Thursday, September 13, 2018

Anchoring and Hiking Along Lake Champlain

On Sunday, 9/2, we followed our new friends on Selah Way out of Canadian waters on the Richelieu River and into the headwaters of Lake Champlain, putting us back on US “soil” (with water on it)!  Entering into the US was uneventful which made things easy.


We passed by 2 of these very small white buoys which were the border markers.  So small that we couldn’t even read the writing on them!  Then with winds picking up and rain beginning to pelt us, we pulled into the customs docks that were placed temporarily for the boating season. With the help from Amy on Selah Way to catch lines, we got secure.  Only the captain leaves the boat to check in and Al was back on board in a very short time.  No questions were asked and only our passports and boat name and documentation were reviewed.  We waved goodbye to Selah Way and we turned into Gaines Marina, a short distance away.  Our batteries needed a good charge, the decks were filthy, and some laundry needed to be washed.  We stayed 2 nights at Gaines for chores. The interesting thing was how many of the boaters at this marina spoke French. I expected “Good morning” the next day and got mostly “Bon Jour”!


We did take walks around town and on our second day, Tuesday we found a nice town park with fun things to enjoy!  So it was not all work for us!


Al had worked hard the day before in the hot engine room, disconnecting and then reconnecting the inverter batteries which we were load tested by a marine technician on Labor Day.  Captain Al has been concerned about our charging system but the batteries checked out just fine.  I worked hard cleaning the outside of the boat that was full of spiders and all the things they “add” to the boat (black poop, webs, egg nests!). So we deserved to have a little fun Tuesday morning bef ore untying lines. Then we headed out to our first anchorage on Lake Champlain.  


We chose Middle Bay off of Treadwell Bay based on recommendations from friends and were not disappointed.  We had views of Vermont mountains to the East.  


And we had views of distant Adirondack Mountains to the south.  


This is what we most enjoy!  


It was a beautiful, calm evening! 


It was so peaceful that we slept longer than normal and after a nice slow morning, we took Victory Lap to the small dock inside our cove to explore the trails of Point au Roche State Park. 


The wind was kicking up some chop so getting on and off the little dock was dicey but the hiking was our reward.  We had one scary moment when Al caught a toe on a tree root and tripped near the edge of the bank but caught his balance before tumbling down the side.  Another crisis averted! 


InSpeyered 2 sat peacefully, rocking in the choppy water of the cove.  The winds at 10-15mph, kept the heat away so sleep on the boat was comfortable.  On Thursday, 9/6 we took off mid morning for a short 11 mile cruise to Valcour Island and chose Sloop Bay as our anchorage.  Valcour Island is uninhabited and has trails and primitive camp sites.  Since we were on anchor by noon, we took Victory Lap over to shore to find a trail to hike.


We stayed at this anchorage 3 nights because it was so beautiful and the walking was great!  Our first day, we walked the perimeter trail going south on the island.  


It was again a breezy day so the water was choppy.  Getting back on the dingy with dry feet, as it rocked in the waves was challenging to these old boaters!  So sometimes we take the crawling  method for safety!  


What a lovely night with a cool wind to require sweats for drinks on the flybridge, and later blankets for sleep.  The day was great except for the fact that when we got back to InSpeyered 2, the davit would not lower the hook to lift Victory Lap onto the mid deck.  So during the night we listened to wind and banging of poor little Victory Lap rocking against the big boat.  But with the help of tech support at Nautical Structures on Friday morning, we worked together to unstuck a valve for the cable and the davit was fixed.  


Back to shore we went to walk more of the trails.  It was warm enough for shorts, but cool enough to not break into a sweat. 


We walked 5 miles total and crossed the island to the Bluff Point Light House.  Good hike and tired boaters!  The wind picked up so we had a lumpy night of interrupted sleep.  At least it was very cool. 


On our third day to explore Valcour Island, we chose to tie up on more solid rock as the wind was kicking up chop.  Al continued to improve upon the way he tied the dingy to shore.  This took some time but Victory Lap was secure!  And we had better footing getting on and off of the rocky shore.  


Tadah! 


We walked the perimeter trail again only going north this time.  We reached the northern tip of the island before turning back.  Another great walk.  


Here I stand looking out at the Vermont mountains from the northern point of Valcour Island.  The views were spectacular.  Another 4+ mile walk on great trails gave us some exercise.  


On Sunday 9/9, we pulled the anchor and it came up easily and clean after 3 nights so that was a welcome surprise.  It was a chilly morning as we headed south east to cross the lake from the NY side to the Vermont side against a little chop so some of the short 14 mile cruise was lumpy.  We saw plenty of sailboats enjoying the wind whipping down the lake.  Our destination was Burlington Community Boatyard to reprovision and to get tied to a dock for predicted higher winds and later rain.  Burlington has a great bike/walking path along the lake so we enjoyed that for walks.  We checked out the town on our first day while the sky was only overcast.  The highlight of the day was a maple creemee (soft serve) for me and a very good Mexican dinner that night.  We had inside information about restaurants in town from the brother of a college roommate who lives near Burlington.  


The view from Burlington across the lake includes the Adirondack Mountains.  Our second day in Burlington was spent mainly on doing laundry, filling with water, going to the grocery, pharmacy and liquor store.  We did start it with a breakfast at the Skinny Pancake for more crepes and a wrap for Al. The grocery run was sooooo Burlington; the boat is now stocked with all organic food!  We did score some really delicious New England scallops!  Because the weather was turning to heavy rain, we chose to buy some prepared food for diner while at the grocery which offered all kinds of vegetables and tofu dishes!  Again, that seemed soooo Burlington.  Al found a nice steak to cook to add to the veges for his dinner!  
Tuesday morning started with drizzle which turned to heavy overcast and so after walking the bike trail, we untied and went on to another lovely anchorage in Converse Bay.  
  
  

This bay has views of mountains all around.  It put us another 15 miles down the lake, a short cruise for us.  


It was a quiet afternoon and night at this peaceful anchorage. We had a slow morning and then pulled the anchor expecting our luck to continue with clean anchors.  But no, the anchor chain was wrapped with weeds from about the first 30 feet down to the anchor itself.  We had put out 100 feet of chain so it was a slog to pull weeds as the anchor was slowly raised.  At least it was not windy so we had no stress about bumping into shore or another boat!  


From Converse Bay, we went about 5 miles south to the mouth of Otter Creek, and headed up the creek to get to a free town dock in Vergennes, Vt.  Other than seeing a few snakes, lots of turtles, and some pretty shallow water, this little waterway afforded a slow, quiet cruise.  


We at first tied to the south side but changed to the north side to try and plug into power.  That didn’t work as the power pole was 53’ away and our cord is 50’ but we are happy where we are tied to a free dock and can deal with the lack of power.  A big thanks to Matt who lives by the dock and helped with lines and moved some canoes to make room for us!  


Last night we had a pretty sunset.  Today, we walked the town, and then spent the afternoon cleaning the starboard hull by deploying the dingy and slowly moving along the boat’s side to remove black soot from our generator and to rid the boat of more spider stuff and webs!  Heavy work but she looks a lot more presentable!


Late afternoon we were entertained by kids boarding the canoes to work on coordinated rowing.  


Three canoes with kids practicing their skills 


And now a quiet night looking at the fall from the flybridge as the sunsets and the air cools.  As most nights, we find this peaceful and a good way to enjoy our retirement together!

  












Monday, September 3, 2018

Last Days to Enjoy Canadian Waterways in 2018

Our last afternoon in Quebec City was spent walking to the market to stock up on fresh produce and of course to buy quiche for dinner.  So few days are left to enjoy some French cuisine.  We also made a big run to the grocery pulling our wheeled cart and hauling bags on our shoulders.  Laundry was a  focus as well to get all the bedding clean and put away those winterish clothes we used on the cold days of travel.  I took one last walk around the lower part of the city and then we each enjoyed the great marina showers one final time.  We appreciate good water pressure and nice warm water showers!  We had a quiet night watching an IndyCar race and then turned in early knowing we had to head out at 7am on Sunday.  The tide was high as we untied lines so the lock was open to through traffic allowing us to shave a few minutes off our long trip ahead.  Because the tide was rising in a westward direction, we had a push of tidal current for our first 2 1/2 hours.

 

There was minimal pleasure craft traffic but we passed and were passed by many commercial ships.


Some days, we have seen only a few big ships but this day was a busy one for commercial traffic. It at least keept us awake and interested when otherwise the calm water and overcast sky can lull us into a sleepy stupor!  We went 76 miles over 9 hrs as the tidal push diminished and the St Lawrence River current pushed back against us.  Just as we approached Trois Riviers Marina, a rain squall hit and the water became turbulent and visibility was poor.  The Captain slowed us down and I set lines and fenders in the rain.  We got into the marina with no problems and hunkered inside until the rain stopped.  Once it was no longer raining, we each set out on walks around the island park by the marina.  Another uneventful night was had.


Monday was a clear blue sky day and our marina dock looked a lot more inviting than when we came  in Sunday afternoon.  



Al and I enjoyed a longer walk along a boardwalk built over marshy land that was surprisingly lengthy for being a man made project.  The marina was nothing special but the park around it made it worth the stop.  We did a few boat chores before untying from the dock and leaving for a relatively short, 4 hour/32 mile cruise with just a mild current to plow through.  We had enough of long days, big cities and marinas.  We headed to the anchorage we knew well, at Isle aux Sable in Lake St. Pierre.  Just as we were settling in to a quiet afternoon we had the great surprise of seeing old looper friends, Jim and Linda Mumper on Leilani, slowly cruise into the area of our anchorage.  Al hailed them on the radio and invited them to join us in our private anchorage.  


We had great fun having docktails on our flybridge and exchanging cruising information.  What are the chances two looper boats (they fly the gold flag) would find each other in a Canadian anchorage? Looper Magic!!


Once more we enjoyed a lovely sunset in our quiet spot.  But a pesky, relentless fly woke us up Tuesday morning before we were ready to be awake and would not stop dive bombing our faces until we got out of bed!  At a quiet anchorage no less!  But the good news is that the anchor came up easily and mostly clean after some morning relaxing time.  We left our anchorage at 10ish and cruised the same path we took earlier when Al’s sister was aboard, to the St. Ours Lock.  This time we locked through with no other boat traffic and tied to the wall above the lock.  It was a hazy, warm to hot day with barely enough breeze to keep the flies away.  We each took a walk for some exercise and Al indulged in an ice cream cone while sitting in an Adirondack chair.  Easy day!  Wednesday 8/29 we decided to take off before breakfast, no reason to hang around the wall.  I had a moment of panic when releasing lines because the midship line became pinched in the cleat and the wind was pushing us off the wall putting too much tension on the line for me to get it free.  We were rescued by a helpful French speaking boater who at least understood the intensity of my voice as I hollered to Al for help! We cruised 31 more miles to the first lock of the Chambly Canal.  This canal was created to circumvent the rapids on the Richelieu and is a series of 9 locks in 10 miles.  Our plan was to go through the first flight of 3 in a row and stay on the wall in the heart of the town of Chambly.  


The cruise was mostly easy except for passing under this bridge which had a narrow opening with strong current against us.  Al called a securite on the radio to alert any boaters northbound, opposite us, because 2 boats our size could not pass under the bridge. But it was a quiet day and all the  warnings we had read about weren’t needed.  It was an easy pass through.  We got to the lock at noonish and tied to the blue line to wait for an opening.  But much to our chagrin, we were informed they had a leak and had just decided to close the canal “until further notice”, big bummer!  We moved the boat to the gray line where we could stay the night and eventually were joined by 4 other boats and a tourist day cruise ship.  Since we were the biggest, non commercial boat on the dock, we had another 48’ SeaRay raft up with us.  Never got to know them as they spoke French and minimal English.  


It was sunny and hot so of course we headed out to take walks!  I used my walk to find the grocery for a few things, to find a hair salon to make an appointment for a much needed hair cut and to check out Fort Chambly.  A quick storm popped up and caught us both by surprise while walking, bringing sudden, strong winds with grit and rain.  At least it cooled things down.  


We had a night of cooling temperatures and good sleeping weather. Then we woke to a very chilly 60 something morning with a good breeze.  Back to long pants! The news was not good as the leak was only just starting to be filled in so the soonest we would lock through would be the next day. We made lemonade from the lemons and had a wonderful French breakfast, followed by whatever we wanted to do!  I got my hair cut, my toes done, hit up the grocery 2 more quick trips and walked the canal.  Al walked the canal path to see the work being done to plug the leak and take pictures .


The 3 locks were drained and it was interesting to see the bottom.  


The basin above us and the canal to lock 4 was drained enough for the ditch digger to clear debris so concrete could be poured into the wall breech.


The next day when we locked through, Al took this shot of the area where the leak was filled to show just how high the water had to be raised up again for the locks to open.  And they did in fact open on time with our boat first in and a smaller boat behind us.  We had a slight mishap on the way into the first lock.  I was focused on being ready to catch the line that would be thrown to me so didn’t watch the hull as we glided in.  We only had 2 fenders set and the rubrail on the starboard bow hit against a part of the wall that was protruding out that was hard to see. With a loud bang, we had the rubrail split and a piece bent outward.  Al was very unhappy with himself but crap can happen on a boat and the damage can be fixed.  


We went through the first 3 locks without stopping, no time for breakfast.
  

Through the break in the tree line, the rapids of the river can be seen.  


Many spots narrowed so only one boat could pass at a time.  We were surprised to only have 3 boats pass us northbound the whole 6 hours of travel.


The canal has many swing bridges that have to open and are timed with the locks.  The speed limit on the canal is 10kph (6.2mph for us).  If you go faster, the bridges won’t open earlier!  We had a bridge that took a lunch break so we had to tie up at a floating dock to wait for bridge #10.  It was a tiring day of shallow water, narrow passage, 9 locks (8 in a close series and about a 1 1/2 hour cruise to the last one) with some waiting time in between.  We pulled up to the wall in St. Jean, kicking up mud due to shallow water, but safely got tied up, happy to have that section of water behind us.  Al’s eyes needed rest and my legs needed exercise so we did our usual apres cruise activity.  While I was out checking out the town for restaurants and a bakery, a looper boat came in and tied up just in front of us.  As always, we made a connection, set a time for docktails on our flybridge and later learned all we could about Lake Champlain anchorages and marinas from new friends, Amy and David, aboard Selah Way.  Their home port is Lake Champlain.


Friday night we went out for mediocre mexican food and Saturday made the trek to the grocery so we could eat well while exploring the lake.  


This was our spot on the wall in St. Jean and while it is convenient to restaurants, a really good bakery and not horribly far from the grocery, it was noisy and busy with people at night and just didn’t feel completely safe.  Sleep did not come easily.  We stayed 2 nights anyway to spend Saturday charging batteries with the generator and to have a little more time to exchange cruising info with our new friends.  They are new to looping so we filled them in on our highs and lows on the trip and now we are armed with great intel on Lake Champlain.  We departed Sunday 9/2 mid morning to cruise out of Canada.  It was cool, somewhat windy and eventually rainy but uneventful which is what we  like.  


The last authentic French pastry to be eaten on the flybridge for breakfast while underway!
Au revoir Canada!









   


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Three more nights in Quebec City

On Thursday, 8/23 we arrived back at the Old Port Marina in Quebec City, tired but exhilarated that we had such a memorable family adventure.


This was the last day for Erik to be Captain of our boat and he took full advantage as he managed the helm most of the day.  It was a nice mother-son time and even the first mate took some short periods of driving the boat.  


We were happy to see Quebec City looming on the horizon in the early evening.  Erik did a perfect job getting us through the lock and safely tied to the dock.  But he had one more mission and his mom made it happen.  While Al hung back at the boat and walked some and cleaned up in the great showers of the marina, Erik and I set out to walk the city and find the right poutine dinner to get him as take out.  Too tired to actually eat in a restaurant!  


Back in shorts and tee shirts (not nearly as chilly in the city with the sun as it was out on the water) we did some fast walking to climb our way up into the Old City to find Cochon Dingue, a place I was sure would have authentic and tasty poutine.  Erik chose one with duck gravy and duck meat.  Gloppy but he liked it!  We walked over 4 miles to get our food and take the long way back to the boat.  Al snapped our picture as we walked the boardwalk across from the marina basin.  By that time of day, the lock was open as it was high tide and the water level inside equaled the water level outside.  That meant we couldn’t cross over the lock on a bridge, thus we took the long way around the basin.  After a nice night of drinks on the flybridge, easy dinner (Al and I had leftovers) and another Pixar movie, we all fell into bed for a blissful sleep.  Saturday was a sleep in day and then we set out so Erik could really see the city.  


Of course, Erik took the lead, followed by his mom and then dad, up and up we went.


Such a wonderful last full day to be together.  Erik picked Chic Shack, known for its burgers as our lunch stop and we had very messy, yummy burgers (chicken for me) with lots of fries.  


Then it was up some more to the Plains of Abraham and the Citadel.


The climbing order remained the same so Erik could take pictures of his parents struggling to reach the top!  What spectacular views of the city and the St. Lawrence!  


Al and Erik were good at taking pictures and somehow, I failed to get any good shots of the two men together!  So the pictures are mostly of Erik and me. 
While Al and I took a rest break to sit in a park, Erik went on a quest to find a shop that sold watches as that was his purchase as a memento for his vacation.  Across from our park, was the Basilica Notre Dame, so I took the opportunity to pop in and feel the peace of the very ornate sanctuary.   


It seems that money was not spared when these old French Catholic Churches were built.   After the successful shopping excursion, we worked our way down the streets and steps to le Petit Champlain for Erik to see and then, with tired legs, went back to the boat for the men to take after lunch naps and for me to read.  
  

Our last dinner together was at Charbon Steakhouse, which is situated in the train station.  All in all, it was a great family day.  


But all good things end sometime and Saturday, 8/25 was the end to Erik’s vacation.  We were sad parents saying goodbye to our son after a slow morning while Erik packed and prepped for his 3 flight trek home.  We enjoyed a traditional “boat lunch” of quesadillas, prepared by the “galley princess” before he departed.  


Sad and happy to have had such a great vacation and then to have it end, but also looking forward to time alone in his apartment to regroup for the upcoming work week.