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Sloop Les Miserables
The Best in Buffalo
08/25/2011

Arriving in Buffalo began our anxiety about the possibility of making a wrong turn and then going over Niagara Falls in our 30 foot sailboat. Thank goodness for the absolutely delightful, generous, and kind people we met while at H dock at the Erie Basin Marina. We had hoped to stay at the Buffalo Yacht Club only to discover that they had a Regatta occurring and there was no room for us. Initially, we were disappointed because our last two "public" marinas left much to be desired. We were hoping for a great place to stay and much to our delight the Erie Basin Marina was just that.

We were greeted by Paul with helping hands for lines upon arrival. He shared a great place to dine and directions. We enjoyed a microbrewery called Pearl Street Grill- a multi-floored bar with terraces overlooking Buffalo. We found out that there were no nearby grocery stores; however, Bill, a boater who heard us talking about walking 3 miles to buy groceries while we had breakfast at the Hatch (a very informal restaurant that looks over Lake Erie) - offered to take us to a grocery store and wait to give us a ride back to the boat. We couldn't pass up such a generous offer.

We wanted to repaid some of the kindnesses offered to us by these fellow boaters so we shared one of our few bottles of 2005 Bordeaux and some of the treats we bought in Buffalo. We were invited by Teresa and Paul to cocktails on the dock that evening. It was wonderful to feel a part of their community. The weather picked up and so we were planning to leave on Sunday to go to Tonawanda to have our mast taken down but due to thunderstorms and 25+ knot winds we decided to wait until Monday. On Monday morning, the wind made it a challenge to leave our dock by the wall . We moved the boat back using lines to a point where we could pull out - Bob and Jo (who will be in Hope Town, Bahamas in March) helped us out. We left Buffalo - loving it because of the opportunity to be with such kind generous people, relax after our trials at Erie and Dunkirk, and our new friends encouraging words of advice about traveling to the Erie Canal.

The Evacuation of Dunkirk
Wiley
08/24/2011

The evacuation of Dunkirk - Erie, Pennsylvania is a town that may have fallen on hard times but at least we got our laundry done there. Our next port, Dunkirk, made Erie look like Paris.
We stayed at the private marina in Dunkirk, on one side of the big pier. We were on a very large dock, which we shared with a large commercial fishing vessel and one other power boat. We had the rest of the marina to ourselves - we would discover why!
Dunkirk itself is not a "bad town". The downtown is less cohesive than St. Charles or Geneva, for example in Illinois, and everything was closed except their boardwalk, which is a small strip mall. There was a rock concert on the big pier, and the music was pretty good. The people who came were mostly families and the concert ended at 8:30.
Alas, it was only then that we took a good look at the marina. The place looked like a junkyard - for example, in addition to the working live bait dispensing machine that was abandoned, a second live bait machine was leaning against the building, these were two among many items lying around. Someone had vomited in the sink in the small Woman's bathroom and shower, and Merry decided washing up on the boat was not a bad idea. Since the men's bathroom smelled of urine, I skipped the shower too. All but one dock lights was out, which was bad because parts of some of the finger docks were missing, and with all o them, you had to take a step down to get to your boat - and, of course, you couldn't see the step-off (which I experienced - but did not fall into the harbor!)
The "cruising guide" said the place had Wi Fi - it didn't and shore-power - which did not work.

The next morning there were two colorful older men and a polite young man with three dogs sitting outside the marina office. The concrete block which had been inside the men's bathroom had now been used to prop open the doorway, revealing the toilet stall in all its glory. Stepping over "deposits from all of the dogs" I decided that I had to use the facilities, and felt that the stall door would at least give me a degree of privacy. Alas, I was disappointed - even in this! While seated upon the j"throne", one of the large dogs stuck its head under the stall and looked up at me between my legs, only to be yanked out again by the boy, who yelled "BAD BRUTAS BAD!"

We had both been kept up all night by the big fishing boat banging against a steel piling. We were eager to get on our way. However, we discovered that a mat of weed had enveloped the stern of our boat and the fairway. I spent an hour using the dinghy, a boat hook, and an oar to clear a way for our boat to get out. At last, when the dawn had ripened into morning we departed evacuating Dunkirk and not planning to return any time in the future.

Erie is "eerie"
08/18/2011

You enter the harbor mouth at Erie and discover you are on a large lake with the city and various marinas to port. The lake water was a brownish green and if you looked over the transom you couldn't see much of our rudder under water because of the lack of water clarity. It was neat to pass the monument where Commodores Perry's squadron was built during the war of 1812. To get into the marina we stayed at we actually had to pass under the pedestrian walkway of the Sheraton Hotel. It always looks like the mast is going to hit the top of any bridge you go under - so we held our breath as we cleared through. There were some work boats tied up in the marina with no one aboard but only 2 other pleasure boats. We shared a very large empty dock with one of these boats. The water in the harbor was green, slimy, and smelly. We tied up and locked the boat. We went into downtown Erie at about 5pm and there were hardly any people around. Lots of the stores were closed - and we mean forever. The city was preparing for Erie days - but it was surprisingly empty of people. After dinner at a restaurant with terrible service (it wouldn't last a month in Chicago!) we returned to our boat. The harbor had two chain-link perimeter fences. In order to get to or leave our boat we had to use a key to open a creaking gate - it sounded like something from a crypt. Our boat was right near one of the fences and after it was dark we had a sorted variety of odd people standing by the fence and looking at us. Merry announced that she was going to the marina building to do laundry and Wiley objected noting that it was beyond the defensive perimeter. Wiley claimed that the individuals standing by the fence staring at us were Zombies: the "undead" looking to feast upon our flesh - ignoring this acute observation Merry said she would be fine because there was no one around the marina building - just then a rather odd middle aged man appeared precisely there and Merry said, "Oh, except for that one weird guy." The result was that Wiley provided an escort service and stood there while she did the laundry. The "undead" never appeared in sufficient numbers to push the chain link fence down so the night ended happily. We left early in the morning to fuel at Perry's Landing Marina and rather than stay a second night in Erie got on our way to Dunkirk, NY.

08/19/2011 | Ahh, Dunkirk
Oh, wait I know this one,,, hold on a tic, what are you guys doing in france? You are a little bit late for the evacuation. ;)
Country Clubbing
Merry & Wiley - Thunderstorms
08/14/2011

We motor sailed to Mentor, Ohio and are currently secure at a lovely dock at the Mentor Yacht Club. Yesterday, the Cleveland to Mentor Race ended at the club and it was fabulous seeing all of the beautiful spinnakers as they came in for the finish. We are enjoying the good life - a wonderful dinner at the "club", swimming in their pool - or in the lake (Wiley's preference!), finding 2 great bottles of '05 Bordeaux wine, and chatting with fellow sailors. Once again, we have found that everyone is very kind and we received offers for transportation. We fortunately, found a wonderful lady who provided us with a ride back from the Chandlery. We really appreciated this as we continue to outfit our boat for the Erie Canal - 2 - 100 foot lines for the locks, another boat hook, an electrical adapter, etc. Today we are relaxing at the yacht club while Wiley works on writing his play "Voices of the Middle Passage" and I take advantage of time on WiFi.

08/18/2011 | Deb & Rich
Les Mis in Ohio! what an adventure! thanks for sharing!
Toughest Passage so Far...
08/11/2011

We left Put N Bay - smashing through 4-5 foot waves with gusts of wind of 20 mph and feeling a bit queasy, that is until we could turn to the South Channel and take the waves behind us. We "ran" most all of the way to Vermilion in rolling Lake Erie seas. Lake Erie can be as mean as a "rattlesnake" - which by the way they have - that is rattlesnakes. The waves were steep, close together, and they come up much more quickly than on Lakes Michigan or Huron. The water is green. We entered Vermilion after coming around to the west entrance because of shallow waters. The channel was picture perfect calm and we entered the second channel where we pulled into slip 3E - which turned out to be the slip owned by the couple we met and dined with in Port Sanilac. We have stayed for three nights as we waited for a new port light to arrive at West Marine. The people here have once again been generous and kind. Our boat neighbors Dr. Greg and John have been wonderful. John even loaned us his car so that Wiley could quickly go and pick up some marine hardware. We have had a delightful stay - though we missed going to the famous French Restaurant that overlooks the channel. We are planning to travel to Mentor Harbor next.

08/11/2011 | Heather Richter
Hi guys.... Glad to see you are safe and sound. I love reading your posts. I am in New Orleans at the moment reading about your latest adventure and looking at all the lovely photos. Can't wait until you reach Marsh Harbor. Looking forward to sharing a nice meal with you both!
"Leaving the Hell-Hole"
Wiley
08/08/2011

Port Huron through the Detroit River onto to Put N Bay - Lake Erie

I absolutely had to file my deceased father's final state and federal tax returns which the lawyer had prepared and my son, Brad - expressed mailed to us in Port Sanilac when they didn't arrive I told the harbor master, "Well, I guess we have to spend another day in this hell hole!" David, the Harbor Master laughed; he knew what a wonderful time we were having - he lives here. We didn't want to leave. Nonetheless, leave we did. There was almost no wind and so Les Miserables was a slow motor boat rather than a sailboat to Port Huron. Our passage was uneventful, but as we entered the St. Clair River at Port Huron we realized we were "finished" with Lake Huron. We put away the charts for Lake Huron and the cruising guides which have joined those for Lake Michigan. Lake Erie will be our 3rd Great Lake! As we approached the Black River, which flows into the St. Clair, we passed the lightship Huron, which is now a museum and a coast guard cutter. After going under two bridges we docked at the municipal museum in Port Huron. Port Huron proved to be another Michigan community that is struggling economically. There were a lot of businesses that were closed and some that were struggling to survive. The place was once an important port and center for commercial fishing, with a lot of industry besides this, which is mostly gone now.
We traveled through Lake St. Clair and arrived in the Detroit River. Thank goodness that we had the charts from our friends - the Doyles - because traveling the rivers requires that you focus on reading the buoy numbers - street signs for boaters - so that we would not go aground.

We saw many large ships along the way and they seemed overwhelming to our little vessel as came up our stern or toward us on the other side of the channel. We spent a lot of our time making sure we were not in their way!

We stayed at the Detroit Yacht Club and were impressed by the Olympic size pool but the rest of club had seen better days. We dined outdoors as indoor dining required a suit jacket and tie for the men.

The current of the Detroit River is about 2 knts, so our boat was challenged as well as the line handler (Merry) when we pulled into the Detroit River and when we left. Unfortunately, we lost our port bow light as we attempted to navigate the current and dock to get diesel fuel. as we left the Detroit Yacht Club - Gregory's is NOT a good place to fuel. Merry began to suffer from "boater's fatigue" - too much time dealing with boating issues - weather, navigating, and line handling.

We navigated the Detroit River and entered into Lake Erie with the focus of reaching the small islands in Lake Erie. We landed in Put N Bay - which is an alcoholic's dream come true. Every other establishment is a bar... and since we arrived in the rain on a Sunday we had no trouble picking up a mooring can - on Friday and Saturdays boats are rafted 4 or 5 deep. We visited the Perry monument for peace (he won the Battle of Lake Erie also known as the Battle of Put N Bay during the War of d1812),- shared some great Mojitos - swam in the warm waters and spent an extra day people watching. Our observations led us to believe that this is a place for very overweight middle aged people who enjoy traveling by golf carts from one bar to another or for the very young - looking for a good party. Live music, lots of alcohol - T-shirt shops, and island fun. We plan on leaving tomorrow - August 9th as we head to Vermillion, Ohio or Cleveland.

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