Sailors and Demons

Hinnerk Weiler passing the Welland Canal
A Laker passes in the Welland Canal. These ships are exactly designed to fit into the locks.

La Salle, Canada. – Looks like I sailed not too much in 2011. Ok, the overall distance from Nassau to Lake Erie is somewhat above an average vacation milage but broken down to transit days it has just been a couple of weeks: Six days from Nassau to Charleston, another six days from Charleston to Annapolis and five days to New York. From here it took not much more than three weeks of daytrips along the Hudson and New York canal system to get to Lake Erie.

Sailing, that‘s one of the little secrets cruisers don‘t tell too many people, is not all what cruising is about. If one is not in a hurry travelling takes normally somewhat about twenty percent of the whole thing. The rest is anchoring or, for those who can afford, dockage. But this little amount of travel is needed to keep a cruiser happy in his nomadic life.

It is enough to calm down this little demon that lives in every cruisers head. We keep him quiet and busy with a new island, new cultures, good company or sometimes just planning on how to get to another continent. But if it gets bored it is strong enough to wake us up at night, lets us quit jobs in the morning and set sail in the evening to cross an ocean.

My demon was close to be bored before I left Port Colborne. Even if I was just motoring over an almost motionless Lake Erie it puts us in motion, there was a horizon and a waypoint far enough to mark something unknown and new.

Entering Lock number 4 in Welland Canal
"Bowman" Art impressed by the Size of the locks in Welland Canal

A few days before the boat was high and dry in Port Danhousie on Lake Ontario and I finished the bottom painting. Paulinchen now – if you havent seen the pictures – switched from a hot-blodded red to her little black dress to make a better impression on her way deeper into the continent.

Alex and Art, two sailors I met at the marina, offered to help me from one Lake to the other. The Welland Canal with its 24 Miles distance, 300 ft. difference in hight and eight locks requires a minimum crew of three. At the canals other end in Port Colborne the wind was blowing out of the west, throwing waves and spume over the breakwaters. I red alot about stormy days in shallow freshwater and it did not take long until the lake teached me what this „Great“ before „Lakes“ was about: Three feet wakes, steep as walls. After two hours fighting against waves and wind I turned around – only four miles away from the canal entrance. I was stuck for days and nights with lightning and thunder. It felt like my little demon fought up there to clear the way out into the lake. Finally the wind surrendered and a window of two days opened. Quiet days under a burning sun and no wind. The bow was cutting the surface wich looked like steel. Motionless and barren.

Motoring here was almost ironic while just a few hundred miles away hurrican Irene fought her way along the US-Eastcoast.

Flat and calm opens Lake Erie infront of Paulinchen heading towards the sunset
Flat and calm opens Lake Erie. Paulinchen motored one and a half days.

But motoring is motion and calm winds are not even for a sailor always bad. Batteries charged and I had the time to clean up the whole boat. Finally, if you ever tried to make spaghetti and tomatosauce in eight feet waves you learn to value a non moving kitchen in that hour before dinner.

However, there are moments I remember why I don‘t cruise on a powerboat. It‘s the ongoing noise that accompanys the travel. And this noise stopped after 31 hours. More than one day away from Port Colborne finally the wind picked up a little and as soon as the boat helmed over the constant humming turned into a ratteling noise. Metal banging on metal. The oil light flashed. The buzzing sound of the engine alert came up. Before I could take the power half down the engine died.

Mechanic Jose helpins to disassamble the engine at St. Clair Marine in La Salle, Ontario, Canada
Mechanic Jose helped to disassamble the engine at St. Clair Marine

Now, more then two weeks later it became my mantra when I take the bike to ride from St. Clair Marine to the La Salle Marinas Clubhouse: „It can be fixed, it has to“ is what I say, not nowing if it’s me or the demon who needs to be convinced. The engine is in repair and hopefully will be fixed by next week.

Some helpful friends in germany helped me to dignose the problem. A broken rod bearing at least. And José, the mechanic at St. Clair Marine nodded. „One is gone for sure“ – and the other…? The metal in the oilpan seems to be a little too much for just one.
His first estimation puts the repair somewhere between 3.500 and 4.500 canadian dollar. – Right after I spend more then a thousend in painting and storage on dry.

Metal pieces in the oilpan showing how much damage the engine suffers
Metal pieces in the oilpan showing the damage

It is not the first time I have to suffer a setback. And it is not the first one that had put the whole travel close to an end. Maybe it will be the last one. But hope and confidence are what the demon returns in moments when the worst seems to be ahead. „Nothing is over before its over!“ he raises his voice and pints north. I promised to show him Georgian Bay and he demands what is promised.

With help from Ben and Christine from Colchester I found a placee for the repairs. With help from friends and readers of my blog in germany I was able to get the work startet within days. And the help of La Salle Mariners turned a bad time into a good one.

But at the end too much time is gone and most of the money for the repairs is borrowed. It feels bad to keep on with a travel pretending nothing has happened and owing others much money.

Scenic view over Lake Erie at Colchester Harbor
"Harbour of Refugee" at Lake Erie in Colchester

I will continue next spring. Before that I winter the boat right here in Canada. It would have been nice to stay aboard again even if this kind of winter might set the one in Hamburg aside. But I will fly back to Europe to be able to pay off the lent money.

A sad descision? – Yes, for a moment. I will be another year behind my schedule. I will need another year to head back into lightblue water to anchor infront of white palmtrees. But I will gain a full summer in Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North Chanel before I sail down to Chicago and into the Rivers. Hopefully the outlook is enough for the demon to stay calm fore some month in Euope.

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