31 July 2012

The Benjamin Islands

No trip to the North Channel is ever complete without a night or two in the Benjamin Islands.

We chose three.

With a little imagination and being willing to adapt, we are always able to get a nice little anchorage to ourselves.  This year was no different.  While the popular anchorages had traffic coming and going like a 400 series highway, we sat by ourselves, with our own little beach, happy as could be.

This is just one of the reasons...

And another...

And sometimes the journey is the destination...

Knot Yet up and cruising...

Monday night had a forecast for showers and thunderstorms, so we took that opportunity to take a dock for the night in Little Current.  By the looks of the radar it looked like a pretty exciting night out in the Benjamins.  We were just as happy to be tied to a dock.

Finally, as our sabbatical countdown timer approaches zero...

Something appropriate and totally inappropriate all at the same time.  I am on a Boat!

26 July 2012

Killarney to Little Current

First things first when you get to Killarney.  I need my fish bus fix!

Macara driving the dinghy to go get fish 'n chips.

Saturday night turned out to be a great night.  Dinner wound up being reservations for 12.  We were joined by Big Bert and Kris's brother's family aboard their F32 Trojan.  I care not to count the number of years in a row that I have had the Prime Rib at Killarney Mountain Lodge on my first Saturday night in the North Channel, let's just say that I have a pretty good streak going.

Kris's brother Mike and wife Kim have a daughter that is only a few months younger than Macara.  KML is a great place for kids and the two hit it off right away.

After dinner, we slide over to the Carousel and listen to Andy Lowe sing.  Like we have every year we have been to the North Channel.  Coincidently, he started playing at the Carousel that very same year.

In the Carousel, through a friend of a friend of a friend, I had the pleasure of meeting a very interesting gentleman by the name of Charlie Miller.  A few years ago, he and his family did the very same trip that we are about to start out on.  We discussed this and that about boating on the east coast and out in the Bahamas.  We had a great time.  Towards the end of the evening he introduced me to his daughter, a beautiful young girl, now around 16 or so.  We, too, had a great chat.  She told me about the great parts of the trip and the parts that she wished she remembered better.  She offered me some great advice.  Such an easy girl to talk to.

It never ceases to amaze me the size of boats that I see when in those special cruising places.

Killarney is fun, but it was time to go.

My parents were not far away, coincidently in one of our favourite anchorages.  We gave them a call and said "Let's hook up."

Our anchor was barely over the side and Macara had her life jacket on and jumping for Papa's dinghy.  And soon, not long after she was back, "Look at the fish I caught!"  You see, last summer, Macara caught her first fish with Papa.  It was a small Pike that was lost at the side of the boat because they had no net.  This year, Papa was much better prepared.

I just have to add, McDonald's is missing something.  I love their breakfast burritos, but for the last couple mornings I have been adding left over Pike bits to my egg burritos.  It's fantastic!  Life is good!!!

We are in Little Current.  Let's see where the wind blows us.

Cell booster

I definitely don't plan to turn this blog into a home for gear reviews, but I wanted to pass along a small addition that we added to the boat that may be of interest to others.

A cellular signal booster.  We chose one from Wilson Electronics.  www.wilsonelectronics.com

I was even able to buy a full kit created for marine applications.  A small marine antenna.  20' of low loss cable.  An AG Soho 60 amplifier.  Some more cable and a inside panel antenna.

The premise being, catch the single, amplify it and then redistribute about the boat.

So far, I am very happy with it's performance.  Where there is a signal of only a single bar, I can now amplify it to 5 bars.  That's sweet!

So, why do you need your cell phone on a boat?

I am always in search for more weather information when I am on the water.  Knowing the weather makes life on board, so much easier.  Sure, marine weather forecasts are put out several times a day, but the element that is missing is radar.  Forecasts can be for quite a large area, having a visual picture of where rain and thunderstorms may pass through is a huge bonus.

Just the other day we watched a large front roll down the North Channel, all the time it appeared it was coming right at us.  Before it got to us, the front decided to swing north.

We got to continue enjoying our day!

22 July 2012

Day 1

Before I get started I would like to acknowledge Services Ontario.  What a bunch of bafoons!

In a effort to get things out of the way early.  We tackled travel insurance way back on March 29th.  Admittedly, I got great help when I dialled their 800 number, but when we drove over to the Walkerton office things started to feel not quite right.  We started hearing bureaucratic junk like "the process does not allow us to apply for the change until 5 weeks before the application date."  But, it also says allow 4-6 weeks for processing?  We had no choice but let the system do it's thing.

Fast forward to last week.  I sold my truck, so I returned my license plates to, you guessed it... Services Ontario.  The plates went easy.  "One more question, can you look up the status of our Health Cards?" She says "There is no record of any application for change in the system."

So, on one of the hottest days of the summer so far, Kerri, Macara and I hop in the car and drive over to Walkerton.  After a quick explanation of our situation, the clerk flippantly blurts out "it's probably in Kingston and they haven't dealt with it."  To which I replied, "No, I don't think so!"  After a further explanation of what I already knew, the other  clerk got a sinking feeling a strolled over to a filing cabinet.  "Here is you application right here" she says in a folder labelled "Things to do in July".

Let's just sum this up by saying we are still in some administrative difficulties.

With a couple other issues to wrap up and a mediocre forecast, Saturday becomes our new departure date.  Even with that, it may pick up a bit in the afternoon.  Alarm clocks set for 4am!!!

Like so many years in the past, Shrek 2 is packed and ready to go with us.

It was a beautiful starry morning which lead to a glorious sunrise.  I always love this first morning on the water.

Macara was pretty excited too.  In an effort to negotiate her to go to bed, she arranged that she would like to take mom's spot on the bow when we cast our lines.  She had it all figured out.  Mom would take the helm and dad would work with her.  She got her way.

Everybody was up and ready to go.  

Did I mention it was beautiful morning?

Shrek was running strong.  A welcome sight.

And then we got to Killarney Mountain Lodge.  Now I love the Lodge.  I make every effort to stay there before any of the other marinas in Killarney.  We have been going to KML for over 10 years.  As soon as the long range weather told us that Saturday was a go,  Kerri made reservations.  Shrek 2 was still on the service dock when we arrived, but Julie had that look on her face.  I knew something wasn't quite right.

Take it away Jerry Seinfeld...
"You know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation.  And I think that is really the most important part"

Long story short, after being asked to wait for 2 hours, they managed to make room for us on the fuel dock.  Friends of ours who decided to join us just Friday night, they got proper slips.

Oh well, can't change it.  And we still had a great time!

09 July 2012

It's almost time to go.

The last time I moved, my prize possession was a stereo and I was moving out of my parent's house.  I have worked at the same place since I was 19 years old.  Getting ready for a year long boating adventure and all the extra stuff that goes with it... that's new to me.

We have been getting shots.  Extra trips to the dentist and the optometrist.  I had a wisdom tooth pulled for my troubles.  We have been trading this insurance for that insurance.  And we have been selling stuff.  The Sea Ray is sold, finally.  The boat trailer went 2 days later.  I am selling my truck.  It's 'Let's Make a Deal' time.

Meanwhile, Knot Yet is getting filled up.  To the point were some stuff is getting hauled out.

I finally got my new chain.  3/8" chain weighs 1.49lbs per foot.  Last week I had 200ft delivered, right to the dock.  No more wimpy 15ft of 1/4" chain.  Better still, no more dirty rope on my decks.  Now that we are all chain, it gravity feeds nicely in the anchor locker.

The dinghy davits are installed on the swim platform.  No more towing the dinghy!  Or loading it into the cockpit!  The dinghy got treated to a new motor.  Our beloved Nissan 9.8hp just wasn't getting the three of us up on plane anymore.  Enter, a brand new Yamaha 15hp 2 stroke, capable of getting the three of us up on plane, plus an extra adult.  Smiles all around.

Seven scuba tanks have found a home in the fish box.  BCs, regs, wetsuits, masks, snorkels, fins are still searching for a home.

Safety equipment.  We have never kept a 'ditch bag' before.  We have spent hours considering 'this' or 'that'.  A lot of the stuff we have always carried and now it just has a strategic home.  The biggest addition is still in the mail, but I finally decided on a PLB over an EPIRB.  The PLB may not be the ultimate for a cruising boat, but it suits me the best.  I plan on carrying it with me on other land based adventures, as well.

You get the picture.  Lots of new equipment.  The boat is starting to squat a bit.  No room left for luxuries.

Back during our boat shopping, we looked at plenty of Oceans.  I looked at one Viking.  I was impressed by the engine room.  The previous owner had laid the boat out for doing his own maintenance, right down to a dedicated stereo system in the engine room.  So, before we even had our boat, I had purchased a shiny stainless steel, 5 drawer tool box.  For the life of me it has not found a suitable home and is now off the boat.  My tools now lie in tupperware boxes under the couch.  Less than glamourous.

I am big fan of Pelican cases,  my camera gear is protected by several of them.  Not for the next year, we don't have the room.

So that is now the theme, if we don't 'need' it...  off it goes.

One more week!  Sometime next weekend we will head for our annual pilgrimage to the North Channel.  We will spend some time with family and friends.  More importantly, we will try and figure out how everything sits.  We have the option one more trip home before heading south.

Exciting times for sure.