Monthly Archives: July 2015

Gorgeous Georgian Bay

This is an unbelievable place of beauty that pictures will never be able to show….but we will try. Here is the latest of what we have been doing this week.

Thursday (7/23) – Leaving Port Severn – It was so nice to wake up to a calm day and the sun shining without the wind fiercely blowing. As had been predicted, the wind died down overnight and it looked like it was going to be a great day to cross the southern part of the Georgian Bay.

Our marina was in sight of the last lock (#45) of the TSW and so we could see the boats that were already on the blue line in queue for the first opening. Knowing it would be a mad dash by all the boats that were waiting the weather from the previous day, we untied our dock lines and got up to the wall as well; we too were anxious to get through this very last lock on the TSW.

When we arrived, there were two big trawlers in front of us; fellow loopers on “Ivory Lady” and “Next Chapter”.  Also coming up were two small run-about boats and “Snug Tug” who ended up rafting to us.  We had been in communication with TiKa and advised them not to leave the marina as there would be at least 3 lock openings before they would be allowed in.  You see this lock is the smallest lock on the TSW and only so many boats can fit in at once.  Big boats (like TiKa) who are greater than 50’ in length have to lock by themselves; sometimes smaller craft (like jet skis) can go with them.

Waiting on the Blue Line Last TSW Lock #45

Waiting on the Blue Line
Last TSW Lock #45

So we waited our turn, and finally an hour later we were able to go into the lock with “Empty Pockets”; a SeaRay 46 who had been at our marina in Port Orillia, as well as Starport Marina last night.  Snug Tug had gone in the lock-down before us, and when the other trawlers left another one came in as did TiKa. Of course it was chaos again trying to negotiate around all the big boats, little boats and the current into the lock, but we finally got tied up ok.

While in the locks we were (once again) visited by Canadian Border & Customs. While it is not uncommon for them to check on the boats leaving the TSW, we were the only ones they asked questions of. As usual, they asked us the standard questions; where are you headed, what is your boat name (duh – it is on the back of the boat), when are you leaving Canada, etc.  All the while they are writing our CANPASS number on their handwritten notepad. I guess technology hasn’t arrived at the Canadian Border & Customs agency yet!  We (of course) passed without issue but we were beginning to wonder if we had a target on us.

Customs and Border Patrol visit

Customs and Border Patrol visit

It was our good fortune to have “Empty Pockets” in the lock with us, as they are from Midland and we were headed in that direction, and they agreed to let us follow them to the Bay. The exit out of the lock gets really squirrely with the current from a dam and an under-construction bridge that has a narrow channel to get through.

Narrow Channel after TSW Lock #45

Narrow Channel after TSW Lock #45

But also because the “Potato Channel” route to the bay is extremely narrow and there are rocks on both sides.  It is a very common problem to hit a rock in this area, and all the marine services are geared for quick repair of props, hulls and even complete rescue because boaters hit them all the time.

Following "Empty Pockets"  through Potato Channel

Following “Empty Pockets”
through Potato Channel

We crossed the bay in about 30 minutes and arrived in Midland at the Wye Heritage Marina, pulling up to the fuel dock for a fill up and a pump out. – There is some kind of irony in that!  Snug Tug was there as they too had to make a fuel stop, but had encountered a major issue with the wrong fuel put aboard their boat.  Long story short, it all got resolved and the marina took care of them with free services and dockage for the night. However, it cost them their afternoon of fun and provided a lot of worry in the process.

Snug Tug - fuel issue Wye Marina

Snug Tug – fuel issue
Wye Marina

Once we moved to our slip, we got our bikes and went to the marina office to check in. We took our bikes because this marina is HUGE; the largest fresh water marina in North America, with over 700 slips.  We also rode down to our friends on “Renegade” who called us on the VHF radio when we were at the fuel dock; they had spotted us coming in and wanted to let us know they were there.  So we made plans to have dinner together at the marina restaurant (Henry’s); the only one in the area of the marina.

Since hearing about this area of Canada, Denise has wanted to go to the Martyr’s Shrine. It is Canada’s tribute to 6 Jesuit priests who explored this area in the 1600’s and were killed by the Indians; but not before converting many to Christianity. Subsequently it has included many who have sacrificed their lives for their faith, and who are now saints.  Pope John Paul II visited here in September 1984 and the place is a frequent site of pilgrimages by Catholic and non-Catholics alike.

JP II VIsit - commemorative Sign

JP II VIsit – commemorative Sign

Commemorative Monument - JP II Visit

Commemorative Monument – JP II Visit

Originally we thought we would ride our bikes there as it is less than 2 miles from the marina. However, the road is all highway and there is a very huge hill we would never be able to ride up.  The marina offers free transportation into the town of Midland for loopers, and they were willing to take us.  However, before they could get to us, some other boaters whom we had met in Port Orillia had shown up and offered to take us as they had a car and this was their home marina.  So, Phil & Erica (“Fiji North”) dropped us off at the front of the shrine at the top of the hill and we got to explore the entire place.

The main church is huge and the grounds are quiet and inspiring.  There is a “Stations of the Cross” walk with the 14 stations all cast and painted with an automotive paint to withstand the elements. You would swear they were bronze, and knowing they were done in the 1920’s makes it even more impressive.  There is also a lookout where you climb up and see to the Georgian Bay, including our marina; which we did.  And throughout the entire grounds there are numerous side alters and statues, including one for the very first canonized Pilipino saint. This made us think of our nephew-in-law, Dan who is of Pilipino descent. Sorry Dan the picture of it didn’t come out as it was in the shade of a tree.

Martyr's Shrine

Martyr’s Shrine

We had a chance to meet the head landscaper and designer of all the shrine gardens (Steve Smith) who told us a lot about the history, JPII’s visit, and gave us lots of suggestions of things to see there.

Steve Smith - Gardener - Martyr's Shrine

Steve Smith – Gardener – Martyr’s Shrine

Unfortunately, it was late afternoon and we would not have time to see it all.  When it was time to leave the staff in the information office called the marina and they came and got us.  But not before we got to put a pin in their world map of visitors; we were the first from the Orlando-area to do so.

Putting in the pin for FL Martyr's Shrine

Putting in the pin for FL
Martyr’s Shrine

That evening we went to dinner with Donna & Bill (“Renegade”), and Ginny & Bruce (“Snug Tug”) at the marina restaurant “Henry’s”.  It is the second site of a famous restaurant in Frying Pan bay which we have plans to visit tomorrow. Our friends on TiKa had eaten there for lunch, so they chose to eat aboard their boat.

After dinner we hung out around the picnic tables near our boats and watched a spectacular sunset over the Georgian Bay. It had truly been a beautiful day to be on the water and we felt very blessed to be able to be on this great adventure.

Our boat at Wye Marina

Our boat at Wye Marina

Mark at Sunset - Wye

Mark at Sunset – Wye

Friday (7/24) – We had an early morning appointment with Mike (the General Manager of the marina) who agreed to go over the Georgian Bay charts with all of us, and make recommendations for routes and places to see.  After about 90 minutes of his time, we were equipped with knowledge and collectively (TiKa, Snug Tug & us) decided to leave and head across the bay.  As we had some work to do which required an internet, they left before us, but we left 30 minutes late and caught up to them in the Small Craft Channel.

It is so hard to describe the beauty of this area, and pictures will not do it justice. There is lush greenery surrounded by beautiful clear (fresh) water, thrown in with a few rocks.  Navigating around it all takes deep concentration and you must stay in the channel or you will run aground. The rule is to stay in the channel and follow the paths on the charts.

We made our way to Frying Pan Bay and Henry’s Restaurant (the original) for a late lunch.  Mark and I got the fish sandwich instead of a full meal, but it was a big enough portion we could not eat all that came with it.  The popular fish everyone eats here is pickerel, but it is the same as walleye in the mid-west. It is a tender white fish that is delicious, but seems to be mostly fried. In addition to the restaurant catering to boaters, it also caters to those flying float planes.  It is not uncommon to see them, and while we were there two left and two more came in.  We were told that many movie stars will come in on their planes, but we did not get to see any while we were there.

Mark & Denise at Henry's

Mark & Denise at Henry’s

Float Plane arrives at Henry's

Float Plane arrives at Henry’s

We all decided we wanted to anchor out, so we left Frying Pan Bay with a destination in mind; Echo Bay which was just a short 1.5 miles away.  However, when we got there we found it to be already crowded with weekenders and we were all looking for something more remote.  So we came back out of the cove and were attempting to locate another anchorage when TiKa drifted from the channel and ran aground. Fortunately for them they reversed right away but not before damaging their propeller.

While we were waiting to see if TiKa was ok and were making plans to go to another anchorage, Snug Tug was approached by a man and woman in a dinghy who had been at Henry’s as well. Come to find out they are Gold Loopers (John & Marsha Belford aboard “Kadadi”) who were from the area, and agreed to show us the way to a great anchorage. So we followed them into a really cool cove where they too were anchored, and we all set up for the night.  First TiKa anchored, and then we rafted to them on their port (left) side, and Snug Tug rafted on their starboard side (right).

Boats rafted for the night

Boats rafted for the night

Mark launched the dinghy and took everyone (eventually) around the area to see some very cool cottages and the landscape.

Cottage near anchorage

Cottage near anchorage

Island & Sign at entrance to cove

Island & Sign at entrance to cove

Everyone pretty much ate dinner on their own boats, but afterwards TiKa invited us on their boat and John & Marsha joined us for a few hours of local knowledge-sharing, and getting to know each other.  It was another fun day in this beautiful land.

Get together with Gold Loopers- John & Marsha ("Kadadi")

Get together with Gold Loopers John & Marsha (“Kadadi”) onboard TiKa

Saturday (7/25) – We woke up to a light rain and overcast skies…but not a ripple on the water. By the time we left the anchorage the rain had stopped and we had a nice day slow motoring to Parry Sound and the Big Sound Marina. Here we saw several other loopers including Sam & Beverly (“Perigee”) a young couple from Troy, NY who were doing their loop on a sailboat.  We also ran into “Next Chapter” and met a couple on “Yolo” who were awaiting arrival of guests.

In the afternoon the forecasted rains came just as Mark was finishing up washing the boat. Denise had been down below vacuuming (a daily chore) and cleaning up the bathroom and galley. Fortunately, the rains stopped and we were able to get all our boat chores done.

We located “St. Peters” and hit the 4:30 evening mass so that we could have time options open for leaving in the morning.  The church was one-mile away and we chose to walk instead of taking the bikes, in case the rains started again.  Of course Mark thought it was more like 10 miles, but Denise kept reassuring him it was not.  Our route took us past the performing arts center and the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. Parry Sound is home of the world famous hockey player Bobby Orr.

Perf Arts Center - Bobby Orr Hall of Fame

Performing Arts Center – Bobby Orr Hall of Fame

St Peter the Apostle church

St Peter the Apostle church

After mass we met up with Snug Tug and TiKa and we went to dinner at the “Bay Street Café” and discussed our next day’s planned adventure.

Dinner at Bay Street Cafe

Dinner at Bay Street Café

On the way back to the boats we had an opportunity to see a beautiful sunset near the performing arts complex.  Back at the docks, TiKa invited us aboard for a nightcap where we stay for a little while, and then we made our way back to our floating home for the night.

Sunset over Parry Sound

Sunset over Parry Sound

Sunday (7/26) – Hopewell Bay Anchorage – At 7:30 the ladies met for a quick taxi ride to Wal-Mart to buy some groceries needed for our few nights of anchoring out. We left Parry Sound around 9:30 in the morning and headed out of the harbor as a float plane was taking off behind us. This is a very common method of transportation around here, and we have passed numerous cottages that have such planes tied alongside their docks, like Floridians have boats. You have to watch your nautical charts as they are frequently marked with float plane landing areas and they mean it.

Float Plane taking off behind us

Float Plane taking off behind us

We traveled almost 30 miles today; one of our longest days in a while. However, we had no locks to contend with, the skies were clear and the Georgian Bay was calm. It made for a peaceful morning on the water.

We headed into Hopewell Bay; an anchoring area that was identified in “Active Captain” as being a nice place to anchor.  It was and we liked the cove we were in. However, we had a very difficult time trying to get the anchor set, and after a frustrating hour ended up rafting to TiKa again (who had no problem).  Snug Tug was also able to set their own anchor and therefore they did not raft to TiKa.  It was a beautiful spot and we again felt so blessed to be able to see this great place.

Dusk in Hopewell Bay

Dusk in Hopewell Bay

That night we fired up our bar-b-q and everyone cooked hamburgers & hotdogs, and we shared salads and desserts (store bought cake & Oreos).  We also discussed plans for the coming few days, including where we wanted to be on Wednesday and Thursday when the wind is supposed to blow a good 25 knots with gusts to 35+.  We decided we did not want to be at an anchorage and that we should plan to be in Killarney by then. Denise agreed to call The Lodge in Killarney after they open in the morning, and make reservations for all.

Bruce, Tim & Mark - Hamburger Cookout

Bruce, Tim & Mark – Hamburger Cookout

Sunset over Snug Tug

Sunset over Snug Tug – Hopewell Bay

Our three boats are really developing a great friendship as we spend more time together and get to know each other more and more.

Monday (7/27) – Bustard Islands – First thing this morning was to make reservations at The Lodge in Killarney, which was accomplished successfully.  Of course they are one of a few marinas that have a $25 cancellation fee so we are pretty committed to going there for Wed. & Thurs. nights.

Again the weather was beautiful and it was an awesome day to be on the water, so we made the decision to go out on the Georgian Bay again. This meant bypassing the Northeast Small Craft channel that would take us past more beautiful cottages, but also rocks. It was a safer route in great weather and also was much faster as it didn’t entail the winding around rocks and we could go 15 knots, not 8.  We arrived at the anchorage in time for lunch, but the ground here was very rocky so it took us lots of attempts to set an anchor by all of us.  Finally we were successful and we later watched several other boats struggle as well.

Island Office at Anchor

Island Office at Anchor in Bustard Islands

After lunch we launched the dinghy and followed Ginny & Bruce (“Snug Tug”) on their paddleboards through some coves and to the other side of the island.  There we discovered another anchorage and found “Next Chapter” and “Ivory Lady”.

Bill & Jann Mellman (Ivory Lady)

Bill & Jann Mellman (Ivory Lady)

We stopped to talk with them for a bit all the while watching another boat come in and try to anchor; finally successful after 3 or 4 tries. We didn’t feel so bad after all.

Bruce & Ginny on SUPs

Bruce & Ginny on SUPs

Later that afternoon when we back on our boat we were visited by Gail & Jeff Dunham (“YOLO”) whom we had met in Parry Sound. They are from Ft. Monroe, VA and we had a lot to talk about, as Christen & Shannon (Denise’s nieces) and their families now reside in that same vicinity. We enjoyed sharing our information and trading boat cards.

Next Chapter & Ivory Lady visiting Snug Tug

Next Chapter & Ivory Lady visiting Snug Tug

Also in the afternoon we did a little bit of work, and communicated with family as to our whereabouts and what our plans were for the coming days. We met at TiKa for drinks with Snug Tug, then went back to our own boats for our respective dinners.

It was a fun day and the weather could not have been more perfect.

Tuesday (7/28) – Burnt Island in Beaverton Bay – After being woken up in the early hours by a very loud mating call of a loon in the anchorage, we feel back asleep and slept in late (Denise – 6:30; Mark – 7:30).  We had made plans to depart at 9:00 so we could get up to our next anchorage in sufficient time to get a good spot, and again break out the dinghy and paddle boards.

As we pulled up anchors Snug Tug got stuck on a rock and could not get their anchor freed up.  We ended up staying behind to help them, while TiKa pressed on.  However, we were successful at getting it lose right away and were only delayed by about 15 minutes.

Again the weather was sunny and the winds were calm.  We had mapped out several possible anchorages in Beaverton Bay, but were lucky enough to find plenty of room at the first one; behind Burnt Island. Originally there were two boats in the cove when we arrived, but one was leaving and the second (Fleming 55) stayed.  It provided plenty of room to anchor, and all three of us did so without any difficulty. Before lunch we had dinghies and paddle boards in the water and we were anxious to check out the surrounding area.

Island Office at Burnt Is anchorage

Island Office at Burnt Is anchorage

After lunch Mark & Denise got in the dinghy and went to talk to the Fleming 55. They are from Michigan and come to the Georgian Bay a lot; they are planning on staying here until mid-August. They gave us lots of suggestions for places here, as well as the North Channel and provided insight into facilities at Drummond Island.  We educated them on the “Predict Wind” and “Active Captain” apps and then ended our visit.

We then went to get Ginny & Bruce to further explore a rocky island they had paddle-boarded to earlier. There they had found a message in a bottle underneath a pile of rocks. It appears it was part of a scavenger hunt with a cryptic message inside.  What a terrific scavenger hunt you could have in these parts – it would be quite fun and involved.

Message in bottle

Message in bottle

Mark climbing on rocks

Mark climbing on rocks

Rock monument at Burnt Is anchorage

Rock monument at Burnt Island anchorage

Mark at Burnt Is anchorage

Mark at Burnt Is anchorage

As is becoming a custom with the three of our boats, we had happy hour; but tonight it was aboard Island Office.  As the weather was breezy and so pretty, we opened up the whole back of the boat and enjoyed planning for the next day’s venture up to Killarney.

Sunset over Phillip Edward Island

Sunset over “Minesweeper” (Fleming 55) and Phillip Edward Island – Burnt Island in Beaverton Bay

Other pictures from Georgian Bay:

Pointe Au Baril Lighthouse

Pointe Au Baril Lighthouse – on way to Bustard Islands

Original Barrel Marker

Original Pointe au Barrel Marker

Rocks & pine tree near Burnt Island anchorage

Rocks & pine tree near Burnt Island anchorage

Spruce Island Beacon

Spruce Island Beacon – Leaving Parry Sound

Mark (TiKa) relaxing in dink

Mark (TiKa) relaxing in dink – Bustard Island anchorage

Stay tuned for more adventures to come!

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The Trent – Severn Waterway (TSW)

This is a long post because we have not had time to write it some days, and because we have not always had an internet connection to be able to post it. Therefore, it will be mostly words with only a few pictures.

Friday (7/10) – Trenton, Ontario. The day started with Denise completing a short run around the downtown area to see how things are laid out and where the stores are located. Then we borrowed a second bicycle from our friends on “Renegade” in order to run a few errands. We needed to get some cash in Canadian currency, so we rode to an ATM that was more than 2 miles from the marina as it was supposed to be free (Credit Union partner), but ended up costing us $2. Then we had to go get a sim chip for our iPad in order to make it into a hot spot. We rode back towards the marina to “The Source“, (a Radio-Shack-type store) where we were able to buy the chip and sign up for a no contract usage with the Bell system while we are in Canada. It is an expensive data plan, but better than paying AT&T Canada rates, and we only need it for 6 weeks.

After that we stopped at a bar-b-que restaurant we had seen on the way to The Source. It was pretty good and we had the chance to meet the owner (Neil) who was Canadian born to a Canadian mother an American father from South Carolina. He has lived in North Carolina where he discovered how to make bar-b-que and when he moved back to Canada he opened a catering business. Now he has the restaurant which he had recently acquired.

Owner Neil - Neil's BBQ

Owner Neil – Neil’s BBQ

On the way home, we stopped at a grocery store for a few items, then rode back to the boat to set up the hot-spot and return the loaner bicycle.
In the evening the city of Trenton was having a concert in Fraser Park, which is adjacent to the marina. So all the loopers got together and had “docktails” on the dock nearest the park. It was the biggest group we have experienced yet and we met several other looper couples, some of whom we had seen but had never really met. The concert was lightly attended with maybe 500 people, probably because the music the band played would appeal to a limited group; minstrel folksy kind of country. So when the docktails broke up, we went back to the boat for a dinner of leftovers and went to bed.

Fraser Park

Fraser Park

Saturday (7/11) – Trenton, Ontario. We said goodbye to Ginny & Bruce (“Snug Tug”) as they left today to head north. They are trying to get to a position where they can either leave the boat, or be in Michigan for early August in order to attend a family reunion there. We know we will catch up to them, we just don’t know when or where. Everyone’s schedule continues to change based on weather, individual itineraries, desired sightseeing, dock availability, or just wanting to hang out with each other.

We spent most of the morning working in the boat to plan out our future itinerary, and to communicate with family & friends. After lunch we walked around downtown to see some of the stores and the shops. First to the grocery store closest to the marina to pick up a few things we couldn’t get at the other store the day before. We also walked out to the new marina they have built at the harbor entrance. It is not open for transients yet as they have not finished the building that will house the shower facilities or marina office. Only dock space is available for the seasonal business, but transients will be welcome soon. We also went to the Dollar Tree (things are almost $1.25 CA there) and picked up a few paper products. Then Mark went back to the boat for a rest and Denise went to the Tourist Information office and walked the Riverfront as it was a beautiful day.

That evening we walked the half mile to “St. Peter’s in Chains” church for mass. We met Mike & Carolyn (“Patriyachtik”) there, as earlier in the day we had asked them to join us and were delighted when they said yes. Afterwards, we went to dinner together at “Captain George’s Fish & Chips” which was right on the corner near the marina. The restaurant is one of a handful of downtown merchants who provided discounts in the goody bag given by the marina to all their guests. This was a nice little perk and the food was pretty good.

St Peters

St Peters

Our friends Bill & Donna (“Renegade”) had gotten a rental car and drove to Toronto to pick up their daughter (Sandy) and two of their grandkids (Abbey & Matty) who would be joining them for the next week on their adventure. We had a chance to meet them briefly and will expect to see them in future days.
This was our last night in Trenton and so we spent some time talking with others who were leaving, and those who were staying behind. We thanked the young dockhands for their assistance and said our good-byes.

 Sunday (7/12) – We left Trenton and went under the gateway bridge to the Trent Severn Waterway (TSW).

Patriyachtik on their way

Patriyachtik on their way

We were not alone as there were lots of looper boats who were also trying to make the first lock opening, so there was an immediate queue on the “Blue Line”. The blue line is a piece of concrete dock that is painted with a ribbon of bright blue, and boats who wish to enter the lock are supposed to tie up to the line. This tells the lock attendees that you want to enter at their next opening.
The lock attendees in the TSW do not use VHF to communicate like they do for bridges/locks in the USA. When you queue up they will come out and talk to you and give instructions, etc. Once you enter the locks, you are usually going to stay in the same formation and with the same boats all the way through until you stop for the day. They will ask you the planned destination for the day, etc. and then communicate that information to all the other locks along the way. The intent is for them to coordinate the locking up for all upstream boats, and the locking down for downstream boats without having to unnecessarily fill or dump water. This is a very efficient process when it works and prevents anyone from waiting too long on the wall for an opening.

Today, however, lots of boats were trying to leave all at once, and boats started the queue at 8:00 for the 9:00 opening. Our friends on “Patriyachtik” were first in line and the others in front of us had queued behind them. But because we were a shorter boat, we were able to fit on the angle right before them on the lock wall and were invited to do so. Therefore, we were instructed by the lock attendants to proceed first into the lock. Unfortunately, only two boats at a time would fit, so we spent all day going through the locks with “Patriyachtik” and the others had to wait. For our friends on “Renegade” they had to wait over 2 hours just to get into the first lock, and they were therefore behind us by that all day.
Originally we were planning to stop in Frankford only 8 miles away. However, we changed our minds as the town was really pretty small and there was not much to see. So we decided to keep moving. In discussions with “Patriyachtik” and others, we pushed on to Campbellford; originally a 2nd planned stop for us. However, it meant completing 12 locks that day, covering 27.5 nautical miles. It was hot (85 degrees) and exhausting work. When we arrived at Campbellford we tied up to the city docks on the West side, only to find out there was insufficient power we could use. So, we switched to the East docks which were newer and offered a better setup. It worked out well as this was the side the town was on and we could get to all that we wanted to see more easily. Within two hours our friends on “Tika” and “Renegade” showed up and tied up to the same dock.
That night we all ate together at the Riverview Restaurant, right on the water. The place was huge and there were very few diners, but they were able to accommodate all of us. The food was good, not great, but we were so exhausted it didn’t matter. Once fed and back on our boats we crashed and fell fast asleep.

Monday (7/13) –Originally we had wanted to stay in Campbellford for two days as they had advertised a strong internet connection. Denise had a web training session to deliver on Tuesday morning and needed to make sure she was in a good spot for it. However, the signal was not strong at all and we were deeply concerned. We received an email from Ginny (“Snug Tug”) who were ahead of us in Hastings that the marina there had excellent Wi-Fi, and that the accommodations were terrific. It was on our radar for possible places to stay, so we decided to go there instead of staying a second night in Campbellford.
But before leaving Campbellford in the morning we wanted to experience some of the “must do’s” in town. So we waked to the bakery and purchased some “butter tarts”, breads and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We then walked to the “World’s Finest” chocolate factory and visited the outlet store where we made some additional purchases. We decided time was ticking by and we needed to get going, so we bypassed the trek up the hill to the cheese factory; there is another one along the TSW we will get a shot at later.

Earlier that morning Patriyachtik and Tika left as they were going to make a long day of it and go all the way to Peterborough. Since we were still tired from the previous days push, and because we needed to make sure we had a known good internet connection for tomorrow, we decided not to tackle that journey, but to only go to Hastings. Renegade also decided not to make the long journey again, so they hung with us and together we pulled away from the dock at 10:00.
When we arrived at the first lock the doors were closed so we tied to the blue line. We were first with Renegade right behind, and two other unknown boats were coming up behind us. The lock attendant came down to talk with us and discuss how they wanted to get all 4 of us in the locks, and it would require rafting as you can only tie to one side of the lock here.

While we were discussing the plan with the attendant, one of the other boats (“Princess”) attempted to get in front of us in the channel so they could be first in the lock. This did not sit well with us and set in motion what became a day of frustrating experiences with a couple of arrogant and ignorant Canadian boaters whom we later learned were also on the TSW for their first time. Unfortunately, we had to spend the whole day with them through 6 locks and even spent the night in the same marina. Needless to say there is much more to this story, but there is not enough time to tell it all in this post.

After getting settled into the Hastings Marina, we went with the folks on Renegade to “Banjo’s”, a local restaurant right around the corner from the marina. We had shared quite a day locking together and laughing at the challenges we had faced, and we had a good time. Afterwards we walked back to the marina and said good bye as we would be leaving later than them in the morning; both heading to Peterborough.

Tuesday (7/14) – We stayed in Hastings for Denise’s web conference with the client and Mark’s conference call, but were under way by 11:00. It was a fairly easy day as it was mostly open water on Rice Lake and only one lock to go through, and that was right before entering Peterborough. The boat performed beautifully, even at 15kts, so hopefully we are over the fuel issue; although we check the vacuum pressure on the fuel filter regularly just to be sure. It was the first day in a long time that we travelled without the company of another looper boat.

We arrived in Peterborough shortly after 3:00 and were greeted by our friends from Patriyachtik to help us tie up. It was a welcome assistance as it was very windy and there were lots of boats in the marina, but Mark backed the boat in beautifully (as usual).

After registration and showers we learned of the planned looper docktails for the night, all being hosted by the AGLCA Harbor Host, Freya Petersen. She is a Gold Looper (completed The Loop) and she keeps her boat on the same dock where we were assigned a slip. She provides all loopers with a “Goody Bag” like no other. In addition to the usual information pamphlets about the area, she included a jar of her homemade strawberry & Grand Meniere jam, as well as other little trinkets from the area. She really does go above and beyond.

Because Peterborough is such a big marina and due to its location, it is a favorite stopping ground for those going either way on the loop. Therefore there were and have been a lot of loopers in the marina this year (50 so far). The looper docktails had many new faces for us to meet, but it was all cut short due to a rain storm that moved in after about 45 minutes. Some of us continued the event on the aft deck of Patriyachtik and stayed talking for another hour or so, then we went back to our boat for the night.

 Wednesday (7/15) – Peterborough – Today was a very fun day which started with a morning run around downtown Peterborough for Denise. The marina and surrounding park are adjacent to the town, and they were very quiet, and quite beautiful. After getting a few loads of laundry done, Denise went with Carolyn (Patriyachtik) to Wal-Mart for some grocery shopping with Harbor Host Freya, who was kind enough to take them in her car. Mark washed the boat and did some other boat chores.

Later that morning we discovered that friends on “Tika” had bought two new folding bicycles from Canadian Tire (a regional store like Wal-Mart). They were similar to the one we had on board, and we regretted not having bought two before the start of the trip. Now this had become an obsession about how we could get one. We had even been trying to buy one from Wal-Mart and have it shipped to us, but their delivery date never could coincide with a planned port stop, and once in Canada we were unable to have it shipped to us. So, when we saw their bikes we got excited. However, it took a few phone calls to the second Canadian Tire store to locate one, and then we had the task of finding transportation to get there, buy it, and get the bike back to the boat.

Well Benh (Harbormaster extraordinaire) offered to drive Denise to get the bike, helped load it in the car and got her back to the marina safely all the while refusing money for gas. He is a terrific guy who is incredibly customer service oriented and is a terrific asset to all mariners who visited the place.

Behn Holland

Behn Holland

So, once back in the marina, we decided to take the bikes up to the Peterborough Lift lock to see what we would be facing in our boat the next day. Ginny & Bruce offered to lead the way as they had already been the day before and knew the route. It took about 20 minutes to get there, and the ride was mostly on a beautiful trail. Once there, we took the stairs to the top of the lock for an amazing view of the area. We met “Ed” who is friends to all loopers (courtesy of the muffins and cookies Freya brings him) and let Ginny, Bruce and Mark walk the gangplank to the control booth. Denise (who is fearful of heights) could not make the trek across the narrow open walkway 90’ in the air. They were able to get an explanation of how the lock worked and showed which buttons worked the whole thing.

Peterborough Lift Lock

Peterborough Lift Lock

Top of Peterborough Lift Lock

Top of Peterborough Lift Lock

Ginny at controls

Ginny at controls

On the way home we stopped at a little café in the park and had something cool to drink. It was a beautiful but warm day, and we were so excited to be able to bike someplace so nice together.

That night there was a concert scheduled in the park (outdoor stage) at 8:00 pm and the city had spent all day preparing with chairs for the patrons and a reserved area for marina guests. They were expecting huge crowds. We had set up our chairs around noon so we would had good seats, even though we did not know anything about the performer, Chad Brownlee. Come to find out he is quite something. There were numerous food tents and the whole area was filled with excitement.

We had been invited by Tim & Karen for cocktails aboard Tika, along with Mike & Carolyn (“Patriyachtik”) prior to the concert so, when we returned to the marina from our bike ride we had to grab quick showers and hustle a bit to be on time. When we left the boats to go to the concert we were amazed; there were thousands of people. By the time we weeded our way through the crowds to get to our seats the music had started. We laughed, danced and really enjoyed the performance of this one-time hockey player, now country singer. He was a great entertainer and the show was fantastic.

Tim & Karen "TIKA"

Tim & Karen “TIKA”

This was a very fun day, and was probably one of the best we have had on the trip.

 Thursday (7/16) – We left our dock in Peterborough at 7:15 am despite not being able to go far because the locks don’t open until 9:00 am and the first one is right near the marina. Our plan was to arrive early and be first on the blue line so we could be in the first lock opening. Sure enough, right behind us came Snug Tug, and shortly thereafter came Patriyachtik, Renegade & Tika. Unfortunately, Tika did not get in the first lock opening due to their size (52’), and ended up being behind us all day.

It turned out to be the most amazing day of experiences yet….definite bucket list items. We went through the Peterborough Lift lock. It is a 100 year old lock that lifts the boats via a great big tub of water. At the same time it is lifting our boat, it was also lowering boats on the other side, using gravity. Without spending time on this, you can read more about it here!!

Our final destination continued to change as we went through the day for various reasons, so we continued on as a group until we got to Reach Harbor. Although no one had reservations for the night, they told us they could take all four of us. These marinas will try everything to get you into a slip when you are traveling in a group, even if it means staying at the fuel dock once they close. The Reach Harbor marina was no different and we all put in to slips that were seasonally rented, but the boats were out of town for the weekend.

All that is in Reach Harbor is the marina, and this one is quite a trip. It has a good ships store that sells books, rents dvds, has t-shirts, jackets, etc., and even ice cream sandwiches. But it is very old school, including a 1970’s stereo record player (yes not a cd or tape player). The guy who runs the marina has a good collection of classics in all genres, which he blasts through the store and picnic area. We all hung out around the picnic tables for a little while talking, and then returned to our respective boats for dinner. We were missing TIka who never made it as far, but kept in touch with Patriyachtik.

Friday (7/17) – We got up and left the docks around 10:30 and made our way to Bobcaygeon (yes that is the name of the city). It was a short 16 miles and only one lock so we were there in the early afternoon. We did not have marina reservations at the same place as the others, but at a marina past the next lock. However, when we approached town the marina was able to squeeze us in on the fuel dock, so we were all able to get tied up with the others and cancelled the other reservation – just as the rains started.

It rained most of the afternoon and turned cool, and when it finally let up we walked into the downtown area. It is a quaint town and is known for its huge shoe store that will fit any size. To us it was no big deal and reminded us of a smaller version of the Shoe Station in Tallahassee, but with walls dividing the different areas (kid’s shoes, men’s, etc.). We also walked through some of the shops, and then stopped at the grocery store for a few things.

By the time we returned to the docks it had stopped raining and everyone made dinner plans. Patriyachtik and Renegade ate on their boats, but Ginny & Bruce joined us at “Lock 32 Pub” for a bite to eat. After that it was time to crash and get some much needed rest.

Saturday (7/18) – We woke up and said goodbye to Sandy, Matty & Abbey (Renegade) as they were headed back to Florida that morning, via Toronto airport, by way of rental car.

Originally our plan was to go to Fenlon Falls, a town just a short distance from Bobcaygeon, while Patriyachtik and Renegade were going to press on to Sunset Cove marina, about 30 miles away. So, they left before us and queued at the blue line for the first lock opening and we queued for the second opening. Along the way, one of the lock attendants told us the Fenlon Falls was having their “moonlight madness” day where all the shops stay open until midnight. This made us rethink our plans.

The sun was shining and it was a Saturday in July in Canada; every boater was on the water trying to get through the locks at Bobcaygeon….including all the SPOREs on house boats (SPORE = Stupid People On Rented Equipment). It was pure chaos in the locks, including a guy who locked with us who left his fenders on the boat deck and proceeded to scrape the rail of his houseboat along the cement lock wall as he entered. SPORE!

When we got to Fenlon Falls Sandy, Matty & Abbey were there as they had stopped to see us go through the locks. It was so crowded and full of people we decided not to stay the night but to press on. It was beyond crazy and there were so many boats trying to get through the lock there. We had 12 boats in our lock-up and in one place 4 of them were rafted together. Not much moving room and certainly not the place we wanted to be.

Fenlon Falls - TSW Lock #34

Fenlon Falls – TSW Lock #34

So we followed Patriyachtik and Renegade all the way to Sunset Cove Marina near Bolsover where they found room for us on the outside dock. It was a small marina right on the canal, and was perfect for the night. After tying up and getting settled in, we had docktails together and were joined by other loopers on “Southern Comfort”. Later we all joined together and ordered pizza for dinner and called it a day.

Today had been a day of milestones in our trip along the TSW. We reached the highest point at Balsam Lake, having completed 35 locks going up. We then began the descent down with the Kirkfield Lift Lock (#36). Like the Peterborough Lift Lock, you are transported in a big tub of water. However, this lock is far scarier, especially if you are the first boat in as we were. You drive your boat to the front of the car and you feel like you will be driving it right off the edge of the earth. Remember you are locking down so there is nothing past the gate holding in all that water. To say Denise was petrified was an understatement. Fortunately, the lock attendees are very helpful and tied the end line for her so she could go to the back of the boat and look up the whole time. Another fascinating day on the TSW.

Entering Kirkfield Lift lock

Entering Kirkfield Lift lock

First in the lock

First in the lock

Sunday (7/19) – We left Sunset Cove Marina with Snug Tug, Patriyachtik, Renegade, and Southern Comfort and traveled to the first lock where they put all of us in together. Three of the boats are big trawlers and it got a bit tight with this many boats. Snug Tug (the smallest) had to come in at an angle to fit. So when we got to the second lock, we decided that we would wait it out with Snug Tug and not try to squeeze us all together again; it had just been too crowded.

We fell behind our friends and did not meet up with them again until after crossing Simcoe Lake and entering into the Port Orillia area. They stopped for diesel at a place we too were going to stop at, but realized we were behind them and would probably wait an hour just to get them fueled up. So, we pressed on to the Port Orillia marina where the package containing Denise’s glasses was scheduled to be delivered. Patriyachtik and Renegade made the decision to stay at the marina with the fuel stop, so we would not see them again.

Once we got into this very large marina, Mark washed the outside of the boat that was filthy from all the bugs while Denise cleaned the inside. We had been inundated with flies and other creatures along the way, and used our fly swatter quite a bit. But now all the windows needed to be cleaned.

After dinner aboard the boat, we went for a walk along the Riverwalk that lines the bay. There is a terrific bike path and park with swing sets for the kids – big and little alike. It was a beautiful night and made for a nice walk.

Swing for big kids

Swing for big kids

Monday (7/20) – Denise took a short run around the southern end of the park and through a neighborhood that lined the bay and included a house that looked a lot like Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater”. Later that morning we went into downtown for a short window-shopping trip and to see what was there. Unfortunately, we had some work to do, so we spent the rest of the day on the phone, emailing or helping clients. Denise worked a lot of the time cataloging the pictures from the last week. It is key we do this as we go as there are just so many – now nearing 2000 or so.

All the loopers were invited to docktails by Charlie & Bonnie Burk (“Sonata”) whom we had met earlier in the day. They are Gold loopers now completing their 3rd loop and they are from Portsmouth, Virginia. They were very gracious and all the loopers had a good time getting to know everyone a little bit better.
For dinner that night we went to a place called “Brewery Bay” with Snug Tug & Tika (Bruce & Ginny, Tim, Karen, & son Mark). Afterwards we walked back to our boats and realized that it was late and definitely time for bed. It is so easy to lose track of time in the evening when the sun doesn’t set until 9:00 pm or later.

Tuesday (7/21) – Last night it rained all night long but cleared up early in the day and then turned incredibly windy. We were thankful that we were not on the water today. Denise & Ginny had coffee in the morning at “Mariposa Market”; a bakery, specialty food and deli known for their pastries. Once back at the marina, we got notice that our package had arrived at the Chamber of Commerce and so we walked a few blocks to get it. Mark thought it was a particularly long walk, especially when Denise enticed him into walking back to Mariposa Market to see the place, and to buy a few cookies. While we were gone Karen had come by the boat to coordinate getting a pedicure with Denise. Since we were not there she went ahead and Denise later arrived only to have missed her by 10 minutes. It didn’t matter as this was a much needed luxury for all the hard work of locking.
We spent a good bit of the afternoon planning for our stops in Georgian Bay and the North Channel. We reviewed suggestions from the ALGCA presentation and plotted with Snug Tug as to possible anchorages and “must see” places. We tried to help them find a location to leave their boat and rent a car. We also spent some time planning for Claire (Denise’s sister) to join us for the crossing to Mackinac Island in Michigan in Mid-August.

In the evening we invited Snug Tug &Tika aboard our boats to share the ALGCA presentation slides on the Georgian Bay and Northwest channel. We also coordinated plans to depart together in the morning and make our way to Georgian Bay.

Planning Georgian Bay

Planning Georgian Bay

Wednesday (7/22) – We had been told that the further north you go past Peterborough, the more beautiful the landscape would become. This is certainly true of today. We left Port Orillia on Lake Couchiching in time to make the swing bridge at the earliest possible opening; 9:00 am. Snug Tug left about 30 minutes before us as they had to make a fuel stop along the way. Tika left with us so we could all meet up in route to the bridge and travel together. It would be a day to share with friends.

Most of the morning was uneventful as we passed the swing bridge, cleared locks #43 & #44, and crossed Sparrow Lake. There were several parts of the canal that got super narrow with rocks on both sides of the marks. You dared not stray from the channel or you would hit one. Some of the way was absolutely beautiful, but absolutely terrifying at the same time.

But perhaps the biggest thrill of the day was completing lock #44 known as the Big Chute. It is really not a lock at all, but a complex system of straps and rams that takes your boat over land and is known as the Marine Railway (See more here). Yup, you are literally raised out of the water and are transported across the road, via railway to the body of water below the pool at Big Chute. It is a fascinating engineering marvel that is simplistic and incredibly efficient. There is nothing high tech about it, and yet they transport about 40 or 50 boats through it each day during the boating season.

We entered the basin and lined up on the blue wall, but the order that you line up here does not matter. The attendants know to load the chute so they can get the maximum number of boats in with each lift. Using a PA system that broadcasts over the entire basin they tell you what to do. Commands like “Pull all the way to the end of the Pier” or “Boat #2 you go in first, followed by the last boat”. It is a hoot to watch. We were with Snug Tug and another boat in the first lift, and in 15 minutes it was all over. It truly was a thrill.

The Big Chute

The Big Chute

On the Big Chute

On the Big Chute

On the Big Chute

On the Big Chute

During the afternoon the winds had continued to blow and build in strength. By the time we left the Big Chute and crossed a few smaller lakes we decided it was more than enough for one day. All three of us had reservations at a marina across the lower part of the Georgian Bay, and we were not anxious to get blown apart trying to get there. So we changed our plans, cancelled our reservations and managed to get slips in a great marina (Starport) in Port Severn, right before the very last lock. It was a welcomed relief as the staff was great and treated you like royalty.

The marina is a good size and they have all the amenities that cruiser’s love: picnic tables outside; a cruiser’s lounge with a big screen TV; clean showers and nice bathrooms, and a ships store where you can buy things. But the best thing this marina had was FREE laundry. This was a perfect perk and we managed to get all our laundry done at no cost.

We gathered for drinks with other loopers in the cruiser’s lounge and then our 3 boats walked to dinner at a nearby restaurant called “The Damn”. The food was good and the place was crowded, but they were able to take us right away. Afterwards we walked across the parking lot to get an ice cream at “the Icebreaker”, a spot that was an old paddle boat that had been converted into a floating establishment. Quite a unique scene.

Dinner at the Dam restaurant

Dinner at the Dam restaurant

It had been an exciting and challenging day, and the wind continued to blow a bit into the evening. We were all thankful we decided not to make the bay crossing, and made plans to do so in more favorable weather the next day.

Stay tuned for more adventures to come!

Good-bye NY and the USA!

Good-bye NY and the USA!

Friday we crossed the great Lake Ontario and made our way into Trenton Canada.  The 84 nautical mile passage was uneventful as the lake was flat with no waves, and there was little wind. It was overcast all day, which kept the temperature pleasant and allowed for a nice day on the boat. Here is what we have been up to since our last post:

Saturday (7/4) – In the morning Denise went for a short run that took her past the old site of Fort Brewerton.  In the afternoon she and Mark relaxed on the boat, visited with other loopers, and did a little email and work for our business. Later in the afternoon Jeanne and Vicki showed up and we all went to a local restaurant (“Waterfront Tavern”) for dinner that overlooked the Oneida River. We introduced them to our looping friends and they had a chance to see the camaraderie we experience every day.

Fort Brewerton Plaque

Fort Brewerton Plaque

Vicki had wanted to see some fireworks on Independence Day, but Brewerton had their celebration the night before and none were scheduled near where we were. So she and Jeanne located some in a town about 20 miles away that would start at 10:00 (it stays light until 9:30 here) and set out to go view them.  Since we are unable to stay up that late, we chose to stay behind and let them have all the fun. We barely heard them come in as we were sound asleep.

Sunday (7/5) – We got up early so we could make the 8:30 mass at a church that ended up being closed.  So we located a second one that took us past a Dunkin Donuts which enabled us to have breakfast before attending Divine Mercy of St. Michael.

St. Michaels

St. Michaels

After church, Denise went with Vicki and Jeanne to the town on Skaneateles Lake about 40 minutes away.  The lake is large and they took a one-hour boat tour of the lake, which was very crowded as it was a nice day. (Yup, after nearly 4 months living on a boat, Denise was on another boat)!

Our cruise boat

Our cruise boat

To go lunch on board

Jeanne & Denise – To go lunch on board

The lake is surrounded by huge mansions built by people who made their wealth in industrial concerns (scrap metal, etc., but are now owned by the newly rich. This includes one such home that was visited by the Clintons after Bill was no longer the President. The town has a lot of typical shops and restaurants, but Denise found a few things to spend some money on.

Home on Schaneatales Lake

Home on Schaneatales Lake

Eastern shore home

Eastern shore home

In the meantime Mark did such exciting things as put water on the boat, cleaned the AC raw water strainer, and installed the Canadian charts on the chart plotter.

After the day’s adventures it was time to get some laundry done.  Jeanne took Denise to the local laundromat as there was no laundry facilities at the marina.  It was not a spectacular place and half of the washing machines and dryers were inoperable, but there were enough to get it all done. Makes you appreciate the ones in your own home even more.

Jeanne and Vicki joined us for the docktails with our fellow loopers, all of whom are in queue waiting for the opening of the Oswego and Eerie canals so we all can move forward with our adventures.  Then Denise, Jeanne & Mark headed out to a Panera Bread they had discovered the day before, so we all could have a great salad (Vicki stayed behind).  We know you must be thinking that this is an every-day restaurant, why would you go there?  The answer: because we haven’t eaten at one in a very long time and it just tasted so good!

Vicki doing work on our Island Office

Vicki doing work on our Island Office

Monday (7/6) – Jeanne and Vicki left us, but not before taking Denise to Wegmann’s (very cool grocery store) and Mark to Supercuts for a much needed haircut. Once they had left, Denise & Mark got down to work, talking to clients, scheduling future activities and updating phone and computers with software updates.

Later that evening, all the loopers got together to each share their strategy for leaving tomorrow and handling the locks.  Several are staying behind for various reasons, but many are headed out to go up the Oswego and make their way towards Canada like us.  We said our good-byes to marina owner Kim, and then we grabbed some dinner on board.  We got a quick hit of news on TV, and then went to bed.

Tuesday (7/7) – We were up early and left Ess-Kay Yards at 6:40 in order to either make, or get in queue to make the first opening of Lock #23 (7:00 am).  Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was already full and we had to wait for the next opening.  Here we were in line once again with other FL loopers “Andiamo” and “Speedy Delivery” as well as looper friends we have met along the way.  In total there were 7 boats in this lock with us, and another 7 or 8 boats in the one behind us, including “Snug Tug”. We made our way through all 7 locks without incident, although we did find locking down to be a bit more challenging than going up.  It is difficult for short people to grab the lines or cables when they are more than 5 feet from the boat.  We were grateful for the assistance of Gold-Looper John (“Andiamo”) who would get off his boat and assisted other boats with their lines before the locking process started. He could do this as he had 3 other people on his boat to help him, and a rear steering station from which to maneuver his 60+-foot yacht.

Mark starting lock #3 Oswego Canal

Mark starting lock #3 Oswego Canal – Locking down

Mark ending Lock #3 - Oswego Canal

Mark ending Lock #3 – Oswego Canal

Lock #3 - Oswego Canal

Lock #3 – Oswego Canal

Arriving into Oswego Marina was a major fiasco. Of the 7 boats locking together that day, all but one was headed into the same marina. In addition, Lock #8 is less than ½ mile from the entrance to the marina; add to this the wind, combined with the current from the dam at the lock made it difficult for maneuvering all of us in such a tight space.  Additionally, the dock master was a total “B – – – – ” – in part because she was stressed trying to handle the large number of boats that had come into the marina at such a short time; 3 or 4 in the lock before us, and then the 6 in our lock. Add to this the fact that it was the hottest day we have yet to experience and people were a little testy. Not a pleasant docking experience, but one we survived, only to learn that our dock had insufficient amperage to support the ACs on our boat (we need two 30 amp or one 50 amp power outlet).  Given the number of boats in the marina and their size, there was no other slip for us to move to, so we only operated on one AC unit and lived with that until the sun went down and things got cooler.

Rushing water port side at Oswego Lock

Water south side at Oswego Lock caused by dam – right before marina entrance

Jeanne and Vicki showed up at the marina as they were making their way back from the Thousand Islands on their way to Buffalo. They had adventured there after they left us at Brewerton and wanted to tell us about the area.  We had considered going there in our boat, but the delays in Cape May and Staten Island had taken away the time we would have otherwise spent there.  Jeanne advised us that we were only a 30 minute drive from Brewerton; something that took us 8 locks and 6 hours in the boat!

We were invited aboard the boat “Nearly Perfect” for docktails by owners Jack & Patty Nickerson. We originally met them at West Point when we toured the Academy with nephew Jacob.  That day they had been with Jack & Jane Conway (“Spirit”) whom we had met earlier on the Loop. Together all 6 of us enjoyed some drinks and discussed our planned itineraries and got to know one another a little better. We quickly learned that Jack N. is a hard-core Gator and yes the next day he made sure to wear his gator shirt all around the docks.

In the evening we walked downtown with Ginny & Bruce to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and then back to the boat for 8:00 as Mark had a planned call with our Malaysian client. The weather started to deteriorate as a front was coming through, and we knew we would be staying in Oswego at least for another day. Along with many other loopers we made plans for crossing Lake Ontario on Thursday when the wind was going to be more favorable.

Other sites from the Erie/Oswego Canals from today:

NY Canals Lock pass

NY Canals Lock pass

South shore home - Oswego Canal

South shore home – Oswego Canal

Uncle Joes Trading post - Oswego Canal

Uncle Joes Trading post – Oswego Canal

Indepence Day mark in Oswego Canal

Independence Day mark in Oswego Canal

Neon fish lights - Oswego Canal

Neon fish lights – Oswego Canal

Grand Caribe Cruise Ship

Grand Caribe Cruise Ship

Wednesday (7/8) – We woke up to rain and a wind that was rocking all the boats in the marina. It had rained all night and everything was wet. It was clear no boat was going out on Lake Ontario this morning, and probably not for the rest of the day.  Denise had a 2-hr web training with one of her clients and by the time she was done, the weather front had passed through and the winds died down.  The temperatures was also noticeably cooler and we were back to wearing jeans and long sleeves again.

We wanted to explore the town of Owego, particularly Fort Ontario. It is an old fort that was originally used in the War of 1812 and later as a processing center for holocaust refugees post WWII. It has a spectacular view of Lake Ontario, our marina, and the Port of Oswego.  Here we met loopers Bill & Jann Mellman (“Ivory Lady”) from Marathon, FL.  They too were docked at Oswego Marina and would be crossing to Trenton the next day.

Fort Ontario

Fort Ontario

Wall mural - Oswego Fire Station

Wall mural – Oswego Fire Station

Port Oswego entrance to Lake Ontario

Port Oswego entrance to Lake Ontario

Fort Ontario

Fort Ontario

After seeing the fort, we decided to walk over the bridge and explore the downtown area.  Along the way we passed through a neighborhood and saw a small but very beautiful vegetable garden and stopped to talk to the owner.  He was harvesting his large zucchini and offered us a handful.  Since Mark doesn’t eat the stuff, Denise accepted only one and thanked him for it. Of course we didn’t think to take a picture until we were up the street and around the corner of the next block.

We continued with our walk and explored more of the downtown area, including a local bookstore. After that we returned to the marina and discovered friends on “Renegade”, “Patriyachtik” and “Plane to Sea” had arrived, as well as other loopers.

That night 8 of us went to dinner at a sports bar (“Press Box”) that was close to the marina and talked about how we would be crossing Lake Ontario the next day and what would be our port of entry.  Naturally, the slower boats and the faster boats (like us and Snug Tug) would pair up and buddy-boat together.

Thursday (7/9) –There are several different routes that you can take to get to Ontario, Canada, depending on your port of entry. Most of our friends were headed directly into Trenton (Start of the Trent Severn Waterway) as were we.  However, the trawlers cruise around 8 kts so they need more time and had to leave early. At 5:45 the first boats (like “Ivory Lady”, “ “Renegade”, & “Patriyachtik) pulled out of the marina to cross Lake Ontario. “Snug Tug” left around 7:00 am. We pulled out at 8:00, along with several others (“Nearly Perfect” & “Spirit”) who were headed to Kingston (different course).

Port of Oswego Lighthouse

Port of Oswego Lighthouse – on to Lake Ontario!

Most of the trip we were by ourselves and welcomed the flat seas, no wind, overcast skies, and cool temperature.  We monitored the vacuum pressure on the fuel filter where it stayed at 4 (Excellent) for the whole trip.  As we crossed Quinte Bay we encountered a sailboat regatta with no less than 50 boats of varying sizes. It was so fun to watch as we wondered “what do these people do for work?” – remembering that after all, it was a weekday.

Flat Lake Ontario

Flat Lake Ontario

Glenora Ferry Terminal on way to Trenton

Glenora Ferry Terminal on way to Trenton

Sailboat Race on Quinte Bay

Sailboat Race on Quinte Bay

Canadian  - Quinte Bay

Canadian Channel Markers – Quinte Bay

Shortly thereafter we came up on “Snug Tug” and followed them all the way into Fraser Park-Trenton Marina.  It was so fun to be coming in together again, and sharing the day’s experiences.

Denise slowly docked the boat without incident, and then Mark went ashore to call the Canadian Customs per protocol. Bruce (“Snug Tug”) had beaten Mark to the phone and received his clearance right away. So when they told Mark that they would be coming down to the marina and will be checking us in then we figured the reason they were doing so was because so many other boats were coming from the USA and they could look at all of us at once. As we had signed up in advance for the CAN-PASS we anticipated a quick clearance. Boy were we mistaken!

In the meantime all the trawlers showed up, almost one right after the other. As they had come a different route (Murray Channel), they had stopped at another location to clear customs and were now all flying Canadian flags (cleared).

As promised, the Customs gals showed up 20 minutes later and boarded our boat. They asked a ton of questions, searched our boat and finally gave us a clearance number.  Their only concern was an apple we had brought on board which we agreed to eat in their presence, and advised not to remove the basil plant off the boat until we got back into the USA.  They didn’t bat an eye on the number of wine bottles or anything else.  Our only thought was that since Mark has been in and out of Canada several times for our Victoria client, he must have been flagged somehow.  In any event, the officers were polite and courteous and it was not a bad experience; just different from any that other loopers had on this day.

The dockhands at this marina are all college kids and it is considered a primo summer job. They are all smart and know how to tie up a boat. However, there are no less than 4 that are there to assist when you come in, and it feels like you are getting a royal welcome. When they are not assisting boaters coming in or leaving, or getting fuel, they sell you some of the best ice cream we have yet to eat on this trip.

Fraser Park dockhands

Fraser Park dockhands

That night we met up with Tim & Karen (“Tika”) who were behind us through the Oswego locks and also part of the flotilla who left Oswego Marina.  Together with Ginny & Bruce we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant (Tomasso’s) recommended by the dockhands.  It was perhaps the best dinner we have had since Charleston and we loved getting to know another looper couple. Although originally from Minnesota, they now live in Ft. Meyers, FL. We soon discovered that they own several manufacturing businesses and we were happy to share some work-related common topics.

We plan on staying in Trenton at least until Saturday. Tomorrow we have to go to an ATM to get some Canadian money, locate a service provider and obtain a chip to make one of our iPads a hotspot on a Canadian network. This will enable us to work and to communicate via the wireless mode as described below when we cannot get it for free.

Trenton Bridge

Trenton Bridge – entrance to the TSW – view off our stern and the next leg in our adventure!

COMMUNICATION NOTE:
Now that we are in Canada, we want to make sure all know how best to communicate with us. As long as we are in a marina or a city dock wall that has wireless we are able to get our email and (sometimes) iMessages (only) on our phones. Otherwise, we have turned off all data services on them.  We are also limiting our phone calls. Even though we have roaming for voice, it is expensive so we are trying to utilize the wireless network where we can. When doing so, look for us on SKYPE to talk, otherwise our minutes are saved for work.

We plan on staying in Trenton at least until Saturday. Tomorrow we have to go to an ATM to get some Canadian money, locate a service provider and obtain a chip to make one of our iPads a hotspot on a Canadian network. This will enable us to work and to communicate via the wireless mode as described when we cannot get it for free.

Stay tuned for more adventures to come!

The Erie Canal!

We have been on the move through the Erie Canal and have the following update for you:

Saturday (6/27) – We left Shady Harbor Marina in the morning, saying goodbye to our friends, and made our way up the Hudson River to Waterford.

Leaving Shady Harbor

Leaving Shady Harbor

Along the way we passed many interesting sights including the cities of Albany and Troy, home of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where Steve (Bro-in-law) attended.

Albany waterfront

Albany waterfront

RPI

RPI

We eventually caught up with Ginny & Bruce (“Snug Tug”) and followed them into the Lock #1 – Troy Lock. This is also called “Federal” lock because it is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is the only such lock as all others are managed by the NY Canal Corporation.

Entering Troy Lock

Entering Troy Lock

When we left Shady Harbor, we were uncertain as to if there would be dock space available for us in Waterford on the city dock as it was quite crowded and space is “first come – first serve”. However, they have two web cams that you can view online and see if there is room.  As we left the Troy docks, Denise brought up the website on her phone and watched as several boats pulled out in time to make the #2 Lock opening, freeing up space for us. So, we knew they had room for us for the night.

Waterford wall - no power

Waterford wall – space available

After tying up and settling in, we visited the dock master’s office in the Welcome Center.  The Welcome Center is manned by volunteers 100% of the time, and they are incredibly helpful and informative about Waterford, the locks, and the Erie Canal.

Welcome center host Bruce

Welcome center host Bruce

We located the Catholic Church in town and made it to the 4:00 pm mass. It was a beautiful church and afterwards the walk took us past the local bakery where we were pulled to buy some delicious cc cookies and scones.  We met the daughter/father owners and enjoyed talking to them about their business and life in Waterford.

St. Mary's

St. Mary’s

We had a quick meal of leftovers on the boat, socialized with a few other loopers and called it a day.

Home at Waterford wall

Home at Waterford wall

Sunday (6/28) – We woke up to a rainy drizzly day, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the town. We had decided to spend a second day in Waterford as it was supposed to rain all day (not fun for going out to handle the lines in the locks), and it gave us a chance to recharge our batteries.

Around mid-morning the rain subsided and Ginny & Bruce (“Snug Tug”) suggested we walk to see the locks that make up what is known as the Waterford Lift. It is a series of 5 locks (#2 through #6) that are very close together that you can walk to from downtown Waterford. It is a good way to see what you will face when you head this way in your boat. In all we must have walked about 4 miles and Mark was ready for an afternoon nap when we were done.

Lock #4

Walking up to Lock #4

Bruce and Ginny on Snug Tug

Bruce and Ginny on Snug Tug

Denise went with Ginny & Bruce to Hannaford’s supermarket to get a few things and see the eastern part of Waterford. They have a very cool war memorial and a bridge that marks the end of the Hudson River and start of the Erie Canal north for the Lake Champlain route.

War Memorial

War Memorial

War Memorial

War Memorial

For dinner that night we decided to try a local pub called the Angry Penguin.  British cruisers Kevin & Chris (“Sweet Sensation”) had eaten there the night before and advised they had great fish & chips. That is saying something coming from them – and they were right; the food was terrific.

Angry Penquin Tavern

Angry Penguin Tavern

Monday (6/29) – We left Waterford with several other boats, all trying to make the 8:00 am opening for Lock #2. Since these locks are very close together all the boats that go into the first lock together stay together though all five locks. You are supposed to enter & exit in the same order with no one trying to pass another.  In this group was our friends Ginny & Bruce (“Snug Tug”), a sailboat from Rochester, NY (“Pappillion”), and two other boats who were on the Waterford docks with us; “Speedy Delivery” and “Andiamo”.  From the get-go the sailboat tried to move in between Snug Tug and us, and they eventually negotiated their way in front of Snug Tug as we exited one of the locks. Placement in the lock is key as no one wants to be at the back because you have to wait for all other boaters to exit. This is not an issue on the Waterford Lift where they are close together, but if you don’t plan your time, you can miss the next lock opening and have to wait a while for them to lock up, then down before you can get in. This can add as much as an hour per lock to your travel time.

Mark at work - Lock #3

Mark at work – Lock #3

Entering Lock #4

Entering Lock #4

After the Waterford Lift, there is a very large stretch of open water where you can go fast before the next lock. It is here that all 4 of us power boats left the sailboat in our dust and then it was just the four of us in the next four locks together for the rest of the day. The funniest thing of all is that all 4 of us were from Florida. “Snug Tug” is from Sarasota and the other two are from Punta Gorda on the west coast. Denise called it the Florida Contingency.

Opens up to Mohawk River

Opens up to Mohawk River

Also along this stretch of waterway we encountered our first “guard gate”.  These are guillotine-looking steel walls that are suspended above the water and remain opened most of the time.  They are only closed when they want to control the flow of water and prevent flooding downstream, and are operated by the same people as the locks.  Therefore, they are mostly uneventful milestones, usually no different than passing under a bridge.

Gate #1

Gate #1

Although the scenery is beautiful the locks take a tremendous amount of concentration to make sure you approach it correctly, don’t hit the seawalls, and don’t hit any other boat in the lock.  Denise did all the entry & exit’s today and did so without issue.  But it is stressful. It is kind of like docking & exiting your boat 9 times in a single day.

We decided to end our day after lock #10 in the town of Amsterdam (we have an affinity for that name – wonder why?) along with “Snug Tug”. We stayed at the city’s docks (Riverlink Park) that had power and water for $1 per foot a night (great price). They had showers and restrooms on premise, and a restaurant (Dan’s Backyard Bar-B-Q) which is only open Wed–Sun, but we didn’t care. Although owned by the city, Dan leases the restaurant property and is the “dock master” for the docks. It’s a great place to stay at a great price, and has terrific services.  Dan is very customer service oriented and extremely helpful.

Amsterdam RiverLink Park

Amsterdam RiverLink Park

Dan's Backyard BBQ

Dan’s Backyard BBQ

Riverlink Park Dock

Riverlink Park Dock

At the dock we had pulled in behind Loopers on “Blue Moon”, whom we had met at GKYC and saw again in Half Moon Bay marina.  The boat is co-owned by two couples, and they were swapping out time on the boat, with couple #1 (original owners) getting on and the other couple leaving.  We spent some time after dinner (leftovers from the fridge) talking with them out on the dock as they are a wealth of information.  Then we turned in for the night as it had been an exhausting day and we were tired.

Tuesday (6/30) – The day started out overcast and gloomy, but that wasn’t going to stop us from moving forward. Our plan was to try and get to Utica and set up for crossing Lake Oneida on Wednesday.  The next lock (#11) was just a short distance from Riverlink Park, so we left at 7:45 in preparation for an 8:00 opening.  It was just us and Snug Tug who were buddy-boating once again, with them in the lead.

As in the day before, Denise was planning on successfully driving into and out of the locks; but today was a different story. When lining up to enter the first lock, the boat got caught in the cross currents created by the nearby dam.  As the boat came into the entrance the stern was thrust sideways and we had to back out. In doing so we came within 6 inches of the bow crashing into the cement wall on the right, and then the stern almost hitting the rocks on the other side.  Once we were able to get out of danger, Mark took over and after two passes we finally got situated in the lock. It was a very scary moment and Denise was so shaken she refused to drive into the locks the rest of the day. (#1 disaster averted).

Entering a lock usually is not very difficult, but many of the locks we encountered on the Erie have dams right beside them to control the flow of the water downstream (and eventually into the Hudson River).  As it has been raining a lot lately, they have had a tremendous amount of water flowing, thus creating these whirlpools and tidal currents that are very strong.  In addition, because the upstream water levels are so high on their banks, they are carrying all kinds of debris downstream and with force.  So not only do you have to worry about entering the lock correctly (and not hitting any of the things mentioned above), but you now have an obstacle course of tree limbs, logs, coke bottles, and any other debris that may have washed up on the shoreline last summer, that is now coming down the river this summer. If you run over any of this stuff it could foul your propeller or worse, punch a hole in your hull. So, you must stay alert at all times and navigate through this landmine of debris.

Dam at Lock 8

Dam at Lock 8

Debris in water

Debris in water

Of the 7 locks we were in today, only one had another boat; a sailboat from Australia. They told us that one of the lock masters told them the water flow was strongest in the morning and that things settle down later in the day.  This was certainly true in our experience today.

During the day, we also knocked our boat hook overboard (now for the second time) and had to back track to retrieve it. It is a necessary tool used extensively when locking as you have to be able to grab long lines of rope that hang from the sides of the lock. The boat cannot usually get close enough for you to just reach out and snatch them, so you need something that can extend out, and the boat hook is the perfect tool.  (#2 disaster averted).

Around noon we pulled into St. Johnsonville Municipal Marina to get fuel as they had the cheapest price around. It was here that it began to rain and continued to do so for the next 2 hours, including when we were trying to do the next few locks.  It was because of this that we decided to rethink our destination for the day and cut the trip short. We targeted Little Falls, a town just west of Lock #17 – the largest lock up we will have to go through on the canal (44 ft).

Marcel at fuel stop

Marcel at fuel stop

We pulled into the Little Falls Municipal dock around 3:30. After tying up and settling our boats, we went into the marina office, which also houses very nice showers, restrooms and a nice cruiser’s lounge.

Cruisers Lounge

Cruisers Lounge

Public Docks at Little Falls

Public Docks at Little Falls

We first met Sarah, who is a volunteer host to check in visitors, but Phil (one of two dock masters) showed up at 4:00 and took our money (another cheap night at $1 per foot).  He also suggested places to eat on the other side of the canal; meaning a walk over the bridge.  Ginny had some laundry she wanted to do, so Phil drove her to the laundromat (across the bridge) and then Mark, Bruce & Denise walked the mile and joined her for dinner afterwards. After searching for a place to eat amongst several of the suggested restaurants (all closed for the holiday week), we happened on the “Copper Moose”. It was very crowded as it was “taco Tuesday”, but we didn’t have to wait too long to get a seat. We ate a delicious meal at a very affordable price and were happy to have discovered this place.

Volunteer Sarah

Volunteer Sarah

Dock Master Phil

Dock Master Phil

Afterwards we walked around the town a bit, and then headed back to the boats.

Little Falls through town

“Little Falls” that run through town (thus the name)

Main street Little Falls

Main street Little Falls

Wednesday (7/1) – We left Little Falls shortly after 8:00 and got to Lock #18 for an opening in our favor.  Once again, it was just us and “Snug Tug” through this lock and next.  Unfortunately, it was here that Denise’s glasses got knocked off her face and ended up sinking to the bottom of lock #18.  (#3 disaster – NOT averted).  Between locks Denise called Costco and they were able to reorder her a new pair and we will have a family member pick them up and ship them to us when they come in.  As for now, Denise will be wearing her contact lenses all day, and use the old prescription glasses as a backup.  Lesson learned: when you are thinking that you should do something (put glasses on the peeper-keepers) you should do it then and not wait!

After lock #18 we passed a small town called Ilion where we saw cruising friends on “Renegade”, “Patryachtik”, & “Bear Holiday” at the town docks.  It was here that we were also joined by “Kindred Spirits” a Back Cove 34 we had seen ahead of us the previous day.  Through the next 4 locks our three boats traveled together including enduring a thunderstorm in lock #21 where we all got wet! No, unlike Orlando airport tarmac, they do not close the locks for thunderstorms!

Lock #21 - raining

Lock #21 – raining

This part of the Erie Canal is unpopulated, very green, and has very slow speed limits; sometimes as low as 5 mph. It is a long boring 40-mile run that makes an I-10 drive to Tallahassee look exciting. We had been watching the weather for crossing Oneida Lake which was forecasted to be quite windy (25 knots) and not good for that day. However, we had had very light winds and thought we might give it a chance if the waves weren’t bad; but would make the final decision when we got to Sylvan Beach. This is the town on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake where the canal is temporarily suspended.  As we approached the breakwater, we abandoned that idea because the waves were crashing over the seawall and the wind was howling.

waves crashing breakwater

waves crashing breakwater

Also, we had heard that the Oswego Canal was closed due to high water, so there is no hurry to get to Brewerton (other side of the lake) as we would have to sit there until the locks in the Oswego canal opened.

We tied up to the free public dock at Sylvan Beach, along with a handful of other loopers who also decided to wait out the weather. This dock is free because there are no services (restrooms, showers) and no power.  After tying up and settling in, we walked the docks to visit with other loopers and discussed plans for making the crossing in the morning when the winds would be lighter.  We re-met George & Martha Alexander (“Aunt Aggie”) and saw brits Keven & Chris (“Sweet Sensations”) – thanking them for the fish and chips recommendation in Waterford.  We also went over to the Back Cove 34 that had been following us and met Aubrey & Jan Vaughn (“Kindred Spirits”). Come to find out they are from South Carolina and purchased their boat from the same place we purchased ours.  What a small world it is!

Our boat at free dock - Sylvan Beach

Our boat at free dock – Sylvan Beach

Sylvan Beach is a small beach community that consists mostly of cottages, restaurants, one gas station/grocery store, a union chapel, and a town central park. But the big attraction here is the amusement park with typical boardwalk arcade games and rides.  There is a great restaurant (“Canal View Café”) on the canal side near the docks where we went with Ginny & Bruce for dinner. This place has been here for 30 years and is decorated in memorabilia from all those years.

Canal View Cafe

Canal View Cafe

While sitting on the boat in the evening we met a couple who was from Palm Harbor, FL walking the docks, and another couple who has a child that lives in Winter Park.  Too funny!

Thursday (7/2) – Sylvan Beach provided Denise an opportunity to get in a much-wanted run before we left for the day. She was able to take some pictures of the town and of our boat without distraction as she was up early (as usual).

union chapel

Union chapel in Sylvan Beach

Amusement Park in Sylvan Beach

Amusement Park in Sylvan Beach

Ginny & Bruce decided to head across the lake early and left shortly after 7:00 am, with us following about 45 minutes later and “Kindred Spirits” right behind us. Along the way we also passed “Aunt Aggie” who had left earlier that morning as well.

Crossing Lake Oneida with Aunt Aggie and Kindred Spirits

Crossing Oneida Lake with Aunt Aggie and Kindred Spirits

It was only 19 miles across the lake, and we arrived at Ess-Kay marina at 9:30.  We filled the boat with fuel, did a pump-out, checked in at the marina and were sitting in our slip in time for lunch.

Ess-Kay Yards

Ess-Kay Yards

We both had office work to do and so we hunkered down to get this done before the holiday weekend started.  Ginny & Bruce had secured the marina courtesy car and invited us to join them in a Wal-Mart run.  We took advantage of the opportunity and got a few things on our shopping list, including a rotisserie chicken for dinner that night.

During the day our friends on “Renegade” and “Patriyachtik” showed up at the marina, so we all gathered at the picnic tables and had “docktails”, along with other loopers Laurie & David Hummel (“The Next Step”) whom we had met in Norfolk.  In total, there are over 10 looper boats now at this marina, all of us waiting for the locks in the canals to reopen.

Loopers Bruce, Ginny & Carolyn

Loopers Bruce, Ginny & Carolyn

Laurie and Dave Hummel "Next Step"

Laurie and Dave Hummel “Next Step”

Ess-Kay Yard is a family-owned business started by the parents, and now run by three of the siblings and their kids. It sits on the Oneida River, which is the path from Lake Oneida to the rest of the Erie, and eventually the Oswego Canals. Although the facilities are rustic they are very customer-service oriented and have a ship store with everything you could possibly need or want.  Since they are a boatyard first, they have many spare parts and have dry dock storage. We have even met some of the people who leave their boat here in the winter so they can summer in Canada. (i.e. Reverse snowbirds).

Ess-Kay Yards

Ess-Kay Yards

Every Independence Day they host a big cookout for the boaters in their marina, as well as family and friends.  They provide the hotdogs & hamburgers and everyone else brings a dish to share. The party coincides with the fireworks that the town of Brewerton shoots off, which will be Friday, July 3rd (tomorrow).

Friday (7/3) – Our boat was filthy from all the bugs we encountered in the canal and in Sylvan Beach. So, in the morning Mark washed the boat while Denise cataloged pictures, wrote for the blog, and made the dish to bring to the evening cookout.

In the afternoon, we were invited by Bruce & Ginny to use their paddleboards. Mark wasn’t really interested, but Denise took advantage of this newfound sport and had a great time.

Paddleboarding in Brewerton

Stand Up Paddle boarding in Brewerton

Paddleboarding in Brewertron

Denise gets coaching from Bruce

Around 6:00 we joined others and had our big cookout. In total there were close to 100 people here. It was great fun with a lot of food and laughter.

Cookout at Ess-Kay

Cookout at Ess-Kay Yards

Bill & Donna

Bill & Donna

The evening was topped off with a terrific fireworks display that was easily seen from the docks at Ess-Kay.  Because our boat was located near the fuel docks, we had front-row seats and didn’t even have to go outside and deal with the mosquitoes.

Tomorrow afternoon Jeanne (sister) and her friend Vicki will be joining us. They are making their annual trip driving to visit Vicki’s family in Attica, near Buffalo.  We hope they will stay for the few days as we will be here until they open up the canals and we can make our way into Canada.

Stay tuned for more adventures to come!

Here are some other sights from the Erie Canal:

Town mascot at Welcome Center

Waterford Welcome Center

Welcome sign on southern shore

Welcome sign on southern shore

Mark overlooking Lock #2

Mark overlooking Lock #2 Waterford Lock

Debris in Dam

Debris in side canal dam

NY Eerie Canal Boat

NY Erie Canal Boat

 

Eerie Canals Tug

Erie Canal Tug

North of Lock #11 - VW

North shore after Lock #11 – VW on top of smokestack

Train on North Shore

Train on North Shore

North Shore Eerie near Schenectady

North Shore  near Schenectady

Homes on canal

Homes on canal

Cross on North Shore

Cross on North Shore