Tag Archives: Willsboro Bay Marina

On the Hard Again: Winterization 2016

Winterization 2016: Errant (near right) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.
Winterization 2016: Errant (near right) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.

Last Thursday my bride and I sailed away from Essex for some “together time” to wrap up our boating season on Lake Champlain. Today Errant is on the hard, winterized, and covered for a long North Country fall-winter-spring. What a week!

Winterization 2016: Errant (port side, winter storage cover) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.
Winterization 2016: Errant (port side, winter storage cover) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.

As always, I’m super grateful to Paul, Tami, Andre, Michael, and everyone else that ensures smooth operations at Willsboro Bay Marina. What an incredible team. Always reliable, always friendly, always generous, always over-delivering. Launching and hauling has is such a positive experience each year. Thank you, Team WBM!

Winterization 2016: Errant (stern view, winter storage cover) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.
Winterization 2016: Errant (stern view, winter storage cover) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.

There’s a long-ish laundry list that we need to take care of during winter storage including:

  • finding and fixing a fresh water leak
  • repairing the bimini bracket that ripped its screws out of the deck
  • troubleshoot ceiling light in head (one works; one doesn’t)
  • repair broken ceiling light in salon near clock/barometer
  • fix v-berth latch
  • refinish companionway boards
  • repair main and genoa
  • install smart latch brackets for helm seat
  • source new cockpit cushions and porthole blinds
  • repair/reseal wiring in bilge (especially wind instrument connections)
  • replace all running rigging, dock lines, etc.
  • replace halyard/sheet/line pockets
  • and various other projects…

But for now, it’s time to celebrate a memorable sailing season on Lake Champlain, and to breathe a sigh of relief that hauling and winterization are complete. And — it’s worth noting — de-rigging, winter storage cover, etc. took half the time of last year. Progress!

Last Waltz 2016: Big Wind and Big Seas

The best-laid plans… According to our scheme, we’d follow our leisurely two-night stay in Burlington with an early morning rise on Saturday in order to sail west to Willsboro Bay Marina before the wind and waves had a chance to build.

By 5:00am I was up and showering, fretting over the increasingly rough water and the ever-mounting wind. Meteorologists failed. Again.

Looks calm enough in the photo, right? Well, it wasn’t. With stern into the wind and waves, Errant was see-sawing bow, stern, bow, stern. The docks were moaning and groaning. And I nearly wore out my weather apps trying to get a handle on what to expect.

For context, I take you back a couple of days:

So, one side of me is aching to wrap up the season with a final day of big wind and big seas. But I know for certain that this is not the best way to nurture my bride’s extremely restrained interest in spending more time sailing Errant. (Source: Last Waltz 2016: Preparations | Sailing Errant)

Plan vs. Reality

By 8:00am we’d set sail in gusty winds fluctuating between hight teens and low twenties. Directly out of the south, so looong fetch. Huge rolling seas.

My bride was not pleased.

But with worsening weather and a Monday haul-out date (driven by travel booked shortly thereafter), we knew what we needed to do. Double reefed main and genoa, nose into the surf, and off we went. We soon discovered that we’d be unable to sail directly west to Willsboro Point. This put us broadside to the building waves, and we were taking tons of water over the deck and into the cockpit. Not fun with many miles ahead.

So he headed further north, enduring a rodeo ride between Burlington and Port Kent, New York. Wind quickly starting pushing into the low 30s. Hull speed never dropped below 7.5 knots. Waves were as large as I ever experienced on Lake Champlain. I was wavering between concern for my bride who turned out to be an incredible trooper, helping solve crises as they arose, and keeping us focused on the goal of our crossing.

At one point port side bimini blew free, the stainless steel tubing having pulled the screws free from the deck. No time to round-up, we kept barreling through the waves while lashing the support to the stanchions, a solution that held despite the odds.

When we finally reached the New York shore we began tacking our way south toward Willsboro Point. I’d hoped for a wave and wind shadow behind Schuyler Island. Moderate reduction in wave action, but the winds continued to howl. Endless tacking, but gaining little ground. A dozen tacks. Two dozen. A fouled jib sheet. Bride at the help while I fought my way up to free the sheet. More tacks.

We were drenched, but finally we reached the mouth of Willsboro Bay. I’d resisted shifting over to engine power since Errant handles so much better (stronger, steadier, and more predictable) under sail power, but by the time we entered the bay we decided to switch over to diesel. It took the ages to fight south despite having the throttle wide open. We continue to take waves over the bow, continued to get slammed with water. But slowly we inched toward Willsboro Bay Marina where our slip awaited us.

No sooner had we tied up than the sun came out and the wind began to fall. We changed into dry cloths, and enjoyed the lunch we hadn’t been able to eat during our 5+ hour adventure. It tasted sublime!

What an end to the season. I’m incredibly proud of my bride for rising to the occasion. I’d marry her all over again! And I’m proud of Errant. What a wonderful ship. I’m never once questioned my good fortune in finding and purchasing this reliable vessel, and it’s been three years.

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.

Launch

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.

Shakedown

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.

Miriam Sailing Errant

Miriam Sailing Errant
Miriam Sailing Errant

We stood a while and enjoyed the falling evening. Sailboats moaned against dock lines, water lapped against hulls, and halyards pinged against masts in the dark. Tomorrow we hope to sail. (Source: Explore. Dream. Discover.)

Miriam’s been vying for the helm since Errant joined the family last season, and she finally got her chance. It’s been a full week since the delicious dinner we shared at The Upper Deck at the Willsboro Bay Marina, and she reminded me 2-3 times that she wanted to sail before skipping town for a bit.

Today was finally the perfect opportunity, and Miriam sailed Errant admirably. Winds ranged from about 8 knots to the low/mid teens, and the sun bathed us in its soothing warmth.

Miriam spent most of the afternoon attentive behind the wheel, asking questions, listening, experimenting. And John opted to enjoy the afternoon forward of the wheel, though he pitched in with the grinders from time to time.

Miriam and John Sailing Errant
Miriam and John Sailing Errant

A lovely way to spend a lazy afternoon with good friends. I look forward to our next outing.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

“So throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Sailboats moaned against dock lines, water lapped against hulls, and halyards pinged against masts in the dark.

I’ve just returned home from a memorable evening with friends at the Upper Deck restaurant at the Willsboro Bay Marina. After dinner we walked out to the western end of dock number two (the dock where Errant spent her first evening this summer.) Miriam wanted us to see the view looking north — past this silhouetted spit of land — toward the mouth of Willsboro Bay.

“It feels, to me,” she said, “like the heart of the Adirondacks.”

And it did. It does.

We stood a while and enjoyed the falling evening. Sailboats moaned against dock lines, water lapped against hulls, and halyards pinged against masts in the dark.

Tomorrow we hope to sail.

First Fullish-Family Sail

My mother and father sailing Errant, June 2015.
My mother and father sailing Errant, June 2015.

Following the most idyllic bike ride this morning, I headed out on Lake Champlain with my parents and sister for a almost-full-family inaugural sail. Perhaps we’ll manage a full-full-family sail when my brother arrives in a little over a week?

Loosely Logged…

We had motored out of my slip at the Essex Marina and begun hoisting the sails when I remembered that I wanted/needed to install the reefing system for the mainsail.

I still need to rig one or two reefing points. I’ll try to take care of that over the course of the week… (First Sail 2015)

Fortunately I found some spare hardware aboard and managed to temporarily rig the first reef, and it turned out to be essential. The initially light 6-8 know winds quickly built to the mid-teens and before long were +/-20 knots.

I’ve now that I’ve discovered firsthand how easy and useful it is to reduce the mainsail area.

This was my first time using the reefing system, and I’ve now that I’ve discovered firsthand how easy and useful it is to reduce the mainsail area, I’m going to hustle up the requisite hardware so that I have two ready reef options from now on.

I also reefed the genoa’s roller-furler twice as the wind built. It was a powerful learning experience.

This spring while working on Errant in the shipyard at the Willsboro Bay Marina I met a friendly fellow who was spring commissioning his sloop nearby. He impressed upon me the importance of reefing and assured me that the boat would perform better once I became accustomed to reefing during heavy winds. I explained that my sailing experience is primarily rooted in small boat sailing and sailboarding which made me greedy, hesitant to sacrifice sail area when the wind was whipping. But today I learned that he’s right. The boat doesn’t round up or wallow, and no water helm to wrestle with. And I was actually able to increase my hull speed when reefed, which was an important if overdue lesson to learn.

My sister and my father sailing Errant, June 2015.
My sister and my father sailing Errant, June 2015.

Furler Foibles

We knocked around for a few hours taking turns at the helm and familiarizing ourselves with the ins-and-outs of this user-friendly Catalina 310. Once we were ready to wrap up and head in, I asked my father to furl the genoa. I rounded up into the wind, and he pulled the roller-furler line. It wouldn’t budge. He took the wheel and I tried. Nothing.

I realized that the spinnaker halyard had become tangled in the roller furler when I reefed it earlier. How? I had secured the spinnaker halyard to the bow pulpit this winter to keep it from slapping against the mast, and I forgot to switch it over when I launched. I had noticed the halyard flapping in the wind earlier in the day, and I’d made a mental note to secure it to the mast as the end of the day. Not soon enough!

By unfurling the genoa and tightening the spinnaker halyard so that it wouldn’t re-tangle, I was able to solve the problem. Relieved. I promised myself to become more detail oriented going forward.

Docking

Docking still revs up my anxiety meter… [so] I arrived at the Essex Marina with a twinge of dread. (First Sail 2015)

I was well protected from the wind and waves when I arrived at the marina, and with the advantage of a full crew to handle lines and fenders I was able to execute a relatively confident and wholly successful docking. I’m developing a slightly more intuitive understanding for Errant under engine power, but there’s still plenty to learn before I will feel as comfortable docking 11,000 pounds of fiberglass (plus plenty of windage) with a small two bladed prop and a 25hp diesel engine as I do a powerboat. But each successful docking brings me a little closer to the goal!

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.

On the Hard 2014-2015

On the Hard: Errant winter storage at Willsboro Bay Marina, March 8, 2015
On the Hard: Errant winter storage at Willsboro Bay Marina, March 8, 2015

Stopped by Willsboro Bay Marina today to check on Da Capo/Errant. So many whistling, flapping halyards!

The date is March 8, sort of spring, at least it seems like it should be spring. But the cold, humid wind and a lingering blanket of snow suggest that spring launch is still a good way off…

I was relieved to see that the winter storage cover has held up well, not a single tear or loose line. Frankly, I was a little surprised. I guess all of the hours trying to decipher the cryptic instructions paid off.

I didn’t climb aboard, but I will return in a couple of weeks if the temperature rises to inspect the interior and start a few projects like refitting the v-berth door and deep-cleaning the bowels so that I start the sailing season with a super clean vessel.

Hauling for Winter Storage

Hauling Da Capo at Willsboro Bay Marina on October 3, 2014
Hauling Da Capo at Willsboro Bay Marina on October 3, 2014

Another first this morning! Although I spent many summers in my teens and early twenties working at the Westport Marina, often assisting with hauling boats, I’ve never before witnessed my own vessel being lifted out of the water and trundled about a shipyard with a giant travel lift. I’ve never before had a sailboat hoisted into a cradle where it will spend the winter on the hard.

Now I have.

Mark on Errant at Willsboro Bay Marina early morning, October 3, 2014. Ready to haul for the winter!
Mark on Errant at Willsboro Bay Marina early morning, October 3, 2014. Ready to haul for the winter!

Early Morning

After a fun sail, supper and late night bull session with Mark and Jim last night, Jim headed for home and Mark and I crashed aboard Errant. He slept in the aft berth and seemed to slumber solidly enough. I sleeping-bagged it in the v-berth, and I slept fitfully. Comfortable enough, but maybe just anxious about the haul, the possibility of finding surprises beneath the water line, or something.

Mark whipped up some bacon and eggs this morning, and then we idled over to the service dock.

Willsboro Bay Marina’s docks were quiet, but the service dock was already buzzing with staff ready to haul. From the get-go through the moment that Da Capo was secured in her cradle for the winter, I was impressed with how organized and efficient the shipyard team was. Paul, one of the owners and the head of service, was especially capable. I feel fortunate that my sailboat is being taken care of by this team.

The photos in the gallery below tell the story better than words, from sun up to keel down. Thanks, team WBM! I look forward to spending the next six months or so on the hard, tackling my list of deferred maintenance tasks.

Fifth Sail: Sailing North for Hauling

Jim at the Helm
Jim at the Helm
Thursday’s sail north from Essex Marina to Willsboro Bay Marina with Jim and Mark was a great way to wrap up my first (extremely abbreviated) season sailing Da Capo/Errant. Smooth sailing with moderate to light winds and calm seas; bluebird skies and cool-to-warm temperatures; and the companionship of two close friends who are both intricately woven into my boating/sailing narrative.

Sail to Power to Sail

As I’ve mentioned previously, I grew up sailing. My father taught my brother, sister, and me to sail — first a Paceship 17 (P17), then an Alcort Sailfish, and later a Tiga sailboard — when I was a youngster. Probably between 8 and 14 years old I was strictly a sailor.

I envied neighbors who had powerboats, mostly because it opened the possibility of waterskiing which I had learned to do. But my parents were keen on the environment, not motorboats. So when I got my first job as a dock boy at the Westport Marina (owned and operated by Jim and his family), I took advantage of every opportunity that I could to operate powerboats. Jim was my boss, but he was a benevolent boss and soon a friend. He opened up the wide world of powerboat opportunities, allowing me to take out the staff at the end of the work day for an end-of-shift ski. I jumped at every opportunity to join him (or his brother Larry) on rescues, zooming through often messy conditions in a Shamrock workboat that looked like a miniature tugboat. I shuttled boaters out to moorings, moved boats between slips, delivered boats to clients with waterfront docks elsewhere on Lake Champlain, and weaseled my way into just about any boating experience I could finagle.

In short, during my teens and early twenties I barely sailed at all!

Mark During Last Sail 2014
Mark During Last Sail 2014
But I found my way back to sailing in my mid twenties. I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico (check out our current adobe oasis!) and windsurfing on the desert southwest’s tiny manmade lakes offered the perfect antidote to lake-longing. My girlfriend and I acquired a hodgepodge of secondhand gear and taught ourselves to chase high dessert storms.

In my early thirties my brother and I balanced summer ski boats with Hobie Cat 16 sailing. To this day I consider sailboarding and small, fast catamaran sailing to be just about the most exhilarating watersport out there!

But I’m missing a chapter in my boating narrative. In my twenties and thirties I began to dream of sailing and cruising in larger monohulls. Mostly it was daydreaming. Reading and rereading worn Nautical Quarterly volumes, flipping through sailing magazines, and wandering marinas. Some day…

As in my early power boating days I pursued any and every opportunity to get aboard a sailboat. Shortly after moving back to the United States after living in France for almost four years I began collaborating with Jim and Mark on an e-commerce project called ShipStore.com. Mark was living on a sailboat in Benecia, California and racing an asymmetrical dinghy on weekends. Cool!

I remember like it was yesterday the sun soaked day that Mark and I spent with our brides sailing, eating, brainstorming, daydreaming on his sailboat Wandering Rose. Ever since he’s encouraged my desire to sail and cruise (and possibly some day, even live aboard). And Mark was instrumental in helping me evaluate Da Capo/Errant.

So it seemed apropos that I should conclude my skinny season number one with both Jim and Mark. One opened up the world of power boating (effectively wooing me away from sailboats) and the other guided me back to my sailing roots. Narrative perfection!

Following a charmed afternoon of sailing, we dropped the sails and headed into Willsboro Bay. The good folks at Willsboro Bay Marina invited me to spend the night in the slip of Da Capo/Errant’s previous owner, ensuring that I would be ready bright and early to bring the boat to the service dock / travel lift for hauling.

We cracked open the rum and grilled a tasty supper on the boat. Lots of laughter and libations later, Jim headed home and Mark and I turned in for my first night of sleep on the new boat and the last night of boating for the season.

Good Satellite Radio Karma

Sometimes life rhymes. Or so it seems. And when it does, it’s especially fine to accompany it with an appropriate soundtrack.

As I drove to the marina at the outset of this journey look what came up in the playlist…

Anchors Aweigh, by Bob Crosby
Anchors Aweigh, by Bob Crosby