Saturday, July 28, 2012

Midland on up to Parry Sound…and Yes I Chickened Out

We ended up staying in Midland a lot longer than we had planned. When we pulled in on July 22nd we had planned on staying only two nights for a little rest and to take on some provisions. We ended up staying a third night because they, like many marinas, have a buy-two-nights-get-one-free deal. So instead of a Tuesday departure we would leave on Wednesday. But that didn’t happen as we both decided that we needed a bit more of a break and the weather soured on Wednesday and Thursday. So we took another of the above mentioned deals and decided to leave on Saturday the 28th.

The weather forecast was good for our 64 nm cruise up to Parry Sound. It was sunny and clear with only light winds to start. But of course as we have experienced frequently the winds did pick up in the afternoon to around 15 knots. It wasn’t so bad as the wind was kind of coming at an angle to our bow and we would slice into the waves almost head on which is a lot more comfortable than from the sides. Not too bad. We pulled into the very large Parry Sound around 2:30 pm having made excellent time early on. There were points of the cruise that we were moving at over nine knots which is always a good thing. Parry Sound is very large and it took us another ninety minutes to make it to the marina.

I guess I spooked people at the docks when I brought the boat in. I came into our assigned slip kind of hot to compensate for wind which was coming at us off our port bow. And as it was a port side bow in tie up I felt I needed to get her in tight to the finger dock and not take the chance of the wind starting to push the boat towards our slip-neighbor on our starboard side. I got her in just fine but some people kind of freaked. But all’s well that ends well. It was a clean docking and that, as they say, is that.

Ok. What is with the part of the title about me chickening out? One of the most special aspects of cruising Georgian Bay is cruising on what is called the small vessel route, or small craft route or some such variation of that. It winds, twists and turns through all of the coves and reaches going up into the northern shore of Georgian Bay. It is beautiful. We have seen gobs of pictures and videos and it does look fantastic. The problem is there is much disagreement of what the largest size craft should be to transit the channel. To say there are rocks is a gross understatement for that is the main feature of the waterway. It is fantastic. But some say that 36 foot is the maximum. Some say 50 foot with up to five or six feet draft. Some say that it is a pleasure cruise like no other while others say it is a sure way to get a nervous condition. For the most part I think that Why Knot could do it. The problem is with her captain. There were parts of the Trent Severn that kind of freaked me out. And as I am the one piloting the thing I decided that the small vessel route is not for us. So we are going to go outside into the bay itself and hop up the coast.

Next on our cruise is Bying Inlet, then Killarney, then Gore Bay and finally Drummond Island back in the good ol’ USA.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Orillia to The Big Chute, Through Port Severn and the end of the Trent-Severn Waterway.

We pulled out of Orillia about 8:45 am with beautiful clear skies with mild winds to head up to The Big Chute. We first crossed the length of Couchiching Lake to once again enter a cut canal. This took us through several smaller lakes including Sparrow Lake which I think was a particularly lovely place. For the next several hours we traversed more of these canals connecting between several natural rivers. The going through here was slow as there were more of the ever present home docks with boats within just a few boat widths of the center of the channel and being courteous American boaters we would slow down to just above idle speed so as not to cause any disruptions. And as it was a Saturday there were lots of people out on the water either in boats, sitting on their docks or in the water swimming.

About three-quarters of the way to our final destination for the day we came to the largest single lock on the Trent-Severn, Swift Rapids lock. There were several dozen boats tied up to the walls or maneuvering around in the deep pool just before it all waiting to take the forty-seven foot plunge down into the Severn River. As we waited in the pool outside of the lock walls the lock was filling up bringing a few boats into the pool. Then a bunch of the boats of all shapes and sizes entered the lock for the ride down in a very orderly fashion directed by the lock master using a loudspeaker. As the boats entered the lock this left the walls almost empty. The blue wall, the wall where a boat is to officially line up to enter the lock, filled up quickly. The general mooring wall opposite the blue wall was empty. None of the other boats hovering around the pool were going there. So I turned Why Knot’s nose towards it and made a beeline towards the wall. I basically butted in line. One smaller boat got to the head of the wall before me and a couple of small boats followed suit and tied up after us.
Get in line!!!!
This is a big deep lock. And it was very busy. The lockmaster was squeezing boats in there like sardines in a can. The lock personnel in Canada are to say the least experts at their craft and boats moved in easily, took the trip down, took on only a few boats at the bottom and started its way back up. During this time I took a short trip to the lock office. Our goal for the day was to get to one of the walls on the top side of the Big Chute marine railway and moor for the night. (I’ll get to The Big Chute later.) I asked the lockmaster in the office if she could call ahead to see if there was space for us there. She did and reported that the walls were available as there were only a few small boats tying up there for a lunch break or to visit the railway. I guess I am just naturally charming because when it came time for our turn to enter the locks she called us in first to be in the front of the lock indicating that she wanted to make sure we had a head start on the other boats to get to the wall. Nice.

Out of the lock our path then on was entirely on the Severn River. It was a winding affair and again there were lots of homes and swimmers along the shore line so again we couldn’t really let her rip, so to speak. But we did make our way to the upper pool of The Big Chute. There was a perfect spot on one of the walls there but there was a little fishing boat tied up there. There were a couple of day boats on the other side of the wall and another looper in a trawler in front of the position I was aiming for. They saw us coming and figured out where I wanted to go so they untied the fishing boat and swung it to the other side of the way out of the way. I pulled into the wall and we tied up for the night.

Ok. The Big Chute. For the uninitiated the story goes like this. Down in Lake Huron there are lamprey eels, the kind that bite onto other fish until the eels basically suck the life of the fish. They are obviously not wanted up in the lakes and rivers of the Trent-Severn region. But there needed a lock. So instead of building a lock they built this crazy railroad for boats. At either the top or bottom of the railway line boats enter the railway car and basically get strapped into place. When all is secure the train lifts out of the water on tracks and goes up or down this steep hill to the other pool. It’s crazy.

I can hear the dialog at the original planning meeting.
Fisheries Minister: Ok, how are we going to get boats from one level to the other without letting the eels into the upper level?
Fred: Why don’t we let the land be the barrier?
Fisheries Minister: Good thinking. But how are we going the get boats from one side of the land to the other?
Fred: How about building a marine railway where we lift boats out of the water slung into a giant railway car and ferry them across the land to the other body of water?
Fisheries Minister: (long pause)  Ok. Anyone else have an idea?

Well, Fred’s idea stuck and that is what they did. And as I write this post on Sunday, July 22, 2012, we are going to venture onto The Big Chute marine railway ourselves this morning. After that we have one conventional lock yet to go. That is in Port Severn, the western terminus of the Trent-Severn Waterway. We will be done with it. It has been a great journey with forty-four locks, beautiful scenery, wonderful people and plenty of great memories to hold onto.

I recorded a video of our own ride on the railway. As soon as I polish it up I will put it on
youtube and send the link to you.

Looking back from Why Knot after we traveled down the hill on the Big Chute Marine Railway

Port Severn

The last lock on the Trent Severn...waiting in line.

That's a wrap! We have gone through the lock, have exited the Trent Severn and Georgian Bay is next.

It is going to be short day for us. We are going just about 15 miles or so to a marina in Midland, ON. To be frank, we are both pretty exhausted. Neither one of us has slept very well lately, and we think a pause for a few days will do us both good.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bobcaygeon and on up to Kirkfield and Orillia

Bobcaygeon, ON is a happenin’ place! It is a popular summer holiday destination with lots of inns, motels and bed and breakfasts. It has a nice little downtown-ey kind of area with shops and restaurants. We walked there from the marina on the hottest afternoon of the year so far. The temperature was about ninety-nine degrees but there was a good breeze so it didn’t feel too terrible. We had lunch and did some shopping. As Lisa said, “I earned an afternoon of shopping.” And so we did.
Lisa and Tiffany, the super shoe gal.
Sometimes there is a surprise in these small towns. And in Bobcaygeon it’s a store named Bigley’s. It is the largest shoe store in Canada occupying five different side-by-side buildings all connected together. The young lady that took care of us, Tiffany, told us that they have 50,000 pairs of shoes there and that’s easy to believe looking at all the walls filled with every kind of shoe possible. Lisa had been needing a new pair of deck shoes for some time so that was the target. She found a great pair of Sperry Topsiders that will work well on the boat. She then told me to go ahead down the street and buy myself some ice cream while she hit the stores. I did and she did. We then went to the local Foodland grocery store for some minor provisioning and hailed a taxi to take us back to the marina. Later she had to go back into town to pick up a few more things. In the parking lot of the marina I boldly asked a woman if should give Lisa a ride to town. She seemed overjoyed at the prospect and Lisa jumped in the car for the short trip to town. The lady’s name was Lorraine and it turned out she was a pizza delivery person. She also gladly became Lisa’s personal chauffeur and drove to wherever Lisa needed to go. Lisa bought a few things and then Lorraine and her were off to deliver some pizzas all over town and eventually brought Lisa back to the marina with a pizza and very hot fried chicken wings. We meet all kinds of great people on the loop.

We cast off from the marina on Wednesday morning about 8:30 and headed up Sturgeon Lake, a long V shaped body of water that would then take us to Fenelan Falls, a town even bigger than Bobcaygeon. We locked up through Fenelan Falls and headed into another lake that would take us to the start of a stretch of the Trent Severn Waterway. On this stretch we locked up at Rosedale ON. This was a turning point of sorts on our journey through Canada. It is the last lock that we have to go UP. From that point on to Port Severn we would be locking DOWN. The elevation of Rosedale is 840 feet above sea level and it is the highest point on the entire Great Loop.

After Rosedale the real fun started and I mean that as sarcastically as I can. We traversed Balsam Lake to the mouth of a cut channel portion of the waterway. This stretch is very narrow (forty feet maybe?) and very straight. It is lined end to end with sharp slate type rocks some sticking out several feet into the channel. And it is shallow too. There were places where our sounder was only showing two and half feet deep under our keel. I kept the boat right in the middle as best I could. 

There were weeds and all kinds of water plants in the water and along the shores too. We had heard several of our friends ahead of us on their radios saying that they had fouled their props with weeds. Nasty business. Then this little slip of nothingness entered into the nastiest piece of water we had come across so far: Mitchell Lake. It is basically a marsh filled with grasses and sea weed and stumps with a narrow little sliver of a channel cut into it. It made Georgia and South Carolina look absolutely inviting. Then after Mitchell Lake the cut channel got even more narrow and rocky. I must admit I was tense. Fortunately only one other boat came from ahead of us and it was a small runabout and he passed by us easily. After a gentle turn in the rocks and canal we saw our destination for the day, the Kirkfield Lift Lock, similar to the Peterborough Lift Lock but not as tall: only forty-nine feet instead of Peterborough’s sixty-five feet. We locked down and tied up on one of its walls for the night. It’s kind of secluded and very quiet. The town of Kirkfield is over two miles away so this was a good place to settle in and rest up for our next leg.
Kirkfield Lift Lock
One thing to keep in mind is that all of the locks and swing bridges do not open for passages until 8:30 am so the next thing I’m going to say is kind of tongue-in-cheek… We shot out away from our wall in Kirkfield bright and early…8:30 am that is, and headed onward and westward. Most of it was very straight and narrow as before with a few transits along the Talbot River through some nice residential areas, but for the most part it was straight as an arrow.  We had five locks to go through before getting to the next major water feature of the waterway, Simcoe Lake.

Simcoe Lake is very, very large and we have been told that the transit of the lake needed to made under calm or very low wind conditions as higher winds were not uncommon and the waves could be hefty. That was not our situation though. The forecast called for higher winds in the early morning calming down during mid-day which is when we entered it. The winds were probably at ten knots, the water was nothing more than a moderate chop and as our route was from the southeast corner to the northeast corner (about 15 miles) it was an easy transit. But I can certainly see why people get squimish about it. As we cruised northward I would glance to the west and see that there were large portions of the shore that were out of sight over the horizon.

Orillia, ON is a medium sized town with several marinas along a narrow passage out of Simcoe Lake called, oddly enough, “The Narrows”, with more marinas past The Narrows in another lake called Lake Couchiching. We stayed at a nice marina at the end of The Narrows called Bridge Port Marina with a nice facing dock, nice amenities and a very friendly and helpful staff.

One funny thing happened shortly after we arrived there. We were tied up at a facing dock with our stern facing the channel of The Narrows. There was a tour boat that takes patrons from Simcoe Lake through The Narrows to someplace in Lake Couchiching. As it made its transit past us we could hear the Captain (or somebody) obviously looking for something to talk about saying over the p.a. system, “And look, there’s Why Knot all the way from Pompano Beach, Florida!” (That’s what it says on our transom. No, we haven’t had it changed yet.) I can see some person from that tour when they’re back at home in Saskatoon, or Winnipeg, or wherever remembering their little cruise and fondly recalling that there were two crazy people in Orillia that came all the way from Florida.

Maybe you remember this from a previous blog entry that I said that the level of picturesque-ness (?) of the early part of the transit of the Trent-Severn Waterway was very nice indeed but I had a higher expectation that wasn’t being met. Oh, there were nice parts to be sure but it wasn’t making me say “wow”. Well, the part up from Peterborough is making me go “wow”. Stoney Lake was unbelievably beautiful. The rivers and lakes are all very lovely though I must admit that I am a bit surprised how populated it all is, especially from seeing all of the waterfront properties and homes. Even the crazy-tight, rock lined canals are an engaging sight to behold. The voyage through Canada is amazing in every respect and I know that I am in for some of the most beautiful scenes when we get to Georgian Bay and the North Channel. And, as it has been throughout since we left Florida the people of Canada are wonderful. They are warm, friendly and gracious. I feel so fortunate to be here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I’m Just Sayin’

Boating really is fun
The word “fun” can mean different things to different people. For me, as a skipper, “fun” means successfully facing and conquering the challenge of being competent as a skipper, especially boat handling. Why Knot being forty-five feet long with only a single engine and without a bow thruster requires some special techniques and skills to make her do what I want her to do. Handling her requires a lot of nuance that a twin screw with a thruster doesn’t need. Maybe other captains would say the same thing but driving her is more about feeling her through things rather than just controlling her. Take for instance our recent passage through lock 32 in Bobcaygeon, ON. The incoming channel was very narrow and packed with boats. I pulled her through a small maze of vessels and settled her onto the blue wall I think very smartly. Then as the swing bridge and lock opened I pulled her off with the able help of Lisa shoving off the wall at just the right force to set her just right into the chamber the right position for Lisa to grab one of the cables lining the wall at midship and I hopping down to get one of the cables at the stern, all the time keeping her at a nice and close distance from the wall without scraping against the wall. Then as we leave the chamber setting the wheel initially to be at the right rudder angle to pull her away smoothly in almost dead center to pull out without touching our stern against the wall. To me that is a lot of fun. It is also very satisfying that others recognize this. Whenever we boaters get together the conversation almost always starts with what kind of boats we have. Most loopers have twin engines and a bow thruster. There have been only a few other single engine boats but they always have a bow thruster. When I tell someone that we have one engine and no bow thruster they almost always say something like, “Whoa. You must really be good at driving your boat.” Some time back we were at a marina with several other loopers and we had docked Why Knot in a somewhat peculiar dock but one that I knew I could get her out of by using a bowline pivot. As we were getting ready to leave the dock master who was on hand was kind of jabbering about how he wasn’t sure I could get her out or not. One of the other boaters said (para.), “Don’t worry. He knows what he’s doing.” Now that is what I call FUN.

Boating can be boring
Just as boating can be tons of fun, quite frankly, sometimes it can be boring as watching paint dry. When you are on a long reach somewhere and all you have to do is to keep her straight and conditions are so calm that you could balance a pencil on your nose it can get excruciatingly mundane. There is a saying that boating is made of long periods of boredom punctuated with moments of sheer terror - true, so true. I remember when we were starting our cruise up the Potomac and we were on our first reach from Smith Point up the St. Marys River. All we were doing was following a very straight course line on our chartplotter for eighteen miles. The water was calm and smooth. Lisa and I took turns laying on the futon and sleeping. Sometimes all of the surrounding land looks the same. The water looks the same. Everything looks the same. And just like driving long distances over Kansas as the miles just keep passing by you can get tired at the wheel. One of the things we do to battle this is that Lisa and I change driving the boat about every hour.

“Marine”+ anything = More $
West Marine – that indispensible store throughout the USA that we boaters depend on. You have to hand it to them, if we need it they got it. Racor filters, check. Fenders, check. Charts and navigational aids, check again. Parts? Yep, they have them. They are the Walmart that supplies our passion. But as we all know they are a bit more expensive than if we can buy these things online or from a non-marine store. The problem with them is they are so damn convenient. Most US ports-of-call have one somewhat nearby. (There are some oddities like in Morehead City, SC where the nearest West Marine is like in the middle of suburbia rather than anywhere close to where the boats are.) And how about fuel? Marine fuel is ten to fifteen percent or more expensive to buy at a dock than if you drove up to a gas station in a car and bought the same stuff. But we’re stuck, aren’t we. I can’t set my chartplotter for the nearest Wawa, Kangaroo or Quiktrip and take on 400 gallons of diesel. It’s the cost of cruising. Oh well.

Fishermen are a pain the neck
Ok fishermen. I’m talking to you! I’m calling you out. Why must you insist that the best fishing is right in the middle of marked channel? I think that’s baloney. As we cruisers approach you while we are dead center in a marked channel, your thoughts are, and you sometimes yell this at us, “There’s plenty of water out there. Go around!” Rubbish. That same logic would dictate that you too could move off to the side. The fish do not have their own little fishy chartplotters and they don’t move along to a magenta line on their little displays. So get out of the way, for crying out loud. Think about it. We are larger, slower and less maneuverable than you are. Please, for everybody’s safety and well being use your heads and move off. You see, your draughts are a lot less than ours. Your draughts are maybe one foot, maybe two at the max. Ours are never less than 3 ½ feet, most of the time more. And in places like Canada when the charts say to stay in the channel because there are shallow rocks just outside of the channel we really need to stay in the channel.  Clipping a rock with one of our props can cost us big time. And while I’m talking about Canada let’s talk about no wake zones. We loopers try to be courteous and we are sincerely sympathetic to smaller craft and home docks when it comes to what damage, discomfort and danger our larger wakes can cause, and we do slow down. But don’t crab at us about our wakes until you locals get in on it too. We all have stories on how we drop down to idle speed so we don’t wake smaller boats. Then some yahoo local comes zooming by in his bass boat so he can beat everyone else to that perfect fishing spot in the middle of the channel up ahead. And we get yelled at. Please.

Most towns and marinas look the same and
Attention waterside communities and marinas – I have some bad news for you. As the miles and miles of waterways and bays and rivers pass by, I am sorry to tell you that each and every one of you begins to look exactly the same as the next. And it is a crap shoot whether we stop at your town or dock to stay for a night or two, to buy fuel or provisions, or dine at your local restaurants, or to otherwise spend some of our money on you. There are exceptions to this, of course. Some towns and marinas have rock solid reputations for being incredibly looper friendly. Some have some natural advantage like being at the perfect distance between other points. A good example is Chesapeake Bay. Once you leave Norfolk the natural progression is to stop at Deltaville, then St. Marys, then Solomons, and then Annapolis. Some have a special feature like Campbellford, ON. Dooher’s Bakery has a reputation as being the very best donut shop in North America. And while I think Bradenton Donuts down in Florida might give them a run for their money for that title, Dooher’s is worth the stop in Campbellford. (And by the way, where are all the donut shops?) If you would like to get more loopers to spend some time in your town or marina here is what you need to do. First, get your marinas up to snuff. We like easy moorings such as wider slips, tee heads and easy ins and outs. We like 50 amp power. We absolutely love courtesy cars or at least shuttle services. We like discounts to MTOA, ActiveCaptain, AGLCA and BoatUS members. (Canada, I’m talking to you.) Next, we like dockhands and masters that actually use VHF radios. We like maps of the town that show us where stuff is. We like marine supplies that big boats use. We like to see timely weather reports. And publicizing yourself is easy. Go ahead and pony up and join those above mentioned groups and let us know you really want our business. We all devour the information on and the AGLCA website like crazy. And speaking for myself, don’t exaggerate how close stores and other services are by foot. We like staying in nice places. We are actually kind of snobs and we think that we are a bit of a cut above the rest. We are on a long journey away from our homes and families and we would like a bit of respect. And most important of all, we all talk to each other…a lot. So if you dunce around with one of us we will all know about it very quickly. There are locales and marinas that have stellar reputations with us. There are others that are on our unofficial blacklists. We have no problem giving rave reviews when it’s deserved. You have to deserve it.
Let me be blunt. We loopers are generally more affluent than the average boater. We have more money to spend. We also recognize that transient docking prices are higher per foot or night for us than a seasonal or year-around dockage. An ideal business model for a marina the seasonal and year-arounds should be at a price and volume to cover your overall base costs including wages, operations and maintenance. Transients should be all profit. If they’re not there is something wrong with your model. We know this and we, knowing this, accept that we pay higher prices than others. Welcome us. Encourage us. Give us more value. Value is the accumulation of all the things and perks that make us want to come to you. We like value.

Boating has a secret handshake
Boating is a secret club where you have a secret handshake, otherwise known as waving.
Besides being a boater I also am a motorcycle driver and the same thing exists in that realm. Once you own and drive a motorcycle, just like in boating, you have joined a secret society with rules of etiquette and behavior. The most similar of the two is waving to each other. With motorcycles it doesn’t matter if you drive a Harley, a Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha or a Suzuki (like me), you have to wave to each other. What is with that? It’s the same with boating. On my trawler bridge I wave to and get waved back to by each and every boat that we pass: cruisers, yachts, commercial vessels, dinghies, trawlers, sport fishers, houseboats, pontoon boats, runabouts, ski boats - each and every one of them gets a friendly wave as we pass…but not to jet ski riders.  Why is this? Are we superior to landlubbers? Do we possess a special knowledge that binds us to each other? Are we perpetuating a camaraderie that we share Well, yes. And I must say it is a pleasant thing. We do all share something and a friendly wave is a common expression of this context. So I will keep waving and will happily accept the gesture in return. By the way, like us boaters not waving to jet ski riders we motorcyclists do not wave to scooter riders. I mean, we do have standards. 

I really do care about the environment
I have always been a conservationist meaning that I did not litter, I recycle, I did not waste things like water and resources, I am concerned about how our country treats nature and I am in favor of behaviors that ensure a quality of life based on a balanced and harmonious relationship with nature. I believe that “environmentalism” is more of a political movement rather than a conscious decision to be smart about what we do and how we live. And I am sticking with those distinctions. As we travel I do find myself more and more questioning myself if I am doing enough in regards as to how I personally interact with nature around me. Long ranging cruising is really a management exercise rather than just a boating or floating plan. How we manage our resources, namely fuel, machines, water, electricity, and waste, are really what this is all about. As we cruised through Canada with its pristine waters and beautiful country, and seeing how proactive they are in maintaining that, I see that we in America are not doing enough. I can say that so far in the US I have not seen what could amount to horrible natural conditions. The water I think could be called clean, certainly more clean that it was twenty or thirty years ago. (I also know that we will be cruising through Chicago in the lower river which is supposed to be pretty terrible.)But we can be doing more without any great negative financial impact. I am not becoming a tree hugging loonie, but I am just becoming more aware of our short comings.

History is fun
I have stood in the exact spot that George Washington stood when he announced his retirement from the Continental Army - the exact spot. I have stood in the exact spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at the Lincoln Monument when he gave his “I have a dream” speech - the exact spot.  I have stood at the exact spot of what was once the largest slave market in America - the exact spot. We cruised past Fort Sumter, the battle area of the Monitor and Merrimack and countless other sea battle locations, Kennedy Space Center, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island just like our forbearers did. We have retraced the routes of ancient sea explorers and pirates. We have straddled the two sides of the War of 1812. (If you would like read something interesting read the Canadian account of that war. America was the bad guy.) We have been in and out a bunch of museums both great and small. I have learned a lot. It has been very edifying.
By the way, go to Wikipedia and read about the history of the state flag of Maryland. 

I’m more proud to be an American than I thought
As an American boater we proudly fly the Star and Stripes as our ship’s ensign. And as we cruise in Canada we fly a smaller Canadian courtesy flag. But you know I find it’s more important now to make sure the Stars and Stripes is flying more than just as a part of proper flag etiquette. It’s important! As an American in a foreign country it is important to me that we represent our country in the best possible terms. And I guess the first way of doing that is to show respect for our country and to reflect our pride of country to others. I have read that the first real sense of fervent nationalism was actually started in America in the mid-nineteenth century, that other countries at that time did have a national identity but still mostly thought of themselves in smaller units such as provinces or regions. Perhaps the more localized self-identification of Quebec within the larger Canada is an illustration of this. But we Americans are indoctrinated from birth that we put country first, then state and city next. So I see myself as an American first, than a St. Louis, Missourian next.

Most restaurant food isn’t very good
Ok. Lets get this out in the open. Most restaurant food stinks. I don’t care what the cuisine is, most of it is just terrible. Since Lisa I started this whole thing back in November (2011) when we went to Sarasota to buy a boat we have only been to three “restaurants” more than once, and they were all donut shops: Bradenton Donuts, a donut shop in Pompano Beach whose name I have forgotten, and Dooher’s Bakery and Campbellford, ON. (I did that one solo.) Other than those the only great restaurants were at the steakhouse at Coinjock Marina (Prime Rib!) and the shore side restaurant in Amsterdam, NY. Other than those the vast majority of restaurant food has been pretty blah. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

99.999999999% of people of really nice
Loopers are great people. Marina people are great people. Lock people are great people. Townspeople are great people. Canadians are incredibly great people. I really can’t think of anyone in particular that was a real jerk, but I would have to think that there has been one somewhere along the line. As I have said numerous times in the blog that the real joy of this experience is all the people we have met along the way. And we loopers in particular are a tight knit group because we all share the same ups, downs, trials, troubles, joys and sadness. As we travel in packs, so to speak, we are always on the lookout for another looper and are ready to lend a hand catching a line or sharing a taxi ride, or giving information or just about anything. There is a line in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “The Pirates of Penzance” where one of the pirate band, when explaining why they do not pillage ships with orphans on board (The entire British merchant fleet has learned about this display of tenderheartedness and all claim to be orphans when the pirates attack.)  by saying, “…for we are orphans too, and know what it ‘tis.” Well, we are loopers too, and know what it ‘tis. That is a strong bond.

I’m more of an internet junkie than I thought
Ah, the internet, just an electronic gizmo that we climb into when we need a dash of information or diversion. Or, as I have learned about myself because connectivity seems to be so rare on this journey, I have become a bit of glutton for the thing. Actually its more than gluttony. It’s a craving. Well, actually more than a craving. I have a full on jones for the thing. I admit it. I am a junkie and my ability to get a fix has been more and more difficult to get as we go along. And who do I blame for this? Me, with my admittedly Type A personality with a bent for addictive behavior? No. Not me. T-Mobile is the villain in this electronic Shakespearean tragedy. Seriously, all kidding aside, I hate to be mean but T-Mobile has really let me down pretty hard. Their claims of coverage and connectivity really aren’t legit. When we were down in Jacksonville, FL way back in March we called T-Mobile to ask them some questions about phone and data coverage going up the coast and they pretty much told us straight up that we could forget about it in most of Georgia except Savannah, pretty much all of South Carolina, and most of North Carolina until we approached Norfolk. Then it would be spotty up in some areas in the Chesapeake Bay area and in the central New York and non-existent in Canada. And they were right. My contract with T-Mobile ends this month and I am switching to Verizon like Lisa has, and she always seems to have a signal.
But as for my internet addiction I will just go on living in denial and pretend I don’t have a problem (he says as his hands are trembling on the keyboard.)

On to Buckhorn and Bobcaygeon

Sunday morning in Peterborough rolled around and as the sun rose we were once again alone at the top of the Lift Lock. It was very peaceful but the skies were a bit more cloudy than usual. We had had a string of spectacular weather: sunny skies, warm but not too hot temperatures and calm winds. This day was to be a bit more unsettled with the Environment Canada forecast sounding more familiar: “Clear, warm in the morning with a 30% chance of showers in the afternoon, and a risk of thunderstorms.” Well we knew what that meant. Get out and get cruising and things may come a cropper after 3:00 pm. Now it would do us no good to shove off until 8:30 am because there was a swing bridge just up from our position and the bridge tender would not be on duty until that time, just like the lockmasters and canalmen. But as the time approached we said our good-byes to the guys at the lock. (It was a kind of special goodbye because we got a very special treat Saturday evening that we can’t talk about. Let’s just say we got something that is reserved for people that truly appreciated the lift lock and that they like.)

You may remember that in recent posts I mentioned that the parts of the waterway that we had been on so far were very nice but not the spectacularly special vistas and scenes that we had been told about. There were some nice spots but much of it not being all that much more special that places we had seen so far. Well all that changed dramatically. Right out of the chute, so to speak, as soon as we passed the swing bridge we entered a short but dramatic stretch of canal that narrowed to maybe only 40 feet across, barely enough room for two boats to pass each other. Then that emptied into a pool surrounded by Trent University, a very newish campus with modern architecture. We than entered into a stretch where we had to pass through five locks in about a five or six mile stretch. We kept climbing up into the countryside until we reach a long wide lake called Clear Lake. After traversing that the terrain changed to the very appropriately named Stoney Lake. It is so hard to put this place into words. Imagine a mountain range of small rocky mountains where the peaks are all closely packed together. Then imagine this mountain range set in a bowl and this bowl is flooded with water with just the tops of the mountains sticking out of the water. Trees and vegetation on these little peaks barely clinging onto the rocks. Water surrounds everything and there are no straight lines or channels and the only way to get through these rocks and escarpments is to weave a tightly serpentine pattern through them. Now add to this scene houses and cabins (even a church) built onto these peaks where they have only awkward footholds on them. Now add dozens of boats buzzing around the place in and out of the tight but well marked channels, where outside the channels there is a real risk of crashing into rocks barely submerged below the surface. The water was clear and beautiful which as we cruised through we could see the rocky mountain sides slipping down into the pool. Well, what do you call an area like this? What do you call a navigable route through the maze of rocks and peaks and boats and markers and hazards galore? “Hell’s Gate”. But there was nothing hellish about it. It was a stunningly beautiful area. Truly breath taking.  Though Stoney Lake is behind us we do know that from that point on we must be vigilant. Submerged hiding rocks were a real threat for a long time to come.

The skies were constantly vacillating between thick grey clouds that would threaten rain and clearer more friendly skies. The winds did pick up a tad and we did have a sense of urgency about getting to Buckhorn, ON. We did not want to get stuck out in a rain or storm. We crossed more lakes separated by narrow little channels. Eventually we did reach Lock 31, our last lock of the day located in the middle of Buckhorn. Our plan was to tie up on one of the upper walls for a couple of nights. We had a technician lined up to take a look at the generator. But the waters were very busy with locals in their small boats and loads of rental houseboats. Fortunately there was literally one space left on the west upper wall that I was able to slide the boat into. The shore was busy with people and several came to help us tie up. It all went well. People started coming up to the boat and talking to us. Why Knot is a pretty boat and it attracts attention wherever we go. I think the reason for this is that it resembles an image that people have about what a boat looks like. It has a sharp raked bow with a strong fore deck, a walk around deck and superstructure in the middle. And in a way it is very approachable. There are no barriers between ship and shore save for a rail. Anyway, there were enough people chatting with us Lisa was talking to one group near the bow and I talked up another group down by the stern. And it just so happens are technician and his wife were passing by. They stopped and came on board so we talked a short while and got things lined up for him to get to work on the boat Monday morning. All is well in Buckhorn.

Fortunately when the technician arrived on board Monday morning the generator only needed a few adjustments to fix its ills. Other than that and tightening the belt to the alternator and water pump on the main engine he pronounced everything looked good in the engine compartment so we made our plans to leave Buckhorn. We took a quick walk to a nearby grocery store to pick up a few items. Then we motored off for a short nineteen mile leg to our next destination.

Bobcaygeon (pr. bob kajon) is a large town located around lock 32. It is the busiest lock on the entire waterway and is a pleasure boating hub being connected to Pigeon Lake to the south and Sturgeon Lake to the west and north. There were many boats of all shapes and sizes. Getting through the lock in the middle of town was interesting because as already mentioned it is very busy. As we exited Pigeon Lake from the south the channel into town and to the lock is narrow with quite a few homes with docks along the channel. Interestingly the homes were for the most part upscale with some of the finest homes, patios, lawns and docks that we’ve seen on the waterway. The channel was busy with lots of small boats pulling into and out of the several gas docks along the way and tied up to the long walls for picnicking or for overnight. We were the largest boat there save for a houseboat coming out of the lock ahead of us and the good ship Salty Dawg that was tied up to the upper wall for an overnight stay.  The lock walls were lined with a lot of people taking pictures and watching boats lock through. And since many of the skippers were first timers, or at least weekenders, I am sure it all made for some great entertainment. And as there were a lot of pairs of eyes on us the pressure was on to look like polished cruisers. And we did. We easily slipped on into the chamber and locked through without a hitch. I chatted with one of the lockmasters and she told me that her only job on that day was to help the inexperienced boaters anyway she could to get in and out of the lock. And as this lock was our 61st lock we had our system down pretty well by now and she complimented us on how we did.
Our marina was just about a half a mile past the lock. The weather for Tuesday, July 17, isn’t so good. The forecast calls for high winds in the range of thirty to fifty kilometers (fifteen to twenty-five knots) with the peak blow around noon. So we are going to sit Tuesday out. Centre Point Landing Marina will be our home for a couple of nights as we do laundry, catch up on some computer work and take on some provisions. Hopefully we’ll have some time to take a look around Bobcaygeon, too.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cruising up the Trent Severn Waterway – Getting you caught up on a few days.

Sorry for this long post. It has been a while since I have had any decent internet connection. I am at the time in the library of Peterborough, ON.

Several Days In Trenton
A little note of explanation is needed about the name of where we have been. The official name of the community that we stayed is Quinte West (pronounced “qwin’-ty”) which is a larger city created when four smaller communities merged back in 1998. Trenton was one of those towns and it is the largest of the four. These four communities are now referred to as “wards”. So technically we are in “Trenton Ward” of Quinte West. But everyone still refers to this whole community as Trenton. So shall I.

Our stay here in Trenton has been terrific. The town itself is very compact with all of the shore side amenities a looper needs. A grocery store, hardware store, auto parts store, a Walgreen-ish kind of store, clothing stores, restaurants and the like are all within a few blocks of the marina. Very handy. Craig and Sandy who run the marina are incredibly nice and very helpful.

Our first night here, Friday, we went to dinner at a very good Italian restaurant with Ross and Laura of The Zone and Ken and Pat of 20$Bucks. The conversation was lively with lots of anecdotes about our adventures. Afterwards we went back to Why Knot and crashed. We were pooped.

Saturday it was a tad bit rainy so we stayed in for a while. After it cleared we ventured out to the local NAPA auto parts store (still just two blocks away) and was able to buy all the filters and oil we needed to have in our supply to be able to do the next oil and filter changes. The last change out I did depleted all of our oil and non-marine filters. We have plenty of Racor fuel filters. As the day progressed more and more loopers came in to the marina. Bob and Ivie of Karma, whom we had met in Norfolk and came back together with in Sylvan Beach came cruising in. There were also the crews of another four or five boats. That evening we all had a little get together at a lovely small park adjacent to the marina.

On Sunday the first order of things was for Laura and Ross of The Zone, Craig and Barb of Blue Heron and ourselves to take a short hike up to Lock 1 to buy our transit passes and to check things out. The locks are mostly manually operated with large horizontal cranks used to open and close the gates by grabbing one of the arms and walking around in a circle, thus closing and opening the gate. Craig and I took our turn at closing a gate so that a boat could go down in the lock. The locks and the whole canal are operated by Parks Canada with lovely picnic areas on the grounds of each lock. Unlike the New York Canal System none of the Canadian lock masters use radios. When you approach a lock you pull up to a wall painted blue and they are suppose to notice you and get the lock ready for you to enter and be flooded up or down. It’s all very old fashioned.

In the evening we had another little get together at the gazebo in a park adjacent to the marina. There were new crews and new stories and it was a lovely time.

Spending time in Trenton was very nice and it is a great place to stop and rest, re-provision and to set up for the next leg of the journey, The Trent Severn Waterway.

 Looks Like a Lotta Locks

We departed from Trenton at 8:30am and headed under the Trent Severn Waterway Bridge which is the official starting point of the waterway. Lock 1 is only a bit over a mile. Our objective for the day is to reach a wall in Campbellford, ON only 30 miles away. And it was a tough 30 miles as we had to pass through 12 locks.

The waterway itself is a mix of concrete lined channels, rivers and lakes all connected by locks and dams, most of which are used to power hydroelectric stations. There were quite a few homes along the water some of them having small docks. The trees were a mix of fir, regular old leafy trees and scruffy looking low lying trees. To be frank I was a bit underwhelmed by the terrain as we had heard so many wonderful reports of how amazingly beautiful it is. Well, hopefully it will get better as we go.

The locks are bunched up with the first seven happening more or less in the first third of the route. Then there was a pause where we cruised in some rivers and connected small lakes. The last four were then again bunched up at the end. We travelled the route with a boat called Quest. We took the lead the first half of the route; they took the lead the second half.

Going through a lock can be hard work and it’s a good test of crew and boat. The Canadian system is a bit different then the US system. In the US system all of the lockmasters have radios and as you approach a lock you would hail them on channel 13 (in New York) and request an opening, similar to going through a drawbridge. In Canada they do not have radios. The use what is called the Blue Wall system. As you approach a lock and the gates are closed you pull your boat up to a concrete side wall that is painted blue. This indicates you want to lock through. It is the lockmasters job to keep their eyes on that wall and either flood or empty the lock to get you in and on your way through. During our passage yesterday we did have to pull up to the blue wall on the first two gates. Otherwise the gates were always open. As it turns out our six boats leaving Trenton were the only real traffic on the canal so the lockmasters would lock us through then call the next lock to let them know we were coming. Also unlike the American system where we could leave our engines on, with the Canadian system you must turn your engines off while in the lock. The result of this is that while we were cruising the waterway for 8 ½ hours our engine was only running 6 ½ hours. That means that we were in locks for two hours.

Most of the locks were very standard. You pull in, grab one of the vertical cables spaced every 12 feet or so, wrap a line around it and hold on while the chamber is flooded, wait for the front gate to open, start the engine, cast off and motor out. And we are still going up along here. The last two locks, number 11 and 12 were different. They are a flight meaning that the locks are connected. When you exit the lower lock you go directly into the second lock without any transit waterway in between for, in this case, a total lift of 48 feet. At this point we were the trailing boat of our tandem and I, being at the stern was able to look back at the bottom of the flight and see where we came from. It was a bit unsettling.

After getting through locks 11 and 12 we cruised a short distance into Campbellford, ON, to a long wall operated by the city. We tied up, plugged in with the help of Craig and Barb of Blue Heron and waited for the others to arrive. After we got them all tied up we all met at one of the picnic tables in the adjacent park for some cocktails and snacks.

As I have already said, locking through is hard work and all in all it was a tough day. But we all made it. There is a saying with boaters that 9:00 pm is a boater’s midnight. If that is true than we went to sleep at 10:30, meaning we were asleep at 7:30 pm. Like I said, it was a tough day.

Campbellford, ON

Campbellford is a moderate size town that spans the Trenton River. There are two marina walls on both sides of the river just south of a bridge connecting the two sides. We stayed on the west wall. Most of the others were on the east side to take advantage of 50 amp power available over there. Why Knot can operate on either 30 amp, which is available on the west side, or 50 amp, so we stayed on the west side where the washroom facilities are nearby as well as a lovely park where the giant toonie is. We were only going to stay one night but as mentioned earlier we were pretty spent after coming up from Trenton so we decided to stay a second night so we could rest up. Then we found out that if you pay for two nights you get a third night free so we again changed our float plan again to stay a third night. And as luck would have it there is a concert tonight in the small park adjoining our wall.
Motoring into Campbellford, ON

On the Mill Creek wall in Campbellford. Why Knot is at the far end of the line of vessels.

Now for something completely different: Look at this picture.

It is a giant statue of the Canadian $2 coin commonly called a “toonie”. (Canada does not have a paper one or two dollar bill, only coins) The reason it is called this is because the $1 coin has an image of a loon (the waterfowl) on it. Therefore it is called a “loonie”. The two dollar coin just by natural extension is called a “toonie”, as in “two-nie”. Get it? Well, the reason Campbellford has this monstrous toonie statue in their waterside park is because the artist that designed the image of the bear for the coin is from Campbellford. This is a point of great pride for the town and they built this very large work of art to commemorate the toonie and its artist.

You gotta see it to believe it.

On our day off yesterday we had to do a few errands. Most important of which was to get our fender situation better situated. Going through a lock is fender-intensive. While there are no marine stores in town they do have a Canadian Tire location just a few minutes from our wall. The best way to describe a Canadian Tire store is to say it’s like a mini Walmart and Home Depot rolled into one. They had everything! We were able to find a lot of things that we needed including fenders, lines as well as a bunch of kitchen / galley / salon stuff that had been on our shopping radar for some time. Things like a decent non-glass pepper grinder, kitchen containers that have a tight seal and other things like that. We had a Christmas shopping spree and we ended up having to walk the cart back to the marina, unload all of our stuff and walk the cart back to the store. It was fun.

The afternoon was a designated rest period. Lisa went back to the cabin and fell asleep for several hours. I spent much of the afternoon lazying in the park on my new foldable recliner chair and gaining a little more ground reading a biography of President Chester Arthur. Ross and Laura rode their bikes over to our side to go sightseeing and invited us to come over to the east side at 5:30 for cocktails and munchies. During the afternoon several other loopers showed up including Bob and Ivie of Karma. At around 4:00 we walked over the bridge to that side of town to go to the post office and a grocery store to pick up a few things, walked back to our boat to drop the groceries off, then back over the bridge yet again to the happy hour. Ross had some amazing stories about his international travels. It was all very entertaining. The party broke up about 7:30 so we once again trudged back over to the west side watched a little TV and went to sleep.

On our last evening in Campbellford Ross and Laura joined us at our adjacent park for a rip-roaring outdoor dance music performance. Well, when I say rip-roaring what I really mean is quite-boring. Sorry. The event was sponsored by the local Lions Club and Lionesses (that’s the ladies auxiliary) and it featured what I’m sure is a popular Ontario country western band whose line up are all very elderly gentlemen.

Let me set the scene. Quite a few people had gathered in the park all with their folding outdoor chairs all very strategically placed in the shadows of some large trees. There was not a single chair or occupant of said chairs in the sunlight. The band and the vast majority of the crowd were much older than we. The only other younger people were a few grandkids that I’m sure were dragged kicking and screaming to the event who would certainly have preferred to be left at home to play video games. The band started their concert playing a lot of standards, all at a greatly reduced tempo. (read: SLOW) A few people got up to dance on a concrete sidewalk that went across the grass in front of the bandstand. I think the perfect word to describe the scene would be “subdued”. But everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. And the four of us so much that we stayed for one set of their music, kind of looked at each other and as if by telepathy signaled that it was time to go back to our boats and hit the sack. And so we did.
Yee Haw!!!!

Our entire visit to Campbellford was a very pleasant stay. It’s a nice town with conveniences and the people were lovely. The riverfront where we were all moored was a terrific facility. And the weather was spectacular.

On Up to Hastings

There were six boats leaving on Wednesday, July 12 to get to the next stop on the route which was Hastings, ON. It was a short trip, only 21 miles with only six locks to go through. The reason for this short stop is that the next major stop, Petersborough, the home of the famous hydraulic locks, is forty miles past Hastings, and so a stopover in Hastings makes sense. We were second to cast off and traveled with the boat Jan’s Tern, crewed by Bob, Jan and their grandson Spencer. Following us was Karma and Passport, and following them was The Zone and a sailboat that was also doing the loop. As I said there were only six locks, two of them being a flight, and with our exposure to the twelve locks on the route from Trenton to Campbellford we all agreed that it was not much of a big deal.

The route was more on the Trent River than on any cut canal so there was a much more diverse landscape with wider and narrower areas. There were also more twists and turns. We both remarked that it reminded us a lot of some of the routes in Georgia and South Carolina. The weather was spectacular with calm conditions early and a bit more wind in the afternoon. Fortunately, I guess, the winds were from the west southwest and were hitting us head on and of a speed that really didn’t affect our forward speed. And as we locked through lock 18 and approached the Hastings Village Marina the wind was blowing gently directly into our faces, which for me and Why Knot made pulling into our outside leeward slip very easy. All I had to do was to aim her into the slip, the breezes kept her straight,  I gave her a little throttle and she eased right in.
Karma and Passport exiting Lock 18 into Hastings.
We were the first of our merry band of travelers to arrive at the marina so I helped Karma get tied up when they arrived. I then walked a short distance back to the lock and chatted up Ross and Laura on The Zone as they were going up the nine feet of lock 18.
The Zone in Lock 18

Ross at the helm of The Zone in lock 18

The Zone ready to exit
Our evening in Hastings was quiet. We were docked across from Karma and next to Jan’s Tern. The Zone was at the far west end of the marina. We were on the east. We also ran into Salty Dawg and Passport over on the city wall just up from the lock. Upon returning to Why Knot we just watched some TV. As I said it was a quiet time.

Peterborough, ON

It was Friday morning and we headed out about 7:00 am on further up the Trent – Severn Waterway for our destination today, Peterborough, ON. It was an unusual cruising day in that there would only be three locks to negotiate and there were all at the end in Peterborough with the very last lock being one of the icons of the waterway, The Peterborough Lift Lock. More about that later.

Our initial part of the route was an anomaly on the waterway in that it is the longest part of the waterway without a lock, about 37 miles. As we left Hastings we made our way along the Trent River westward to the mouth of Rice Lake, a long lake dotted with many islands. It was an easy transit for the most part except for a very real hazard that was about halfway across the lake and just east of our turn to head north on the Otonabee River which would take us on to Peterborough. The hazard, or hazards to be exact are a line of concrete foundations called “cribs” that are leftover from a very old deserted and destroyed railroad bridge from long ago. Obviously having big ol’ chunks of concrete across a waterway is not a good thing so great care has to be paid to make sure that you are on course to cross through one of two green-red marker gates that navigate your through large gaps in amongst the cribs. The south gap was way to our south and really isn’t part of the course through the lake. The central gap is the one to go for. At this point I would like to make a small criticism of the Canada. In the US the green and red markers and buoys are very, very bright, of a substantial size and are easy to spot at a distance. Not so the markers in Canada. Though they operate just like in the US (Red Right Returning) they are much smaller, particularly in breadth and size and are colored with darker less obvious colors. They are difficult to see, in my opinion. So, as we approached the gap we had a very difficult time spotting the markers and we were getting a bit nervous. But once we were close we did spot them and made it through the gap.

Shortly after going through the gap in the cribs we headed north on the Otonabee River. It was very wind-y and at times very narrow. It was difficult to make much headway because there were so many home docks by which, due to courtesy and Canadian law, you have to reduce speed when passing. Also there were sooooo many fisherman in the small boats all along the river, some of them right in the middle of the thing. (Sorry fisherman. You’re a pain in the neck.) After winding up and down and in and out along the river we eventually came to some civilization namely the outskirts of Peterborough. We went through locks 19 and 20 without too much incident, other than a small problem with the gates not being able to close all the way at gate 20 due to all the hydrilia and other water plants that was floating all around. With the gates not able to close tightly the lockmasters could not get adequate pressure from the upper pool to fill the lock as the water was leaking out the downside gate. They had to drop us down again and reopen and close the gates a couple of times. But we did make it onwards after a couple of tries.

After leaving lock 20 we glided along a short canal to a point where we made a slight left turn and came face to face with, as I mentioned earlier one of the icons of the waterway, the Peterborough Lift Lock. It is unlike a regular lock that you enter and ride a rising pool of water in the lock. Instead you enter a tub with gates at each end that seals the tub tight full of water and boats. There are two tubs. One is always up and the other is always down. We pulled into the left tub, tied up and waited for the ride. The tubs are mounted on huge 7 foot diameter hydraulic pistons that directly interact with each other. We went in the left tub, they added just one foot of water to the upper tub which forced it down because it was heavier than the lower tub (the boats displace their own weight in water so they are not counted in the weight thing.) which pushes down on its piston which through a close hydraulic system raises the piston and thus the lower tub. It rises 65 feet in only two minutes. And when was the marvel of engineering built? How about 1896 to 1904. Yep, it’s over 100 years old. Amazing.
The Peterborough Lift Lock

View from inside the tub looking back at where we came from

Why Knot docked for the night at the top of the lift lock

The view from our sundeck. After the crew left for the evening we had the whole place to ourselves.
One of the challenges of being a looper is that we all have to improvise in getting around these towns and cities. Sometimes we rent a car or take public transportation if available. Most of the time we walk. The challenge comes from the well-meaning locals who always say, “ Oh that grocery store (or insert any kind of local service) is only a few minutes' from here. No problem.” Sometimes they’re right but I think more often they are not. The reason is simple. They have never walked to them before because they have their cars. Of course its only a few minutes to them. Well, that’s the way it is shaking down here in Peterborough. Ed, the lockmaster at the Lift Lock, a very nice guy, assured us that the local marine store would be only a short walk away. Well, it wasn’t. It was a very long way away. But we did get there and found out that it really isn’t much of a store. But we did get a few things. And we are busting up the return walk with several stops to rest our feet.

As like right now.

With this you are now caught up on our travels. As I write this it's July 14, 2012 and we are spending a few days in Peterborough, partially by design and also of necessity. As we are tied up to a wall at the top of the lift lock in Peterborough we have to use our generator to keep our batteries juiced up and to take on some of the high voltage needs such as the air conditioning and oven / stove. It was working fine last evening and early this morning but as I attempted to start it a little bit later in the morning it would not start. I have contacted a local technician and he will either be able to come by the boat today or will meet us at our next location, Buckhorn, ON, tomorrow. We’ll see. This is not a huge challenge other than to get it fixed. If I need to recharge the batteries I can do so using the main engines.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Getting Up to Trenton, ON

July 5, 2012

It was time to cross Lake Ontario and enter Canada to continue our Great Loop adventure. Now at first blush crossing one of the Great Lakes seems daunting. After all aren’t the Great Lakes GREAT?... BIG? …MINI-OCEANS? Well, they can be but not so much if you’re careful. The crossing from Oswego, New York to our entry point, Waupoos Marina in Waupoos, Ontario requires only a thirty-one mile leg over open water. There would need to be ten more miles cruised up and down a few bays to get to the marina once we crossed the lake. Most loopers, I think, choose to go the city of Kingston, Ontario, which is a few miles further east making the crossing something like forty miles. Either way the crossing has to be made and it isn’t that big of a jump to do it.

We arrived in Oswego on July 3rd with the intentions of staying there on the 4th of July to do laundry and to take a bit of a rest. The weather on the 4th wasn’t so hot anyway and we had already seen that the weather for a crossing on the 5th of July was being forecast as being favorable by both the U.S. and Canadian weather services with low winds and seas. When we woke up on the 5th the weather report did boost the winds a little bit but both services forecast that the winds would be more prevalent in the morning with calming winds and seas as the day progressed. However overnight the winds had kicked up enough that our boat was pinned against the dock we were tied up at.

We waited to leave at 8:30 am as the magic time of the winds calming down was predicted to be around 9:00 am at least according to the U.S. Weather Service. With the help of a dock mate we cast off the lines and I ran my rudder all the way to starboard (We had a port side docking.) with the idea of pivoting the port stern off the rub rail on the facing dock we were on and swinging the bow out to starboard. I punched the throttle and…nothing happened the way I had planned. The boat moved forward but absolutely no pivot occurred as the wind kept us pinned to the dock. I could not swing the bow out at all. Instead the wind caught the bowed and actually started pushing the bow to the port side down a slip fairway. Well, that stunk! I had to recalculate the plan quickly and I went with the wind. I did a hard pivot to port and let the nose go down the fairway. At the right angle I then threw the boat into reverse and powered my way out of the fairway into the open water of the a generously large turning basin in the marina. Then in more open water I pivoted her back again to the port, swung her around and exited the marina into the large protected Oswego Harbor. 

Once we passed the jetty of the harbor we were in for a surprise. The one to two foot waves the weather service had predicted were actually three to four foot waves and for about the first ten miles it was a very, very bumpy ride. But the wave direction was not broad-siding us so we continued on with our complete trust in the weather people saying things would get better. And they did. After about fifteen miles a change in the seas was noticeable. There were still some rocking and rolling going on but the waves were lower and the duration of the waves was expanding meaning that the waves were further apart. I would still call this time a rough chop with a few sizable waves thrown in to keep my attention focused. When we were about ten miles from the Canadian shore things really settled down and the waves became no more than a moderate chop. Five miles to go and the waves were a low chop. And once we passed the first set of islands conditions changed to a light chop to calm. We then made our way west through the Prince Edward Bay, around Waupoos Island to our marina for the night.

We pulled up to our dock and tied up. Lisa jumped off the boat to do the tie up which makes her a terrible criminal. Why? Because until customs has been cleared the only person allowed to set foot in a foreign country by private boat is the captain, and that would be me. But I was up on the fly bridge driving the boat. Rick, the harbor master did make it to us to help finish the tie up. I then went on shore to the nearest phone booth (Yes, they still have phone booths in Canada.) and called Canadian customs. The agent on the other end asked me about our personal information (names, date of birth, citizenship and residency), the vessel’s identification number, confirmed the make and model (The US coast guard shares all that information with Canada.), why we were in Canada, how long would we be in Canada, and did we need to declare any alcohol, tobacco, plants, or guns. I answered all of her questions and she gave me a visa number that we had to write on a piece of paper and display it taped it to our window. That’s it. We legally entered Canada.

I did, however, forget to tell her that the real reason I came to Canada was to reboot the War of 1812. Oops.

July 6, 2012

We departed Waupoos around 7:00 am with slightly overcast skies and calm winds and proceeded east on Prince Edward sound. About an hour later we went around the point of the Prince Edward peninsula and headed back west in a reach with our final destination being Trenton, ON. Trenton is the starting point of the Trent – Severn Waterway which carries with it the reputation of being the very best part of the Great Loop. We have never heard anyone say anything other than how beautiful it is and what a great cruise it is.

There are two ways to get there. We could have gone back down to Lake Ontario and headed west to the Murray Canal which then cuts straight northeast into Quinte Bay which is where Trenton is. We took the other route which goes up into Ontario along a series of reaches and bays zig-zagging back and forth until reaching Trenton. For us it was a 52 nautical mile trip.

It was a pleasant enough trip with pleasant scenery and calm conditions. There were houses and hamlets along the way but certainly not to the degree of the other waterways we’ve been on. After we turned west on the final reach of the course the winds did pick up significantly, which was contrary to the predictions. One of the things that we have to modify is how we listen to the weather. The forecasts are all in metric. So when they say ten kilometer winds we have to do some quick math to understand that is about five knots or about six miles per hour. Also they use Celsius for temperature. I don’t know the exact math for converting that but when they say thirty degrees it is still hot. Not a big deal but it is an adjustment.

So we lazily cruised along going back and forth going further north and west. As I said when we reached the last reach the winds picked up and I turned on the weather radio and after the entire forecast was given in French, of which I know absolutely zero, the English forecast was given. The winds were now being reported at twenty kilometers which was twelve-ish miles per hour. And I could feel it on the boat too. For most of the day we were cruising at about 8.8 to 9.0 knots at 1800 rpm. Not bad. But the new heightened winds were now blowing straight at us and our speeds dropped down to 8.4 knots or so. Still not bad but the waves were picking up a tad. At times there was spray coming over the bow. I was beginning to be concerned with docking, and we wanted to do a pump out first. Fortunately our marina, Fraser Marina was pretty well sheltered so we did the pump out and tied up at our wall without too much of a hassle.

Now here’s the best part. Craig, the dock master was telling us that several boats were coming in right after us. After docking when we went to the office to pay our bill we heard one of them calling in to make its approach and docking. We heard the hail from our friends Ross and Laura of The Zone. Awesome! Ross made a beautiful docking of their fifty-two Jefferson trawler. Man, he can swing that thing in to just about anyplace. He’s a good captain. And Laura is a first rate crew. After they tied up we chatted for a minute and agreed to meet for dinner. Great!

So here we are in Trenton until Monday. We have heard and read numerous times that as boaters on a mission loopers should probably just tie up somewhere for the weekends because there are a lot of locals that clog up the canal and locks. Cruising for loopers is best left to the week days. So that is what we shall do. Trenton seems like a very nice town with plenty to see and do.