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

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.

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