Monday, July 9, 2018

Scenic Cruising on the Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal, like the other canals we have traveled thus far, is a man made connection between naturally occurring rivers and lakes, made deep enough for larger boats to traverse.  It was created by the British during the years of 1827 to 1832 due to the Brits worry over animosity with Americans after we declared our independence and won again during the War of 1812.  The canal was meant to be a passageway from Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River which then would allow larger vessels to reach Quebec.  For us, it is a spectacularly scenic waterway to enjoy!  So from Gananoque we traversed 25 miles over 3hours to arrive at Confederation Basin Marina in Kingston, Ontario on 7/2.  The heat wave prevailed so the cool breezes while cruising were a welcome relief!

We don’t change much so we arrive in a nice town with lots of history and touristy things to do but, nope, we see the town via our walks, hit up the grocery stores (there are two in this town), a hardware store, and I find a farmers market!  I had to go to both gorceries trying to find alternative protein sources (fake meat).  When I asked a local where I might find alternative meat products, he responded with a question, “is that like alternative facts?”  Guess our President is gonna haunt us some in Canada

The first night we were treated to a lovely sunset over the lighted dome of Kingston City Hall.  Tuesday 7/3 was another hot day so after a town walk, not much else was accomplished except for boat chores and reading about the Rideau to begin the navigation planning along the canal.

This was our view from the stern looking out into where Lake Ontario meets up with the St. Lawrence River and far across the water (enlarge the photo) you can see a very large wind farm.  Apparently this area is most often windy. 

On our holiday, July 4th, we headed out of the Confederation Basin and began the trek north up the Rideau.  In many places the water is wide but the channel is very narrow and shallow.  We had as little at 2 feet below the keel at times.  But we didn’t encounter much traffic and just meandered slowly.  And it is another very hot and still day! We got an early start (for us) in order to get the 9AM  opening of the LaSalle Causeway Bridge, that is a busy thoroughfare for Kingston residents and only opens once an hour.  The Rideau is old and the methods for communication are also old school so we hailed the bridge to open with 3 long horn blasts and one short one.  No radio requests!

We will traverse 44 locks before we reach Ottawa.  On this first day, our first lockage was a flight of 4, meaning 3 locks are together so when you exit one, you immediately enter the next.  The 4th lock was a very short distance away.  That means there is no time to rest between locks.  These locks are the originals with a few parts replaced, so are opened, filled and managed by hand.  It takes 1 person to open sluices that allow water to flow between locks. 

It takes 2 persons per side to turn the gears that open and close the gates.  Many of the lock workers are young students and ever so helpful.  So we entered our first lock with 3 other boats, making it a tight fit and I immediately had trouble catching the cable closest to the lock gate and we nearly didn’t get tied up properly.  Lots of effort and will power got that line around the cable in time.  Al and I had set a plan for how to enter and tie up but our plan didn’t prepare this nervous first mate with the reality of water flowing in front of the boat with some force, how close we had to be to the lock gate,  and my panicked reaction.  As we were raising up a bit over 10’, a nice young female lock worker politely asked if I’d mind if she came aboard to help with the second lock.  My response was “heck yeah and I’ll even provide lunch!!”  We lucked out further as a second young girl joined us as well to help in the stern.  We were spoiled, but did manage to lock through 3 more locks that day, that were all single locks, with some miles between them, all on our own.   We finished our July 4th holiday with 7 locks completed, raising up 79.5 feet total for the day.  We had covered 17 miles and it took 3.5 hours.  With the heat and the stress, this first mate could barely muster a slow walk around the grounds of the Upper Brewers Lock where we tied to a lock wall for the night.  The heat had us turn on the generator to blast the air conditioning to cool the boat and the crew!  The only Independence Day celebration we enjoyed was watching the holiday show in NYC on TV.  

But things have gotten much better and the next day we cruised through some beautiful country covering about 10 miles, with no locks and some deeper water.   Bye, bye stress!

We did need to have the Brass Point Swing Bridge open for us and again, it was all done with no radio contact.  We could see the bridge tender and, after he waited for a car to pass, he manually moved the gate to block the road, and then manually moved the gears to swing the bridge open.  With a friendly wave we were through and on our way.  

This is the narrow entry into Morton Bay but it is well marked.  We took this from the dingy because the narrow passage came up too quickly to have a camera ready so we went back and took the shot to show how beautiful and interesting this water really is.  We planned a day of hiking for Friday so Thursday afternoon was chore time and swimming.  But there is always something!  I tried and tried to pull our new swim ladder out to drop it into the water and just couldn’t do it.  So while I cleaned the decks with water from the bay, Al inspected the ladder and discovered the bolts attaching it to the new swim platform, were a tiny bit too long and blocked the ladder.  Hind sight: we should have tested it back in Brewerton to see if it worked properly.  But Al is a clever guy and with my help, we raised the bolts so the ladder would slide and had our delightful swim!  More work was done then to shorten the bolts and for now it is in working order!

We had inside information about a great hike up to Rock Dunder which loomed above the bay.  The folks we met on Vahevala in Oswego had filled us in on what to look for to access a trail.  So on Friday we dropped the dingy into the bay and found the access point. 

We tucked Victory Lap into a protected spot behind a jut of land into the bay and tied her to a tree.  Then off we went, not knowing how steep and difficult this trail would become along the way but we were determined.  

Al praised his new hip and did well climbing step by step over rocks and roots on the way up the mountain.  

I touched every tree I could to keep my balance and thanked them all for their service.  

And what a prize at the end of the 2 mile trek up that took about 1 1/2 hours!  We had the company of 3 nice young girls who snapped our picture with InSpeyered happily floating below us.  The girls enjoyed hearing how we got to that point from Tennessee by boat!  So hindsight again, climbing up that far with only one bottle of water apiece and no snacks with no lunch eaten before we left was less than smart!  Needless to say, the trek down took a lot of determination.  But we made it and had so much fun, we repeated the processs with water and lunch packed the next day!  

These are our new buddies and their darling dog admiring our boat and lifestyle!  

This is Rock Dunder viewed from InSpeyered 2 just before our second day of climbing.  

The Captain enjoyed a brief time of shut eye with the breezes blowing across the rocks, satisfied this time with some snack food and plenty of water.  Our descent the second day was a piece of cake!  
We are glad to have extended our anchorage to 3 nights and with the weather cooling, sleeping was wonderful and peaceful.  But we paid the price of swinging in the breeze with the anchor nestled in the weedy bottom of this bay for 3 whole days and nights.  

On Sunday 7/8, we pulled the anchor and the new windlass groaned with the weight.  The chain initially was fairly clean but after pulling only 30’ out of the 100’ dropped, we started seeing the heavy collection of weeds and mud tightly wrapped around chain and eventually the anchor!

As the chain was slowly raised and thoroughly sprayed off, some weeds dropped down and made the “tree” of weeds widen!  Al had to leave the boat in neutral and join me with a second boat hook, in pushing weeds back into the bay.  It took about 40 mins to get the anchor free and back in place on the pulpit!  Thanks to the new windlass for raising such a heavy burden without dying on us!! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Exploring the Canadian Side of the 1000 Islands

After a quiet night anchored next to Bolt Castle we awoke to the sound of loons near by.  Never saw them but listening to their soulful calls is a lovely way to start the day.  So on Wednesday, 6/27 we pulled the anchor slowly due to thick weeds hanging from the chain and headed out on an overcast and cool day to enter the waters of Canada.  We had a reservation at Gananoque Municipal Marina which is a place where checking in to Canada can be done by a simple phone call at a free “pay phone” on the outside wall of the marina office.  On the way we took a short detour to check out a dock that belongs to Harbor Hosts for the AGLCA on Hill Island.  Ann and Jeffrey Timmons, a generous couple who have completed the loop, offer their private dock for usage by other loopers in the area.

We plan to tie up at this great location for two nights after our one night stay in Gananoque.  Rain set in later during our 20 mile cruise but that sure beats the intense heat back at the dirthouse!!  We successfully checked in to Canada and then walked into the smallish but nice town of Gananoque to seek out a grocery, find a way to get Canadian cash and basically, to get exercise while checking out the area.  We both got thoroughly soaked by rain and chose to stay in for the night rather than eating out as planned but our missions were accomplished.

It was a short 12 mile cruise on Thursday to our free dock on Hill Island.  The clouds stayed put all day but the rain stopped and the temps were comfortably in the mid 70’s so we ventured out to find a road to walk on and to find the 1000 Islands Tower which is an observation tower.  Since the cloud cover was heavy we opted to not go up in the tower on Thursday.  Our afternoon and night were quiet with a brief and pleasant interruption from a man who is in the looper planning stage and saw our burgee from across the water.  He used his dingy to come over to say Hi and chat about looping life. 

Al caught this great picture of the sun rising on our beautiful Friday morning and then went back to bed as the sun rises mighty early up here!! 

Friday remained a beautiful clear day with temps still comfortably in the range for shorts and tee’s without copious sweat!!  Al opted to take a shorter walk and hang by the boat to watch other boats go by. I took a long walk on a dirt road through a quiet woods where a deer crossed right in front of me, mindless to human infringement on her turf.  Then I paid the fee to take the fast elevator up the tower just before a whole tour bus load of folks arrived! 

Our free dockage is below and slightly to the right of the bridge in the center of this picture.  This is taken from a Canadian Island looking at the Canadian mainland.  

This view is looking west up the St. Lawrence at the Canadian side with island after island filling the river.  These islands are basically tops of under water mountains so the water depths can very from a few hundred feet to just a few feet! 

This is looking over at the US side of the St. Lawrence due north of the tower.  If the sun were in the right position to shine stronger on that side, I could have seen all the stops we made from Cape Vincent to Bolt Castle.  

After some lunch, we dropped Victory Lap into the water and took a ride around to the US side and then into the waters that run between the US and Canada.  We passed this clever garden of plants in a small skiff, the USS Honeybee. Buying a small island up here has its merits!! 

Dead ahead is a tiny portion of the International part of the 1000 Island Bridge and to the right is the customs crossing from the US into Canada.  

Just under that small bridge, we entered the International Rift, a fast moving, narrow part of the river running between our two countries.  The current here runs from 2-8 mph so our little dingy got squirrelly at times and we had to be careful passing other small boats.  But it was an interesting and beautiful stretch of water. 

Then the treat of all treats, the water opened into a larger pool and sitting in the middle was a loon with 2 babies sitting on his/her back.  With babies aboard, the loon had to stay quiet and still allowing for a more close up photo.  We stayed far enough away so as not to scare the protective parent.  

Returning to the mother ship, InSpeyered 2 is happily nestled in to this small harbor in quiet water and protected from wind. We stopped by the Provincial Parks dock where the boat was tied that belongs to the man who visited us last night and we talked some more about looper life and gained some local knowledge from him and his wife.

Then back on our boat to watch a spectacular sunset over the bridge and to enjoy a meatless meal prepared by the galley princess who is trying to lower the captain’s cholesterol!  Tomorrow we head back to Gananoque for the weekend festivities around Canada Day. The bummer is, the weather is heating up markedly so gone will be the cool nights and here comes the summer heat!

So here we are back in Gananoque for the Rib Fest on the Saturday before the first of July which is the official Canada Day.  It was hot and humid all day Saturday so our attempt to walk and then go to the fest was a bust!  We realized we needed more Canadian cash than we had in our pockets to buy any barbecue, so since I walk the fastest, I made my way back to the marina, grabbed all the Canadian cash we had and met Al back at the fest.  But we were soooo hot that we voted to go to the nearest restaurant to have late lunch and a very cold beer!  Once cooled off we went back to the fest and heard some great R & B music and bought a ridiculous amount of ribs, pulled pork and chicken with some beans and slaw and headed back to the boat to wash the sweat off!  Later we had drinks on our boat with 2 other boat couples until the mosquitoes chased us into our own boats.  Another looper day. 

On Sunday, 7/1 it was Canada Day but the marina was surprisingly quiet.  It was again super hot and muggy so Al and I each took an early walk before the heat was intense.  Al used his walk to eventually get to the Lions Club breakfast so he could have his fill of “good breakfast food” and we met at the annual duck race in the park.  Here I am taking photos of the ducks floating along a small canal.  

Tiny ducks just float along with the current.  It seemed to us that the method of controlling this race was very subjective and it involved 7 heats where they picked up bunches of ducks as they passed the finish lines in big nets and then released them again for the next heat. 

This is the last heat where they dumped buckets of ducks that apparently “won” the other heats for the last run of the day.  Then they scooped up the first bunch to cross the line and just gave first place to one they pulled out of the net.  Not a well controlled race, but the locals had some fun.  We ate our feast of barbecue for two nights, watched some fireworks and chose not to attend any more of the fest due to the heat.  We did have a nice evening meeting up with fellow loopers, the Hospadar’s who we met nearly a year ago in their home port of New Jersey.  They are the authors of “Reflections”, one of several books I bought for Captain Al many years ago as he dreamed of and planned this trip.  Quite fitting to meet up with these experienced loopers in the waters that Al lusted after the most.  Now we head out of the 1000 Islands and into the Rideau Canal.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Exploring the New York Side of the 1,000 Islands

On Friday 6/22 we shoved off the free dock in Cape Vincent and headed out into the wide St. Lawrence River with a perfect blue sky above and comfortably cool weather.  

We cruised down the river 17 miles for a stop in Clayton, NY which is a popular little tourist town and typically visited by many loopers.

As always, when we tie up for the day, we head out into town for the daily walk and to see what treasures the town has to offer.  The Clayton Municipal Marina looks empty at this point in the day but it did fill up for the weekend as the day progressed.

Our walk took us by Jane Street so it required a record shot!  The day warmed up enough to allow shorts and short sleeves but not so much to work up a sweat. We walked to the local grocery for a few supplies and came upon an Amish man selling fresh strawberries from the back of his buggy while his horse nibbled grass by the parking lot!  They were sweet and cheap so we bought several quarts along with some homemade strawberry jam.  Small problem, the jam rolled in the bag and squished some berries putting juice stains on my shorts and T!  But Al was the hero to fight with the washer until it started properly to get those stains removed! 

After docktails with new friends on Zoey’s Adventure, we were treated to this spectacular sunset.  But those beautiful clouds reflecting the sunset means rain is on its way.  So Saturday was a wet day and perfect for visiting the Antique Boat Museum in town. 

This museum was very interesting and housed lots of varied old, but well restored antique boats.  The highlight was touring La Duchesse, a very large, 2 story house boat from the early 1900’s that was owned by George Boldt, millionaire hotel manager who was the proprietor of the NY Waldorf Astoria.  It rained so hard and nonstop that day so we couldn’t take any pictures of La Duchesse.  On the way back to the boat, our hunger took us into Bella’s for a late lunch with warm homemade soup! Sunday was overcast and cool so we opted to take the Clayton 1,000 island tour boat that took us around lots of small islands and then to Heart Island where Boldt Castle was built.  

This is Tom Thumb island, the smallest of the 1,864 islands that comprise the 1,000 Islands area.  To be an official island, the rocky surface must be above water 365 days of the year and support the growth of at least one tree.  Cormorants live on this water and their acidic poop kills vegetation.  So we saw islands that lost their tree, but once an island, always an island despite the damage from cormorants!  Another tidbit about the islands, each one is either Canadian or American, none are split.  So the international border is quite a crazy crooked line.  And while Canada has more islands, the total land mass is about equal because many Canadian islands are small.

Dead ahead is Boldt Castle that was built between 1900 and 1904 as a tribute to the unending love George Boldt had for his wife Louise.  He spent an enormous amount of money and time on every detail of this lavish castle and abruptly stopped construction when Louise died suddenly.  The castle was never completed and no one ever lived in it.  Instead it gradually declined from weather until the 1970’s when it was bought and partially restored.  What we toured was that restoration project in process. 

Al stands in front of the Power House which held 2 generators to bring electricity to the castle.  

This is the Alster Tower which was to be the “playhouse for guests” including a full bowling alley, dance floor and billiards room.  Inside it is just beginning to be restored.

This is the Entry Arch, complete with statues of stags to greet all the anticipated guests.  What a sad shame that this elegant castle was built for no one to enjoy except tourists to see its restoration!  

Across the small bay is the massive Yacht House which housed La Duchesse part of the time while the castle was being built. George lived on the house boat while overseeing construction.  Many boats were kept in this “boat garage” as this was the “guided age” when the rich folks had lots of toys!

So Monday, 6/25 dawned as a gorgeous, blue sky day and we shipped lines after a morning walk to head back to Boldt Castle to tour the Yacht House.  The tour the day before did not have enough time for the castle and the Yacht House and our ticket was still good.  So our travels took us under the American span of the 1000 Island Bridge which connects the US to Canada.  This bridge has 3 spans, so one is on the US side, one on the Canadian side and the middle portion is the International section with the border crossing. 

So this is Boldt Castle on a sunny day as seen from our flybridge.  We tied to a public dock to take our tour and while on the little ferry that travels between the castle and the Yacht House, we asked the captain about places to anchor.  He provided detailed information about the water around the castle and that was our anchorage for the night.  

While on anchor, we watched this freighter make its way down river, passing many islands on its way.  See how even tiny rock islands can support a small cottage.  It would take some clear thinking  not to step out the front door and step right into the water!  
Tuesday 6/26 was equally lovely so we up anchored and cruised down river 10 miles to tour Singer Castle.  This is a castle that was finished, furnished and lived in for many years!!  It was built for the Frederick Bourne, a self made millionaire who was the 5th president of Singer Sewing Machine, thus it has been dubbed “Singer Castle”.  The castle was purposefully built to look like a medieval castle and has lots of hidden stairways and passageways between rooms so servants could scurry about and see what the guests needed from hidden lookout points!  That way they would not disturb the family and guests but could be exceptionally efficient!  

The rose garden was quite lush and lovely and now is a location for weddings and other special events.   

Singer Castle, seen as we departed the dock.  This was a really fun tour and much more interesting than Boldt Castle since it was actually used and appreciated by the Bourne family for several generations.  From here we decided to head back 10 miles to our anchorage next to Boldt Castle since we know the waters and its easy.  We took Victory Lap across the St. Lawrence to take our walks in the town of Alexandria Bay.  Another quiet night on anchor and then off to cross over to the Canadian side of the 1000 Islands!