Gentleman's Portion

A good helping of life, love and whisky


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Cruising in a nice breeze

Cruising in a nice breeze

Tomorrow, the weather and sailing gods willing, we set out for our annual sailing cruise to The Oakville Club. As we have for the past couple of years, we will have a teenage crew to do all the leaping around. Andrik, who stayed on the boat last summer and is living in our house this summer, has become a sort of surrogate grandson. He’s grown like a weed in the three years we’ve known him and is very handy around a boat. These days I leave the clambering up to the foredeck to him.

Flying the spinnaker

Flying the spinnaker

The cruise is organized by our little island club, the Harbour City Yacht Club, founded in 1972. Usually a half-dozen or so of the members make this cruise, one of four organized by the club during the season, but it all depends on the weather. Our members are definitely fair weather sailors. Our Rear Commodore and Fleet Captain, however, is made of sterner stuff. Matt has sailed across the Atlantic, for a decade lived on his 42 foot ketch, and still sails it superbly in all weathers. Of course he has a centre cockpit arrangement, with a completely weatherproof wheelhouse, so he can be safe and dry while us open cockpit chaps get to experience weather as Nature makes it.

On our cruises up the lake we have had some flat days and some windy days. The best we can hope for is a stiff breeze out of the south or west to send us home. On one occasion the wind was so strong that we made it back in record time, only to find we couldn’t get the sails down. So we sailed right around Toronto Island to the eastern or sheltered lee side and doused the sails in relative calm.

A warm welcome and a tight fit in Oakville

A warm welcome and a tight fit in Oakville

Last year, we had an ideal wind to fly our colourful spinnaker on the outbound trip. This is the big balloon-like sail that billows out in front of a boat and pulls it along at a good speed. I let Andrik fly the ‘chute, as it’s known, and he did so very well. I believe it was a thrilling if tiring experience. The spinnaker is yellow and black, the boat’s colours, with a red stripe for fun. This year I have a new sail, called a drifter, to try out. If the winds are light it will help us more in airs that would hitherto have left us drifting, hence the name. The drifter is green and orange, not boat colours, and I call it my Irish sail. Let’s hope we have the luck of the Irish on our cruise.

Leaving Oakville with cruising burgees flying

Leaving Oakville with cruising burgees flying

When we arrive at The Oakville Club, we are always welcomed by Larry, the dockmaster. The Ports Cruising Guide names him the best dockmaster on the lake and it’s true. He finds us a good spot on his crowded docks, gives us full access to the club’s facilities, which are splendid by the way, and arranges a little tent for our pot-luck arrivals party. If it’s been a hot journey down, we have a plunge in their lovely pool, and certainly we always enjoy a swim before we set out for home the next day. Their restaurant serves a splendid eggs Benedict, which I look forward to every year for our Sunday departure breakfast. The changing facilities, showers and so on are what you’d expect of a top quality sports club, although last year they were closed for renovations. We didn’t mind. We’re sailors and used to roughing it. But it will be good to see what they’ve done.

We hope to go on at least one other club cruise this season, but in any event will earn another cruising flag for our efforts. Each year the club awards those who engage in cruising a special colourful burgee to fly on dress-the-boat days and I have nine on the flag halyard now. Ten will be a nice round number.

Author: Nigel

Freelance director and writer

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