Pushing Hard up the North Channel

First of All -

  • First time listening to and participating in a Cruisers Net
  • First bird: sandhill crane

Namely Speaking-

  • Picnic Island
  • Clapperton Island
  • Gore Bay
  • Barrie Island
  • Vidal Bay
  • Meldrum Bay

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 66; Sail: Motor sailed 4 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,320
  • Hours Underway: 10
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.56
  • Wind Speed: 18; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF6038Not sure how far we’ll get today, but with wind and rain in the forecast for tomorrow, we want to go as far as possible. We’re off the dock by 7:30 on smooth waters. On our way to Gore Bay I hear a call on the radio, announcing the start of the North Channel Cruisers Net at 9am on channel 71. We flip over to 71 so we can listen in. They follow a standard format, with emergency traffic, weather information, news highlights, this day in history items, and call for boats to check in with boat name and location. When they get to our area I call in. It’s a nice way to keep track of people and network with other boats. We decide to head in to Gore Bay, where I’ve been told they have aDSCF6039 good chandlery. I’m hoping they’ll have an anchor and boat hook to replace the items we’ve lost. We arrive at noon and I look over the stuff in the chandlery. They have anchors, but not the Rochna that I’m looking for. They also have boat hooks, but not one that will work for us. We pick up a couple of minor items, and then have lunch at a nice, nearby outdoor place. After lunch we head out again, into an increasingly breezy North Channel. I’d been motor sailing with main and jib before pausing at Gore Bay, but I decide the jib will be enough in this wind. We must pass the mouths of several large bays, with 6 and 9 miles of open water, so I don’t want to be out with too much sail up in a building wind. I steadily shorten the jib, but occasionally we get hit with a strong gust which heels us over beyond the comfort range. I’m watching a sailboat out in the middle of the channel, under full sail and obviously moving very well. They catch up and then pass us by without difficulty. I call ahead to Meldrum Bay Marina to see if they have a spot for us. I estimate we’ll get in around 7am, and after a long run we make it, just 9 minutes later than I’d estimated. On the way down Meldrum Bay I see that sailboat again, and he’s coming all the way into the bay under sail. The wind is really gusty, but he still doing great. I take some long range photos of his boat, hoping we’ll get a chance to talk with him, so I can e’mail the pictures to him.

It’s great getting in to the dock, after such a long day underway. We decide to head over to the Meldrum Bay Inn for dinner. This turns out to be a great decision. They’re very busy and we have no reservation, but they manage to work us in, serving us dinner in their front sitting room. The food is outstanding. We order fresh caught local fish, I the whitefish and Sandy the lake trout. Homemade desserts finish off the meal.

We’ll take a day off tomorrow, and let the weather pass. We’ve been moving hard for the last 3 days, with nearly 200 miles logged in that period. It will feel good to ease up and relax a bit, before continuing on. We’ll cross the border back into the US with our next move, after being in Canada since June 17.

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Foul Way to Start the Day – 8/3/16

First of All -

  • First fouled anchor
  • First self serve fuel dock
  • First grocery store with its own boat dock

Namely Speaking-

  • Scarecrow Island
  • French River
  • Killarney
  • Little La Cloche Island
  • North Channel
  • Little Current

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 57; Sail: Motor sailed 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,254
  • Hours Underway: 9 1/2
  • Fuel: 31.5 gallons; 5.7mph; $170
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.69
  • Wind Speed: 12 ; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 72

DSCF6027The plan is to get another early start, and I’ve got the engine started by 6am. However, when I go forward to raise the anchor, the plan falls apart. I start pulling, and when I get to the start of the chain, I can’t break it loose, no matter how hard I pull. I put the engine in gear and try to push against the direction that it set last evening, but no luck. I next try motoring in a circle, but that doesn’t work either. Then I run the rode back to the winch and try pulling with winch power, but it’s just stuck hard. My last attempt involves lowering my gaff hook with a line, with the handle looped around the anchor chain, in the hope that the gaff hook will snag the anchor’s roll bar. It’s a real longDSCF6028 shot, and long shots rarely pay off. The anchor is probably fouled on a rock. It’s 20 feet down, and that’s beyond my diving capabilities. I’ve run out of options, so out comes the knife, and I donate anchor and chain to the Georgian Bay. For the balance of the trip I’ll be relying on my Fortress anchor, which I carry as a backup. It’s already rigged on the bow, with its own chain, so we should be ok unless I encounter another nasty rock.

It’s 7am by the time we actually get going. It’s fairly breezy to start with, and we get caught in a rain shower which wasn’t in the forecast. It doesn’t last too long, and it produces a nice rainbow. We run into the wind for the first 5 miles, but then we turn a bit to the west and gain enough angle to set both main and jib. I’m still motor sailing, but the sails help steady the boat in the rolling seas. As the time progresses, the wind eases and the seas diminish. We reach Killarney around 1:30pm and head for Pitfield General Store. They have a convenient dock, and also sell gas. This is the first gas dock I’ve stopped at where they don’t even come out to the pump. It’s strictly self service: I turn the pump on, haul the hose to the boat, fill the tanks, return the hose, shut the pump off, and then walk up and tell the clerk how much gas I took on. At most fuel docks in Ontario, they insisted that Sandy and I get off the boat, and then the attendant got on board and filled the tanks. Not how they do it in Killarney. I think we set a record here for fueling the boat, picking up some groceries, and buying ice, all in about half an hour. That’s a pit stop any Indy car driver would be proud of.

I’m pushing things a bit, since I’d like to get as far as Little Current today, and we will need to contend with a swing bridge in Little Current which only opens on the hour. Once we get underway I estimate time and distance, and conclude that we’re in good shape to make a 5pm bridge opening. That works out fine, and once we clear the bridge, we make a short run over to the Little Current Town Docks, where we take a slip. We walk up into town for a nice dinner. Afterwards we walk over to the grocery to pick up a few items the little store in Killarney didn’t have in stock. Another long day in the books. I’ll have just enough energy left to hit the showers and review charts for tomorrow’s run. I want to make another fairly long run, since the weather is supposed to be good tomorrow, but not good on Friday. I need to make miles when we can.

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Going Outside on Georgian Bay – 8/2/16

First of All -

  • First time cruising on the open waters of Georgian Bay
  • First time motor sailing with main and jib since I can’t remember when
  • First time anchoring since way back on the Ottawa River
  • First birds: ruby throated hummingbird, Napoleon’s gull

Namely Speaking-

  • Good Cheer Island
  • Waubuno Channel
  • Palestine Island
  • Shawanaga Inlet
  • Pointe au Baril
  • Hangdog Inlet
  • Byng Inlet
  • Bustard Islands

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 71; Sail: Motor sailed with main and jib for 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,197
  • Hours Underway: 11
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.65
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 74

DSCF5995This is a day just made for traveling, and we have some long miles to make. Dead calm at 6am when I cast off and motor out into the channel. The sun is just rising, lighting the world up with those magnificent low angle rays. We weave our way between islands large and small, taking great care to stay between the red and green markers. In some places, we have no more than 10 feet between the sides of our hull and the buoys. About half way into our run we’re forced to head out into open water, since the close in waters are just too chokedDSCF5998 with rocks and islets to afford clear passage in sheltered water. This is a good day to be outside, though, with just a light breeze ruffling the water surface. Once I make the turn to the northwest, we gain enough angle on the wind to warrant raising sails. I set both main and jib, and the light wind moves us along at 3.5 to 4 mph. If we were just out playing, that would be more than enough speed, however, we still have nearly 20 miles to go and it would turn dark before we reached an anchorage at that speed. In these rocky waters that’s a very bad idea. I run the engine at just over 2000 rpm, and our speed increases to around 6 mph.

I’m grateful for the wind’s boost, since I need to maximize my fuel efficiency. I last bought gas at Orillia, and fuel docks are very scarce in these parts. Where they do exist, they are well off the main routes, and often require a lengthy detour. I’m wanting to avoid any extra cruising time, if at all possible. I filled the port side tank with gas from my portable gas cans last evening, so I started the day with 2 full 12 gallon main tanks. Ten miles short of our anchorage I check the gas level and see the last half gallon sloshing around in the bottom of the tank. I switch tanks on the run, and do a quick calculation of just how far it is to Killarney. I’ll need to cover about 40 miles on that last tank. It will be a bit closer than I like, but if I go easy on the throttle tomorrow, that tank should be good for about 70 miles. I expect to get to Killarney with 4 or 5 gallons still in the tank.

DSCF6005As the miles pass by, I regularly switch to new charts. I’m using strip charts which are folded accordian style, for this part of the trip. They come in chart packs which I bought second hand from a couple who had just completed their loop cruise. Out on the open waters I’m using a large area chart which covers the entire Georgian Bay, however, as I near our destination, the anchorage at Bustard Islands, I look for the detailed accordian chart from chart pack 2204. To my surprise, 2 of the 4 charts in that packet are missing. I failed to notice this before we left home. So, I’m left to navigate using the large area chart along with the electronic chart in my Garmin GPS. It’s sufficient, but I sure miss having my detailed paper chart, which allows me to look ahead at a glance, without having to push buttons and scroll around.

Shortly before 5pm we finally reach our destination. It’s a beautiful anchorage, and half a dozen boats are already riding quietly at anchor. I cruise around, looking for the best available remaining spot. The anchor hooks well on the first try. We’re both hungry, so I fire up the barbque and grill hamburger patties. I’m pleased with our progress today. I’ll go for another early departure in the morning, which should put us into Killarney close to noon. We need to fuel up there, and if we get there in time, we’ll hit the fish and chips place for lunch. We’ll also find a grocery and buy a few apples and a few other items we’re low on. I don’t plan on spending the night there, so long as we have a few good hours of cruising time still available. There are some lovely anchorages nearby, and it would be nice to anchor out somewhere near the start of the North Channel.

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Fish Dinner at Henrys – 8/1/16

First of All -

  • First day of August
  • First time picking blueberries
  • First view of the open waters of Georgian Bay
  • First time motor sailing since leaving Lake Champlain

Namely Speaking-

  • Muskoka Landing Channel
  • Hangdog Island
  • The Sow and The Pig (two small islands)
  • Starvation Bay
  • Sans Souci

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 26; Sail: Motor sailed 1 hour
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,126
  • Hours Underway: 4
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.65
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NNW
  • Daily High Temperature: 77
  • Water Temperature: 71

DSCF5964We’re tired from yesterday’s exertions, and get an easy start on the day. After breakfast we go for an hour long walk on the loop trail which takes off from Frying Pan Bay. The trail is called the Fairy Trail, and it leads us around Fairy Lake, with nice views of Honeymoon Bay and Goblin Lake along the way. We keep a sharp watch out for two of the island’s more notorious residents, the black bear and the massagua rattlesnake, but neither make an appearance. We find a few small blueberries along the trail, but they’re not particularly good,DSCF5969 probably because it’s been so dry this summer. The walk does get a little spooky at one point, while we’re crossing through a dark and shady woods, when the repeated wail of a loon drifts in from somewhere out on the water. We cast off around 11am, and reconnect with the Small Craft Route. This well marked course winds between small islands and barely covered granite reefs. The pink rocks and ochre colored lichens on them make for a colorful landscape. The boat traffic is still heavy, but as we proceed up Georgian Bay, the number of boats we encounter seems to lessen. This region is known as the 30,000 Islands, but one sign proclaims that it could easily be referred to as the 100,000 Islands, claiming that it’s the largest freshwater archipeligo in the world. That’s a tall claim but, who knows, it could well be true.

As we proceed, we get our first look at the open waters of Georgian Bay. To the southwest we have a watery horizon, and if we could see far enough beyond that horizon, we would be looking at the State of Michigan. We’re getting closer every day to where we started off, just over 11 months ago. Around 3pm we approach Frying Pan Island, where the famous Henry’s Restaurant is located. Henrys is noted for itsDSCF5985 fresh fish dinners, and even though it’s early, I radio to see about a slip and dinner. We’re told that they’re fully booked for overnight slips, but we can put in for dinner. There is a good anchorage not far away where we can spend the night. We head for the dock, tie up, and go for a short walk to kill a little time before sitting down to an early dinner. The good smells activate our appetites and 4:30 we’re diving in to a great fish dinner. Sandy orders pan fried walleye, and I have the battered walleye. They call it pickeral up here. They also have Georgian Bay shrimp on the menu, which seems odd, since Georgian Bay is freshwater. I ask about this, and learn that Georgian Bay shrimp are really smelt. I wonder what their hamburgers really are. In any event, our dinners are excellent. As we’re walking back toward the boat a guy approaches us and asks if I’m the MacGregor owner. I wonder if I have some lettering stenciled on my forehead. I answer in the affirmative, and he introduces himself as the owner of Henrys. He asks us how we liked our dinners, and then says he has a spot for us to tie up for the night, if we’re still interested. He walks over to the spot with us, and along the way I ask him about the famous people he’s served over the years. He mentions Jimmy Buffet, Goldie Hawn, and Kenny G, to list a few. Jimmy Buffet was particularly memorable, since he piloted his own float plane here. We figure that if this place is good enough for Jimmy Buffet, it’s good enough for us. We’ll stay the night. Later on we may dinghy over to the marina just around the corner for some ice cream.

 

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The Perfect Mast Raising (Almost) – 7/31/16

First of All -

  • First time with the mast up since leaving Lake Champlain
  • First time having to wait for 4 lock cycles before being able to lock through
  • First day cruising on the Georgian Bay
  • First time with no more locks ahead

Namely Speaking-

  • Turning Rock
  • Big Dog Channel
  • Beausoleil Island

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 16; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,100
  • Hours Underway: 4 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NE
  • Daily High Temperature: 76
  • Water Temperature: 74

DSCF5955I’ve raised the mast on this boat more than 50 times and I’ve yet to experience the perfect mast raising. Something always goes wrong. A line is out of position, I forget to attach the windex, something goes wrong with the flag halyard, the roller furler is facing backwards, something always gets in the way of a perfect rigging. It remains my goal, and I figure that, by now, I’ve made every mistake that it’s possible to make, and sooner or later I’ll do a perfect mast raising and rigging operation. I came really close today, and still it turned into a mess. Things start out fine, with Sandy doing a laundry, which frees me to move easily about the boat, taking my time and thinking each operation out. I’m careful to avoid each of the mistakes of the past, and things are going well. The moment of truth arrives when I begin cranking the winch and raising the mast. I get it almost all the way up and gaze upward, doing one last visual check. I spot the swagedDSCF5959 thimble atop one of the shrouds, twisted where it connects to the mast. Not a big problem. I slack the mast raising line and untwist the fitting, then finish raising the mast and securing the pin in the forestay. The rig is now up and secure. However, when I go to disconnect the mast raising pole, which bolts to the hinged mast step, I see a new problem. I failed to plug the running light/anchor light wire into its socket on the cabin roof. And wouldn’t you know, the loose plug fitting managed to find its way beneath the hinged mast step, where it’s gotten mashed. And on top of that, it’s pressing against the bolt which holds the mast raising pole in position. I manage to free the bolt, and figure I’ll deal with the wire and fitting later. Right now, I’m focused on getting off the dock and through the last lock of our entire Great Loop cruise. It’s hard to believe that, after passing nearly 150 locks we have just one more to go. It turns out to be the most difficult lock of all.

We know we’re in for it when we round the corner and the lock comes into view. Boats are stacked up like cordwood. Every foot of wall is occuppied by parked boats, waiting their turn to go through. Several other large cruisers are loitering in the bay, trying to keep out of each other’s way while waiting for a place on the wall. It doesn’t help that this is the smallest lock on the entire system, and it’s manually operated to boot. Each lock cycle takes nearly 1/2 hour, and we watch 3 full lockings before it’s our turn. We’re so relieved to finally be able to move into the lock. As I’m wrapping my line around the cable, one of the green shirted Parks Canada lock hands walks up, gazes up at our mast, then looks down at me and asks how high the rig is. I tell him about 35 feet. He says the fixed bridge just 200 meters below the lock has just 30 feet of clearance. Swell. I’d asked DSCF5960a couple of boaters at the last lock above Port Severn about bridges, and was told that there was just a swing bridge below Port Severn, and it opens on demand. I also asked around at the marina and got the same report. And the Canadian charts don’t list bridge clearance heights for this location. On this basis I figured I’d be fine raising the mast at the marina dock, however, now I realize this isn’t the case. Well, at least we’re finally getting through the lock. Once we clear the chamber I head for the gray wall just outside and tie up. Then the circus begins. Off comes the solar panel. Off comes the dodger. I drag the mast raising pole out from below and try to reinstall it at theDSCF5961 mast step. That darned mast light socket is in the way. After a good deal of prying I finally get the bolt into position. Then I reinstall the baby stays, rig the mast raising pole lines, tension the back stay, unpin the forestay, and begin lowering the mast. It doesn’t need to come all the way down, just enough to enable us to clear the bridge. I lower it as far as I can with the boom still connected, hoping to avoid taking it off too. I step off the boat and examine the angle of the mast, and then look down to the bridge. I don’t think I’m low enough yet, so I disconnect the boom and lower some more. And all this is being done in a fish bowl, with scores of curious tourists watching the show. When all is set and we’re finally ready to go, the lock gates open and I have to wait for the exiting boats to clear the lock, and a new batch of boats enter. Now we can go. We slowly make our way down to the bridge and idle under. The top of my VHF antenna clears the underside of the bridge with at least 12 inches to spare. I give the wheel to Sandy while I prepare to reraise the mast while underway. Before I can get the mast up a big power boat roars on in. I wave to him, trying to signal him to cut his speed and kill his wake. No luck. He ignores my arm waving and plows on by, giving me a scowl as he passes. Sandy turns into his wake and we bounce, but with no damage. I hurry to finish raising and pinning the mast before we get waked again.

DSCF5962While underway I put the boat back together, and we begin weaving our way along the Small Boat Channel on the Georgian Bay. They say there are only 2 kinds of boaters on Georgian Bay. Those who have hit rocks and those who are going to. We hope we’ll start a new third category, those who never hit rocks. It’s not going to be easy, since the channel is lined with smooth, rounded granite rocks, just barely breaking the water surface. The route is well marked with red and green buoys, but it’s still easy to drift out of the channel. We reach our destination, Frying Pan Bay in the Beausoleil Island National Park, without mishap. I’m worried when we enter the bay, since it appears to be filled with large motor yachts. Most are anchored and stern tied to shore. Many are rafted up, including one impressive group of 7 boats, all rafte together. Off to the right I spot a dock and, amazingly, there appears to be an open space. I circle near and some guys on the dock wave us in, saying the water is plenty deep. We turn in to the dock and pass lines to the guys waiting there. We can’t believe our good fortune to get a place on a dock in the middle of this busy 3 day weekend. The folks here are very friendly, and we enjoy visiting with them, until it begins to rain. Not a problem, though, since with our mast now up we can once again use our cockpit enclosure. Hopefully, our days to come here on Georgian Bay will pose fewer problems. At a minimum, there will be no more lock delays, and the only bridge I know about for sure is the Mackinaw Bridge, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to pass beneath the Big Mac Bridge without any problems.

Taking a Ride on the Big Chute Marine Railway – 7/30/16

First of All -

  • First time having to wait for an entire cycle of the lock before getting our turn to go through
  • First time locking down on a marine railway

Namely Speaking-

  • Couchiching
  • Dinnertime Rapids
  • Big Chute
  • Little Go Home Bay
  • Port Severn

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 43; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,084
  • Hours Underway: 9 (with delays at 2 locks)
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 7 ; Wind Direction: ENE
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 77

DSCF5919I’m greeted with a glorious sunrise as I emerge from the cabin shortly before 6am. I take it as a favorable sign for a good day ahead. We want to start early once again, since we have a long way to go, and 3 locks to pass along the way, including the Big Chute marine railway. We also realize that this is Saturday on a 3 day Canadian holiday weekend, midsummer, and the weather is perfect. We reach the first lock about 45 minutes before the 9am opening, and have no problem fitting in, once the chamber opens. We’re not so fortunate at the nextDSCF5925 lock, Swift Rapids. This lock is known as the Giant Lock, since it’s the highest conventional lock on the Trent. With a lift of 47 feet, it’s only 2 feet shy of the lift at the Kirkfield Lift Lock. The doors and chamber are immense, but they’re not big enough to hold all the boats which are qued up to go through. Boats which have arrived ahead of us lock through first, and we must wait for an entire down and up cycle before it’s our turn. Once we clear the lock, we cruise through a beautiful region of lovely waterfront homes, interesting granite rock formations, lush forest, and narrow winding passages. In some places the canal builders had to blast a canal through solid granite rock, which explains why this stretch of the waterway was the last to be completed.

Because of the holiday weekend, boats of every size and description are out, enjoying the water. Most are operating responsibly, but there are a few which are rude with their wakes, and one was darned near dangerous, insisting on blasting by me on my starboard side, in a narrow patch of water and way too close to both me and a group of kayaks and open fishing boats. I gave him 5 blasts of my airhorn out of frustration, but I doubt I made any impression.

Around 2:30pm we round a bend and arrive at the Big Chute Marine Railway. A standard docking wall is on our port side, with blue line and gray wall tie up space, but that’s about all that is standard about this facility. Instead of constructing standard locks, which would have been extremely difficult and costly, due to the abrupt drop in terrain, which also just happened to consist of DSCF5930solid granite, the canal builders came up with an ingenious solution. They constructed this marine railway. Boats motor up to an open cradle, which rolls on rail wheels and which has been lowered into the water. Once the boats are inside the cradle, slings lift the boat hulls by the stern. The entire platform is then raised up, out of the water and the boats are now suspended by a sling in the stern, andDSCF5932 resting on the platform by their bows. The entire platform is then pulled ahead, up a slight rise, across a street, and then down a steep incline and into the bay below. And this is all done with boat captains and crew still on board. It’s a dramatic experience for first timers like us. I’ve got my GoPro video camera rolling, and am snapping still pictures at the same time. As with the lift locks, the ride is over quickly, and we’re soon on our way on the lower Severn River.

We dodge speeding boats and jet skis as we work our way down toward Port Severn. The bright sun is taking its toll, and we’re feeling tired from the day’s activity. I’m looking forward to finding a decent place to stop for the night. I look up marina listings in the cruising guide and see two which have laundry on site and restaurant nearby. I call one place and am told they’re completely booked up. I can’t reach the next marina, Driftwood Cove Marine Resort, on the phone but decide to head that way anyhow. When I’m close I call on the VHF, and the owner replies. He too says they’re completely booked. I ask him if he has any recommendations and after a few minutes he says to come on in. He’s checked and one of his permanently rented slips is vacant for several days. This is very welcome news and, once we get in and meet the owner, Brian, we realize that this is indeed a great place. He takes us on a tour of the facilities, which are beautiful. Nice docks, beautiful restrooms and showers, spacious laundry room, and great boater’s lounge. The grounds are DSCF5940nicely landscaped, and the people here all seem to be really enjoying themselves. It’s in an out of way place, well away from loud boat engines and jarring boat wakes. We learn from Brian that his family has owned and operated this place for more than 30 years. They’ve done a great job developing it.

After we get checked in, we walk over to The Galley, their on site restaurant. Brian’s wife Cathy greets us and takes our order. She brings me a nice cold beer in a special, frosty Georgian Bay beer glass, which she says is mine to keep, a reminder of our visit. I look forward to keeping this glass chilled in our freezer back home, ready for use when I’m really thirsty. We have their halibut fish and chips,DSCF5946 and dinner is excellent. In between caring for other customers and keeping things going in the restaurant, Cathy manages time to visit with us at our table. The conversation is great, and we’re so glad Brian managed to find a spot for us here.

We’re going to take it easy this evening, since tomorrow we have some big chores ahead of us. Sandy will be running a laundry, while I’ll be raising the mast and putting the dinghy back into the water. Once that’s done, we’ll be ready to begin our cruise on the small boat route through Georgian Bay.

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Milestones, Messages, and a Mishap – 7/29/16

First of All -

  • First time locking down on the Trent Severn Waterway
  • First time cruising in the Lake Huron drainage
  • First time exceeding 6,000 miles on a cruise
  • First time losing a boat hook overboard

Namely Speaking-

  • Kirkfield Lift Lock
  • Canal Lake
  • Bolsover
  • Lake Simcoe
  • Orillia

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 43; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 6,041
  • Hours Underway: 9
  • Fuel: 19 gallons; $42; 6 mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12,65
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NE
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF5879The theme for today begins with the letter “M”. Two significant “M”ilestones are reached in the course of the day. Just 2 miles after leaving Rosedale we log the 6,000th mile of our cruise. And in doing so, we’re cruising across the top of the Trent Severn. Once we reach the dramatic Kirkfield Lift Lock we descend for the first time on the Trent. Once the lock gates open, we’re in the Lake Huron drainage, with a steady descent ahead of us, to the water level of Lakes Huron and Michigan. The ride down is even more spectacularDSCF5892 than the ride up in the Peterborough Lift Lock. Although some 20 feet less in height, the effect is far more dramatic. When we get the green light, we enter the chamber and proceed to the very front. Like kids at a scary movie, we want to sit in the front row. Our boat is perched just behind the gate, and we’re looking down some 49 feet, with nothing separating us from the big airy void but a metal gate, rather like a pickup truck’s tailgate. We look over the bow and the view is impressive. We put our trust in those marvelous engineers who designed this thing almost 100 years ago, and also in the fact that it’s been performing flawlessly for countless cycles since it first went into service. As with the Peterborough lock, the ride is amazingly swift, and in next to no time we’ve smoothly ridden down to the lower water level. The gate opens when it’s supposed to, at the bottom and not at the top, and we glide out, waving our thanks to the lock operator high above us.

The route leading to and from the lift lock is significantly different from the waters we’ve cruised thus far on the Trent. For the most part we’re in a very narrow canal which has been blasted out of solid limestone rock. The canal builders made it no deeper than necessary, DSCF5901and I regularly get readings of 5.5 to 6.5 feet in depth from my depth sounder. The channel is so narrow that I’m grateful for not encountering any southbound boats during our passage. After clearing the lift lock, we reach and descend 4 more conventional locks, in rather close succession. These are modest in drop, but not without their challenges, as my “M”ishap attests. At the third lock our entry is complicated with a rather strong tailwind. I enter at idle speed, and once inside the chamber I take the engine out of gear and coast toward the wall. Sandy hands the bow line to the lock attendant while I shift into reverse to kill our forward momentum, which is being provided by the tailwind. I reach over to the lock wall with the boathook and snag one of the mooring cables, as I’ve done dozens of times before. DSCF5912 However, this time the wind is just a bit stronger, and reverse hasn’t done quite enough. I firmly grip the boat hook to arrest our glide, and that’s when the plastic handle on the end of the boat hook gives way. I’m stuck holding a little red plastic handle as the boat hook pops free and drops into the water. Without the plastic handle, it quickly fills with water and sinks to the bottom of the lock. No way will I be able to recover it, however, I just happen to have a spare boat hook, stowed below, and available for just this kind of situation. I’m glad I have the spare, but rather sorry that I need it in the first place.

In the category of “M”essages, the issue is considerably more serious. While on the approach to Lake Simcoe I read and respond to a series of text messages regarding my 91 year old dad. About a month ago I received word that he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer. My two sisters recently traveled to be with the folks, and I’m getting word that dad is having a rough time. My heart is with my family, but I’m a long ways away, and won’t be able to help until we can get home. I’m currently running about a week ahead of my projected timetable, however, from here on in I’m going to be pushing the pace, so that we can get back home as soon as prudence and safety will permit. I project we still have 650 miles to go, plus a 2000 mile drive back to our home in Washington. Right now, it looks like I’ll have time to do that, but in this situation, things could change, and then I’ll need to figure out Plan B.

Pushing across Lake Simcoe today is part of that acceleration. Simcoe is known for being rough and even dangerous during windy or stormy conditions. Today just happens to be a very good day to make the 10 mile crossing of Lake Simcoe. The wind is light and off our starboard quarter. We’ve made good progress through the locks, and can get across the lake by 3pm. This will set us well for the final run down to Lake Huron tomorrow, culminating with our ride down the Great Chute marine railway. More about that tomorrow.

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We’ve Reached the Summit of the Great Loop – 7/28/16

First of All -

  • First time ever in a Canadian Tire Store

Namely Speaking-

  • Rottenstone Island
  • Fothergill Island
  • Fulton Bog
  • Pigeon Lake
  • Dead Horse Shoal
  • Bobcaygeon
  • Fenellon Falls
  • Balsam Lake
  • Rosedale Lock

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 36; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,998
  • Hours Underway: 6
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.47
  • Wind Speed: light ; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 77

DSCF5839Here just above Rosedale Lock I’m having a bit of difficulty breathing. I suspect this is due to the thinness of the air, considering that today we reached the highest elevation on the entire Great Loop. We’re currently 841 feet above sea level, having reached this lofty elevation by ascending a total of 89 locks since leaving the Hudson River. From here on it will all be downhill, or downstream, until we reach the level of Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Our day’s run begins early, shortly after 6am, with a lot of open water to cross on the way to Bobcaygeon Lock. We pass through SturgeonDSCF5848 Lake on smooth waters, beneath overcast skies. We time our arrival at the lock perfectly, entering the lock chamber on the first opening of the day, just past 9am. With minimal delay we’re soon on our way, heading for the next lock, at the busy tourist town of Fenellon Falls. We reach the lock by noon, lock up, and then tie up to the north wall. We picnic at a shady table next to the lock, and then go for a short walk into town. I end up hiking down the road to the Canadian Tire Store. I’ve heard a lot about these stores, which are located all across Canada. What Tim Hortons is for donuts, Canadian Tire is to just about everything else. They carry tires, auto accessories, hardware, housewares, camping gear, lawn and yard stuff – well, you get the picture. I’m in search of a couple of sockets for the socket tool I use to rig the boat. Last time I put the mast up I dropped a 7/16 socket into the drink, and I want to buy a replacement. Canadian Tire comes through just fine. Sandy has stopped off at a grocery to pick up a few food items, which are just about the only things Canadian Tire doesn’t carry. We walk back to the boat, grab some ice cream, get ice for the cooler, and then we’re off. It’s a short run across Cameron Lake to Rosedale Lock, which lifts us the final 4 feet to the top of the Loop. We’re now floating at 841 feet above sea level and all the remaining locks will be dropping us down. Tomorrow we’ll reach the Kirkfield Lift Lock, similar in design to the Peterborough Lift Lock, only with a somewhat smaller lift. We’ll then enter into a long, narrow, straight and, from what I’ve heard, rather boring canal stretch, with frequent locks which will steadily lower us down to Lake Simcoe. I’m hoping we can get as far as Simcoe tomorrow, but the locks may prevent that, if we encounter substantial delays. I plan on an early start tomorrow, so we’ll have the best chance possible of reaching Simcoe. It will feel good to get back down to a lower elevation where the air is a bit denser.

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Kawartha Lakes, Houseboat Heaven – 7/27/16

First of All -

  • First day cruising in the region of the Canadian Shield
  • First day cruising through the Kawartha Lakes
  • First time encountering a lock wall virtually filled with boats

Namely Speaking-

  • Youngs Point
  • Kawartha Lakes
  • Hells Gate
  • Stony Lake
  • Burleigh Falls
  • Lovesick Lock
  • Buckhorn Lock

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 23; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,962
  • Hours Underway: 7
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.55
  • Wind Speed: 12 ; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 86
  • Water Temperature: 77

DSCF5808Heavy dew in the cockpit this morning, and clear, sunny skies to start the day. We follow a narrow channel lined with dense trees and shrubs, but soon cruise out onto the Kawartha Lakes. This is a lovely region of substantial lakes, connected by channels and occasional locks. We’re now crossing into the vast Canadian Shield, a geologic province characterized by massive granite formations which were scoured by the ice age glaciers. Pink granite dominates the landscape, outcropping as bare rock in many places, covered by thin soils inDSCF5818 others. The lakes are dotted with small rocky islands, beautiful but hazardous to passing boats. One does well to heed the channel markers, and you stray beyond the red and green buoys at your peril, since massive slabs of hard granite lurk in many places, just inches below the surface. We take our time today, stopping just above Youngs Point Lock to visit the country store located there. This place is quite well known, and has an attractive array of furniture, furnishings, clothing, souveniers, and miscellaneous items. Even though it’s barely 10am, I can’t resist ordering up a milkshake. Sandy comes away with a comfortable top. A little past Youngs Point we weave our way through Hells Gate, an intricate passage between scattered granite islands and outcrops. We’re grateful that the route is well marked. Our next stop is at Burleigh Falls Lock, where we tie up above the lock for lunch. It’s turning into another very warm day, and we’re thankful for the little bit of shade we find on the starboard side, above the lock. While there a large rental houseboat approaches the lock wall just behind us. I get up to help them with their lines. It’s a little scary watching novices attempt to drive these boats. They catch a lot of wind, and are seriously underpowered. The lack of operator skill is often apparent. In this case, the driver jams the bow corner, port side, into the lock wall while I’m trying to get their bow line secured. Then, the stern line gets tossed to me but falls several feet short and DSCF5822drops into the water. On second try it smacks me in the face, while the big houseboat slams into the wall. Not a single fender is out. The aluminum gunnels of this vessel testify to numerous rough landings. The crew seem to be enjoying themselves, though. I can just hope that we never find ourselves in their way when they’re struggling for control.

We lock through at Lovesick, a pretty place which is supposedly named for an Indian boy whose affection was spurned by a red haired Irish girl. While out on Lovesick Lake I’m motoring along, in a stiff breeze when the boat does an abrupt Crazy Ivan (if you’ve seen the movie Hunt for Red October you know what I mean). The boat immediately turns to starboard and refuses to answer the wheel. We’reDSCF5824 out of control. I cut the throttle and confirm that the outboard and rudders are no longer linked to the steering. A quick glance around confirms that we’re out in the middle of big water, with no obvious obstacles nearby. I lift the steering seat and spot the offending pin and ring lying in the motor well. This pin connects the steering rod with the rudder and motor linkage arms. After a bit of gymnastics and effort I’m able to reinsert the pin and stuff the ring back into the hole at the end of the pin. The ring has become bent so that it no longer reliably keeps the pin in place. I’m counting on a temporary fix for the last 4 miles, until we get through the Buckhorn Lock and tie up at the mooring wall. Once there I’ll get a new longer pin out, along with a good ring ding, and fix it properly.

I round the corner just below the lock and see the lock doors opening. Several boats begin to exit while I circle in the approach bay, hoping my steering will hold together long enough to get through the lock. I’m beginning to line up with the lock entrance as the final boat, a very large trawler, begins to pull out. Just before I get to the lock channel entrance this trawler starts to turn right across my path. I can’t believe it. I pull back on the throttle to avoid a collision as he completes a U turn right in front of me and heads for an open mooring wall spot on the port side. While this is going on the lock doors start to close. I give the lock attendants a blast with my air horn. Meanwhile the trawler driver tells me that the lock wall is full of moored boats above the lock. It now dawns on me that he feared I was heading to the spot where he plans to moor, and he wanted to cut me off so he could get there first. Nice guy. The lock attendants reopen the gates and let me in. I ask them if I can tie up on the blue line after the lock closes, and they say fine, after 5:30. I figure I’ll need to anchor out until then. After leaving the lock, though, I spot a short little stretch of wall on the port side which looks just big enough for us. I turn around and approach. The owner of the boat at the back of this space comes down to the wall and helps us with lines. We get in just fine, and are nicely tied up there, with just a foot or two to spare in front and behind the boat. We’re pleased to be here. I pull out my spare parts kit and find a good pin and ring, and soon have the steering linkage properly repaired. We get acquainted with the people in the boat behind us. Nice retired folks, former long haul truckers (both husband and wife teamed up to drive). We talk politics and find ourselves agreeing on many things. I take a quick cooling dip in the water before dinner. We’ll go for an evening walk in search of ice cream before settling in for the evening.

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Locking up in the Amazing Peterborough Lift Lock,- 7/26/16

First of All -

  • First time riding in a hydraulic lift lock
  • First time under way for 7 hours and only traveling 11 miles

Namely Speaking-

  • Peterborough Lift Lock
  • Nassau Mills
  • Lakefield

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 11; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,939
  • Hours Underway: 7
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 13.0 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF5765Today’s the big day for our long awaited ride up the famous Peterborough Lift Lock. We depart the marina shortly after 8am, with the intent of gaining a spot on the blue line below lock 20. That will enable us to be in the first group of boats to lock up to the approach to the lift lock. We’re the third boat in line, and at 9am we enter the lock chamber and begin the familiar process of locking up. That procedure changes considerably for our next lock, however. We round a bend and there she stands, giant vertical concrete monoliths blocking ourDSCF5766 path. High above us, on the port side, a graceful basin is supported between two of the monoliths. The other side appears to be a conventional lock chamber, albeit an extremely large and tall one. The light is green, so we enter the chamber on the port side. Instead of securing lines to vertical cables, we tie off to railings on the side of the chamber. Behind us a gate rises up out of the water, enclosing us in a large basin of water. Once we’re secure a voice booms out on a loudspeaker from high above, announcing to all that the famous Peterborough Lift Lock is about to lift boats to the upper canal level. And then an amazing thing happens. We begin to smoothly and quite speedily climb in the air, along with the 1300 tons of water we’re floating in. In just 90 seconds we’re lifted 65 feet on our hydraulic elevator. The mechanism is really amazing. Two identical basins of water sit side by side. Boats enter one of the basins, then the operator adds an additional foot of water, weighing 130 tons, into the upper basin. The two basins are supported by immense hydraulic pistons and are interconnected. Once the extra water is in place, a valve on the connecting pipe is opened, enabling the pressure of the added water to push the lower basin up. As it does, the upper basin descends, with the whole thing acting rather like an immense see-saw. This remarkable lift lock took 8 years to construct, and was completed in 1904. At the time it was the largest lift lock in the world, and it still is today. The concrete poured to make the towers is completely unreinforced, with no steel in it. It’s never been rebuilt, and is in excellent condition, much better, in fact, than some more recent concrete lock structures we’ve seen along the way.

DSCF5771After we exit the lock we tie up on the port side wall, so we can watch some other boats ride the lock, in both directions. We then walk a short distance down to the lower side of the lock, where a very interesting visitor center is located. We watch a pair of films on the lift lock and its construction, and view models of the 7 other lift locks in existence around the world. This is truly a unique engineering marvel.

We return to the boat and have lunch at the lock wall. Then it’s time to proceed up the waterway. Our progress, however, isDSCF5777 excruciatingly slow. We must pass 5 conventional locks, and they seem to take forever. Sometimes we have to wait for downstream boats to arrive and get locked down, before we can go up. Sometimes the lock attendants just seem to be going at a slower than usual pace. It also seems that these lock chambers fill more slowly than those we’ve previously experienced. In any case, the sun is high overhead and it’s once again quite warm out, and there is almost no breeze in the lock chambers. It’s nearly 5pm by the time we tie up at the Lakefield mooring wall. Once secured I change into a swim suit and walk down to below the lock for a quick, cooling swim. Then it’s time to grill hamburgers. We visit with other cruisers tied up here (this is a popular place to stop), and then walk into town for ice cream. We pick up some muffins for tomorrow’s breakfast, and grab some groceries at a nearby food store. Back at the boat, we’re enjoying a comfortable evening in the cockpit, with the air at just the right temperature, and no bugs pestering us.

 

 

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