First Sail of the Season… to the Blueberry Shoal (and some flashbacks)


After being forced, for family reasons, to miss the Canada Day Messabout in Aylmer Island ( (sorry Kirill and Natalia!), yesterday, July 4th, Sassy was finally able to undock for a short afternoon day-sail. It was a gorgeous day (the hottest so far this summer) with a sky as seen on the picture above. The wind was light, at about 5 Kts from the South but not too erratic. The picture shows Sassy on sail, in a leisurely starboard close-reach, aiming at the K4 red marker (seen in the distance, almost coinciding with the port shroud), with the city of Ottawa in the background.

Of course, the K4 marker was left to port to avoid the “Blueberry shoal” (not named in any chart but well known by that very name to all local sailors). The waters in the Ottawa river were still high (60 cm or a couple of feet above datum) and with the centerboard up Sassy should have been able to make it through quite easily. However, it never hurts to respect the aids to navigation.


Years ago, one early and windy morning, while sailing up-river along the Ontario shore, close-hauled in a port-tack, in “Vándor” (a superb Alberg 22), I saw across the lake, another sailboat sailing also up-river, in a similar point of sail, close to the northern Quebec shore. We were the only two boats on sight on the lake. She was approaching the Blueberry shoal head-on and I wondered when she would tack to avoid it. She didn’t. Instead, suddenly she stopped, and there she stood for a minute or two, frozen in all her sailing glory, still heeling to starboard with the sails full in the morning breeze. I tacked and headed towards her but by the time I was about to reach the K4 marker her skipper had doused sails and had freed the keel by motoring aft on the auxiliary. I waved, and in reply he placed both his hands to one side of his face to let me know that he had dosed off at the tiller: his handsome boat had sailed “in the groove” and into the Blueberry entirely by herself…

Sassy so far has been lucky. In her ten-year existence she has never come aground (knock timbers…), although her keel did touch bottom a couple of times while anchored in shallow waters, in the small coves of Georgian Bay. The same is not true for her skipper: during his quarter-of-a-century as a sailor he has come aground several times, once on the other major shoal in Lac Deschenes, the one ending West at the K1 green marker: the “Britannia shoal” (the name could be mine, as I do not recall it being called by that or by any other name). However, that is an entirely different story…