The Schooner Sara B Log

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July 10, 2009     Post 27
June Cruise and An Old Friend Visits

Picnic dinner at Pultneyville

Sara B's grand tour of the lake is history. During a two week trip, her most ambitious to date with us, we sailed ( and motored!) to Toronto via the south shore and then harbor hopped home on the north shore for over 300 miles total with wanderings and day sails included. This year Chris and Sue sailed with Rich Seubert, a new FOSBA who pitched in with many hours of work this season in prepping for launch and in rigging and spruce up after she was afloat. He was an extremely capable and competent addition to her crew.

Our first night in Pultneyville was a walk down memory lane for Skipper Sue who first sailed here on a friend's Lightning 43 years ago. Where does the time go? Day two found her in the Genesee River where a stroll along the river showed us the can-do spirit lives on. We found it at Al Gilbert's boat yard where a slipway of heavy plank, traces of dried bananas and a nearby large elderly bulldozer suggested he's still hauling and relaunching his big excursion boat himself. Nearby we also found two big old woodies under repair, one was Samantha a sixty foot Crocker designed schooner.

Genesee River and the can-do spirit
From there we sailed west to Oak Orchard's pretty protected creek and anchored under the Elbow's high wooded bank. On this June day it was fragrant with wild rose and locust tree flowers. As the shadows lengthened, the fish began singing. The next day Greg and Naomi drove from Buffalo to go for a daysail with us. It took several beers after the sail, to convince Greg that he was really hearing fish down below. ( The freshwater drum aka sheepshead get quite noisy during spawning season).

We had a grand romp in the afternoon, sailing out about five miles then back with a sparkling blue lake and NE winds of ten to twenty. We sailed all alone on an early summer day- just one other distant boat seen along the shore. The next few days were cool and wet. After a reach under overcast skies with a puffy south wind we spent a clammy night in Wilson after the fog and rain moved in. Two old sailing friends stopped by and shared pizza and sea stories in Sara B's cabin, and during the rainy lay day a nice fellow named Karl whose grandfather sailed on a salt banker schooner stopped by to check out our “little ship”. He told us of a steel schooner back home in Hawaii he was thinking of buying and later dropped off a takeout lunch for us. I wonder if he'll go back and buy that boat. We sat out the rain and left the following day, a Friday to cross to Toronto, and as we got ready to go the deep hoot of a ship's whistle reminded us of the two lanes we had to negotiate near shore. Being deaf and blind in the fog with the motor running was not pleasant, but as we neared the lanes the fog lifted, And there was a ship a mile or so away passing astern of us.

A message, via balloon, from a Canadian elementary class off the Devil's Nose

The wind didn't co-operate with us this day so it took a long session for the Thornycroft to get us to Aquatic Park Sailing Club where we moored beside Solstice Moon, the big ferro cement schooner who came to Sodus last year. We spent two nights tucked in here behind the Leslie Street Spit in a peaceful harbor with the clamor of tens of thousands of sea birds-terns, gulls, herons, and lots of cormorants as constant background. The boat club lies between Toronto's sewage plant and North America's largest cormorant colony but the wind was favorable so it didn't smell too bad. (The bird colony we learned from the student who was driving the park shuttle bus is also home to a thriving fire ant colony. One theory is they arrived by boat and I guess among other things they eat baby cormorants. Sounds like a charming place observed Chris.

Oak Orchard Creek

The spit where we stayed for two nights is an odd sort of place. Started 40 years ago and made of dredge spoil and land fill, it's an interesting mix of alien and native plants and animals and is used by roller blade folk, joggers, cyclists, walkers, birders, and other urban humans of every imaginable age race and appearance. Coyotes howl and hunt rats here within a couple miles of downtown Toronto and I saw a beaver swim by while out with the dinghy.

We had a pleasant visit and brunch in Chinatown east Sunday with Warren and Doug and Lois, the crew of Marinna. We experienced many tasty new foods the names of which remain a mystery. We also had a brief visit at Warren's studio in the film district before we shoved off in the afternoon with a nice west wind. We took Doug along to Cobourg. He and Lois made a quick stop at Canadian Tire to outfit him with a bedroll and boat shoes. He came aboard and quickly fit in as a cheerful and willing shipmate.

Naomi and Greg

A gentle west wind took the old boat to Cobourg. Here when she tied up at the wall about a dozen people gathered to discuss, gaze and marvel at her. We surmised they were from the nearby townhouses and saw her sailing off the entrance. She was quite the attraction for an hour or so among the harbor watchers. We managed more sailing through the Bay of Quinte where we called on Robert Townsend at his waterfront home and also visited Sophie's new owner in Picton. Bob is an excellent amateur historian and has written several books on Lake Ontario maritime and naval history. The Provincial Marine is being published with the Kingston Marine Museum next year. Bob and his Alberg 30 the Odyssey made several trips to Bermuda and one of them included three days of up to 70 mph winds. He was long a keen and well known sailor around the lake, too.

Sunset at Wilson

In Picton Sophie the Chris Craft Capitan's new owner Bruce Milam drove us around the County a bit, showed us his workshop where he does ornamental ironwork behind their B&B in Bloomfield. He drove us to see the nearby Sandbanks park and its wild ocean like coast and then we had a Harborburger at the Dari Bar afterwards. We were glad to see the little blue sloop Chris once saved and rebuilt again afloat and fresh and clean and cared for.

All too soon it was time to head home for Sara B's last social obligation. We crossed from Prinyers with a fine west wind much of the way. We dropped the fore for a couple hours and she still reached along near six on an easy reach under blue skies. We had re-entered “reality” by 6 pm back at the home dock. Just in time too, as Sara B's ignition system was ready for a rest. It was not very willing to turn the engine over. But the timing was good. The cruise was done.

Toronto inner harbor - Toronto Brigantines and Empire Sandy

On Monday June 28, a fair and quiet summer day, an old friend called on Sara B. Charlie Deroko, professional captain, tug man, surveyor, master rigger and one time owner of the little Tancook schooner, and Laura Bartovics stopped by. We spent several hours with him and Laura, a one time cook and crew member aboard the big schooner Lettie Howard. She shares my interest in using boats to connect kids with the environment. The South Street Seaport, she said, used their schooner to do “estuary cruises” to introduce kids to the marine life of New York harbor.

At lunch Charlie shared some sea stories from Sara B's past. He called his boat the John A. Noble and confirmed that the Staten Island based artist did indeed know the little schooner. “He cut the cake at her christening”. Charlie was a friend of Gene Stauss and bought the boat from him. They fished for sharks, raced in the Mayor's cup, and on one memorable night outran an oncoming storm under full sail with her. When asked about their performance on the race course, Charlie laughed and said we were first at the downwind mark once. Though not slow, the boat with her work boat construction was too heavy to compete with more yacht-y schooners. “She's dense, like depleted uranium” was ho

Cormorant colony on the left, CN Tower, Solstice Moon
w he put it.

Charlie told how Sara B got her tiller ( he ripped out the wheel mechanism after a malfunction and near disaster with a Staten Island ferry) and about Gene's installation of a wood stove aboard Sara B. He laughed about their other exploits and misadventures with Sara B and later with Tradewind, and I conclude there are some men who live larger than life. Men about whom stories are told in tones of wonder and awe until they attain near legend status. Gene was such a man. “He had a way of saying Stupid that really brought out the meaning of the word” laughed Charlie. We think Sara B was a pretty tough little schooner to keep up with him back then.

After lunch Charlie and Chris tinkered a bit with the old engine. After producing an impressive cloud of smoke and fried insulation smell from the alternator ground wire they concluded a short through the starter was causing the ignition problem. A bit more tinkering got her started and Charlie fiddled with the fuel rack and got the rpm's up considerably. We took a short test run and learned that with more power we also did indeed have a slippage in the forward gear. So it's time for some attention to the old transmission. Gene had warned us four years ago we would need to reline the clu

tch band soon...

Charlie brought the little schooner back into her dock with practiced ease. It seemed as if 25 years had never been. He still knew her.

This has been wonderful, Charlie told us during our visit. He even commented that he might possibly come back again perhaps when we hauled the boat out to look her over. Yes, we're all older, Sara B and Charlie too. But as we stood on the dock beside her, the old salt declared “ There's still a lot of boat here”. And she's still making memories and nourishing a few new dreams, too.

Entrance of the Murray Canal

Waiting for the bridge to open on the Murray Canal

Robert Townsend

Sophie in Picton

Looking down on Picton (Sara B's masts show at the bottom)

Bruce (in front) shows us the Sand Banks

Interesting clouds over Prinyers

Sara B's crew crossing the lake to home

Charles points out some changes to the old girl

Laura and Charles

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