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Immigration of an Alberg 30

Fairport Harbor OH to Lion's Head ON
David and Gerry Tessier

Decision to acquire a sailboat:
We are brothers who now live in Winnipeg (Gerry) and Waterloo (David), but we grew up in Sudbury, Ontario - not far from Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. Yet it was only as middle-aged adults that we discovered a keen interest in sailing, and decided to embark on an adventure that begins with exploring the Great Lakes and will lead to blue water cruising in a saltier setting. David has become an intensive, even obsessive, student of sailboats and seamanship over the past few years, which has supplemented our previous sailing experience: a sailing adventure on a friend's sailboat off the Florida Keys and the Bahamas and, more recently, frequent daysails on a West Wight Potter 19 and a Beneteau 235 primarily on Lake Ontario. Our interest in cruising to remote locations has guided our approach to sailing and was central to our decision in late 2007 to find a seaworthy sailboat for short-handed use on the Great Lakes and beyond.

Choosing a cruising yacht:
In light of our interests and approach, we soon narrowed the list of candidate sailboats down to the Contessa 26, the Alberg 30 and the Corvette 31, which were all available in the Great Lakes basin. And to make a long story short, we quickly fell in love with the Alberg 30 for its seaworthiness, moderate draft, beautiful lines, simple fixed cut-away full keel, standing head room, manageable size, and, importantly, the enthusiasm and energy of the members of the Great Lakes Alberg Association and of the Alberg 30 Association. Meeting G.L.A.A. Commodore Don Campbell in his boat shed and admiring his two Alberg 30's and his Alberg 22 settled our minds and hearts. All that remained was to find the right Alberg 30 for us.

In late winter 2008, after much analysis and comparison, we entered into an agreement to purchase Alberg 30 #319 located in Fairport Harbor, Ohio on Lake Erie. This 1968 sailboat had been partially outfitted for short-handed cruising and so was a good fit with our plans. In particular, it featured a sound hull with two-component bottom paint, a fully-battened loose-footed mainsail, a teflon lined mainsail track, a new Genoa and Harken roller furling, a new staysail and inner forestay, new standing rigging wire, an anchor windlass, a Nissan outboard motor, an intact (though not yet reinforced) mast support beam and a very helpful and forthcoming representative of the seller, Bruce Woodward. The eletronics were antiquated, but then our approach is to keep things simple -- we will likely remove the 12VDC refrigeration. The Atomic 4 auxiliary had been used during the 2007 season but needed some work so we decided not to run it for the first season and instead focus on maximizing sailing.

Home port and delivery options:
After considering several possible home ports on Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, we decided to base our Alberg 30, subsequently named TROIS BOULEAUX, at Lion's Head on the east side of the Bruce Peninsula. This location puts us close to the cruising grounds of Georgian Bay, the North Channel, northern Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, while keeping the drive from Waterloo or Pearson Airport to less than 3 hours.

Her home port decided, TROIS BOULEAUX's delivery options were considered. Aside from the not inconsiderable cost (about C$2,000) and coordination effort of shipping her overland, making the delivery ourselves presented an irresistible opportunity for adventure and would give us a jump on our first sailing season. We were mindful of the rather cold waters at the end of May, discussed many eventualities and safety measures, and sought advice from experienced sailors, including from Don Campbell. And in the end, we decided to deliver the yacht ourselves by sailing her from Lake Erie to Georgian Bay..

The main tasks involved preparing the yacht for delivery, nailing down the importation process, devising a sail plan, freeing up sufficient time for the delivery trip, and working through the logistics of shuttling crew and vehicles. Long lists of needed gear and action items were drawn up and David made a trip to Fairport Harbor in early May 2008 to begin preparations and to be present for the launch. But thunderstorms and unsettled weather shortened the list of what could be achieved during the preparation trip, and even a trial sail on Lake Erie had to be cancelled, although we did motor the Alberg 30 in a downpour from the travel lift to her temporary berth.

Gerry thoroughly researched the importation rules for yachts and developed plans for a number of alternative Canada Customs entry points: Pelee Island (limited hours of operation), Sombra on the St. Clair River (shallow water but willingness to send a Customs team to a nearby marina) and Sarnia (24/7 customs operation at the international bridge). As long as we remained underway, there would be no need to check in with Canada Customs, but the moment we were to stop en route, we were required to contact the Canada Border Services Agency to take care of importation requirements. This groundwork proved helpful in ensuring that we obtained the required entry number and documentation needed for subsequent registration in Ontario, the payment of taxes, and later importation of the Alberg 30's cradle, which was left behind in Ohio until September. Gerry also worked with Bruce and State officials to ensure that all required paperwork in Ohio was complete and in order, including a detailed bill of sale and a notarized transfer of ownership.

The logistics of organizing travel, ferrying crew and provisions was greatly simplified with the help of friend John Leffering who generously drove us down to Ohio and, later, delivered relief crew to Goderich, and then participated in the third and final leg of the delivery to Lion's Head. Time available for the delivery was constrained by work and family commitments. Accordingly a sail plan was developed to cover the 373 nautical miles from Fairport Harbor, Ohio to Lion's Head, Ontario, non-stop, in 84 hours (with a few additional hours in reserve). This took the currents into account in motoring up the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, and the predominant winds for sailing on lakes Erie, St. Clair, Huron and on Georgian Bay.

Delivery Leg #1: Fairport Harbor, OH to Goderich, ON (221 NM; plan 53 hrs; actual 55 hrs)

Thursday 22 May 2008: Depart Fairport Harbor,Ohio
Gerry flew in from Winnipeg and we eventually arrived at Fairport Harbor, Ohio by 7:30 pm on a mildly overcast evening. Friend John Leffering came along to assist and to return our auto back to Waterloo. The plan was to complete the essential unfinished action items from the preparation list, load remaining gear and set off into Lake Erie as soon as possible. The ship's company would consist of David as the Master, and Gerry as First Lieutenant and general crew.

With Bruce manning the wire halyard winch and Gerry snugging the spinnaker halyard as a backup, David was hoisted up the mast to attend to the topping lift. The sails were soon bent on, the 6HP outboard engine mounted on the transom, the navigation lights were checked out, gear was stowed, including a backup more powerful 8 HP outboard engine and extra safety equipment. Once all was ready, we finalized the purchase details and seller Bruce stood us a farewell brew dockside. Then at 11:30 pm, we pushed off into the night, motoring the few miles past lake freighters and docks in Fairport Harbor's industrial port and moved out towards Lake Erie.

Friday 23 May 2008: Lake Erie, Detroit River
As we passed the light at the end of the Fairport Harbor breakwater and proceeded into Lake Erie, the outboard engine (extra long shaft) on the transom of our Alberg 30 surged annoyingly in the swells of Lake Erie, a few minutes into the Friday morning of the Victoria Day weekend. The overcast sky that had threatened all evening, now produced intermittent light drizzle as we hoisted the mainsail smoothly up its PTFE-sheathed track. The light breeze filled our sail and an amazing peace settled over the yacht when we finally shut down the outboard and, warm and dry in our rain suits and layers of clothing, set a course for our first waypoint SE of Pelee Island. One of those little challenges which make sailing so irresistible (to some!) arose immediately when the Genoa refused to unfurl more that a turn or so. We checked the furling line and sheets and found them to be free, yet we were unable to turn the furler manually up on the foredeck. Suspecting a halyard wrap, we decided to wait until first light to tackle the problem. Nonetheless, our first impression of sailing on an Alberg 30, even under mainsail alone, was most favourable and in full agreement with our expectations.

Through the night, we made about 3 knots, about 1.4 knots slower than the plan. As this was, after all, a delivery we might justifiably have engaged the outboard auxiliary, but running the outboard in the swells held no appeal for us. And besides, the sailing was very pleasant with occasional passing freighters and the warm glow of Cleveland in the distance off the port bow. Owing to the weather and temperature (water 4oC, air 8oC), staying dry was our first priority. Nonetheless, David managed to get a chill during his watch, which an extra layer of trousers and a nap later set right. We settled into a watch routine but did not get much sound sleep after the day's effort in preparing the sailboat and the excitement of getting underway.

The dawn broke grey but the sky soon cleared. With daylight, it was easy to confirm that halyard wrap was indeed preventing the furler from turning, but the exact cause was not evident. Nonetheless, with a little gentle tweaking, the furler was coaxed into deploying the Genoa, thereby increasing our speed and eliminating the need for an exploratory trip up the mast at sea - an adventure we will save for another occasion! The lower speed versus plan during the night had cost us perhaps 8 nautical miles.

We continued on a reach as we sailed towards our waypoint adjacent to the international marker SE of Pelee Island. The breeze became light around mid day. David managed to get into and out of irons without waking the off-watch crew, but th ebreeze soon picked up again. We saw a few freighters and one fair sized sailboat in the distance. Once near our waypoint, it was apparent that if we proceeded as planned round the south end of Pelee Island, we could not hope to make West Dock before Canada Customs' 5:00 pm closing time. So we deferred clearing into Canada and revised our course to pass just north of Pelee Island, south of the shipping lanes, and make directly for the Detroit River. On the way we encountered several of what appeared to be commercial fishing markers, which we steered clear of, making our course at times circuitous. The leg from the northern tip of Pelee Island to the Detroit River looked like it was going to be close hauled, but the breeze backed a bit and we sailed easily directly on a close reach.

We arrived at the Detroit River Light just as the sun was setting. After a little fiddling with the furler, the Genoa was persuaded to furl, and once our fuel supply was lined up, we motorsailed into the Detroit river. We hugged the starboard side of the main shipping channel, ticking off its numbered and (mostly) illuminated red buoys one by one on our chart, as we moved steadily into the darkness. Not far up the river at a rather wide spot, strong wind gusts came up suddenly. We turned to port to head up into the wind, reduced throttle and promptly lowered the mainsail into the retractable lazyjacks that had been deployed upon entering the river. During this manoeuvre, a freighter approached from astern and, with Gerry calling from the helm for more steam, we lost no time in getting the Alberg 30 back up to speed and well over to the channel's edge.

After a couple of hours, we settled into the routine of working from buoy to buoy on the edge of the channel and resumed standing solo watches for the remainder of the night. Trouble arose with the navigation lights, or rather the battery bank, and so we deployed backup LED lights. We supplemented these with a flood light when we encountered freighters, just to ensure that we were clearly visible. Several freighters of various types passed us in both directions and one fixed its spotlight on us briefly; we saw no other pleasure craft during the night. We were not approached by any coast guard vessels as we threaded along the international boundary.

Saturday 24 May 2008: Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River to Sarnia ON
Dawn came as we passed Windsor under a grey sky, which cleared as we motored out into Lake St. Clair. The breeze was brisk and we followed the shipping lane under reefed mainsail alone (as the Genoa furler halyard wrap issue was still outstanding), making long downwind tacks in order to avoid accidental gybes in the lively waves; we did not set a preventer. The final leg of the crossing was made on a beam reach until we dropped sail at the mouth of the St Clair River and motored upstream in the warm sunny afternoon. While giving a freighter approaching from astern ample room to pass, we strayed out of the narrow channel and came gently aground on a mud bottom. Despite the favourable current and attempts to rock the yacht free, we were not able to get off. After tooting an air horn and taking a break for a snack, a cottager from the U.S.A. side came over in his power boat and kindly pulled us off. He advised us that he does this a few times per season and that we were the first this year!

Further up the St. Clair River, Gerry woke an exhausted David, who had been sleeping below, to contact by mobile phone the Canada Customs people at the small ferry crossing at Sombra, Ontario. Despite their assurances given and documented the previous week, they were unable or unwilling to send a customs team to a nearby marina with adequately deep water to receive the Alberg 30. When we arrived in front of the Sombra docks, we motored around in a circle a couple of times in a light rain shower, thinking to engage the Canada Customs official in a discussion over the water. But in the end, we came to our senses and decided that nothing was likely to be gained by debating with Customs officials on a Victoria Day weekend, so we pressed on to Sarnia - which was our final planned option for checking in with the Canada Border Services Agency.

Soon after, while Gerry was on watch, dark yellowish storm clouds of the kind that spin off funnel clouds seemed to be coming up astern. This gave our helmsman cause to ponder possible countermeasures in this constrained waterway, in the event that the threatening clouds did catch up with us, but in the end, the bad weather moved away from our course. We encountered two other sailboats motoring up the St. Clair River. At 9:00 pm Saturday, having already contacted Canada Customs Sarnia for detailed instructions, we pulled up to the fuel dock of the Bridgeview Marina where we had just made arrangements to stay over.

The clearance into Canada went smoothly. First we called the Canada Customs 800 number and gave detailed information about the vessel and its contents and an importation number was assigned. Then we walked from the marina, across the casino parking lots to the Canada Customs office at the Ambassador International Bridge. After 48 hours of straight sailing, we no doubt were a sorry exhausted sight, but the paper work went smoothly, including each geting a tax exemption as we had left Canada 48 hours before. After receiving a favourable government of Canda exchange rate for determining the GST/PST owed, we were legally checked in. Our detailed procedural check list helped ensure that we did not leave Customs without all of the required documents and information. The weather forecast for Sunday called for strong winds building to 25-30 kts late in the day. As we were in need of sleep anyhow, we decided to spend Saturday night in Sarnia and check the weather forecast on Sunday morning.

Sunday 25May 2008: Sarnia ON
Sunday morning's forecast for Lake Huron called for a fresh breeze building to 25 kts with gusts to 30 kts by midnight. In light of the unresolved furler issue and our limited experience sailing this Alberg 30, we decided to spend a day in the marina doing boat chores, including organising and cleaning lockers, securing turnbuckles with cotter pins, mixing fuel for the 8 HP two-cycle backup outboard engine, and resolving the foresail halyard wrap issue. This latter proved to be the result of the halyard shackle interfering with furler's aluminum extrusion, perhaps requiring a slightly greater take-off angle. As it turned out, the shackle was somewhat asymetrical and could be installed in two orientations, one of which interfered with the rotation of the extrusion, causing the halyard wrap. Once the Genoa was lowered and the shackle reversed, the furler operated smoothly, both at the dock and later on Lake Huron and for the balance of the season.

The 6 HP extra-long shaft Nissan outboard which had propelled us up the Detroit and St. Clair rivers was replaced with an 8HP Sailmaster outboard to help us claw our way the few hundred yards against the strong current under the Ambassador Bridge and into Lake Huron. There was very little activity in the marina, save for a few die hard boaters who were camped in the nearby campground and shivered around a campfire after nightfall. A long walk led us to a restaurant for dinner, where we soon made up for the absence of alcoholic beverages on our new yacht!

Monday 26 May 2008: Sarnia, Lake Huron, Goderich ON
The morning was cool at 3oC but sunny and we departed by 7:10 am, expertly fending off another sailboat whose bow anchor threatened to become entangled in our starboard shrouds! We motored out towards the nearby Ambassador Bridge, hugging the Canadian side as per advice received from Don Campbell. Along the way, our speed over ground indicated by GPS receiver decreased briefly to 2 kts, despite running the 8 HP engine at full throttle, indicating a contrary current of perhaps 4 kts. Once out into Lake Huron, we set off on a broad reach under reefed mainsail at better than 5 kts, steering a compass course for Goderich. This intermediate destination, rather than the top of the Bruce Peninsula, was necessary due to the unplanned 32-hour lay over in Sarnia.

The air temperature on the lake rose rapidly from about 6oC near Sarnia to a comfortable 12oC. With an estimated breeze of 16 kts on the port beam, we sailed initially under reefed mainsail, progressively adding sail as the breeze lightened. Eventually the outboard engine was run for about 3 hrs through the residual chop and we arrived at Goderich at 7:00 pm. After tying up at the fuel dock of the Maitland Valley Marina, friend Dave Rath stood us a beer and a hot meal. After some discussion, David and Gerry agreed that Goderich was as far as could be managed on this first leg of the delivery trip - the Victoria Day weekend was at an end.

After debating the options for continuing the delivery trip, Dave Rath called Greg Blair and left a message on his voicemail, declaring a sailboat alert requiring crew to continue a delivery. It was agreed. David and Gerry would return to Waterloo and Winnipeg respectively, and friends Dave Rath and Greg Blair would continue the delivery trip from Goderich later in the week.

Delivery Leg #2: Goderich to Tobermory (109 NM; plan 19 hrs; actual 28 hrs)

Friday 30 May 2008: Goderich
After a briefing on the Alberg 30 and her gear, John Leffering drove the new crew, Dave Rath and Greg Blair, to Goderich to continue the delivery. After topping up the fuel tanks, they departed Goderich at 11:45 pm, motoring north into a cold 0oC headwind for the Bruce Peninsula.

Saturday 31 May 2008: Goderich,Lake Huron, Port Elgin
At 9:00 a.m. the new crew reported its position as 2-3 hours' sailing north of Clark's Point, making 4 kts under motor alone with a north wind directly on the nose. By 10:00 a.m. the crew decided to head in towards Port Elgin for fuel and a warm meal, sailing at 6 kts under mainsail and Genoa under sunny skies, and arriving at 2:00 pm. They commented favourably on the sails and the degree of organization on the yacht which had not made her home port yet. Greg's comments are particularly useful, as he has sailed an Alberg 37 from Lake Ontario to Australia. At 8:00 pm the yacht is motored out of Port Elgin up the Bruce Peninsula towards Tobermory, now with its dodger deployed.

Sunday 01 June 2008: Port Elgin, Lake Huron, to Tobermory
At 6:45 am, the crew advise that at about 8:30 am, they will turn in towards Tobermory with an expected arrival time of about 9:30 am. This will end the second leg of the delivery. By 10:45 am David arrives at Tobermory after a 3-hour drive from Waterloo. Dave and Greg have completed tidying up the yacht and have had breakfast. The Alberg 30 looked great at the transient dock at Tobermory with her dodger deployed. We arranged with the harbour master's office to leave the Alberg 30 for a few days - no charge since their facilities are not fully up and running.

Delivery Leg #3: Tobermory to Lion's Head (37 NM; plan 7.3 hrs; actual 6 hrs)

Thursday 05 June 2008: Tobermory, Georgian Bay, to Lion's Head
John Leffering and David drove up to Lion's Head where a ride up to Tobermory had been arranged. At 11:10 am after bending on mainsail and making other preparations, the yacht is motored out of Tobermory under a cloudless sky with a fresh breeze. The mainsail is soon raised and later the Genoa as the yacht sails almost due east on a run across the top of the Bruce Peninsula. After about 3 hours, a southerly course is set for the run down the east side of the Bruce Peninsula to Lion's Head. The wind is now somewhat ahead of the beam and John sails close hauled, sometimes burying the rail and, at times, exceeding 6 kts. As the land was approached, the waves decreased significantly due to the shorter fetch available to the SW breeze. The Alberg 30 was hove to, yielding a very peaceful condition, while the mainsail was lowered and secured. The Genoa then provided propulsion to the Lion's Head harbour entrance where it was furled and the Alberg 30 eased into her new home.


The purchase, planning and delivery of the Alberg 30 from Fairport Harbor, Ohio to Lion's Head, Ontario made a great experience. The delivery covered a distance of 366 nautical miles in 89 hours underway (compared with a sail plan of 79 hours) for an average speed of 4.1 kts. Many hours went into planning and discussions in advance of the trip. Our preparations were detailed and the result was that the challenge of this significant delivery trip was undertaken without any major surprises or risks.

The transportation logistics along the way were probably the most interesting and changeable aspects of the trip, and required frequent brainstorming on alternatives so that the delivery mission could be completed. Gerry was always eager and willing to embark on this adventure and the successful outcome of the trip also benefited from David's knowledge of sailing the yacht and persistent attention to navigation. On our first outing with this Alberg 30, we undertook a sailing experience that few recreational sailors would ever tackle. The trip was an exciting and memorable adventure and a very good beginning. A thorough exploration of the Great Lakes over the coming years seems entirely within the capabilities of this admirable yacht and her crew. The delivery trip was made possible in no small measure by family members and friends who pitched in to make the logistics work and maintain our family responsibilities.