West coast of New England
In my long march (or stumble) towards this fall’s Vendee Globe start, I’ve certainly wound up in some interesting places over the past few years. I’m happy to say that some of the most intriguing places and people are right here in the good ol’ USA.
This weekend I made a long-planned appearance at one of our country’s longest lakes, at the request of the Lake Champlain Yacht Club in Burlington, Vermont. As a sailor long based on the Pacific Ocean, It gave me quite a chuckle to hear an LCYC member refer to their location as “the west coast of New England.” But it’s true: since you can travel from New York via the Hudson river canal to Lake Champlain and from the lake to the great St. Lawrence waterway via the Richelieu canal, New England is bordered on all sides by water. The great northeast (including Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, and (Canada’s) Nova Scotia is one big island!
Although much of the lake is covered with ice at the moment, it has an avid sailing community with many great sailors. Now and then I’ve heard people tell me that “the US isn’t really into sailing”, but I think maybe they are missing our rich sailing and nautical heritage reaching from our ocean coastlines to the great lakes and the thousands of other big lakes like Lake Champlain. Whether on clipper ships, schooners, freighters, cruising yachts, tugs, ferries, fishing boats, ski boats, or iceboats, we have historically spent a LOT of time on the water.
I was picked up at the Portland airport by LCYC members Chuck and Denny Bowen with Chuck’s Cessna 172, and then had fun flying the plane almost half of the 2.5hr flight to Burlington. There was quite a headwind from the northwest and at one point we were at full throttle trying to maintain our IFR planned altitude against a huge downwashing air “wave” that slowed us to a mere 35kts ground speed! I pointed out that I have gone nearly as fast on Ocean Planet…;-)
My hosts for the weekend, Ernie & Bette Reuter, had a busy weekend planned for me in addition to my appearance at the club. Conditions weren’t good for iceboating, but I had a ride on one of the lake ferries that runs year-round no matter how much ice there is. Check it out, here this is on the edge of the lake not 100ft from the ferry wharf:
Here’s the view from the ferry plowing through the ice (don’t try this with your boat!):
Just to find out if singlehanded racers really are that tough, I was taken on a short x-county skating ski trip:
Afterwards it was off to the club for their annual meeting and my talk, which was a great time.
The clock is racing against me, and although every day missed working on Ocean Planet is costly, it was great to meet such great people and share my Around Alone adventure and Vendee globe plans with such a hardy and supportive crowd. Thanks to Ernie, Bette, Chuck, and everyone and the LCYC who made it this weekend a nice break from sanding on the boat…;-)
Bruce Schwab, Skipper
USA 05/Ocean Planet