Erie to Tonawanda
Mike and Kathy
08/21/2007, Tonawanda, New York
8/19/07 Erie, PA to Tonawanda, NY
Whew! We left at 2 a.m. to get here in the daylight hours. Getting out of Erie in the dark was a bit of a challenge, but not too bad. I was stationed to ensure we did not run over any buoys. We did not. We drank two pots of coffee and Mike said we didn't both need to stay above, so I went below, but we'd had two pots of coffee-I couldn't sleep. So I played card games on the computer and you can guess that did not make me popular. I went back up and Mike decided he needed to close his eyes. So he went below for oh, maybe 10 minutes before he popped back up mumbling something about too much coffee. I'm not sure he trusted me minding the ship. I finally did go down and sleep for a bit.
You might ask ....why 2 am. Lake Erie is a little different than what we've been used to in the respect that there are not conveniently spaced ports for pleasure craft. There are commercial ports that are deep enough but have no docks... and there are small towns with docks but not enough water to park Sapphire for a night. The trip from Eire to Tonawanda is 82 miles. At a speed of 5-7 miles an hour, you are going to do some night sailing.
Leaving Erie was not the only challenge of the day. After motoring for an eternity, we finally arrived in Buffalo, NY. As New York's second largest city, the marinas are tiny and primarily cater to power boats. There is an anchorage set aside in the shipping channel that we considered a back up stop. We, however, kept going.
As you enter Buffalo harbor if you take a right instead of a left you are on the Black Rock Canal which parallels the Niagra River. As the Niagra leaves lake Erie it narrows to about ½ mile and drops about 6 feet in a couple of miles which seriously inhibits shipping. Although people do run the rapids in both directions in powerboats, we were not up for the ride and took the canal instead. In the course of the Black Rock there is one lift bridge, one swing bridge, and one lock to negotiate, none of which were any serious problem once we got the attention of the bridge tender. We were the only boat in lock and the lock master told us not to even tie up ..."just keep her in the middle" the lock operator said. So here is challenge number two for the day. (the first was getting out of Erie at two am)- keep the boat in the middle of the lock while they pull the plug. It was fun... a little forward right, reverse, neutral, reverse, reverse hard left, forward .... it was good practice.
When we left the lock something was wrong, The engine didn't sound right and we had no power. For you that may be a touch geographically challenged , the Niagra River is not the place to suddenly develop engine problems. There had been some weeds in the lock so I shifted to reverse and back which helped. The engine at least sounded right now but it seemed to rev up and slow down on its own. In retrospect, it must have been the current fluctuations in the area just down stream from the lock because in a matter of 30 seconds, everything was fine and the prospect of going over the falls was lessened considerably. (Just an added note here, someone was VERY concerned about getting caught in the current here and having to fight to not go over the falls. "Don't leave the cockpit, I may need help." I'm pretty sure there is at least one island and some bends in the river that would have stopped us before that happened. )
The lock dumps you out back on the Niagra for a 10 mile run to Tonawanda. We had a two to three knot push from the current and there were powerboats everywhere. We did not see a sailboat.
Tonawanda is the western terminus of the Erie Canal. From research and talking to people along the way we knew that we wanted to have our mast taken down at a place called Wardell's. We turned off the Niargra into Tanawanda Creek, took one look and spun the boat around. There was a low bridge about 100 yards up the river and no docks in sight. On the starboard was a rusty wall with no apparent places to tie up. In the middle of the stream was an old pier with the turning sections of an old railroad bridge. On the port houses were build over the water. We knew that we were in the right place and I seem to remember one of our new Bayfield friends saying that they just tied up across the river from Wardell's so we pulled in again with Kathy on the bow to find a place to tie on the rusty wall, hoping that there was enough water. As we passed the little island in the middle of the channel, we noticed a man on a dock on our port. It was Mr. Wardell motioning us over. With a breath of relief we headed across the stream ... only to have him say ..."put the bow in that direction" pointing back out toward the Niagra. Challenge number 3... To back this boat against the current with a bridge 10 feet behind our dock space.
So Randy or anyone else who makes this trip, try to call ahead to Wardells. If there no answer, pull in and keeping the little island to your port. As you clear the island/pier you can see Wardell's gas dock to the port. Just upstream from the gas dock and almost under the bridge, there is a crane with room to pull up. If the space is occupied, there is room to turn just before the bridge and exit on the other side of the island. The second option is to come in again and tie up to the wall past the island.
As I type this I'm listening to traffic on the bridge directly above drinking coffee and preparing for the adventure of taking down these masts... which will be a first for us. It is not a part of the trip I have been looking forward to, I can promise you that.
Last night we went in search of a place to eat. We found a place called The Dockside only a few blocks away on the river, so we sat outside on the river and had some good burgers for a reasonable price. This river is a hopping place on Sunday afternoon/evening. There was constant boat traffic.
Geneva to Erie
08/21/2007, Presque Isle Harbor, Erie, PA
August 18th Geneva, Ohio to Erie, Pennsylvania
I woke this morning to a golf cart stopping outside our window. It took me a moment, but after a second I figured that it must be the management checking out freeloading boats. During the night the wind had woken me up a couple of times but after remembering that we were tied to a wall and not on the hook, I went back to sleep. I got up to check our the lake and found a bill taped to a stay. The wind was down but there were nice swells rolling in from the north east. NOAA called for west winds 10 to 20 in the afternoon so we hiked about ½ mile to pay our bill and headed for Erie, PA which was about 40 miles to the east. There was no wind until noon but we had the mizzen up for stabilization....
The wind built from the west during the day and by the time we approached Erie, Sapphire was surfing down six-footers. Presque Isle Harbor is created by an arm of land that curves north and east into Lake Erie. It creates a completely enclosed bay that is about four miles by one mile. On the north side of the main bay there is another, more sheltered bay that is a state park and allows anchoring.
The only entrance to Presque Isle Harbor is from the east so in winds of 35 knots we went over the top and headed for the more sheltered water in the lea of the harbor. For you sailors, we were doing 7.5 knots on mizzen only at this point and working hard and holding a course perpendicular to the wind. Entering the harbor from the east the wind hit 40 knots. The wind was dumping our bow wake directly on my head while Kathy hung out under the dodger. Our course was due west through the channel and then into the harbor for another mile and a half before turning north for a half mile before entering our more protected anchorage.
Anchoring in 25 knots was a challenge and took two tries to feel safe but finally we were settled. The majority of the day had been pleasant. It was just the last hour that was a little challenging.
On Lake Erie
Mike and Kathy
08/21/2007, Geneva Lake State Park Marina, Ohio
8/16/07 Put In Bay, Ohio to Geneva, Pennsylvania
We motor sailed on flat waters to Geneva State Park Marina. Our intent was to make it Fairport Harbor, but we decided to keep going a couple more hours to the state park. It was cloudy and dark most of the way. I think this was the first day that we have not had sun for at least part of the day. We were miles from shore most of the time, so we couldn't really see anything except for the skyline of Cleveland. No pictures, since we didn't see much and got to the marina late. It is a nice marina with a convenience store, snack bar where they cook things for you, and a very nice beach. The day was uneventful. Actually, Lake Erie is rather uneventful.