I moved my Tanzer 22 from Toronto to Crystal Beach on Lake Erie through the Welland Canal
In these 5 pages I give information that I wish I had had before I left and talk about the trip.
- Getting Ready to Cross Lake Ontario. What do you need. What should you know. Is your boat ready. I had never crossed the Lake and the prospect was scary to me.
- CURRENT PAGE Our Crossing of Lake Ontario. Navigating to St. Catharines and Port Dalhousie which are not visible from Toronto, was not obvious to me.
- Getting ready to go through the Welland Canal Useful Info. Before we went through we had a lot of questions and finding information was difficult. Some useful links and some of the things we found out.
- Going through the Canal to Port Colborne (lots of photos). This is a day I will never forget.
- Port Colborne to Crystal Beach was a pleasant trip.
Our Crossing of Lake Ontario
Getting Ready to Set off
I had spent a mad day putting the sails on, charging the battery, checking the rigging and making sure the boat was at least safe (if not clean) to use. Part of this time was sorting out my jib halyard end which had gone to the top of the mast.
I had launched it clean but found that it had gotten quite filthy over the month. A goose had even laid eggs on the boat, 2 unhatched ones were still there! It poured for a couple of hours as I was struggling with my preparations.
The next morning was gorgeous, there was a nice breeze, my crew was on time with food, the boat was ready and we were very excited.
My friend George had volunteered to crew and my Daughter had agreed to meet us in port Dalhousie to crew through the locks. You need 3 people going up.
Coming down from Port Colborne on Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, you only need 2 people on board.
I had my charts, my bearings and I had figured out that my radio could navigate to a waypoint, which means that I can enter a set of coordinates and the radio/gps will point the way. That was useful because you cannot see the far shore from Toronto. You can see the top of the Toronto Skyline from Port Dalhousie.
There was some fog on the horizon and it was quite misty which shaded us some from the sun.
One of the members of the club had suggested that a bearing of 158 would bring my boat to St Catharines from which I could follow the Brock University tower and find my way to port Dalhousie. My chart confirmed that this bearing would work.
We set sail with hopes of the 10 knots of wind promised on the marine weather channel. We were moving but not very fast, at best the wind was 5 knots.
Toronto is visible from St Catharines but we had quite misty conditions. The skyline gradually sank down as we got further away and the shorter buildings dipped below the horizon.
I started the motor and put it in full speed to make sure it was OK. The motor which had been a jewel of efficiency and reliability, started to sputter and would not go beyond a slow setting and often stalled. Against our better judgement we decided to continue on with the hope of sailing across and getting the motor looked at in St Catharines. Conditions were nice with no storms in the forecast and we were optimistic and hoping to get the promised 10 knots.
Since we had just filled the gas tank with new gas, I thought that it might have been bad fuel. We emptied the gas tank and replace the gas with a different batch. Eventually the motor accepted to go at about half speed with the occasional sputter and stall.
Half speed will move the Tanzer almost at hull speed so it was not a calamity.
This was good because in the meantime the wind had gradually shifted to due South directly against us. Bad Luck for us really. We would have to motor the rest of the way. There was not enough wind now to tack and still make any sort of progress. We were a couple of hours out of Toronto.
The wind gradually died and the lake settled to almost liquid mercury. Combined with the slight mist it was quite beautiful and eerie.
We watched Toronto gradually recede in the distance shrouded in the mist. It looked suspended in space. It was quite surreal.
I had programmed in my radio/GPS the coordinates for St Catharines and we followed this across. Eventually we spotted the Brock University Tower, which is almost the only landmark visible from the water. The binoculars were useful for this. It is a tall rectangular building on top of the horizon.
One advantage of the slow motor is that it is not very noisy and we could talk. Luckily the slightly less than half speed was still about 4 knots.
Since we had lots of time and did not plan to go through the locks on the same day, we were not too stressed out. Good decision because we were tired by the time we arrived and having to stay awake for another 12-24 hrs would have been tedious.
Eventually we were able to spot the lighthouse at the entrance of Port Dalhousie. In the photo it is the small white dot. This is east of the Brock Tower.
I've read that Port Dalhousie has hadd pier trouble so check if you plan to stay there. The Marina is fine.
The binoculars were very useful as was the GPS. For a while there was too much mist to see any shoreline at all.
We settle for the night in Port Dalhousie Pier Marina and get our motor looked at
Since I had hopes that a marina would be better set up to deal with engine troubles than a Yacht club, I motored East past the entrance to the harbour and went into the Port Dalhousie Pier Marina which is just East of the entrance to the harbour. As soon as I got in the office I asked about a mechanic and they called one. His name sounded like Yunior. He came almost immediately, took the motor with him and had it repaired before we finished our supper at the Kilt and Clover. A 20 minute walk along the water.
This was great news for us because we would not dare risk going through the locks without a reliable motor.
The Mechanic found that the carburettor was very dirty and gummed up and as we increased the speed, gunk would float around and block the proper flow of gas and prevent the movement of the various bits.
The theory of carburettors is quite simple but in practice I'm not very confident to go poking around. If we had been in trouble I would have chanced opening the carburettor and trying to clean it, but I was happy that was not necessary. Gas with alcohol is often the culprit. I only use marine grade gas. I get it from Shell, or high test Canadian Tire.
Port Dalhousie, looking towards the Lake Ontario. The moored boats are in the Dalhousie Yacht Club. There is a dam and a power plant.
It's a pleasant walk in nice parkland.
If the weather had been bad it would have been a cold and tedious walk. The marina has a restaurant but it was not open at the time. We had food on board but wanted a cold beer and a burger.
We Settle for the Night
The day had been very warm but the evening was pleasant with a marked lack of mosquitoes. I guess all the little purple martins scooting around helped keep them down. The geese were rooting around, the ducks were squabbling, the boaters were having a last beer and the sunset was lovely
We made our beds satisfied that we had made it across safely.
I wish I had brought a pillow!! A life jacket and a cushion did the trick and soon I was settled and sleeping. We slept soundly in my little boat.
The next morning we woke just before sunrise. Who needs alarm clocks when you have ducks. Our third crew joined us with coffee (bless her) and we set off for the Welland Canal full of anticipation and very excited.
The motor worked perfectly for the whole remaining trip.
This article is provided for information and entertainment only. I am not an expert on sailing or navigation. Use your head and have fun.
As in any sailing, many things can happen. If you decide to cross lake Ontario and go through the Welland Canal, make sure you and your boat are ready, have all the safety stuff in place and have a reliable crew. Bad things can happen. Enjoy but be prepared for trouble.