Tin Lizzie – Season 1

This whole thing was highly speculative. We bought a very cool boat, sort of within budget and sort of fitting my flimsy use case.

So, how was the summer? In a word, spectacular. Tin Lizzie is a keeper.

Sure, there were setbacks. There always will be. I’m having a new rudder built this winter at non-trivial expense, and it was disappointing not to complete a GLSS event.

I joked about the bare bones interior until I spent a very cold and rainy few weeks living aboard in the spring. Then I started cursing it. I had the J/29 as sort of a low-end standard going in. TL falls well below that.

But wow, the sailing. I’m not sure if it came through in the blog, but I had a blast. The boat was better than I had dared to hope it would be. Fast, easy to handle, and comfortable to sail. I had endless fun playing with the instrumentation and electronics. The autopilot exceeded my high expectations. The weather was near perfect after I left Chicago, and I had a string of gorgeous overnight passages.

It’s been more than a month since we hauled TL, and it’s been fun roaming the waterfronts of Halifax and Toronto this month. I never tire of looking at sailboats, and now that I’m a semi-committed stinkpotter I pay attention to power boats too. But I have to say I don’t suffer any boat envy these days. Here’s TL next to an Olson 911 and a J/33.

Cool boat! I’m already plotting and scheming about season two. And rationalizing the ongoing expenses of keeping the fleet. Gulp. I’m going to blog about the economics of recreational boating some time. It’s an interesting topic.

Tin Lizzie – the purchase

I’m trying to take up roughly from this post. If I ever get organized I’ll try to package things up a bit better. Anyway…

I first got thinking about owning another keelboat last fall. I was hanging out at Crowley’s having done a complete loop of the four lower great lakes on Mazurka and getting ready to head south.

I’ve really enjoyed the power boat thing more than I expected, but long open water trips under power really aren’t my thing. Boring at my normal slow speed and wasteful/expensive at higher speeds.

While there I went through an old J35 that was for sale. Cheap – under 10k – a bit rough, but seemingly solid. I’ve always liked those boats. I also roughed out a possible plan for ownership, where I would base the boat there but head for Ontario for the summer. Move aboard in the spring, go sailing for 3-4 months, return to Chicago for the fall. And I could cover a large part of the cost of ownership by helping out at the yard during the peak spring and fall seasons.

I noodled on this over the winter. Thought some more about my use case, and about the realities of owning a 35 year old J boat. What bubbled up to the top for me was that I really wanted to do some racing in the boat, specifically single-handed or short handed distance racing. And there is an active and accessible offshore series the the Great Lakes run by the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society. And when I thought of the J/35 I inevitably started thinking about adding a water ballast system to maintain performance when solo.

It turns out that my needs are almost mainstream now. Just look at the target audience for the exciting new J/99. Go read about the boat. Pretty cool, and I’ll circle back and mention it again I’m sure. To give a sense of price, a recent review estimated US$225k sail away.

Anyway, back to my world. I was cruising around Florida in Mazurka dreaming of a $10k boat that I could race and sail fast single-handed through the great lakes. I figured that whatever boat I bought would need mods, so say 10k for that right away. I also figured that just about anything would do in terms of liveaboard comfort. My standards are pretty low. The performance expectations were sort of locked in with my dalliance with the J/35. But trying to get and keep that boat in any reasonable racing form on a shoestring budget seemed impossible. And I didn’t want to devote my life to repairing rotten coring.

With all that in mind, I saw an ad on Kijiji in late February and immediately recognized the boat from the description and location. I called the seller, rented a car in South Carolina, and drove up to Ontario a few days later. Soon after that we had a deal.

I should say that while I took a 25 year break from larger boats I didn’t stop looking at them. Whenever I pass by a marina or storage yard I stop and look around. This boat had caught my eye in 2017, when I saw it sitting on the trailer in Port Stanley while visiting in Mazurka. I had visited the club a few times over the years, and knew of the owner and the boat, but hadn’t seen it previously. When I saw it I liked it right away, and read up on the Whitbread/Mount Gay 30 then.

The design seemed to aligned with my needs very well, particularly the stability requirements and water ballast system to facilitate short handed racing. While I hadn’t had any experience with alloy construction I had confidence in the builder/owner, and didn’t see anything during my inspection to scare me off.

I picked up the boat in May and took it to Chicago by land.

Narwhal V

The boat is a Dash 34, designed in the early 1980s by Laurie Davidson. Check out the paint job.

Patrick, the man on the right, has owned the boat since new. That’s his friend David on the left. The three of us went for a sail today out of RNSYS in Halifax. My other friend David caught up with us in the harbour a bit later after hitching a ride on another boat, and we ended up sailing to Bedford and leaving the boat there.

Tomorrow the forecast is for NW winds, which means a spinnaker sail back down the basin for the return trip.

I’ve known Patrick for a long time, and have sailed with him on several boats. One of my most memorable sailing experiences was from 1979, when he and I and a non-sailing friend of mine sailed his Bombardier 7.6 Narwhal III from Chester to Halifax in the same storm that went on to kill people in the Fastnet race. It was incredibly windy, probably the most wind I’ve ever sailed in. We had a double reefed main only. Planed down the coast and then as the wind veered NW had a lot of trouble beating up the harbour. We finally got in around midnight. That was before mobile phones, and we didn’t have a radio. Our families had been pacing the docks for hours.

Patrick in his quest for speed under sail moved up to a Kirby 30, and then the Dash 34, which was built in 1984. He had it heavily customized at build with an oversized rig and a diesel inboard.

In 1986 I started sailing on the boat as helmsman. For the next few years Patrick was very busy with his medical practice and family commitments, but he encouraged and supported me and a young crew as we aggressively campaigned the boat without him. This is the crew in 1986 winning the RNSYS opening regatta

We campaigned the boat hard for three seasons. Put a new keel on in 1988. Raced the Marblehead-Halifax in 1987. Won a lot of trophies and grew as a team.

I left Nova Scotia for good in the fall of 1988, but went back to race the Marblehead-Halifax again in 1989, this time with Patrick aboard. In a fast race we finished in 48 hours and won our class. It was sort of a fitting end to a big chapter in my sailing story. The boat was not seriously raced after that.

Patrick is now 80, and has trouble handling the boat by himself. At the insistence of his family and friends the boat now has a small roller furling jib, which he hates. But he has excitedly reminded me several times that he still has big spinnakers aboard. We’ll get one up tomorrow.

Edit/update: Had a nice sail back to Halifax Saturday. These pics were taken as we left Bedford by my friend Andrew.

After we dropped the spinnaker in the harbour and started to go upwind we heard a loud noise and discovered that the main bulkhead was starting to come apart around the chainplate. Fixable, but it ended our sailing for the day. We motored back to RNSYS. So it goes with 35 year old boats…

I’m glad I made the trip. Nice to catch up with old friends and sailing companions, and to have David’s son Allister and mast man extraodinaire Scott join us on Saturday.

Toronto, settled

I’ve been offered a slip at Marina Quay West for the winter, and negotiated a slightly reduced rate there for the remainder of the season.

I expect to be there in the next few days to get the boat secured, then largely on shore travelling until the end of October. Then back on Mazurka getting buttoned down for winter.

Living aboard in downtown Toronto is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m starting to get excited.

I’m still anchored in Outer Harbour. Took a long convoluted bus/train ride back to Kingston NY and retrieved my car yesterday. In a moment of unrealistic optimism I registered last week for the Snipe Canadians in Etobicoke this weekend. I’m not going to race but will cruise over there to say hello and watch some racing tomorow, and explore the area west of downtown in more detail


It feels kind of weird to be here in Mazurka. I’ve gotten close, but this is the first time in this end of Lake Ontario.

I arrived – as usual – without a plan. I stopped in at Marina Quay West – more on that later – and after touring the islands I’m anchored here in the Outer Harbour. Nice secure spot, but I’m pretty much trapped on the boat because the dinghy motor refuses to start. Could be because it was dragged underwater for a while last week 🙂

It’s been a leisurely trip along the north shore of the lake. Yesterday I stopped in Newcastle for lunch. Nice spot.

Last night I anchored in Whitby and today came over to Toronto. I stopped at every port in between.

I’ve been thinking seriously about wintering here, living aboard the boat in the water. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. There are winter slips in two of the inner harbour marinas. I will be applying for one tomorrow, and looking for a spot to park Mazurka for a few weeks while I do some land travel. The winter slip doesn’t become available until late October.

Crossing My Wake

That’s it. I can claim my gold flag for completing the Great Loop. I crossed my wake today as I reached the north shore of Lake Ontario. I’m anchored here, just east of where I left Bowmanville more than 13 months ago.

Some quick stats:

Distance: 5,815 nautical miles; 6,692 statute miles; 10,770 km

Motor hours: 893

Generator hours: 299

Fuel used: 1,523 gallons; 5,757 l

GPH: 1.7

MPG: 4.4

Home Again…

Yesterday was an easy run up to Oswego from Phoenix. The locks were all waiting for me and I was at Lake Ontario by lunch time. It was a nice calm afternoon so I headed out immediately across the lake.

I set a course for Brighton, but decided to poke into Wellington as I went by. Glad I did. I stopped for dinner just inside the entrance to West Lake, then continued on to anchor here. Pretty cool spot with the dunes between West Lake and Lake Ontario.

Today I moved a mile or so away to anchor near the start of a Gran Fondo ride I’m doing tomorrow with family members, and we’re gathered at Sarah’s farm nearby for the weekend.

Mazurka was in the US for 360 days, entering at Sault Ste Marie last September 10. It’s nice to be back in home waters!

My plan is to head for Toronto early next week.


I’m docked in Phoenix. There are a couple of Canadian boats here heading south. And I guess technically I’ve crossed my wake and competed the great loop, though I’ll save marking that until I get back to Ontario. But wanted to mark it here just in case I get hit by a bus tomorrow. Love that euphemism.

Yesterday was nice. Quiet and uneventful. I stopped in Little Falls for lunch, and stayed at Lock 20 just above Utica last night.

A couple of the locks had vertical gates, like this one.

Today saw a little more adventure. I got underway around 0730, and a front went through shortly after with some heavy rain, and behind that a pretty brisk wind. I didn’t give the weather a lot of thought until I got to Lake Oneida. It was pretty rough with a 20 knot breeze blowing straight down the 25 mile long lake.

Shortly after entering the lake I was on the flybridge. We were bashing into the waves at about ten knots and i noticed we’d slowed down a bit. It didn’t take long to find the problem.

The new line I had installed in Kingston for the davits had failed, and the dinghy had fallen and flipped. Never trust cord from a hardware store! The dinghy was upside down and was being dragged sideways as I had a cable on the motor attached to one corner and the painter attached to the other. One side of the RIB was completely flat, as it has a slow leak and I hadn’t pumped it up since leaving the boat in May.

In any case, I managed to get it upright and tow it the rest of the day. Bit of work to get things sorted while bouncing around in the lake. I got the outboard off this evening and pulled the plugs to drain the water out of the cylinders. Think I’ll throw the boat away. It’s at end of life.

I made a short video of us coming up the lake after getting the dinghy upright. I’d gotten soaked from the spray up top at that point and was taking shelter in the cockpit.

Fun day!

Tomorrow should be an easy run up to Oswego.

Eastern Erie Canal

I’ve traveled the Erie Canal between Oswego and Tonawanda several times, but this section is new to me. I like it.Yesterday I was underway from 0800 to 1700 with a brief lunch stop in Schenectady. Nice day, variable overcast and calm. I left Waterford and climbed through 10 locks, stopping for the night just above lock 11 in Amsterdam.I rained last night and this morning. I waited out the rain and got underway around noon, and came up to Riverfront Park in Canajoharie. There are two eastbound boats here tonight.The Mohawk River valley is pretty around here. I took a bunch of pictures yesterday. This one was first. It was neat being in a pool with an invisible dam looking out over the valley.So I took a sequence of pictures going through lock 7.