Cruising Toward the Emergency Room – 6/15/16

First of All –

  • First birds: American goldfinch, common goldeneye duck
  • First time visiting the ER on the cruise
  • First x-rays taken on the trip

Namely Speaking-

  • Split Rock Point
  • Burlington
  • Schuyler Island
  • Valcour Island
  • Plattsburgh

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 41; Sail: Motor sailed, light air, 3 hours
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,279
  • Hours Underway: 6 1/2
  • Fuel: 13.4 gallons; $45; 6.5 mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.84
  • Wind Speed: 5-7; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 57

DSCF4288My last chance to get my sciatica evaluated before we enter Canada will be in Plattsburgh, so that’s where we’re headed today. I’m hoping that, if we get an early start, we can arrive by mid day and still have enough time to get to the ER in the afternoon. I hate the thought of placing myself at the mercy of the health care system, and fully expect that many days could get consumed in obtaining evaluation and followup. First things first, though, so by 5:30am we’re off the dock and heading back down the winding, glassy smooth, 7 miles of Otter Creek. It chilled down enough overnight to enable a light fog to form on the water surface and out in the adjacent marshland, and with theDSCF4289 early morning sun filtering between the trees, it’s an enchanting scene. We pass small families of geese and witness a bit of drama as a cooper’s hawk mounts an attack on a little songbird. In the midst of the dogfight a crow intervenes and runs the hawk off. A little further downstream we see a beaver contentedly muching a sprig of willow along the streambank.

Once out in the main lake I set our course northward, toward Split Rock Point. When we reach that landmark it’s easy to see how it earned its name. A small lighthouse is situated on the point, and an osprey family has built a huge nest on top of a steel tower nearby. Beyond the point the lake widens considerably. A light easterly breeze kicks up, just enough for me to raise the main and let out the jib. We get a bit of an extra push, and I appreciate the added bonus of being able to dry out the sails, which are wet from recent rains. It’s a beautiful day, with clear, azure sky, warming sunshine, and just enough breeze for comfort. We gradually leave the higher Adirondack peaks of New York behind us as we draw near to Schuyler Island. It was here, on the day after the Battle of Valcour Island, that Benedict Arnold let his battered, retreating fleet for much needed repairs before continuing his desparate race down the lake. Our course is ever DSCF4295northward, up to Valcour Island itself. I opt to pass between the Island and the New York shore, cruising directly through the scene of the battle. The island is quiet and peaceful today, lush with forest, a few sailboats tucked into inviting coves here and there.

Just a few miles beyond, a forest of masts comes into view, marking the location of Plattsburgh Boat Basin. I’d hoped to stay in the city marina, but am disappointed to learn that they’re not fully open yet, so we head for the privately operated marina next door. ActiveDSCF4298 Captain reviews are less than glowing, however, if I’m to visit the ER, this is where we must go. We stop first at the fuel dock to gas up, and then get directions to our slip. The dockhand doesn’t bother to walk over and help us in, he’s out of block ice, they don’t have wifi, and we’ll have to walk up to the store to get a key to the restrooms. Pretty much what the reviews described. Once we get secured, I haul out my bicycle so I can get over to the hospital, which is about 2 or 3 miles away. Ironically, my hip and leg are feeling improved today, but I know I still need to get checked out.

Pedaling the bike is comfortable enough, and it only takes 15 minutes or so to reach the hospital. I follow the signs to the ER entrance and walk over to the intake counter. After explaining my situation, I’m pleased to hear that they have a “fast track” option, and I’m in it. With minimal delay I’m seen by a knowledgeable physician’s assistant, who evaluates my problem. She orders up x-rays and, after they’re reviewed, tells me that I have compression in some lower back discs which, in conjunction with some body movement on my part, have caused the sciatic nerve to become painful. She concurred with the prednosine I’ve been taking, and also prescribes a topical salve which will help reduce inflammation. She suggests using cold packs and being careful with body mechanics, and finishes with the hopeful observation that, given the cause of my pain, with proper care it will likely resolve itself. I pedal over to the nearby pharmacy, pick up my new prescription and some cold pack items, and head back downhill toward the marina, resolved to follow doctor’s orders as best I can.

It’s a strange scene back at the boat. The warming weather has stimulated a virtual blizzard of cottonwood seed, drifting on the light air and falling all over the boat. Comfortable temps have also brought out the power boat crowd, the kind which love to sit in the sterns of their boats and on the dock, drink heavily and laugh loudly. The party next to us is so loud Sandy and I can barely hear ourselves talk. Eager as we are to get out of here, we will spend tomorrow here, tending to light chores and taking it easy. I’m hoping that the good day I’m having today can be repeated tomorrow, signalling that I’m finally on the mend.

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Plattsburgh Museums on Layover Day – 6/16/16

First of All –

  • First exclusively transportation related museum toured on the trip

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,279
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 84
  • Water Temperature: 57

DSCF4310Feeling pretty good this morning. Not perfect, but better than the recent past, so maybe the treatments, plus time, are helping. Weather couldn’t be better. After breakfast I do a minor repair to the jib sail, which has started to tear once again, right on the edge of my last repair. The relentless UV rays are taking their toll, and I can just hope that my band aid jobs using sail tape will be sufficient to see us home. Then it will be time to replace that sail. I will definitely need to be careful to avoid luffing when I deploy the jib. Once that chore is done, I set the bikes up and we head up into downtown Plattsburgh. We stop at the local post office to send some grandkid souveniers off and mail a birthday card to son Ken. We visit the monument to Commodore MacDonough, hero of the naval Battle of PlattsburghDSCF4314 Bay. It’s an imposing stone oblisk situated across the street from City Hall. Atop the oblisk is a bronze eagle, whose wings stretch out 22 feet in width.

We then pedal our way through the downtown streets to the start of a beautiful paved bikepath which parallels the lakeshore and railroad tracks, southward toward the old closed down Plattsburgh Air Force Base. The many brick and stone buildings on base have now been repurposed into various new uses, including apartments and luxury condos, with great lake views. Several of the buildings now house museums, and we visit two of the museums. The first is the Plattsburgh Transportation Museum, and it’s a real gem. We go on a guided tour and learn many details about the significance of various transportation modes to this area. The museum houses some outstanding railroad exhibits, including beautifully prepared historic model railroads and dioramas. They also have a great collection of bicycles, some of which were manufactured here in the late 1800’s. Automobile manufacturing also has ties to this area, and their collection of rare automobiles is outstanding. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, and gave us all the time we could spare.

DSCF4316Next, we walked across the street and went through the War of 1812 Museum, which features a well done film and a beautiful gallery of paintings depicting nearby battles from “The Forgotten War” as it is often known. It was fun talking with the curator, who was a wealth of information. It’s pretty clear that, if the outnumbered Americans had lost the land battles here, and if the outgunned Commodore MacDonough had lost his battle on the lake, all of New York north of the Saranac River, plus most of northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to boot, would likely have become part of Canada. The stakes were high during those battles, and it’s a story, like that of Valcour Island, that is not very widely known or appreciated much beyond this region.

After exiting the museum we went across the highway and picked up a few groceries before returning to the boat. While Sandy hit the showers, I tore into the king berth one more time, putting bicycles away and reorganizing things, in preparation for lowering the mast tomorrow. The plan is for us to proceed 20 miles northward and just across the border into Canada in the morning with mast still up, sailing one last bit if possible. After clearing Canadian Customs we’ll put into a marina just outside the start of the Chamblis Canal, where I’ll lower the mast and stow the dinghy. For the next seven weeks, or thereabouts, we’ll be traversing the historic locks and canals of Canada, dropping down to the St. Lawerance River, then proceeding upriver to Montreal and Ottawa, crossing over to Lake Ontario, and then through another lock and canal system pass all the way to the Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. Once there we’ll be able to raise the stick once again and look for sailing winds.

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Crossing into Canada – 6/17/16

First of All –

  • First wind generation farm seen
  • First French VHF radio transmissions heard
  • First day cruising in Canada, Quebec Province
  • First trek to a radiator shop for a boat part

Namely Speaking-

  • Isle la Motte
  • North Hero Island
  • Chazy River
  • Riviere Richilieu
  • Ile aux Noix
  • Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 48; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,327
  • Hours Underway: 7
  • Fuel: 7 gallons; $33; 7 mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 64

DSCF4332I can’t leave till 8am, since I need to turn the restroom key in and the office doesn’t open until then. We have a good distance to go today, with a stop to clear Canadian Customs, and then I have much work to do in lowering the mast and preparing the boat for the Canadian lock and canal phase of the cruise. The water is glassy and offers no prospect of being able to sail on our last day with the mast up. We round Cumberland Point, paying respects to Commodore Macdonough, who fought so skillfully on these waters in 1814, and then cruise motorDSCF4336 northward, toward the Canadian border which is 20 miles beyond. Shortly before reaching the border we sight the remains of Fort Montgomery, which guarded the approach to Lake Champlain. One face of the fort is intact, but the east side has fallen apart. The fort is actually on private land and people have been hauling stones off from the site for years, which seems sacrilegious to me. A “for sale” sign is stuck in the ground out in front. Anyone want to buy an island and genuine historical stone fort ruin for $2.5 million?

Just beyond Fort Montgomery we encounter a buoy in the center of the channel on which a small sign is mounted. This buoy marks the US/Canada boundary. I’m flying my yellow “Quarantine” flag as we cross the line and head for the nearby Canadian Customs Dock. We’re greeted by a friendly pair of Canadian Customs officials who help us with our lines, ask a few simple questions, and take our passports up into their office. A few minutes later our passports are returned and we’re welcomed into Canada. Just as easy as that. We don’t even need to display a clearance number like we do when cruising in British Columbia. We’re now in the Richileau River, which flows out of Lake Champlain and down into the St. DSCF4340Lawerance. The river is fairly wide, with a well marked channel which averages around 20 feet deep. Lots of boats are out enjoying the day, some fishing, some wake boarding, and some just lazing along. About an hour and a half before we near St. Jean, Sandy takes the wheel so I can begin taking the sailing rig apart. By doing as many of the preliminary steps as possible while underway, I’ll be able to save valuable time in taking the mast down after we reach the marina. My timing is perfect, and by the time the marina comes into view I have the solar panel, dodger and boom stowed inside the cabin, and the mast raising pole is rigged and ready to go into action.

I’ve been unable to reach the marina by cell phone or radio, so I just pull up at the fuel dock. It’s immediately apparent that we’re in a foreign country, since not a single word of English can be heard. I’m unsure just who here speaks English, and soon learn that not everyone does. In the office a very friendly lady checks me in. She speaks hesitantly, saying she hears it better than she can speak it. She learned her English from watching TV. I’m relieved to learn that they have space for us, since it’s Friday and the marina looks quite full. We are directed to a space on the outer face dock, which exposes us to wakes from passing boats. We walk over to the nearby low bridge, which blocks the approach to the Chamblis Canal entrance, to try and figure out how we will proceed in the morning. No one is in the bridgeDSCF4342 shack, but I call the number there and get some information. The bridge will open at 9:15am and then we can go down the canal entrance to the lock, where we can buy our lock permit.

While checking in at the marina I purchased a bracket for mounting a flag on the bow of the boat. With the mast down I no longer can fly flags from my spreader halyard, and I want to display my Great Loop from the bow railing like the power boats do. This bracket doesn’t include a pole, so we walk up into town in search of a hardware store. Close to the river all we see are bars and restaurants, so I consult my smart phone and find the nearest hardware store is about 12 blocks away. To far. While heading back to the marina I spot a radiator shop with its bay door open. Maybe they will have a short piece of 3/4″od pipe in there, I think. I walk in and ask. Fortunately, one of the guys there speaks English and he seems intrigued by my request. While he’s talking with his boss I see a short chunk of pipe laying in a scrap heap, I grab it and bring it over. He says I’m lucky. I show him the length I need and he cuts it off with a pipe cutter. Then he takes it back to his grinder and cleans it up. I decide to push my luck and ask them to drill a couple of holes in it for flat ties. That they gladly do. I hand him a $20 for their services and the boss tries to give me $10 in change, which I refuse. Have a beer after work, I say. I’m delighted with my new flag pole.

Back at the boat, the work begins. The mast goes down much easier than raising, and before long I’m bundling up the various cables and lines, tying the boom to the mast, deflating dinghy and stowing it on the foredeck, setting up my new bow flag mast, and rigging up my VHF radio extension cord so I can use the main radio with the mast down. I get most of this done before dinner, and finish up afterwards. While I’m doing all these chores, a large, congenial group of local boaters are enjoying a relaxing social hour dock party. I wish I was lounging with them, sipping a cold beer instead of sweating and struggling with rigging. I can’t understand a word they’re saying, but they sure are having a good time. One of the group later comes over and strikes up conversation in very good English, and later in the evening I enjoy a nice conversation. This seems like a very happy place.

Slow Steps Down the Chambly Canal – 6/18/16

First of All –

  • First lock in Quebec
  • First hand operated lock
  • First delay due to a broken bridge

Namely Speaking-

  • Chambly Canal
  • Ile-Ste-Therese
  • Bassin De Chambly

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 13; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,340
  • Hours Underway: 3
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction: variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 69

DSCF4352We’re eager to begin our descent of the Chambly Canal, but this is definitely not a good day to be in a hurry, since it would do absolutely no good. The bridges and locks will open when they are ready, and sometimes today they will not be ready, for a while at least. I turn our restroom key in to the marina office at 8am sharp, as soon as they open, and we pull away from the dock to make the 100 yard long run down to the temporary waiting dock, where we join other northbound boats who are cued up for the scheduled 9:15am bridge opening.DSCF4358 The bridge doesn’t actually open until after 10am, and this only permits us to move another 100 yards downstream, to the next temporary waiting dock, just above Lock No. 9. The Parks Canada staff sort out who gets to lock through first, with priority depending on when boats first arrived at the lock. The locks on the Chambly are extremely short and narrow, able to handle only 3 boats at a time. We learn that we will be in the second group to lock through, and we just happen to be grouped up with our friends on Mitzvah, whom we met back on Lake Champlain. Our group will lock through around 11am. We catch up on stories with John and Jan while waiting, and we also purchase our season lock and lock wall mooring passes. Shortly after 11am we crowd into the lock chamber, along with another large motor yacht, and we are lowered a total of 3 feet, down to the next level of the canal. Once the lock gates open we have an 8 mile run down to Lock 8. This is an extremely scenic stretch, with an historic towpath closely following the canal. A steady stream of pedestrians and bicyclists are out, enjoying the perfect weather, leisurely moving along the now paved trail. We pause briefly while waiting for a couple of low bridges to open, before approaching Lock No. 8. We enter this lock same as before, but Sandy immediately notices that the lock itself operates quite differently. It is completely hand operated. The lock tenders turn geared crank handles to close DSCF4360the heavy wooden lock gates, and then they operate winch handles to open the flood gates which enable water to drain out of the lock and lower us to the next level. The drop at this lock is on the order of 6 feet. Once clear of this lock, we quickly enter and pass locks 7 through 4, which are only about a mile apart in total. As we exit Lock 4 we’re informed that there is a problem with the bridge just above the final 3 locks, which are stairstep locks, with one chamber opening directly into the next. The bridge is temporarily out of order, and we’ll have to tie up to the waiting dock until the bridge gets fixed. No one has any idea when that just might be, however, its a warm afternoon andDSCF4361 adjacent to the waiting dock we find a nice lawn, well shaded by spreading trees. We raft up with Mitzvah to save space on the waiting dock and just hang out for several hours, not knowing whether we’ll be able to proceed today. If not, this is certainly a pleasant enough place to stay the night. Around 4:30pm the Parks staff spread the welcome news that the bridge is fixed and will soon open. Once again we’ll be in the second group to lock through. It’s interesting going through these stairstep locks, since we can see over the tops of the next 2 locks and out onto the Basin waters. The drops in these locks are more on the order of 10 or 12 feet, and they enable us to bypass the famed Rapides de Chambly, which proved such a daunting barrier to early explorers, armies and navies. We exit Lock No. 1 and ease out onto Chambly Basin. Immediately beyond the lock is a free dock, which will work perfectly as our home for the night. We tie up and walk back up to the lock in search of a restaurant. We select a nice place with a, what else, French menu, and enjoy a lovely dinner. I try marinaded bison, and Sandy orders grilled salmon. We have a table on the balcony, looking out on the basin and affording a stunning sunset view. We can even look back toward the free dock and keep an eye on our boat. A most pleasant way to conclude our leisurely cruise down the Chambly Canal.

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Free For All on the Richilieu River – 6/19/16

First of All –

  • First church service attended since leaving Philadelphia
  • First bridge passed marked for “one boat at a time”
  • First time having to do a “360” to avoid a shallow cable behind a cable ferry

Namely Speaking-

  • Pont Beloeil (the single boat bridge)
  • Mount-Saint-Hilaire
  • Ile aux Cerfs
  • Ruisseau Brodeur
  • Ile Darvard

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 32; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,372
  • Hours Underway: 4 1/4
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.72
  • Wind Speed: 10; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 87
  • Water Temperature: 70

DSCF4382It’s Sunday and Father’s Day to boot. We’re in no particular hurry to get going. I find a nearby Anglican Church which offers the prospect of services in the language we understand. It’s the Church of Saints Stephen with St. James, and it’s within walking distance of where we’re tied up. This church has been designated an historic site by Canada, dating back to the early 1800’s. It’s located adjacent to Fort Chambly and served the garrison of the fort while Chambly was an active military post. An interesting graveyard is laid out on the churchDSCF4384 grounds, with many markers from the 1800’s. One monument celebrates the life of a man credited with introducing public cold storage in Canada, developing a cream separation process, and inventing rolled oats. Another marks the final resting place of a Crimean War veteran, and yet another, tellingly dated 1944, identifies a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. We’re warmly greeted by the gathering worshipers, all 20 of them. It’s a nice service and the great pipe organ is in fine tune, although the hymns are played at a painfully slow tempo. The gated pews are unbelievably uncomfortable to sit in. Very narrow seats with tall, vertical backs, presumably adapted to the stiffly upright posture of their former military occupants.

Following the service we cross the road and walk over to the beautifully restored and very significant Fort Chambly. This place was at the center of events in New France and British ruled Canada for more than 250 years. It’s located at the base of the Chambly Rapids, and was a natural spot to pause and rest before or after the 12 mile portage between the Richilieu River and Lake Champlain. Champlain himself came here in 1609, and led a warparty of Hurons against their long DSCF4387DSCF4388time enemy, the Iroquois. With the advent of French settlement in the area, Iroquois raids resulted in a protracted period of warfare with the French. A wooden fort was built here as a base for attacks on the Iroquois who lived in central and western New York. Around 1700 peace was finally made with the Iroquois, however, war with the English colonies to the south soon broke out, lasting off and on for the next 50 years. The wooden fort at Chambly was replaced by a masonry structure, the better to withstand light artillery. With the final defeat of New France in 1763 the British took over Fort Chambly. It was captured and briefly held by the Americans at the start of our Revolutionary War, and served as a British military postDSCF4386 for many decades thereafter. It has been carefully restored, and has been set up for a self guided tour through rooms which present it’s remarkable history. This story is told with films, story boards, artifacts recovered from archeological digs, and dioramas. Both the history of the fort as well as the daily life of soldiers serving here is presesnted. Out in the courtyard we attend a short demonstration on the clothing and uniform of a French soldier. A good spirited volunteer from the audience models the outfit of a well dressed soldier.

By this time we’re starving. It’s 1pm and well past our usual lunch time. We sit down at a nicely shaded outdoor cafe for lunch. I order crepes filled with cheddar, ham and mushrooms, and Sandy has poached eggs Benedict. The warm air, tempered by a welcome breeze combines well with the tasty fare.

It’s now time to think of taking off. I’d like to make it down to the lock at Saint Ours, about 30 miles down river. We’re starting very late in the day, but the current should help us along. One thing I didn’t factor into plans becomes immediately apparent once we pull away from the dock. It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Chambly Basin, which is a bay just large enough to hold hundreds of boats, all going at high speed in totally random directions. The place is a madhouse. I’m dodging canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, row boats, sailboards, jet skis, side by side Skidos, water skiers, wake boarders, tubers, runabouts, high speed pontoon boats, Bayliners, cigarette boats, and big motor yachts. Boats are overloaded with passengers sprawled all over. Not a single kid wearing a lifejacket, and no police boats in sight. Hopefully it will all work out. I figure once I get out of the basin and into the defined channel of the river things will improve. Not the case. DSCF4389 This merely aligns all this traffic into a linear pattern and we get rudely waked every few minutes. The activity finally eases up once we get about 10 miles down the river, although it’s still impossible to relax. I see a long bridge ahead, with 24 foot clearance and figure no problem. At the last minute, however, I see a pair of red and green buoys posted at the left end of the bridge, marking the defined channel. They guide us toward a pass, not more than 20 feet in width, between 2 concrete bridge abutments. A sign advises “one boat at a time”. The 2 mph current is strongly pushing me toward the pass, and several boats are heading up. I’m able to slow DSCF4396enough to let them through, before I speed up and maintain control as I pass through the opening. A bit further down I see a ferry crossing the river. I steer so that I’ll pass just astern of the ferry but, as I draw near, I see the cable drums and steel cables which are pulling the ferry across. The cable in front is out of the water, and the cable astern slants shallowly back into the river. I don’t know how quickly it drops, so I do a quick 360 to allow more time for the cable to lower. We’ve been making great time with the current push, averaging around 8 mph, and we near the lock just after 6pm. I figure it will be too late to pass through the lock, but I know that tie ups are available both above and below the lock. We’ll simply spend the night above the lock, and enjoy the lovely grounds here. The island where the lock is located is at a rapids in the main river, and it’s been developed as a lovely park, very popular with the locals. We find people picnicing at tables and strolling along the shaded paths and trails. We tie up and to for a walk. Sandy takes a Fathers Day picture of me, standing on the river bank above the weir dam which crosses the river. We grill our last steak on the barbque and enjoy a great dinner. As dusk finally settles in, we’re treated with the rise of a perfectly full moon and the curious arrival of hundreds of sea gulls, which seem to be feeding on small fish, attracted to the surface by lights from the lock.

 

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We’ve Reached the Northeast Corner of our Loop – 6/20/16

First of All –

  • First lock with a floating dock to tie up to
  • First mink seen running down the dock
  • First sea going ships seen since being on the lower Hudson

Namely Speaking-

  • Saint-Ours
  • Fleuve Saint-Laurent
  • Sorel

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 14; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,386
  • Hours Underway: 2
  • Fuel: 7; $30; 7mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.71
  • Wind Speed: 20; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 89
  • Water Temperature: 67

DSCF4411This route we’ve been traveling for the past 10 months and almost 5400 miles is commonly referred to as the Great Loop. Early on it was called the Great Circle Route, since it takes you on a one way journey back to your starting point. However, some years back folks noted that the route looks anything but circular on a map, and they took to calling it “The Great Loop” instead. It’s true, it helps to be a bit loopy to attempt this trip, however, I contend that the name Great Loop suffers from nearly the same flaws as Great Circle. The term loop calls to my mind a rather geometric arcing curve, like aerobatic biplane might trace through the sky, and that descriptive definitely doesn’t apply to our all water route around eastern North America. Our track much more closely resembles an assymetrical trapezoid, so I propose thatDSCF4424 we’re not really doing the Great Loop but, instead, the Great Trapezoid. I wonder if it will catch on. Doesn’t have quite the same ring as Loop, though. In any case, we reached a significant point in our cruise today. Our northward course up the eastern seaboard and up the great Hudson River/Champlain Valley corridor, which began last January when we left Gulf of Mexico waters in southern Florida, some 2,670 miles back (this includes our wandering sojourn through the Bahamas), has now brought us to Sorel on the great St. Lawrence River. From here we will turn westward, drift a bit to the northwest in the Georgian Bay area, before reaching the final turning point in our Great Trapezoid Route, at the Straits of Mackinac.

Our short run down the last miles of the Richilieu River are pleasant and uneventful, begun with our final lock, a few hundred yards below where we spent the night. This is clearly the easiest lock we’ve encountered. It’s equipped with a floating dock which runs the entire length of the lock, on the west side. We simply ease up to the dock, like we would do at a marina slip or fuel dock, tie up, and wait for the water to be lowered. Just that simple. And we’re the only boat in the lock.

It’s a warm, breezy day which promises to get downright hot by afternoon. We do an easy 7 mph, running with both current and wind, and soon we approach the confluence with the St. Lawrence. Out in the river the whitecaps are building, so I’m glad that our marina is just around the corner and on the lee side. I can’t get a reply to phone or VHF so pull in at the fuel dock instead. A DSCF4430dockhand comes down to help with lines. I fill my tank and get pointed toward a nearby slip. I sign in for 2 nights to start with, and then we tote our lunch up into the adjacent park, where we enjoy a shady table. After lunch we organize a major laundry and take showers. Sandy tries to fix a problem with her ancestry program by going on the internet, however, the signal here is too intermittent to permit the lenghty download fix. We decide to haul the computer up into town where we can try a different connection while eating dinner. As we’re getting ready to head up town I see a small, dark, furry creature running along the dock. My first thought is dock rat, but it’s clearly not a rat. Just a bit smaller than a cat, with short legs, but moving quickly. A mink! She runs the full length of the dock and disappears for a bit, then heads on back, right past us with something in her mouth. A local tells us she’s moving her babies again. The other day she hauled them up the dock, and now she’s moving them back down the dock. Very busy and dedicated mother.

We find a decent dinner spot, but their internet doesn’t seem to support our download needs either. We learn where the biblioteque (library) is located, and plan to head there in the morning. I also pursue a back up plan and talk with a Verizon tech support guy, who helps me get my cell phone mobile hotspot feature working. Hope one or the other of these options will work.

Today I took my last dose of steroids, and marked the occasion with a recurrance of pain. I hope this is just an abberation, and not a return of earlier miseries, since we have some interesting days ahead. I’ve booked a couple of nights at a neat looking B & B in Old City Quebec. If we can just figure out some land transportation between here and there (I’m hoping for a bus ride to a Montreal car rental agency). It should be a real adventure.

Bibliotech and Bus Station – 6/21/16

First of All –

  • First trip to French bibliotech (library) for internet connection
  • First scouting trip to a bus station

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,386
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 12; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 74
  • Water Temperature: 67

DSCF4434Hip hurting again this morning. Discouraging, but I’ll just have to work through it and hope it eases up in a few days. First task is to get up to the bibliotech when they open at 10am, so Sandy can try to get her Ancestry program working again. She needs to do a lengthy download, and the internet here in the marina is just too erratic to do the job. We’re at the entrance 15 minutes early, and when they open the doors, a helpful lady with excellent English gets us connected to their wifi. Sandy phones for tech support with Ancestry and finally gets the download started. It’s still running when noon approaches, and the library closes down till 1:30pm, but they let us leave the laptop inside, still running, till they reopen. We walk back to the boat for lunch. When we return to the library the download is complete and successful. Hurray! First success of the day.

Sandy totes the computer back to the boat while I take it easy under a nice shade tree, just across the street from the beautiful St. Peter’s Church, parish founded inDSCF4435 1670, church built in 1826. Our next task is to hike about 1 1/2 miles over to the bus station, so I can figure out transportation to and from Quebec. It won’t be simple, and we need to formulate a good plan. Lucky for us, the bus station has a real live person at a ticket window. Julia speaks excellent English, she knows exactly what we need to do, and she’s more than willing to take all the time we need to gain a clear understanding of the steps. Our plan is this: bright and early tomorrow morning we tote our stuff about 3/4 mile over to the bus station in front of the hospital, where we catch the 700 bus at 7:25am. This bus takes us to the bus station, and we hop on the bus to the Longueuil transit station on the edge of Montreal at 7:37am. We arrive there at 9:11am and then we buy round trip tickets for the bus to Quebec City. Depending on connections, we should arrive in Quebec by or before noon. We then call for a cab ride to our bed and breakfast, which is located in the heart of the Old City. We get back to the boat by reversing the steps. I’d originally planned 2 nights in Quebec, but upon further consideration, I call our B & B to see if they can accomodate us for a 3rd night. They can, so we now plan to be there until Saturday morning. We’re very excited at the prospect of visiting this world renowned city. As an added bonus, we’ll be there for their Fete National, or National Party, which celebrates Quebec’s francophone heritage. In addition to selling us our bus tickets, Julia also gives us a great restaurant recommendation, and also encourages us to take a horse drawn carriage tour of the city. Narration will no doubt be in French. I really wish I’d studied harder when I took my single year of French back in 1964. Bus schedule and tickets in pocket: second success of the day.

Last objective of the day is to walk past the hospital so we’re sure of the bus stop location. Finding the stop is easier said than done. We find the bus shelter for the west bound bus, but there is no such structure for the east bound route, which we need to catch. I want to be sure we’re standing at the right location. After much searching, and a quick phone call to Julia I finally locate the sign. It’s amazingly small and inconspicuous, with letters which can be read from just a few feet away. However, now we know where it is. We walk back to the boat along a nice waterfront path, getting a nice look at a cute little muskrat along the way. This evening we need to pack clothing and incidentals into our tote bags, so we’re ready for a good early start. Don’t want to miss that bus.

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Ah Quebec – C’est Magnifique – 6/22-25/16

First of All –

  • First visit ever to Quebec City
  • First long distance bus trip, with transfers

Namely Speaking-

  • Longueuil
  • Montmorency
  • Plains of Abraham

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: NA – Layover Days
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,386
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: ; Wind Direction:
  • Daily High Temperature: mid 79’s to low 80’s
  • Water Temperature: 67

DSCF4457Our bus scouting trip yesterday pays off nicely. We’ve packed lightly for our excursion to Quebec City, with everything in either the day pack or a single West Marine tote bag. We walk up into town, and it only takes 10 minutes to reach the bus stop. We catch a short ride to the bus teminal and then take off for Longueuil. The route takes us along the St. Lawrence River, and we arrive around 9am at the terminal. We’re on the outskirts of Montreal, and we need to change buses for our trip to Quebec City. I walk up to the ticket counter and ask when the next bus to Quebec City leaves. In 2 minutes, I’m told. Can you sell us tickets in time, I ask. Sure, says the ticket agent. He quickly executes the transaction and points us toward Gate 2, and we join the line which is boarding the Orleans Express. We settle in for a 3 hour bus trip to Quebec City. We pass through rich agricultural country, and I’ve never seen such lush shades of green. Shortly beforeDSCF4458 noon we arrive at the Quebec City bus terminal, which is adjacent to the historic railroad station, with its brick walls and turreted copper roof. We grab lunch inside the terminal, and then step outside. We’re looking up at the walled City of Quebec, with magnificent buildings visible atop the hill above us. The famed wall which still mostly surrounds the Old City also looms above us. We’re only a short distance, perhaps 3/4 mile, away from our bed and breakfast, however, it’s a steep climb so I seek out a taxi. Our driver is familiar with where we want to go, and he winds his way up the hill, through the St. John Gate, and over to Rue St. Louis. He stops in front of 82 Rue St. Louis, which is where B & B St. Louis is located. All we see is a door with a small sign on the wall next to it. This part of the street consists of 3 story row houses. I push the doorbell and open the door. Soon our host walks out and greets us. He’s a short little man, perhaps in his late 60’s or early 70’s. He speaks in accented English (I can’t quite make the accent, but don’t think it’s French), and he has a definite twinkle in his eye. He greets us warmly, shows us the downstairs breakfast dining room, and then escorts us up a steep, winding staircase to our room. The room is rather plain, but large enough to be comfortable. We have a small but adequate private bath, complete with shower. A small tv sits atop the bureau, and a window air conditioner as well as a floor fan hold promise for pleasant air temperature. The bed is neatly made up, and the mattress a little softer than we’re used to. All in all, this will make for a great base for exploring Quebec City. The breakfasts we are served here are both visual and culinary delights. Our host and his wife are warm, caring people who go out of our way to make our stay enjoyable. We later learn that they are immigrants from Northern Africa. He’s from Morocco and she from Tunisia. They’ve lived here in Canada for 40 years, and they’ve accomplishedd remarkable things in that time.

DSCF4462Over the next several days we explore as much of Quebec City as energy and time permit. We walk down to the Statue of Champlain, located out in front of the famed Frontenac Hotel. We walk the Dufferein Terrace, tour the historic fort remains which are located beneath the terrace, take a narrated bus tour of the city on an open air double decker bus, go for a tour of the Parliament Building, walk down the oldest commercial street in North America in the lower city, visit the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, explore the fascinating Plains of Abraham museum, ride the bus out to see the spectacular Montmorency Falls, and take a quiet, reflective walk through the Ursuline Monastery and Boarding School for girls. These are just the highlights, and in between, we walk down different streets each time we head out. Down every street and around each corner, beautiful scenes await. Quebec is a City of great sculptures, impressive architecture, rich history, and vibrant colors. Details in the roofs, doors, windows, grillwork, flower boxes, and commercial signs abound. The people are friendly, helpful, and welcoming. Impressions: it’s a very walkable city despite the many hills, car traffic isn’t heavy, we hear practically no car horns honk and no sirens of any kind, the streets are clean, with very little litter, no panhandling in the old city at all, and just a bit elsewhere. They do have a considerable problem with graffitti, which is rather sad, considering the overall beauty of the place. Restaurants are many, and inviting, with interesting menus and reasonable prices. French is clearly the language of choice, but we’re generally able to get by, since many locals speak “a little English”. The Canadian national Maple Leaf Flag is almost non existant here. Even though the 1995 referendum for Quebec Province to separate from Canada failed by less than 2 percent, it seems that the local population are going about their lives as though they have their own separate country. It really feels like we’re somewhere in the heart of France, being here in Quebec City, and the experience is entirely enjoyable.

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Westward Bound on the St. Lawrence – 6/26/16

First of All –

  • First day headed west on the loop
  • First day cruising on the St. Lawrence River
  • First encounter with a rock – Ouch!

Namely Speaking-

  • Ils aux Boeufs
  • Contrecoeur
  • Ile aux Moutons
  • Montreal

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 45; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,431
  • Hours Underway: 8
  • Fuel: 11; $59; 4 mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 67

DSCF4615Our time here in Sorel, coupled with our sojourn to Quebec City has been delightful, but the time to move is at hand. Today we begin our movement west. Each day hereafter will bring us closer to the State of Michigan, where we began our cruise more than 10 months ago. We depart the marina under clear, sunny sky, following the buoyed entrance channel out into the main St. Lawrence River. The river here is at least a mile across, and the current against us runs 1 to 2 mph. I run the engine up to 3200 rpm, and try to stay as close to the left bank as possible, so as to have a bit less current to contest. For the most part, I’m able to keep our speed at or just above 6mph. We’reDSCF4616 paralleling the route we traveled yesterday by bus, on our ride between Longueuil and Sorel. Nice homes line the bank for much of the distance, and every town we pass is marked by a beautiful church, with its narrow, tapering steeples gleaming silver in the sunlight. Around noon Sandy brings lunch up, and afterwards I ask her to take the wheel so I can take a nap. I drop off for an hour or so, before she rouses me. A wind has come up, which is kicking up a chop on the river. The rough water is further chopped up by the wakes of heavy boat traffic. Power boats, large and small, are speeding up and down the river, making for very difficult steering. To further complicate matters, the channel divides here, and it’s unclear whether we should take the left or right branch. I have trouble orienting between the Garmin and the chart, once I take the wheel. I need to see where we are on the paper chart, before committing to a channel. My attention is divided between boat traffic, wakes, the channel split ahead, the Garmin chart display, and the confusingly arranged paper chart pages. I’ struggling to relate shoreline form on the Garmin to the paper chart. Having all place names in French doesn’t help, either. Just as I start to figure things out I notice that our speed is down to 4 mph and we’re in a visibly rapid current. At that same moment the boat lurches, to the tune of an agonizingly loud scraping bang. I cut the throttle and look over the side, seeing basketball sized boulders in the clear water, just a foot or two below the surface. DSCF4617We hit a second time before moving out into gradually deeper water. I see the channel buoy, marking this shoal. Other boats are 20 or 30 feet to our right. We’re still running, and I move over in that direction, however, I know we’ve suffered damage to the prop and possibly to the skeg. I don’t hear or feel any unusual vibrations, so we motor on, toward Longueuil, still dodging boats and wakes. With the skyline of Montreal clearly in view, we see the first marina, on the Longueuil side. I can’t figure out which one it is, so can’t phone ahead. They don’t answer my radio call, so we just pull in and head for the fuel dock. An attendant there takes our line, pumps gas, and then is able to assign us a slip for the night. This looks like a good place. He arranges for a dock hand to take our line at the slip. I decide to back in, soDSCF4623 I can change props, which I’m sure I’ll need to do. Once we get tied up, I raise the engine, and the damage is clearly evident. All 3 blades of the prop are thoroughly mangled, with leading edges ragged and curled completely around. Further, the lower 1/3 of the skeg has broken off. Touching bottom around here is clearly an unforgiving proposition. I crawl down in the king berth area, after removing clothing duffels and one bicycle bag, so I can get at my spare prop. I haul out the necessary tools and sit at the end of the dock where I have good access to the raised prop. The damage looks to be limited to the prop and skeg, with things turning freely otherwise. I finish the job and then we have a simple dinner of grilled sausages. We go for an after dinner walk, admiring the view of Montreal across the river. I contact our two friends in the Montreal area, Mario, whom we met while in Titusville Florida, and also Ilya, who also lives here and has a MacGregor like us. In the next few days we plan to meet up with them both.

 

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Locking Up on the La Chine Canal – 6/27/16

First of All –

  • Passing our first locks on the St. Lawrence
  • At 2pm, first boat to pass through the La Chine locks today
  • First time staying at a yacht club as guests of a fellow MacGregor sailor

Namely Speaking-

  • Ile Sainte-Helene
  • La Chine Canal
  • Rapides De Lachine
  • Lac Sainte Louis
  • Pointe-Claire

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 24; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,455
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 8; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 69

DSCF4672We awaken to the pattering of rain on the cabin roof, which provides great incentive to turn over and sleep in. We have no desire to operate the boat in a rainstorm, especially since, with the mast down, it’s not possible to set up the cockpit surround, and I can only raise the bimini part way, with the mast support crutch preventing it from fully opening. It’s after 10 before we finish breakfast, and around 11am by the time I drop the restroom key off at the check in dock. Our late start shouldn’t be a problem since we only plan to travel about 20 miles, with the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club as our destination. A fellow MacGregor sailor keeps his boat there, and via email he’s invited us to stay there as his guest. This should work out perfectly. We’re eager to meet up and share stories.

I start right out by making a slight navigational error. I assume that the entrance to the La Chine lock and canal system is straight forward. DSCF4677 I see the canal running along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, and head for the broad entrance. About half way into the channel I see a large ship, pointing toward us but not underway, right at the lock. I can’t get anyone to answer regarding lock opening, and then I take a closer look at the chart. I see a second canal taking off from the north shore of the river, right in the heart of the Old Montreal waterfront. This is the historic La Chine Canal, which is used by small pleasure boats. We’re now heading toward the big locks which allow ocean going ships to travel into the Great Lakes. I execute a “U” turn and head back out. As we pass the eastern tip of Ile Sainte-Helene we are entertained by carloads of screaming people who are careening up and down the tracks of several dramatic roller coasters. The end of this island is one big thrill ride park, and it’s fun watching the coaster riders going over steep drops.

We’re soon in a bit of a thrill ride of our own, as we turn into the main river approach to Montreal. The current here is severe. I run the throttle up to 3800 rpm, and at times we’re making less than 2 mph in headway. Navigational buoys heel over at a very sharp angle, and the river DSCF4698current rushes by us at an estimated 4 to 5 mph. I’m grateful for my 60o hp engine. Progress is slow, but we finally reach the approach to the canal, and the current eases up. Sandy pulls out a brochure about the canal, and notices that the controlling vertical clearance on this canal is just 8 feet. I have rigged our mast crutch at a higher than normal position, so that we can use the dodger on the cabin roof and have more headroom while moving about the cockpit. The end of the mast is 10 feet above water line. We have a problem. I radio the lock to verify the vertical clearance, and then tell them we’ll be ready to lock through in about a half hour. Meanwhile I have some work to do. I remove the dodger and stow it in the cabin. Next, I lift the mast off its crutch and, while holding it up, Sandy removes the crutch pole and takes the extension pipe off. With the shortenedDSCF4702 crutch back in its pedestal socket, I lower the mast onto it. I measure the end of the lowered mast, and it is now exactly 8 feet above water level. That will have to do.

As we’re preparing to enter the first lock I notice a guy standing at the top of the lock, taking our picture with his smart phone. With lock doors open and the light turned to green we move inside and tie up to the convenient floating dock. Locking here will be easy, since all 5 locks employ these floating docks. No slimy lines to mess with. The Parcs Canada staff are friendly and helpful, and soon we’re exiting the lock, with Lock No. 2 just a hundred yards ahead. As we approach I notice that same guy I saw earlier, standing at the top of the lock and taking another picture. Curious. We are raised another 10 feet and then begin the 11 minute run up to Lock No. 3. As we enter the chamber I see, you guessed it, that same guy again. He’s on a bicycle and has, along with his young son, pedaled up from Lock No. 2 to watch us proceed. This time, while waiting for the doors to close and the chamber to fill, I strike up conversation. He speaks good English, with an accent, but not French. We learn that he is Italian, and has lived here in Canada for several years. He DSCF4704declares that it is his dream to own a boat and travel the water like us. He asks questions about how expensive it is to operate, and what it costs to stay in marinas. He sizes up our boat instantly, saying “It’s a poor man’s boat!” By this he means no slight. He understands that this boat is not costly to purchase, its small size makes it easy to handle, and operating costs would be manageable. In short, it’s a boat he can imagine affording and owning. We tell him that it works perfectly for two people and he talks fondly about the places he imagines going in it. His son looks up and says “You’ll take me too, won’t you?” Papa assures him yes, and two new dreams of exploring the water world are born.

Most of the bridges on this canal have 9 or 10 feet of clearance, but the rusty old railroad bridge just above Lock No. 3 is noticeably lower. We’ll soon know just how close our mast will come to hitting. I slow the boat and we sneak under the uncomfortably low span. DSCF4703 About halfway through I decide to lift the mast out of it’s crutch and simply hold it up in a lower position, until we clear the bridge. It was a good idea, since I’m pretty sure we’d have scraped the mast otherwise, and possibly torn the radion antenna off.

Once we clear Lock No. 5 we enter the widening waters of Lac Saint-Louis. This lake is simply a wide part of the Saint Lawrence River, pooling up above the La Chine Rapids. These rapids mark the historic head of navigation for ships on the St. Lawrence, and helped determine the location for the City of Montreal. With the building of locks and canals, the rapids are no longer a barrier to navigation. I am surprised to find a 2 to 3 knot adverse current for several miles up into the lake. As we near Pointe-Claire the current abates and our speed picks up. Along the way, I’ve been trading text messages with our yacht DSCF4708club host, Ilya. He texts me that he’s at the yacht club, awaiting our arrival. On approach, we talk on the VHF and I get directions on where to go. We see him standing at the end of a dock, waving hello, and soon we’re tied up in a nice, secure slip and shaking hands. His boat, a nice looking 26X just like ours is tied up just across from us. We walk up to the clubhouse and get acquainted over some nice cold beers. While walking along the dock we can’t help but notice the dramatic mayfly hatch which is underway. Virtually every surface is covered with mayflies. We’re assured that in a few days they will be gone, but I’m skeptical. Ilya shares our enthusiasm for sailing on the MacGregor, and we learn that he, his wife and 3 young sons love to take the boat out. They are located in a great area, with fun waters within close range of the yacht club and even more spectacular waters within easy trailering distance. The Mac is the perfect boat for them. Ilya phones in a pizza order, and afterwards, I hop into his car for a 40 minute ride out to his home. Once there, he hands me the keys to his Dodge Durango so that we’ll have surface transportation while we’re here. His hospitality is remarkable, and I’m so appreciative. I’ve tried to pay close attention to the route between the yacht club and his home, but it’s easy to get disoriented in an unfamiliar place, especially after dark. His directions are good, though, and I make it back to the marina without becoming totally lost.

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