Thursday, November 5, 2009

Romaine River Trip - Sailing

The vast expanse of Lac Brule lay in front of us -
40 kms to be exact!

Yes, that's correct, the subject is sailing. I know we went on a trip with canoes, but that's the versatility of this craft. It can be utilized in other ways to effect travel! The experienced paddlers out there know when to harness the wind under the ideal circumstances to move the boat without paddling. Why not? Its an opportunity to have fun, relax, enjoy the scenery and still get from point A to B. What's not to love about that?

Ben lashing the spruce poles to the canoes to hold them
apart as well as forcing them to move together

We had just entered Lac Brule on day 2, a huge lake stretching 40 kms southward. We knew it was going to be a long paddle, but luckily a steady tailwind gently nudged our boats along. After a shoreline lunch, we noted the winds picking up and small whitecaps appearing. Once back out in the open, a light bulb immediately went off in my head and all I could think of was sailing. We certainly weren't exerting much effort as the wind and fairly large swells pushed us along, but I figured sailing would be even better! The only problem was either shoreline was quite a distance from where we were for us to get set up. However, looking at the map a prime opportunity presented itself. We would be passing through a few islands soon and that's where I wanted to stage our build. I relayed my intentions to the rest of the guys and we headed directly for the leeward side of the island.

For a quick and easy set-up, a tarp was lashed between
2 semi-flexible poles for the bowmen to hold

Once on shore, a couple guys proceeded to obtain 2 long spruce poles to lash the canoes together into a catamaran, while the other two got poles for the tarp-sail. After the prep work and build was done, we discussed execution/safety issues before heading off. Barely pushing the "sailboat" off from shore, the wind immediately caught the sail and pulled at the canoes like wild horses! Ben could barely hold on! After a few quick snapshots, I jumped into the other stern seat and off we went!

Once the wind caught the sail, the catamaran was rearing
to go!, with Ben barely hanging on!

We were all thrilled and amazed at how well our "sailboat" worked. We were even happier to be speeding down the big lake effortlessly! Occasionally we wondered about the integrity of the tarp fabric straining against the wind or the adjoining poles creaking and groaning under pressure, but they both held up superbly. We even worried a bit about filling with water as the swells that got compressed between the canoes easily spilled over the gunwales, but it never got too serious. We were so hooked on sailing at the moment that nothing else mattered, other than the fact that we also instantly became speed adrenaline-junkies!We couldn't determine exactly how fast we were moving, but we figured based on time and distance from the island, we covered 9 kms in the first hour! That's blazing fast for canoe travel on flat water!

Rob and Dimitry give their approval as we flew down the lake!
They were sporting "perma-smiles"!

Of course in time, all good things including tailwinds end. We luxuriated in the setting sun, admired the scenery and enjoyed each other's company on account of the wind, but "she" ran out of breath and we all eventually had to pull out the paddles when the sail finally flopped. We paddled our catamaran as a foursome the last 2-3 kms to the waiting beach campsite at the end of Lac Brule. We certainly couldn't complain, as we were most lucky and fortunate to have experienced sailing this way. In the end it was a great day, covering 40 kms total and having the wind look after a third of that distance. We had just started the trip and by all accounts, if this was a sign of things to come, we were looking forward with more anticipation than ever!

What an awesome experience; sailing down a huge lake
on a beautiful day barely breaking a sweat!! Who
says you can't paddle and sail at the
same time!
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