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!  


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Peaceful Cruising in Upstate New York

After our craziness in Brewerton that lasted far too long, we are finally enjoying peaceful days in Upstate New York.  Captain Al has dreamed about cruising in the St. Lawrence Seaway and seeing the 1,000 Islands area for years and here we are at last!  We got here by cruising along the Erie Canal westbound, traversing only one lock, and then we took a turn to starboard to enter the Oswego Canal going northbound.  We got a late start on that first cruising day, June 16 because we waited for a UPS delivery.  So we chose to only go 12 miles to Phoenix, NY.  But with the time for the lock and lots of slow passes of private docks, it took us a bit over 2 hours.  (Some people can jog 12 miles in 2 hours!!)

This small town that is a mix of fixed up homes and homes that cry for fixing, has managed to build a lovely town dock that is free for over night tie ups.  When summer truly gets going up here (school is still in session!), there is a group of kids that call themselves the Dockhouse Brats that help boaters with lines and cleaning chores and run to local restaurants to pick up take out orders.  They do this all for tips or donations.  Of course we are a week too early to enjoy the kid service.  

Al and I each took our walks and Al snapped this shot of InSpeyered 2 while he explored the other side of the canal in Phoenix.  I made my way to the local bakery for breakfast treats and searched for a produce market that had little to sell this early in the season.  On Father’s Day, the Captain was treated to a “greasy spoon” breakfast which he thoroughly enjoyed and I only picked at.  (can’t do greasy food!). With the captain well fed, we shipped lines mid morning and headed up the Oswego Canal for a 4 1/2 hour cruise to cover a whopping 21 miles. But we traversed 6 locks in the process to drop down to the level of Lake Ontario.  We entered lock 1 from Phoenix with 2 other looper boats we didn’t know, and because we all ran a similar speed, we went through all the locks together and 2 of us stopped at the free wall between lock 7 and lock 8 in Oswego.

As is our habit, once tied up, we went for our walks.  Going through 6 locks is tiring so the Captain rested before his walk, and I chose to head out on my walk immediately in search of a grocery store knowing there is always something more to buy to fill the pantry.   It was a beastly hot Sunday, especially for northern NY!  We met the folks on Vahevala, the looper boat tied in front of our boat that had lead the way through the locks. Noting that they were from the NY area, we picked their brains about the water we plan to explore because they are from the area and have plenty of experience in and around Lake Ontario.   Monday was a windy day with afternoon heavy rain, so no one wanted to try Lake Ontario.  We made the best of it with more walking and exploring Oswego and doing small chores. Then we treated ourselves to Mexican dinner with our new friends from Vahevala. Tuesday stared with more wind which was predicted to die down, but Al always says “weather predictions are only predictions and actual is actual!”  So we purposely had a slow start only to be held up by the lock master, who was assigned to work 2 locks and was overly busy.  In the time it took to hail that guy, our new looper friends had texted that their attempt to enter Lake Ontario was met with 3-4 foot seas so they turned around to tie back up to the town wall.  Which is what we did before we even got into lock 8.  Another day to sit still in a fairly boring town. That’s cruising!! 

After looking at all of our favorite weather apps and buoy reports, we took off safely on Wednesday, went through one lock and said goodbye to Oswego. This is a town that will not make it to the list of places “where we might live someday”.


We followed another looper boat out past the breakwater and into a fairly calm Lake Ontario on a cool and overcast Wednesday morning. They went one way and we went another. We cruised 42 miles, going northeast on a diagonal across the lake to the lovely town of Sackets Harbor.  Sometimes picking our destination spots is as easy as reading other looper blogs and gathering intell from boater friends.  That is how we came to arrive at Sackets Harbor and it proved to be a great choice!  We walked together through the town and around a battle field from the War of 1812 with spectacular weather, just warm enough for shorts but not sweat provoking heat!! We found a bakery and a shop with special chocolates so the day was complete!  We also found a restaurant that others had recommended and made a plan for a do-over breakfast for me that wasn’t greasy!! 

InSpeyered 2 sits happily on a T dock at Navy Point Marine and we are happy town explorers. We are plugged in so have power to catch up on laundry, what else could we ask for! Well actually, we could hope for a washer that would quit acting up and be easy to use!  That’s another story! 

After a wonderful walk around the battle field in cooler but sunny weather, we did have a scrumptious breakfast at the Tin Pan Galley that was packed with people on a Thursday morning.  The best part is that we both went home with plenty of leftovers to enjoy some more breakfast treats!  Despite it being a windy early morning, the wind died down and the waves calmed so we could take off late morning to cruise 24 miles, taking about 3 hours to reach Cape Vincent that is on the St. Lawrence River. 


So we passed the Tibetts Point Light house which marks the beginning of the St. Lawrence River whose mighty job it is to drain the waters that flow from one Great Lake to the next all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  About 20% of the world’s fresh water sits in the 5 Great Lakes and this mighty river.  

After coming around Tibet’s Point we head into the St. Lawrence River and the boating area referred to as the 1000 Islands.  

Once again, we find a great free wall in the town of Cape Vincent for a quiet night of floating. 

While sitting on the bridge watching the sun lower, we spotted our first freighter cruising up the river.  Tomorrow we will head further down the river and begin seeing lots of small and medium sized islands.  (Note this was actually written to end on 6/21 but with time to proof read, it is being posted late.).  We’re just having too much fun!! 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Home Sweet Home!

Spring has sprung and we are back on InSpeyered 2, our water home.  Time at the “dirt house” was well spent but we are happy to be back on the water.  Al had a successful hip replacement and did a fine job of steadily following his rehab plan.

The Captain was walking the area around the house on the day after surgery! When he wasn’t doing exercises, he was creating cool stuff for the boat while dreaming about driving the boat and “burning diesel”.
My gift was a specially made tool for lassoing tall marina pilings. Later there will be pictures when it’s put to use.  For his own pleasure, he created a telescoping pole that can support a special solar powered anchor light but also can double as a pole on the bow raised to match the boat air draft so we know in advance if we’ll clear low bridges.

The cleverness of the Captain is never ending!  My home time was focused on spending “therapy” time with the family of 3 girls who each have Joubert Syndrome which makes coordination of movements  a challenge among other things.  I love the time with “my girls” and being a part of their progression towards independence is special.  But the water travel called!!
So we departed the home port and headed to  Brewerton, NY just before Memorial weekend stopping for a 4 day weekend in Indianapolis for the 102nd running of the Indy 500.  It was a great family weekend because we had Erik with us and a very special guest, Al’s sister.

It is amazing how much Al and Erik look alike and even stand with the same posture! 
From Indy, we continued north to Canton, Ohio to spend 2 nights with my first boss and dear friend, Barb and her husband Marty.  Since they live on a lake, we got our first taste of returning to boating while enjoying time on their pontoon and teaching them some things about lines and proper tie ups!

We had a fine day to float in Lake Cable off the pontoon boat. 

We made it to Brewerton on 5/30 where InSpeyered 2 spent the winter and she was “splashed” the next morning so we could board right away.  And the best part was that there were no major surprises like awful bugs or other critters and she was even fairly clean, at least inside!  But that was 2 weeks ago and we have only moved less than a mile to Brewerton Boatyard where we have been dealing with tons of boat chores and boat fixes!  The first of which was getting a replacement teak swim platform installed that was made over the winter, and she is a beauty.

After a few coats of teak oil (on the First Mate’s chore list), the swim platform looked as beautiful as the teak transome.  Al’s chore list included checking all of our fire extinguishers because Kidde has a major recall in process and of course all 5 extinguishers need to be replaced.  

It is a tight squeeze for Al to get down to check the extinguisher next 
to the lower helm and getting back up was no easy matter!  Plus his chagrin includes figuring out how to set up shipment of new extinguishers that may be shipped 2-3 (or so) weeks after ordering.  When traveling, that in itself will be a major challenge.  Next on the boatyard list was installing switches to simplify shifting from shore power to inverter power.  This job was started last fall and the plan was to finish up in a day or so after arriving this May but the guy who was to make a plan and buy the switches is having family medical problems so is not working at the yard this summer.  And when he tried to ship the plans and the switches bought for the job, good ol’ UPS lost the shipment.  So that added nearly a week to our stay at the boatyard while new switches were special ordered.  Luckily we were content with beautiful sunsets and quality time with our boat buddies on Short Vacation. 

We shared some meals, some snacks at docktail time and shared plenty of boat advice over the 2 weeks spent next to each other in the yard. 

Variable cloud cover and cool nights made for excellent sunsets! And that is all great fun, but we seem to get “boatyarditis” which is Al’s term for developing problems that lead to spending money and staying longer than expected at the yard.  So during our week of waiting we had the engine water pump impellers replaced as a precaution form sitting dormant all winter.  But the new impellers didn’t work because the pumps were old and worn out.  Voila, order new pumps, ship them 2 day air because we “are leaving soon”  (cha Ching the cash register sings) and have them successfully replaced about the time we find our electric work is delayed anyway.  Oh well, it’s only money!  With  too much time on our hands, we think back on things that weren’t quite right and I suggest, we look at our windlass which raises and loweres the anchor.  It was giving us problems in Maine last  summer.  So we pull out some chain and this is what we saw.

A very worn out gypsy which I call the “sprocket” which feeds the chain along and worse, an incredibly rusty old chain!  Silly us, to not rinse the chain after our last time anchoring in New York  Harbor which is salt water!  We had plenty of travel time in fresh water but never anchored again so we left the chain put away with salt on it and it already was old chain with some rust.  Simple solution, but a time consuming and expensive correction, order 220 feet of new chain and a new gypsy.  

To make a long story a bit shorter, the simple solution was not simple.  The chain ordered never came days later so Al found chain available at a West Marine in Buffalo, a 5 hour drive away and called in a favor of his college roommate.  Randy graciously took time away from work, and drove Al in his truck to get our new chain.  Then John Short worked with Al to remove parts off the windlass to prep for a new gypsy and their efforts lead to old screws shearing and a drill bit getting stuck in the windlass.  Now we have a brand new windlass and new chain!!  Since it is First Mate work to raise and lower the chain, we made the chain my birthday present and the windlass (discounted by Defender for Father’s Day), Al’s Dad day present!  Oh yeah!!

John and Al work well together!  So by Wednesday 6/13 the new chain was neatly installed in the chain locker and we declared our departure would happen the next day.  But then Al decided we needed one more day to get updated Garmin charts for Canada and crazy wind on Thursday made that a good decision.  In the mean time, our boat buddies on Greeks’s Folly got their boat splashed and we enjoyed more social time among the 6 of us.

The first night (Tuesday) with Tom and Colletta, Pam and John, we enjoyed a delicious ranch chicken dinner made by Pam!  

The next night (supposedly our last night) we enjoyed a meal out together.  

Al snapped this picture at that restaurant!  Rather fitting for all of us! 

So InSpeyered 2 sits patiently waiting to take off with her crisp new AGLCA burgee given to us by my college roommate, Lynn and her husband Rich last summer when they noticed how worn and tattered our old flag was.  And even though we promised her we would for sure leave on Friday, our departure was delayed one more day, waiting for a Garmin navigation chip to arrive.  Our shipping bad luck continued, so despite paying for over night shipping, it took 2 days to get to Brewerton.  But  on a positive note, this blog post is being finished on Saturday 6/16 with chip in hand at a spot further up the canals.  More on that for the next post.


Our last picture together with our 3 buddy boats behind us, floating peacefully together, waiting for more adventures!
Finally taking off going west on the Erie Canal!  Canada, here we come!!