my bride during Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014
Owner speaking with my bride during Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014

“Bonjour!” I greeted a man roughly my height and stature who had just finished hosing down the deck of Da Capo. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. I introduced my wife, and he introduced his wife or girlfriend. He was warm and endearing; she even more so.

I snapped some photographs of the exterior, noting some minor cosmetic gelcoat damage on the transom. And then I headed into the cockpit to poke around while Susan remained on the dock with Griffin our Labrador Retriever.

The cockpit and interior or Da Capo were exactly as photographed. No surprises. Even the ceiling height/clearance felt “familiar” from the photographs that I had spent so much time studying. The v-berth felt more ample that I expected, and the aft berth felt more or less as I’d anticipated: slightly claustrophobic due to the low ceiling. Although a portal into the cockpit can offers light and fresh air, and at night a hatch in the starboard cockpit seating can be raised to increase the natural light and airflow in to the aft berth. Despite the low ceiling, the length and width were ample.

I felt comfortable… I was able to stand bolt upright in the middle of the salon… [and] I felt comfortable enough standing and moving the v-berth too.

The salon was pleasantly bright and airy, and the galley was compact but efficient. I took no photographs at all inside the boat. The owner had well documented everything, so I focused instead on asking questions and opening/closing, lifting, snooping. If there were surprises I couldn’t find them. And I felt comfortable. I had been concerned about ceiling heigh, about feeling cramped, about needing to stoop. This is certainly the case in parts of the cabin, but I was able to stand bolt upright in the middle of the salon without a problem. And I felt comfortable enough standing and moving the v-berth too.

The head was small, but I’d known this in advance. It was clean and well maintained with plenty of natural light and ventilation. The shower and toilet section would be a drippy mess if we ever showered aboard, but at least part of the head—the space with the sink—would remain dry.

I will attach the remaining  photographs (exterior + dinghy) in a gallery below, but long story short, the boat was immaculate, well proportioned and appealing.

We thanked the owner and—after chatting about boating on Lake Champlain, the pleasures of Essex and Montreal, the new Dufour the owner hopes to buy next, etc.—I promised to be in touch soon, and we departed.

As we walked back to the car I asked my bride for her reaction. She liked Da Capo, felt comfortable inside, and thought everything looked well maintained. She was positive though not effusive. She asked me what I thought, slightly warily, as if she was aware that I might be shifting away from “research with a goal to purchase a sailboat next summer” and toward a more accelerated timeline. Make an offer now?

This is the question that was in my head. But I demurred aside from expressing relief that there had been no surprises. I explained that I needed to mull it over. And I did. I was anxious to avoid getting swept up in the emotions and yearning and cartwheeling forward until I’d worked everything through.

On the one hand, I was smitten. I felt at home on the boat, thrilled with the condition, eager to sail it away. On the other, I knew that the price needed to come down, and I wasn’t really ready to own a sailboat until next summer. I hadn’t made any effort to line up dockage or winter storage, and summer was almost over. We had an autumn trip to France and Italy scheduled, so our boating season would be abbreviated. This wasn’t the ideal time to purchase. I needed to think. A lot!

Da Capo Jitters

Willsboro Bay Marina with Da Capo, a 2002 Catalina 310, in the middle.
Willsboro Bay Marina with Da Capo, a 2002 Catalina 310, in the middle.

I fell asleep last night thinking about Da Capo, and I awoke this morning thinking about Da Capo. Jitters, but mostly excited, curious, want-to-know-more jitters.

Before going to bed I had reread Da Capo’s listing for the umpteenth time and flipped through the photographs again, sleuthing for hints of problems but found only signs of fastidious maintenance. I reread reviews and re-trolled forums, hunting for a neon flashing “Caveat emptor!”

Shortly after 9:30 AM I emailed the seller.

Many thanks for your quick and thorough response. My schedule’s tricky this week, but I’m going to see if there’s a possibility that my wife could join me on Friday afternoon. Most likely Sunday will be our best chance. I’ll update you as soon as I have an answer.

In the meantime, I have a couple of questions that will help me out. First of all, is the sale price in USD or Canadian dollars? Is the cradle in the photographs owned by you and is it included in the sale price? I’m unfamiliar with issues related to boats registered abroad, and you mentioned in your listing that the boat “is register Canadian in bound.” Can you please explain what that means and what impact it would have on me if I purchased the boat? Can you please tell me whether you consider the boat well suited for single-handed / solo sailing on Lake Champlain?

Sorry to bog you down with questions!

Da Capo's owner/seller, Daniel Boutin
Da Capo’s owner/seller, Daniel Boutin

The email swooshed off into the interwebs and I tried to shift my focus to my work (with only marginal success.) I checked my email about every five minutes, each time startled at my lack or restraint. Just wait…

And then at 10:08 AM an email arrived from Da Capo’s owner/seller with inline friendly (exuberant!) responses to my questions ( in bold in the email below.)

Many thanks for your quick and thorough response. My schedule’s tricky this week, but I’m going to see if there’s a possibility that my wife could join me on Friday afternoon. Most likely Sunday will be our best chance, but I’ll update you as soon as I have an answer.

Good, will wait for your confirmation!

In the mean time, I have a couple of questions that will help me out. First of all, is the sale price in USD or Canadian dollars?

USD, which is good for you at this time.

Da Capo is really easy to sail in solo. I did it often. 

Is the cradle in the photographs owned by you and is it included in the sale price?

The cradle and the winter cover come with it! As well as the dinghy and the outboard engine (Yamaha, 4 strokes, 2.5 hp).

I’m unfamiliar with issues related to boats registered abroad, and you mentioned in your listing that the boat “is register Canadian in bound.” Can you please explain what that means and what impact it would have on me if I purchased the boat?

This does not apply to you, only canadian buyers. You will have to pay your regular purchase taxes. Inbound means that this boat has not be imported in Canada. I can’t navigate in Canada unless I pay the duty fees at the border.

Can you please tell me whether you consider the boat well suited for single-handed / solo sailing on Lake Champlain?

She’s really easy to sail in solo. I did it often. The cockpit and the galley is very huge for this size of boat. You’ll see ! Every seasons I pass my entire vacation on it (3-4 weeks). I leave the marina on day 1 and come back 3-4 weeks after. It the perfect boat for 2 or small family. And really comfortable for 4 adults for a long week-end.

Sorry to bog you down with questions!

You don’t bog me, I’m glad to answer to your questions. Feel free to ask as needed! I also paid for a survey earlier this spring as requested by my insurance company. I can show it to you and translate it if you want when you’ll come. It’s written in french.

Have a nice day !

Good news it would seem, though the seller’s overzealous manner is making me slightly leery. Why is he so eager to peddle the boat? Is it really that he wants to sell in order to purchase a boat he’s afraid of losing? Or is there something more? Healthy skepticism or a red flag?!?!

Schedule a Visit

Several email volleys later we’ve planned to meet at the marina this Sunday. My bride will join me. Now, back to work!