On Saturday, we had the conductor of KMSB join us. Dave knows his way around water at least as well as he knows his way around music. He has many canoe trips under his belt, having done most of the backcountry of Algonquin Park among other ventures, and he's assisted on sailboats before, so handling himself aboard Freedom came naturally. Last week when Mike and I went out, I developed a little mantra to keep myself on an even keel. There's nothing to fear. I may have forgotten to use that this week when the wind grabbed us and set us at a lovely angle for sailing. The expression on my face, Dave tells me, was priceless. How far over did we heel? Certainly not as far as my nerves feared, but definitely far enough that the gripping mat beneath my feet shifted and slid, throwing me just that extra bit off balance. In truth, we heeled at a perfect angle for sailing, but my one-handed death grip on the lifeline while I white-knuckled the wheel and adjusted my stance to feel a little more balanced showed that I needed to remind myself of that little mantra. There's nothing to fear. Rule one on the boat: Don't panic. Rule two: don't fall off. At least I managed one of them (OK, it wasn't real panic; just overly sensitive startlement; yeah, that's it).
Once I got over my own nerves and just let myself flow with waves and wind, we cut a smooth path toward Burlington Bridge. And then we entered the channel, and had our first inkling of what we might expect on Lake Ontario. We hit waves. Waves enough to kiss near the top of the pier and to smash against the breakwater in foamy delight. My stomach suggested it might not like this, but we had hopes of things calming down on the other side of the channel past the bridge. After all, not much wind actually blew, and we wanted to swim near Burlington Beach. How bad could it get?
Bad enough that raising the jib on the other side did nothing to mitigate the rolling waves, mainly because the wind had pretty much died, leaving behind the waves. We had water splashing over the bow as it played catch with the boat. I let the guys know my stomach couldn't handle much of this tossing (luckily verbally, and not physically), so we decided we'd turn around. Of course, at this point, we had to wait a half hour for the next opening of the bridge. So I stretched out and lay down (the cushions on our benches are surprisingly comfortable), handing the wheel off to Mike.
We made it back into the Bay and low and behold, no wind. We'd had wind until the bridge, but it apparently wanted a little rest too. We put up sails anyway, and Dave had a blast steering us slowly homeward, managing to catch any minute gusts he could find. Mike cooked up some sausages as we trundled along at 2 knots, and we eventually pulled back to our dock (maybe we had an awkward angle or two as Dave and I and a helpful fellow boater hauled on the dock lines, but we didn't smash into our neighbour boat or the dock, so job well done). Great sailing, great conversation, great day.
On Sunday, we had Ashley and Matt over. It was a last minute invitation that luckily they took us up on. Ashley had the good fortune of receiving some free samples of wine to test for her blog (Caviar Taste on a Bologna Budget), and I happened to mention that her research into this topic would go well on a boat. And voila, Freedom had company on Sunday. Now, while we did have some good, if spotty, wind with Dave, with Ashley and Matt, we had gusts up to 9 kph. Yes, the weather reports said 'gusts'. The Bay looked like glass with maybe the barest hint of a ripple now and again. We motored to the bridge.
We had it all wonderfully timed to make the 11:30 bridge raising, and at about 11:15, we saw they already had the bridge up. What the heck? Then we saw the freighter barreling toward the canal (it didn't really look like barreling, but those ships are huge and you certainly didn't want to get in its way). We had a brief scramble as we tried to figure out the proper protocol, then just pulled off to the side to wait, as did most of the other boats who had aimed for the 11:30 slot. Once the freighter made it through, the bridge closed. We shrugged and stopped the motor to wait for the next opening. Which actually happened sooner than we'd thought. The bridge master just closed it long enough to clear the backlog of vehicular traffic, then raised it again for those of us who had waited for the freighter's passage, so we motored through only about 10 minutes off schedule. Although schedule implies we actually had a timetable. We didn't, which is always the best best for sailing.
We pulled up close to Burlington Beach and dropped anchor in a calm Lake Ontario. Last time we went swimming with Ashley and Matt here, the water felt, in Mike's terms, brisk. Which basically means bloody chilly (high teens). Not this time. According to our water temperature reader, we'd found a pleasant part of the Lake, with a temp of 23 Celsius. Mike pulled the dinghy alongside Freedom (we'd brought it along for just this purpose) and we used it as a launching point for swimming. Which worked well for getting into the water, but posed some very amusing difficulties for getting out again. Much laughter ensued, and we had a fine time swimming, testing out various flotation devices. [Our ladder at the back of the boat is missing one of the rubber feet that keeps it from rubbing against the hull, so we didn't want to rely on it exclusively--though we did end up using it briefly]
We had some snacks and lunch, then thought we'd sail toward Bronte, pull up to the pier and have a little afternoon drink. We'd sailed to Bronte before with Ashley and Matt and all liked the little town, so off we set. Just as the speck of wind that had drifted past abandoned us almost completely. Our trip planner/chart plotter informed us that at present speed (of about 1.7 knots), we'd reach Bronte in about 5 hours. After an hour of little progress, we finally concluded that the wind did not, in fact, plan to help us at all, so we turned around and headed back toward the bridge with the intention of going for fish and chips back in Hamilton.
Matt took the wheel and set a course. And the wind said, "that's better, that's where you meant to go," and gave us a bit of a boost. In fact, once back past the bridge (a lot of boats chose the 4:30--that is, 16:30--crossing with us, so the channel got a tad crowded, but again, no one hit anything and no one died; and we got to watch a tug boat boot past us going in the opposite direction), the wind pulled us along at closer to 4.5 knots, and on a pretty straight course back to the marina.
Once back at our dock, we did pull out the bottle of wine Ashley had brought for her research, and we all partook of a nice white Ontario wine. Then went for food. Great times, great company, great laughs.