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.