Ferris Bueller Goes Sailing

Thursday morning (September 23rd, 2004) felt like the last day of fine weather in this soon to be “great” white north.
So the Ferris Bueler in me woke up and said: work sucks. Seeing this as the last opportunity to be on the Memphremagog Lake without skates, I sent an “out-of-office” e-mail to my boss, then headed off for Magog at 8:30 AM under a beautiful clear sky.

Encountered an obstacle at the sailing club. No signs of life whatsoever, meaning the rudder, tiller and tiller extensions where locked up in the club locker. After an unsucessful phone call to the club manager’s answering machine, I drove to the closest hardware store to temporarily buy --I returned the material afterwards-- the burglar’s classic kit. The lock was removed soon after and I was on the water by 10 AM.

The day started off with a gentle breeze. It was the first time, and just the most amazing feeling, to be the only boat on this 42-km long lake – well okay, let’s say in the 5-8 km visible range. No engine or other sail in sight. Total peace. In the picure below you can see the deserted playground, as well as Owl’s Head, a skiing mountain right across the US border…

…and just behind W1378  is Mount Orford, beginning to get its fall colors. Sailing between mountains offers an interesting landsape, but a drawback is the shifty winds that come with them.

Sailed in light breeze, going straight south, for about 3 hours. At one point I headed near the shore, behind small islands. Apparently the properties around Memphremagog Lake are the most expensive ones in Quebec. There’s not a single one under CAN$1,000,000, because of land value. Well, that’s not really different from Sarasota Bay, I guess.

I was standing up in the boat, holding the tiller extension and mainsheet, making only minor corrections with the tip of the fingers, along with shifting my weight to port and starboard, keeping everything in a delicate balance. What a good feeling. Freedom, nature, perfect temperature. I thought to myself, none of these millionnaires can enjoy such things as missing a day of work or enjoying an old dinghy that still floats despite its war veteran looks.

After a while the wind shifted North and picked up to about 10 knots. W1378 came alive as I was hiking out to keep it flat. No pictures of this, of course, as single-handling is enough to keep both hands busy! Then it increased some more to near 15 knots. The boat was sailing amazingly fast due to the light weight crew—meaning here that I was alone—and also since no waves had built up yet. When they did, I got up on a plane at least three times. Yelling out loud as I always do under such rare circumstances.

Finally saw a keelboat in the neighborhood, motoring with its mast down. Don’t know if it was going at full throttle, but for the half-four during which we had the same heading, it kept loosing ground to the Wayfarer. Always a good satisfaction.

While having a blast I also remembered from this summer’s capsizing exercise that it’s not possible to self-rescue W1378. The once-watertight compartments now behave like tubs. Only the thick foam added inside of those prevents the whole thing from sinking. So, given the colder water and the very few sailors around, I eased up the sheets and opted for long, close-reach tacks, making progress up North.

Got back to the sailing club around 3 PM. There was still absolutely no one around. I moored the boat some distance from the club, then took a long nap on the floorboards, enjoying the warm afternoon, sunshine, and the light, which becomes whiter at this time of the year.

After I got tired of resting, I stared sailing again on a beam reach to stay not too far from the club. Sailed in really shallow water, around deserted beaches. Then I came back and moored again for another nap, until sunset.

Life’s good. With a small, trailerable boat, I think you can really maximize the time spent on water. Maintenance is not time consuming, costs are low (the yearly membership at the club is CAN$ 350), and worries are small – except for capsizing, in this specific case.

On a day like Thursday, the Wayfarer felt as comfortable as a 40-foot Swan, although it's probably not worth more than one of its turnbuckles.