Come Sail Away
Wednesday March 9 2011
Most boaters choose a life on the water because they feel a kinship with the marine world and some tend to use it as a form of Meditation to connect with Mother Nature at the Hamilton Harbourfront. Here, the sailor in his or her meditation touch base with their inner self using the calming effect of the waterfront where the environment is the atmosphere of Lake Ontario. And, the sailors must develop an awareness of their damaging footprints on the landscape ! Therefore, Dieter Loibner, an Australian yachting journalist in the U.S. book title says it all: “Sustainable Sailing.” This book addresses the increasing impact of sailing on the environment and explains how sailors can be a positive force for change. Sustainable use of our coastal inland Lake Ontario can be assisted by (1) removing any plant, fish, animal matter and mud by draining water from the craft and equipment; (2) be aware when cleaning their craft detergents many contain phosphates which are pollutants and cause oxygen depletion’s that leads to suffocation of aquatic life; (3) boat exhaust emissions – carbon monoxide , hydrocarbons (such as motoring yachts) , nitrogen oxides – are harmful to both marine life and the planet; (5 ) by being respectful of waterfowl and slowing down upon approach, (6) Waste and sewage are a problem and rule of thumb is to dump them at marine facilities. Furthermore, cruise ships impact our sailing environment as they dump 210,000 gallons of sewage weekly, which is not sustainable sailing. Enjoyment of sailing depends on HIGH QUALITY WATER ENVIRONMENT which can only be maintained and protected by the collective effort of sailors and the marine industry to avoid the environmental impacts of sailing by using “Sustainable Sailing” procedures.
On a lovely sunny morning, the north-east wind was already strongly blowing white horses (whitecaps) on the waves in Hamilton Harbour that seemed refreshing. I was watching my friends in a Harbour race boat, a Mahogany Hull Boat, a nice teak wood chestnut-colour that almost reminds you of horses. The secret of these race boats is the Bow being V-shaped rather than U-shaped which made them lift out of the water and ‘plane’ along the top of the water, whenever the wind was strongly blowing. Sail boats have ‘planed’ for many years, like a ‘lift and go.’ Archaeologists tell us the first sign of ‘Sailing Ships’ appeared in Egypt or Mesopotamia around 3,500 B.C. The Egyptians also used “sailing ships”( or, Padao – a type of Indian sail boat ) to transport people and their goods around the Nile River. The Vikings took their place in the Atlantic Ocean with 80 ft. wide and 70 m. long :Long Boats. The sailor’s ‘playing field’ of wind and water is constantly changing, which is unlike other sports. Sailing is harnessing the power of Mother Nature ! And, sailors need a healthy respect for her power ! The wind changes strength and direction while waves or currents change the water. The wind rules a sailboat sailor’s universe; it is the alpha and omega of sailing. Sailing then is using the windpower to move the sails. Any sailboat can hit the Eye of the Wind at a point where the wind blows directly to the observer, sometimes it is called Eyebolt. The Bow of the boat can be turned away from the Eye of the Wind, termed “Bearing Away.” You may have heard Movie Stars use that term on a ship. Or, by use of the “Jibe” the Stern can be turned so the sailboat (or yacht) crosses through the Eye of the Wind. By Jibing, it changes the side of the sailboat that the sails are carried (this is opposite of Tacking). In Jibing the sailboat goes into and across the flow of the wind. Here, the sail empties of wind on one side and the Boom swings gently across the boat and the sail fills up with wind on the other side.
Historicaly First Nations Canadian Indians who lived in villages around Hamilton Harbour on the west-end of Lake Ontario named it “Macassa Bay” meaning ‘beautiful water.’ The Sailing Clubs historically and currently are basically available to people with lavish lifestyles, not the average working person ! Membership to exclusive yacht clubs including their lounges and bars have been viewed extravagant packages during a time of economic challenge in our country today. Yet, people do sail, and Hamilton Harbour provides unique geography providing shelter for the beginner and interesting winds for the seasoned sailor of RHYC, Macassa Bay Yacht Club, Leander Boat Club and Sailing School. The first Royal Hamilton Yacht Club (RHYC) was built in the 1860s and the current clubhouse was built in 1915, after the WW1 fire in 1915. The name “Royal” was not attached to this Hamilton Yacht Club until it was granted by Queen Victoria of England and the Commonwealth. Today, Prince Charles is RHYC’s patron. Following Prince Charles naval pursuits are his brother Prince Andrew and his son Prince William ( who has served Navy, Air Force and Army). The coveted Prince of Wales Cup Race is termed a Championship and the winning team members are Champions winning the Water-Jug Trophy. In Hamilton, in 1896, the boat Zelina captured the coveted Prince of Wales Cup. In small boat sailing circles this Prince Of Wales Cup is raced for in other countries. For example, Sir Peter Scott and his crew in 1937 entered the race at Lowestoft, England. Until that time, the wooden masts of sail boats were varnished, then they changed to aluminum. Their boat was called Thunder, a 14 foot thoroughbred built with precision and artistry of a violin. They narrowly on this 4th attempt won the Prince of Wales Cup just 16 seconds ahead of the 46 competitors. And, in 1952, one of this crew went on to win the Olympic Silver Medal in a single-handed class in Helsinki. Today, yacht clubs also run various Regattas in sailboat races. It is interesting that a book entitled – In The Eye Of The Wind – the forward is written by Prince Charles. This book is about the experiences of two young sailors and explorers during the Operation Drake 1979 – 1980. This book is not about the flagship Eye of the Wind ! But, the Eye of the Wind flagship is a beautiful Brigantine (tall ships) boat which is still in service after 99 years at sea. Today, the customers pay for its fuel and maintenance, and the stories have changed from adventurous to sightseeing and historical voyages. There is today The Toronto Brigantine: Tall Ship Adventures for youth run in Summer Training Programs. The name Brigantine comes from the Italian word Brigantino meaning Pirate Ships. As Long John Silver aptly said: “Shiver Me Timbers ! ” Brigantine is a two-masted sailing ship with square rigging, sometimes called hermaphrodite brigs , or, brig-schooners. The term Brigantine originated with two masted ships powered by oars on which pirates, or sea brigards, terrorized the Mediterranean in the 16th Century. But, in Northern Europe Brigantines became purely a sailing ship. At Port Dover on Lake Erie just one hour south of Hamilton, there was a Brigantine (Tall Ship) on display in 2,009. Hamilton Public Library’s Archives has many photos and postcards of Schooners and Brigantines in the early years of Hamilton Harbour which are well worth taking the time to look at their unique sails..
In Wetlands the water can be very shallow, depending on drainage and rainfall. Here a different boat is utilized sometimes called a Dinghy Boat with two oars on the side. In the mid twentieth century especially in England sailors and hunters used Black Boats. Their name came from the tar and pitch material used to make them watertight. A favorite boat was called a Jolly Boat for racing because of its speed and fun. In Hamilton Harbour sailing occurs all year round as in winter Ice-Boating is very popular. The Ice-Boat is powered by wheels and the wind of the sail. This year is a bumper crop of ice, so ice-boaters are enjoying a long season. Down the road on Lake Ontario, is Peterborough famous for their Peterborough Canoes. We are fortunate to have beautiful water (Hamilton Harbour) at the northern end of our city on the western-tip of Lake Ontario. As Sir Peter Scott said when he came to Canada to race in the Prince Of Wales Race: ” There were new problems and new skills to be acquired; as Lake Ontario is thirty miles wide at Toronto, and being freshwater it can provide a shorter, steeper, nastier sea than you will find anywhere on salt water.” Therefore, you do not have to travel the world to encounter a challenge while sail-boating or yachting. No matter what ‘sailing ship’ you plan to use in Hamilton Harbour this Spring to Fall season you can be sure you will be – Slip, Sliding Away – by using “Sustainable Sailing ” procedures over Hamilton Harbour’s “Macassa Bay , or, beautiful waters.
Source: One Hundred Years and Still Sailing; In The Eye of the Wind, young explorers; Eye of the Wind, Peter Scott; Sustainable Sailing
Doug Worrall Photographer