By Ted Johnson
Erie to Dover, Dover to Maitland, Maitland to Point Abino, Point Abino to Port Colbourne and Back to Point Abino…. How many remember that race? One of our early recollections from Buffalo comes from Bob Adams who had raced in the Erie Dover race in the early 50’s. Many people don’t realize that the “Erie Dover Race” will have its 100-year anniversary this year. The interclub grew out of getting the boats back to Buffalo following this race. Bob might have missed the first Interclub but he has been in almost all of them since 1958. He continues to race today in his Borsaw Pressure Vessel.
Erie Course Race
The one memory that is in all our heads is that the wind always blows on the Erie Course Race. One recollection had us beating to the departure off the entrance and then reaching North to a dumping buoy. The wind was in the 20-30 knot range.
Unfortunately a group of boats arrived at the dump buoy when the dredge got there. Now this dredge looked more like a small ocean freighter than a dredge and the buoy was a large standard government buoy. Watching boats round the mark while the dredge approached was quite interesting. I was on a Catalina 30 and we decided to take the dredge’s stern and round the mark after the dredge went past it. When we got to the other side of the dredge we couldn’t find the mark. We also realized that the dredge had stopped and was now in reverse. About 10-15 seconds passed when the buoy shot out of the water at the bow of the dredge. He had run it over… please don’t tell anyone we didn’t round the mark properly on that day.
Another day in Erie I remember Mary Lou and Aries with their chutes flying in 25 knots of breeze dead downwind. Someone fell off of Mary Lou and was immediately picked up by Aries… It happened so fast I don’t think the person got wet. It was pretty amazing seamanship to accomplish this in high winds at high speed without even slowing down.
About 15 years ago we were racing on Boat a C&C 38. The wind was close to 30 and we were on a broad reach. Pigs at Sea put up their chute and screamed past us to the jibe mark, they had a little difficultly with the jibe so we passed them. When they came by the second time most of their keel was out of the water and they were screaming “Take our Picture, Take our Picture!”
Erie to Dover
How many people remember the light air race out the gap? We all got to the gap at the same time with spinnakers to be met by a 180-degree wind shift. Starlight, a 28’ wooden boat, was the first to get to the gap and the last one to get out. Masker, a custom 68’ sloop, went down the middle of the channel telling everyone they didn’t have any rights to tack. They had a person on the bow with a mega-phone calling the telltales to the cockpit. Masker was well known for hoisting speakers up into her rig and playing train sounds as she sailed across the lake.
Barney Welch had just gotten a new Redwing 30. As he went through the gap in very tight quarters he slid along the wall.
Well Barney had been sunk 3 times in one day during WWII but he didn’t take this very well. After downing an estimated case of beer the crew lashed him to the mast for his own safety for the remaining ride over.
In more recent times Warrahagy was sailing deep down wind in 20-25 knots. She was a approaching the shipping lanes and had to head up to take the stern of a freighter… well what goes up must go down and in large seas the War Hog did a jibe broach. The crew which was leaning on the lifelines trimming the sails found themselves under water for an extended time… possibly as much as 10 seconds. If you want a more detailed description just ask Louis… I think he was driving.
There are so many stories about the point. It is always an exciting time when it first comes into view. Sometimes it seams as though it has taken forever and sometimes you can’t believe you are already there. My first recollection of a boat being aground on the point was in the late 70’s. Bernie Blum was so far out in front that we couldn’t see him. He got a little too greedy and he was so far behind we couldn’t see him. We had a shorten course at the point about 10 years ago. We were all trying to make the time limit so we were all going right for the line not thinking of where we were. Well we had all been sailing west of the rumb line so as we approached the line we had to sail directly over the point. There was one boat aground just short of the finish line and a lot of boats scattering away to the east to avoid the shallow water. I think we missed the time limit by 1 or 2 minutes.
Once you round the point the weather can change drastically. There have been several times when we have sailed into fog banks. Back in the 70’s before Loran’s and GPS we used a regular old compass and a chart. When we came into Dover there were 3 boats in a row spread out about 100yards from each. The boat in the center could see both boats but the one on the right could not see the one on the left. The boat in the center hit the line perfectly and the boat on the left heard the gun and tacked. The boat on the right continued and when they started to hear the surf decided they had gone to far. Another story about fog came about 15 years ago. The fleet had been sailing in sunny weather but after rounding the point found themselves in a very thick fog bank. You had a hard time seeing the bow of your own boat but you could hear other boats all around you going through the water trimming their sails and talking. The thing that was so cool was if you looked up you could see the masts and the sails of the other boats but nothing at water level. We sailed like this for an hour or two until it finally cleared off.
One of the races from the 60’s (we couldn’t agree on the year) had an incident in Dover when Victoria cut the power lines into Dover. This happened with the bridge half up so the balance of the boats could not get up to the Yacht Club. What made matters worse is that this cut power to a majority of the town of Dover…on Dominion Day. The following year the interclub did not go to Dover but instead went directly to Maitland. The Mayor of Dover came to the next year’s meeting and told the Interclub that they wanted us back…and we have been ever since.
When we talked about the Turkey Point race everyone focused on the big storm in the early 80’s. It started out with light winds and we all had spinnakers up. You could see the squall coming and some boats took their chutes down. When the squall hit the winds were estimated in the 55-60 knot range. Two boats lost their masts, 2 lost their rudders, 2 lost their instruments off the top of their masts, Enigma, a 47’ yawl, was swamped and had to be towed in by the Coast Guard. It rained so hard visibility was almost zero. “We watched Tomahawk (chaser 29) lay down flat in the water and then the rain came and we never saw her come back up.” By the time we got to Nanticoke the wind was gone and it was hot and humid and almost a drifter into Dover.
When heading east it can be a motorboat ride, a light air ride or a rocket ride. Jimmy Whistler talks about a ride on Masker in 1978. We started in Dover and went to Point Abino. Masker made it in 3hours and 20 minutes. When it was blowing about 40 knots there was a suggestion to take the chute down. Bob Way looked up at the chute and said, “No need, God will take it down” a couple of minutes later “God” indeed took the chute down. Jimmy said all that was left was the tapes.
This day is one that will always be etched in my mind. It was a gorgeous day, brilliant sunshine and warm… and just a little windy. People later mentioned it was the roughest they had ever seen it…. I have been sailing for over 40 years on Lake Erie and have not seen the like of that day. The waves were so large that 30’ boats fairly close to you would completely disappear. We had a reef in our main and no jib up. Our old wooden 28’ boat had the speedo pegged at 10 for hours on end.
We had 3 waves curl into our cockpit from behind. My Uncle was on a Destroyer during WWII and rode-out the Typhoon in the China Sea when 3 Destroyers rolled and went down. He said this was worse. It was a day that we were all glad to be in safe and glad to have had the experience.
How many boats have found this reef during our regatta… The Tarten 41 Black Horse with her chute up, Aquillo with her chute up, Bullseye with her chute up and Paddywagon under power. Black Horse and Aquillo sailed again but Paddywagon and Bullseye have not enjoyed the same fate. Bullseye was sailing in fog going about 6-7 knots when she hit. It was a difficult day to see. Most boats had their running lights on because the fog was so thick. Several times there were near collisions with the bigger boats overtaking the smaller slower boats. Bullseye got into Port Colbourne and fixed the leak she had sprung. She sailed her final race the following day and has not raced or sailed since.
There was a light air race with fog and the fleet was approaching Point Abino. Bob Adams who had finished earlier went out to the Point. He waded out on to the reef where he looked like he was walking on water and warned the oncoming boats of the shallows and directed them to safety.