The Bruce Peninsula – The Final Stretch

Dan can be a fountain of information on a wide variety of topics – a bit like Cliff Clavin espousing from the bar in the TV show Cheers.

The famous Cliff Clavin!
The famous Cliff Clavin!

In fact, Dan was featured in a Summit Beer holiday radio spot for his ramblings about the history of Mistletoe. I figured you might want a break from Cliff, therefore I am writing the final chapter of the Bruce Peninsula!

Heading down the Peninsula

We departed Cove Island at 7:10am on September 16. We had a number of target destinations in mind but were hoping that we could make it to Port Elgin 60NM south with our ultimate destination being Goderich, Ontario over 100NM south along the eastern shore of Lake Huron. The eastern shore of Huron is completely exposed to west and north winds which can build quickly and create significant wave action. And weather on the Great Lakes tends to get quite fickle as the season turns to fall.

Sunrise as we prepared to raise anchor at Cove Island
Sunrise as we prepared to raise anchor at Cove Island

Feeling very optimistic about the weather that day, we raised all three sails only to have the wind track around to our nose. Once again, we had to use the Iron Genny to buck the wind and waves. Our speed was hampered greatly and it was 6:15pm by the time we pulled into the marina at Port Elgin.
Cliff Note: Elgin is pronounced “el ghin” with the “g” being hard as it is in “gift.”
Ha – and you thought only Dan could do Cliff!

Sailboats arriving at sunset - Port Elgin Ontario
Sailboats arriving at sunset – Port Elgin Ontario

We  stayed in Port Elgin the next day to do a little exploring and to wait until the wind direction improved. Most sailors depart as early in the day as possible. Not us. We like to putter around taking care of boat things and other details. We cast off our lines early afternoon on Sunday expecting to do a quick little hop down the shoreline to Kincardine.

What’s that burning smell?

All was going quite well as we cruised past the Bruce Peninsula power complex which is visible for miles in all directions. Just as we could start to see the Kincardine harbour entrance, our trusty Westerbeke diesel died. No bells, no whistles, no alarms – nothing. Dan happened to be asleep below decks and instantly woke up thinking that he had switched the fuel tanks incorrectly and we had run out of fuel. Nope. About the same time, we both smelled something burning. Burning on a boat is not good – fiberglass flares up fast.

Now the smell wasn’t too strong so Dan proceeded to wrestle his way to the engine compartment which was buried under cushions, a folding bike, the cockpit enclosure and our spinnaker. Once the front part of the compartment was open, the smell was a tad more pronounced. Meanwhile, I’m up at the helm trying to sail the boat in virtually no wind and waves that are gentle but still 2’ high. Without wind, Gaviidae continually ended up with her beam to the waves making for a very roly-poly ride and causing the boom to smack from one side to the other with each passing wave like a massive metronome.

Unable to identify what was going on with the engine, Dan contacted our favorite boat buddy Mike Gozzard who walked him through locating the reset button for the engine. Unknown to Dan, the button reset an emergency electrical breaker on the engine. Painted red like the rest of the engine, Dan said the button looked like bolt heads of either side of it—easily overlooked. If you’re a geocacher, you’ve undoubtedly come across nanocaches that are equally hard to identify! With a push of that little red button and a turn of the key in the cockpit, our Westerbeke roared back to life. For about 20 seconds. Then the engine shut down again and the burning smell was even stronger.

I guess I forgot to mention that when the engine first died – it was around 5:15pm. Just a minor detail. So Dan gets back on the phone with Mike and more troubleshooting/searching goes on. The reset is flipped a couple more time with the engine starting and then dying again within a short time. Meanwhile the waves continue to push us northeastward further away from Kincardine and closer to shore.

So while Dan was working with Mike, I’m at the helm watching the sun fall in the sky and wondering what the hell we’re going to do if we can’t get the engine running long enough to get us into Kincardine, a measly 4NM away. I’m also cursing at myself as to why we always leave so late in the day! I start making “SUGGESTIONS” about contacting someone for a tow or whether the dinghy could pull us into Kincardine with Dan making hand gestures for me to shush while he was on the phone with Mike. And everytime the engine starts, the burning smell gets stronger. Are you getting the picture?


Dan finally relents on his search for the problem and hands me the phone and I promptly call the number in our Ports guide for Search and Rescue. Why didn’t I call on our VHF radio? Because we’ve been having transmit problems and it’s pretty much useless unless we are within about 300 feet of who were trying to contact. Arrggghhh!

A very nice man took my call and said he would broadcast for a vessel in the area to respond for assistance. And sure enough, I heard him broadcast over the radio and he instantly got a response! It seems that a young guy was anchored in his trawler just outside of the Kincardine harbour. He had noticed us while he had been reading a book and napping. When he woke, he saw we were in the same area as before and still had our sails up even though there was no wind. He was actually on his way over to us when the call for assistance came through!

Around 7:30pm we were finally hooked up behind him and towed into Kincardine, a process that took over an hour-and-a-half and got us to the dock in complete darkness. We were all a bit concerned as to how we were going to actually get to the dock as he was going to disconnect the tow line and hope that we would drift into the dock. As luck would have it, a fellow sailor had been watching us get towed in. He came down and grabbed the lines. Then he offered to drive us to a nearby restaurant and pick us up when we were done!

After a good night of sleep Dan found the source of the problem – the fan that blows air out of the engine compartment had a meltdown but was still drawing enough current to cause the engine to shut down. Solution – cut the wires to the fan!

The nasty culprit!
The nasty culprit!

We left Kincardine on Tuesday and headed south to Goderich for what we thought was going to be our last sail of the season. Operative word here is “thought.” While we were underway and in the land of internet, we got an email from Mike Gozzard asking if we would be interested in doing a delivery of a Gozzard 44 from Traverse City MI to Goderich.

Say goodnight Cliff.


Flying the chute as we head to Goderich
Flying the chute as we head to Goderich

September 16, 2016 Port Elgin  44°26.677’N  81°24.261’W  1130.7 Nautical Miles
September 18, 2016 Kincardine  44°10.612’N  81°38.336’W  1155.1 Nautical Miles
September 20, 2016 Goderich  43°44.861’N  81°43.194’W  1186.9 Nautical Miles

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