July 1 to 15, 2019 – Bath to Peterborough

A relatively short hop on a calm day took us from Kingston to Bath, Ontario, a historic community settled in 1784 by United Empire Loyalists. A sheltered harbour and road access to the important town of Kingston helped the town to become prosperous.  United Empire Loyalists moved north to British North America during and after the American Revolution.  Many settled in what are now the Maritime provinces and Quebec, but some started new towns in Upper Canada, that eventually became the province of Ontario.  The Crown gave the Loyalists land grants of 200 acres, to encourage settlement, and this began the first major influx of English-speaking immigrants to Canada. Not all stayed, many returned to the new United States, and others retained close ties, including commercial interests, with those they left behind.  Initially a bustling lakefront manufacturing centre, Bath began to lose importance as it was bypassed by important rail and road connections, until in 1998 it was disincorporated and added to Loyalist Township.  Today it is a sleepy village with some surprising subdivisions of prosperous looking middle class homes, presumably occupied by commuters to Kingston and retirees seeking a relatively quiet waterfront community.  We arrived on Canada Day, the July 1st celebration of Canada’s birthday.  The town puts on an outstanding fireworks display, which we enjoyed from the cockpit of the boat, only slightly obscured by an inconvenient tree.  We later learned that Bath’s display is well known, and considered far better than the one put on by the much larger town of Kingston.

The marina we stayed in had a boatyard, so Dick asked them to see if they could solve the problem with the dinghy motor failing to start.  I unfortunately missed the photo opportunity as Dick launched it and paddled it away to be hauled out.  The technician spent quite some time, but ultimately failed to diagnose the problem.  He did, however, suggest a work-around until Dick can find a Yamaha specialist.  This low-tech solution involves taking the cowling off the motor and stuffing a rag into the air intake.  A certain finesse is required to get the right moment to pull the rag out and replace the cowling while still keeping the motor running.  All this to be accomplished without falling out of the admittedly somewhat tippy craft, and preferably before untying the painter (that’s the rope that secures the boat to a dock or mooring) and risking an unplanned voyage!  Dick was surprised when it came time to settle the bill, as the technician felt badly that he could not solve the problem and charged for only one hour, even though he worked on it for several.  Excellent customer service.

The next evening was the main event for our stay in Bath, a reservation at a farm-to-table restaurant in nearby Portsmouth.  Dick had wanted to try it last year, but had decided it was too far from Kingston to ride bikes.  So of course, this year we stayed even further away and had to take a taxi.  It was an outstanding meal, the chef very involved with taking orders and serving.  He seemed to particularly enjoy chatting with Dick about boating and the Great Loop, and even offered to drive us back to the marina!  Dick may have ever so slightly regretted his gracious refusal when he paid for the taxi.  To add insult to the injury to his wallet, his phone slipped off his belt and was left in the cab.  A phone call the next morning was successful, the phone was found and they agreed to hold it for us at the depot for collection on the weekend.

Portsmouth appetizer
Beautiful presentation of a cheddar tart with tomatoes, shallots and arugula at Bayview Farm Restaurant in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth fish
Dick enjoyed a main course of Arctic Char
Portsmouth dessert
The dessert special was a maple cheesecake. Irresistible! And note the reasonable portion size.

Onward to Picton, a charming and artsy town in Prince Edward County.  The art and sculpture offered in the galleries is to a high standard, and the town is very tidy and prosperous looking.  Many of the historic buildings have been sympathetically repurposed, and there are interesting boutiques and restaurants.  On our first evening we found an outstanding fine dining restaurant in a gorgeous old house.  We had a wonderful meal, and hope to return at some point.

Picton restaurant
Merrill House in Picton
Picton vegetarian
I chose vegetarian, a delicious concoction of asparagus and chevre with quails eggs.
Picton dessert
Dessert was as glorious as the rest of the meal.

Prince Edward County is a beautiful peninsula, essentially an island, jutting out into Lake Ontario.  In early years Picton was a schooner port, manufacturing and distribution centre, first settled in the late 1700’s by Loyalists. Today the County is known as region producing good wines, as well as being a mecca for tourism and the arts.

Picton 4
Picton’s town centre

The next day we walked to the studio of a fantastic sculptor.  Paul Verrall retired from a successful career in Graphic Art and Design in Montreal, and returned to his first love, sculpture.  He carves wonderfully tactile pieces inspired mainly by Canadian wildlife, using the softer stones such as Soapstone, Serpentine, Alabaster, Cola and African Wonderstone (pyrophyllite).  We were truly blown away by his work, and spend quite a long time chatting with him and his wife.  For some reason Dick failed to correctly interpret my increasingly broad hints and eye movements, and we briefly left the studio empty handed.  However, it took zero negotiation before I rushed back to discuss and arrange to buy the piece we had both agreed was the one we could not resist.  A polar bear stands on the ice, with seals swimming below.  Like many of Paul’s works, it can be lit from behind or below to give an entirely different impression of the piece as the light creates a soft glow through the stone.

sculpture
Paul Verrall’s beautiful sculpture of a polar bear and seals under the ice floe.

Later that afternoon we were delighted to entertain Paul and his charming wife Donna on board Nine Lives for docktails and nibbles.  We are looking forward to renewing acquaintance when we return in August to collect our piece.

Picton 5
This year’s high water has had an impact on the marina, with some docks and even the new landscaping under water. But the ducks like it!

As we left Picton we passed a huge cement plant and quarry.  It is quite an eyesore, visible from miles around from the water, and of course from the opposite shore. Cement has been used since the times of the Greeks and the Romans, and the world uses a lot of it. The total world production of cement in 2010 was 3,300 million tonnes (according to Wikipedia), and use continues to rise.  It just seems rather sad that quarries and manufacturing plants seem to be located in some of the country’s great beauty spots.

Picton cement plant
The cement plant outside Picton
Picton quarry
Next to the cement plant is an enormous quarry

We arrived in familiar Trent Port Marina, happy to be located slightly closer to the showers this year.  This is the town where Dick was born, and his Mom lives nearby in Brighton.  We had hoped to dock in Brighton this year, but the high water has put so many docks under water that the only marina that would have been suitable is not available.  Trenton is a convenient place, with an Enterprise car rental within walking distance and plenty of shops and restaurants.  The first evening we took Mom to dinner at one of the Brighton restaurants that overlooks the waterfront.  We returned to Trent Port to hear the sounds of celtic music floating over the marina.  It was coming from a fellow Looper and Endeavourcat, Aisling Gheal (Bright Vision).  Jeff and Barbie play banjo and flute in their cockpit in the evenings, a delightful sound for the rest of us to enjoy!

Trent Port 2
I watched with interest as a large crane lowered a sailboat into the water in Trenton.

The next day we took the rented car to Brewerton (stopping on the way to collect Dick’s errant phone), and collected our vehicle that had been left in storage at the boat yard.  We drove back in convoy, and then left the Range Rover in Mom’s unused parking space at her apartment for collection when we return next month for her birthday party.  While in Trenton we also shopped at the Dutch delicatessen, picking up yet more goodies for docktail offerings.  Dick borrowed some of his brother’s saw horses but unfortunately, they were just not quite the right size and height.  The project was to take the fridge out of its slot and install a new part that the manufacturer had sent, in the hopes that it would solve our mysterious issue with cooling the fridge part of the side by side fridge freezer unit.  Last year some fans were added to the rear of the unit to try to provide more air circulation around the coils, but that didn’t work.  The new resistor should have worked, but sadly did not, even after Dick removed a couple of the wooden slats that were restricting air flow to the rear of the unit.  For now, we are referring to it as our “warm fridge”, and keep only items that are happy being stored between 40 and 50 degrees F in there.  We are very fortunate the Nine Lives has a lot of extra refrigeration space, so we can wait and try different solutions for this particular issue.

fixing the fridge
A shoulder is almost as good as saw horses at holding the fridge balanced on the counter while repairs are attempted!
Trent Port
Weeds are an ongoing problem in marinas. Trent Port has this very interesting floating machine that scoops the weed out of the water for later disposal.

Eventually it was time to start up the Trent Severn Waterway, repeating a part of last year’s voyage.  We planned to stop again in the places that we liked, and also choose some alternatives along the way.  The first glitch in the plan occurred the first night.  To our vast surprise, the somewhat lonely, and particularly salubrious stop above Frankford Lock proved to be a great magnet for Loopers.  Not only were there three boats that left Trent Port ahead of us who decided to stop, a further three boats that had arrived the previous day were enjoying themselves so much that they decided to stay a second night!  Six boats filled up all the spaces and we were forced to find an alternative stopping point further up.  Glen Ross was a safe if boring spot for the night, and the next day we continued on to Campbellford.

Trent River
A quiet section of the Trent River

Here we enjoyed an excellent meal at Antonia’s, a lovely restaurant tucked away on a back street that we had visited twice last year.  The chef retired from the Toronto restaurant scene, and was somewhat shocked at the lack of dining options in rural Ontario, so he and his wife opened their own restaurant.  Summers are good, but he told us that the winter was very difficult.  On our return to the dock we enjoyed some well played and very familiar sixties and seventies music by a great local family band in the gazebo in the park.

Campbellford 2
Boats tied up on the wall by the park in Campbellford
Campbellford
Concert in the park at Campbellford

Leaving Campbellford early to be first on the “Blue Line” for the lock, we managed to nip ahead of Visions, a beautiful boat that had been on the dock near us in Trenton and across the canal in Glen Ross.  The captain came up, hoping to negotiate a fit into the lock with us and another large trawler, to no avail.  However, we got talking, the usual stuff, “So are you really from Hilton Head?  Where do you live?  Wexford?  Really?  We lived in Wexford for 10 years!”  It’s a small world.  Jan and Bob Kossman were part timers in the plantation before we moved there.  Later we got together with them in Hastings for docktails, and then again in Peterborough.  One of the wonderful things about boating is that you meet such nice people, and then later you might well meet them again!  After docktails on Visions, Dick and I headed for the dockside restaurant.  It did not really seem like our kind of place, somewhat loud and a considerably younger crowd.  We had arrived on Karaoke Night.  Dick asked the friendly host to seat us “Somewhere away from this racket”, thus irredeemably relegating himself to Old Fogie status.  He got that indulgent look that the young give to the old and very eccentric, and the nice young man (who honestly looked like an Amish biker if there is such a thing), seated us outside.  We ate an indifferent meal and were in turn eaten by mosquitoes, but at least we weren’t deafened.

The next morning our friends on Visions were up and away at a seriously uncivilized hour to ensure that this time they would be first on the Blue Line.  We chuckled and finished our coffee and then enjoyed a very nice breakfast across the canal at the excellent local eatery.

Hastings
The dam at Hastings

We had tried to make a reservation at the marina in Peterborough some time ahead.  (Notwithstanding the requirement to avoid having a strict schedule, it does pay to make reservations in popular marinas for the weekends as soon as you can be reasonably sure that you will get there when you say you will).  We were told that they were fully booked with several large boating groups coming in for the music festival, but if we didn’t mind being without power, they would “fit us in somewhere”.  Upon arrival, we discovered that the “somewhere” is the free dock, at the far south end of Little Lake, that we were familiar with from last year when we met Dick’s uncle Hans and his wife there.  This T-shaped concrete dock is in good deep water, but it is popular with fishermen and geese.  The fishermen are not a problem, the geese, and their copious leavings, a bit more so.  As the dockhands (who had transported themselves by golf cart) tied us up, I was, possibly, somewhat undiplomatic in my comments.  Once we were settled, Dick rode his bicycle over to the marina, prepared with many arguments (including no security, power, water, or wifi) as to why he should be given a substantial discount, only to have the wind taken entirely out of his sails when he was told they don’t charge for that dock!  We did get to move to the marina for our last night, allowing us to do laundry and take on water.  Our spot on the free dock was immediately taken up by two other Looper trawlers.  It is a pretty location, as long as you don’t mind the geese.

After an excellent meal at an Indian Restaurant, we returned to the boat in time for the outdoor concert that had the marina filled and people parked on the side streets for miles around.  I gather the Crash Test Dummies were a very big Canadian band in the 90’s, and there was great excitement that they were reunited and performing at this concert.  Their music is described as Alt Folk Rock, but, sadly, from our perspective, there is an awful lot of Alt and not so much folk or rock… Being a famous band with commercial success, they of course played entirely their own music.  I could go to great lengths to describe and critique, at risk of sounding exactly like my parents, but suffice to say, not our scene.  Not that we had any choice, in spite of the bandshell facing away from us and being behind a large building, the sound was such that even with the doors closed we could not watch TV below in the boat.  Fortunately, nobody plays very late these days, so by about 9:30 everyone was leaving.  Our dock was then infested by a different kind of pest, teenagers, girls huddling and flirting, boys loud and showing off.  Eventually, the large gang left, but one of the boys stood swaying on the dock and asked, “Do you have a bathroom on board?”  I passed that one to Dick for fielding, and he very diplomatically (I thought), said, “No one is allowed on the boat.”  The fellow complemented Nine Lives and staggered away.

The next day we rode our bikes to several foodie shops.  The first is a British food shop that we visited last year, where we stocked up on English style bacon and Warburton’s crumpets.  Then on to a wonderful cheese shop.  In addition to all sorts of interesting condiments, they offer hundreds of different cheeses, both local and imported.  The shop owner is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and delights in offering tastings of all the cheeses.  I spied the Ossau Iraty, a sheep’s milk from French Basque country that was a favourite of mine when we were in Paris.  I said I just wanted to buy a big piece, didn’t need a tasting, and the owner was actually disappointed.  We made up for it though, by sampling about 10 different cheeses and then of course buying quite a few!  From the cheese shop it was a short step to a gourmet butcher and fishmonger.  We do have quite a bit of meat already in the freezer, but Dick failed to resist some steaks for the grill.  So far this year we have eaten very few meals on board, instead seeking out the nicest restaurants on our travels. Dick says that so far, our food budget is exceeding our marina budget!  This will likely change and we will be working our way through our freezer hoard when we get into Georgian Bay and the North Channel, with many fewer towns and opportunities for eating out.

In the afternoon Dick’s uncle George came and spent a few hours with us on the boat.  He retired from dairy farming some years ago, and now lives in Peterborough.  It was great to see him, and Dick enjoyed reminiscing and conversation about dairy farming and how it has changed since his parents and grandparents first emigrated from Netherlands in the 50’s.  Later on, Dick launched the dinghy and tested the low tech solution to starting the motor.  It worked well.  After a short tour around the harbour, Dick returned to the mother ship in a freshening wind.  It took several tries to position the dink so that I could catch the line and secure it.  I wanted to assure the audience (there is always an audience, especially when execution of a tricky maneuver is not quite flawless), that we are much slicker when we dock Nine Lives!

Peterborough Marina 2
Dick taking Minnie, the dinghy, out for a spin in Peterborough
Peterborough Marina
Oh my! The wind came up!

The next morning we headed out towards the Peterborough Lift Lock and further adventures.

July 25 to August 13, 2017. New Jersey to Beaufort NC

Retracing our steps

Our stay at Great Kills Yacht Club in New Jersey was very enjoyable.  Without question it was the friendliest yacht club we have visited.  Each day there were people working on their boats or in the evening spending time in the bar.  Most made a point of chatting to us, and several came along the dock to look at Nine Lives and ask questions.  She likes that kind of attention!  We rode our bikes into town and found a very nice Italian grocery.  Although we didn’t really need any provisions we couldn’t resist a few things on the shelves.  We also rode over to the park on the Atlantic side of the basin.  We were amused to see many people relaxing and sunbathing on lounge chairs set up in front of their cars in the parking lot.  Wide sand beaches and acres of grass were completely ignored in favour of being within spitting distance of the car!

Eventually we got a one day weather window that was enough to get us to Atlantic City.  Here we were again stopped for several days.  We had planned to stay at a large marina in front of one of the casinos, but it was fully booked for the weekend and instead we docked at a small family run facility across the basin.  The Coast Guard Station was opposite, and we could hear Reveille and Taps across the water each morning and evening. The next day a huge out of season nor-easter blew in.  The waves were right on our beam, which meant rocking from side to side so much that one of our lines frayed nearly through.  We had to get out at the height of the storm and move the boat further into the slip and retie everything.

We did have an interesting stay in Atlantic City apart from the storm (which was a different kind of interesting).  We rode our bikes all the way along the boardwalk through both Atlantic City and Ventnor.  The dreadful tourist souvenir shops, attractions,  and hot dog stands show that the British by no means have the monopoly on tacky when it comes to seaside resorts.  On the other hand, the mostly closed casinos are fascinating architecture, and it is rather sad that they are so quickly becoming derelict.  Ventnor is entirely different, with large gracious homes with beautiful gardens all along the shoreline. Atlantic City is trying to diversify their economy, and local residents are quite pleased that there is a university currently building a new campus near downtown.  Why they would not take over one of the enormous empty casinos I do not know, probably the casino owners or the debt holders are holding out for more money than it will take to build a new campus from scratch.  One can only shake one’s head at the waste.

Shortly after our arrival another boat came in to the marina and the captain walked over and introduced himself.  It was a sailing catamaran, also built by Endeavour (the builder of our boat).  We enjoyed two evenings of docktails with this very nice couple, and it was fascinating to compare the similarities and differences in the two boats.

Finally, the weather calmed again and we made a fast run to Cape May.  We tried a different marina this time, and hope to return and spent a bit more time next year.  The town seems very quaint, with lots of interesting shops and restaurants to visit.  The next day was also calm and we were able to proceed up Delaware Bay and through the C&C Canal to Chesapeake City.  This is a lovely little town, that has done a wonderful job of sprucing itself up and turning into a boater’s destination.  We docked at one of the restaurants, and even though it was a weekday it was packed until very late, both the fine dining restaurant and the more casual outside deck.  We enjoyed a great meal in the dining room, lobster for Dick and red snapper for me. The houses in the village are beautifully restored, not just the mansions, and most have nicely kept lawns and gardens.

Our next challenge was to make our way down Chesapeake Bay.  The forecasts were good for the mornings, but blew up each afternoon to small craft warnings.  Our first stop was Annapolis, staying two nights.  We made a good run to Solomons, where we filled up with fuel and stayed two nights again.  This time I joined Dick on a bike ride around the town, and later we rode our bikes to the restaurant for dinner.  We liked Solomons on both our visits, and plan to stop there again next year.

Having taken on fuel, we decided to make a single high speed run to Portsmouth, rather than stopping overnight part way.  We left by 6:30 am, and made it to our destination before the daily blow up of wind and waves.  Being a weekend, we had to dodge sailing boats that were busy tacking back and forth across the channel, as well as watching for the huge wakes being thrown up by weekend fishermen.  No military vessels or cargo ships to avoid this time, but at least those are predictable when they are underway!

Portsmouth is struggling to attract visitors, especially with extensive new waterfront facilities across the river in Norfolk.  They have many beautifully restored homes and downtown buildings, but as so often happens with these old towns, they don’t seem to be able to attract the mix of shops that will make downtown liveable.  We spent nearly an hour in a wonderful antique shop, and then another happy hour in one of the most interesting kitchen shops we have seen.  So many unusual gadgets and things that you never knew you needed! For the most part, we resisted temptation. The Portsmouth lightship is one of a very few lightships.  They were used when construction of a lighthouse was not practical.  Can you imagine spending time on a vessel like that, rolling around in heavy seas, not to mention climbing up to tend the light!

After a two night stay in Portsmouth we set off down the Elizabeth River and onward to the small town of Coinjock, about an hour north of the Albemarle Sound.  Almost immediately we were held up by a railway bridge that is usually in the open position, but it was down for a train to pass.  After fifteen minutes of stooging around (an important skill for mariners that involves maintaining position in a channel without running onto rocks or into other vessels while waiting for a bridge or lock to open), the bridge lifted and we could proceed.  That fifteen minutes put us behind on all three subsequent bridges and the single lock, turning what should have been a three hour trip into nearly five.  The offending railway bridge is next to an unusual style of highway bridge, that lifts instead of opening.  We have seen this type of bridge for railways (usually open) but never for a highway.  Just after we passed it lifted for a boat that was too tall to fit under, quite interesting to watch.

Albemarle Sound is one of the two crossings that I had been dreading, as it is very shallow and winds pile up the waves and can make a miserable trip.  This time the winds were higher than I would have liked, but they were behind us, so in theory it would not be so bad.  As the day progressed it got rougher, whitecaps appeared, and there was a corkscrew effect that made Tucker and I most unhappy.  At the end of the crossing there is a zig zag required to get into the mouth of the Alligator River, so that put us broadside to the waves and made things worse.  Fortunately, it was a short time before we were tied up at the marina and I could sit still and be quiet for a while!  We watched two sailboats make their way into the marina a bit later.  The broadside whitecaps had them wallowing, and even experienced sailors find that much rolling very uncomfortable.

That evening we invited the couple on one of the sailboats to join us for docktails.  Such an interesting life they are leading!  They left Falmouth, England, in 2008 on their two masted sailboat headed for Spain and the Mediterranean.  A year later they crossed the Atlantic to Brazil, and spent time there, and in Uruguay and Argentina.  Some years on they came north, with stays in Panama, Cuba, and other Caribbean islands before crossing to the US and making their way north on the ICW.  Their current destination is the Chesapeake, and after that, they will go where the wind takes them!  An adventurous life that would not suit everyone, but what wonderful experiences they are having!

Our trip down the Alligator River to Belhaven was dry and uneventful, in spite of threatening skies.  In calm weather this part of the trip is two hours of boredom followed by two hours of tedium, but that is better than the excitement of a rough passage! Perhaps Belhaven is an interesting town, but apparently August is low season, and the best restaurant closes for 3 weeks.  There were very few boats in the marinas.  It is very strange to me to be told that August is low season, but I suppose with so many American schools starting mid-August there are just not that many families travelling.  Most boaters are much further north during the summer months.  One marina owner told Dick that August is just too hot for boating! We were told that the Alligator River Marina has had up to 30 boats in overnight during the season for travelling south in October and November. The night we spent there, we were one of only three boats staying.

We decided to leave Belhaven very early, because we are still seeing high winds and thunderstorms coming up in the afternoons.  Our transit of the Bay and Neuse Rivers was completely calm, and a welcome change from the dreadful crossing we had on our northbound trip.  We stopped in Oriental. Waterway Guide waxes lyrical about the attractions of this sailing town, but we were seriously unimpressed.  The marinas offer little protection when the winds are from the south, so we spent an uncomfortable night rocking in the waves.  Dick went for a bike ride (dodging raindrops), and was not enthused.  Again, we decided to leave early for the short journey to Beaufort, NC. The brief crossing of the Neuse at 6:30am was calm, and the Adams Creek Canal is interesting. We were travelling slower than usual, in order not to arrive to early in Beaufort, but that proved to be a slight error in judgement!  As we came into the tricky part of the trip, navigating through various shoals in the busy Newport river, we were enveloped in thick clouds and torrential rain accompanied by thunder and lightning.  We have radar, which we use on those rare occasions of low visibility, but when Dick updated the firmware on the chartplotter he did not realize that it would change how the radar is accessed.  He didn’t dare risk losing the chart (and taking his eye off the waters ahead) while he poked around trying to find the radar screen.  I was very concerned that not only could we not see any boat coming toward us, they couldn’t see us either.  Eventually, after what seemed like a long time but was probably only about 15 minutes, the storm cleared enough that we could see again.  In addition to a large shrimp boat ahead of us, we came on two kayakers paddling across the channel.  What possessed them to be out in busy waters in such poor visibility I do not know.

We arrived in Beaufort to find it celebrating the annual Pirate Invasion.  Beaufort was the home of the famous Blackbeard, and it celebrates all aspects of its nautical history with grand enthusiasm.  Shortly after we tied up there was a battle between a fully rigged pirate ship and a large rowboat with 8 pirates and a cannon on board.  Our view of the naval engagement was blocked, but we could hear the cannons firing and the screams!  Arrrr!  The town was infested with pirates, along with a number of women dressed as heaven knows what.  However, everyone seemed to be having a good time.

We have seen some interesting wildlife behaviours on this trip.  On our way north we passed hundreds of osprey nests; sometimes it seemed as if every channel marker had a nest with osprey rearing chicks.  Now, two months later, the chicks have flown, but I have noticed that there is often a bird perched on the empty nest.  I wonder if it is one of the young, still staying around familiar places.  On one of our ocean passages we saw at least 30 dolphins herding fish into a tight circle to feed from them.  We passed an area on the Chesapeake with hundreds of gulls swooping on waters that were literally boiling with fish.  In addition to the gulls there were pelicans, and even a few osprey diving to catch dinner.  We couldn’t tell what was making the fish rise to the surface, but there were several areas like this over a couple of miles of shallow water.  One of the most fascinating episodes I watched was while I was sitting in the cockpit at the dock in Great Kills.  I heard a repeated banging sound, and turned round to see a young gull with a huge clam.  He was jumping up about 10 feet above the dock and dropping the clam, then following it down to make sure it didn’t roll off the dock.  After dropping it about 20 times, the clam developed a crack in the shell, and the gull was able to break it open and eat the meat inside.  I was so fascinated I forgot to get a camera and take pictures!

We are nearly finished this year’s journey, expecting to be home in about a week.  We have not anchored overnight since we left North Carolina on our outbound journey, and we enjoy the peace and quiet, so we plan to anchor most nights, and to stop just one night at a marina in Southport and one south of Myrtle Beach.  It has been an interesting trip.  We have made lists of things that we want to fix, or improve, before we set off again next summer.  Tucker has finally settled into the various routines, and seems to be reasonably content.  I have enjoyed cooking on board, using some of the special things I spent so much time collecting this winter.  The pressure cooker/slow cooker has been an unqualified success, but I have also found some great recipes for one pot meals and casseroles that work in the toaster oven.  We do plan to replace the Australian style grill for a more familiar type.  I had expected to be able to work on pictures during some of the quiet times, but this has not been possible.  Even a slight motion of the boat makes me feel queasy if I try doing close work on the laptop in the salon, and the table in the cockpit is too high for me to work on. We find that while the cockpit chairs are comfortable, the helm chair leans back too far for me to be able to sit in it and drive, and we both miss being able to relax in a recliner chair.  So we are hoping to replace both cockpit chairs with some that we saw at the boat show that have more adjustment and also a recliner position and footrest.  Dick is going to replace the bulbs on the interior lights, plus a couple of inoperable fixtures, and we hope that will solve the problem of the dim lighting at night.  We are also hoping to get screens made for the side doors of the cockpit, to add more air circulation while keeping the insects out.

This was Tucker’s last voyage for some time.  Between the heat and the continuously changing routines, he became more and more unhappy in the last few weeks of the summer voyage.  He now spends his summers with his other family in Hilton Head, and everyone is happier.

storm at Great Kills
Storm at Great Kills NJ
Great Kills basin
Great Kills Basin, after the storm
whats in there
What’s in there?
Atlantic City Coast Guard Station
Atlantic City Coast Guard Station
Atlantic City
Atlantic City
Chesapeake City 2
Chesapeake City
Chesapeake City
Chesapeake City
Annapolis sunrise
Annapolis sunrise
Sunrise leaving Solomons
Sunrise as we leave Solomons
Tucker and the view of Norfolk
Tucker and the view of Norfolk
lobster dinner
Lobster dinner
Portsmouth lightship
Portsmouth lightship
Portsmouth old town
Portsmoth Old Town
highway lift bridge
highway lift bridge
Carolina Reaper Shrimp
Carolina Reaper Shrimp
a good place to sleep
A good place to sleep
fishing boats on Adams Creek Canal
fishing boats on Adams Creek Canal
rainbow leaving Belhaven
rainbow as we leave Belhaven
keep watching the chart
Keep watching that chart!
Alligator River
Alligator River
Pirate ship
Pirate ship
pirates
Pirates at Beaufort!
red snapper
Red snapper
What do you want
I want to go home!

July 5 to 24, 2017. Utica to Oswego and back to New Jersey

There and Back Again

On July 6th the lock above us on the Erie Canal finally reopened and we were able to leave Utica and head for Oswego.  The waters of the canal still looked like extra thick mushroom soup, and we had to keep a careful watch for floating logs, some of them whole trees that were partially submerged.  We passed dredgers working on silted up areas, and other barges with workmen still gathering and cutting up debris.

Oneida Lake has a reputation for building up waves when the wind is from the west, and we wanted no further delays so we ran wide open (that means pushing the engines to just below their top speed, which gives us about 18 knots, as opposed to our normal travelling speed of 7 knots) and cut the journey time in half.  Brewerton is on the northern shore of the lake and was our next stop.  There is an attractive town dock, but we wanted to stop at one particular marina that Dick is planning to leave the boat with at the end of next season.  They have heated indoor storage, so you don’t need to go through the rigmarole of winterizing.  They also have excellent fuel prices, so we made a point of filling up!

North of Brewerton we passed a number of very nice cottages and full-time homes on the side of the canal before arriving at Three Rivers, the junction of the Erie and the Oswego Canals.  The Oswego Canal was completed 3 years after the Erie Canal opened, and allows boats to travel directly north into Lake Ontario.  8 locks later we arrived in Oswego.  Interestingly, the last two locks are right in the centre of town, and as you walk over the bridges you can see how the canal and the river have been kept separate.

Oswego is another old town that was once wealthy and has now lost much of its industry.  In addition to being an important freshwater port it was also a railway hub.  There were grain elevators and mills, the Kingsford starch factory, and textile mills.  Today there is still a cement depot in the harbour, but most of the mills and factories are gone.  We tied up at the Oswego marina, and prepared to leave the next morning for Kingston, Ontario.

There is a historic fort at Oswego that we did not explore on this visit, but there is also a marine museum, where we saw one of the tugs that was built for Operation Overlord in WWII.  It was used to tow barges of ammunition and supplies in convoys across the English Channel to the Normandy beaches in 1944.  After the war, she continued to work as a harbour tug for more than 40 years.  We also went for a harbour ride on a solar powered wooden boat.  This was an interesting experience, the boat was quite dreadful, all plywood, and extremely basic.  The captain and his wife are very enthusiastic about their various projects, this one being their second solar powered boat, and a third is currently being built in a shed at Kingston (NY) harbor.  We had seen the project when we stayed at the museum on our outbound journey.  Dick was fascinated by the technology, whereas I was amazed at the complete lack of any safety briefing or life jackets on board when they are taking out members of the public.  The liability issues are staggering.  However, it is certainly a good cause.  The boats are built by middle school students, closely supervised of course.  It is often the first time any of these young people have ever picked up a hammer and nails.

Our original plans were to explore the Thousand Islands as far as Cornwall, and then work our way west towards Hamilton, eventually circumnavigating Lake Ontario before heading south towards home.  Alas, the many weather delays changed these plans, but we were still expecting to cross Lake Ontario to Kingston and have time to visit Trenton, and friends and family further west.  For once the weather was in our favour, and at 8am Dick turned on the chartplotter to plan the route to Kingston.  At one mile outside Oswego Harbor, all the chart detail stopped.  It wasn’t quite “Here Be Dragons” but close! When we bought the boat, everything had been equipped to such a high spec that it never occurred to Dick that the previous owner would not have bought the complete North America charts.  With no paper charts for Canada either, we were not going to proceed, so Dick got busy and placed the order for the updated and complete charts, paying extra for “overnight” delivery.  Nothing on the Navionics website suggested that they only process orders Mon-Fri (and this was a Saturday).  Dick waited in vain on Sunday for the new charts.  Then we gave it some more thought and realized that even if we did get another weather window we would risk getting stopped more times while travelling around Lake Ontario, and with a deadline for being back in Hilton Head we decided that Oswego would be our turnaround this year.  Dick rented a car and visited his Mum while I stayed to keep an eye on the boat and Mr Tucker.

The evening before, we had one of the best get-togethers of the trip.  We had enjoyed docktails with a group of Loopers earlier on the Erie Canal.  The rest of that group got stuck in Ilion, two locks south of where we were in Utica, but once the canal reopened we all met again in Oswego.  We gathered at a local restaurant and enjoyed a very pleasant evening of chat and consultation.  One of the group is solo on a sailboat, he is Australian and has been planning to do the loop for nearly 15 years.  He had spent time in Long Island Sound, and is now making his way around the loop with the rest of the pack.  It was a great evening.  The next morning, I stood on the stern of our docked boat and waved goodbye to all our new friends as they headed out across Lake Ontario and onwards.

Dick enjoyed visiting his Mom, and made a detour on the way back to shop at Wegmans, once our favourite supermarket when we lived in NY State.  Then we waited some more for the not-even-close to overnight delivery of those pesky charts.  They finally arrived at noon on Wednesday, and we decided we were quite tired of Oswego and ready to move on immediately!

On our return journey we are planning a combination of repeat visits to places we enjoyed, and new stops just to make things different.  One new stop was Amsterdam on the Erie Canal.  Another once wealthy town, but they have made major efforts to make it an attractive destination for boaters.  There is a beautiful park on the river, with a bandshell and concerts weekly through the summer.  You can tie up on the wall right in the park.  Downtown has nicely restored buildings, but there is the usual sad problem that they are unable to attract a good mix of shopping and residential, so many of the shops are empty and those few that are open are a strange mix of tattoo parlours and wedding shops.  East of Amsterdam we stayed overnight at the Schenectady Yacht Club, probably the prettiest location on the Erie Canal as the canal/river cuts through a gorge.  After locking down through the final 6 lock flight we stopped again at Waterford.  This is another village that has made efforts to attract boaters to the waterfront and the historic downtown. By this time, I was quite glad to get out of the Erie Canal and back into the Hudson River, with only one last lock to transit.

As we approached the lock above Albany, we watched replicas of the Nina and the Pinta travelling upstream on their way to Oswego and parts west.  They looked quite strange with all their masts and rigging stepped and piled up on the decks.  The authenticity stops at propulsion… they both have efficient modern motors to supplement their sails.

Our air conditioning pump was unreliable, so we stopped for an extra couple of nights at Shady Harbour in New Baltimore on the Hudson.  The mechanic was able to get a replacement quickly.  We certainly did not want to be travelling south into even greater heat and humidity without working air conditioning! That said, the other day this area had higher temperatures than Hilton Head, and the humidity was over 90%. I used the time to scrub the fenders with soapy water to get off most of the crud from the Erie Canal, and then Dick gave the boat a good wash as well.

I like the Hudson River.  There is so much history and it is both beautiful and interesting with all the commercial traffic.  One morning the river was completely covered in fog, and a big tanker passed, blowing its whistle every few minutes to warn oncoming traffic.  We later read about the requirement for all cargo vessels to take on board a Hudson River pilot.  He climbs up the side of the moving vessel in New York Harbour, and takes the ship up to Hyde Park, where another pilot takes over so they are always fully rested.  Most of these ships have foreign crews, and many have never been through New York or on the Hudson before.  The pilot must know how to navigate every kind of vessel, and these ships are huge!  They run right through the winter, sometimes travelling in convoys because of ice.

We stopped again in Kingston, having enjoyed the Marine Museum and waterfront so much earlier.  This time we tried the other restaurant we had noticed, and had the best meal so far on the trip.  I had lobster ravioli that I will dream about for some time!

Our transit of New York Harbor was uneventful, if lumpy.  This time most of the ferries and all of the NYFD vessels that had created such huge wakes on our outbound journey were not there, but there were a lot of sailboats enjoying the brisk winds.  They all have the right of way when they are under sail, so we had to keep a sharp lookout and try to anticipate where they might be going.  There was also very confusing chatter on the radios, with crackle, jargon, and add strong New York accents into the mix and it was impossible to work out what was going on and what we should be looking out for.  After we had passed under the Verrazano Narrows bridge and were heading west along Staten Island I looked back and could see what we missed.  There was a huge autocarrier that came out just behind us, followed by another big tanker.  Timing is everything, it would have been nasty to try to get out of their way in the busy harbour!

We are now in Great Kills, New Jersey, again waiting for a weather window.  It is incredible how weather dependent we are.  We knew intellectually that we would experience delays, but actually living it has been a big surprise to both of us.  It is not rain we worry about, it is winds and currents, as well as fog and thunderstorms.  The winds and currents must both be in our favour before we can set off.  We already know how unpleasant (and scary) it gets if we are caught in unexpected conditions.  Even when everything is “perfect” it can be very bouncy at certain times such as when we came through New York Harbor with the tide behind us, the wind in front of us, and the East River outlet on our beam!  We arrived here on Saturday and don’t expect the conditions to be acceptable until at least Thursday.  Of course, you have to keep checking, the forecasts change continually.  I have three different weather apps on my phone, and Dick has at least two others, and we look at all of them two or three times a day.

So, what is a typical day on our boat?  Well, of course it depends on whether we are staying in port or planning to get underway.  I tend to get up pretty early, usually between 5:30 and 6:00.  I make a pot of coffee and wash up any dishes from the previous day.  We both like our quiet mornings, sitting in the cockpit with coffee and watching the world wake up.  Dick gets out his laptop and catches up with news and weather, and we both read the daily digest of the Great Loop forum.  If we are heading out we try to go sometime between 8 and 9am, but this might also be dependent on the tide.  If the tide is against us we will take longer and use more fuel to arrive at our destination, so some days it is better to wait until it has turned.  When the time comes the engines are started, various lines and fenders reorganized, Tucker gets his harness put on, and the gate at the top of the steps is put up.  Once we are underway we can close up the cockpit and take away the gate so Tucker can come up and enjoy the wind and be with his people.  Unfortunately, if it is a day on a canal with locks, Tucker has to stay below because we need to be able to step in and out through the doors.  It takes two of us to hold the boat in position in a lock.  I bring the boat in, and Dick catches the lock-side ropes or wraps a line around the pipe that goes down the side of the lock.  Then I can shut off the engines and get out and hold the stern rope to keep us in place.  When the lock doors open I start the engines and drive the boat out.

Most of the time Dick does the driving.  The seat is too far back for me to really see well, so I have to stand to drive, which gets tiring very quickly.  I also prefer Dick to take the helm in tricky winds or currents.  He is calmer than I am, not to mention if somebody is going to bump hard into the dock because of winds or currents I would much rather it was him!  Instead I stand at the rail and throw the lines to the waiting dockhand, or make my best rope-toss over a cleat if there is no help available. We have headsets that are appropriately called “marriage-savers” by other cruisers in the know.  It means we can talk to each other through the various manoeuvers calmly instead of having to shout or make easily misunderstood gestures.

Days spent in port begin the same way, but after breakfast there are usually necessary chores to be done.  I am lucky to have a washer-dryer on the boat, but it uses a lot of water and power, so we have to have access to dockside services.  Dick vacuums thoroughly once a week, and every other week there is a proper cleaning to be done, just as at home.  Sheets get changed, bathrooms are cleaned, the kitchen gets a deep clean, and the rooms are dusted and the wood polished. Dick also gives the outside of the boat a good wash.

We usually alternate dinners out with cooking on board.  Mostly the restaurants that are walking distance from the boat are not exactly fine dining, but we have had some very good burgers and steaks.  I try to plan ahead for about 7 or 8 meals to be cooked on board.  When we are in a port Dick gets his bicycle off the front rail and heads out with saddle bags and a shopping list.  We have enjoyed most of the meals that have been chosen from a fairly extensive collection of on-board cookbooks left by the previous owner, plus my own cookbook.  Last night I made chicken breasts in a wine sauce with cheese and bread stuffing topping.  Other successful meals have included cooking a whole chicken in the pressure cooker, various beef or pork stews, plus we have the grill and Dick will do pork or lamb chops as well as steaks.  We have tried pizza on the grill, so far not very successful, but we will keep trying!

Our next couple of weeks are likely to be spent mostly in port waiting for weather.  We will first have the trip “outside” down the coast to Atlantic City and Cape May.  Then there will need to be suitable wind and wave conditions on Delaware Bay, followed by the several days of good weather we need to transit the Chesapeake.  South of Norfolk we must again cross Albemarle Sound and the (dreaded) Neuse River.  After that we are at last back in the ICW and can expect mostly smooth traveling through North and South Carolina to get home.

clearing debris
Clearing debris
Brewerton
Brewerton
in the lock
In the lock
Oswego canal
Oswego Canal
Oswego gathering 1
Loopers gather in Oswego
solar boat
Solar powered boat
WWII tug
World War II tug
Oswego tavern
A tavern in Oswego
wash the boat
Wash the boat
Tucker
Tucker
downtown Amsterdam
Downtown Amsterdam
Nine Lives in Amsterdam
Nine Lives in Amsterdam
Schenectady
Schenectady
Schenectady Yacht Club
Schenectady
docks at Waterford
The docks at Waterford
downtown Waterford
Downtown Waterford
Maid of the Meadows
Maid of the Meadows
tanker in fog on the Hudson
Tanker in morning fog on the Hudson River
Captain and crew
The captain and crew
Louise and Tucker
Louise and Tucker
lobster ravioli
Lobster Ravioli

June 20 to July 4, 2017. Delaware City to Utica

We left Delaware City early in the morning, part of a mini-convoy of 5 boats.  The group soon split up, partly because we travel at different speeds.  Dick and I followed the excellent advice of the harbourmaster in Delaware City and navigated Delaware Bay on a route that took us carefully southbound until a certain point and then on a direct line towards the canal at Cape May, New Jersey.  We could hear the conversations of the two boats following us.  One captain chose to ignore the advice and angled off towards Cape May Canal much earlier.  After questioning, the boat following took the same line.  We could tell from the conversation (and we could see for ourselves from the swells) that both of those boats had a most uncomfortable ride, while we were smooth for the whole trip.  It was an interesting lesson, going in convoy or as “buddies” may not always be a good thing, sometimes a strong-willed captain may make a poor decision and take the whole group with him.

Cape May is very pretty, with houses built right out over the harbour and painted in ice cream colours.  We passed the famous Lobster House.  Tied up below their deck was a paddleboard with an enormous Golden Retriever asleep on it, waiting for the master to return from his meal.  Sadly, I didn’t get a picture, he was a lovely dog.

We decided after reading reports from the forum that since we only draw 3 feet, we would chance the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway, which is notoriously shallow and seldom dredged.  It is possible that I made a poor decision and persuaded Dick to take on a full load of fuel before we set off.  So, we probably drew more like 4 feet. We ran aground 4 times.  No, correct that, on 4 occasions the earth impeded the operation of our propellers and forward motion was temporarily halted… Fortunately we are a catamaran, and our props are a long way apart.  Dick was able to twist and turn and eventually wriggle free each time.  The route is incredibly beautiful and the small towns you pass through are interesting, but the whole trip to Ocean City was so stressful I didn’t even think about pictures.  The next morning we checked wind and currents and decided to “go outside”, that is, travel on the ocean about 3 miles from shore.  All day we could hear boats that had taken the ICW calling for towing companies, having run aground and been unable to free themselves, so we were happy with our decision.

Our next port of call was Shark River, where we again had to spend a few days waiting for the right wind and currents before we could continue our journey.  It is quite a nice small town, full of friendly folks who all seem to be keen fishermen.  It is also commuting distance from New York, so the newly opened marina restaurant was hopping every evening with twenty-somethings out to see and be seen.  The noise was incredible, but the food was good.

Eventually the conditions were right, and we set off early in the morning for Sandy Hook and New York Harbor.  The seas were very smooth, and we were able to push up our speed (and use 4 times the fuel) and make the first part of the run in time to catch the perfect incoming tide for passing through New York and up into the Hudson River.  New York is amazingly busy, there are ferries everywhere.  They throw huge wakes, as do the FDNY (Fire Department) vessels that seem to need to hurry past as close to unfortunate pleasure boats like ours as they can.  We were lucky that there were very few freighters that morning.  We passed under the Verrazano Narrows bridge.  I have driven over it quite a few times, but this was a different view!  Same again when we reached the Tappan Zee Bridge. I always felt I had at last left New York and was on my way home when I used to live on Long Island and commute weekly to Painted Post.

The Hudson River is very interesting.  Near to New York there are lots of very beautiful homes, and as you get further from the commuting towns, you come into the Catskill Region, and yet more beautiful estates.  West Point is an enormous campus.  We were amused by “Sink Navy” painted in huge letters on the roof of the sports stadium.

Travelling up the Hudson you see evidence of industry that is long gone.  One town we passed was once the site of over 100 factories, all gone now, or only derelict buildings left.  There is still quite a lot of freight passing up and down the river, including big tankers, cargo ships, and many barges, sometimes as many as four linked together, filled with sand or gravel and pushed by a tug.  There are some very pretty lighthouses.  Seven of the original 14 lighthouses that were built after the opening of the Erie Canal are still in existence and carefully preserved. Esopus Lighthouse is called “The Maid of the Meadow”, and is the last of the wooden lighthouses on the river.  Rondout Lighthouse was built in 1915, is still active, and can be visited.

Kingston, NY, has an “old town” that was once the thriving port of Rondout.  This was the terminus of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, now defunct, but what a huge savings in time and effort there would have been in its heyday.  Rondout was also a centre of shipbuilding, and the old buildings on the waterfront have been restored and a very pleasant promenade built along the remains of the old canal.  We spent the night tied up at the Marine Museum.  They have various exhibits, including sheds for building and restoring wooden boats.  Tied up near us was a wooden tall ship that we were told was built for Pete Seeger, who was active in a campaign to clean up the very polluted waters of the Hudson.  The museum is quite popular, and I was amused when one visitor took a great deal of interest in Nine Lives.  He actually undid a barrier and walked out onto the dock to take a closer look… I wondered whether he was going to step aboard in the mistaken belief that we were part of the exhibits!

We spent a night at the Yacht Club in Albany.  We happened to be there on a Wednesday, and joined their “happy hour”.  In addition to generously poured and amazingly inexpensive adult beverages, for $5. you can have all you can eat of grilled chicken, sausages, pasta, salads, potatoes, and various accompaniments!

We turned out of the Hudson and into the Erie Canal.  The first section going west is a flight of 5 locks spaced very closely together.  If we were feeling a bit rusty when we started we were well reminded once we were through!  Most of the locks on the canal lift about 20 feet each time.  They are very large, and it takes both of us to hold Nine Lives in place as the water rushes in.  Sometimes there is a pipe you can put a line around and the line moves up the pipe as the lock fills, but more often there are just ropes dangling down that you have to hold onto.  Needless to say, they are wet, slippery and very dirty.  Add to that we have to keep pushing the boat off the sides of the lock to avoid ripping the fenders off, and you finish the day exhausted and dirty.  Not to mention the boat is also filthy!

At Scotia Landing we saw a lot of preparations going on the various 4th of July celebrations.  When we returned from dinner in a nearby restaurant we were surprised to see that the water skiing exhibition was being held that evening.  Unfortunately, we had missed most of it, but we caught the last two or three runs.

The little town of Canajoharie turned out to be a fun evening.  We tied up to the town wall and saw that there were several other boats already there.  It turned out they were also “loopers”, and we all crowded aboard one of them for a convivial evening of drinks and stories.  “Loopers”, what are they you ask?  Members of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association fly a distinctive burgee(triangular flag) so they can recognize each other.  They are all in various stages of travelling the Great Loop.  Some might have finished and are going around again, some are just starting out, and everything in between.  While we were socializing the rain pounded down, and when we came out to return to our boat there was a lovely rainbow across the canal.  Little did we know that the rainbow was NOT a promise of fair weather to come!

The next morning we set off, somewhat surprised at how muddy the water had become and the strength of the current we were fighting.  Our destination was Utica, just below lock 20.  The other loopers stopped earlier, and we carried on to lock 19.  As the water brought us up to the top of the lock, we seemed to get higher and higher, until it was just a few inches below the top.  At that point, the lockmaster asked us to stop and tie up on the wall above the lock and not proceed any further that night.  We could see the water roiling just ahead, coming out from a stream and carrying whole trees as well as logs and other debris.  We spent two nights on that wall, joined the second by a sailboat.  He had been tied up on the lower wall, which was right under a railway track and the noise was incredible.  The lockmaster took pity on them and allowed them to come up to the top wall.  First, a big sunken tree had to be moved away, it was completely blocking the lock doors.  It had apparently been taken out and tied on the bank earlier in the year, but the heavy rain had washed it back into the canal.  Dick took on the challenge of getting this incredibly heavy obstruction out of the way, helped by the captain of the sailboat.  Together they managed to haul it back up onto the bank and secured it somewhat better this time.  Appropriately, Dick was wearing the red t-shirt that says, “Keep calm and ask an engineer”.

Yesterday morning we watched workmen trying to clear the accumulated debris from the lock.  Then, fortunately, we were allowed to proceed to Utica, at our own risk and only because there were no further locks between us and the town.  Utica declared a state of emergency during the rain, with many of its streets under water.  Another boat was at the dock that night, and was so concerned about the number of tree limbs hitting his boat that he took his family off to a hotel for the night, rather than risk being on board.  I guess we were better off on the lock wall!  We had a nice dinner at Delmonico’s last night, and now, here we wait.  The section of the canal that we are on was expected to open this morning, but looking at the wind forecast for Lake Oneida, we decided to stay put.  A good decision.  The sailboat left this morning and a few hours later he returned, not able to get through even the first lock.  At the moment, the whole canal from the Hudson River to just before the lake is shut, and then the further section of canal that leads to Oswego and Lake Ontario is also shut.  The debris gets trapped in the lock doors and prevents them from opening and closing.  Of course, it is not helped by it being July 4th!  With luck, we will be able to carry on tomorrow, but meanwhile we are in a nice spot and at least here we have dockside electricity and water.

passing a freighter
Passing a freighter
Cape May
Cape May
leaving Shark River
Leaving Shark River
New York Harbor
New York Harbor
Verrazano Narrows Bridge
Verrazano Narrows Bridge
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
its not a cup holder
It’s a chin rest, not a cup holder!
West Point
West Point
Marine Museum
Marine Museum at Rondout
Rondout Lighthouse
Rondout Lighthouse
Esopus Meadows Lighthouse
Esopus Meadows Lighthouse, Catskills in the background
sleeping on the new throw
What else should a cat do? Asleep on the new throw.
Water skiing exhibition
Water skiing exhibition
approaching Lock 9
Approaching lock 9
rainbow over the canal
Rainbow over the Erie Canal
roiling water
Roiling water above lock 19
dragging the log
Dragging the log out of the canal
securing the log
Securing the log so it doesn’t fall back into the canal
clearing the lock
Canal workers clearing the lock
cappucino
After our adventures, a cappucino goes down well!

June 1 to 19, 2017. Hilton Head to Delaware City

(a note for our regular readers: I am adding the earlier issues of the blog from 2018 and 2017 that were published elsewhere.  Apologies for the blog now being somewhat out of order!)

We are now about 2 and a half weeks into our summer 2017 voyage.

We left Wexford on June 1st, with Tucker on board and looked forward to our first night out at anchor in a creek just north of Beaufort.  There was a small setback when we discovered that our chosen creek was silted up and no longer accessible, so after a slightly frantic search of our two guides, Waterway Guide and Skipper Bob’s, we chose an alternative slightly farther north and the rest of the evening was uneventful.  The next day we travelled through Charleston, towards a planned anchorage north of the city, and “enjoyed” a two hour unplanned excursion up one of the rivers when the helmsman failed to notice the location of the magenta line on the chart.

What is this magenta line?  It is the centre-line on the chart of the Intracoastal Waterway, and is a big help in staying on course.  The boat has an electronic chartplotter, so we mostly don’t use the big paper charts.  We use autopilot, but the helm chair is never empty and it is important to remember that the actual markers in the channel are always to be followed when they disagree with the magenta line!

After Charleston we carried on north, staying with our planned itinerary and stops until we got to our first weather delay.  High winds and thunderstorms were forecast, so we extended our stay in Southport, North Carolina to 3 nights.  The thunderstorms never materialized, but it was very windy the first evening and I would not have wanted to anchor in that wind.

The next and possibly most valuable lesson was two days later.  We set off across the Neuse River, and after his miscalculation in Charleston Harbor, Dick was determined to stick with the magenta line.  Well, we headed straight up the centre of the very wide river, and conditions got worse and worse.  The boat pounded into the waves, stuff fell down inside, and Tucker was terrified.  I had to bring him up into the cockpit and hold him on my lap.  The dinghy jumped off its support and hung in the davits (fortunately it stayed there), and Dick’s bicycle looked as though it was about to flip over the front rail at any minute.  We later discovered that most of our fresh water tank had emptied out of the overflow valves it was so rough.  There was a certain amount of language from me, and Tucker said some very rude words in Cat, but to give credit where it is due, Dick remained calm and handled the rough seas very well, and eventually we were able to make our way into a wonderfully quiet river and anchor for the night.  Two lessons were learned.  One, be sure of your actual destination, and two, when it starts to get rough, and you can see it will only get worse, turn around while you still can and find a place to wait out the weather.

This lesson stood us in very good stead on the Chesapeake.

However, before the Chesapeake, we spent a nice evening in a very small marina on Alligator Creek.  Just five boats were in, and amazingly, three of them were Endeavour TrawlerCats.  The other two were the newer style with the high bridge, a 48 and a 40.  There are very few of these compared to other manufacturers, so to see three at once was most unusual. A very pleasant evening was spent in the large upper lounge of the 48 chatting with the other owners and comparing experiences.  Two days later, we came out of our anchorage to find both of them just behind us, so we led a parade of Endeavours through several bridges and a lock before we all went our separate ways.

Our trip through Norfolk was fascinating.  Seeing all the navy ships was interesting in itself, but the town also has a dock with a number of tall ships.  That day there was a special event of skipjack (working fishing boat) races, so the town harbour was full of hundreds of spectator boats of all sizes, some anchored, some cruising around, and it was quite a challenge to make our way through them all.

We stayed two nights at Hampton Yacht Club, and were delighted to welcome our friends Marilynn and Winkie on board for drinks and a pasta supper.  Our first dinner party on board!  I used to work with Marilynn many years ago at Brookhaven Lab.

The day we came out of Hampton we were just ahead of a warship.  It was fascinating to listen to the radio communication between that ship, another warship that was already out to sea, and a tanker with a tug that was waiting to enter Hampton Roads.  Later that day there was more interesting communication as NASA required all vessels to observe a ten mile exclusion zone where a rocket was scheduled to plunge into the sea. One owner of a pleasure yacht was most annoyed to be told to take a specific heading, not where he planned to go,  and stay on it for 8 miles!

From Hampton we began our journey through the Chesapeake.  The first night was at the quaint fishing village of Tangier Island, all crab huts and working fishing boats.  Dick made me laugh.  He read in the guidebook that due to a strong Methodist influence, the island is dry.  He interpreted that to mean that there was a water shortage on the island.  He was quite surprised when I explained that there would be no beer or wine with dinner that evening! The next day the Chesapeake lived up to its reputation for misery and a gale blew up not long after we set off.  We had to travel well south before we could get close enough to the western shore to gain some protection, and it took a long time to make our way to Solomon’s Island.  There we waited out the weather again, for two nights this time.  The third morning was clear and the bay was (relatively) smooth, and we were able to get as far north as Rock Hall.  From there we passed under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and then into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

The C&D Canal is the busiest in the nation.  It was first built in the 19th century and widened and modernized in the 20th.  It saves 300 miles in travel between Philadelphia and Baltimore, and it is used by enormous cargo and tanker traffic.  We were very fortunate that in the 12 mile length we met only one tanker, just as we were exiting the canal.  They create huge wakes that reflect off the canal sides and make for an uncomfortable ride.

We are now at Delaware City, a very picturesque old town that was once an important port between Philadelphia and Baltimore at the mouth of the canal.  The marina is on the only remaining piece of the original canal.  The old canal was dug by hand by free blacks and Irish immigrants who were paid 75 cents a week.  It was (is) 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep.  We visited Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island, an important fort that was used to house hundreds of confederate prisoners during the civil war, and was again used for prisoners of war during world war two.  It is gradually being restored, and is staffed by volunteers in period costume who take on the characters of the civil war occupants of the fort.

The marina manager gives an evening briefing for the transit of Delaware Bay.  We were already aware of a small craft warning, but the briefing was very interesting.  We learned how to interpret the symbols in the NOAA wind and current databases and how wind, fetch, and current combine to make huge waves.  We are delayed again by high winds in opposition to a fast current, and expect to be here at least another night if not two.  Apparently it is very late in the season for this strength of wind opposing the currents. Interestingly, there are 5 other “looper” boats (boats, like us, doing the Great Loop), here in the marina with us, so in spite of our late start compared to most of the pack, we are by no means the last ones heading north.  I expect there may be some docktails and trading stories in the next couple of days while we wait for calmer waters in the Delaware Bay.

One of the more interesting boaters awaiting calmer seas is a man in a rowboat.  Granted, this is not your father’s rowboat, it is a modern looking skiff style.  He started his trip in Miami and is heading for New York City.  He expects the whole trip to take him just 55 days.  He says he usually travels 50 miles in a day.  Amazing, comparing that to our usual 50 to 80 miles a day.  I am not sure where he sleeps, but his boat is full of plastic bags with all his stuff.  Needless to say, not the sort of adventure that would interest me!

Goodbye Wexford
Goodbye Wexford! Leaving our Hilton Head harbour to begin the adventure.
Charleston Yorktown
The Yorktown in Charleston Harbor
Nine Lives at Alligator Creek
Sunset at Alligator Creek
Endeavour TrawlerCats
We were 3 Endeavour Trawlercats in a row!
waiting for the lock south of Norfolk
Waiting for the lock south of Norfolk
boat traffic in Norfolk
Boat traffic in Norfolk
Tucker sleeping on the step
Tucker sleeping on the steps
tall ship in Norfolk
Tall ship in Norfolk
Solomons Island
Zahnisers at Solomons Island
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Tucker asleep at the wheel
Tucker asleep at the wheel
Delaware City Marina
Delaware City Marina
original C&D canal
The original Chesapeake and Delaware Canal
a new vehicle
A new vehicle for Dick?
checking out the cannon
Checking out the cannon

April 12 to May 4 2018, Hilton Head to Norfolk

2018_Spring_Rendezvous_Group_Photo
Over 300 Loopers and 50 boats attended the Rendezvous

Before I begin telling you about our spring voyage, I should start with a brief summary of the winter projects.
Dick was quite busy on Nine Lives this winter, working through a list of general maintenance and specific issues. Initially this involved various electrical systems. Hurricane Irma last fall fried the power cords and affected some of the systems, so a boat electrical specialist was called in and worked with Dick to sort out the issues. While working on that, they discovered that the solar panels were not charging the batteries, because the connections had been damaged by a lightning strike way back before we collected the boat in St Petersburg! The panel connections were repaired, the stereo was replaced, and a few other issues were also resolved. We had some concerns over one of the fridges not keeping cold enough for safe storage of food. Dick realized that the enclosure is too tight to allow proper air circulation, so he installed two small computer fans at the back. Those, together with a small battery operated fan inside the fridge, seem to help.
Some of the other projects included installing a CO2 detector and a battery monitor, changing the oil in both engines and the generator, changing zincs and filters, purchasing new dock lines and all sorts of esoteric boating tools, replacing the grill with a new infrared grill, and removing the diving compressor from the front storage locker, thus freeing up lots of space. Oh yes, replacing the “joker” valves on both toilets, an unpleasant job that Dick said was not quite as awful as expected.
Fresh water tank newly sanitized and filled, and a final thorough cleaning of the interior by our ever helpful Kathy, together with cleaning and waxing the exterior by a local specialist and bottom cleaning by the diver, we were ready to embark!
We left just after 10am on April 11th, and headed to one of our favourite anchorages at Tom Point Creek, north of Beaufort SC for the first night. Upon arrival we celebrated the start of the 2018 voyaging with a special bottle of Moet champagne that is intended to be served over ice, perfect for boating! We chased the spring north, and the different greens and almost autumnal colours of the new leaves on the trees was very pretty. Some nights were quite chilly, but for the most part the weather was perfect and there were few insects about.
Our first bit of excitement occurred just as we were approaching Charleston. The area is busy and quite complicated to travel through, with close attention needed to both the charts and the numbers and shape of the markers. Shortly before we arrived in the harbor, the chart plotter (the electronic version of the charts that we see on the screen in front of the helm, and that we use to see where we are and where we need to go) suddenly switched from the correct detailed chart to something like a broad diagram, completely unusable. The usual measures such as turning off and on had no effect, so Dick had to quickly switch to using the tiny chart he had downloaded on his iPhone. Fortunately I also had a book
of paper charts to follow along, so we were not entirely travelling by the seat of our pants! It was somewhat disturbing though, to watch Dick, the driver, who is far sighted, at exactly the moment when the most attention needed to be paid to the waters ahead, suddenly whip off his sunglasses and peer down at the tiny screen on his phone! Fortunately we managed, and continued to manage for the 3 days it took to resolve the issue! We did not repeat last year’s two hour detour up the wrong channel in Charleston’s vast and complex harbor, and arrived without incident at our second night’s anchorage in Graham Creek, south of McClellanville SC. We have stopped there twice before, but this time was considerably less enjoyable due to the continuous and dramatic swinging from side to side as the wind and the tide worked in conflicting directions. I enjoyed watching oystercatchers on a temporarily uncovered shoal.
Day 3 took us to Bucksport on the Waccamaw River, one of the prettiest sections of the South Carolina ICW. It is something of a red-neck destination, with bikers, a large RV camp and the docks, and a bar that can get very lively on the weekends. We stayed there two nights, to avoid thunderstorms and high winds in the weather forecast. We were not the only boats taking precautions, as we saw few northbound travelers the second day, and very few of the smaller pleasure boats that are usually out and about on a Sunday afternoon.
Monday morning we headed towards Myrtle Beach, arriving early afternoon at the marina at Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, which is confusingly located in Little River, well north of the city it is named for! There we met and chatted with our first Loopers of the trip. To remind you, “Loopers” are boaters who are either in progress or have completed America’s Great Loop, the 6,000+ mile navigation of the east coast, the great lakes, the central rivers, and Florida that is our 5-year planned voyage. These Loopers we met are rather special, in that they have come all the way from Adelaide Australia to make this voyage. They bought a boat in Florida and began the trip this spring. They plan to complete the loop in about 1 year, a not uncommon practice, and then sell the boat at the end of their journey. We enjoyed meeting them again at the Rendezvous in Norfolk, after leapfrogging their boat “Someday” several times on the voyage north.
From Little River to Southport, and then on to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, we enjoyed an uneventful voyage. For a change, this part of the Intracoastal Waterway has been recently dredged, so we mostly had at least 12 feet of water under the boat and few nerve racking moments when the water shoals unexpectedly. Last year we touched bottom several times in this stretch.
Wrightsville Beach looks very pretty from the water, and is quite a lively stop for boaters, but there is very little there apart from the marinas. I enjoyed watching several floating condos (large, 70 ft+ cruising yachts) dock on the other side of the river while trying to avoid being run into by yahoos in speedboats and the occasional kayaker. It is one of the challenges of being on the water. Kayaks and paddleboards technically have the right of way over motor driven boats, as do boats under sail, but the jokingly called “law of gross tonnage” means that the bigger the motor vessel, the longer the stopping distance and the less maneuverable it is. Unfortunately kayakers and paddleboarders often fail to comprehend this simple fact of physics, and one has to keep a sharp eye out and be ready when they suddenly decide to cross directly in front of your boat! Speedboats are a different challenge, seldom
having a radio on board, so you cannot contact them (not that any transmission would actually change their behavior), and thinking that because they get a great thrill out of bouncing over a big wake, so will you. So the sensible rule of “one hand for the boat at all times” needs to be followed when these idiots I mean fellow boaters are out and about.
Leaving Wrightsville Beach we were stopped for a couple of hours by the closure of the Surf City Swing Bridge, which only opens once an hour, and does not open at all when the winds gust to more than 30 knots. Our destination that night was the anchorage in Mile Hammock Bay, which is located in the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejune. The protected anchorage can get quite interesting. For some hours after we anchored a large military helicopter crossed back and forth just north of our location, and the next morning we could see a lot of trucks and men in uniform on the shore. A number of them embarked on dinghies and set off south, followed closely by a Coast Guard RIB. We could hear over the radio that both the Surf City Bridge, and the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge were closed due to high winds, so we were lucky to have passed through Surf City during one of their few openings earlier. Fortunately the winds subsided enough that we were able to pass Onslow Beach Bridge the next morning. It is possible that we could have slipped under those bridges at absolute low tide, but I was glad we didn’t have to try!
Onward, continuing north to our next multi-day stop at the very pretty and boater friendly Beaufort, North Carolina. Just south of Morehead City we passed through a shallow area, and suddenly the water was literally boiling with triangular fins of hundreds of manta rays. I can’t find anything on google to explain the behavior, other than the statement that they occasionally breach like whales for unknown reasons. They eat zooplankton, so they were not feeding on a school of fish. We could hear them thumping and bumping on the hulls. The thrashing lasted for about 20 yards, and then all was calm again.
At Beaufort we enjoyed a great meal in a restaurant we went to last summer, and met quite a few Loopers docked in the marina. The City Docks are perfectly positioned to enjoy the waterfront restaurants and shops, with the added bonus of tokens for free drinks at one of the establishments. On Saturday we walked over to the local farmer’s market. As often happens these days, there are few stalls selling actual produce, and more selling crafts, but we enjoyed it anyway. I found a great hand woven basket set on a lazy susan. It is perfect for holding all the various bottles such as olive oil, vinegars, sauces, vanilla, etc etc, that must be secured even inside a cupboard so that they don’t fall over and leak when the speedboaters I was telling you about get too close and create wakes big enough to knock over anything unsecured. I also found a very cute stuffed toy lion made of alpaca, to add to the collection on the bed, much to Dick’s disgust.
North of Beaufort begins the first of the sections of the trip that I worry about, being very unhappy when the waters get even a little bit “lumpy”. As a former sailor you would think I would be used to big waves, but I never was and am unlikely to ever enjoy such conditions. The first challenge was the Neuse River. Last year, due to a lack of experience and understanding of wind and wave forecasts, plus a mistake on the part of the helmsman in following the chartplotter, we were really beaten up on this very wide and shallow river that empties into Pamlico Sound. This year we were well prepared, had followed
the forecasts, and knew exactly where we needed to go. We have also learned that when crossing “big” water, Nine Lives rides a lot smoother if we go on wide open throttle (pretty much as fast as the engines will take us at about 18 knots) than if we go at our usual 7 knots trawler speed. Of course this uses a lot more fuel, but the comfort and the ability to skip across potentially rough water is priceless. So we skimmed across most of the Neuse, and ducked into the very protected harbor at River Dunes, a boaters resort and housing estate north of Oriental, NC. In addition to the sheltered harbor, the resort offers a nice lounge and restaurant to boaters, plus a small general store and the loan of a courtesy car if you need to pick up groceries. At River Dunes we found 7 other Looper boats, with another arriving the next morning, so there was much enjoyment of docktails and convivial meals in the restaurant. A difficult decision was made (on our part) to wait out a predicted storm for 3 nights at River Dunes, instead of trying to make it further north to Belhaven the next morning. As I said to Dick, “Eight other Loopers are unlikely to be wrong!” We had a great time, especially the second night which happened to be my birthday. We invited all the Loopers to join us on board Nine Lives for Prosecco and nibbles. The weather being somewhat rainy and cold, everyone was inside, either in the salon or the cockpit, and we discovered that 16 on board is friendly but quite doable! All gathered during a break in the rain for a picture on the dock. I thought it was one of the best birthdays, and certainly the biggest party I have had since I was a teenager!
Tucker spent the time staying at his other home with Shel and Sherry. They are delighted to have him for much of this year, and he is delighted not to have to join us on the hated boat. However, perhaps he missed us a little, Sherry sent a picture of him trying out boxes to see if he could mail himself to join us…
During the downtime at River Dunes Dick took the opportunity to launch the dinghy and start the outboard motor. Unfortunately, after much coaxing, all that was achieved was a vague Eh Eh ah ah, followed by nothing, so rather than completely drain the battery, Dick gave up and added that to the ever-growing list of things to sort out at the boatyard this month.
From River Dunes we chose to run as fast as possible and make a 90 mile trip up the rest of the Neuse River, the Pungo River, and the Alligator River to the marina at the mouth of Albemarle Sound. This allowed us to catch up some of the time we had lost, and by giving Elizabeth City a miss the next day we were back on schedule. We set off across the Albemarle Sound (the second of the potentially very wind tossed big bodies of water) early in the morning at absolute mirror flat calm. By the time we had crossed the sound the wind and waves were already coming up, and I was very glad we had decided to start early and run fast. We took an alternate route north this year, opting to go through the Great Dismal Swamp (yes, it really is called that), a large protected wetland south of Norfolk, Virginia. The Dismal Swamp Canal is the oldest continually operating canal in the United States, opening in 1805, and never closed until 2016, when Hurricane Matthew did so much damage that the canal was impassable for a year. The original canal was dug completely by hand. George Washington was one of the early investors in the Canal Company, and helped to manage some of the building of the canal before he became disillusioned with the project and sold his shares.
North of Elizabeth City we joined the Pasquotank River, a beautiful waterway between treed banks with occasional well kept homes and cottages. At one point Dick’s attention was caught by a stick floating on
the water that seemed to move oddly. Rushing to the door we could see that it was in fact a large water snake swimming across the river. Gradually the river narrowed until we reached the South Mills lock. It was fortunate there was no southbound traffic coming out of the lock, because there was no room for another boat to pass us! This lock is the first that many Loopers encounter, and the lockkeeper takes great care to ensure that everyone is properly secured and fully understands the operation of the lock before he begins the 8 foot lift. Instead of 8 feet, this should definitely be referred to as 96 inches, it took 45 minutes to pass through this lock and the immediately following swing bridge!
Partway through the Dismal Swamp Canal is a stopping point with a 150 ft dock, a visitor centre, and a picnic area and rest rooms. On our arrival we could see that the dock was already full, with 2 sailboats and a large trawler, but fortunately it is common practice to “raft up” when the dock is filled. This meant we tied up our boat to the already docked boat “Exhale” a beautiful new North Pacific Trawler, and met the very nice Loopers who own it. Rick and Mary made us welcome and invited us for drinks aboard their boat. Trying hard not to be too envious of their large salon with two extremely comfortable recliner chairs, we enjoyed a convivial evening! The next morning we all set off in convoy through the rest of the canal towards our destination of Norfolk Virginia and the Looper’s Rendezvous. As the boats waited for the lock at the top of the canal and exited into the Deep River, we took pictures of each other and exchanged them by text messages. What a difference mobile phones make to all our lives!
Initially we found the much touted Great Dismal Swamp, well, dismal. For much of its length there is only a narrow strip of trees between the canal and a busy four lane highway. On the other side, again screened by a narrow line of trees, are farms and large fields, so I was doubtful (correctly) that we would see any sort of wildlife. As the clouds cleared the next morning and the sun came out the scenery also improved, the four lane highway gave way to a bike path, and the absolutely still water created gorgeous mirror image reflections of the vegetation on the banks.
A short trip up the Elizabeth River and we were at last in Norfolk. Mary from Exhale reports that the Blue Angels flew overhead to celebrate our arrival at Waterside, although I was busy helping with the docking and did not see them. However the next day Nine Lives was welcomed to Norfolk by a wonderful parade with representatives and floats from almost all the NATO countries plus marching bands from high schools and colleges around the country. I am certain our arrival was the reason for the celebration, surely it could not have just been the annual NATO Day Parade?
Not long after we docked our attention was drawn to a visitor on the finger pier right beside our slip. An otter came out onto the pier and proceeded to roll and wriggle on its back to dry its fur. Wonderful to watch, I have never seen an otter “in the wild” this close. I did not dare take time to drag out my big camera, so only phone pictures are available. After all the wriggling and rubbing, the otter went over and rearranged our neatly coiled dock line. “Awww,” I thought, “he is going to go to sleep on it!” Wrong. After disarranging it to his satisfaction, the little blighter first thoroughly peed on the line and then shat on it! Dick was, to put it mildly, not best pleased. After cleaning it off later, we discovered the next morning that the otter had returned in the night and decorated the line again. At that point we
changed the lines and secured them back to the boat. Apparently we were not the only boat in the harbor that was so blessed.
While we cleaned and polished the boat and prepared for the Rendezvous we were joined for dinner by friends Marilynn and Winkie. This was their second visit to Nine Lives, as we entertained them last year when we were at Hampton Yacht Club. It is always a great pleasure to meet and spend time with friends from the past. Marilynn and I worked at Brookhaven National Lab together many years ago.
The Rendezvous is a gathering of Loopers, future Loopers, and past Loopers and sponsors that takes place twice a year. There were 300 attendees, and 50 boats filled the Waterside Marina for the conference. Each day there were seminars on topics of interest, including slide show presentations on the route ahead, tips and tricks for choosing and buying the right boat, insuring it, maintenance, and even clearing US and Canadian customs. For 3 of the afternoons there is a “Boat Crawl”. Anyone who wishes to participate will open their boat for conference attendees to come aboard, see how we live on board, and ask questions. This is particularly valuable for people who are planning to do the Loop, but have not yet chosen their boat. Because we are somewhat unique, not many catamarans on the Loop, and we were the only Endeavour catamaran in the marina, we opened all three of the days. This meant that we didn’t get a chance to see the other boats, but we certainly enjoyed meeting all the people who came aboard. The conference finished with a Pub Crawl through four different nearby pubs. It was a very interesting and rewarding experience, and as we make our way around the Great Loop we will certainly attend future events.
On our last day we backtracked a little to Great Bridge, where Nine Lives is resting at Atlantic Yacht Basin. She will get a haul out and refurbishment of bottom paint, plus the list of projects that Dick either didn’t get to or could not reasonably do himself. Dick expects the work to be mostly complete by about the 24th of May, so he will return and stay onboard for a week or so then. He will re-provision, and also visit some of the Norfolk attractions we didn’t have time for. I am looking forward to a week on my own here in Hilton Head. Some time around June 1st, weather permitting, we will return to the boat and begin our summer voyage up the Chesapeake and onward to the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Montreal, the Rideau and Trent Severn Canals, and then we will leave the Looper pack and head south to Lake Erie and the western end of the Erie Canal. Around September 1st we are booked at a marina in Brewerton, NY, for heated indoor storage for Nine Lives while we return home for the winter.

April 12 champagne 3
Champagne to celebrate our first day out
April 12 Tom Point Creek
Tom Point Creek, our first night’s anchorage
April 13 Charleston sailing race
Charleston Harbor sailing race
April 16 swallow
a swallow perched on the rail one morning
April 18 Wrightsville Beach bridge
Wrightsville Beach bridge opening
April 21 Beaufort beer
Enjoying free beer at the docks in Beaufort
April 21 Beaufort bicycles
whimsical plates on rental bicycles
April 21 Beaufort docks
historic and modern sailing boats in Beaufort Docks
April 22 River Dunes lobster roll
a delicious lobster roll in River Dunes
April 23 River Dunes docktails
docktails, all these folks joined us on Nine Lives!
April 23 River Dunes launch dinghy
launch the dinghy, but the motor did not start
April 23 Tucker in a box
Tucker considers having himself mailed to us
April 25 RE Mayo Hobucken shrimp boats
shrimp boats at Hobucken
April 26 Pasquotank River cottages
Pasquotank River homes
April 26 Pasquotank River
The serene Pasquotank River
April 27 Great Dismal Swamp 1
Great Dismal Swamp, looking dismal
April 27 Great Dismal Swamp bridge
Great Dismal Swamp, that is Nine Lives waiting for the bridge opening
April 27 Nine Lives leaving Dismal Swamp
Nine Lives in Deep Creek after exiting Great Dismal Swamp
April 27 otter 2
our visiting otter
April 27 otter
our visiting otter
April 28 Norfolk NATO parade 2
Norfolk NATO Parade
April 28 Norfolk NATO parade
Norfolk NATO Parade
April 28 otter poop
Dick cleaning otter poop, for the second time
May 1 warship
a warship repositions for drydock in the Norfolk yards
May 4 Great Bridge lock
heading south, we had the huge Great Bridge lock to ourselves
May 4 Nine Lives in Great Bridge
Nine Lives taking a well earned break in Great Bridge

September 5 to 16, 2018: Cleveland to Brewerton

September 5 to 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rock n Roll
Rock n Roll – the main entrance plaza of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Surf and turf Cleveland
Surf and turf in Cleveland – one of the best I have ever eaten, delicious tender lobster tail with drawn butter, and a perfectly grilled steak in a simple presentation with mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus at the Blue Point Grille.
keeping out the rain
Keeping out the rain – we will blame the photographer (Dick) for the blurry photo of me, valiantly holding back the rain as it lashes the boat when we pass through a squall. It’s probably blurred because he was laughing!
Erie PA
Erie PA – the harbour with a view of the Sheraton Hotel and the walkway to the Convention Center.
Erie PA 2
Erie PA 2 – a shipyard with a vessel under construction. At the left you can see the large rust red bow (or stern), while on the right are blue plastic covered sections of the midship. We don’t know whether this is a Lake freighter being constructed, or a large barge tug.
Buffalo
Buffalo – extravagant flowerbeds in the gardens at the marina on the edge of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor.
Buffalo 2
Buffalo 2 – another picture of the marina garden, with the attractive architecture of downtown in the distance.
Buffalo 3
Buffalo 3 – the Edward M Cotter, a historic fireboat, still in service, and also used in winter as an ice breaker in the Buffalo River.
Buffalo 4
a detail of the stern area of the Edward M Cotter.
Buffalo 5
Buffalo 5 – General Mills is still a grain milling presence on the Buffalo waterfront. The high rise manufacturing facility is of unusual architectural interest. It is also the place where familiar brands such as Cheerios, Gold Medal Flour, Bisquick, and Wheaties are made.
Into the Canal 2
Into the Canal – a somewhat unprepossessing entrance to the Erie Canal between Buffalo and Niagara. The Canal turns to the right of the image.
Erie Canal bridge
Erie Canal bridge – one of the many lift bridges on the Canal. The car parked beside the tower belongs to the bridge keeper. Typically, one keeper will be responsible for 2 or more bridges, and must shuttle between them when boats need to pass.
Erie Canal boat
Erie Canal boat – one of the English narrowboat style boats that are available to rent and cruise the canal.
Albion 2
Albion – the main street of the pretty village is glimpsed through the lift bridge. You can also get a sense of the bridge mechanism. The whole span slides up to raise the bridge over the canal. Pedestrians can climb the stairs and cross when the bridge is lifted, but cars must wait.
Albion 4
Albion – the sign for the village as we leave. We were particularly interested in this because we have a friend, Stuart Albion, and had no idea there was a whole town named after him!
Short ribs Spencerport
Short ribs in Spencerport – Dick’s favourite dish, served with mushroom ravioli. Sadly, it was not as tasty as he had hoped. As he put it, “it tastes the way it does when I make it at home, and I know I don’t do it very well!”
Spencerport
Spencerport – sunrise at Spencerport, where we were docked with two of the English style canal boats.
Rochester
Rochester – we docked beside an apartment and restaurant complex on the Genesee River in historic Corn Hill, with a view of downtown.
Wine bar Rochester
Wine Bar in Rochester – they specialize in flights, currently very fashionable. Dick tried champagne and sparking wine, while I enjoyed tasting three different roses. A delicious meat and cheese board accompanied the wines.
Ithaca concert hall
Ithaca concert hall – the historic State Theater was saved from demolition after it was condemned.
Pittsford
Pittsford – we passed through this pretty village. Creative use has been made of the former grain elevators, they have been turned into luxury flats.
Pittsford 2
Pittsford 2 – another view as we leave the village.
Newark
Newark – sunrise over the pedestrian bridge at Newark, NY. The building at the left of the bridge houses a visitor center and excellent shower facilities for boaters.
Erie Canal lock 25
Erie Canal lock 25 – the quiet wall above the lock where we docked for the night.
Erie Canal lock 25 2
Erie Canal lock 25 – still water and reflections of the trees lining the Canal.
painting a bridge
Painting a bridge – this was interesting to see, they set up a tent to completely wrap the bridge so that the paint does not contaminate the water. As we passed under the bridge we could hear the high pressure paint sprayers at work in the covered section.
Baldwinsville
Baldwinsville – a pleasant seating area in the waterfront park.
Baldwinsville 2
Baldwinsville – the canal and town wall leading to the guard gate and lock. To the left of the image is the park and amphitheatre where weekly concerts are held in summer.
Erie Canal 15
Erie Canal – our last morning on the Canal and on this year’s voyage. The leaves are beginning to turn, and it is time for us to return home.
Winter Harbor
Winter Harbor – the aptly named boatyard where Nine Lives will sleep for the winter. You can just see one of the huge red and blue sheds in the background of the picture.

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

August 21 to September 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goderich
Goderich – beautifully restored municipal buildings
Goderich 2
Goderich – the charming downtown with restored commercial buildings, new builds in keeping, and hanging baskets for beautification. These are also the widest streets I have seen since Salt Lake City, allowing for ample parking in the downtown area, always an issue for town centre revitalization.
Goderich 3
Goderich – one of the beautiful homes with a pretty garden in this charming city
Goderich 4
Goderich – the historic lighthouse, and the salt mine in the distance
loading grain
Loading grain – grain is loaded on a truck from the grain elevators in Goderich harbour.
spider
Spider – uggh! One of the many squatters we have been plagued with for the last few weeks.
Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly – a pretty butterfly on a thistle. We have seen these right out in the middle of Georgian Bay.
Livingstone Channel
Livingstone Channel – a freighter approaches the narrow channel of the Seaway. Fortunately, we were able to pass it after we had arrived in an area with more water.
passing a freighter
Passing a freighter – that ship was big!
Livingstone Channel 2
Livingstone Channel – you can see just how little space there was to pass the huge freighter.
Detroit
Detroit – approaching Detroit
lobster bisque
Lobster bisque – an attractive presentation of my favourite soup at Joe Muer Seafood
oysters
Oysters – Dick enjoyed Oysters Rockefeller
perch
Perch – lightly breaded and sautéed fresh perch on a bed of mashed potato and green beans. Dick reports it was delicious!
beet salad
Beet salad – a very attractive presentation, thin slices of beets in a pyramid enclosing the greens, with a delicious drizzle of dressing and avocado slices, blueberries, and goat cheese for garnish at the Rattlesnake Club
chocolate ravioli
Chocolate ravioli – white chocolate cases filled with a dark chocolate filling and covered with a white chocolate drizzle. It was delicious!
Detroit 2
Detroit – downtown and the waterfront as we leave this revitalized city
Zug Island
Zug Island – piles of iron ore, with a freighter unloading more.
Zug Island 2
Zug Island – another part of this enormous historic steel mill on the banks of Detroit River.
Monroe
Monroe – it turned out to be a peaceful anchorage, in spite of the industrial setting
Bass Islands
Bass Islands – a few of the hundreds of small boats fishing off the Bass Islands in Lake Erie
Cedar Point 2
Cedar Point – you can get a sense of just how big some of these rides are when you realize that the buildings in the middle are a 500 room hotel!
Sandusky
Sanduksy – the pretty downtown from the waterfront
Sandusky 2
Sandusky – a floral clock in the municipal gardens. Note the date, how do they DO that?
Sandusky 3
Sandusky – the courthouse is surrounded by beautiful gardens
Sandusky 4
Sandusky – a beautiful sunrise at the friendliest marina we have visited
air show
Air show – high in the clouds, a USAF F-16 Viper with a heritage P-51 Mustang
Cleveland 2
Cleveland – downtown Cleveland from the marina. You can just see two of the Blue Angels flying past the buildings.
air show 4
Air show – Blue Angels
air show 5
Air show – Blue Angels
air show 7
Air show – Blue Angels
air show 8
Air show – Blue Angel 3 with wheels down prepares to land

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

 

July 19 to August 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 5 to 18, 2018: Montreal to Jones Falls

Montreal to Jones Falls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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