Three days in Port Colborne may be slightly too many, and not just because it turned as hot and humid as Satan’s armpit. Or Gainesville, Florida. Which basically are the same place. Mostly we just didn’t find much to do other than walk around town, although to be fair mostly we didn’t try.
So Tumbleweed finally received a good scrub down that would’ve been better if someone hadn’t snuck aboard and stolen the spider cleaner Doug is sure we had with the cleaning supplies.
About these Great Lake spiders. They’re everywhere. And they’re disgusting. We complained loudly last time through, and yet nobody seems to have taken care of the problem.
Dana did venture out to the Farmers Market and wrestled home the biggest radishes we’ve seen. Damn near the size of a pickleball, these things.
Doug perfectly timed a drone flight to coincide with the bulk carrier Patagonman exiting the Welland on her way to Chicago, where people eagerly are awaiting the arrival of bulk. Tumbleweed is in there as well, down towards the lower left.
And that’s about all we have for our stay at Sugarloaf Marina.
One more thing though. While wind-stuck in Port Colborne we had time to research the word “sugarloaf,” which in fact was the conical form of sugar before a Hungarian named Rubik invented the cube.** If one needed a bit off the loaf for his or her tea, sugar nips were the implement of choice. In an emergency, nips also could be used for removing an infected eyeball or extracting secrets from a recalcitrant prisoner of war.
None of this trivia will surprise anyone born before about 1850, of course, but it was news to us. What wasn’t immediately apparent is the connection between any of that and Port Colborne.
Saturday rolled in with Lake Erie looking just as mild-mannered as we’d hoped, so we took off on the early side of pleasant. By 7:30 we were all alone, zipping along against the wind and current at barely seven knots.
Actually we weren’t quite alone. We were joined on the trip by the gazillion spiders and their plus-ones who came aboard for a big party during the night and then rudely refused to go home. And yes, our photos of the flags over water all look about the same. But this one is different, because it’s our first picture of Lake Erie. We’re now only Lake Superior and a Great Lakes Cruising Club membership fee away from earning a coveted Admiral Bayfield burgee.
On big water passages we tend to have ample time for ship spotting, which may seem silly but we enjoy it. Here’s Algoma Harvester. She left Sault-Sainte-Marie on Thursday, heading to Baie Comeau.
We have a soft spot for ships in the Algoma Central fleet, because it was Algoma Equinox that pulled over a few days ago just long enough for us to get into the canal system first. Probably saved us three hours, and certainly saved one of us a lot of swearing.
When Harvester reached the Welland she was about two locks ahead of Oakglen, who we also met as she steamed towards Quebec City.
Algoma Strongfield zoomed past us at 14 knots on her way to Thunder Bay, which every school-kid knows is about as far north as one can go and still be on a Great Lake. Thunder Bay Port also is the tippy-top end of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Remember the Windoc? She was a seawaymax laker just like these. Remember that drunk dude operating Bridge 11? He lowered the bridge after Windoc’s stem passed under, just in time to take off the pilothouse and smokestack. These beam photos show just how it happened. Despite significant effort during periodic bouts of cell service on Lake Erie, however, we still were unable to identify the bridge operator. How he can remain anonymous in this digital age is a complete mystery.
Nothing got out of hand, but the waves were coming straight at us and built to the stage of periodically spraying over the bow. At 10:10 we bashed our way back into waters of the United States.
This point always makes us feel strongly both ways. Canada and Canadians are awesome, and the benefits of having an SAQ or LCBO within a hundred yards at all times can’t be overstated. As a people, we Americans are more selfish, more arrogant, less environmentally conscious, and less polite than our northern neighbors. But at least we figured out how to keep the British monarchy off our lands and off our money. Anyway, we’re happy to be back where harbors aren’t harbours. Plus we have better internet. And it’s almost time for college football.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new state by boat, so we celebrated reaching Pennsylvania by photographing the Channel Lighthouse and what serves the citizens of Erie as a beach. It didn’t look like much, but on the plus side of the ledger we also didn’t see any geese around to poop on it.
Our first pass under a glass pedestrian bridge coincided with our last photo of the maple leaf on our bow. You gotta give it to the Canadians. They have a very cool flag.
Now about Erie, Pennsylvania. Back in 1812—after the British captured Detroit by using Canada as a launchpad, shipbuilders in Erie helped build a small fleet of warships, which sailed under the command of Oliver Perry.*** Perry then heroically led the Americans to several naval victories on Lake Erie, including the decisive and quite cleverly named “Battle of Lake Erie.” This gave control of the lake to the good guys, although to this day the British probably still laugh about the dumb Yanks taking Detroit back.
The point of all this is that just across the bay from where we docked there’s a 101-foot monument on Presque Isle, dedicated to ol’ Ollie. It’s a ten-mile walk over there so we’re making do with Dana’s photo.
We think maybe there are a bunch of other Perry monuments ahead of us, so this may turn out to be nothing special.
The plan was to stay two nights, play some pickleball, visit the maritime museum, and generally check out the town of Erie. But then we looked at the weather predictions. Then we concluded that Sunday was supposed to be a decent day to travel, while Monday was not. So long, Pennsylvania. We’ll do two nights in Geneva-On-The-Lake instead.
Hello, Ohio. But first, on our way out of the Erie Harbor Channel we came upon Bruce, a Liberian-flagged cargo ship. Apparently folks in Monrovia just can’t get enough of that sweet Pennsylvania gravel.
Another long day, made even longer by the significant pitching that started when the big fat rollers ramped up on us about six hours in. At one point the Ashtabula Lighthouse seemed to invite us to safety, which was tempting.
But then we remembered that we don’t need the components of asphalt—which mostly is what Ashtabula has to offer—so we forged ahead to Geneva-On-The-Lake.
If a Pocono summer resort town hooked up with a West Virginia state fair at a karaoke bar and after a dozen tequila shots they conceived a lovechild, she would be GOTL, as the locals awkwardly call it. This place is bizarre and fascinating and outdated and cool all at the same time.
You can walk out of your fancy dinner at a lodge restaurant and immediately mix with folks who are eating dinner at the ice cream/hot dog stand after hours of sweaty skee-ball. We loved it.
We also loved going back to the state park marina, which was quiet and green.
This morning we found a window between the rain and the oppressive humidity to enjoy some of the extensive trail network around the park.
All things considered, the decision to ditch Erie and travel yesterday instead of today was a good one. Small craft advisory on the lake today. Big waves. Being tied up in a quiet and green park is much more our jam.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings. We’re hoping to make Cleveland, which we expect will be neither quiet nor green.
*Hopefully this is our one and only opportunity to use this famous line, taken from Commodore Oliver Perry’s USS Lawrence battle ensign. We’ve cleaned it up, of course, since Perry left out the apostrophe in “Don’t.” We figure he did it on purpose to annoy his English adversaries, who invented the language.
However, for the record, if Tumbleweed ever comes under fire we’ll give her up as fast as Alabama fans give up brushing their tooth.
**Okay, we admit that the thing about Rubik inventing the sugar cube isn’t true.
***Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry should not be confused with his younger brother, Commodore Matthew Perry, who in 1854 led the first American fleet to visit Japan. Commodore Matthew Perry in turn should not be confused with Chandler Bing.