Over the Gap in Late Summer

4 min readSep 28, 2021

We took a late summer mini-holiday up to Burlington, Vt., three days in that small city that sits on the eastern edge of the widest part of Lake Champlain. I drove up alone last year to test out sailing a rental Hobie Cat on that big expanse of fresh water, and this year my wife, Beth, accompanied me to see whether it might be a place where we’d like to spend more time.

Aside from strolling the outdoor pedestrian-only area with restaurants of all types, we came to bicycle the Champlain Bikeway, a mostly flat trail that runs on an old rail bed right along the lake — and for me to sail again. We also looked into neighborhoods — on bikes, in the car, and from the water — to see whether any of them appealed to us.

I did manage to sail all three days, for a couple of hours. The first two were challenging, with lots of wind, swells built up over the 10-mile stretch from the New York side, and plenty of whitecaps. I realized then why people like a mono-hull for these sorts of conditions. All around me, their masts were steady in the water while mine was bucking with every wave. But the third day was magnificent, with a good breeze and not too much in the way of seas.

That was when I got this picture of a gaff rigger with two jibs:

That’s my (rental) Hobie Getaway in the foreground.

But the best story from our trip happened when we biked up to South Hero via the Colchester Causeway. Once a rail bed, the causeway is such a thin arc that on Google Maps, you don’t even see it —

— until you zoom in:

Now, if you really zoom all the way in, you can see a little gap right before the causeway reaches South Hero.

While it was still running, the Rutland Railroad bridged the gap.

This gap, about a half mile from the South Hero shore, is primarily for sailboats to travel between the bay and the open lake. The gap itself is only 60 yards wide. But it’s deep…