We set out from Carthew Bay for Orillia on a pleasant, sunny morning. The Nash sailed happily along, bouncing a little through the increasingly choppy waves. The wind blew briskly, and then more briskly. We followed the compass heading we had chosen, hoping we had done our work well and chosen right. We did not know this part of the lake, and there would be no markers until we were close to where we were going.
As we got closer I peered ahead, searching for those marks, and breathed a sigh of relief when finally we could see one off in the distance. Right type, right colour, slightly off where we thought it should be. Hopefully it was the right one.
By now the wind was blowing hard, and we were looking forward to finding a quiet dock or some sheltered place. The sailing was no longer comfortable, but we were realizing there was no easy way to reduce sail now. We could take the jib down, but taking the jib down meant being less balanced and the same applied to lowering the mainsail. And being less balanced meant control would be more difficult. As it was the rudder was getting a workout as Richard tried to keep the boat from veering up. And besides, we were almost there. We could see our landmarks now.
And then – the rudder broke. As in the top fitting that held the rudder to the boat broke, being made of plastic and not, we would guess, particularly new. Suddenly the rudder was hanging crookedly at an angle to the surface of the water, and Richard could not use it to wrestle the boat into staying on course.
“Shit!” He stared down at the now useless tiller.
“What?” My brain went on pause for a moment.
“I have to get this off, or I won’t be able to use the outboard to steer!” He reached down over the stern and I could see the tension in his body as he began pulling at and twisting the rudder.
“What about me? What should I do?” Now the adrenaline was kicking in; time for action.
“You’re going to have to get the jib down.”
I looked at the foredeck, bouncing merrily up and down. I had to go out there? Oh, boy…
But – I took a breath and crawled out onto the bow. While Richard wrestled and swore at the remaining attachment, pushing and pulling until he finally got the rudder free, I knelt on the slippery bouncing foredeck and said a few prayers as I pulled at the jib until it finally lay in a wet heap on the deck. When it was finally down and subdued I crawled shakily back to the cockpit.
We were now far off course. I glimpsed rocks underneath us as I crawled, big, solid rocks. Richard pulled at the outboard starter – please let it start.
“Richard! Rocks! We’re over the rocks!” I had to let him know.
The outboard finally came to life. We breathed again, but there was no time for self-congratulations.
“Here. Steer in that direction, toward the channel. I need to winch the keel up.” He shoved the outboard tiller into my hand and vanished into the cabin, leaving me to do as I was told.
Fear is a wonderful motivator. I learned how to steer the boat with the outboard in a hurry, and it felt like forever until he came flying back up.
“Steer into the wind!” He was heading for the mast.
Right. Into the wind. We had to take the mainsail down. I steered up until the main was flapping. Down it came.
Then we were in the channel, Richard was steering and we were puttering toward a large marina on the east side. The sense of relief I felt as we tied up and Richard went off to get gas and find out whether there was a space for us was immense.
“We can’t stay here.” The gas can was filled, but it seemed there was no space for us.
I felt my heart sink.
“But they said to try that marina over there.” He pointed across the Narrows to a small marina we had not noticed as we came in.
“Okay.” I took a breath. That was a lot better than nothing. “Let’s go.”
So we crossed the narrows and after a little discussion, and after some money had changed hands, they gave us a spot on an outside dock, where the boats that roared past set us rocking. But that was not important. What was important now was finding a way to fix the rudder temporarily so we could get home again and repair it in a way that would make it stronger. We did not want to repeat that experience.
” What we need is a Canadian Tire.” After a night’s sleep Richard had thought of a way to fix things. “We just need to find something that will work.”
Off he went to ask, and came back ready to go.
“There’s one down that way.” He pointed generally west.
“How far? How are we going to get there?” I could see the bridge and the road – would that road take us there?
“Not too far, I hope. We’re going to walk. They gave me directions.”
Well, okay. We set out and duly found the local Canadian Tire. Inside we wandered around, looking through hardware of all kinds. There were many kinds. Finally:
“There! That would work!” He thought a moment. “Well, it should work.”
‘It’ was hardware for hanging a large, removable hinged gate. Solid black metal hardware that looked similar enough to the fixture on our boat and about the right size for the pintle to fit through it. We bought it and set off back to the boat again.
Fitting it posed another challenge for us to figure out. For some reason, the gudgeon (with the hole) was on the rudder and the pintle (with the pin that went through the gudgeon) was on the boat. We would have to change that – the gate hardware could only work with the ‘pintle’ on the rudder and the ‘gudgeon’ on the boat. And one of the fittings was below the waterline. Richard gathered his tools, such as they were, and looked around.
“Okay, that cleat there is lower than the bow, so that will help hold it down. But that probably won’t be enough – you’ll have to go and sit on the bow while I’m changing it. And we can pile stuff from the cabin around you.”
He looked at me expectantly. I sighed. It sounded reasonable. Things often sounded reasonable; a lot of the time they were.
And that’s how I ended up sitting with my feet dangling over the bow, looking around. There was a low wall and a path and a one-storey building and people wandering around. Well, perhaps they were actually busy doing something, but if so I had no idea what. There were boats hurrying past. There were distant voices. Time passed. I should have brought a book…
“Okay, that’s done. You don’t have to sit there any more.” Richard was standing behind me.
“We have a rudder again?”
“We have a rudder again.”
We put everything back in its place, and after that we didn’t linger. Orillia is a very nice place, but the narrows were busy and there was a bay not far away we wanted to try anchoring in. We cast off our lines and sailed away to our next anchoring spot.
The rest of our cruise was much quieter, even when the winds blew strong. We saw unexpected things and met someone who could tell us the ways of the lake. I’ll tell you about that next time…
Written by Margaret Mair, with pictures from Wikimedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license or Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.