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.

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