We were so impressed by Keith Shergold's account of a late-season sail he and a friend had that we decided to share it here for all to enjoy! What a way to end the season. Perfect.

It sounds like Keith had a great sailing day and we wanted to get out on the water after reading it
—Thanks Keith!

Wow, today I had possibly the best sailboat ride ever! I woke up determined to sail, it is supposed to snow this week and I would like to get the boat into its little tent while it is still reasonably dry. Today was about seven degrees (C) and I figured it's not likely to get any warmer. I phoned Greg, who was at church. Then I phoned Ryerson, who wasn't home. Denis is usually pretty busy with his family, so I didn't call him (sorry Denis) and my friend who owns a larger sailboat couldn't be dragged from his warm house. My copilots were all flying, and Mrs. Keith hates sailing. It looked like I was out of luck. Strangely, the airport was reporting six knot winds, but out the window the trees were bent over and the flags were poker straight and humming. Weird. I didn't want to go out by myself, because it looked like it was fixing to blow. Finally I tracked down my friend Mike, who doesn't sail, but has always been interested in the little boat. He used to be a copilot on my twin otter so I knew he at least had boating skills and has his wits about him.

We got to the seaplane base, and discovered the slip had an aeroplane in it, so we towed the boat to the public slip. The wind was blowing across a hundred miles of lake, right into the slip, and great green seas were rolling into the harbour and breaking at our feet. Surfing seemed like a better idea than launching, so we took the boat back to the base and sat in it, sipping rum and tea and thinking about chickening out. After a while, we thought it looked calmer behind the island, and I decided we could at least plop the boat into the water and scoot around in circles there. The aeroplane was gone by this time, so we launched the boat and raised the sails while still tied to the dock. Angry gusts were snatching at the sails and I started to think twice, again. We shoved off anyway, which was exciting because the boat immediately accelerated away  from the dock like it was being towed by a ski boat. I got Mike briefed on which side to sit on, and not to sit on any ropes, and we careened around in tight circles. The wind was from all directions at once in the channel.

Mike asked when we going to stop goofing around and hit the "Big Water", which meant coming out of the lee of the island and into the big part. I said we'd poke our nose out a ways and see what it was like. Big waves were cruising by with white foamy tops and I wondered if this might not be another of my stupid ideas born of impatience and stubbornness. Anyway we blasted out into the big stuff going just about as fast as I've ever seen the boat go, the wake was foaming white on both ends of the boat and when we left the shelter of the island we slipped neatly into the swells and paralleled them. I turned the boat into the wind a bit to hit the swells on a 45 degree angle or so, and we climbed up one side, and just as she crested the top of a wave, when I was expecting a big slap, down went the bow and she just cleaved neatly through the top of the wave and slid down the back side. Soon we were approaching an island on the far side of the bay, and it was time to tack. By this time I had showed Mike how to trim the jib and put him in control of that sail. He had to pull the sheet with all his might to get the sail under control-for the first time I wondered if anyone has ever put sail winches on a weekender. She came around neatly, and Mike didn't need to be told to let the sheet fly and scramble across the boat to grab the other one and start hauling. The waves were big enough that we were slowing down in the troughs and catching big gusts at the crests, requiring some attention.

Generally, though, the boat was very well behaved, not slapping the waves at all with her bottom, and as she sped down the backs of the swells her bow wave was hosing us down in the cockpit with freezing water. We went up the windward side of the island, helicoptering up and down the enormous waves, which were dwarfing the little boat. I imagine from shore the boat was completely disappearing from view in the troughs and reappearing on the crests. She had a great foaming bow wave the whole time, it must have been a sight to see the tiny boat leaping up and down those waves. Inside the boat though, it was a pretty smooth ride, the boat was moving up and down what seemed like six or eight feet but she didn't pitch too much and was well behaved. The bell was ringing away at the base of the mast and Mike said the boat was yelling at us for taking her out in so much wind. To me she sounded like she was laughing. Mike wondered aloud how the hell a boat with no engine was able to go upwind. At the end of the island we turned down into a broad reach and entered the harbour. I thought the boat was going fast before but now she was going scary fast. Looking over the side it seemed like the boat was moving in a groove she was cutting in the water, the bow wave just beginning to curl over as it went by the cockpit.

There is a rock in the middle of the opening I usually go through, which makes the way too shallow for big boats, but the weekender usually travels right over the rock, it is usually submerged by two or three feet of water. This time, the waves were completely exposing the rock for a few seconds before closing in on it again in big bursts of spray. Luckily we spotted it and turned upwind and just as we passed it, the wave breaking over it lifted us up, and up. We both went "whoaaaaa...!" as we were rising, and then the boat was surfing, almost parallel to the breaking top. Still we didn't tip over, she just went faster and faster and the wave deposited us in the harbour still going full speed. I've never had the boat going this fast. I'm sure it was on the verge of planing at one point.

Once we were among the houseboats we circled around a few times. I missed a tack, poorly anticipating a gust, and we went charging in among the houseboats, dodging moorings, which are made of empty five pound propane tanks, and are no good to hit. Houseboaters were yelling at us as we flew by, some saying it looked like a good sail and others yelling that we were nuts. I didn't miss the next tack, and we shot back out into clear water. At this point I had Mike strike the main sail, and under the jib we ran back down the channel and into the slip. We were soaking wet and frozen, but my heart was pounding with excitement. We tied up and had another cup of black tea with rum in it, then put the boat back on the trailer, looking very proud of herself.

I'm pretty sure I'm good to put her in her tent for the winter now. What a good sail. I can't decide whether it was foolish or clever. We checked the weather report for the hour we were out and the airport was reporting 18 knots gusting to 25, so I guess it was pretty good, though not unreasonable for experienced sailors. I'm not an experienced sailor. Well, I guess I am a little bit more experienced now.

Keith Shergold