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.

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

Jones Falls to Peterborough

 

July 19 to August 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jones Falls
Jones Falls – early morning, looking back at the lock staircase
Upper Brewers lock
Upper Brewers lock – a boat moves from the upper into the lower of a pair of locks
Upper Brewers locks
Upper Brewers locks
waiting for Kingston Mills locks
Waiting for the lock at Kingston Mills
dessert at Wooden Heads
Dessert at Wooden Heads – a very elegant dessert after a pizza dinner!
Kingston
Kingston – concert in the park beside the marina. Note you can see two of the Martello towers that helped guard the important port from marauding Americans
Trent Port Marina
Trent Port Marina – grills for the use of boaters. In the background is the splendid library/city hall building
Trent Port Marina 2
Trent Port Marina 2 – the main building has wonderful showers for boaters, a lounge, and (free!) laundry machines
Trent Port Marina 3
Trent Port Marina 3 – notice the beautifully kept flowerbeds and plantings
alone in TrentPort
Alone in Trent Port – all the Loopers and other boaters left!
at dock in Trent Port
At dock in Trent Port
Frankford lock
Frankford lock
Frankford and the Waterway
Frankford and the Waterway
grilling
Grilling – steaks and baked potatoes on the grill, and corn on the cob in the pan on the induction cooktop
relaxing
Relaxing – Dick, Ed and Brent enjoy brews and snacks after a day out
Ed Dick Brent
Ed Dick Brent – family resemblance!
toonie and tour bus
Toonie and tour bus – the tourists are returning to their bus after taking selfies with the giant $2 coin
cheesecake at Antonias
Cheesecake at Antonia’s – a wonderful European bistro in Campbellford
Trent Severn lock
Trent Severn lock – approaching a lock north of Campbellford
Hastings
Hastings – a pretty morning at the marina above the lock

July 5 to 18

Montreal to Jones Falls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hans and Cathy visit
Hans and Cathy visit – Dick’s Uncle Hans and his wife Cathy were in Montreal
Montreal at night 2
Montreal at night  – video and images of the history of Old Montreal are projected on the side of some of the buildings at night.
Montreal at night 3
Montreal at night  – historic buildings look attractive at night
Montreal at night 4
Montreal at Night – Bonsecours Market dome is distinctive
waiting for the Seaway lock
Waiting for the Seaway lock – the huge freighter has priority
Ottawa River
Ottawa River – a pretty village with a church and a marina
lamb shank
Lamb shank – an Irish Pub in Quebec, go figure
poutine
Poutine – signature Quebec dish of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds
English narrowboat 2
English narrowboat – quite an unexpected sight on the Ottawa River
Carillon lock
Carillon Lock – the highest lift in Canada. You can get an idea of how many boats they pack in, three across and four deep. The waverunners are waiting for their turn.
Carillon lock 3
Carillon lock  – we have entered and tied off our lines, looking back, the gate is still open as another boat gets ready to enter the lock. You can see the white lines down the side of the lock that we tie to while the boat is lifted.
Carillon lock 4
Carillon lock  – looking towards the front (upstream) end of the lock.  We asked the lock attendant how often she has to climb those steps.  She said not often if she can help it!
Carillon lock 5
Carillon lock  – looking back after the gate has come down.
Montebello Ottawa River
Montebello Ottawa River – shady lawns and views of the wide river at Chateau Montebello.
Montebello 2
Montebello  – the central gathering area with its huge fireplace in the middle.
Montebello 3
Montebello  – one of the upper galleries that overlooks the dining room.
Montebello 4
Montebello – the upper floors and roof of the central gathering area.  The building has 3 floors of accommodation and other rooms, surrounding a large central area with an enormous fireplace.
Montebello 5
Montebello  – closer look at the structure of the log building. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get an overall outside view of the Chateau because of all the trees and surrounding buildings.
Montebello 6
Montebello  – a view of the marina in the grounds of the Chateau.
Rideau Falls 2
Rideau Falls – the Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River over these falls.
In the lock
In the lock – taken by a fellow Looper who traversed the 8 Ottawa locks with us.  If you look behind Dick you can see the summer students, who work very hard in the heat, manually operating the historic lock mechanisms.  Dick is wearing a headset.  We have those so we can swear at each other privately instead of yelling… I’m not kidding (much), boaters call them “marriage savers” because they allow clear and calm communication without shouting or gestures.
Ottawa audience
Ottawa audience – sometimes you’re the audience, and sometimes, you’re the show!
Ottawa 2
Ottawa  – bike and pedestrian trails.
Ottawa 3
Ottawa  – pretty gardens and paths near Chateau Laurier.
Ottawa 4
Ottawa  – part of the lock flight with one small boat coming up.  Note the government buildings across the river in Hull.
Ottawa 5
Ottawa  – the view of the entire staircase of locks from the top.
shepherds pie
Shepherds pie – a nice presentation in an Irish pub in Ottawa.
Market produce
Market produce – wonderful displays of vegetables at ByWard market in Ottawa.
Ottawa courtyard
Ottawa courtyard – one of a series of European style courtyards in downtown.
fixing the AC
Fixing the AC – peering into Nine Lives innards in hopes of fixing the air conditioning.  As it happened, the flashlight was not needed (nor was the screwdriver), and the fix required a study of the manual and a small adjustment to the fan settings.
Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard – a daily event in summer in front of the Parliament Buildings.
Changing of the Guard 2
Changing of the Guard
Ottawa gardens
Ottawa gardens – the Garden of the Provinces and Territories is supposed to feature native plantings representing the various areas of Canada.
Filling the water tank
Filling the water tank – depending on whether or not we do laundry, we fill the water tanks roughly every 3-4 days.
Rideau canal
Rideau Canal – a winding section of the canal, passing neat farms and pretty homes.
loons
Loons – it’s not much of a picture, too far away for the camera phone, but these are loons on the Rideau Lakes.  I remember listening to their haunting cries on Hay Lake when I was a teenager.
slalom course
Slalom course – we must stay between the greens and the reds, you can see we go to the left and then after that we pass behind the boat on the right hand side of the picture.  Straying from the course risks running aground and severe prop damage!
Rideau locks
Rideau locks – note the canoeists in the lock, and the hard working lock attendant winding the mechanism.
Westport
Westport – a pretty village on Upper Rideau Lake.
signature sauce
Signature sauce – Dick’s turn to cook.  He is making his signature spaghetti sauce on the new induction burner.  We thought it would be helpful at keeping heat and steam out of the cabin, and can report that it works wonderfully.  Naturally the cook requires an adult beverage while undertaking this delicate and demanding task.
Newboro lock
Newboro lock – fortunately there was room for us to tie up and check the engine.
checking the engine
Checking the engine.
all that weed 2
All that weed – pulled out of the hose, plus what was already packed into the strainer!
the engine
The engine – for those of you who are interested in such things, I don’t think I have shown you a picture before!  We have two of these. They are Yanmar 6 cylinder 315 HP engines.
canoes
Canoes – a group of campers setting off to paddle the Rideau Lakes and camp overnight.

June 17 to July 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1 to 17, Norfolk to the Hudson River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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