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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!