Our trip in "real-time"

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Turning a Sail Boat into a Motor Boat

We pulled into Little Sodus Bay after a great sail across Lake Ontario leaving the last Presqu’ille behind us arriving earlier than expected because of the favorable winds.  I had picked out Little Sodus Bay as our destination in part because there is a marina there that will step masts for sailboats intending to transit through the Oswego and Erie Canals.  Fair Point Marina had excellent reviews on line and we found out that this place is one of the best marinas on all the Great Lakes.

After entering the bay and rounding the buoys marking a small shoal, we pointed towards the marina.  We had been instructed via radio communications to tie up at the fuel dock behind another sail boat that had its mast down.  Pam deftly drove the boat up to the dock the marina manager, Schyler Barnes, was standing there to help take our dock lines and tie us up.

Schyler gave us the quick over view of the marina which included where the wash rooms, showers, and washing machines were located plus the wireless password and other details related to the surrounding area.  I needed to build a cradle for the mast to ride on after it was stepped to make it under the bridges in the canals.  Schyler let me know that he could help and if we need to get supplies to build it he would drive us to a store.

The next morning Schyler had me bring the boat into a well near the crane that would be stepping the mast.  The well was 14 feet wide and our boat has a beam of 12 feet and 11 inches.  Fortunately there was little, if any, wind so I was able to easily snuggle into the well.  As it turned out this was a perfect spot to ready the boat for the canals.  It was only a slight step up from the ground to get on the boat and with the big grassy area next to the well it made it easy to construct the cradle and prepare the mast to lay on it.

Schyler cranked up the crane that was to lift the mast from the boat.  He then expertly positioned the cranes boom in just the right spot so that when he picked up the mast with it there would be no swinging of this big spar.  One of us needed to go about half way up the mast to tie on the ropes needed to attach the mast to the crane.  I volunteered for this task and Schyler cranked me up using the main halyard with me in a bosun chair.  Once all was securely tied and ready Schyler gently lifted the mast and set it down on a couple of saw horses he had placed beside the boat on the grass so I could take off the radar and secure the standing rigging for the travels to come.
Schyler at the Crane
Jeff Up the Mast - Again

Schyler and I then discussed the general design of the cradle.  He said he had some old lumber that could be used plus tools, screws and straps to use.  His knowledge of constructing many cradles before was invaluable.  Occasionally he would leave me to work on my own as he went to take care of other business required around the marina.  After four or five hours we had the cradle finished and in place. 
The Cradle is Ready for the Mast

That night Schyler invited Pam and me to join him and his wife for dinner in town which was only a few miles drive to the other side of the bay.  While driving to the restaurant I realized that Pam and I had not been in an automobile for nearly two months.  The four of us had a wonderful dinner and conversation at O’Conner’s.  
The next day with Schyler at the controls of the crane we set the mast on the newly made cradle and secured everything down.  This too went like a charm.  Pam and I were now ready to take our slow motor boat, formally a sail boat, down the Oswego and Erie canals.

Sunset at Fair Point Marina

At the beginning of this blog I said that this is one of the best marinas in the Great Lakes.  There are several reasons to support this.  First, the bay extends about a mile back from the lake and is about a half mile wide.  It is completely enclosed with the exception of the channel that brings you off the lake into this little bay.  Being enclosed like a small lake the waters were very calm.  Next, the marina was located just inside the channel and because of this the slight breeze off the lake it kept all mosquitoes away as well as providing a cooling effect.  Thirdly, the people that kept boats there were all so very nice.  We were invited to join them at night around a camp fire.  It was fun hearing their sailing stories and getting good advice of what to expect when we headed down the canal and beyond to Chesapeake Bay.  There is no better knowledge for a boater than ‘local’ knowledge.
Grace Ready For the Canals as a Slow Motor Boat

A couple of afternoons Pam and I took our dingy and headed into the town of Fair Haven to get ice cream.  Ice cream is a staple for cruisers like us.  There was a small hotel/restaurant that had a great salad bar and crab cakes that were super fantastic.  (NOTE:  while in the Chesapeake area I will be on a hunt for the best crab cakes in America.  The ones I had at Fair Haven will be competitive they were so good).

Little Sodus Bay From Hotel / Restaurant

If we are ever near Little Sodus Bay again, we will definitely stop by for a few days or more.

Have Fun – We Are,



  1. That sounds like a great little destination - very envious. I can see you're on the move right now.

  2. Jeff you said that you like my questions well about how many nautical miles do you get to the gallon and i know that takes in a lot of variables but say cruising speed.

  3. Dennis - We burn about one gallon per hour with a cruising speed of Seven Nautical miles per hour.