June 20 to July 7, 2021, Harbor Springs to Muskegon

Our final dinner in Harbor Springs was excellent, but it did rather fit the moniker “uppity”.  Regardless, we would certainly recommend Willow for its outstanding food and very good service.

It was a long but enjoyable voyage to Traverse City, with calm seas and good visibility.  As we made our way down Grand Traverse Bay we had to dodge sailboats and a beautiful tall ship schooner out for a Father’s Day sail.  There were 3 Looper boats in Traverse City, one based there, one arrived shortly after us, and the third the next day.  This allowed for a very convivial docktails evening on board Nine Lives.  The second day was very windy, nobody on the move and few pleasure boats in the bay.  Fortunately, our spot had very little motion.  We were at the end of the fairway, in a slip supposedly 18 feet wide, but the harbormaster knew it was considerably wider.  Dick turned and slid into the tight slip with great skill, impressing the dockhands with his ability to avoid touching any of the docks or posts, or the waiting concrete on the other side!

Traverse City Marina waterfront gardens

Traverse City is the largest city in Northern Michigan.  The area is also the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States.  Gourmet shops abound, many featuring cherry related foods.  In addition to the obligatory chocolate covered cherries, we bought some summer sausage with cherries and some cherry chili jam.  Other marvellous finds for Nine Lives pantry included sea salt with truffles, lemon infused olive oil, some duck pate, and various interesting crackers for cheese.

The city was initially a Native American settlement called Kitchiwikwedongsing.  Not surprisingly, even the denizens tended to shorten it to Wequetong, which means “at the head of the bay”.  The native settlement was pushed out by European colonization.  From small beginnings as a sawmill, and then an important Post Office location, the city grew, and by 1872 the railway arrived, heralding a period of growth and commercialization.  Lumber and cherries remained the major concerns until tourism and wineries added to the mix.  The population has declined somewhat, but it is still a thriving town and a popular tourism and shopping destination for Upper Michigan.

On our first day we decided to have lunch at Brasserie Amie, a French bistro style restaurant that is highly rated.  We had to wait over an hour to be seated, but the food was (almost) worth it.  This is an issue we are continually facing this summer, restaurants and shops cannot hire staff.  So although pandemic restrictions have ended, most restaurants still have limited numbers of tables, many are closed two and three days of the week, and even when we call a few days ahead we are being offered reservations at 4pm or 9pm because they are so busy.  I am assuming that Americans who would normally take vacations in Canada or overseas are still travelling but staying in the USA, adding considerable pressure to already busy areas of second homes.

The first night was very chilly, so we put on the heating for the first time (happily, it worked).  During the day Dick worked on various small electrical repairs and installed our Nebo tracker.  This is a device that has its own cell signal, it is installed on the boat and wired in, and each time we move, the tracker follows our voyage by satellite and even sends an emailed report when we stop.  We have used the Nebo mobile phone app for several years.  It is very useful for seeing where other Loopers are and for important interactions like arranging docktails, but the app is dependent on having a good phone signal, and, more important, remembering to turn it on and off!  The first attempt at setting up the tracker had issues, but the app creator, in Australia, was very responsive and replied within hours to Dick’s query with a suggestion that solved the problem.

Dick changes fuel filters

We enjoyed several good meals in Traverse City.  Following the Brasserie, we had a dinner at Amical, brunch at The Omelette Shop, and a really excellent Asian fusion dinner at Red Ginger.  As we were shown to our table in Red Ginger, we breathed in the wonderful scents of hot chili oil, garlic, and ginger, but I was suddenly caught by a most unusual and strong smell that was not as pleasant as the others.  I thought to myself, whatever that dish is, I don’t want to order it!  As the smell got stronger, we realized it was not coming from the kitchen, rather it was our menu, that had been inadvertently placed over the tealight by the host, and was on fire!  The initial excitement suggested something a bit stronger than a glass of wine to start, so we ordered manhattans and were delighted to receive a generous pour, worthy of our bartender in Wexford!  The following meal lived up to the restaurant’s excellent reputation.

Whitefish pate at Amical, a beautiful presentation, and delicious!

desserts at Amical

Dinner at Red Ginger

In an interesting art gallery we found some beautiful and whimsical sculptures made from gourds, one was chosen to go home with us.  I enjoyed chatting with the owner, almost everything in the shop is the sort of art and sculpture that I would choose if I was running a gallery.  A most enjoyable visit.  The other shops in Traverse City were also interesting, and quite different from the ones we had been seeing earlier on the trip.  It is always nice to see independent retail that is doing well and not being overwhelmed by big box and other chain stores.

Our last afternoon we saw a loon, unconcernedly making its way up and down the marina fairways feeding.  Our first loon of the year, and something we don’t usually see in populated locations.  Our swim step was a favoured weather protected spot for a mother duck and her one remaining duckling.  I love seeing ducks with their babies at this time of year, but it is always sad to see that the older the ducklings get, the fewer of them there are.  Probably just as well, or we would be overrun by ducks as we are with geese!

A loon feeding in the marina, an unusual sight.

Mama and baby liked our swim platform.

Our trip to Leland on June 25th was thick fog all the way.  It was both boring and worrying, not being able to see except on radar.  Dick’s ongoing boating courses stand him in good stead, and he is now better able to understand what the screen is showing.  He also found a way to overlay the radar on the regular chart, so the former hard-to-read split screen is no longer required.

Leland is an interesting village, once known as Fishtown, and still an important centre for fishermen.  There is an attractive restored timber village beside the harbour, and the main street has interesting small shops.  The location close to Manitou Islands and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore ensures a steady influx of tourists, although most are day trippers. A dam and a sawmill were built on the river in 1854.  The dam is still in place, preventing access for boats from Lake Michigan to a large and quite attractive chain of three lakes called Lake Leelanau.  Iron smelting and lumber were important industries in the small settlement during the 19th centuries, but fishing was always the main business. Today it is still a working fishery and fishing charter centre.

Fishtown

The dam and Fishtown

On our first evening we tried the only fine dining restaurant in town, located in a pretty inn overlooking the lake.  On arrival we were told the menu is offered as a QR code.  Use of QR codes require a cellphone, and I suspect (and after some research I believe I am correct), that not only do they give you access to the information the business is offering, it can also allow access to your details by the business.  Given how many supposedly reputable organizations generate revenue by selling your information, I avoid such “conveniences” as much as possible!  After being offered QR code menus and seeing our frowns, the staff immediately supplied paper menus.  The meal was good, but not particularly memorable.

Beautiful dogwood in bloom.

The next day was incredibly wet, but we took the umbrella and enjoyed visiting the little shops.  Dick found some really good deck shoes, and I was delighted with a new sunhat, as the one I normally keep on the boat had been left at home in Hilton Head.  My unusual “raining cats and dogs” umbrella generated interest and compliments from several other visitors to the village!

We extended our stay in Leland by a day, as the weather conditions were wind against waves, always an uncomfortable scenario.  This gave us time for a late lunch at the Cove Restaurant, a bustling venue overlooking Fishtown.  We enjoyed some of the best fries I have ever had, served piping hot, with an interesting spice combination of garlic and herbs on the fries, and offered with a delicious chipotle mayonnaise.  Various local fish options completed the meal.  We walked through Fishtown and through the village towards the lake.

The best french fries ever!

Fishtown from the bridge above the dam in Leland

We have noticed in almost every place we have stayed so far that many visitors love to walk the docks and look at the boats in the harbour.  Nine Lives gets her share of interest, as there are very few catamarans cruising these waters.  Small children are particularly attracted to Minnie, our dinghy hanging at the back, and I often hear, “And look!  A little boat!”  Minnie is slated to be replaced later this summer by a new RIB, and I wonder whether the new dinghy will generate the same interest from passers-by.

Our passage to Frankfort was easy and pleasant.  Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is an area that encompasses 35 miles of the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan plus the two Manitou Islands between Leland and Frankfort.  The area includes unique forests, incredible sand dunes that tower above the lake, and glacial features as well as historic Coast Guard stations and a lighthouse.  Creation of the National Park was controversial, as the owners of what was private property at the time did not want the area overrun with tourists.  The name comes from an Ojibwe legend, the mother bear sleeps under the dunes at the edge of the lake, while her two cubs are represented by North and South Manitou Islands.  The spectacular dunes were an amazing sight as we travelled along the shore.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Just north of Frankfort, we passed the pretty Point Betsie Lighthouse.  The lighthouse began service in 1858, and 25 years later one of the first Life Saving Stations was added to the site.  It was the last Michigan lighthouse to lose its keeper, and was only automated in 1983.  Today it is a museum and tourist attraction, some say the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

Frankfort owed its early beginnings to the protected harbour that opens into what was Aux Becs Scies Lake. The name translates from French “with saw jaws”, likely a reference to the early lumbering industry.  Today, it has been shortened to Betsie Lake.  Various investors built the town and dredged the approach to the harbour in the mid-19th century.  Prosperity arrived as the town was further developed as a port and safe harbour, with the usual timber industries in the area.  Frankfort was an important Post Office, and was the county seat for part of its history.  Today it is a sleepy town, mostly involved with tourism.  Main Street is the site of some beautiful old buildings, and there are some interesting junk, I mean antique shops and a few other touristy shops.

Historic buildings in Frankfort

We enjoyed dinner at a new restaurant called Birch and Maple.  Excellent, interesting food.  We could hear from the bartender’s conversation that he was the owner.  He and his partner are committed to “bringing the city to the country”, a slightly arrogant perspective, but if the result is such great food, we wish them well in their endeavours!

Delicious burger at Birch and Maple, I don’t know why they wrapped it in foil!
Dick’s bone-in pork chop at Birch and Maple

In Frankfort we had the same experience as elsewhere, shops and restaurants closed several days a week, and often no opening hours posted on the doors of the shops.  Walking around, especially Monday through Wednesday, it is quite reminiscent of a French village, everything shuttered and no sense that it is ever going to be open, but locals always seem to know when things open up and suddenly there are customers!

There were several Loopers at the next marina over, but their schedules precluded any interaction apart from a friendly chat on the dock and exchange of boat cards.

A lovely evening sky over the marina in Frankfort, an ultralight takes advantage of the nice weather.

Our next leg to Manistee was through heavy fog.  After we were past the point of no return, we began to hear coastguard warnings over the radio for heavy fog across the whole of the northern end of Lake Michigan.  Our weather apps suggested that there was 3km of visibility, but the reality was more like 100 yards.  By the time we arrived at the mouth of the river in Manistee, we could barely see 100 feet.  What was amusing, was how many people there were on the beach!  Why anyone would sit on a beach in thick fog is a complete mystery to me, but there were at least 100 people out there on the sand with chairs, umbrellas, and coolers.

Nine Lives docked in Manistee

Manistee, like many towns, began as a Jesuit Mission in the mid-18th century.  Nearly a hundred years later, a sawmill and settlement were built.  In 1871 the town was almost completely destroyed by fire, which explains the number of buildings of roughly the same age in the downtown.  Logging, shingle manufacturing, and a salt industry all contributed to a thriving, wealthy town, reflected in the beautiful historic buildings on Main Street.  The entire Downtown District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic downtown Manistee

One of the reasons for making the voyage in spite of foggy conditions was to meet fellow Loopers that we had enjoyed spending time with in past years.  We met them twice in Georgian Bay in 2019, and then spent time together when they visited Hilton Head in early 2020.  We enjoyed a great evening with Kathleen and Michael at Blue Fish, the nicest restaurant in the village, and hope for future encounters later in the season.  The next day we explored the town and Dick walked along the river to the end of the pier while I finished the laundry.

I model my new hat in one of the gardens in Manistee.

We made a long, fast run to Whitehall.  The conditions were only right because the waves were coming from behind us.  We could feel Nine Lives climb up one side and surf down each wave, and our speed varied from 12 to 19 knots depending on whether we were going up or down!  A strong current in the channel into White Lake made for some exciting moments, as Dick wrestled the wheel this way and that to avoid running into the breakwater.

White River Light Station, Whitehall

Once we were into the smaller lake, it was still quite windy and choppy.  We were arriving a day early, and had planned to anchor near the Yacht Club, but between the wind and chop, and uncertain depths, we decided instead to proceed to the marina at the top end of the lake, where we were booked for the July long weekend.  I phoned the marina, to ask whether they could accommodate us for the extra night, and had a very confusing conversation with the receptionist.  It is quite difficult to hear on the phone when underway, so I had to keep asking her to repeat, but the upshot was, not only could they apparently not accommodate us for that night, we had no booking for the weekend either!  We decided to carry on and have another conversation over the radio once we were closer.  On arrival, we were again told there was no reservation, but they could let us stay one night.  After we tied up, they asked the name again, and at last the lady came running out and apologising, because even though Dick gave her his first and last name plus the boat name, all she had written down was “Dick”.  So, we then had to untie again and move to our assigned slip.  The wind was unhelpful, as was a very green dockhand, who found my request to put the line around the post and hand it back to me impossibly confusing.  Eventually we did get secured, and the boat beside us was undamaged thanks to my putting out fenders, “just in case”.

This was not the nicest slip we have had.  It was full of duckweed and water lilies, as well as a scum of algae and other unidentifiable mess.  Duckweed is an interesting plant.  Sometimes you will see a stream or the end of a lake or pond covered in a bright green coating of tiny floating leaves.  Each little leaf is a separate plant, with no stem, just a short root.  They hitch rides on waterfowl and even on boats, and are light enough to be blown about by wind, so they spread easily in water that is not flowing quickly.  Duckweed is an important food source for a variety of aquatic creatures (not just ducks), and it also acts as a water purifier.  In many locations it is a very good thing for the health of the water and the waterfowl and insects that live there.  In other locations it can be a big problem, starving the water of oxygen and therefore killing the fish that live below.  It is an ecological Jekyll and Hyde.  From our point of view, the green scum of algae was a concern, and even the duckweed could potentially be sucked into the air conditioner strainers.  Dick will need to check them and the engine strainers to make sure they are not clogged.

Duckweed and water lilies in our slip in Whitehall.

Our neighbour on the next boat was something else again.  He was a friendly, youngish man, who was clearly living aboard his slightly dilapidated vessel.  Dick initially noticed the huge speakers on the enclosed flybridge, but he didn’t see the professional drum kit beside them.  Various of the man’s personal items migrated onto the dock.  At first it was just a chair and a full-size grill, but they were soon joined by another chair, 4 jerry cans of fuel, and various other bits and pieces including a baseball bat (what was he planning to do with that I ask?) plus water bowls for the two adorable 8-week-old shepherd/rottweiler puppies that entertained all and sundry with their antics.  Partway through the afternoon, the peace was shattered by heavy metal rock blaring from the speakers, soon accompanied by live drum practice.  In fact, he seemed to me to be a pretty good drummer, but to say the music was not to our taste would be an understatement!  The fellow only practiced for about a half hour, and he then turned the music down somewhat, and even further after he asked Dick if we minded it.  Dick gave a politely non-committal hand-signal, that worked quite well to discourage further sharing.

We made plans to go out to breakfast on July 4th, but had to change our ideas on the fly as the whole town turned out for the 4th of July parade.  There must have been thousands of people lining the main street of Whitehall, and for an hour we all watched fire engines, police vehicles, church floats, as well as both floats and vehicles from the various businesses in the area.  The Sherriff’s department arrived on horseback.  Both political parties were represented, fortunately placed in different places in the parade.  The Democrats received applause from some of the spectators, but when the Republicans came past, many leaped to their feet and shouted and clapped.  Most of the audience had brought chairs, just as well because the parade lasted an hour.  There were lots of dogs of all sizes, including a huge and rather gorgeous woolly poodle-sheepdog (?) wearing sunglasses.  The whole event was absolutely charming and an example of the very best of small-town America.

July 4th parade in Whitehall
July 4th parade in Whitehall

July 4th parade in Whitehall
July 4th parade in Whitehall
It was a sunny morning!

Dick was delighted to see an old friend in the parade, a McCormick Farmall Cub tractor.  He told me that when he was a child growing up in Brighton, where his father managed a chicken farm, this was the tractor that his father used on the 60 acres of additional land around the chicken barns.  Their tractor was red, rather than the cheery bright yellow of the one in the parade, but Dick recognized it immediately.  Of course, small boys are often interested in tractors and wheeled vehicles of all kinds, but Dick also remembers feeling rather embarrassed among his friends that their tractor was so small compared to what the other boys at school had!  Eventually, the family moved to their own, much larger farm in Norwood, with a suitably large Massey Ferguson tractor.

This tractor reminded Dick of his childhood.

The main reason for our extended stay in Whitehall was to spend time with some good friends who we first met in 1998 when we all lived in Prague.  Jane and Jon retired to Whitehall at the end of their Prague assignment, and they also visited Hilton Head regularly, so it has been easy to keep in touch.  In the afternoon they took us to the White Lake Yacht Club for their Independence Day celebration.  Traditional 4th of July fare, including hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, salads, and ice cream to finish was enjoyed on the sunny terrace.  We shared a table with some other members, and it was altogether a very enjoyable evening.

The next day we started with the deferred breakfast and then went for a long bike ride on the extensive path network in the area.  Whitehall and Montague form twin towns at the head of White Lake, linked by a causeway.  As with many towns in the area, Whitehall began in the mid-19th century as a lumber town.  The city is located about 5 miles from Lake Michigan, but White Lake is connected by a dredged canal.  As we discovered, the canal can experience a current of up to 3 mph.  Montague, on the other side of the White River, remains a separate town, with the usual rivalry between high school sports teams.  The two towns have a total population of around 5000, mainly full-time residents.  Howmet Corporation, manufacturing parts for the aerospace industry, is a large local employer, with about 3600 employees.  The Playhouse at White Lake opened in 1916, and offers live theatre as well as other cultural and arts events through the year.  The tidy houses, extensive cycle paths, and several parks, as well as the boating opportunities on White Lake and the White River ensure the area is a pleasant place to live.

Canoeing on White River
Sweet peas, their scent filled the air on our bike ride.
Sweet peas

Jane and Jon took us to nearby Muskegon for dinner, but declined our invitation to watch the firework display from our boat later in the evening.  Hundreds of people had already set up chairs in the parks beside the lake, and as the 9pm start approached some of them also lined the docks of the marina.  The lake was full of anchored small boats, ready to watch the show.  As it happened, the display did not start until about 10:15 pm, by which time some of the children were getting quite restless!  Our boat neighbour decided to put on his music, cranked up loud enough to rival the fireworks.  The display was a good one, with an excellent finale, and we enjoyed a perfect front row seat from the deck of Nine Lives, accompanied by a suitable adult beverage, just to keep warm in the chilly wind you understand.

Whitehall fireworks display
Whitehall fireworks display

On our last evening Jane and Jon joined us on board Nine Lives for drinks, cheese and charcuterie, followed by a shrimp and salad supper.  Dick helped with the preparation by slicing and pitting cherries.  By the end of the assignment he looked like a slightly demented serial killer, but fortunately he managed to keep the mess mostly on the table and his hands, so aggressive laundry techniques will not be required.  We so enjoyed spending time with Jane and Jon, and look forward to our next get-together.  We have been friends for 23 years.

Dick helps by pitting the cherries
Cheese and charcuterie for our guests.

Our next stop was just a short run to Muskegon.  About half way down White Lake, I went below for a few minutes to tidy up, and suddenly the engines slowed to a near stop.  I went up to see what was going on, and Dick was cursing a b…. sailboat that had suddenly tacked and was now inconsiderately crossing towards us.  Boats under sail have the right of way, so Dick had to be the one to take avoidance measures.  I pointed out that the sailboat had to tack to avoid running into the shore, but Dick’s grumbled response was, “He could have lowered his sail”.  Of course it was said with a twinkle!  The weather forecast was not one that we would normally find acceptable, but Dick thought that the high winds of the previous day would have laid down enough, and the waves would be on the bow.  As it happened, there were still two-foot swells, and they were on the quarter, so a somewhat uncomfortable ride.  Fortunately, we ran fast, so it was only about half an hour of being tossed about.

As we made our way through the channel into Muskegon Lake, we were surprised to see a submarine tied up on the wall, with the engines obviously running.  At first, we wondered who could possibly be the enemy, requiring a submarine presence in the Great Lakes.  Could it be there is a real and present danger from those dastardly Canadians?  Then we saw the tourists standing on the deck, and realized that this is the star exhibit of the Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum.  USS Silversides is a Gato-class submarine, one of the most successful submarines in the Pacific during World War II.  She is credited with 23 confirmed sinkings.  After her retirement from active service, dedicated volunteers maintained and restored Silversides, including the engines.  These engines are run about 6 times each year to keep them in good condition.

USS Silversides, Muskegon

The marina we are staying at in Muskegon is the first in the Safe Harbor conglomerate, that has bought up many of the independent marinas all over the US.  The docks are in reasonable condition, and the facilities are acceptable, but for the first time this trip we are quite a long walk from the showers.  There is a pool, an attraction for boaters with children on board.  However, marina staff did not initially impress us, as they simply directed us to our slip with no offer of assistance. Often, I feel that we do better docking without help, but it is unusual for there to be no dockhands at all.  We have a front row seat for watching a large crane on a barge repairing the breakwater along the pier.  The rock and roll we are experiencing as the ferry arrives and departs, and from chop from the lake, makes it clear that the new breakwater is a much needed improvement.

Improving the marina breakwater.

Muskegon is the largest city on the western shore of Michigan.  The first Europeans in the area were French explorers and fur traders, but by the mid-19th century, lumber brought settlers from Germany, Ireland, and even Canada.  Today it is a large port city with heavy and light industry and food processing.

Muskegon’s historic waterfront area. A former hosiery mill is now apartments, and the old railroad depot.

A morning bike ride along the extensive waterfront path was a great pleasure.  A lot of money has been spent cleaning up what was a heavily industrial area and creating both parks and wildlife areas.  Often bike paths follow disused railroads, and while easy riding (flat, wide, smooth), they can get quite boring.  Not so this path.  There are enough curves and bridges over the water to make it interesting, and the scenery is lovely.  Birds don’t lend themselves to photography by phone, but I saw a kingfisher, swans, ducks and geese, kildeer, red-winged blackbirds, swallows, a heron, and in several areas we could hear the sounds of bullfrogs croaking.  The wildflowers were lovely.

A bridge along the bike path, Muskegon
Restored wetlands in Muskegon
Restored wetlands in Muskegon
Restored wetlands in Muskegon

Unfortunately, the city is large and very spread out, so wandering around shops is not really feasible, and the restaurant we might have tried is a 3.5-mile bike ride.  We did find The Cheese Lady, and happily stocked up on more charcuterie choices, as well as crackers, some Belgian butter, and of course, some cheese.  We will likely try a nearby pizza restaurant for tonight’s supper.  Tomorrow looks fair for our short passage to Grand Haven.

The Cheese Lady, Muskegon

June 4th to 19th, 2021, Hilton Head and Drummond Island to Harbor Springs, MI

Nine Lives is underway again!  After a 20-month sleep on Drummond Island, Michigan, she is at last on the Great Loop again.

Our summer voyage began with loading the car with all the things we took off the boat in 2019, including such essentials as carpets, clothing, and safety equipment, and heading out on June 4th.  We enjoyed a lovely evening in Asheville, North Carolina, with our good friends Jan and Kent, in their beautiful new home.  After a second overnight stop in Dayton, Ohio, we drove to Mackinaw City, parked the car, and boarded the ferry for Mackinac Island.

Historic Round Island Lighthouse

Mackinac Island is considered to be one of the highlights of the Great Loop.  The famous Grand Hotel requires jacket and tie for men in the dining room, and Loopers will carry said jacket around the entire 6000 miles of the Loop for that one dinner!  Dick decided to compromise.  Since boat docking was reportedly difficult and expensive, we chose to stop on our way to pick up the boat and stay on the island in a hotel for 3 nights.  This way Dick could leave the jacket in the vehicle for the rest of the summer, and not take up precious hanging space on board.

The main street on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island was an important centre of the fur trade, and a strategic fort was built by the British during the Revolutionary War.  Two battles were fought on the island during the War of 1812.  In the 19th century the island was discovered by tourists, and has never looked back.  The island is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and 80% of the island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park.  There is only one highway, M-185, that circumnavigates the island, and is the only State highway in the United States that is banned for motorized vehicles.

Carriages, bicycles, and the old fort on Mackinac Island

Development is strictly limited, and the town is a wonderful mix of Victorian homes and businesses.  Cars are banned on the whole island, except for emergency vehicles and service vehicles, although residents are permitted to use snowmobiles in winter.  Since 1898, all transportation has been by horse, bicycle, or on foot.  Taxis are shared horse drawn wagons.  Visitors arrive by ferry from spring through fall, but in winter the island can be completely cut off unless an ice bridge forms.

A taxi passes some of the beautiful old homes on Mackinac Island

The Grand Hotel is one of the “grand old ladies” of the world, situated on a bluff overlooking the harbour.  There are many other accommodation options, most at a considerably lower cost, and of course an abundance of dining choices for visitors.  No camping is allowed on the island.

The porch at the Grand Hotel
The gardens of the Grand Hotel
Sainte Anne’s Church
Mission Church
more of the beautiful homes and gardens
Mini-putt golf and the lawn at our resort

Dick and I stayed at a resort hotel just on the edge of town.  Rather than taking our own bicycles on the ferry, we rented for a day so that we could follow the 8-mile road around the perimeter of the island.  It was a nice ride, theoretically completely flat, but one stretch of the highway was closed for repairs.  At first this looked like a problem, as the choice was to turn around and go back, or walk the bikes up a steep hill on a dirt path.  We chose the hill (much to my dismay), but it turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the ride.  After the short uphill path, we came to a t-junction, and from there a very pleasant track took us through the woodland and parallel to the shoreline below.  The woods were full of wildflowers, and there were very few other people so the path was not busy.  Eventually we dropped down again to the shore at the end of the construction, and carried on around the island.

Glimpse of the water from the bike route

the trail through the woods
a horse and carriage on the highway

Although we enjoyed our visit, it was also somewhat disappointing.  The island is being loved to death by tourists, with day trippers in the thousands even before the busiest season starts.  The main street has been taken over by t-shirt and souvenir shops, interspersed by fudge shops, one after another.  Pedestrians and tourists wobbling on unfamiliar bicycles make it difficult to walk through the town.  The horses and carriages, actually wagons converted to carry many passengers, are romantic, but not exactly enjoyable as too many people are crammed onto too-small benches.

One of the beautiful old inns on the island

We tried 3 of the 4 “fine dining” options, expected to be a highlight of our stay.  Only one lived up to the billing, and that was not the Grand Hotel option.  After carefully reading reviews and studying menus, Dick decided that the Woods Restaurant, operated by the Grand Hotel in a woodland setting well above the main hotel, was a better option than the main hotel dining room.  Duly dressed in our finery, we boarded a (shared) taxi at our hotel.  Half an hour later (we could have walked it faster), we arrived at the hotel, planning to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail before taking another taxi to the Woods Restaurant.  Fortunately, on arrival, we asked questions, and discovered that there were no taxis to be had.  We were able to catch a shuttle, so did not miss our dinner!  The meal was acceptable, but not the wonderful experience we had been expecting, and to Dick’s disgust, there was no dress code for the restaurant.  So, the jacket and tie were entirely superfluous.  On our last evening we did enjoy a meal at the Carriage House waterfront restaurant that measured up to expectations.

Shrimp cocktail our first evening
Woods Restaurant
Elk chops at Woods Restaurant
Baked trout at Woods Restaurant
Smoked Whitefish at Carriage House
Escargots at Carriage House
Filet steak at Carriage House
Dessert choices, lemon pie or Scotch whisky

Saying goodbye to Mackinac Island, we returned to the car and crossed the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and on to our destination at Drummond Island.  Nearly 5 miles long, the suspension bridge was opened in 1957.  Restoration work seems to be ongoing, and looking at the supports one feels no surprise. 

Mackinac Bridge looms out of the fog

Another ferry took us from DeTour village across the St Mary’s River to Drummond Island.  The river is the main channel connecting Lake Huron to Lake Michigan, and thus sees a lot of commercial traffic as well as pleasure boats.  A relatively narrow passage between large bodies of water means it is often a rough passage, as we experienced on our several ferry rides to and fro.

Drummond Island is a large island at the north end of Lake Huron.  It has a full-time population that swells to many more during the summer months.  We had enjoyed our stay there in 2019, and again we were not disappointed.  We arrived in early afternoon on June 8th, and Nine Lives was waiting for us in the water, with two ladies just finishing cleaning and polishing.  Dick schlepped bags and boxes from the vehicle to the boat, while I attempted to sort everything out as it was delivered and made up the beds.

Nine Lives was in the water waiting for us

The first order of business on arrival after any winter is to “shock” the water system and tanks.  This means adding a bleach solution to the nearly full water tank, run the various taps a bit to move the solution through the whole system, and then leave it to sit overnight.  The next day the tanks are emptied, and then refilled and emptied again before the final filling.  Dick also changed our Seagull filter, a special filter for the drinking water tap (and the ice maker) that filters bacteria as well as the more usual chemicals and sediments.  We were delighted to find that most of the winter projects we had requested had been completed.  The forward air conditioner had been replaced, and the new one works well.  The aft air conditioner, that was originally installed backwards in a very tight space, had been removed and replaced the right way around, allowing access to the coils, and, we hope, eliminating the icing problem we had been experiencing.  The failed side by side fridge freezer had been replaced.  The broken igniter for the gas cooktop had also been installed.  Dick had found the replacement button, but been unable to install it.  What a treat now to be able to push a button instead of using a gas lighter on the stove!

She’s glad to be back in the water!

Another job to be done was to refresh the paint on our anchor chain.  We have 200 feet of all-chain rode, and when we anchor, it is important to know how much rode has been paid out.  The calculation is 7 to 1, that is for every foot of depth, you need 7 times that amount of rode.  This means that as the anchor chain goes out, we need a way to know how much is going.  Two-foot sections painted in alternating red, white, blue, green, every 20 feet, is how we can work out how much is out.  Then if we see the yellow section, we know that is all we have!

Unfortunately, the requested replacement water pump had been forgotten.  Our three-day stay allowed time for one to be ordered and installed.  One of the shower heads needed replacing, but Dick found one that fit at the local hardware store.  The dinghy motor was tested, and now runs well after an initial issue with water in the gasoline sight glass was sorted.  Dick spent a few hours changing the oil on both engines.  One of them is relatively easy to access, albeit in a small space, but the other engine, rather than being reversed as one might expect, is in the same orientation in its space, meaning that all the places Dick needs to get to are tight and out of sight.  There was much groaning that evening and the next morning as muscles unaccustomed to the contortions required to fit a large man in a small space complained about their treatment!  As on our previous visit, we enjoyed excellent meals in both of the local restaurants, and found the supermarket was well stocked for our initial provisioning.

It rained hard on Wednesday night, and Thursday we woke up to find the entire outside deck coated with dead and dying stuck mayflies.  These creatures live only a few hours, but they are so light that any rain brings them down onto any surface and they stick fast.  Impossible to walk without grinding them into the deck.  Once it warmed up and dried a bit, I took a broom and swept as much as possible, but Dick still had to go after it with water and a brush to make Nine Lives look as nice as she did when we first arrived!  On subsequent days the mayflies finished, but clouds of small flies hitched rides when we were out on the water.  The things that you don’t even think about when you plan the Great Loop!

On Saturday, June 12, Nine Lives finally left Drummond Island after her 20 month stay, and we headed through the DeTour passage and across the top of Lake Huron to Cheboygan. I had been concerned about the passage, as every ferry crossing had been quite rough, but that morning the water was perfectly smooth and it was a very comfortable ride.  Less so as we came into open water in Lake Huron, there were swells that had Nine Lives moving with a slight corkscrew, making me feel quite unhappy.  Fortunately, it was a fairly short journey to Cheboygan, Michigan.

DeTour Reef Lighthouse

No to be confused with Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Cheboygan is a small, tidy town on the south shore of the Straits of Mackinac, across from Bois Blanc Island.  We arrived to discover 4 other Looper boats in the harbour.  All are travelling as we are, on a multi-year Loop.  Two of them are hoping that the Canadian border opens soon so they can enjoy Georgian Bay and the North Channel.  We had not expected to meet other Loopers until late summer, so we were pleasantly surprised.

Cheboygan was originally an Ojibwe settlement.  In 1846 a group of settlers from Fort Mackinac established the town of Duncan on the site of the native camp.  By 1889 the settlement was large enough to be incorporated as a city.  It was the port for ferries to Bois Blanc Island, and is still the home port of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw.  The town is very tidy, with small but well-kept homes, and several attractive parks on the Cheboygan River.  We launched the dinghy and took a ride up the river past the industrial areas near the river mouth and through the town with homes and parks on the banks.

The marina is about a mile from town, so we rode our bikes to dinner.  The Nauti Inn describes itself as a “barstro”, a wonderfully descriptive noun, perfectly suited to a gourmet experience in very convivial, if somewhat noisy surroundings.  The food was delicious and innovative, with interesting flavours but not strange!

Dick had rack of lamb at Nauti Inn

Sunday morning, we headed out for the very short trip along the Straits to Mackinaw City.  We stayed one night in a beautiful new marina, and rode our bikes through the town.  This is the jumping off point for the ferries to Mackinac Island, so the town caters mainly to tourists.  Yet more t-shirt and souvenir shops, as if there hadn’t been enough on Mackinac Island!  Just outside the town and below the Bridge, lies the restored Colonial Michilimackinac and the Old Mackinac Point Light Station.  The beautiful lighthouse was in operation from 1890 to 1957. The light was visible for 16 miles, critical for safety in the frequently fog-bound Strait and at night for the ferries and Great Lakes shipping.  In addition to carrying people, and later cars, the ferries also carried railway cars to the Upper Peninsula from the 1890’s until 1984.  Construction of the Mackinac Bridge ended the usefulness of the light station, as the well-lit bridge is more useful for navigation.

Old Mackinac Point Light Station
Mackinac Bridge from Mackinaw City

Next morning, we passed under the bridge (not without a certain amount of calculation as to the best location to avoid the possibility of construction debris falling on us), heading for Beaver Island.  With a permanent population of about 800, the island is the largest in Lake Michigan.  It was settled in the mid-1800’s by a strange religious group, related to the Mormons, headed by the self-styled King Strang.  Although the island was already inhabited by Irish immigrants, the Strangites founded the town of St James, and became an important political power in the area. Initially a progressive fleeing religious persecution, Strang became increasingly autocratic and erratic, and his sect clashed often with other settlers.  In June of 1856, Strang was assassinated by two former adherents, who Strang had sentenced to flogging because he did not approve of the way their wives were dressed. The men escaped on a conveniently docked US Naval gunboat, and were never detained or charged. The Strangites, by then numbering about 2600, were subsequently driven from the island by angry mobs, and fled.  A branch of the church founded by Strang still exists today, with about 300 adherents living in Wisconsin. One hopes that flogging is no longer one of their customs.

A lighthouse on the route from Mackinaw City to Beaver Island

Irish fishermen from the area and a group of former tenant farmers evicted from their homes in Ireland made up the next settlers on the island, and the Irish heritage proudly continues to this day.  In addition to a small airport, the island is served from spring through fall by ferries from Charlevoix.  Tourism is important, but the economy also depends on fishing, logging, farming, and government services.  We met several other boaters in the marina, and enjoyed chatting on the docks.  It may be my imagination, but it seems as if people are even more friendly than usual this year.  Perhaps a year of social distancing and fear of covid means everyone is just so happy to be able to get out and meet people again.

The waterfront at St James on Beaver Island

We ate dinner on board, and had ideas about staying up late to see the night sky.  However, Looper midnight is 9pm, and by 10 it was still not dark enough for stars, so we gave up and went to bed.  Looking out at the harbour, we were amazed at the number of ducks in the water all around the marina.  There must have been hundreds.  Surprisingly quiet, but other boaters had mentioned that they do like to peck at your hull, and sure enough, there was a certain amount of tap tap tapping as we drifted off to sleep!

A house with an interesting chimney on Beaver Island

After a bike ride to breakfast and a grocery shop, we left Beaver Island, destination Harbor Springs, on the Lake Michigan eastern shore.  This was our first really nice passage, with smooth water and no rolling as we crossed the lake.  On our arrival at the marina, suddenly Dick made a loud and incomprehensible exclamation.  You may remember that for docking and maneuvering we wear headsets (so we can give each other information and instructions I mean suggestions quietly without shouting).  I was concentrating on getting lines ready to throw to the waiting dockhands, and watching to see whether the slip really was 20 feet wide, so I had no idea what Dick was shouting about.  Once safely docked, I was able to look up and see the Wexford burgee flying proudly from the prow of a large yacht two slips over.  The last thing we expected this summer was to meet other Wexford boaters!  We chatted on the dock, and were invited later for docktails and to meet the rest of the group of friends from Charlevoix, where they spend summers.  A most enjoyable encounter!

the marina at Harbor Springs

Harbor Springs was described by one reviewer as having become “too uppity” for his taste.  We thought that sounded promising, and we were not disappointed!  The town and the shoreline are  occupied by beautiful turn of the century homes and businesses.  Along the lakeshore out of town are lovely mid-20th century large summer homes with well-kept gardens leading down to the water.  The town offers many nice shops, and we enjoyed a very expensive exploration our first day there.  In addition to several special foody items, Dick bought two very nice shirts, and after watching the glass artist in his studio it was necessary to buy an art glass vase to join our small glass collection in Hilton Head.  Dinners in two of the restaurants were less satisfactory, but breakfast at a small bistro was delicious and we have hopes for another restaurant on our last night.

A garden in Harbor Springs

Little Traverse Bay is one of the many inlets on the eastern side of Lake Michigan.  Harbor Springs is on the north side of the inlet, and Petoskey is on the south, while the area between is mainly occupied by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. Initially the site of a Jesuit mission, the area was subsequently occupied first by French traders, and then by settlers from the Eastern seaboard of America.  By the mid-19th century, the area became famous for summer resorts for wealthy American businessmen and their families.  Certainly, Harbor Springs still has a very wealthy presence, given the high-end shopping opportunities and the beautiful waterfront homes.

One of the beautiful Harbor Springs waterfront homes

On Friday we rode our bikes the 9.5 miles around the bay to Petoskey.  Most of the ride was along the road and through forests, but once arriving in Petsokey there were special bike trails through the town and along the shoreline.  We enjoyed another shopping day.  In addition to more gourmet foody treasures, I found a sunhat, after quite a search so far on this trip.  While I paid for the hat, Dick’s eye was caught by an interesting necklace, featuring an anchor, some beads, and red enamel.  Very nautical, ideal for a Looper!  Unbeknownst to Dick, it came with matching earrings, and of course one must have those as well to complete the look.

The Bear River in Petoskey

In Chandlers, another “barstro” style restaurant we enjoyed a wonderful lunch, truly great food although noisy surroundings.  So far this trip it does seem as though the more romantic “fine dining” restaurants do not have the outstanding food that these modern bar-restaurants offer.  Somewhat similar in concept to some of the gastro-pubs we often enjoy in UK.

Smoked whitefish tartine at Chandlers
Dick enjoyed a spicy pork fried rice at Chandlers
I chose a caprese salad with grilled shrimp at Chandlers

Back on our bikes to return to Harbor Springs, I decided on a comfort stop on the way out of town.  For the second time, my bike decided to knock me over as I attempted to get my leg high enough to clear the bar between the wheels.  I am very grateful for 1st, my helmet (I felt it bang on the concrete), 2nd, my usual outdoor sun garb, that features long sleeves and limited the scrapes, 3rd, the extremely hard-wearing Duluth clothing that resisted tearing, and 4th the excellent Corning Gorilla Glass on my new smartphone (I felt the bike land on that as it collapsed on top of me).  Passers-by made exclamations and offers of assistance, but Dick is made of sterner stuff, and after helpfully lifting the bike off me, he allowed me time to catch my breath and decide I was not injured before offering a hand so I could get up.  A couple of paracetamol on our return to the boat and apart from a bruise here and there I am fine.

One hopes the sculpture is advertising the remodeling business, not the dentist!

Today is the first laundry day, so Nine Lives is festooned with hangers drying various t-shirts.  It is a very pleasant day to be on the water, and later we will give another fine dining restaurant a try.  Tomorrow we head for Traverse City.  It will be our longest passage so far, 8 hours.  We are being very conscious of the notoriously unreliable weather patterns of Lake Michigan.  Dick has built longer stays in most locations into our plan, so we can easily adjust for conditions without changing the overall length of the trip.  Already we have shortened our stay at Beaver Island, and decided to skip Charlevoix entirely, as there were no good days for wind and waves that would work for us.  We expect to stay in Traverse City for 4 nights.

August 16 to September 9: Gore Bay to Drummond Island

We left Gore Bay on a calm morning.  The water was as smooth as glass, and, unusually, continued so all the way to Meldrum Bay.  We had read about the restaurant at Meldrum Bay Inn, and decided that, with so many Loopers raving about it, we had to try it.  Fortunately, we made a reservation.  It is a difficult dilemma for Loopers.  On the one hand, making, and trying to follow, a schedule, is something of a no-no.  It will tend to lead to poor decisions with respect to weather conditions and sea state.  On the other hand, marinas fill up during high season, as do the nicer restaurants.  Dick and I try to take a middle road.  We have a plan, with rough dates, but the plan is adjusted as we travel, to allow for weather delays and to add some flexibility to destinations.  For holiday weekends, or if there is to be a festival in town, we make marina reservations several weeks in advance, since they can always be cancelled.  Most other marina bookings are made less than a week ahead, and we also make restaurant reservations as soon as we know there is a reasonable chance that we will get there on the day we expect.

This has stood us well this summer, both for the marinas and also for the restaurants.  We felt bad for several boaters who arrived in Meldrum Bay expecting a great dining experience, only to be told that the restaurant was fully booked.  There are no other eating out options, and not much reason to stop there without the restaurant.  Later we were surprised to discover that in fact those boaters could have been accommodated, had we known.  The owner takes bookings for tables, most of which seat 4 to 6 people, and once her tables are booked, she refuses reservations.  I overheard her saying “I let the boaters sort it out among themselves”, in other words, we could easily have asked the people on one of the other boats to join us, had we known, as almost all of the tables had only two people seated.  A strange way to do business.  As it happened, the meal was reasonable but not the exceptional experience we had been led to expect.  A night in one of the anchorages we had chosen to miss would have been more enjoyable.

Yes, because we had a schedule, we skipped some of the highly recommended experiences of Georgian Bay’s North Channel.  Dick’s mother’s 90th birthday party was coming up, so we needed to be in Sault Ste Marie by a specific date in order to pick up a rental car and return to Trenton for the festivities.

Gore Bay early morning 2
The marina at Gore Bay in early morning

Gore Bay early morning
Gore Bay anchorage, water like glass and perfect reflections

Meldrum Bay key lime pie
Key Lime Pie at Meldrum Bay Inn

Meldrum Bay shortcake
Berry shortcake at Meldrum Bay Inn

From Meldrum Bay we were expecting an easy crossing of the North Channel to Blind River.  Sadly, both the wind direction and the wave heights were quite different from what was forecast.  We had a very uncomfortable ride, with the waves broadside, causing a corkscrew motion that was most unpleasant.  We ran fast, and were in by 10:30am, after which I needed to just sit still for a couple of hours in order to feel more like myself!  Blind River has little to offer boaters, as the marina is about a mile from the town, but we were delighted to get a message to say that our friends Brenda and Bruce on B-Side were on their way.  Their upcoming plans required a weather window that was likely to close if they didn’t make some adjustments, giving us an unexpected reunion.

Like much of Georgian Bay’s North Channel, the area was first settled by fur traders, loggers, and miners.  A sawmill was built at the mouth of the river originally known as the Penewobecong.  Europeans named it the Blind River, because the mouth of the river was hard to see along the canoe route of the voyageurs.  The protected estuary with deep water offshore was a good location for a mill at a time when all trade was carried by water. The copper mine at nearby Bruce Mines was a good customer for the logging industry and sawmill, providing timber and planks for the mine.  For 40 years from 1929, the McFadden Lumber Company operated the largest white pine sawmill east of the Rockies.  The mill finally closed in 1969, but a few years earlier, uranium was discovered in the area.  While a local mine was short-lived, a refinery was built nearby in 1983 and still operates, producing uranium trioxide and providing employment for the area. The Trans-Canada Highway runs through the centre of the town.

Blind River early morning
The old burner unit from the sawmill at Blind River

That evening we all decided to ride bicycles into town to the best rated restaurant.  We got our bikes off the boat, and after walking them along the dock we were ready to ride them along the boardwalk towards the road.  As my companions headed out, I prepared to get on my bike when it decided to lean affectionally towards me, rather like a large and friendly dog.  There was a moment where I realized what was in my immediate future, and then I subsided gracefully to the boardwalk, with the bike landing on top.  At this point I was very glad I had decided to carry my bike helmet on my head!  I was also glad the landing surface was wood instead of gravel.  The only damage was to my dignity. And I did subside gracefully, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

We rode to the restaurant and enjoyed such a convivial last evening together that we rather lost track of the time and ended up riding back in the dark.  Fortunately, we were able to take back roads with little traffic, since the bike lights I had purchased had been deemed unnecessary by the man who would have had to take the time to clip them onto the bikes.

Blind River sunset
Sunset at Blind River

Our planned very early start the next morning was somewhat delayed by fog.  After about an hour it cleared, so we set off, only to have it close in again.  For only the second time this season we needed to run with the radar on a split screen with the chart, luckily no other boats were around.  It is a strange and eerie feeling to be out on the water with nothing to be seen around you except your wake!  The fog lifted fairly quickly and we were in Thessalon by 11:15. In the afternoon the wind and waves really kicked up and we were glad to be off the North Channel.  There was one other Looper boat in, Idyll Time, and we enjoyed docktails later that evening aboard Nine Lives.

travelling in fog 3
Travelling in fog means using the radar on a split screen with the chartplotter.

travelling in fog
Looking back, fog all around us

travelling in fog 2
A hole in the fog shows there is blue sky above!

Our passage to Richard’s Landing on August 20th was very pleasant, although the wind picked up later and again, we were glad of our early start.  Richard’s Landing is a tiny but well-kept town with a very popular Italian restaurant on the dock.  It was completely filled outside on the deck and a fair few tables occupied inside even though it was a Monday night.  We enjoyed a wander around the town and spent some time in a very nice shop that featured all kinds of local arts and crafts.  After buying a beautiful new wooden chopping board and a pair of moccasins for Dick, both destined for our home in UK, we felt the need to refresh ourselves with ice cream!  The next morning, we departed for Sault Ste Marie and a two-week break.

North Channel lighthouse 2
A historic lighthouse on Georgian Bay’s North Channel

North Channel 2
The North Channel on our way to Richard’s Landing

North Channel lighthouse
Another historic lighthouse on the North Channel

North Channel
Pretty scenery in the North Channel

Richards Landing
The village of Richard’s Landing built this picturesque lighthouse on their harbour

Richards Landing 2
A gardener in Richard’s Landing with a sense of humour

Mum’s birthday gathering went very well, with all members of the family present including Dick’s sister Judy’s family.  They made the long trek from northern Alberta, camping on the way.  It was wonderful for Mum to be surrounded by all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren for this momentous birthday!

Dick and I enjoyed the trip very much, returning by road to some of the special locations we had visited earlier by boat.  We stocked up on chocolates in Lakefield, and finally managed to try Cassis Bistro there.  We also returned to Picton to collect our beautiful sculpture and enjoyed a very nice afternoon chatting with Paul Verrall and his wife Donna in their garden.  We picked up our vehicle from Dick’s brother, and returned in convoy by a different route, that took us through the heart of Ontario’s cottage country.  I may say that I enjoyed the Kawarthas, Muskoka, and Haliburton much more from the water than I did driving.  We stopped for a night at the Log Cabin Inn at Parry Sound, having had such a nice meal a few weeks earlier.  Sadly, I think we had the b-team in the kitchen on our second visit.  The meal was acceptable but nothing to write home about.

Nine Lives was waiting for us in Sault Ste Marie, having snoozed for a week.  Other boaters had kept an eye on her, and even adjusted her lines on a rough day without asking, just another example of how helpful and considerate the boating community can be.

Sault Ste Marie marina
The marina at Sault Ste Marie is brand new, but there were very few boaters by the last week of August.

The twin cities of Sault Ste Marie sit across from each other on the St Mary’s River.  The Ojibwe used the location at the bottom of the rapids as a meeting place during whitefish season. The treaty that ended the War of 1812 set the border between United States and what was to become Canada along the river, dividing what had been one city into two. The rapids drop the level of the water from Lake Superior to the lower lakes of Michigan and Huron by 20 feet, so a canal and lock was built in 1798 to solve the problem of having to portage around the rapids.  This first canal was destroyed during the War of 1812, and after the treaty, trade passed through Soo Locks, on the American side of the river.  In 1895 a Canadian canal was built after an unfortunate diplomatic incident between the two countries.  At the time it opened, the Canadian Sault Ste Marie Canal contained the largest lock in the world, and the first to be electrically operated.  This lock was shut down in 1987, and a new, much smaller lock was built within the old lock, completed in 1998.  Today the Canadian lock carries recreational and tour boat traffic, while the much larger commercial ships use the Soo Locks.  The Soo Locks are the world’s busiest canal in terms of tonnage, in spite of being closed each year from January through March.  We watched a number of freighters and tankers pass into the locks from our vantage point in the marina.

Dick spent a summer working at what was then Algoma Steel in Sault Ste Marie when he was a student.  At the time it was a huge and important steel mill, today it is owned by an Indian company, and is a much smaller operation.

Sault Ste Marie bridge
The international bridge connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste Marie

Sault Ste Marie Gliss
Steak and shrimp at Gliss Restaurant in Sault Ste Marie

Sault Ste Marie marina at sunset
Nine Lives in Sault Ste Marie marina at sunset.

The commentary on the Agawa Canyon train told some of the story of the visionary businessman Francis Clergue, who arrived in Sault Ste Marie, backed by a consortium of Philadelphia businessmen, in the early 20th century.  A hydro-electric dam, a paper mill, the steel plant, part of the Algoma Central Railway, and two mines were all part of the interconnected empire he created.  Sadly, like many fast-growing businesses before and since, cash flow was insufficient to fund the growth, and while most of his enterprises continued, some to this day, Clergue was unable to maintain the empire and in 1903 he was forced out.  He left Sault Ste Marie and never lived there again.  The paper mill closed in 2011, and has now been repurposed into a mixed-use cultural and tourism hub.  The Algoma Conservatory of Music occupies one of the restored buildings, while another contains several restaurants and an events venue.  A farmer’s market is also on the site, and a new station for the Agawa Canyon Railway Tour is planned.  We ate in the steak house and also the pizza restaurant, and enjoyed both the food and the ambiance.  It is so nice to see beautiful historic industrial buildings being preserved instead of knocked down.

Sault Ste Marie converted mill
The beautiful converted paper mill in Sault Ste Marie now houses several restaurants and an events venue

pizza at Breakfast Pig
We enjoyed breakfast one morning at The Breakfast Pig, I tried a breakfast pizza, it was delicious!

On August 30th we set off very early for the famous train journey to Agawa Canyon.  The Canyon was not formed by glaciation as one would usually expect in this part of the world.  Instead it is part of an ancient rift valley, created through faulting 1.2 billion years ago. This trip is 8 hours of travel for a 90-minute stop.  It was nice enough, but not worth it.  I believe that 15 or 20 years ago it was a very different experience.  We could see that the brush and small trees have been allowed to grow up all alongside the tracks, so that the scenery is almost entirely a green tunnel punctuated with very quick glimpses of the views that would be marvellous if you could actually see them.  The trip is likely nicer once the fall colours develop, but even that will not change the complete lack of the views of the rivers, lakes, and Lake Superior that we had looked forward to.

Agawa Canyon train depot
At the depot on board the Agawa Canyon train

Agawa Canyon train 2
A glimpse of one of the lakes as we ride the train towards Agawa Canyon

Agawa Canyon train
The best moment on the train, as we passed over a trestle and could see the power plant far below

Agawa Canyon park 3
Agawa Canyon park

Agawa Canyon park 4
The train and Agawa Canyon park

Agawa Canyon river 2
Agawa Canyon River

Agawa Canyon river
Agawa Canyon River

Agawa Canyon from viewpoint
Dick climbed the 372 steps to the Canyon Overlook

Agawa Canyon park root cellar
A root cellar in Agawa Canyon. We have no idea who or what it was for.

Agawa Canyon waterfall 2
One of the two waterfalls you can visit in Agawa Canyon

Agawa Canyon park
The train waits to begin the 4 hour return journey to Sault Ste Marie

A few days later we went for a drive along the route taken by the train.  We had hoped to see the railway trestles from the land, as well as the dam and possibly some of the fall colours, but we were frustrated in those goals.  However, it was an enjoyable drive and we did get to see some of Lake Superior and the very pretty Chippewa Falls.  The Falls demonstrate some of the fascinating layers of geology that we were told about on the train.  We could see ancient rocks smoothed by glaciers, and darker areas that were laid down by lava flows.

Chippewa Falls 4
Chippewa Falls. Notice all the different kinds of rock.

Chippewa Falls 3
Clear water and a hint of autumn at Chippewa Falls

Chippewa Falls
Another view of Chippewa Falls, popular with fishermen.

wildflowers by the roadside
Wildflowers by the roadside

SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an America Great Lakes freighter that sank in a storm in November 1975 with the loss of all aboard.  When launched in 1958, she was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, and is still the largest ever sunk there.  Although the story was later immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” the following year, I can definitely remember listening to the radio as the tragedy and the search for the missing freighter unfolded.  The sinking led to improvements in Great Lakes shipping regulations and various safety practices.  As we looked out into Alona Bay at the deep blue waters and endless horizon of Lake Superior it was not hard to imagine very different conditions in November.  We have experienced changing forecasts, and conditions that are not as expected, often enough on our own voyages to be able to understand how it is possible to run into problems.  Whether it is the ocean, lakes, or even rivers, it is important to respect the dangers and remember that boating is nothing like driving on roads.

Alona Bay viewpoint
This was the view from the scenic outlook at Alona Bay. Why they build a pullout on the highway and don’t cut down the brush so one can actually see something, I do not know.

Lake Superior
A better view of Lake Superior from further down the highway

The Trans-Canada Highway began construction in 1950, intended to provide an unbroken transcontinental route across Canada.  In several places along the route there is more than one designated route, and the numbering is not consistent from province to province.  However, the entire length and all the variations carry a white on green maple leaf route marker.  The highway officially opened in 1962, and was completed in 1971.  At Chippewa Falls we read about “The Gap”, a 56-mile portion of the highway that was considered one of the most difficult parts to construct due to topography and the hardness of the granite.  Construction was stopped until 4 men from Wawa walked the route through the bush to Sault Ste Marie and met with officials to demonstrate the desperate need for the highway for the residents of Wawa.  This area is considered the half way point of the transcontinental highway.  Dick and I found the story interesting, having driven nearly all of the highway, including most of the variations, over the years.  One day we will have to complete the piece in Newfoundland and the last part of Quebec that we have not visited.

We enjoyed great docktails aboard Nine Lives one evening with other boaters, not Loopers this time.  One couple are Sault Ste Marie locals.  He is a commercial diver and instructor, and owns a restored tug as well as a large trawler.  They seem to divide their time between his work and a farm, and live partly aboard the boat as well.  The other couple are from Ohio, he is a firefighter.

September 3rd was very rainy and windy.  Dick visited both the Bush Plane Museum and the historic lock while I made a set of prints of the birthday gathering for Mum.  We were also watching the progress of Hurricane Dorian as it threatened the east coast and Hilton Head. After a few days of increasing concern, I am glad to be able to say that our area was essentially unaffected, apart from the inconvenience of the mandatory evacuation.

Arturos red snapper
Dick enjoyed red snapper with pumpkin ravioli at Arturo’s in Sault Ste Marie

Arturos shrimp pasta
Excellent shrimp pasta at Arturo’s

Eventually it was time to leave Sault Ste Marie and continue the last week of our summer voyaging.  Our first stop was the very picturesque town of Bruce Mines.  The mines here were known to the First Nations, and early explorers arrived in search of the copper.  The first copper mine was opened in 1846, and was worked by miners who emigrated from Cornwall. The mine managers would not allow any stores to open in the town, instead settlers were forced to buy everything from the company store.  The enterprising Marks brothers from Hilton Beach would load fresh produce and various goods onto a barge that they would anchor off the town because they were not allowed to dock.  The townsfolk would row and paddle out to the barge to shop.  The copper was worked for about 100 years before it played out. Today the mine is a quarry for an exceptionally hard rock that is used for road building.  The town is a few miles west of the quarry, and I was surprised at how pretty it is.  It is also right on the Trans Canada Highway, and boasts several restaurants of previously excellent reputation.  Dick was particularly looking forward to the Bavarian Restaurant.  Sadly, the restaurant has been sold.  The current reviews of both that and the other local eatery were so bad that we decided to eat on board.

Bruce Mines
The pretty village of Bruce Mines

 

leaving Bruce Mines
Calm seas as we leave Bruce Mines

Our last night out was at an anchorage in Milford Haven, a long narrow inlet, still in Canadian waters.  We anchored near a picturesque abandoned boathouse.  We were surprised to be completely alone in such a pretty spot, usually we would have expected a few sailboats and possibly some Loopers to join us.  It just shows how much the weather has changed since the middle of August.  We are seeing far fewer days of fine weather, and the nights are now considerably colder.  I imagine most boaters that are still out prefer to stop in marinas with power, rather than anchoring out.

Milford Haven anchorage
We anchored near a deserted boathouse in Milford Haven

We arrived in Drummond Island Yacht Haven just before noon, followed by several other Loopers.  We were invited for docktails on board Vitamin Sea, together with the crew of Misty.  It turns out that we had met both couples before, last year at Rendezvous in Norfolk and then Misty again on the Hudson.  They are all great storytellers with an excellent sense of humour.  Afterwards we went to a local Tex-Mex restaurant for an outstanding meal.  It is fortunate we have our vehicle here, because the town is several miles from the marina.

Drummond Island Yacht Haven
Drummond Island Yacht Haven

Drummond Island sits between the Georgian Bay’s North Channel and the open waters of Lake Huron.  It is the seventh largest lake island in the world.  The Canada United States border runs north and east of the island, so it was our port of entry for our return to USA.  It used to be necessary to meet in person with a US Customs and Immigration officer, but these days technology has improved things, at least for boaters.  Dick has an app on his phone that he uses to notify Border Protection of our entry.  An officer may ask to have a short video conversation, and will then approve our entry.  A few minutes later a number is emailed, that we enter into our online profile details and that’s that!  We did learn last year from other Loopers that answering all questions accurately is important.  For instance, when asked if you have any fruit and vegetables on board, the correct answer is yes.  If you lie and say no, they will know you are lying, because boaters of course have food on board!  When asked, you simply tell them you have “ship’s stores”.  As commented by a fellow boater the other day, Loopers, who tend to be retirement age, and travel at 7 knots on trawlers do not exactly fit the profile of drug dealers and smugglers.

Drummond Island stormy weather
Stormy weather approaches Drummond Island

Drummond Island is connected to the mainland by a ferry that runs all year round.  There are around 1000 permanent residents.  There is a small air strip, and a primary school, but most children are bused to school on the mainland via the ferry.  The island is a year-round tourist destination for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits, boasting miles of trails for off-roading, more than 13 unique ecosystems, water trail systems for paddling, access to both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan for boaters, and excellent birdwatching.  Dick and I caught sight of sand hill cranes as we drove to dinner one evening.  The underlying rock is dolomite, used in several industries including glass, paper making, agriculture, and even medicine, but the main use is for steel manufacture.  The Drummond Island Quarry, now owned by Carmeuse, ships out nearly a million and a half tons of dolomite each year.  The quarry is located inland, and we could just see a road specifically created to support 75-ton capacity haul trucks that bring the quarried rock to the processing plant on the shore.

Drummond Island Potatoes
Crispy potatoes with bacon, cheddar, and green onions was a specialty at the Drummond Island restaurant

The Yacht Haven where Nine Lives will stay for the winter, has a number of huge buildings, one of which is heated.  This means that we can leave much of the food (pantry items), clothing, bedding, etc on board.  We also do not have to put chemicals into the fresh water and blackwater tanks as we would if we had to winterize the boat.  There is quite a bit of work done even so.  We take home flour, since it does not last well, also anything that needs refrigeration of course.  I like to take large laundry items like bath mats and some of the bedding home, so it can be washed (and ironed) in my big machines at home.  Dick took samples of the oil from the engines, which are sent away for analysis.  The report will tell him whether there are any problems with the engines, and also whether he needs to change the oil when we return in June for next year’s voyaging.  We like to take the carpets home for steam cleaning.  A final cleaning of bathrooms, the salon, and galley gets the boat ready for a winter rest, although of course another cleaning will be needed when we return.  Dick gets together the various spares and parts that he will ask the boatyard to install, and also spends a lot of time making lists of needed maintenance and replacements.  Boating is not an inexpensive lifestyle!  This winter we will need a new air conditioning unit to replace the useless forward unit, a replacement side by side fridge freezer, and a new water pump.

On Monday morning the head tech from the boatyard came on board to go over the to-do list with Dick and see where everything was located.  At last Nine Lives was ready for haul out.  We have not seen her hauled out since the survey when we bought her in 2016, so we made a point of staying to see it.  The boat is driven into a narrow channel, and is positioned above two large slings under the travel lift.  Slowly, the boat is lifted in the slings, and then the travel lift drives away from the slip and conveys the boat to its destination on land.  The heated shed was not quite ready for Nine Lives, because boats are located in the shed in reverse order to when they are expected to leave.  Instead she was positioned on blocks of wood so the travel lift could be unhooked and driven away.

haulout positioning
Positioning Nine Lives on the slings of the travel lift

haulout lifting
Nine Lives is lifted out of the water

haulout leaving the slip
The travel lift leaves the slip

haulout driving away
Nine Lives is taken down the road to the boat sheds

The first thing we wanted to check was the status of the sponsons, the extra flotation that is unique to Nine Lives, and that had the hole in it last year.  To our surprise and dismay, we could see that in spite of having taken considerable extra care this year, the starboard side sponson was cracked, and so was the one on the port side.  Dick had arranged for plugs to be installed last spring, and as soon as they were opened gallons of water gushed out from both sides!  So not only was the extra flotation not doing its job, we were hauling around all that extra weight of water!  This impairs fuel efficiency, and also creates an imbalance on the boat.  Water puddles in the showers and the kitchen sink, and the ice maker gets iced up as the automatic refill spills out of the back of the tray and onto the bottom of the unit. Dick will be getting in touch with the boat builder to find out exactly where the extra flotation part begins and ends, and of course the Drummond Island boat yard will need to make repairs.  We will have to look into some different fenders to try to protect this vulnerable part of the boat in future.  Apart from that, Nine Lives is in good condition, props and rudders looking good.

Nine Lives tunnel
Placing blocks of wood for Nine Lives to rest on above the concrete.

Nine Lives oops
Oops! Water pours out of the sponsons once the plug is removed.

We were able to stay overnight in cabins associated with the Yacht Haven.  They were rustic, but well equipped and absolutely spotless.  There was a lovely view over the bay and beautiful sunsets.  The only inconvenience was a dearth of power points, including in the bedrooms.  In fact, one of the bedrooms had a very nice bedside lamp, but the cord was left lying on the bed because there was absolutely no place to plug it in!

Drummond Island meat pie dinner
A last dinner cooked on board, shepherd’s pie with vegetables and garlic cheese bread to accompany.

The next morning, we finished packing up the car and said goodbye to Drummond Island until next summer.  It has been a wonderful voyage this year.  The weather could not have been better, not too hot, and very little rain.  The rain we did get was mostly at night.  We seldom needed the air conditioning, and when we did, the aft unit was sufficient.  This was fortunate, since the forward unit is not working and is scheduled for replacement this winter!  We had few weather delays, only one major (more than a day), and there were also few days when the forecast for wind and waves was not as expected.  We met many Loopers this year, because we were travelling at the same time as most of the “pack”.  Lots of enjoyable docktails and dockside chats.

This will be the final blog update for 2019.  Look for Nine Lives again some time in June, 2020.

September 5 to 16, 2018: Cleveland to Brewerton

September 5 to 16

Our second day in Cleveland was spend exploring the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  We both enjoyed the experience, although we were most interested in the songs and artists of our own generation.  I expect some people could spend days there, looking at memorabilia.  I found the clothes fascinating, it was hard to believe the performers were so small.  There were dresses belonging to Diana Ross and the Supremes, and they were tiny! The clothes worn by the giants of rock and roll, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and many more recent rockers, show that these men had to be well under 6 feet tall, and extremely thin by today’s standards. There was an excellent film with clips of Elvis Presley, and we also loved a 30 minute film of Dick Clark and American Bandstand.  In the evening we walked a little further into town for an outstanding meal at Blue Point Grille.

From Cleveland it was a long day, 100 miles, to Erie, Pennsylvania.  This year we made a conscious effort to reduce the distances we travelled each day, so a normal day has been 30 to 40 miles.  The weather was glorious, although hot, with a bright blue sky and a good forecast for wind and waves. With no rain in the forecast we replaced the side doors with the screens, which involves two large stiff zippers each side and one on top.  Just after lunch the clouds started to build up and the sky got dark.  We were caught in an afternoon thunderstorm with accompanying squall out on the water.  The rain lashed the boat from the side (of course it was the side I sit on) and the cushions, carpet, and my chair with me in it, got absolutely soaked.  Eventually I managed to undo the top zipper and secure my door at the top, but with the strong wind the only way it could even partly reduce the amount of rain coming in was for me to stand with my back to it and hold on.  Drenched doesn’t even begin to describe the experience.  Dick, from his dry seat at the helm, was highly amused.  The rain, low visibility, and choppy water were not the only matters for concern.  We had heard a securite announcement from a tow that he was headed into port with 3 loaded barges.  We could see his position on the chartplotter, but he didn’t seem to be moving, and we were headed directly for him.  Dick went well out into the lake to make sure we gave him plenty of room.  We were able to see through gaps in the rain as we passed that he was indeed stopped, repositioning the tow from the front of the barge train (pulling) to the rear (pushing it into port).  In due course the rain stopped, the waves settled down, and the sky was blue again.  The carpet took a while to dry though, and it was surprising how very dirty that rain was.

Erie is the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania, and its only major port on the Great Lakes.  As heavy industry and shipping have declined, health care, plastics, tourism, and service industries have taken their place.  The harbour was interesting, divided into several parts, with the one we were visiting requiring passage under an elevated walkway that connects the Sheraton Hotel with the Bayfront Convention Center.  Unfortunately, the harbour itself is still something of a work in progress, but in a few years it could be very pleasant.  There is a large maritime museum and library, and a 187 foot Bicentennial Tower along the waterfront.

Our next stop was Buffalo and a grateful goodbye to “big water” for this year.  We stayed at the marina that is closest to downtown, and once again were pleasantly surprised by the waterfront parks and development of what was once a very unattractive industrial port.  The marina is situated on a spit of land that also includes a waterfront park with attractive gardens, a lookout tower, and two restaurants.  From the marina it was easy access to an extensive network of cycle paths.  We rode our bikes through what looked to be a very interesting naval museum, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.  There are a number of decommissioned ships, including a submarine, a cruiser, and a destroyer.  Further along the Buffalo River is the oldest active fireboat in the world.  The Edward M Cotter was built in 1900 and rebuilt in 1953.  In addition to being a fireboat, she is used as an icebreaker on the Buffalo River in winter. She has a colourful history, including being burnt out in 1928 while fighting a fire on a barge carrying 5,000 barrels of crude oil.  Rebuilt, she continued in service, and crossed Lake Erie in 1960 to help put out a fire in grain elevators in Port Colborne, Canada.  We only saw her at dock, but I gather she is a regular sight in Buffalo Harbor.

After a two night stop in Buffalo it was time to make our way into the Western Erie Canal. We had planned our usual 9am start, but we were delayed somewhat at the pump out dock by a very slow pump.  As it happened, that delay didn’t matter, because of limited service at the lock on the Black Rock Channel.  This three and a half mile channel parallels the Niagara River, and allows boats to avoid the strong current and rough waters of the river.  It was built as part of the Erie Canal, but somehow it is no longer part of the Canal and the lock is a Federally operated lock.  It is in need of refurbishing, so the operators have decided to limit openings, and while two different phone numbers are provided to call to get the schedule, neither of the lines are manned.  On arrival at the lock we found a sign that told us the first opening would be 11am, so we had to tie up and wait for over an hour.  As is his wont when there is any expected delay, Dick set off along the lock wall to investigate.  On his return, he met the lock keeper arriving for work, a surly individual who was not at all impressed with Dick’s friendly smile and told him in no uncertain terms that he was forbidden to be on the dock and to get back on that boat and stay there!

After exiting the Black Rock Channel, we were into the Niagara River, which was unpleasantly choppy until we turned into Tonawanda River.  Not the most attractive waterway we have been on, and even after making the turn into the Erie Canal proper, it was somewhat unprepossessing until we had passed through the double lock at Lockport.  The stretch between Lockport and Rochester is very pleasant, with small towns that are making the most of their waterfront and the opportunities for tourism.  There are many lift bridges, all freshly painted in soft green with contrasting bright yellow trim.  Most of the towns have free docking at the town walls, and many have installed power pedestals and shower facilities.  One of the lock keepers told Dick that she is employed full time, all year round.  During the winter when the canal is closed, they take apart and refurbish all the lock and bridge mechanisms.  She said her winters are spent “up to the elbows in grease!”  At each lock we were asked how far we planned to go that day, and the keepers called the next lock to tell them to expect us.

In Middleport we were joined for the evening by Wade Aiken, a talented photographer I met when we lived in Olean some years ago.  It was nice to catch up and hear about his extensive world travels and his photography.  The next day we travelled to Spencerport where we were met by another friend from the Olean Camera Club.  Barbara was not able to stop for a meal, but we had time for a chat and a cup of tea and hope for a longer visit, perhaps next year when we are in the Finger Lakes.

A frequent sight on the Erie Canal is English-inspired canal boats that appear to be a popular vacation.  The boats are a little wider than UK narrowboats, and generally shorter at a maximum of 43 feet, but they are driven by a traditional tiller at the stern, and they all look very clean and in good condition.  You can rent them from Midlakes Navigation, and they offer 3, 4, and 7 day rentals. We do not wish to be disloyal to Nine Lives, but we were intrigued by the possibilities!

Rochester is another city with an attractive downtown.  We turned off the Canal into the Genesee River, navigable almost to the city center.  We tied up at a good dock in Corn Hill Landing, a revitalized historic neighbourhood. The waterfront complex of rental apartments includes several restaurants, one of them is a very pleasant wine bar.  We walked over and each ordered a flight, sparkling for Dick, and rose for me.  To accompany we had a meat and cheese board, with fresh French bread, local honey, and grainy mustard.  It was a delightful way to spend an hour in the afternoon, particularly as we were planning an “eating up” evening of leftovers on the boat!

The next day Dick rode his bike through downtown to Lake Ontario.  He reports that Rochester is a very clean city with lots of parks and waterfront paths.  It is strange that a canal has never been cut to bypass the waterfalls in the river and allow access between the Erie Canal and Lake Ontario.  Apparently, it has been proposed many times, but so far nobody has found the money.

In the afternoon we took a rental car to Ithaca, and after a very nice meal in a French restaurant we went to a concert by Joan Baez.  What a remarkable woman she is.  She played straight through without an intermission (or a chair), and returned to sing three more songs for an encore.  It was a mix of old favourites and new material from her latest album.  Although she can no long sustain the high notes, at 77 years old, she is still an amazing performer, and we were very glad we were able to take the time to see her on what is expected to be her last tour. The theatre is also of historic and architectural interest.  The building, originally constructed in 1915, began as a garage and Studebaker showroom.  In 1926 it was transformed into a cinema and vaudeville palace.  The extravagant combination of Moorish and Gothic architecture is striking. After struggling for many years as a movie theatre that closed in the 1980’s, the building was condemned in 1997 and slated for demolition.  It was saved by strong community support and fundraising from both municipal and private donors, and has been operating as a concert theatre since 2001.

Returning to the boat at midnight, we planned a slightly later than usual departure, but my Rochester experience was not yet complete.  At just past 4am I became aware of footsteps and a slight rocking of the boat, as well as conversation from outside.  I got up and shouted at Dick to wake up.  No response.  Shouted again as I opened the hatch and went up to the cockpit to find the absolute cliché of a black man in a hoodie sitting on the boat.  I shouted at him “GET OFF”, and somewhat to my surprise, he did, with profuse apologies and compliments on the boat.  He told me it was such a beautiful boat he just wanted to try to get a picture of himself sitting on it.  His girlfriend on the dock also apologised and paid compliments.  As this was happening, Dick finally woke up, just long enough to understand what had happened, to hear the apologies, and know that his intervention was not required.  Then back to sleep he went, while I lay awake for hours getting over the shock!  Thinking about the incident, I come away with a few thoughts.  Given how well spoken and truly apologetic the man and his companion were, we are assuming they were simply walking to or from work, saw the boat and thought it was unoccupied and that they would not disturb anyone if they took a picture.  It would have been very easy to over-react.  By coincidence I have been reading in the AGLCA forum about several boats being boarded while tied up on the Illinois River.  The boaters reported that they used wasp spray and other unspecified deterrents to get rid of the intruders.  I know that many boaters (legally) carry firearms.  In our case, while it was, for me, a disturbing experience, the trespassers were quite innocent, and over-reacting could have been disastrous.  One thing we did agree on, in future we will make a point of connecting the lifelines and rail as well as bringing in the boarding ladder if we are using it.  Just to make it a little less easy to get on board.

After Rochester we stopped at Newark, with a well maintained town wall, excellent shower facilities, and a nice little canal museum.  From there the Canal became less scenic, and the towns not quite as pretty.  There followed long stretches with no towns or signs of habitation.  The next night we tied up below a lock, truly in the middle of nowhere (Tripadvisor reported the nearest restaurant was 4.5 miles away).  It was an incredibly peaceful stop, almost like anchoring.  We also noticed a somewhat different attitude on the part of the lock keepers (with the exception of the one we tied up at.)  They seemed to be less likely to be paying attention to their radio when we called for a lock-through, requiring several calls before we could see any activity at the lock, and often no response on the radio at all.  No longer interested in how far we would be travelling, and certainly not willing to call the next lock to let them know we were coming.  The attitude seemed to fit with the general condition of the houses we saw along the canal in this stretch.  Tumbledown shacks, yards full of junk, and lots of derelict docks.

Shortly before Baldwinsville we began to see an improvement.  New homes and tidy cottages with well kept grounds and well maintained docks lined the Seneca River (the Canal becomes the river for much of this stretch).  Baldwinsville is a very pleasant town of about 8,000.  It is built on both sides of the canal, and includes an island between the canal lock and the dam.  On the island is a large park with an amphitheatre, and we understand that concerts are held regularly through the summer months.  The town wall has power and water, at $5 a night on the honour system.  Here we met a couple of Loopers who have been spending summers on their boat for the past 8 years.  They completed the loop in 2010-2011, and since then, they have been twice to Maine, spent two summers on Lake Michigan, and this summer they went to the north side of Lake Superior.  Now me, I think of the Canadian side of Lake Superior as rocks, pine trees, and mosquitoes big enough to carry off your boat!  However, Jill told me they loved it, anchoring most nights for nearly a month.  The Lake was far more peaceful and the weather predictions more reliable than Lake Michigan, and as for mosquitoes, when they were there it was far too cold!  It was certainly interesting chatting with them.

From Baldwinsville it was a short morning’s run to Brewerton, at the north end of Oneida Lake.  At Winter Harbor, an aptly named marina where we will leave Nine Lives until next June, we found several other Looper boats in various stages of getting ready for winter storage.  Nine Lives will be hauled out and stored in a huge heated and humidity controlled storage shed.  While considerably more expensive than non-heated storage, there are a great many advantages, including being able to leave the water tanks full, most of the pantry food on board, and the security of knowing that damp will not be an issue. Since this is also a working boat yard, a quite long list of maintenance and repair items will be dealt with before launch next spring.  Today is being spent packing up the clothes we will be taking home, doing a lot of cleaning, and generally getting Nine Lives ready for a long winter’s nap.  We expect to leave tomorrow late morning, driving to Hagerstown, PA, and then get home early evening on Tuesday.

Look for the next instalment of the Nine Lives blog some time in June 2019.

Rock n Roll
Rock n Roll – the main entrance plaza of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Surf and turf Cleveland
Surf and turf in Cleveland – one of the best I have ever eaten, delicious tender lobster tail with drawn butter, and a perfectly grilled steak in a simple presentation with mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus at the Blue Point Grille.

keeping out the rain
Keeping out the rain – we will blame the photographer (Dick) for the blurry photo of me, valiantly holding back the rain as it lashes the boat when we pass through a squall. It’s probably blurred because he was laughing!

Erie PA
Erie PA – the harbour with a view of the Sheraton Hotel and the walkway to the Convention Center.

Erie PA 2
Erie PA 2 – a shipyard with a vessel under construction. At the left you can see the large rust red bow (or stern), while on the right are blue plastic covered sections of the midship. We don’t know whether this is a Lake freighter being constructed, or a large barge tug.

Buffalo
Buffalo – extravagant flowerbeds in the gardens at the marina on the edge of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor.

Buffalo 2
Buffalo 2 – another picture of the marina garden, with the attractive architecture of downtown in the distance.

Buffalo 3
Buffalo 3 – the Edward M Cotter, a historic fireboat, still in service, and also used in winter as an ice breaker in the Buffalo River.

Buffalo 4
a detail of the stern area of the Edward M Cotter.

Buffalo 5
Buffalo 5 – General Mills is still a grain milling presence on the Buffalo waterfront. The high rise manufacturing facility is of unusual architectural interest. It is also the place where familiar brands such as Cheerios, Gold Medal Flour, Bisquick, and Wheaties are made.

Into the Canal 2
Into the Canal – a somewhat unprepossessing entrance to the Erie Canal between Buffalo and Niagara. The Canal turns to the right of the image.

Erie Canal bridge
Erie Canal bridge – one of the many lift bridges on the Canal. The car parked beside the tower belongs to the bridge keeper. Typically, one keeper will be responsible for 2 or more bridges, and must shuttle between them when boats need to pass.

Erie Canal boat
Erie Canal boat – one of the English narrowboat style boats that are available to rent and cruise the canal.

Albion 2
Albion – the main street of the pretty village is glimpsed through the lift bridge. You can also get a sense of the bridge mechanism. The whole span slides up to raise the bridge over the canal. Pedestrians can climb the stairs and cross when the bridge is lifted, but cars must wait.

Albion 4
Albion – the sign for the village as we leave. We were particularly interested in this because we have a friend, Stuart Albion, and had no idea there was a whole town named after him!

Short ribs Spencerport
Short ribs in Spencerport – Dick’s favourite dish, served with mushroom ravioli. Sadly, it was not as tasty as he had hoped. As he put it, “it tastes the way it does when I make it at home, and I know I don’t do it very well!”

Spencerport
Spencerport – sunrise at Spencerport, where we were docked with two of the English style canal boats.

Rochester
Rochester – we docked beside an apartment and restaurant complex on the Genesee River in historic Corn Hill, with a view of downtown.

Wine bar Rochester
Wine Bar in Rochester – they specialize in flights, currently very fashionable. Dick tried champagne and sparking wine, while I enjoyed tasting three different roses. A delicious meat and cheese board accompanied the wines.

Ithaca concert hall
Ithaca concert hall – the historic State Theater was saved from demolition after it was condemned.

Pittsford
Pittsford – we passed through this pretty village. Creative use has been made of the former grain elevators, they have been turned into luxury flats.

Pittsford 2
Pittsford 2 – another view as we leave the village.

Newark
Newark – sunrise over the pedestrian bridge at Newark, NY. The building at the left of the bridge houses a visitor center and excellent shower facilities for boaters.

Erie Canal lock 25
Erie Canal lock 25 – the quiet wall above the lock where we docked for the night.

Erie Canal lock 25 2
Erie Canal lock 25 – still water and reflections of the trees lining the Canal.

painting a bridge
Painting a bridge – this was interesting to see, they set up a tent to completely wrap the bridge so that the paint does not contaminate the water. As we passed under the bridge we could hear the high pressure paint sprayers at work in the covered section.

Baldwinsville
Baldwinsville – a pleasant seating area in the waterfront park.

Baldwinsville 2
Baldwinsville – the canal and town wall leading to the guard gate and lock. To the left of the image is the park and amphitheatre where weekly concerts are held in summer.

Erie Canal 15
Erie Canal – our last morning on the Canal and on this year’s voyage. The leaves are beginning to turn, and it is time for us to return home.

Winter Harbor
Winter Harbor – the aptly named boatyard where Nine Lives will sleep for the winter. You can just see one of the huge red and blue sheds in the background of the picture.

August 21 to September 3, 2018: Port Elgin to Cleveland

August 21 to September 3

It was difficult to leave Port Elgin… not because of its charms, rather because of the weather.  We knew that there was a major weather system coming, and if we did not get out on the 21st, we would add as much as a week to this year’s voyaging.  In fact, we regretted that we didn’t have a chance to explore Port Elgin and the neighbouring town of Southhampton.  It was a pretty miserable morning, with driving rain and accompanying poor visibility.  The wind and wave forecast was acceptable, but the day was expected to bring a succession of squalls that could be expected to cause localized rough water as well as visibility limited to a few hundred feet.  We consulted a large weather map in the marina office several times, and finally at about 1:30 decided to make a run, hoping to slip between the squalls.  We do have radar on board, but as we seldom use it, I am not confident that we would be able to interpret it well enough to see something like a small boat in time to avoid it.  As it worked out, we went through one squall, and could not see much, but we were out there alone (surprise surprise) and we arrived in Goderich without incident.

We were unexpectedly quite captivated when we began to explore this town of 8000, self-billed as “Canada’s Prettiest Town”.  We assumed hyberbole, but as soon as we hiked up the hill and saw the beautiful houses, charming English style gardens, and exceptional civic pride, we were convinced.  Many of the lovely old houses and shops of the 19th and early 20th century are still occupied, and newer buildings are in keeping with the original style of the town.  The layout of the town centre is an unusual octagon, with roads radiating out like spokes to an enclosing square. Outside the square the roads follow the cliffs of the lake shoreline, filled in with the familiar grid pattern of most Canadian towns.  Flowers are everywhere, with most houses and businesses sporting hanging baskets as well as colourful plantings.

Goderich is the site of the largest underground salt mine in the world.  The mine is 1750 feet deep, and extends nearly 3 miles under Lake Huron.  It is operated by a subsidiary of Compass Minerals, the very familiar Sifto Salt. The mine buildings at the edge of Lake Huron can be seen for miles.  In addition to the salt mine and tourism, Goderich is an important port for lake freighters with several large grain elevators.

We stayed 3 nights in Goderich.  On our first day we explored the downtown on foot, including a wonderful kitchen shop with a great many interesting gadgets that we never knew we needed.  We returned to the boat along a path behind the grain elevators, and were fascinated by the sight of trucks being loaded with grain that we assume had been brought in the previous day by a lake freighter that had been in the harbour.

Our second day was a bike ride of the sort only Dick can arrange.  We set off first in a direction exactly opposite to the town, requiring a crossing of a converted railway bridge over the Maitland River.  The Menesetung Bridge was once the longest railway bridge in Ontario, with 7 spans totalling 750 feet long, 200 feet above the river. Today it is a walking/cycling bridge.  With my fear of heights, I was only able to push my bike and plod carefully along the centre of the bridge, keeping my eyes firmly down and watching the rows of nail heads in the planks.  Dick enjoyed it tremendously, stopping at the various lookout points and riding the rest of the way across.  We then followed a straight, slightly uphill and quite boring, trail through woods along the old railway right of way, eventually arriving on top of the highway bridge that Dick’s careful planning had intended to pass under.  Retracing our steps, we found a way to get onto the highway, and were then faced with a very long ride up out of the river valley on the side of the four-lane highway (no bike path).  Fortunately, my bike is electric assist, or there would have been even more tense words on choice of route for what was supposed to be a pleasant exploration of the architecture of the town!  Our ride finished along the lake shore at the popular beach, where we had a meal in a restaurant that was once a small railway station.  Unfortunately, the quality of the food failed to match the beautiful and sympathetic conversion of the historic building.

Wildlife, or should I say, insect life, has become an annoying and continuous presence in our lives.  We began to see spiders on the boat when we were on the Trent Severn, and for the past few weeks they have been found everywhere outside, and are even beginning to encroach inside the boat.  They like to hide in our dock lines and fender lines, and from there they build webs everywhere.  When you step on one it makes a nasty mess on the boat that only comes off with soap and a brush, so Nine Lives is looking less than pristine. They also poop everywhere, something I have never seen before and could certainly do without seeing now!  A much more attractive presence is monarch butterflies.  I noticed them flying around the boat right in the middle of Georgian Bay, and since then we have seen them several times offshore as well as sipping nectar on wildflowers when we are out for a walk.

From Goderich we made a fast run to Sarnia.  I had hoped that getting out of Lake Huron and into the St Clair River would smooth the water somewhat, but between strong winds, a very strong current, and numerous wakes from boats large and small, it was an unpleasant arrival until we were inside the protected harbour.

Sarnia is a medium sized city and important Seaway port.  There is a large refinery and petrochemical presence that overwhelms the waterfront.  That said, the Sarnia Bay Marina is a very attractive and well-built facility surrounded by parkland and bike paths, and protected from the river swells.  There is a restaurant on site that we didn’t try, and an Irish Pub across the road.  After discovering that the Pub was offering live music on our second evening, we decided, against our better judgement, to eat late so we could enjoy the music.  The duo were scheduled to start at 9:30pm (well after our “looper midnight” bedtime), and although they were very good musicians, the evening was ruined by the presence of a number of their so-called friends and fans, who chose to talk loudly among themselves and did not pay even the slightest bit of attention to the music.  Between them and wildly uncomfortable bar stools, we soon gave up and headed back to the boat.  We wished we had chosen instead to go to the evening of Elvis and Patsy Cline music that was being offered at the marina!

On Sunday morning Dick took a deep breath and followed the prompts on the ROAM app that is the new offering by US Customs and Immigration for small boat border crossing.  He was ever so slightly surprised to receive an immediate confirmation with number, and no requirement to report in person.  It may not always go quite as smoothly, but for a first attempt it was perfect!  We made a short hop down the river to the small town of St Clair, on the US side. The town is popular with boaters because of its protected harbour behind a lift bridge and several easily accessible waterfront restaurants.  Here we were assailed by the sounds of what appeared to be the favourite local vessel, the cigarette boat.  These large, sleek, and usually beautifully painted boats look stunning, but are an assault on the ear drums and create enormous wakes for other boaters. They are racing boats, and as such will have two or more engines with over 1000hp and no muffler.  With used models running between $300 and $700 thousand, plus fuel costs, these boats are not generally owned by middle class family types.  In other words, the self-absorbed owners are some of the most inconsiderate boaters we have encountered.  So far, we have only seen them occasionally, and it appears we have left most of them behind on the St Clair and Detroit Rivers.

After an early start to catch the first bridge opening, we had a relatively smooth run downriver to Lake St Clair and on to Detroit.  Although the lake is only about 20 miles wide, it is quite shallow and can become very rough, so we hoped to get across it before the afternoon winds kicked up.  We arrived by noon in the city of Detroit, staying at the downtown municipal marina, just a mile from the Renaissance Center and located in the middle of a ribbon of parks along the waterfront.  I can tell you, Detroit was probably right at the top of the list of North American cities I did NOT want to visit, but after our stop there I have certainly changed my mind.  The city is well on the way to a complete revitalization of the downtown area, with parks and walking/cycling paths and beautifully restored and repurposed old industrial and commercial buildings. We felt completely safe everywhere we walked, and there was no sign of gangs of young men hanging about, or homeless people.  Just families out enjoying the hot weather and joggers and cyclists making their way through the parks and very clean streets.

The first evening we walked to the Renaissance Center through the waterfront park, and enjoyed a seafood meal at Joe Muer Seafood.  The second evening we began by meeting the local AGLCA Harbour Host at his office for some beer tasting and chat.  We were surprised to learn that he is a lawyer who specializes in cannabis.  He told us that initially he dealt mainly with legalization of cannabis for medical uses, now he is involved with the Michigan campaign for recreational use.  He is now becoming a consultant for the legal aspects of cannabis business, as well as legalization and defending people who have been arrested.  It was an interesting chat, and while his passion is not ours, it is always interesting to meet someone who has dedicated their whole career to a single cause.  Mainly we chatted about The Great Loop, and his hopes to buy a suitable boat in future so he can participate as more than harbour host.  Afterwards we walked down to the waterfront and the Rattlesnake Club for dinner.  This fine dining restaurant has been a Detroit institution for 30 years, with the goal of taking an active part in the revitalization of the city.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal (no snake on the menu, never was), and certainly hope that the small number of diners was not indicative of a trend.

Leaving Detroit, we passed a huge steel works on the shore of the Detroit River. Zug Island is the site where Detroit Ironworks built a blast furnace in 1902. By 1931 the operation became part of a fully integrated steel mill, and is still operated today by United States Steel. Lake freighters bring coal and ore to the docks along the Detroit River.  In 1975 the Edmund Fitzgerald was bringing a load of taconite for the mill when she went down in Lake Superior.

Our next destination was an anchorage in the Raisin River at Monroe, Michigan.  The far western end of Lake Erie is heavily industrial, and there weren’t really any nice choices for destinations.  Sandusky was too far for a single day’s travel.  We haven’t anchored since Lake Champlain, so it was a nice change.  As it turned out, in spite of being anchored in the Port of Monroe turning basin, it was an interesting afternoon.  The skyline is dominated by the chimney stacks and conveyors of the DTE Energy Power Plant, but beside the turning basin where we anchored there appears to be a loading operation for what Dick is sure is fracking sand.  This is sand that is part of the water mixture  injected into shale wells.  The sand serves to hold the cracks open and allow the oil or gas to be extracted. Not all sand is suitable, so there are commercial operations that mine the sand in places like Texas and Wisconsin, and ship it to fracking destinations.  We watched trucks dump large loads of sand at the edge of the basin all afternoon.  The condition and height of the docks suggested that barges, rather than freighters, would be used to collect the accumulated sand.  Neither of us could understand why a commercial vessel turning basin would be designated as an anchorage for pleasure boats, and I was somewhat concerned that we would be woken in the night by an irate tow operator expecting us to up anchor and get out of the way!

We passed a very peaceful night, and in the morning, it was time to lift the anchor.  Headsets on and me at the wheel, Dick went to the bow and flipped open the cover to operate the electric anchor windlass.  A certain amount of language ensued, when he discovered that the rubber cover of the button had perished, allowing the mechanism to become corroded.  After several starts, it stopped working altogether and Dick began to look around for the handle to operate the windlass manually (more colourful language). I reminded him that we have a remote control for the anchor windlass, and perhaps he would prefer to try that first.  Amazingly the remote was right where I thought it was, and the battery was fine.  Without resorting to the instruction manual (those are for AFTER you have tried several things without success), Dick was able to raise the anchor without difficulty.  Since we were in 19 feet of water, and therefore had all 200 feet of our all-chain rode out, manually winding it in even with the windlass would have been a lot of effort.  So, add fixing the windlass buttons to the ever-growing list of repairs to be done this winter!

Contrary to the expected forecast of single digit wind and one foot waves, the ride to Sandusky was very choppy and unpleasant.  Eventually the fetch was broken up by the chain of islands that cross the Lake just before Sandusky, making a slightly more pleasant ride.  As we approached the Bass Island chain, we were amazed to see literally hundreds of small boats anchored in the chop and fishing.  I can’t imagine a less enjoyable pastime than heaving up and down on the waves, in the broiling sun, while hoping to catch fish.  Obviously, there are thousands who love it, each to his own!

Arrival in Sandusky Bay made a relief from the unpleasant chop.  We passed close to Cedar Point, a 347 acre amusement park first opened in 1870.  Today it has 71 rides, including 18 roller coasters.  The sheer size of some of the rides was brought home when we noticed the 500 room Hotel Breakers, dwarfed by the rides surrounding it.  Sandusky Bay is a wonderful area for boaters.  The Bay is large enough for sailing when Lake Erie is feeling frisky, and the whole area is surrounded by marinas.

Sandusky was another very pleasant surprise on this trip.  The downtown is well ahead on redevelopment of the beautiful old commercial buildings, and in addition to pleasant waterfront parks, there are some lovely municipal gardens.  We enjoyed a bike ride through the town and some of the historic neighbourhoods.  The marina was very pleasant, and one of the friendliest we have been to.  We enjoyed docktails with the owner of the marina and her husband.  Her parents used to travel to Hilton Head each year for the winter, so they were interested to chat once they saw our hailing port.

We had originally planned to spend labor day weekend in Cleveland, but were unable to get in to any of the marinas for the days we wanted because they were fully booked for the annual air show.  Instead, we spend an extra two nights in Sandusky, and were able to get reservations at “Rock and Dock”, the municipal marina in downtown Cleveland, for Monday and Tuesday nights.  Arriving at about 1pm, we discovered that the air show runs all three days, and we were in the middle of it.  Lots of boats were anchored in the harbour to watch it, and as we carefully made our way through them towards the marina we were shouted at.  “You can’t go there!  Can’t you see that?  You CAN’T go there!  Oh look, now you’re in trouble, here’s the Coast Guard!”  I stood on the bow, and the very polite Coastie asked where we were headed.  After I explained that we had a reservation at the marina, he told me we could go ahead as long as we proceeded with no wake and got there within the next 10 minutes.  I desperately wanted to thumb my nose at the rude boaters, but I figured just being allowed to proceed was revenge enough!  We docked to the sight and sound of fighter jets making passes over the boat, and were in plenty of time to see the Blue Angels.  The 3rd time this trip they have welcomed us into port!

We will stay 2 nights in Cleveland, looking forward to visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and then onward towards Buffalo and the western Erie Canal.

Goderich
Goderich – beautifully restored municipal buildings

Goderich 2
Goderich – the charming downtown with restored commercial buildings, new builds in keeping, and hanging baskets for beautification. These are also the widest streets I have seen since Salt Lake City, allowing for ample parking in the downtown area, always an issue for town centre revitalization.

Goderich 3
Goderich – one of the beautiful homes with a pretty garden in this charming city

Goderich 4
Goderich – the historic lighthouse, and the salt mine in the distance

loading grain
Loading grain – grain is loaded on a truck from the grain elevators in Goderich harbour.

spider
Spider – uggh! One of the many squatters we have been plagued with for the last few weeks.

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly – a pretty butterfly on a thistle. We have seen these right out in the middle of Georgian Bay.

Livingstone Channel
Livingstone Channel – a freighter approaches the narrow channel of the Seaway. Fortunately, we were able to pass it after we had arrived in an area with more water.

passing a freighter
Passing a freighter – that ship was big!

Livingstone Channel 2
Livingstone Channel – you can see just how little space there was to pass the huge freighter.

Detroit
Detroit – approaching Detroit

lobster bisque
Lobster bisque – an attractive presentation of my favourite soup at Joe Muer Seafood

oysters
Oysters – Dick enjoyed Oysters Rockefeller

perch
Perch – lightly breaded and sautéed fresh perch on a bed of mashed potato and green beans. Dick reports it was delicious!

beet salad
Beet salad – a very attractive presentation, thin slices of beets in a pyramid enclosing the greens, with a delicious drizzle of dressing and avocado slices, blueberries, and goat cheese for garnish at the Rattlesnake Club

chocolate ravioli
Chocolate ravioli – white chocolate cases filled with a dark chocolate filling and covered with a white chocolate drizzle. It was delicious!

Detroit 2
Detroit – downtown and the waterfront as we leave this revitalized city

Zug Island
Zug Island – piles of iron ore, with a freighter unloading more.

Zug Island 2
Zug Island – another part of this enormous historic steel mill on the banks of Detroit River.

Monroe
Monroe – it turned out to be a peaceful anchorage, in spite of the industrial setting

Bass Islands
Bass Islands – a few of the hundreds of small boats fishing off the Bass Islands in Lake Erie

Cedar Point 2
Cedar Point – you can get a sense of just how big some of these rides are when you realize that the buildings in the middle are a 500 room hotel!

Sandusky
Sanduksy – the pretty downtown from the waterfront

Sandusky 2
Sandusky – a floral clock in the municipal gardens. Note the date, how do they DO that?

Sandusky 3
Sandusky – the courthouse is surrounded by beautiful gardens

Sandusky 4
Sandusky – a beautiful sunrise at the friendliest marina we have visited

air show
Air show – high in the clouds, a USAF F-16 Viper with a heritage P-51 Mustang

Cleveland 2
Cleveland – downtown Cleveland from the marina. You can just see two of the Blue Angels flying past the buildings.

air show 4
Air show – Blue Angels

air show 5
Air show – Blue Angels

air show 7
Air show – Blue Angels

air show 8
Air show – Blue Angel 3 with wheels down prepares to land

August 7 to 20, 2018: Peterborough to Port Elgin

August 7 to 20

Our second day in Peterborough was wet, so we didn’t get the promised Indian meal at a restaurant.  The next morning we set off for the first big adventure in this segment of the Loop, the Peterborough Lift Lock.

The Lift Lock was opened in 1904, and until recently was the highest hydraulic boat lift in the world, raising and lowering boats 65 feet in just about 60 seconds.  The lift consists of two large chambers that are filled with water.  Boats drive over a dropped gate into the chamber, the gate closes, an extra foot of water is let into the top chamber, and the weight of the water in the upper chamber counterbalances the lower, so one drops while the other ascends. It was quite exciting, although a very smooth and easy operation. It was a dull day, but I did take quite a few photos, plus Dick took pictures the day before when he walked up to the lock to see the operation.

We stopped for the night at Lakefield on the wall just above the lock.  Lakefield is a pretty town with a tidy main street with restored buildings, interesting shops, and an excellent restaurant. A highlight was a wonderful chocolate shop in a lovely old house at the edge of downtown.  We made several selections and enjoyed them with tea for the next few afternoons.  They were so good we wished we had bought a larger box!  The next day was forecast to be rainy, so we wimped out and stayed another night on the lock wall. I had fun that evening cooking an Indian meal, papadums with dal, chick pea curry, chicken curry, naan bread, and basmati rice.

Kawartha Lakes is an area of lakes and small communities north and west of Peterborough.  Since it is only 90 minutes from Toronto, the lakes and connecting rivers are dotted with cottages and there are lots of boaters out for the day travelling through the various locks of the Trent Severn Waterway.  The village of Buckhorn was our next stop.  The lock keepers manage the tie-ups above the lock, and we were shoehorned in between several houseboats.  Houseboat rentals are apparently a thriving business in the Kawarthas, and we passed a lot of them as we travelled through the area.  Four of the houseboats at Buckhorn were occupied by a large group of young teenage girls with older girls as leaders.  They were not girl scouts, although most of them wore burgundy kerchiefs around their necks, and I heard the leaders speaking in what I recognized as a Slavic language.  I found out the next day that these were Ukrainian girls, on a special outing.  I think the leaders were in Canada for work experience, while the younger girls were from Canadian families of Ukrainian heritage. They were all well behaved, and very quiet.  We were glad it was group of girls, suspecting that a similar gathering of boys would not have been such good neighbours!  There are several restaurants in Buckhorn, including a Chinese restaurant that we were told too late was excellent.  Instead we decided to go for pizza.  A poor choice, as it turned out.

The next day we went on to Fenelon Falls.  We arrived just in time to snag the last spot on the town wall above the lock.  This meant I had a front row seat while a great many boats of various sizes locked up and down throughout the afternoon.  Nine Lives gathered a great deal of interest.  There are very few catamarans of any size in this part of the country, and now that we are behind the main group of Loopers, people are surprised to see a boat that has come all the way from South Carolina. Tourists and dog walkers stop to chat and ask questions, and I can hear people talking about the boat even when they don’t pause for conversation.

Kirkfield is the second lift lock on the Trent Severn.  The lift was completed in 1907, and extensively modernized in the late 1960’s.  The concrete piers were removed, so the lock construction is more easily seen.  We stopped for the night just below the lock, so it was interesting to watch boats going up and down for the rest of the afternoon.  A friendly boater stopped by to chat, and eventually told us that his two sons would love to be able to see inside the boat.  We are always happy to show off Nine Lives, so the fellow and his sons came aboard.  It was quite clear that the boys had zero interest, while the father asked many questions and enjoyed the visit!  Beyond Kirkfield the Waterway became much quieter, with fewer boats out and about.

After a quick succession of 5 locks we were out into the open water of Lake Simcoe.  Although not considered one of the Great Lakes, it is 19 miles long and 16 miles wide.  It can become quite rough and is known for pop-up thunderstorms on hot summer afternoons.  We gave Nine Lives a nice run and skipped across most of it after we noticed some building thunderheads.  Lake Simcoe is connected to Lake Couchiching by a narrow channel with a fierce current.  We needed to stop at a marina at the end of the channel to get a pump-out, and the current slammed the boat into a corner of the fuel dock, creating a nasty gouge in the side of the boat, fortunately above the waterline.  The dockhands offered some waterproof tape to prevent any splashed water getting in, and later we were able to get more tape and complete the temporary repair.  The tech at a local boatyard told us that as long as we keep the tape intact we will be fine with the temporary repair until the boat is hauled out of the water for winter storage. The tape is the same colour as the hull so it doesn’t show.  Nobody wants other boaters to see the results of an “oops!”

The site of the town of Orillia has been occupied for at least 4 thousand years.  Evidence has been found of fishing weirs constructed in the narrows between Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching, and there were also trading, fishing, and hunting camps in the area.  Samuel de Champlain visited in 1615, but the settlement of Orillia was not laid out until 1840.  There is some manufacturing in the area as well as farming and of course tourism, but the largest local employer is a casino run on the nearby Ojibway Reserve.  A beautiful marina has been built in the harbour, and there are bicycle paths running for several miles in each direction along the waterfront.  Dick disappeared on a beer run that somehow incorporated all 5 miles of the bike path!  There were several Looper boats in the marina, and we enjoyed docktails followed by Chinese food at a local restaurant with the couple on the boat next to us.  They are also doing the Loop in small pieces like us, instead of the more common all at once over a single year, so it was nice to compare notes.

North of Orillia we travelled through some “interestingly” shallow and narrow stretches of the waterway.  I say interesting, there were at least 2 cuts that were too narrow to allow large boats to pass each other, and one long stretch where we had to stop in place to allow big boats to inch past us.  The channels are rock sides and bottom, and the sides slope, rather than being cut straight down.  Unlike in some of the notoriously shallow areas of Georgia and New Jersey on the ICW, when you touch bottom here it is not soft sand but unyielding rock!  We managed to traverse the whole section without incident, just those few nail-biting moments as we passed other boats.  Our stop for the night was at the top of Big Chute Railway.

Big Chute was the second grand adventure on the Trent Severn.  There were supposed to be 3 locks built to carry boats between Georgian Bay and the Severn River at Swift Rapids.  One small temporary lock (still in use) was built at Port Severn, and two marine railways were built between that and Swift Rapids.  The Swift Rapids railway was eventually replaced by a lock, but Big Chute Marine Railway is still in use.  The current carriage was opened in 1978, and can carry boats up to 100 feet long and 24 feet wide.  The carriage rolls down into the water, and the boat drives in and is held at the side of the carriage while large slings are raised underneath to keep propellers and rudders off the bottom of the carriage and to steady the boat through the transit.  The carriage then rolls out of the water and down (or up) the rails to the other end.  It is cleverly designed to keep horizontal during the transit, even though the railway is very steep.  This marvellous piece of engineering is getting rather long in the tooth, and breakdowns are not uncommon.  In fact, a local boater had described it as “a white elephant that keeps breaking down”, not what we wanted to hear before our transit!  Our keels completely enclose our props and rudders, so we were simply resting on the bottom of the carriage, not lifted in the slings.  The carriage shakes and rattles alarmingly, and it was not exactly confidence building to listen to the operators chatting about all the reasons why the government is “going to have to work on this all winter!” Nine Lives survived the adventure without incident.

After the small lock at Port Severn we were into Georgian Bay.  Our first stop was Midland, founded as a railway town in 1871.  Of particular interest are a number of murals found around the town, painted by a local artist at the close of the 20th century.  The largest covers what would otherwise be very unsightly grain elevators overlooking the harbour.  The day after we were there was the start of a tugboat meet.  They were expecting at least 20 tugboats to gather for tours and races over the weekend.  The day we arrived there were already 5 at the docks.  Just as there are people who enthusiastically restore old steam trains, there are those who buy and restore old tugboats.  The ones we saw ranged from a very large 70 footer, to a small one painted bright red and named Maggie.  We were sorry we couldn’t take the time to stay and watch the meet.

Skipping quickly across the southern end of Georgian Bay in advance of threatened thunderstorms, we arrived the next day at Meaford.  We have now truly lost the last of our fellow Loopers, nearly all of whom are heading north to the North Channel and Lake Michigan.  Meaford is known for its apple orchards and an annual scarecrow festival.  It also has an arts and cultural centre and some lovely old houses and civic buildings.  As with most small towns, many of the downtown shop spaces are taken up by banks and various social services organizations and government offices.  The nearest supermarket is 5 miles away, and while there are a few restaurants, there seems to be little to attract tourists to the town.  The harbour is nice, and protected by a huge breakwater.  We noticed that most of the slips are taken up by sailboats, and there is an active sailing school for children operating out of the harbour.  We stayed three nights due to a poor weather forecast, and were very glad of the decision when we moved the boat the first morning to take on fuel.  The waves in the short hop around the breakwater blew up while we refuelled, and the return trip to the harbour was very lumpy, knocking things over in the cabin.  Now that we are back into “big water” we are experiencing the weather delays that have been mostly absent this summer.

Our next stop was Tobermory, a bustling town at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula.  As we made our way north along the shoreline of the Peninsula I spent some time refreshing my memory of the geological feature known as the Niagara Escarpment.  Dick and I both learned in school that the Niagara Escarpment is a high bluff that runs from the tip of the Bruce Peninsula south through Hamilton and Niagara Falls.  Looking it up, I was surprised to learn that in fact, the formation rises from Waterton New York, through Ontario, Illinois, and Wisconsin, ending northwest of Chicago near the Wisconsin border. What a pompous and parochial attitude of a school system that suggests that the importance and magnitude of a geographical formation is limited to the piece that falls within political borders.

Tobermory is a popular tourist destination. Nearby is Fathom Five National Marine Park, which we saw from the water as we made our way around the point.  Part of the National Park is Flowerpot Island, with a distinctive rock formation just offshore that attracts thousands of visitors on the many boat trips that ply the waters between Tobermory and the island. The area is also a magnet for diving, with many dive boats going out to explore the shipwrecks in the treacherous waters of north Georgian Bay.  We arrived in town in early afternoon, and I enjoyed watching the harbour activity.  In addition to at least 10 tourist cruise and diving boats every hour, there is a car ferry that goes to Manitoulin Island, and lots of large and small pleasure boats.  All this activity is complicated by kayakers weaving around the harbour, seemingly unaware of the “law of gross tonnage” that suggests that even though kayakers have the right of way, the bigger the vessel the less easy it is to stop or turn and give way!  I would have liked to spend another day or two in the busy little town with its interesting shops and lots of people watching, but the weather is getting chancy and we had to leave the next morning.

Turning south into Lake Huron we were surprised to find ourselves in much rougher water than the forecasts had suggested.  Nine Lives doesn’t really cut through the water the way a sailboat or ocean-going trawler does, instead she dances on top of the waves.  Our extra speed is helpful in smoothing things out so we are not wallowing or corkscrewing, but the ride is uncomfortable to say the least.  The hulls and the centre section pound on the waves, and gradually the furniture in the salon begins to make its way aft, as each hitting wave smacks the floor and makes everything bounce.  At one point, Dick had to go below and rescue the small seat that happens to be our liquor cabinet, before it reached the stairs with potential disastrous results!  Fortunately, the pounding only lasted about an hour before the promised smoother water showed up and we made our way into Port Elgin.

We were delighted to be able to entertain a friend from our university days on board for dinner that evening.  Jan Singbeil was in the same residence with us at Queen’s ..ahem.. some few years ago.  We all agreed that none of us has changed a bit, even though we have not seen each other for a very long time.  We spend an enjoyable evening catching up and exchanging stories.  We would have liked to stay a little longer in Port Elgin, but once again with an eye on the weather we had to take advantage of a short window to make our way south.  If we did not leave in the short hour between squalls that afternoon we would have been stuck there for at least 4 or 5 days.

I took lots of pictures this time, especially on the two lift locks and the marine railway.

Peterborough fountain
Peterborough fountain – a somewhat fuzzy image of the lights on the huge fountain at night

Peterborough lift lock 1a
Peterborough lift lock -a boat in the chamber – you can see how the boat is secured to the side of the chamber, and the gate that lowers to allow the boats in and out (and of course to keep the water in the chamber!)

Peterborough lift lock 1b
a tourist boat exits the lift lock

Peterborough lift lock 1c
the chambers pass each other, one going up, the other down

Peterborough lift lock 1e
a view of the inside of the chamber and the canal beyond

Peterborough lift lock
we approach the lift lock

Peterborough lift lock 2
we are in the chamber and the gate rises to close it

Peterborough lift lock 3
looking up after we have driven into the chamber

Peterborough lift lock 6
the chamber rises

Peterborough lift lock 7
leaving the chamber

Peterborough lift lock 8
after we leave the lift lock, the gate to the chamber is already coming up behind us

Lakefield
Lakefield, a tidy and interesting small Ontario town

Lakefield chocolate shop
The Chocolate Rabbit, some of the best chocolates we have ever eaten!

Lakefield profiteroles
Dick’s favourite dessert at the very nice restaurant in Lakefield

Trent Severn church
St Peters on the Rock, an Anglican Church that is still in use after over 100 years on an island in Stony Lake. The only way to get to it is by boat. There are services twice a week through the summer.

Trent Severn Waterway
one of the many pretty cottages in the Kawartha Lakes

Trent Severn Waterway 10
the channel is narrow, even when the lake seems wide.

Fenelon Falls
Fenelon Falls is a busy stopping point for boaters and a destination for visitors to the Kawarthas. There are four boats in the lock preparing to descend.

Kirkfield lift lock
Kirkfield lift lock – we have driven into the chamber and are waiting for the gate to come up

Kirkfield lift lock 2
looking towards the front of the chamber and the canal below. Notice the seagull on the front, that bird rode up and down all afternoon. Sometimes he would fly around, but he always returned when the chamber was ready to move!

Kirkfield lift lock 4
Dick hangs on to a line holding us to the side of the chamber as we begin to descend

Kirkfield lift lock 5
We have finished our transit and are tied up for the night. Looking back at the lift lock, the chamber has nearly reached the bottom with 3 boats inside

Kirkfield lift lock 6
Inside the lift lock, showing the pillar that the chamber moves up and down on. Dick took this picture, and did not notice the young woman doing handstands!

Kirkfield lift lock 7
another view of the mechanism from underneath the chambers

Tucker
Tucker posed for this picture on the day he spent helping his Auntie wrap gifts. I sure miss him.

Trent Severn Waterway 15
Trent Severn Waterway, one of the locks before Lake Simcoe. The fellow in the tiki bar at the left has a sign offering free beer, we did not test whether or not he meant it for all passing boaters.

Orillia
Orillia – the modern and attractive marina

Orillia 2
another picture of Orillia Marina. Notice the weed in the water at the docks, bad for our strainers!

no washing dogs
No washing dogs – the entrance to the showers at Orillia Marina. Sometimes a sign alerts you to a problem you did not know existed!

Narrow canal
Narrow Canal – the sign asks boaters to call on the radio to let others know your length and beam before you transit this stretch of the Trent Canal. The canal is very narrow, less than 7 feet deep, and has sloping sides. Not somewhere you want to meet another large boat and have to pass!

Narrow Canal 2
As we travel along the narrow stretch of canal, you can see the rock sides below the water at the edge of the cut.

Trent Severn Waterway 21
Trent Severn Waterway – an island and rocky shoals on the waterway

Trent Severn Waterway 23
some of the rocky areas are very close to the channel!

Big Chute
Our first sight of Big Chute – the railway car arrives at the top of the incline

Big Chute 3
the railway car is fully submerged and the boats float and drive away

Big Chute 1a
As Dick watches, small boats drive into the submerged railway and passengers prepare to take hold of the sides.

Big Chute 1b
take hold, we are ready to go!

Big Chute 1c
here it comes!

Big Chute 1d
a closer look at the railway car with a boat sitting inside

Big Chute 1e
conversation between the driver of a small boat and the Big Chute staff

Big Chute 1f
a small boat sits on the bottom of the railway car

Big Chute 4
the empty railway car awaits the first passengers (us) in early morning

Big Chute 6
the railway car, with Nine Lives aboard, comes up out of the water onto dry land

Big Chute 8
we have reached the top of the incline and prepare to drop to the Severn River below

Big Chute 9
we have arrived at the bottom of the incline and are once again floating. Nine Lives was much relieved to find water under her keels again!

Midland
Midland – the large mural on the grain elevator in the harbour

Midland 2
one of the murals in the town

Midland 3
another mural in the town. Notice the clever way the smokestack from the train incorporates the window.

Tugs at Midland 2
2 of the tugboats docked before the upcoming Tugboat Meet

Meaford Harbour
Meaford Harbour – a small boat heads out past the lighthouse, with the fish and wildlife spotter standing on the bow!

running fast
Running fast – a look back at our wake as we run fast. The yellow buoy marks the edge of a Canadian Armed Forces training area north of Meaford. Live fire exercises are conducted, so boats need to stay well off shore!

Bruce Peninsula
Bruce Peninsula – caves in the limestone cliffs of the Escarpment

Tobermory
Tobermory – the pretty harbour at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula

Tobermory 2
another view of the harbour

Tobermory 3
Tobermory is a “harbour of refuge” for Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. In a storm it will find room for any boats caught on the lake.

Chantry Lighthouse
Chantry Lighthouse on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. Chantry Island Lighthouse was built in the mid-19th century of limestone and granite. It has been fully restored and is still operational, although unmanned. The island is a bird sanctuary, so there are only a few limited tours for visitors to the National Historic Site.

July 19 to August 6, 2018: Jones Falls to Peterborough

 

July 19 to August 6

After transiting a flight of three locks to get to the lower basin at Jones Falls, we tied up along a wall at Hotel Kenny.  This is a historic hotel, opened in 1877.  For most of the 20th century it appears to have thrived as a fishing camp, with local guides taking guests out to catch big fish on nearby lakes.  Sadly, it has not moved with the times.  The motel style outbuildings are unlikely to offer the level of comfort expected at the prices charged, and all structures including the main hotel are clearly in need of major maintenance.  The dining room was nearly empty, apart from diners from the boats that had tied up for the night, suggesting that there are few hotel guests even at peak season.  It was all rather sad, especially as the location is beautiful and so much could be made of the site.

After 6 more locks we finished the Rideau Canal and arrived in Kingston.  Dick and I went to Queen’s University there, and he enjoyed a long walk to the campus to see how much has changed.  Kingston is a historic town occupying what was once a strategic location for defence of Upper Canada against those pesky Americans from the breakaway colonies!  Originally a French trading post called Cataraqui, it was taken over by the British and renamed King’s Town after George III. The former French Fort Frontenac was partially reconstructed in 1783, and a colony was set up for displaced British colonists, or “Loyalists” who were fleeing north from the War of Independence.  Fort Henry was built during the War of 1812 to protect the dockyards and the approach to the Rideau Canal. The dockyards are now the site of Royal Military College. Some of the cadets join the reinactment group of Fort Henry Guard, who staff Fort Henry during the summer months.

We enjoyed great pizza the first evening, and discovered when we were returning to the boat that there is a free country music concert for an hour each Wednesday evening.  Unfortunately, the hour was almost done, so we listened to just one song before the musicians packed up and left.  Pity, they sounded quite good!  The next day we walked up Princess Street (pretty much unrecognizable after ahem, 40-some years) and tried a German restaurant.  Dick enjoyed his meal, me, not so much.

From Kingston we set off towards Picton.  We knew the forecast was for high winds, but Dick felt confident that we would be in waters protected by Wolfe and Amerst Islands for most of the trip.  The first stretch of open water was pretty lumpy, but the second part needed some major maneuvering to deal with much higher waves than expected.  As Dick wrestled with the wheel, we were surprised to be hailed on the radio.  I staggered over to the radio and responded.  It was a sailboat, who had just passed us.  Intrigued by the sight of a power catamaran, they wanted to know who was the manufacturer of Nine Lives and what year was she.  Compliments were paid, including “she handles the seas very well!”  As Dick fought the wheel…  A deteriorating weather forecast suggested that we should run all the way to Belleville instead of stopping at Picton as originally planned.

The next day we had to keep a close eye on the weather to find the one hour window we needed to get to Trenton.  By 1pm the wind had settled a bit and changed direction enough that we headed out.  Arrival in Trent Port Marina was made slightly more exciting by large numbers of small runabouts with fishermen, all of whom were maneuvering to get to the launch ramp across the river from the fuel/pumpout dock!  I keep saying Trenton, but the town that Dick was born in has become Quinte West after some geographical redistribution and combination with two other towns.  It seems to have been a worthwhile change for Trenton, in addition to a superb marina, there is a large City Hall and library building, and many areas of town that were derelict seem to have been cleaned up.  There is still a shortage of good shops in the downtown area, but we enjoyed shopping at the European deli, stocking up on various Dutch and English imported foods and treats.

I hung up my galley slave apron, and tucked away the fender maid gloves to get on a flight home for a week.  I enjoyed the chance to just be by myself, as well as bridge, lunch and dinners with friends, and lots of time with my boy Tucker.  I also took care of the major issues caused by my website host, so my emails are “clean” again. Dick spent much of the week with his Mum, going on drives and scouting the various locations on the Trent Severn Waterway that are our next destinations.  He had a two page list of jobs to be done on the boat as well, and some of those were even crossed off!

Eventually the break was over and we set off up the Trent River towards Frankford.  First, we stopped for fuel and a pump-out.  This was our first time to fuel since the Hudson River, and we were expecting to take on about 400 gallons of diesel.  Unfortunately, the marina ran out after only 250!  We will be able to get to Georgian Bay easily on that, but we felt sorry for any boaters behind us who were planning to fill up!

The Trent Severn Waterway is a 240 mile long series of canals and connected rivers and lakes joining Lake Ontario with Georgian Bay.  The first lock was built in 1833, but it took years of broken promises and political infighting until 1915 before the entire route was completed.  There are two particularly noteworthy features along the route, but we will be passing them next week, so I will be telling you all about those in the next update!  There are 44 locks, 39 swing bridges, and 160 dams along the route that that manage the water levels for flood control and navigation on lakes and rivers in a large area of southern Ontario.  The Waterway passes through “cottage country”, the summer destination for a great many city dwellers. Dick learned to swim in the Trent River, and his grandparents farmed land adjacent to the river. Today many of the farms have been abandoned and the land is going back to woods.

A feature of much of the waterway is free docking at lock walls and town walls for overnights.  We stopped first at Frankford, still technically part of Quinte West, and only 6 miles from Trenton, but 6 locks were enough on a hot day.  Dick grilled steaks and baked potatoes and we cooked fresh corn on the cob for one of our best meals on board.  The new grill is proving to be a great success, compared to the strange one that came with the boat.  We are also pleased with the purchase of an induction burner, that we can plug in beside the grill and keep the heat and steam from cooking outside the galley.

As we approached the first lock the next morning we were delighted to find Dick’s brother Ed waiting to join us for the day’s travel.  He was immediately directed to the stern line, to be his sole charge for the rest of the day as we went through the next 6 locks to Campbellford.  All that work required a suitable beverage after we tied up, and we were joined by Ed’s son Brent for libations and a few snacks.  The extra crew certainly made for an easy and relaxing day!

Campbellford is a small town in the middle of farming country, with excellent town wall docking for visiting boats.  We tied up on the west side, next to the park that features a 27 foot high statue of a toonie.  What’s a toonie you ask?  Well, Canada’s $1 coin began to be called a “loonie” after its introduction, because of the image of a loon on the coin.  When the time came to introduce a $2 coin, it seemed natural to call it a “toonie”.  The design of a polar bear on an ice floe was created by Brent Townsend, a Campbellford artist.  Imagine our surprise as we enjoyed our drinks and snacks to see a big tour bus draw up on the other side of the park and decant large numbers of Japanese tourists.  They proceeded to wander around the park in a bemused fashion, eventually posing for the usual selfies with the statue, and returning to their bus after about a 30 minute stop.  Who knew a 27 foot toonie was such a tourist draw that people would travel from the other side of the world to see it?

The town’s attractions did not end with good docking and a giant toonie.  In the evening we discovered a tiny European style bistro called Antonia’s.  It is owned and run by a chef from Sri Lanka and his Filipino wife, who retired from the restaurant business in Toronto.  Frustrated by the lack of local fine dining, they opened their bistro two years ago, and it has become a very successful business.  The menu is mostly European.  Dick loved his Osso Bucco, and I had delicious shrimp in Cajun cream sauce.  However, the chef told us they also offer a ‘curry night” about once a month, that is increasingly popular.

From Campbellford we continued our leisurely trip to Hastings, transiting another 6 locks to arrive at a town wall that was completely full with small boats stopping for ice cream.  Fortunately, the town also operates a marina across the river, and they had room for us for the night.  The next day we enjoyed a relief from locks for most of the day, travelling across Rice Lake and then up the pretty Otonabee River to finish with one lock and arrival in Peterborough.

Peterborough is a medium sized city that is becoming a mecca for retirees.  Cultural activities and affordable living are listed as some of the advantages, in addition to easy access to major centres of Toronto, Ottawa, and Kingston. There is a nice marina at the edge of Little Lake, a relatively short walk to downtown and restaurants.  Yesterday evening we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant, and after an excellent meal we discovered that Dick’s Uncle Hans and his wife Cathy were docked just along the waterfront in their houseboat.  After some convivial conversation and drinks on board their boat we staggered home to Nine Lives.  In the centre of Little Lake is a huge waterspout fountain, and at night it is lit by changing colours.  We are looking forward to a local Indian restaurant for our dinner tonight.

The next couple of weeks will include the Peterborough Lift Lock and the Big Chute Marine Railway and arrival in Georgian Bay.  That will get us a break from locks for a while and some more weather dependent travel to look forward to.

Jones Falls
Jones Falls – early morning, looking back at the lock staircase

Upper Brewers lock
Upper Brewers lock – a boat moves from the upper into the lower of a pair of locks

Upper Brewers locks
Upper Brewers locks

waiting for Kingston Mills locks
Waiting for the lock at Kingston Mills

dessert at Wooden Heads
Dessert at Wooden Heads – a very elegant dessert after a pizza dinner!

Kingston
Kingston – concert in the park beside the marina. Note you can see two of the Martello towers that helped guard the important port from marauding Americans

Trent Port Marina
Trent Port Marina – grills for the use of boaters. In the background is the splendid library/city hall building

Trent Port Marina 2
Trent Port Marina 2 – the main building has wonderful showers for boaters, a lounge, and (free!) laundry machines

Trent Port Marina 3
Trent Port Marina 3 – notice the beautifully kept flowerbeds and plantings

alone in TrentPort
Alone in Trent Port – all the Loopers and other boaters left!

at dock in Trent Port
At dock in Trent Port

Frankford lock
Frankford lock

Frankford and the Waterway
Frankford and the Waterway

grilling
Grilling – steaks and baked potatoes on the grill, and corn on the cob in the pan on the induction cooktop

relaxing
Relaxing – Dick, Ed and Brent enjoy brews and snacks after a day out

Ed Dick Brent
Ed Dick Brent – family resemblance!

toonie and tour bus
Toonie and tour bus – the tourists are returning to their bus after taking selfies with the giant $2 coin

cheesecake at Antonias
Cheesecake at Antonia’s – a wonderful European bistro in Campbellford

Trent Severn lock
Trent Severn lock – approaching a lock north of Campbellford

Hastings
Hastings – a pretty morning at the marina above the lock

July 5 to 18, 2018: Montreal to Jones Falls

Montreal to Jones Falls

Montreal was suffering a heat wave.  There were 33 deaths from the heat in the city during the few days we were visiting.  Dick managed to do some exploring, and even rode his bike as far as the Lachine Canal on the hottest day.  Me, I pretty much stayed on the boat, only venturing out in the evenings for dinner, and once to visit Bonsecours Market.  There were several other Looper boats in the marina, but nobody had energy for introductions or docktails.

Montreal’s history began with a fur trading station set up by Samuel de Champlain in 1605.  The local Iroquois were not best pleased and were successful in driving the French away.  In 1642 the town of Ville Marie was established and a fort was built the following year as a mission to convert the Iroquois to Christianity.  Settlers arrived, but the mission went into bankruptcy and the town came under direct control of the French King.  After 1763 New France became a British colony.  Over time Montreal became the premier city in Canada, a centre for finance, manufacturing, and commerce.  Today it is the largest city in the province of Quebec, and the second largest city in Canada.  Port operations moved away from the Old City, and today historic Old Montreal is a major tourist destination.

Unfortunately, it is also very much a work in progress.  Many of the beautiful old buildings are empty and under reconstruction, and streets that had been paved are now being restored to cobblestones.  The main pedestrianized street is not particularly salubrious, too many t-shirt and souvenir shops interspersed with fast food chains.  Perhaps as the restoration works continue there will be more space for European style cafes and small shops.  I had high hopes for Bonsecours Market, described in fulsome terms in the tourist brochures as a historic indoor market full of boutiques and restaurants.  Sadly, the reality is only one of the 3 floors occupied, yet more souvenir shops, and only one café slash ice cream stop.

We did find two nice restaurants in the Old Town, although the first one had an extremely limited and overly avant garde menu.  We had an outstanding meal at the second, the enjoyment slightly reduced by a somewhat snooty waiter, who clearly felt we were not quite the right sort of people to frequent his establishment.

It is more than 50 years since I last visited Montreal.  That was during the 1967 Worlds Fair, much of the city was under construction, and there was a heat wave.  I guess it just is not my city.

We enjoyed an unexpected visit from Dick’s Uncle Hans and his wife Cathy.  They volunteer at Ministry to Seafarers, a mission that provides a home away from home and assistance for seamen from all over the world when their ships are in port.  They happened to be there when we were, so it was great to welcome them onto the boat for coffee and chat.  We may get a chance to see them again later, as they have a boat on the Trent Severn.

We left Montreal before 9am, hoping for a swift passage through the two locks on the St Lawrence Seaway before our route took us north on the Ottawa River.  This was not to be.  On arrival at the first lock, we were told it would be 11am, as a large freighter was coming through and commercial traffic has priority.  As the freighter was being locked through, another Looper boat arrived, we had last met them at Half Moon Bay on the Hudson River.  They were told “after lunch”, as we would all have to wait for a “special” boat to come through.  After a certain amount of grumbling, Dick got out his laptop and was just settling in for some internet surfing when we were suddenly called to get ready and go into the lock with the just arrived Canada Coast Guard Vessel.  The Seaway locks are huge, and it is quite difficult to hold the boat in place with the thin nylon ropes that are dropped down the sides of the locks for pleasure boats.  The second lock was easier when we hit on the idea of Dick staying out holding one of the ropes, the second was tied off, and I took the helm and kept the engine running to maneuver the boat back and forth against the inrushing water (much as I do on narrowboats in locks in UK).

The next excitement was created by weather.  We were out in 20 knot winds and had to cross shallow Lac St Louis with the high wind and strong current. The course zigzags, and is surprisingly narrow, so at some points the swells were inevitably on our beam and we were rocking and rolling a lot more than is comfortable.  It was not a particularly long journey, fortunately, and we found space below the lock at the village of Sainte Anne de Bellevue.  This is a historic town, now a suburb of Montreal.  We did not see much of the village, only the street along the canal, lined with restaurants.  Consulting TripAdvisor, we selected one of the more highly rated establishments, which happened to be an Irish Pub.  Go figure.  Little of the menu resembled Irish pub fare, but Dick managed to find a lamb shank that he enjoyed very much.  I decided to be adventurous and try one of the signature Quebec dishes, poutine.  This is French fries, smothered in beef gravy, and topped with cheese curds.  I didn’t say it was good for you!  Anyway, clearly, I need to try it again, because while the dish was tasty enough, the French fries were seriously soggy, so it was not a success.

After passing through the lock and officially entering the Ottawa River the next morning, we enjoyed a pleasantly calm day crossing Lac des Deux-Montagnes and on to Carillon Lock.  The Ottawa River is very wide at its lower end, in many cases more of a series of connected lakes than what one expects of a river.  The scenery is pretty, although the shore is often quite a distance away.

Carillon lock is the highest in Canada, with a 66 foot lift.  It is controlled by huge guillotine doors that lift and lower instead of the more usual swing gates. It is also the site of a large hydroelectric dam and tours are available, but Dick was disappointed to find that English tours must be booked a few days in advance.  He didn’t feel his command of French was quite up to a tour of a hydroelectric facility!

We found a place on the wall below the lock, and enjoyed watching the boats entering and exiting.  It is an enormous lock, used almost exclusively by pleasure boats, with as many as 12 locking through at one time.  The largest boats go in first, and take the lines dropped down by the lock staff.  Then smaller boats are added, including a row down the middle.  Those middle boats tie to the boats they are beside.  It makes it a bit tricky for the boaters on the wall, because they are not only holding their own boat, but also the one that has tied to them!  There is also no restriction on who can use the lock, so lots of wave runners swarm in as well.  We were lucky when it was our turn the next morning, just three other smaller boats, and all on the wall with their own lines to hold.

Normally it is quiet and peaceful overnight at this location, but our stop coincided with a huge 3-day festival of electronic music, including 32 hours of non-stop sound.  As in all night, thumpa thumpa thumpa.

Our next stop was the beautiful Chateau Montebello. It is one of the Grand Old Ladies built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad Company.  (others include the Empress in Victoria, Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City)  Now part of the Fairmont Hotel group, it is billed as the largest log structure in the world.  It was built in 1930 to be a Sportsmens Club for CPR, and over the years it has hosted a fascinating list of political figures, royalty, and events.  We enjoyed looking at the old photographs on the wall!  In the 1970’s it was turned into a hotel, and still operates as a destination resort in beautiful surroundings.  We stayed one night in the marina and indulged ourselves with dinner in the hotel, as well as their breakfast buffet the next morning.

It was a relatively short run the next day to Ottawa, but on arrival we had the challenge of the staircase flight of 8 locks that connect the Ottawa River with the Rideau Canal.  The guides suggested that “thousands” would watch us locking up, and I had been practising my royal wave, but we started with an audience of just one or two!  As we moved up the flight, the audience grew, and included several tourists who took video of the entire process.  By the last lock we were watched by at least 30 people.  A fellow Looper who locked up with us said afterwards he was glad we were there and got all the attention, he felt he had enough stress trying to execute the enter and exit maneuvers without the additional pressure of amateur critics!

Ottawa is at the confluence of 3 major rivers, and was an important trading place for First Nations.  It was visited by Europeans as early as 1610, but it was not until 1800 that the first settlement in the area was established across the Ottawa River in Hull. In 1826, land speculators arrived on the south side of the river when the construction of the Rideau Canal was announced.  The town of Bytown was founded, and the canal was built to provide a secure route between Montreal and Kingston, bypassing the St Lawrence River and the threat of enemy fire on supply ships as happened during the War of 1812. Bytown was renamed Ottawa and incorporated as a city in 1855, after a turbulent early history that included labour unrest and political dissension that degenerated into rioting and violence on multiple occasions. In 1857 Ottawa was declared the capital of the Province of Canada by Queen Victoria, who was asked to make the choice after local politicians had failed to agree.

We docked on the canal wall in the centre of town.  It was an easy walk to ByWard Market, where we were delighted to find a wonderful choice of fresh produce at the stalls, as well as excellent small shops selling international cheeses and pates, a butcher, and a nice Italian food store.  Once again it was very hot, so we decided to have lunch in a restaurant and then relax on board for the evenings.  We tried another Irish pub, and the next day had a great meal in an Italian Trattoria.  On our second day we rode our bikes, stopping to watch the daily Changing of the Guard.  Dick had scouted the previous day, so I knew exactly where to stand to get the best pictures and not be at the back of the big crowd.  The ceremony was first performed in 1959, by a Ceremonial Guard that is made up of members from all branches of the Canadian military.  After the ceremony we rode to the Garden of the Provinces and Territories.  This was described in lyrical terms in the tourist brochure, and perhaps it was once beautiful, but it was a sad disappointment due to years of neglect and lack of renewal of the plantings.

The other takeaway from Ottawa was how much construction there was.  Roads were torn up everywhere, and the air was full of grit and dust.  A major boat cleaning was required both inside and out to get rid of it. We last visited Ottawa a few years ago, and the roads downtown were all torn up with construction then too. I guess nothing changes.

After Ottawa we went west and south on the Rideau Canal.  It is in a beautiful part of Southern Ontario, made up of a series of lakes connected by canal cuts and lots of locks.  This is “cottage country” and we are starting to get into the Canadian Shield.  You can google it for more detail, but basically it is the igneous rock with a thin cover of soil that covers half of Canada, from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean.  Much of the scenery is rocks and pine trees, with deep lakes and lots of rivers.  At the same time, there are a few very shallow lakes that must be traversed in a zigzag pattern, paying careful attention to the red and green markers to avoid getting out of the channel.  Canadian Shield is very unforgiving if you touch bottom. In Ontario we have always referred to electric power as “hydro,” because most of the electricity is provided by hydroelectric dams.  I remember having to learn to say “power”, or “electricity” instead of hydro, when we first moved to the US or people did not know what you were talking about!

We stopped for two nights in Smiths Falls.  The basin between the Smiths Falls locks was lined with boats of all sizes, and the marina/campground manager told us they had never had so many big boats in all at the same time.  The French boat rental company Le Boat has just started operations this year, with a base at Smiths Falls, so a lot of previously available slips are now taken up by their fleet of houseboats.  The boats do look very modern and attractive, comparing very favourably with the much older rentals available from long established companies.  There seemed to be a fair number of rentals going out, considering it is their first year of operation.  We were amused to see the large amount of rubber, in two rows, that completely surrounds each boat.  I am sure they are typically going to be referred to as “bumper boats”, given their size and the very minimal instruction (and no previous experience) requirements for renters!

We were not the only Loopers present, and enjoyed a very convivial evening of docktails with new friends from five different boats.  A highlight of the stop was a lunchtime visit from Mike and Sylvianne Foley.  Mike worked at Ingersoll-Rand and was part of the hiring process when Dick joined the company more than 40 years ago.  They live just outside Montreal, but were out of town when we were there, so they decided to make an excursion so we could have a reunion.  We had a convivial lunch at a local restaurant, followed by a bottle of wine on the boat, accompanied by lots of reminiscing.

After a surprisingly long wait for the lock to open the next morning we were on our way across Rideau Lakes to the pretty village of Westport.  The dockmaster is very efficient, calling boats on the radio when they see them on the lake so they can give good approach and docking instructions.  Usually we have to make the call, and we have found that in Canada it is very hit and miss whether a marina even answers the hail! The village is clearly a destination for day-trippers arriving by boat and car, and is full of small boutiques selling everything from jewellery to clothing and souvenirs.  We also found a wonderful sandwich shop, beautiful fresh bread and just the right amount of filling so you could eat it without it all falling apart.

We stopped for two nights at Westport, and then headed out towards our destination for the day, Hotel Kenny at Jones Falls.  We expected a fairly short day with a 3 lock staircase to finish.  Today  was our day for a bit of excitement.  Shortly after we set off, I noticed a cloud of white smoke coming from the starboard engine.  Dick went below and decided the ticky ticky noise meant shutting down immediately.  So, we now know that Nine Lives travels very nicely on just one engine!  We were able to stop at the next lock so Dick could take a look and see whether he could sort out the problem.  It turned out to be weed.  Lots and lots of weed!  The engines are cooled by water that comes from outside, and there are special baskets to catch any fish or plant life that gets sucked through the hose.  Dick took off the strainer and emptied a salad bowl full of weed that had packed into it.  Then he took off the hose that leads to the strainer, and pulled out a whole lot more weed!  On the assumption that the problem was likely to be the same for the other engine, he took a look, and sure enough, yet more plant life!  We were very fortunate that both of the engines did not overheat.  I suspect that trying to paddle Nine Lives would have been a pointless exercise.

The lock was very pretty, and while Dick sorted out the engines I watched a group of summer campers prepare and launch their canoes for an overnight outing.

The last exercise of the day was a staircase of 3 locks, preceeded by a single lock, for a total of 4 in quick succession.  We gathered quite an audience, some of them very chatty, asking where we had come from and where we were going.  Tonight, a well deserved dinner out at the hotel dining room, and then on to Kingston tomorrow.

Hans and Cathy visit
Hans and Cathy visit – Dick’s Uncle Hans and his wife Cathy were in Montreal

Montreal at night 2
Montreal at night  – video and images of the history of Old Montreal are projected on the side of some of the buildings at night.

Montreal at night 3
Montreal at night  – historic buildings look attractive at night

Montreal at night 4
Montreal at Night – Bonsecours Market dome is distinctive

waiting for the Seaway lock
Waiting for the Seaway lock – the huge freighter has priority

Ottawa River
Ottawa River – a pretty village with a church and a marina

lamb shank
Lamb shank – an Irish Pub in Quebec, go figure

poutine
Poutine – signature Quebec dish of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds

English narrowboat 2
English narrowboat – quite an unexpected sight on the Ottawa River

Carillon lock
Carillon Lock – the highest lift in Canada. You can get an idea of how many boats they pack in, three across and four deep. The waverunners are waiting for their turn.

Carillon lock 3
Carillon lock  – we have entered and tied off our lines, looking back, the gate is still open as another boat gets ready to enter the lock. You can see the white lines down the side of the lock that we tie to while the boat is lifted.

Carillon lock 4
Carillon lock  – looking towards the front (upstream) end of the lock.  We asked the lock attendant how often she has to climb those steps.  She said not often if she can help it!

Carillon lock 5
Carillon lock  – looking back after the gate has come down.

Montebello Ottawa River
Montebello Ottawa River – shady lawns and views of the wide river at Chateau Montebello.

Montebello 2
Montebello  – the central gathering area with its huge fireplace in the middle.

Montebello 3
Montebello  – one of the upper galleries that overlooks the dining room.

Montebello 4
Montebello – the upper floors and roof of the central gathering area.  The building has 3 floors of accommodation and other rooms, surrounding a large central area with an enormous fireplace.

Montebello 5
Montebello  – closer look at the structure of the log building. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get an overall outside view of the Chateau because of all the trees and surrounding buildings.

Montebello 6
Montebello  – a view of the marina in the grounds of the Chateau.

Rideau Falls 2
Rideau Falls – the Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River over these falls.

In the lock
In the lock – taken by a fellow Looper who traversed the 8 Ottawa locks with us.  If you look behind Dick you can see the summer students, who work very hard in the heat, manually operating the historic lock mechanisms.  Dick is wearing a headset.  We have those so we can swear at each other privately instead of yelling… I’m not kidding (much), boaters call them “marriage savers” because they allow clear and calm communication without shouting or gestures.

Ottawa audience
Ottawa audience – sometimes you’re the audience, and sometimes, you’re the show!

Ottawa 2
Ottawa  – bike and pedestrian trails.

Ottawa 3
Ottawa  – pretty gardens and paths near Chateau Laurier.

Ottawa 4
Ottawa  – part of the lock flight with one small boat coming up.  Note the government buildings across the river in Hull.

Ottawa 5
Ottawa  – the view of the entire staircase of locks from the top.

shepherds pie
Shepherds pie – a nice presentation in an Irish pub in Ottawa.

Market produce
Market produce – wonderful displays of vegetables at ByWard market in Ottawa.

Ottawa courtyard
Ottawa courtyard – one of a series of European style courtyards in downtown.

fixing the AC
Fixing the AC – peering into Nine Lives innards in hopes of fixing the air conditioning.  As it happened, the flashlight was not needed (nor was the screwdriver), and the fix required a study of the manual and a small adjustment to the fan settings.

Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard – a daily event in summer in front of the Parliament Buildings.

Changing of the Guard 2
Changing of the Guard

Ottawa gardens
Ottawa gardens – the Garden of the Provinces and Territories is supposed to feature native plantings representing the various areas of Canada.

Filling the water tank
Filling the water tank – depending on whether or not we do laundry, we fill the water tanks roughly every 3-4 days.

Rideau canal
Rideau Canal – a winding section of the canal, passing neat farms and pretty homes.

loons
Loons – it’s not much of a picture, too far away for the camera phone, but these are loons on the Rideau Lakes.  I remember listening to their haunting cries on Hay Lake when I was a teenager.

slalom course
Slalom course – we must stay between the greens and the reds, you can see we go to the left and then after that we pass behind the boat on the right hand side of the picture.  Straying from the course risks running aground and severe prop damage!

Rideau locks
Rideau locks – note the canoeists in the lock, and the hard working lock attendant winding the mechanism.

Westport
Westport – a pretty village on Upper Rideau Lake.

signature sauce
Signature sauce – Dick’s turn to cook.  He is making his signature spaghetti sauce on the new induction burner.  We thought it would be helpful at keeping heat and steam out of the cabin, and can report that it works wonderfully.  Naturally the cook requires an adult beverage while undertaking this delicate and demanding task.

Newboro lock
Newboro lock – fortunately there was room for us to tie up and check the engine.

checking the engine
Checking the engine.

all that weed 2
All that weed – pulled out of the hose, plus what was already packed into the strainer!

the engine
The engine – for those of you who are interested in such things, I don’t think I have shown you a picture before!  We have two of these. They are Yanmar 6 cylinder 315 HP engines.

canoes
Canoes – a group of campers setting off to paddle the Rideau Lakes and camp overnight.

June 17 to July 4, 2018: Hudson River to Montreal

Continuing our stay at Half Moon Bay on the Hudson River, after a day of sightseeing, we left the boat and went off in different directions.  Dick drove to Toronto to participate in the annual reunion lunch of former Ingersoll Rand colleagues from his first years with the company.  I rented another car and set off the next afternoon for Long Island and dinner with Harriet and Carol. I worked with Harriet many years ago at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and together with Carol and other friends we have travelled in Europe and enjoyed canal boating in UK.

However.  First it was apparently necessary for me to have a very stressful adventure.  Dick had not been gone for two hours when I discovered tell-tale signs that our holding tank was ready to overflow. (for the landlubbers, the holding tank is where we keep the poop and such, it has to be pumped out once a week). Having had an experience with the situation last summer I knew this was not to be ignored.  Unfortunately, the pump-out machine was located on a dock at the other end of the marina, outside the breakwater.  After my urgent requests for help from fellow Loopers, they jumped into action.  Two ladies got on board with me to catch and throw lines, and two gentlemen stood on the dock to cast off, and then hurried over to the pump-out dock and did the necessary business. The whole thing was immensely stressful on several levels.  First, although I do take Nine Lives into locks, mostly I don’t do any docking maneuvers (I lost my nerve in bad weather at St Mary’s last January).  I had to take her out of the tricky slip, around the marina, then turn and back her up to the pump-out dock.  Then of course it all had to be done again in reverse.  I can say definitively that I now have my nerve back!  The second level of stressful was because the tank was overfull, and I will leave my gentle readers to sleep sound and not draw graphic images for you all.  Anyway, it all got done, and what a great group these Loopers are.  One of the ladies had just arrived to spend time with her gentleman, and there she was participating in the most disagreeable job on the water to help a complete stranger! Credit to Dick, after a brief text exchange that evening to tell him what had happened, he phoned me and made soothing, congratulatory, and even slightly apologetic noises for not being present.

My drive to Long Island was uneventful, but I am truly glad I no longer do that regularly.  It was only 48 miles, but it took 2.5 hours each way, and that was outside of rush hour traffic!  Port Jefferson, where I stayed and had dinner, is a pretty village on Long Island Sound.  There is a very nice marina there in the supposedly sheltered bay, but that afternoon I watched a large trawler make 5 unsuccessful attempts to dock in the high winds and currents.  I am very glad we are not including the Sound on our Loop itinerary.  It was great to see my friends and catch up and reminisce. Dick had an equally uneventful trip to Toronto and enjoyed getting together with many old friends from his early days with Ingersoll Rand.  They included Gordon Rogers, who first hired him, and who I have known since childhood, when my Dad was an I-R customer.  Also Martin Campbell, who was at Queens a year behind us, and who was one of Dick’s first Application Engineers when he was moved up into Sales. Laurie Trewartha was Dick’s second boss, and Dave Mathewson succeeded Laurie as Dick’s boss. Garth Warren headed up the Calgary operation when we lived there the first time in the 80’s.

After both safely returned to Half Moon Bay, a great evening of docktails with about 20 Loopers, and a chance to provision at the excellent local supermarket, we were ready to continue our journey.  Dick was pleased to provision with a car, and not have to load 50 pounds of beer, water, fruit, canned goods, vegetables and various meat and cheese onto his bicycle as he usually does!  Reminding you all that he has a single speed bike, unassisted by electricity!

Our first stop on the Hudson was our favourite Maritime Museum at Kingston.  We docked with two other Looper boats who we had met at docktails the evening before.  On our return from dinner we were fascinated by the local fire brigade practising their high pressure hose skills across the river, fortunately pointing up the Creek instead of across! The next morning we launched the dinghy and went for a ride all the way to the end of Rondout Creek.  Rondout was a major shipbuilding port in the 19th century, when it was the northern terminus of the Delaware and Hudson Canal.  Before that, it was a Dutch trading post in the early 17th century.  The Canal was the heyday of the city, bringing coal from northeastern Pennsylvania to the markets of New York City. As happened all over the world, the railroads spelled the end for the lucrative canal barge business, and it closed in the early 20th century.  Today Rondout Creek supplies a large part of New York City’s daily water draw via reservoirs and aqueducts in the Catskills. The Creek still has some small boatbuilding and repair facilities, as well as several large marinas.  It was an interesting dinghy run on a pretty morning.

Our next stop was Donovan’s Shady Harbour, followed by a transit through Albany and Troy to Waterford.  At Troy we passed the Corning Glass Barge moored on the river wall.  This is a barge that travels around the Erie Canal and waterways of Upstate New York this year in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the move of the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company to Corning, New York. Some of the innovations credited to Corning Glass include the first electric light bulbs for Thomas Edison, the invention of optical fiber for telecommunications, and the glass used in modern flat screen displays, including cell phones. The barge offers glassblowing demonstrations each day plus museum exhibits sharing the story of glassmaking in Corning.  It is touring in celebration of the bicentennial of the New York Waterways and the Erie Canal.

Waterford was busy, due to the anticipated arrival of the Glass Barge and the upcoming weekend, but we had timed our arrival carefully and were able to get a spot under the bridge on the free town wall.  Being under the bridge had the advantage of keeping the boat cool on a hot sunny day, but the ga-thump ga-thump of vehicles crossing the bridge carried on all night and in the morning the boat was covered in fallen dirt and dust.  Not to worry, our next stop was on the Champlain Canal, with a transit of five locks on a wet and miserable day!

I have decided that I am not so very fond of transiting locks in Nine Lives, especially big locks and lifting as opposed to lowering.  The lines we have to grab and hold are greasy and filthy, and all the muck from the lock-side transfers itself to the fenders and thus to the boat.  We are sailboat shaped, so we have a tendency to swing from bow and stern, so while other boats simply push off from the lock wall occasionally, we need constant vigilance and much pushing, followed by inevitable pulling hard on wet lines to keep the boat in place at the lock wall.  Our usual method is for Dick to bring the boat near the lock, but then he goes outside where I have prepared lines and fenders, and he catches the critical first line while I bring the boat into the lock wall.  Then, once the boat is stopped, I rush outside and catch the second line at the stern and hang on for all I am worth.

The Champlain Canal is not the prettiest we have seen, although I am sure it would have looked better in sunshine.  We stopped for the night on a town wall in the village of Fort Edward. Once upon a time it was an important portage place used by Native Americans for thousands of years to get around Hudson Falls. The first fort was built here in 1755 during the French and Indian Wars.  The town was established in 1818.  As is so often the case, there are signs of former prosperity, but Fort Edward has fallen on hard times.  Several attempts have been made to improve the town, including an excellent park and walkways on the river, plus a good town dock for boaters.  However, nothing is done about upkeep, and it is all looking rather sad.

Our next stop was Whitehall and another town dock and local park.  Originally it was called Skenesborough in 1759 when it was first settled.  The village was captured by the Americans during the Revolution, and a fleet of ships was built to face British forces on Lake Champlain.  Whitehall is considered to be the birthplace of the U.S. Navy.  More ships were built here during the War of 1812.  In the first part of the 19th century the Champlain Canal was built and the railroad also came to the town, and it became an important centre for the silk industry.  Today all this is a memory. Efforts to improve the waterfront and attract visitors are ongoing.

From Whitehall we transited the last lock on the Champlain Canal and entered Lake Champlain.  We passed Fort Ticonderoga, high above the western shore. Originally called Fort Carillon, it is a large 18th century star fort built by the French at the narrows near the southern end of Lake Champlain.  The fort played an important role in the region until after the Revolution. The United States allowed it to fall into ruins and it was eventually bought by a private family in 1820.  It became a tourist attraction, and was restored in the early 20th century. It is now run by a foundation.  The most southerly of three Champlain ferries operates just north of the fort, crossing back and forth to Vermont using a cable.

Arriving south of the bridge at Crown Point, we anchored for the night in what we expected to be a bay sheltered from strong winds out of the north east.  Unfortunately, we chose a spot a little too near to the bridge and the narrows it crosses, and Dick was delighted to experience the phenomenon of vortex shedding first hand. He can give you the scientific explanation, I only know we bounced around a lot, swung on the anchor more that we prefer, and we could see waves crisscrossing near the boat when there had been no other craft passing to create a wake!

After an enjoyable, if a little windier than expected, trip north on Lake Champlain we arrived in Burlington.  Here we were greeted by Dick’s friend and former colleague Julian Smith and Nikki, his partner.  We were treated to dinner at their summer home a few miles south of Burlington, and the next day they joined us for a Segway tour of the city.  This proved to be a fascinating morning out.  The tour operator is a former lawyer, who was one of the two influential citizens of the city who were able to prevent the waterfront and the closed railway right of way from being taken over by developers. Instead, after years of campaigning, a waterfront park was created, with a bike path that follows the shoreline for many miles, and two public marinas.  His efforts did not end there.  After a paragliding accident left him disabled, the activist applied several times for a permit to operate Segway tours on Burlington sidewalks and bike trails.  Turned down, he then demonstrated lateral thinking, and came at the problem from the perspective of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The tours are the number one attraction in Burlington, according to TripAdvisor, and many thousands have enjoyed one or two hour tours without accident or incident.  Burlington is a very nice small city, that seems to have done a great job of staying lively and successful while still being a centre for both the University of Vermont and Champlain College.  Somehow the large number of students add positively to the city rather than creating student ghettos.

We stayed 3 nights in Burlington, enjoying Julian and Nikki’s company and hosting them for dinner on board one evening.  Nikki and I had a very pleasant morning poking around the shops of the village of Shelburne and having a nice lunch.  Dick took his bike along the waterfront trails in both directions. On our last evening we walked up the hill and had an interesting and authentic meal in a French restaurant.

We left Burlington on a cool and misty morning and headed north past Valcour Island.  This was the site of the naval battle with the ships that had been built in Whitehall during the American Revolution.  The armada hid behind the island and surprised the British as they sailed south.  The battle was lost, but it is credited as a turning point in the War of Independence because the losing American navy harried the British enough that they had to turn back north and wait for the next year, by which time the tide had turned.

North of Plattsburgh the Port Kent ferries ply the narrows across to Grand Isle, Vermont.  I remember making that crossing many times with my parents on our way to Canada’s East Coast.  Three ferries were operating when we arrived, but we managed to find the right moment and keep out of their way.

Rouses Point marks the top end of Lake Champlain, and the border is just north of the bridge.  We tied up at the marina overnight, and watched many small cruisers come in for fuel after clearing U.S. Customs.  It was the beginning of a long weekend with Canada Day on Monday, and U.S Independence Day later in the week, so a busy time for the Lake and the Richelieu River and canals.  Just north of the bridge, still in American territory, is Fort Montgomery.  This is a Third System fort, built between 1844 and 1870.  It is one of only a few forts in the USA that has a full moat, and at the time of building it was considered state of the art with no expense spared in design and construction.  However, it was not the first structure to be built in that location.  In 1816 an octagonal structure with 30 foot high walls began construction to protect the United States from an attack from British Canada.  Unfortunately, it was discovered that a surveying error had resulted in this fort being built ¾ of a mile into British territory.  Sometimes named Fort Blunder, it was hastily abandoned and all the building materials were carried off by local settlers to use in their homes and barns.  After a treaty in 1842 ceded the location to the USA, the second Fort began construction.  It was garrisoned occasionally, and some of the many planned guns were installed, but eventually Fort Montgomery was made obsolete by new advances in warfare and it was abandoned.  It fell into private hands, and attempts were made to offer it to the State of New York as a historic landmark, but the State is not interested.  If any of you happen to have just short of $1 million kicking around, you can buy it.  It is zoned for commercial use, so you could build a marina or a resort hotel.

The next morning it was our turn to take Nine Lives through Canadian Customs.  A very friendly officer asked the necessary questions (are you carrying any weapons? do you have any means of self-defense on board? Are you sure?  You live in South Carolina!) and scanned our passports.  He then decided he wanted to come on board Nine Lives, I think to see the boat rather than as an inspection tour!  He asked lots of the same questions that other boaters ask, such as what are the engines and how many bathrooms, and then bid us a cheery farewell without looking into any cupboards or storage lockers.

We continued north on the Richelieu River to St Jean sur Richelieu.  On the way we were waked numerous times by the many pocket cruisers that seem to be popular with Quebecois from Montreal.  I had to take the picture off the wall as Nine Lives bounced up and down and side to side from every passing boat. The river is lined with many beautiful properties, some with huge houses, others more modest.  It is only a few miles overland from Montreal, so many weekend cottages and even commuters enjoy the beautiful riverfront.  St Jean sur Richelieu is a fairly prosperous town, supporting 177 restaurants, according to TripAdvisor.  However, there are very few shops and boutiques, so I am guessing the wealthy shop in Montreal, while those of more modest means patronize big box stores outside of town. I had my best meal of the trip so far at one of the French restaurants, along with a bottle of my favourite Pouilly Fume, not often found on the menu. (No, I did not drink it all, Dick had his fair share!)

From Saint Jean sur Richelieu we were immediately in the historic Chambly Canal.  This is a beautiful, but very narrow, waterway with 6 lift bridges and 9 locks that drop the canal a total of 80 feet.  The locks are all operated by hand by summer students employed by Parks Canada.  The canal has the same feel as the British canals we have spent so much time on in past years.  We made it a short day, stopping before the last three-lock staircase at the town wall in Chambly.  This was the hottest day we had experienced so far, with temperatures well into the 90s, and high humidity.  Even though I was careful to dress in sun protective clothing and a hat, I found that standing outside all morning in the heat and sun felt just like standing in a frying pan, and by the time we tied up I was starting to feel quite ill.  I remember feeling this hot when we lived in Malaysia, but then I was not also wearing a life jacket and a headset for communications!

Chambly is a pretty town.  The final 3 locks on the canal drop to a wide basin at the end of the canal.  From there the Richelieu River continues its course north to Sorel and the St Lawrence River.  Chambly is considered a suburb of Montreal, being only 16 miles from city centre.  It was settled during the 17th century. A series of wooden forts were succeeded by a massive stone fort, one of a series built to protect French settlers in the area and the city of Montreal from hostile Iroquois and the English. Today it is a fairly quiet village with lots of parks and well kept homes and shops. We celebrated Canada Day (July 1st) with a bottle of champagne, cheese and crackers, and some very nice country pate Dick found at the local supermarket.

Back in the Richelieu River we were again joined by numbers of cruising boats, all of whom are apparently incapable of slowing down when passing, and throw huge wakes regardless of kayaks, fishermen, pontoon boats, or Nine Lives being bounced around.  We reached the industrial town of Sorel by mid-afternoon, and tied up in a local marina just off the St Lawrence River.  We had been warned by the marina office to expect “many waves”, but in fact it was no worse than most of our marina stays.  So far Dick is managing to save his wad of $5 bills for dockhands.  Either they are too late to help, or if they do show up they are more of a hindrance than a help, so he does not feel inclined to hand out tips!  An early morning walk along the Sorel waterfront park was very pleasant before the heat of the day.  Both the Chambly and Sorel parks have outdoor exhibitions of photographs taken by the local camera club members, most of them to a very high standard.

Our journey south on the St Lawrence to Montreal was uneventful until the last hour.  The river is wide, and there is a choice of taking the shipping channel or following a more meandering course on the small craft channel.  My marine traffic app showed only one or two freighters in the Seaway, so we chose the easier shipping channel.  Being so far from the shore it was perhaps the more boring choice.  As we approached Montreal, the passage got a little exciting.  We were passing a large freighter being loaded when suddenly we noticed a huge shadow over our shoulders, and discovered that a freighter we had passed earlier at the dock had come out and was now coming up behind us very fast.  Fortunately, there was plenty of room and time to get out of the way, but his speed created a wake that reflected back and forth from the shore and churned up the formerly smooth and easy waters.

Next we arrived at the section of the river that is divided by St Helens Island. Here we turned west to enter the old Port of Montreal, the two kilometre stretch of the river that was used as early as 1611 by the fur trade until the 1970’s when it was replaced as a commercial port by larger and more modern facilities.  St Helens Island was enlarged and combined with other small islands to host the Worlds Fair in 1967.  The creation of this division in the river has resulted in an extreme current of more than 5 knots against you as you attempt to enter the Old Port.  We made our way under the Champlain Bridge at about 2 knots, all the time having to watch out for ferries and tour boats as well as unpredictable small pleasure boats.  We expected it to get easier when we entered the marina, but unfortunately one of the tour boats was coming out at that moment, so there were a few hairy moments while we tried to hold place in the strong current, avoiding being swept into the freighters moored on one side or running into the tour boat on the other.  The marina management apparently do not use their radios to talk to customers, only to each other, and the current, although not as bad as outside, is still surprisingly strong inside the marina.  Add the wind, and it was an overly exciting arrival.  Absent any instruction, we chose the first empty dock and tied up, at which point a slightly indignant dockhand appeared to give us our correct slip assignment and supposed assistance in tying up.  Another $5 saved…

We will be here in Old Montreal for 3 nights.  The heat wave is still with us, although we are hoping for more moderate temperatures on our last day for some sightseeing.  Fortunately this marina has good power and the air conditioning is working well.  A good time for laundry and finishing this installment of the blog!

June 1 to 17, 2018: Norfolk to the Hudson River

After an enjoyable break at home in Hilton Head for a few weeks, on June 1st we again collected a rental car and drove back to Great Bridge, a town south of Norfolk, Virginia. We had left the boat in a highly regarded repair facility, with a long list of small jobs that required a more specialist approach than Dick could expect to do himself.  Most of the work was completed, although one or two small items were forgotten.  Dick was pleased that the bill was considerably less than he had mentally braced for, and I am pleased that the forward air conditioning, while still not as effective as the unit aft, is definitely working better.  We spent the morning at the grocery store getting in the provisions we would need for the next few weeks, and Dick was able to get our propane bottle refilled.  We use propane for the galley stove, and also for the grill, and there is no gauge on the bottle, so we don’t really have a good sense of how much is left at any time!  I had done some baking at home for the freezer, so with that and the groceries safely stowed we were ready to depart.

The plan was immediately changed.  We had intended to travel north as far as Deltaville, just off the Chesapeake, and anchor for one night.  However, a look at the weather suggested it would probably be better to stop for the first night in Hampton, and then make a fast run on the only good weather day through the weekend and get to Solomons.  Hampton is at the north end of the huge Norfolk harbour.  Dick had in mind that we would stay at the city run town dock, but they were fully booked for a pirate weekend, so we stopped at another marina.  Looper gossip the other day suggests this was no bad thing.  Someone who was staying at the town dock a few weeks ago had a bullet go through their cockpit and embed itself in their ceiling while they were sleeping!  Police were called, but what exactly had happened is a mystery.  The boaters slept through the incident, awakening in the morning to broken glass and said bullet in the ceiling!

Our ride up Chesapeake Bay to Solomons was pleasant and uneventful, just the way we like it.  We were welcomed on arrival with a fly-past by the Blue Angels.  You may recall that they also welcomed us to Norfolk last month!  The town sits across the river from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, and our arrival happened to coincide with their annual air show.  Solomons is a pretty little town, settled since colonial times and very boating oriented.  We walked around the harbour and enjoyed several nice meals at different restaurants.  We also launched the dinghy and did a harbour tour past all the marinas and up a couple of the channels to see interesting houses and nicely kept gardens.

After waiting an extra day in Solomons to avoid some nasty winds on the bay, we set off for Annapolis.  Although we stopped there last year we didn’t really explore, this time we stayed long enough to see some sights.  We docked at one of the large marinas, and because we are 19 feet wide, they decided we would be best in a slip where they put the mega-yachts.  Talk about playing with the big kids! We walked into town and took a boat tour up Spa Creek. Annapolis is a very historic city, with buildings dating back to before the Declaration of Independence. It was briefly the capital city of the newly formed United States in 1783. It is also the home of the United States Naval Academy.  We would have liked to visit the naval base, but there wasn’t enough time.  We walked to the top of the main street, which is very lively and a nice mix of boutiques and interesting restaurants.  There had been a lot of rain, and we were surprised to see one of the parking lots full of water.  It didn’t seem to worry the visitors, they just drove right through the puddles and parked regardless!

We enjoyed a visit with Marge and Fred Conroy, Dick’s former boss from his Prague days and his wife.  After docktails and a tour of the boat we went for dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants in town. Fred regaled us with stories of his days as a midshipman in the town.

We are very conscious of the weather this year, and far more careful about our planning.  After Annapolis we decided to miss Chesapeake City and go straight to Delaware City, as the long range forecast was deteriorating.  Delaware City is such an interesting little town.  The marina is situated along the original Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  The 14 mile ship canal connects Delaware Bay with Chesapeake Bay, and gives cargo ships access to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington without having to travel 500 miles around and all the way up the Chesapeake.  The original canal was dug by hand by 2600 men earning an average wage of $.75 a day.  In the 1920’s the canal was bought by the Federal Government.  The entrance was moved a few miles south, all the locks were removed, and the entire canal was deepened and widened.  The remaining piece of the original canal is now used by Delaware City Marina.  Tidal currents and a narrow fairway require careful maneuvering, and this is one of the few places that Dick does not make any adjustments to the way the dock hands have tied us! The evening briefing on expected winds and currents is well worth attending, and as a result, we decided again to cut our visit short and leave the next morning for Cape May, rather than be stuck there for several days.

We had planned a 3 or 4 day stop in Cape May, but this time it wasn’t weather that frustrated our plans, it was a shark fishing tournament!  Every marina was fully booked through Saturday night.  We anchored in the river, not an entirely pleasant solution because although it is a clearly marked no-wake zone, local fishermen ignore the signs until they are much closer to town (and the Coast Guard Station).  Last year we took the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway north from Cape May towards Atlantic City, and we had thought about repeating the adventure in spite of having run aground 4 times.  However, the tide times would have meant a 6am start, and the weather forecast for the Atlantic the next day was quite benign.  If we had any thoughts of changing our minds we discarded them as a fellow Looper who had decided to take advantage of longer daylight and travel with the afternoon tide turned around after running aground several times and returned to Cape May and the anchorage.

It was a very pleasant fast run to Atlantic City.  For most of it the water was like glass, with just small and gentle swells.  Nine Lives loves to run at her best speed (18 knots, just under 21 miles per hour for the landlubbers) in these conditions, and we arrived well before noon in Atlantic City.

This visit we stayed at the huge marina in front of the Golden Nugget Casino.  It is one of the few casinos still operational in Atlantic City, and has a great choice of restaurants with no need to leave the complex.  We explored the Boardwalk and the town last year, so we just relaxed and caught up with reading and emails.

Much of the trip so far has been a case of zip between destinations on carefully planned weather windows.  We were determined to try the northern part of the New Jersey ICW this year, and Dick was able to get excellent detailed advice from one of the experienced Loopers who lives in the area and travels the route regularly.  We got up at 5am (there simply has to be coffee before we start out!) and were underway by 6am.  This meant we were travelling on a rising tide for the first part of the trip, and it was happily uneventful.  Our depth sounder never showed less than 4 feet below our keels, and the trip was considerably less stressful than our previous experience!  The area is very pretty, with peaceful marshes, lots of osprey nesting, and clusters of beachy houses between the ICW and the Atlantic.  Travelling during the week means the yahoos in speedboats do not trouble us, and the keen fishermen in their big Viking Trawlers are already out at sea.

The excitement for the day all happened at the end, just as we were breathing sighs of relief that the trip had been so uneventful.  There is a canal between Barnegat Bay and Manesquan River and Inlet. It is extremely narrow, and highly affected by the tide.  We entered the canal on an outgoing tide, and Dick had the engines at idle speed (the slowest speed that still turns the propellers and allows control for steering).  Our idle speed in calm water is about 4 knots (4.6 mph), and yet we shot through that canal at about 9.6 knots (11 mph).  It was like whitewater rafting without the fun. We had already been warned that locals seldom give right of way, so it was a nail biting 2 miles until we shot out the other side into the Manesquan River.  The excitement was not over.  There is a railway bridge just before Manesquan Inlet that we had to pass under to get to our marina.  The gap spanned by the bridge is only 31 feet wide.  We are 19.  The helpful Waterway Guide suggests, “Favor the north side of the channel.” Right.  Dick was hard put to keep us in the centre with the swift currents!  Arriving at the marina we were instructed to tie up at the fuel dock and await instructions.  This is never a favourite practice, but for once there was a very good reason, as maneuvering the boat into a slip in the currents requires highly experienced dock hands to give good instructions and catch lines.

The next day we again took advantage of a single day weather window and headed out into the Atlantic for the passage to Staten Island.  The conditions were at the upper limit of what an experienced Looper describes as “marginal”.  That is, winds 15 to 20 knots, and seas up to 3 feet.  On this occasion, the winds were going to be behind us, and the tides in our favour, so we decided to go.  It was quite an experience.  The instruments showed the boat travelling at 15 knots as she climbed up a swell, and then up to 18 knots as she slid down the other side.  I can’t say it was a pleasant run, but it was short, and we were into Great Kills Yacht Club on Staten Island well before noon.  The next two days would have been miserable to travel, as the winds switched to the north.  The main lesson learned last year is that opposing winds and currents are always going to be unpleasant.

We enjoyed our visit to Great Kills last summer, and we glad to return to the friendly welcome and quiet harbour.  We took out our bikes and rode to the Italian grocery.  Last year I wasn’t allowed to buy much because we were in “eating up” mode, but this time I could browse and fill my cart!  Imported tins of tomatoes, pasta of every shape and size, useful tubes of concentrated garlic paste and onion paste, and some very nice frozen vegetables that are always good to have on a boat.

Yesterday morning was the first time we did not quite get the forecast right.  We left Great Kills shortly after 8am to head towards New York Harbor.  The hope was to be there after rush hour, so to avoid some of the water traffic that creates wakes from all directions.  We knew we would have the tide giving us a push up the river, unfortunately we did not expect the strong wind from the north.  Opposing currents and winds make for heavy chop, and it was a very uncomfortable trip.  Dick’s bike on the front of the boat kept jumping up and crashing down, and at one point he had to put on his life jacket and get out and retie the knot before the bike flipped over the lines.  He had to hang on with both hands, and it was scary for me to watch, let alone for him to do it! There were no water taxis and only a few ferries, but the heavy waves continued long past the city and only settled down a few miles from our destination at Croton-on-Hudson.

The first day here was a very enjoyable sightseeing break.  We collected a rental car, and drove first to the nearby Croton Dam.  This dam creates a reservoir that forms part of the New York City water supply.  It was built between 1892 and 1906.  It is unusual in that it is built of masonry rather than poured concrete.  It also incorporates a spillway that is partly man-made and partly a natural cliffside waterfall.  We walked around in the park at the base, and then were able to take a road up to the top and walk up and see the construction in more detail as well as the reservoir above.

After the dam, we drove to the interesting town of Mt Kisco. Like much of Westchester County, it is a bedroom community for New York City, and is surrounded by lovely estates and many well kept acreage homes, some obviously built in the 19th century or earlier.  The town is full of tiny restaurants of all different ethnicity.  We chose a creperie, and enjoyed a very nice lunch.  A nearby Asian food market offered a few more treasures for the pantry.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the Culinary Institute of America in the evening.  We had heard that to eat in one of their restaurants you must book months in advance, and being on a boat and subject to weather we couldn’t do that.  On Friday I decided to just see whether there might be an opening, and to our great surprise we were able to get a table for 8pm in the Italian restaurant, Ristorante Caterina de Medici. They are trying a new offering, after pressure from the public to be open on weekends.  After a glass of Prosecco we were brought a beautiful plate of antipasti and a Caesar salad to share, as well as a basket of bread.  Next, they brought round five different pasta dishes, ranging from gnocci, shrimp bucatini, a risotto, and two others that escape me!  You could have as much or as little as you liked of each offering, and seconds if you happened to still be hungry. The evening finishes with an interesting dessert.  Ours was a polenta cake with strawberry sauce and mascarpone.  We weren’t sure we liked the polenta cake, but the sauce was delicious! The wines were very nice choices and moderately priced.  It was a highlight of our trip, and any time we happen to find ourselves nearby we will make an effort to return.

We are booked in here at Half Moon Bay for 5 nights.  Dick has rented a car, and left this morning to  drive to Toronto for a reunion with his friends from his early years with Ingersoll Rand.  I will leave tomorrow (another rental car) and visit friends on Long Island.  We will reconvene on Tuesday evening and head north again on Wednesday.  Meanwhile this is a popular stop for Loopers, at least 7 boats in tonight and likely more expected in the next few days as the weather allows them to travel up from the Chesapeake.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton