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