It hit me earlier this week that the fall is here, and winter is coming, and that means I need to begin making plans to put my sailboat away until next spring. The season has been short and full of challenges related to owning a forty-five year old boat, so accepting it’s over for the year is bittersweet.
I’ve been telling my girlfriend all week that I wanted to spend one last night on the boat before getting down to work, removing the sails, cleaning it up and getting it ready to be hauled out of the water. We agreed this past Friday would be the night and got on the last ferry to the island so we could stay over.
It was dark when we got there, but apparent the water level had dropped significantly since I had been there last. I slept well with the sound of rain drops hitting the fiberglass deck and the waves gentling hitting the hull, but I did notice a strange vibration coming from below me throughout the night and had no idea what it could be.
In the morning when I went up on deck to survey how wet my rigging and sails were and whether today would be the day to pack them up, a gentleman walking down the dock asked me if I was aware my boat had run aground (the water level had dropped so much my keel was stuck in the mud and technically the boat isn’t so much floating as standing on the ground).
I told him I didn’t think it had, but then got onto the dock with a six foot long boat hook and measured how far I could push it into the water before hitting the bottom — and it became clear the water in my slip had actually dropped below the 4.5 feet of depth my keel needs to not hit the ground. The vibration I felt was my keel reaching the ground and then being lifted off in the minor waves that were in the marina last night, only to hit bottom again, and rise again, before hitting bottom again, and again.
I’m very fortunate that the Toronto Island is formed from sand, having run my boat aground in the harbour on two separate sandbars on two occasions and now a third time that has more to do with water levels than my ability to pay attention to channel markers (notice to mariners: pay attention to channel markers, they aren’t kidding).
It turns out lots of folks have run aground this season and made the news for doing it (I guess I am extraordinarily fortunate, none of my meetings with the lake bottom have lasted more than 15 minutes, except the current one, which is at my dock and poses no threat to anyone or property and therefore does not warrant journalistic coverage).
August was a busy month for groundings across Ontario. On Lake Huron, a 615 foot freighter hit bottom after it missed a channel. Lake Erie saw two sailboats get grounded on a rocky bottom, one of which required a rescue after the boat capsized, and on Lake Ontario a 46 foot sailing vessel was blown into shore when it’s engine died, requiring salvaging to be freed.
I guess I’m lucky because like most sailors who have run aground, I end my season with my boat intact and undamaged. I’m looking forward to putting it away and drawing up plans for the spring to begin returning it to it’s former glory and enjoying a full season on the water, when I can sneak away from work over the weekends.