In 18 days I have had 3 sets of crew and together we have traveled 902.69 nautical miles, averaging 64 miles a day at 6.1 knots.
14 of those days were traveling, 4 of them down days for weather and maintenance.
A fraction of Lake Michigan, and the whole of Huron, Erie, Welland Canal and Ontario are complete. I am pleased to say they are behind us now.
We have made it to the gateway of the St. Lawrence seaway ahead of schedule. I repeat – ahead of schedule. Unheard of.
We arrived in Kingston, Ontario at 7 am after 128 mile overnight from Whitby, Ontario. That day, I couldn’t even muster up the energy to stand up, to eat, to drink water, until 5pm. It had all caught up to me. The Lakes. The wind. The rain. The unbearable temperatures. The tight quarters. The change of diet. The lack of sleep. The sense of responsibility. The maintenance. The heightened awareness. The constant anxiety of making the right decision. The friends. And maybe some of the beers. All of it caught up with me. I was defeated.
This was however, exactly what I wanted. This was what I signed up for. I paid money for this. And when I was hit with total exhaustion I thought – Hell yes. Just let me sleep for a second. I’ll be ready again. I promise. Just let me rest.
This is only the beginning.
The perfect person showed up that evening. My mother.
My co-captain and celebrity guest Katie Smith, AKA Katie Girl, flew all the back from California to help me sail through Lake Erie and the Welland Canal. Two of my other closest friends signed up to be cold, wet and miserable with us. One whom I’ve known since kindergarten Olivia, AKA O- Dawg, found herself as a very creative chef, a galley genius to say the least. One of my other bestest from college Erica, AKA E-Money, researched and delivered the history of each landmark we passed and expressed genuine interest in life aboard.
We wove through hundreds of fisherman and a handful of ships southbound on the Detroit River. I do guarantee we were the only sailboat with a chock-full of women in the cockpit listening to the Spice Girls. I was bound for England after all, figured if I knew some classic English pop by the time I got there the locals would accept me. We spiced our way to the mouth of Lake Erie.
O-dawg and E$ both got sea-sick on day one. Bless their little hearts they toughed it out and learned how to avoid it there-after.
We sailed into Put-In Bay and docked in an empty marina where there was no one to greet us, or charge us any fees. What is known as one of the hottest party spots in Ohio, was shut down aside from one bar. I considered it my bachelorette party.
A lovely gentlemen by the name of Jake Byers welcomed us into his local yacht club in Cleveland, with a slip and cold beers waiting. Thank you so much Jake, for your hospitality.
Our first overnight sail was 138 miles to the entrance of the Welland Canal. The girls did awesome while I hid my nerves, which I tend to do well. Katie and I helmed through the night. For hours we had a consistent 35 knots of apparent wind at our back, gusting to 40, in the pitch black. Wooo baby. Focused. On a mission. I was so tense I could barely move my neck and shoulders the next morning.
Waited a day and half in Port Colborne to lock through the Welland Canal. At 17:30 we hear a knock on the hull – it was time to go. Canal traffic called for us and two other pleasure craft to lock through together. The canal is 28 miles long, with 8 locks that drop you 326 feet into Lake Ontario. It was almost a perfect night time operation. Until we waited for 2 hours for an unbound ship to pass, when of course, I couldn’t start the engine. There was a problem with the starter. Traffic control requested we get towed through the last lock and to a safe place to tie for the night. The sailboat in front of us kindly towed us through, and released us near a cement wall to tie up. It was not the most graceful pass off – but it worked. The following day we sorted out the problem. The starter was dangling from it’s bolts. One of which was stripped.
My Spice Girls hopped off in St. Catharines. But not Katie. Katie booked a later flight so she could stay on for 5 more days. When we sailed overnight and found ourselves keeled over laughing and exhausted at sunrise, I realized I needed her. Who else could make me laugh that hard when I am cold, tired, and nervous? God we laughed so hard. About absolutely nothing. My abs hurt.
In 18 days I’ve begun to learn most everything I was hoping.
I’ve learned and am still learning the boat. How 18,000 pounds moves through the water. How to get her perfectly balanced. How to maneuver in small spaces (still scared of reverse) I am learning to adjust my course depending on where she wants to go not where I want to go. I am learning her systems, from plumbing, to electrical, to mechanics. I have been forced to dabble in each subject.
I am falling deeply in love with Desirée. I feel proud of her.
I am feeling self sufficient. Feeling self reliant. Feeling resourceful. Feeling well prepared.
I toggle between thoughts ” I’ve come a long way. I think I actually know some shit.” and “Who in the world do I think I am? This is not wise.” It’s constant. I sit right in the middle. Which could be a good place to be sitting. On the edge of my seat at all times, even in my sleep.
I’ve needed to build confidence before Luke is on board. I’ve needed to know that this is something I can handle on my own if anything were to happen to him. I’ve needed to feel like a captain, not a passenger. I’ve needed the time to be scared and not able to ask for help. I’ve needed the time to make tough calls. I’ve needed to be so cold that 50 degrees felt like summer. It’s working. I have a long way to go. But it’s working.
My mother and I will cruise the next leg. 163 miles, 7 locks and a favoring current. Montreal here I come.
See you soon Luke : )
We are looking to have 6 sails shipped to a reliable address and contact in Montreal, if anyone has any suggestions or could help us with this please contact Luke or I ! Jesszevalkink@gmail.com // firstname.lastname@example.org