Layover in Peterborough – 7/25/16

First of All -

  • First time visiting a museum devoted exclusively to canoes

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: NA – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,928
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction: Variable
  • Daily High Temperature: 92
  • Water Temperature: 77

DSCF5726We finally got some rain overnight. It’s more than welcomed in these parts, which have been unseasonably dry this summer. Still overcast in the morning, with a threat of more rain. First thing, I run a few errands on the bicycle, including getting my eyeglass frames repaired at a local optomatrist. Nice place, and they installed a new nose pad at no charge. Sandy has decided to stay at the boat and do some computer research, while I bicycle over to the Canadian Canoe Museum. It’s located about a mile away, just the right range for a bikeDSCF5727 ride. This museum is devoted exclusively to canoes and kayaks, and more specificually, to the relationship of the canoe to Canada’s history, exploration, and development. The canoe is intimately linked to Canada, having been developed and perfected by Canada’s aboriginal people. I am particularly intrigued by canoes, since long before we bought our sailboat, we were canoeists. In fact, we have owned a canoe for more than 40 years, and associate it with countless hours of enjoyment and adventure on the water. The museum collection includes more than 600 canoes of every description and kind, from the very old to the very latest. The early examples interest me most. Log dugouts date back several centuries. Bark covered canoes perhaps represent the highest form of the canoe building art, and the museum exhibits representative samples of many different designs. Birch bark was the preferred covering, but other materials were sometimes used, including elm bark and even balsam bark. As the numbers of large birch trees declined, other construction styles and techniques evolved, including the canvas over wood frame type, as well as the wood strip canoe. The museum also features craft from the Far North, kayaks and umiaks, which were generally covered with seal skins. A good deal of attention is paid DSCF5730to the fur trade, since the canoe was the key vehicle of transportation throughout the vast fur producing regions of interior Canada. Most impressive are the 36 foot long freighter canoes which could haul up to 8 tons of goods. One sign board makes the interesting point that canoes being used during the height of the fur trading days were primarily fueled by buffalo, meaning that pemmican, made from cured and prepared buffalo meat was the principal food of the Voyageurs. Up to half of the cargo capacity of the fur trader’s canoe consisted of food provisions, since little time could be spent hunting or fishing while on a fur trading or trapping expedition. The museum is housed in a rather uninspired brick and block building along a busy 4 lane road, just around the corner from Staples and Home Depot. The future sounds bright, however. Funding is being assembled for construction of a brand new $45 million museum, to be located adjacent to the Peterborough Lift Lock. The new museum is projected to open in 4 or 5 years, and if the project is successfully completed, it is certain to become an even greater attraction than it already is.

This afternoon the sky has cleared, and it’s getting hot and humid. We’re taking it easy, getting ready to take off in the morning. Going through the lift lock promises to be a real treat.

 

 

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Early Start for Petersborough – 7/24/16

First of All -

  • First time this spring or summer getting underway before sunrise
  • First time seeing 7 boats emerge from a lock
  • First bird: black duck

Namely Speaking-

  • Ouse River
  • Serpent Mounds
  • Rice Lake
  • Hiawatha Shoal
  • Otonabee River
  • Lepers Creek
  • Yankee Bonnet
  • Peterborough

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 38; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,928
  • Hours Underway: 6
  • Fuel: 12 gallons; $56; 7mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.25
  • Wind Speed: 8 ; Wind Direction: NE
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 77

DSCF5705This is the perfect day for an early start: fairly long run ahead of us, big water to cross, and no locks at the start to hold us up. I’m off the dock just before sunrise, with thin, colorful bands of clouds overhead. The water is smooth, with just a slight breeze ruffling the water surface as I run up the channel and out onto the open waters of Rice Lake. I pass lots of early morning fishermen, out trying their luck. About halfway across Rice Lake I see a bunch of speeding boats heading our way. Bass boats, and from their numbers and concentration,DSCF5707 I’m thinking they’ve got a tournament going today. Tritons, Nitros, and Skeeters blast on by, some of them probably doing 40 mph, kicking up rooster tails of spray 6 feet high, but since less than half of their hulls touch the water, their wakes are less than a foot. Clearly, the bass of Rice Lake are in for a rough day.

About 3/4 of the way down the lake our course takes an abrupt 90 degree turn to the north, where the Otonabee River enters the lake. The Trent Severn Waterway runs up this river all the way to Peterborough, where 3 locks, culminating in the dramatic Peterborough Lift Lock will raise our boat up 100 feet or so in elevation. We’ll not be making that big jump today, however, since we plan to stop at the Peterborough Marina and lay over until Tuesday. We pass a single lock, Lock 19, just before reaching town. We circle around while waiting for the gates to open, and when the do we see one boat after another emerge. A total of 7 boats, most are small runabouts, leave the lock. I talk with one of the boaters and he says they’re all part of a group traveling together. When it’s our turn to go up, we’re the only DSCF5713boat in the chamber. The marina is just around the corner. I called them on the way up river, and was pleased to hear that they have room for us. We stop at the fuel dock first, and then idle over to our slip. This looks like a nice place, with friendly staff and good facilities. An interesting water fountain plays out in the bay in front of the marina. If it gets too hot while we’re here, I figure we’ll just motor out and cool off in the spray.

After tying up and checking in, we walk across the street for lunch, where we have a very forgettable lunch in a Greek place which is completely empty except for us, and for good reason. We walk down the main drag toward the downtown area, poking into a few shops along the way. We find a theater complex in the heart of downtown, and see a movie, Tarzan, that interests us. It doesn’t start for a couple of hours, though, so we visit the public library, which is in the same downtown mall, and read magazines until showtime. The movie is great, and it’s quite comfortable outside as we walk back toward the marina. We grab dinner at a fish and chips place right across from the marina. We’re thankful for the cooler weather, and are looking forward to our visit to the Canoe Museum, which we plan to see tomorrow.

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Grapevine on the Great Loop – 7/23/16

First of All -

  • First time having greetings from friends passed along to us by another boat

Namely Speaking-

  • Slaughter Island
  • Skunk Point
  • Steam Mill Island
  • Hastings

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 31; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,890
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.42
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 90
  • Water Temperature: 77

DSCF5682Peterborough is too far to go in one day, so our destination is Hastings, about halfway to Peterborough. With a modest goal, we’re in no hurry to get going. We breakfast on great muffins purchased at the local bakery yesterday. We pull out around 9:30 and run a short distance to our first lock. We pass several more locks in the first few miles, including a double flight lock at Healey Falls. While waiting to enter one of the locks a large power boat named Emily Marie exits the lock, heading downstream. As we pass they hail us and ask ifDSCF5684 we know Richard and Jill. Surprised at the question we quickly say yes, we do. They say that Richard and Jill told them to watch for us and pass along their greetings. The Great Loop grapevine is alive and well.

Above Healey Falls we enter a long stretch without locks. It’s a broad river stretch, backed up by the high dam at Healey Falls. Lots of boating activity and summer waterfront cottages on this stretch. We are passed by a neat parade of classic wooden runabouts, and mixed in with them is a cool looking wooden race boat, sleek and streamlined, and powered by a very throaty engine. Around 2:30 we reach our destination at Hastings. First priority, once the boat is tied to the wall, is to walk across the street and order up some ice cream at a local restaurant, where we can sit down in air conditioning. They have a baseball game on, and our very own Seattle Mariners are putting a whooping on the Toronto Blue Jays. The owner of the place is a good sport about it, and we pass an enjoyable little while watching the game. It’s still too hot when dinner time rolls around, so we get dinner in a new restaurant which overlooks the lock.

We have the open waters of Rice Lake ahead of us in the morning, and no lock to wait for, so I plan on getting a nice, early start for the run up to Peterborough. We plan on laying over for a day there, so we can watch the lift lock operate, and also take in the Canoe Museum which is located there.

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Hot Day in Campbellford – 7/22/16

First of All -

  • First temperature this year over 90 degrees (92); hottest recorded here since 1955
  • First bird: scarlet tanager

Namely Speaking-

  • Haig’s Reach
  • Ferris
  • Campbellford

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 6; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,869
  • Hours Underway: 2 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.65
  • Wind Speed: light ; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 92
  • Water Temperature: 78

DSCF5676We’re going just a short distance today, to the town of Campbellford. We run a mile up the Trent before stopping below Lock 9. We’re here half an hour before their 9am opening, so we wander the grounds, looking for birds. I get a quick look at a scarlet tanager, a very showy bird. Once the staff arrives we float 16 feet up in Lock 9, then run another mile upriver to Lock 10 for a 24 foot lift. Beyond Lock 10 we have a 2 mile run before entering the lower chamber of the 2 flight locks, No’s 11 and 12. These two chambers lift us a total of 48 feet. We’re climbing fast at this rate. It’s getting quite warm by the time we exit Lock 12, and the day promises to simply get hotter. Not far past the flight locks we round a bend and approach the town dock at Campbellford. We tie up along the wall and check in at the Chamber information office. Unlike the Parks Canada lock wall tie ups, our permit doesn’t work here at the town dock and we must pay, although the rate is quite reasonable at $1.25/foot. That includes restroom and shower access and wifi.

After lunch we go for a walk through town, stopping at an antique store, a bookstore, and the bakery. We exit each place with parcels in tow. Its then time to search out a milk shake, before heading back to the boat. We meet up with friends we locked through with yesterday morning, and chat in the shade. This evening we’ll go out to dinner at a nice air conditioned restaurant and then kill a couple hours in the local air conditioned theater. Did I mention it’s hot today? More of the same forecast for tomorrow. Maybe Sunday will bring some relief.

 

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Starting Up the Trent Severn Waterway – 7/21/16

First of All -

  • First lock passed on the Trent Severn Waterway (only 41 to go)
  • First bat seen on the trip
  • First time recording 80 degree water temperature

Namely Speaking-

  • Glen Miller Lock
  • Frankford
  • Danger Narrows
  • Blind Channel
  • Percy Boom

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 26; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,863
  • Hours Underway: 7 hours
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: 12 ; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 84
  • Water Temperature: 80

DSCF5648It’s time to begin our passage on the famed Trent Severn Waterway. We pull out of Trent Port Marina a little after 8am so we’ll be at the blue line of Lock 1 around 8:30, well ahead of their 9am opening. Shortly after we tie I see a trawler heading in the same direction. I recognize them from the marina and help them with their lines. We see the lock attendant begin draining the lock right on time, and we prepare to enter. We’re directed to tie up on our starboard side, so we make ready with lines and fenders on that side. The locks on the Trent are similar to those on the Rideau, with fixed cables on both sides of the chamber which we slip our dock lines around. The gateDSCF5652 mechanisms are different though. On locks with 20 foot or so lift, the large lower doors are hydraulically operated. The smaller upper gates are still manually operated but, instead of the older chain winch mechanism seen on the Rideau locks, these operate with a gear and cog design, and the lock operators walk in a circle, pushing on two angled handles. We climb our hill of water quickly, with locks of 15 to 20 feet of lift every mile or so for the first 5 miles. After Lock 6 we have a nice 8 mile long run before reaching Lock 7. Our Skipper Bob cruising guide recommends a stop there to sample the great ice cream at a nearby little store. Since it’s lunch time, and since there is a lovely park with inviting shade just below the lock, we do as Skipper Bob suggests, and have our lunch there. Afterward, we walk up and order two refreshing double scoop cups of ice cream. The perfect finish to lunch on a very warm day.

After lunch we lock up and proceed on toward Lock 8, which is described as a very quiet and peaceful place, a popular overnight tie up spot. A wind kicks up in the afternoon and raises a light chop on the small bays we’re crossing. We’re thankful to not be out on a big lake. Around 4pm we approach Lock 8 and find it as nice as advertised. We opt to lock up and tie to the wall on the upstream side of the lock. The lock attendant gives us a key to the restrooms, so we can use them after their 6pm closing. This is a pleasant place, with nice shade trees and just enough breeze to discourage the bugs. We grill a steak and eat our dinner at the picnic table which sits beneath two maple trees, just 10 yards away from the boat. After dinner we go for a walk on the mile long canal side trail, which leads up to Lock 9. We plan to get going in time to lock up at the 9am opening there. We should be able to get to the town of Campbellford by noon, if not before. We’ll stop there for the day, since it’s described as an interesting place to visit, with world famous chocolate, great cheese, and excellent donuts, all perfectly healthy and non fattening, of course.

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Layover at Trenton – 7/20/16

First of All -

  • First free lunch courtesy of a marina
  • First public transit trip to WalMart

Namely Speaking-

  • Thermacell

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,837
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
  • Wind Speed: calm ; Wind Direction: NA
  • Daily High Temperature: 78
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF5646Today is a light chore day. I run a load of laundry in the morning and, after finishing, walk over to the marina snack bar for my complimentary hot dog, coke and dish of ice cream. In the afternoon Sandy and I go for a walk into the downtown area, looking for a couple of items. One is a thermacell mosquito repellant device, which uses a small butane heat source and small pads of repellant. Our friends Rich and Jill say the bugs can get really nasty up on the Georgian Bay, where they’re presently cruising, and they’ve had good luck with this thing. I can’t locate one within walking distance, however, the friendly folks at the marina office tell me that the local bus runs out to WalMart, which I’m told carries them. I walk over to the nearby City Hall building and buy a pair of bus tickets, then go over to the bus stop. It’s only a 10 minute ride out to WalMart, where I find just what I’m looking for. If it will help to keep the mosquitoes at bay it will be worth it. It’s only a short wait before the bus returning to the marina pulls up, making this a very easy trip. After dinner we take showers in the lovely facilities. I review charts for the start of our run up the Trent Severn Waterway while Sandy walks across the street for a couple of last minute grocery items. We’re well prepared for the next leg of our cruise, and one we’ve been looking forward to. The Trent’s locks will lift us up to an elevation of 840 feet above sea level, the highest point we will reach while cruising the Great Loop. The waterway runs through 42 locks and one marine railway for a total distance of 240 miles. Many cruisers describe it, along with the Georgian Bay which follows it, as the scenic highlights of their trip. We hope this proves to be the case for us.

Note: After uploading yesterday’s post, a beautiful full moon came up. I snapped a few pictures from the marina, and am posting one here.

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Going Chartless (paper that is) from Kingston to Trenton – 7/19/16

First of All -

  • First time cruising on open Lake Ontario waters
  • First time cruising without the benefit of paper charts

Namely Speaking-

  • Amherst Island
  • Rush Bar
  • Snake Island
  • Bay of Quinte
  • Makatewis Island
  • Trenton

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 68; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,837
  • Hours Underway: 9 1/2
  • Fuel: 13.5 gallons; $65; 5 mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.35
  • Wind Speed: light ; Wind Direction: NW
  • Daily High Temperature: 77
  • Water Temperature: 76

DSCF5616More than a year before setting out on this cruise I began accumulating the necessary paper charts. Despite having an excellent Garmin GPS chartplotter, with electronic charts built in for the entire route, I make it a rule to also have paper charts along, and placed on the cockpit seat while we’re underway. I find them indispensible in route planning, and they allow me to see ahead at a glance, without needing to scroll around on the electronic screen. Also, they’re a great reassurance in the event of electronic problems, which are all too common on board a cruising boat. I have three large storage tubs which are stuffed with charts and cruising guides. All together they mustDSCF5617 weigh at least 70 lbs, and they cover virtually all of our 6500+mile route. Not quite the entire route however, as I discovered when getting ready to head for Trenton. Somehow I failed to pick up charts covering today’s leg of the trip. I look the route over on the Garmin and decide to do without. The route is straight forward, with wide channels and few navigational complications. Me and you, Garmin.

Since we stopped early yesterday due to high wind and seas, we have almost 70 miles between Kingston and Trenton. I don’t see much of interest to tempt a stop along the way, so with favorable weather in the forecast I make the decision to go all the way to Trenton today. I get an early start, leaving the dock by 6am and, once clear of Kingston Harbour I run the speed up to 7 mph. The morning is clear and sunny, and the water glassy smooth. We pass a gap which opens up to Lake Ontario. It must have been a wild mess yesterday but is innocent and tame this morning. We slide in behind Amherst Island and run up the channel, which must be 2 miles in width. The country here is low lying and we’re too far from shore to see interesting details. We do pass a pair of small islands which support a stand of dead trees, their trunks gleaming bleached white in the sun. Perched on their branches and on the adjacent land are literally thousands of cormorants who are undoubtedly responsible for the tree mortality. Too much fish fertilizer.

DSCF5629The afternoon turns cloudy and although rain threatens, we get no rain and very little wind. The country here could actually use some rain. People are talking drought and the cured out grass bears witness to a prolonged dry spell. Around 3pm we arrive at Trenton, stopping first at the fuel dock before proceeding into the brand new Port Trent Marina. It’s impossible to not comment about this place. It’s only a year old, and it’s easily the finest marina we’ve visited in the entire trip. To start with, the courteous dock staff, easily recognizable in their lime green shirts, are well trained and know exactly what to do with dock lines, unlike many places we’ve stopped at. The transient docks are easy to find and located close to the restrooms, showers, and laundry. Speaking of laundry, the machines are brand new (3 washersDSCF5631 and 3 driers) and they’re available free of charge. The marina even provided soap packets and drier sheets. The restrooms and showers are what you might expect in a 4 star hotel. Bright, clean, tiled, soap and shampoo dispensers provided, and featuring comfortable rain shower heads. While I’m checking in I overhear the manager asking one of her employees to refill the soap dispenser in one of the bathrooms. They give us a nice guest packet with map, information, and discount coupons for local restaurants and businesses. Employees are willing to give us a lift into town with their golf carts. The guest packet includes a coupon for free hotdog, drink and ice cream cone at the marina’s very own refreshment stand. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and everything is carefully maintained. Wifi of course. On top of everything, their rates are just $1.65/foot with electricity included, an incredible value. And finally, on most weekends special events and entertainment has been organized. I’m certain word of this place will spread fast, and they’re sure to attract many returning cruisers.

In the late afternoon we go for a walk into town and then drop in at a waterfront Italian restaurant which had been recommended to us. The view, food and service were oustanding. With supermarket just across the street and the hardware store just a block further, this is an excellent place to prepare for our cruise up the Trent Severn Waterway

Bashing back to Kingston – 7/18/16

First of All -

  • First time being forced to stop short of the day’s goal by wind and waves

Namely Speaking-

  • Wolfe Island
  • Spit Head
  • Dugans Shoal

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 23; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,769
  • Hours Underway: 3 1/2
  • Fuel: 11 gallons; $56; 6.5 mpg
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.8
  • Wind Speed: 15 ; Wind Direction: SW
  • Daily High Temperature: 85
  • Water Temperature: 73

DSCF5601This morning the sky looks like it can’t decide what it wants to do, but it sure feels threatening. And the predicted wind has shown up right on schedule. In the protected waters just outside Clayton the wind just raises a light chop, and we proceed up the St. Lawrence with little difficulty. The river widens out significantly here, so the effect of current isn’t noticable. Actually, it’s hard to say exactly where Lake Ontario leaves off and the river begins. As we near the head of Wolfe Island the wind strengthens and aligns itself more with the channel we’re heading up. The seas get progressively bigger and soon we’re bashing our way into 3 and 4 footers,DSCF5606 closely spaced and steep faced. I increase our speed a bit, trying to find a throttle setting which minimizes the pounding. The ride improves a little, but every so often we get pitched really high, with the accompanying slam as we drop into the trough. Poor Sandy has to hunker down in the cabin and ride it out. Me, I’m getting regularly drenched with the spray which blows over the dodger every time we pound. These conditions only last 3 or 4 miles, but it seems much longer. Eventually the familiar skyline of Kingston comes into view and we’re able to turn into protected waters. I cross under the highway bridge and head for Kingston Harbour Marina, where we took on fuel after finishing the Rideau Canal portion of the trip. They have a Customs dock at Kingston Harbour, and I must report back into Canada. Once we tie up at the fuel dock I grab our passports and place a cell call to Canadian Customs. The agent is friendly and efficient. Once business is taken care of, he asks me a bunch of unofficial questions about our trip. He’s familiar with MacGregors and also with the Great Loop trip. He wraps up by saying he’d like to talk with me longer, but should get off the phone. He wishes us safe travels, and I know he wishes he was on his way as well.

After fueling the boat we move across the basin to a convenient slip. Our plan was to go 20 miles or so further toward Trenton today, however, the wind and waves are just too punishing for us to considere such a move. We take it easy in the afternoon while the wind howls. I borrow one of the marina’s loaner bikes and pedal over to the grocery and buy some special dinner fixings. We feast on chicken kabobs, sauteed onions/tomatoes/peppers, and pineapple chunks. We’ll try for an early start in the morning, with light wind in the forecast, and see how close to Trenton we can get.

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Day of Rest – 7/17/16

First of All -

  • First day in like forever of doing practically nothing

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: 0 – Layover Day
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,746
  • Hours Underway: NA
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.51
  • Wind Speed: light ; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 77
  • Water Temperature: 70

DSCF5600It seems like our days, over the past 11 months have all fallen into one of three categories: travel days, sightseeing days, or chore days.DSCF5596 Sometimes we’ve done two or even all three in the same day. Not today. Except for attending the local Methodist Church service at 11am, today is simply a day of rest. Sandy records some property deed information on the computer, while I read and take a nap. The biggest chore of the day is to walk across the parking lot to O’Brians Bar where I buy a sack of ice. It’s a pleasant, sunny day. I adjust the solar panels a couple of times, to maximize their absorption of energy. It’s just that kind of day. In the morning we’ll set out again, heading first over to Kingston, where we’ll clear back into Canada. We’ll then turn west, hoping to get part of the way toward Trenton and the start of the Trent-Severn Waterway. Once on the Trent, we’ll be making serious headway toward Lake Huron, bringing us a major step closer to our ultimate destination of Grand Haven on Lake Michigan, where this journey all began, back on August 22, 2015.

Castle in the Salad Dressing Islands – 7/16/16

First of All -

  • First time back in the US since crossing into Canada a month ago
  • First time visiting a genuine American castle
  • First time learning the real story about Thousand Island Salad Dressing

Namely Speaking-

  • Corn and Cob Islands
  • Gananoque
  • Smugglers Cove
  • Fairyland Island
  • Heart Island
  • Boldt Castle
  • Alexandria Bay
  • Clayton

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 31; Sail: NA
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,746
  • Hours Underway: 5
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.44
  • Wind Speed: 10 ; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 72
  • Water Temperature: 70

DSCF5488I’ve heard that Boldt Castle is a very popular place, especially on midsummer weekends, and it’s advisable to arrive early, before all the day use dock space is filled. So, by 6:30am we’re off the dock and threading our way through the nearest of the Thousand Islands. Actually, there are more than 1,800 of them, but Thousand Islands rolls off the tongue so nicely, and the term makes such a great name for salad dressing. Actually, we’ve been wondering about the possible connection between the name of the famous salad dressing and this magnificent island region. Perhaps we’ll learn more when we reach Boldt Castle. We’re cruising beneath a thin layer of clouds, whichDSCF5499 subdues the early morning colors. North of us the sky is clear, and we hope for clearing skies. We’re cruising through the small boat channel, and we pass by islands large and tiny. Residences ranging from small rustic cabins to serious mansions are built on many. On some, which are too small to develop, flagpoles have been installed, proudly flying the red and white Canadian maple leaf flag. As we near the Thousand Islands Bridge the current picks up, easily adding 2 mph to our downriver speed. After passing Raft Narrows we swing south and cross the US/Canadian border, back into New York State. We approach the main St. Lawrence shipping channel and, as if to greet us, two large freighters appear, one heading up and the other down the Seaway. They look like they’re on a collision course from our vantage point. We stay well over to the side as we approach Heart Island, the location of George Boldt’s famed castle, which we easily see from a considerable distance.

George Boldt was a remarkable guy. Self made man, immigrant from Prussia in the mid 1800’s, who through hard work and extraordinary talent made his fortune in the hotel business. He owned a major hotel in Philadelphia and he became the manager of the famed Waldorff-Astoria Hotel in New York City. He was the first to introduce room service. He decorated his hotel rooms with DSCF5512fresh cut flowers. And he was the guy who coined the phrase “The customer is always right.” The most endearing and enduring story associated with George is his love affair with Louisa, his beloved wife. They loved to vacation in the Thousand Islands area, where he purchased several islands and built a lavish “cottage”. Recalling the famous castles on the Rhine, which he’d seen as a boy, he determined to build a castle in the Thousand Islands as a testamony of love for his wife. WorkDSCF5516 proceeded for 4 years, starting in 1900 but in 1904, as the castle was nearing completion (interior furnishings had already been shipped from Europe) the 300 man construction crew received a telegram. “Stop all work on the castle. Louisa has died.” It was true. At age 42 she died, perhaps of congestive heart failure. George was devastated and never set foot on the island again. The castle and its island were eventually sold to a Mr. Noble who opened the place up for tours but who did virtually nothing to protect or preserve the place. It gradually fell into ruin, defaced inside and out with grafitti and vandalism. It was not until 1977 that the Thousand Island Bridge Authority decided to purchase the landmark and begin restoration. In the ensuing decades they’ve succeeded spectacularly, not only stopping the process of deterioration, but actually restoring the castle in an effort to realize George’s original dream. It’s a work in progress, but what they’ve accomplished is indeed impressive.

When we arrive at 9am, however, we’re confused. Not a single boat is tied up at the docks, and not a person can be seen on the grounds. There is a US Customs Dock here, and we need to clear back into the US, however it’s all locked up. I can’t see any signs posting open hours, so we just hang out at the Customs dock, waiting for someone to show up. Around 9:40 a boat pulls in, with several staff members aboard. We’re told that they open at 10, which explains the lack of activity. The Customs officials arrive shortly before 10, and with DSCF5520passports in hand, we easily clear back in to the US. The place is coming to life as we buy our tickets, opting to add self guided audio tour sets and tickets to the boat house in our purchase. We turn our head sets on and begin our tour of Boldt Castle. The main floor and second floor have mostly been fully restored, and the results are magnificent. The upper floors are largely as they were when the Bridge Authority purchased the property in 1977, walls carved and defaced with grafitti. Images which were significant to George (hearts, clovers and stags) are incorporated throughout the place. It’s pointless to try describing this place with words, so I’ll mostly let pictures make the attempt. After completing our tour of the castle our audio sets lead us on a circuit of the island where we admire numerous other structures created byDSCF5529 Mr. Boldt. We see the imposing Victory Arch, topped with 3 bronze stags, which symbolizes his success in life. The whimsical Playhouse, a curious tower constructed of uncut granite stone and which housed, among other things, a 2 lane bowling alley, stands on a prominent waterfront point. On the opposite side of the island we find the turreted power house, looking like a miniature castle in its own right. Nearby stands the dove cote and a beautiful formal garden, complete with Italian marble statures representing the 4 seasons. Across the channel we see a dramatic waterfront structure which served as Mr. Boldt’s boat house. With three main doors, one of which is tall enough to house a fully masted sailboat and featuring a cupola with descending stack, so that a steam boat could park inside with it’s boiler fired up, this structure is much more than a simple boat house. We ride the castle’s launch over to the boat house, which houses representative examples of Mr. Boldt’s extensive boat collection. The varnished mahogany and teak simply glows. The boats inside represent the peak of power boat DSCF5530design from the early 1900’s. One is named “PDQ 3″, which stands for “Pretty Damned Quick”. It’s a long splinter of a thing and completely designed for speed. Mr. Boldt’s daughter Clover loved to drive this boat, and for a time was considered the fastest woman on water. Before leaving we pay the gift store a visit and, among other items, we purchase 3 souvenier bottles of Thousand Island Salad Dressing, since we have learned from our audio guides that George Boldt was also responsible for popularising and introducing to his Waldorff-Astoria menu this now famous condiment.

We catch the launch back to Heart Island and decide to head for Clayton, about 12 miles back up the St. Lawrence. We’re now going against the current, which slows our progress, but I’m still able to maintain 6 mph. The wakes here are something else. Large tour boats,DSCF5534 cigarette boats, motor yachts and jet skis are everywhere, and the water is on a constant state of turmoil. We labor onward, jerked and bounced from side to side until we leave the busiest area behind us. Around 4pm we near the town of Clayton, on the New York side, and following a bit of a search we end up in the brand new Municipal Marina, on the east side of town. It’s so new its not even listed in my 3 year old cruising guide. I sign up for 2 nights, so that we’ll have a chance tomorrow to look this town over. It’s supposed to be a attractive place, with a couple of nice museums and many well cared for historic buildings. We walk into town in search of a good place for dinner. I head for the Thousand Island Inn, where I’m determined to order salad topped with, you guessed it, Thousand Island dressing. A sign on the building proclaims that here, not on Heart Island or the Waldorff-Astoria, this dressing was first served. Apparently, there’s more than one story about the origins of this dressing. Unfortunately, the Inn is closed, something to do with a dispute involving the health code, so we go elsewhere, eventually settling on a lovely historic home which now houses a fine restaurant. It’s a perfect evening to sit outside, and we enjoy a delightful dinner. We walk down a shady residential street toward the marina, admiring the many interesting and well cared for homes.

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