The Adventures of JOINT VENTURE – Chapter I
(1975 Alberg 37 Yawl, Hull # 147)

Ken and Anita Tillotson

July 30, 2005


Joint Venture


As a famous writer once started his novel “It was the best of times, it was the worse of times.”  Watching our scarred veteran boat become a gleaming young beauty, we felt a deep sense of satisfaction.  But it has come at a high price in frustration. Anyone who has ever been through this process will understand.  The romantic dream becomes reality very slowly and with many setbacks. 


Here is a run down of why the boat took a month longer to paint than anticipated:  The deck required more attention than originally thought. A bow repair done in the past was done in shoddy fashion with nonstructural material and so this had to be addressed to make the boat seaworthy. This caused a 2-3 week delay in itself.

The primer coat showed small pin holes apparently caused by too hot of a gel coat when the boat was built.  These had to be filled by hand and primed again several times before the paint could be applied.

The bottom was sanded and revealed major fractures in the keel.  This was repaired with fiberglass.


The cradle pads could not be moved to paint underneath  as too much of the boat’s full weight was being supported by them.  It was necessary to hire the marina’s travel lift to move her to the yard and put her on jack stands.  For the next weeks, we climbed a long ladder and worked on the installation of the new electric winch, plumbing and electrical projects.



The workers had to come to the yard to finish putting the hatch covers, and other odds and ends, etc.  The wind blew fine dust all over our newly painted boat and small stones made their way to the deck even with everyone taking their shoes off.  The original deck fittings now did not fit and it took weeks of frustration to get some of it fixed. 


The engine needed to have a heat exchanger installed to keep the salt water away from the engine parts.  The marine diesel mechanic started his work in early June.  He would come at 4:00pm, decide he needed a tool or part and leave.  Two or three days later he would do the same thing. 



After over a month of sleeping at my daughter’s home, we moved onto the boat.  The forepeak bunk was the only cleaned area of the boat.  Tools and parts covered every other surface.  We ate fast food, and used the

 marina washrooms.


On June 29th we were launched and towed to the newly built dock in front of the Marina building.  It appeared to be a  big improvement over the ‘gravel pit’ as I had come to think of it even though we were sitting on our bottom in the mud. In fact we were dragged sideways to that dock after the masts were raised.


Work progressed slowly on the engine as we continued to install, organize and store an impossible number of things.  People were surprised to find that we had not left yet.

Compounding our difficulties was the extreme heat wave. The temperature every day was in the thirties (centigrade) and very humid.


The one bright spot was the Alberg Rendezvous.  We thoroughly enjoyed meeting many of the Alberg owners and hearing about their adventures.  As newcomers to this group, we were made to feel welcome.


Ken with Ron &Eileen Holmes


Eventually the sails were on, a surround by Genco had been installed, a new barbeque mounted, and numerous lights and fans installed to make us much more comfortable.

The engine was started!  It still needed some things installed and adjusted but we were close!


We finally  received the hardware to install the cockpit teak table.  This is the culmination of a series of mistakes by the seller….first we realized in the spring that the hardware to attach the table to the binnacle guard was the wrong size.  The seller was informed and we were asked to send back the wrong size and they would send the right one. We were sent brackets but without the proper hinges to mount the table. The seller was informed of this error & a new shipment with the correct brackets & hinges. That done, we waited and waited but the new shipment never arrived.  We traced it and found that they had got the address wrong. They sent it to 254 Epworth instead of 245 Epworth . But  by this time, it had been returned to the Nova Scotia distributor.  It was arranged that it would be shipped again and we gave them the Marina’s address.  We should expect it in two days.  A week went by and no shipment.  The seller said it was delivered and the Marina staff said it was not received.  Erin, of the Marina staff, had a hunch and checked with the nearby marine store and there it was, delivered to the wrong address again.  She was pleased to bring it to us.  Excitedly, we opened the package and it was the wrong hardware!!!

After several conversations with the seller, they agreed to send us the right hardware by UPS.  Today it arrived and it is the right item.   Just another ongoing source of frustration finally resolved.


We kept organizing and stowing items.  We kept pushing ourselves to be ready to leave.  Then disaster!  In taking an old fire extinguisher out of the cabin, it fell and discharged it’s contents all over the cabin!  What a mess.  Ken and I spent most of the day trying to clean this stuff up.  The stress is getting to us.  I could not control my tears at this latest reversal. 

As usual, we finally talked out our feelings and moved on.  At 11:00 pm that night, we went shopping for staples.

The next day, we put everything away, making a master list of where everything was stowed so hopefully when I want a can of tuna, I’ll be able to find it.  Every nook and crevice is full.  A day later we took the boat out to test the engine and the new ‘Campbell Sailer’ prop.  The engine ran smoothly and the prop had us moving at a higher speed than would have been the case with the old prop.  The captain was very pleased.  We seemed to be in good shape, so we planned to leave the next day, Saturday, July 15.


The next morning we were up and ready to go.  I could hardly believe it after all this time. 

I’m on the dock with the bow line in my hand; the engine is running sweetly; and Ken puts the engine in reverse.  At once a terrible grinding erupts.  Ken turns the engine off and we stare at each other stupefied.  What on earth has happened?  After a  minute to compose ourselves, Ken gets into his shorty wetsuit, mask and flippers and dives down to look at the prop.  He finds to his amazement that the prop blades have all been bent backwards and the rudder is damaged.  Little did we know how badly this damage would turn out to be! The natural thought is that the shaft has come out and backed into the rudder, particularly since the engine had just finished being worked on.


A “Harbour Day” celebration is underway this weekend so we can’t get the boat hauled until Monday.  Saturday night, while everyone is whooping it up and fire works are going off, it is a very quiet pair on Joint Venture.  My brother tries to convince us to join in and have a beer, etc. but we are just too discouraged and decline.  Monday, the boat is towed to the marina dock and hauled out of the water.  What a sight the prop and the rudder are.  The first thing everyone says is how on earth did this damage occur.  No one had ever seen anything like it.




The boat is taken to the Whitby Boat Works where Alex tells us he can fix the rudder but it will not be done until Thursday or Friday.  We resign ourselves to living on the hard again.  It turns out that the prop cannot be fixed.  Ken orders a new one to be shipped to an address we will provide later.  The original old prop will have to do in the interim.  The shaft was not the cause of the damage and we guess that something got in between the prop and the ruddder.  We will never really know.  Just a case of bad luck is the consensus.       In the meantime…some of the work done by the workers from Custom fiberglass repairs was not adequate, so Lewis offered one of his more skilled workers to fix these deficiencies while we were on dry-dock anyhow. After 5 days in the sling the rudder repair was complete. Although the rudder was badly damaged and split down the back, the lower portion of the rudder had long term water ingress and associated wetness. The lower 2/3 of the material in the rudder had to be replaced due to prior damage in years gone by. The rudder repair was done with a great deal of skill and workmanship and is now stronger than it ever was.


Saturday, July 23

Finally, the work is done, we’re launched and are once again ready to leave.


Ken, Chelsey and myself just before we leave.



The engine/prop/rudder have not been tested but we pay our bill and say good bye to fellow Alberg owners, Wayne and Cindy (Leeway II). We put the engine in grinding.  We smoothly make our way out onto the lake and turn our bow towards the east.  As we motor sail along at 6.5 knots Ken decides to shut the engine down  for a while. After several hours the wind drops and the engine is restarted but starts to overheat almost immediately.  Ken adds glycol  to the cooling system which seems to solve the problem. It is clear now that that there is a leak in the new closed heat exchanger system that was installed by Durham Marine. Ken feared that it was leaking and had indicated so to Winston. Winston  had said it was just shrinkage from the engine cooling. The wind is strong from the south west and good size waves push us along.  The boat surges and rolls and I am very seasick.  I sleep off and on all day and by evening I am feeling well enough to stand my 3 hour watches.  The wind has also dropped and the lake is smoother. 


Sunday,  July 24

The next morning dawns hot and clear with a nice following sea and we arrive in Kingston in the afternoon. The Kingston Yacht Club is full  so we head for Portsmouth Olympic Marina.    We now feel that we are on our way! We share a glass of wine with some folks on a 1971 vintage 48 ft Hughes Yawl  and soon after returning to the boat ,we are asleep.


Monday,  July 25

We sail out of Kingston on a soft following sea headed for Morrisburg where we hope to visit briefly with friends, Ray and Christine.  The engine heat gauge continues to indicate a rise in temperature.  Ken adds glycol & water which brings down the temperature.  It is becoming obvious that the coolant is leaking away.  Ken notes that the oil level is also showing leakage.  This was supposed to be fixed by the mechanic in Whitby!  It is a beautiful day with very little wind so we motor with one eye on the temperature gauge.  Darkness is falling as we find the free dock at Morrisburg.  We immediately take an anxious Chelsey to shore and coming towards us are our friends Ray and Christine with Lucas, their 6 month old baby boy, happy to welcome us.  Just across the street, we visit and enjoy a glass of wine as we catch up on happenings.  We take them on board the boat and Christine brings us fried chicken and salad.  How thoughtful .


Tuesday,  July 26

The next morning at 6:30, Christine is there to see us off with Tim Horton’s coffee and muffins. Its another sunny day with little breeze so we continue to motor, adding coolant as necessary. We come to the first of seven locks that we must pass thru on our way to Montreal. The first one requires no change in water level but still a $20 fee is levied. At Cornwall, there is a series of American locks to pass thru where after the remainder are in Quebec

We come to a bridge which is too low to get under.  It is the type which raises up to let sailboats or freighters through.  We are forced to motor slowly around in circles waiting for the bridge to be raised.  We are concerned about the ongoing overheating of the engine.  The bridge is finally raised and we continue until we come to the next bridge of this type.  We again circle and circle.  After about thirty minutes,  and this seems long, finally the bridge is raised. As Ken increases  speed to get through the bridge, the engine stops and won’t start again.  We are horrified as we lose way and start to drift.  The boat slowly turns sideways to the opening but thankfully, the current carries us through without hitting anything.  Ken frantically works to get the engine started without any luck.  We raise the jib and begin to tack back and forth in the very light wind coming from the direction we need to go but thankfully we have a 1-1.5 knot current in our favor.  The channel we are in is used by lake freighters so we slowly get out of the buoyed channel as Ken continues his efforts to get the engine to start.  We spend a lot of time drifting sideways.  The engine starts!  We keep our fingers crossed as we carry on up a channel to the first lock which is near Cornwall.    After a while, we are able to enter the lock and Ken keeps the engine running.  Out of the lock, we try to motor up river to Cornwall but the current is so strong that we can’t make headway.  We try to find a marina .  The few that are there are way too shallow for our 6 ft draft. So,  we continue  to make progress and pass thru our 4th and 5th locks just before dark. We are quite tired .  Ken finds one with deep enough water indicated in the Sailing Directions.  As we approach the entrance, I note mostly small power boats and a couple of small sailboats.  With horror, I realize that the water is not deep enough just as we hit the rocks and stop dead! 

No amount of motor power will move us.  Slowly, the people on the boats come out to see what happened and begin to discuss in French what should be done.  A couple speak some English and we confirm that we are indeed aground.  We are asked to throw them lines and they will try to pull us off.  This is not successful, so then we throw them a halyard and they pull and pull to tip the boat on her side.  We are able to move a bit but are now sideways to the opening.  It seems hopeless but these folks are determined.  After some conversation, they decide to try from the other side of the entrance.  Ken throws lines again but as the distance is greater the line doesn’t quite reach shore.  The fellows scramble down the rocky shore to try to get the lines.  I am sure that there must have been some bruises and scrapes but they are intent on what they are doing.  Darkness has set in and the mosquitoes are out in force.  I spray Ken and myself but can do nothing for our helpers.

The boat is once again pulled over on to her side and with Ken racing the engine and with a few stops and starts we bounce and bump our way out.  There are cheers from the triumphant crew on shore and we on the boat.  Ken and I say merci, merci,  thank you, thank you.  What wonderful people.  We motor out a ways and use our new windlass to anchor for the first time. It worked like a dream. Our new anchor snubber was set in place to take the strain off the windlass.  It is now dark and we have definitely had enough for this day. 


Wednesday, July 27

The next morning dawns dark and overcast with a light rain falling off and on.  Ken tries to start the motor and it will not start.  The starter will not even make a sound.  Ken spends the day trying to resolve the problem with no success.  I spend it huddled in my bunk.  We spend another night at anchor.


Thursday, July 28 

The next morning dawns bright and sunny.  Ken puts our brand new 6 hp 4 stroke Yamaha outboard motor on the dinghy and goes back to the shore to try and find a mechanic and some gas for the dinghy. He comes back saying that we have been offered free dockage at a dock along the front of the marina where the water is deep enough for us.  How to get there?   Ken decides to push Joint Venture with our 11 ft Achilles dinghy, Clipper . Ken just clips the dinghy on the starboard quarter with a couple of lines and away we go. With a nervous me at the wheel and Ken in the dinghy we slowly set out.  The sailboat moves along smoothly and as we approach the dock, Ken leaps out of the dinghy, takes the helm and brings us along side and I jump on the dock and tie up the bow.  Easy as pie! The small hamlet is Melocheville. We are unsuccessful finding any mechanical help there, but we have learned how to move the boat using the dinghy.  We are sure to find mechanical help in Longueuil (opposite Montreal) where we are going anyway to have our new Cape Horn self steering installed.  I have spoken to our good friend Ginette who manages the marina there and she asks us to go to the gas dock and she will find a place for us for as long as we want to stay at no cost.  What a nice person she is!

We set off in our new mode headed for Longueuil. The new outboard motor has to be broken in so for the first hour Ken runs the engine at about half throttle which gives us a speed of about 3 knots. Later we find that we can attain a speed of 4 knots at ¾  throttle but someone must be in the bow of the dinghy to keep it from rising up; particularly when power boat wake threatens. In this fashion we travel to the next lock .  Will they accept us in this configuration I wonder.  When we enter the lock, we get looked at but no one says a word and we lock through with the dinghy on the wall side…no problem. Ken sat in the dinghy with a boathook to fend off the wall while holding the provided rope as the boat was lowered in the lock. We continued in this fashion through the next lock and up the narrow channels which we share with a lake freighter at one point.

At one of the last of the locks, we have to tie up to wait for the lock to open for us.  The “pleasure craft” dock is empty and as we head towards it, I am forward waiting for the boat’s bow to curve around to bring us along side.  As we steam straight ahead, I am frantically yelling at Ken to “bring her around” with no success.  It appears we are about to ram straight onto the dock, and I am paralyzed with fright as I suddenly hear Ken shout “Watch out!” as he comes running past me and vaults over the bow onto the dock grabbing the bow pulpit as he goes managing to maneuver the boat inches away from hitting.   The problem was a strong current which sped the boat along and created the inability of the helm to turn the boat fast enough.  We experienced the same difficulty as we were leaving.  Ken was at the helm as I powered the outboard motor.  We were heading straight for a wall where big signs indicated Danger.  Ken shouts “faster“.  I see us speeding towards the wall and let off on the gas, whereupon, Ken shouts urgently, No…more power.  I turn it up and slowly see the bow turning away from the danger.  The helm needed all the power in the outboard to turn it.  But it was nerve wracking to say the least.  As we dinghy motor towards the last lock, we realize that the gasoline powering the outboard is down to a quarter tank.  We will be lucky if we have enough to get us to Longueuil.  We are getting a lot of wake from two boatloads of young people water skiing.  I spend the afternoon in the dinghy being bounced around.  Through the last of the locks and heading out to follow the markers in to Longueuil, the level in the gas tank says empty.  We resist taking a short cut and hold our breath as we motor the last few minutes.  We tie up to the gas dock and when Ken gets the gas tank filled it takes 12.3 litres  in the 12 litre tank so it must have been fumes we came in on. The last five minutes had been through a marked channel with a cross current of 3.5 knots The boat and dinghy had to be steered at about 45 degrees to our heading…not a good place to run out of gas.

Ginette and her husband came to welcome us.  She provides us with the pass cards necessary to use the showers and laundry facilities.  She will arrange for a mechanic to come to us as soon as possible.  How wonderful it is to have friends like her.  We are safely at dock with the prospect of getting our engine problem looked after and we have arranged to get our self steering installed tomorrow.


Friday, July 29


A beautiful sunny day.  My first order of business is to go and have a shower.  I take Chelsey with me hoping that I can shower her as well.  Not possible as there are lots of people around and a big sign on the shower room door saying No Dogs.  So I walk her back and go and enjoy my first shower in a week.  Back at the boat, the fellow who will install our Cape Horn self steering is getting started.  I gather up our laundry and spend the next couple of hours washing & drying.  Back at the boat, Eric is busy with the installation of the self steering and a mechanic has been at the boat, diagnosed the problems and has left; hopefully to return with the needed parts. The new Volvo mechanic Giete, had quickly assessed the situation. The glycol solution had been leaking right on to the starter and shorted it out. That simple. A pipe in the system was not tightened and Prestone was everywhere. A simple pressure test that should have been performed by Durham Marine would have disclosed this.

After making lunch for us all, Chelsey and I go for a long walk.  It is very beautiful here right beside the water with Montreal’s skyline across the way.  There are benches, picnic tables and bicycle trails. Whenever I return to the boat Eric is hard at work with Ken’s assistance.  Eric Sicotte is the nephew of Yves Gelinas, the creator of the self steering which he used to circumnavigate.  Eric does most of the fabrication & installation of the Cape Horn units. Cape Horn Marine Products is located in OKA, Quebec



Eric works until 7:30 pm and will finish the job tomorrow.  We enjoy a roast beef dinner and look back at our adventures over glasses of wine.  What a trip it has been so far.  We wanted adventure didn’t we?


Stay tuned as we continue to make our way towards the ocean.


Ken, Anita & Chelsey