29 August 2012

Erie Canal

Three days in Brewerton getting repairs done left us with an urge to get moving.

Ever since we left Lake Ontario, we have been stuck in 5mph or 10mph speed limit zones.  The boat needs a good run.  Fortunately for us, Lake Oneida is right up ahead.  Unfortunately, it is Saturday and there is a Bassmaster's bass tournament going on.  The lake was littered with boats.  It was just like you see on TV, the guys in their fully deckled boats and their team shirts.  We even saw one boat that had his camera man with him on the boat.  Watch for us on WFN, he did turn the camera on us for a short clip.  Anyway, we did manage a bit of a run in between bass boats.  It felt good.  A bit of vibration on the starboard side as things break themselves in.

More speed limits once we are off the lake and we push on.  Ilion, NY for the night.  Ilion's claim to fame is it is the birth place of the Remington Arms Company.  Now they have LOTS of trains passing by.  We are not used to all that night time racket.  First thing in the morning (I use that term loosely), we press on.

Brewerton to Ilion was a bit of long day and Macara is in need of a bit of land time.  I promised her that we will be off the water at a decent time.

Along the way, we pass through Little Falls.  I would love to stop here on our way home.  A picturesque little town.

Little Falls, NY
Rock climbing by the lock in Little Falls, NY

Up ahead is St. Johnsville Marina & Campsite, that has got to have something for a kid.  It's now Sunday, about 2pm, when we pull in and there is a large gathering over at the boat ramp.  Yep, another bass tournament.  Except this time they were mostly off the water, and it was weigh in time.  This was no Bassmasters tournament, but fun to watch just the same.  Macara was off the boat and gone like a shot.

To set the scene a little.
St. Johnsville Marina & Redneck Boat Club

Trying not to be too blunt, but St. Johnsville is not exactly a land of economic prosperity.  A tiny little town with a lot of store fronts empty.  What we did find was a lot of nice, down to earth people.  But, it is a small town and we stick out like a sore thumb.  

We arrive on Sunday and we drink our last two beers immediately upon arrival.  The rum is all gone.  We need to do some shopping!  There is a pharmacy just up the street.  Still getting used to the go to the pharmacy to get your beer routine.  On the way to the pharmacy is a bridge over the railway tracks and we can hear a train coming, Macara is off and running.  Remember it is a very small town, picture the three of us standing on the bridge while the train goes by.  We are starting to stick out.  Because we do a lot of walking and beer is heavy, we have a couple little collapsable carts from Westmarine.  They are awesome, but only if you are really old and can't drive or a boater.  I have it on good authority that they carry 60 cans of beer.  So, there we are, the three of us on a beautiful Sunday afternoon strolling through town with our little cart full of beer.

Monday comes and nothing happens.  Macara and I continue to attempt to fish the wire for the new wifi and cellular amps.  Kerri heads off to find a real grocery store, with her trusty little cart.  She returns successful and with a bit of a giggle.  Apparently at the grocery store, a pair of locals took great pleasure in mocking her little cart, making a very poor attempt to conceal their laughter.  What had Kerri laughing was when the one lady counters the other with "so-and-so saw her yesterday at the pharmacy with it".  

Things we liked about St. Johnsville:  Fuel was a $1/litre.  Dockage was a $1/ft.  And we found $1 draughts.  They we were tiny little 8oz or 10oz glasses, but when was the last time you ordered a $1 dollar beer?

With Monday shot, Tuesday became a travel day.  Our goal, Schenectady, NY.  The distance wasn't outrageous, especially now that we have 30mph speed limits, but I underestimated our locking time.  And the locking was no fun at all, until we met the right lockmasters.  The wind was about 20knots from the west, no problem on the water, but in the locks it was catching us from behind and putting a lot of pressure on my ropes.  Some of the ropes are pretty slimy making a grip next to impossible.  I actually missed the Canadian locks today.  Mercifully, one of the lockmasters asked "would that be easier from the helm"? Awww, happy captain!

Some boat traffic in Schenectady.  I really didn't want to wake this bunch.

Schenectady Yacht Club is as "full service" as we have seen for a while.  It even has a pool.  Just what the doctor ordered after a long day of locking.  Macara dragged our sorry butts up there, but we had a blast.  I haven't heard Kerri belly laugh like that for a long time.  Macara was in her element.  Mask, snorkel and shorty wetsuit.  She was attempting hand stands and cart-wheels underwater.  The cart-wheels were particularly humorous.  The approach above the water was text book.  As soon as her feet left the bottom it was a train wreck.  Mom could not control her laughter.

Maybe one more day here, then off to Albany.  I want off these locks before any hurricane gets a chance to flood the area.

24 August 2012

Squeak update

We are good for now.  The cutlass bearing is replaced.  And I am happy.

But, the problem isn't "fixed".  It seems that we have a slight alignment issue, motor to drive shaft.  But, the fix isn't urgent.  There is no saying how long that we have had it.  So, we will move on.

We are still in Brewerton.  Our new cutlass bearing was supposed to be here this morning at 9am.  BUT, the regular FedEx driver wasn't in today and his replacement was doing the route backwards.  If it wasn't for the great staff here at Winter Harbor Marina we would have been stuck here for the weekend.  They tracked the truck down and got the part themselves.

Tomorrow we move on. With a little peace of mind now that we know what our problem is.  It was nice to inspect the bottom of the boat and put our  Trent-Severn "bump" behind us.

I can't say enough good things about Winter Harbor Marina.  Great family people.  We feel welcome here.  The fuel pumps on the water are credit card pumps, so they are open all night.  Where do you see that on the water?!?!  I wish all marinas were like Winter Harbor.

23 August 2012

We stole our first car today.

We arrived late in the afternoon at Winter Harbor Marina, greated by some truly genuine people.  We feel right at home here, it feels like the right place to get some work done.  While cooking our dinner, the owner wanders by and invites us to help ourselves to some fresh herbs from the garden.  Nice people.

The following morning we check in and chat with the staff about the work that we want done.  They go over their inventory and they don't have our cutlass bearing in stock, it will arrive tomorrow.

While we wait, they suggest that we take advantage of one of their courtesy vehicles and get some provisions in town.  I am not sure what happened next.  We must of been preoccupied with our own issues.  They had two vehicles to chose from.  A Mercedes wagon and a mini van.  They were parked around side of the building and the keys are in them.  "Help yourself", they said.  So, we did.  We walked around the side of the building and found a Mercedes with the keys in them and off we went.  West Marine, lunch and then the grocery store.

It was on our way back that we realized our mistake.  My cell phone rings.  "Mr. Brooks, are you in a Mercedes sedan", she says.  "Yes", I say.  "That is not our courtesy car", she says.

Oh my!  What have we just done.

Fortunately, her next response was laughter.  I guess we are not the first to take this guy's car by accident.  The call was to ensure that we didn't try and put any gas in it.  His car has been converted to Bio-diesel.  Good thing she called.  I had noticed it was a diesel, but we did plan to top it up to show our gratitude for the loaner vehicle.

There was a good crowd waiting for us upon our return.  It was the end of the day and owner of our stolen Mercedes wanted to go home.  We took a good ribbing, we blushed and all was good.  So, much for the 'polite Canadian' reputation.  It is only our second day in the country and we are already stealing cars.

What's going to happen tomorrow?

No more skinny water!

With all the formalities of changing countries out of the way, it is time to move on.  We have a wedding in Rhode Island that we are trying to make by September 1st.  We will rent a car someplace along the way, park the boat, and go dance and be merry. ;-P

So, far the navigation is so much easier.  Wider rivers with a lot more depth.  But, it has been fairly slow moving.  Lots of cottages and everybody seems to have a small boat parked out front.  The locks are much bigger than what we have experienced so far on the Trent-Severn.

Onward we push to Winter Harbor Marina, hoping to get some simple repairs completed before moving on.

21 August 2012

Crossing the Border

We completed the Trent-Severn happy for the experience, but left with a nagging little souvenir.  That annoying squeal from the starboard drive.

So, Sunday morning consisted of a bunch of emails to technical friends.  I am new to inboards and I have an inboard issue.  I needed help.  My help said... press on.  And we did.

We left Trenton and fantastic run down the Bay of Quinte.  Mostly up on plane, some down at a cruising idle to save fuel.  When we arrived a Prinyer's Cove there was silence.  Not enough silence to proclaim miraculous healing, but enough for comment.  "Did you hear that, no squeal", I said.  I got that look.  Maybe it was too soon.  And it was.

So, Monday morning consisted of a bunch of phone calls.  I have now convinced myself that this is nothing that I want to play with at the start of a year long adventure.  It is going to get looked at.  But, nobody can help me and all of a sudden I am feeling a little helpless.  We inched our way closer to Kingston and took up a mooring ball in Prinyer's Cove.  It turns out that we are too big to get service at this end of Lake Ontario.  The only guy that could do it said it would be two weeks before he could even start.  But, he was also very kind and offered up some suggestions.  So, kudos to Kingston Marina.

Our promised saviour comes from Brewerton, NY.  Not on Lake Ontario, but the Erie Canal.  Great news, we are heading that way!!!

We now have a plan and a favourable weather forecast.  Engines on, it is time to head for the United States of America.

The trip to Oswego, NY was 43nm.  A piece of cake cruising at 23.5 knots, blasting through small waves created by a 10 knot SW breeze.  Sometimes, size does matter.  :-)

I can't help but share our giggle from this afternoon.  "Go to the pharmacy and get your beer".  Pharmacies here are not like at home.  Here, you can get your beer and smokes.  I guess they can still sell the stuff that makes you feel better, it doesn't have to be good for you.

Only thirty-one more locks and we are on the ocean.  It doesn't sound too bad if you say it quickly.

19 August 2012

Peterborough to Trenton

Cheers to Facebook and a chance to meet up with a friend that we haven't seen for far too many years!  Tammy your help and visit in Peterborough truly was a gift.  Many thanks!!!

Macara the fishing machine pulls another respectable Largemouth Bass out from amongst the Bluegills and Sunfish in Peterborough Marina.

We spent the following night just a mile away at the bottom of Lock 19, Scott's Mill.  We were joined by an amazing family, one year behind us in their planning for a trip down south.  We had a delightful evening tied to the wall, had dinner together played cards and talked about boating.  It's always a joy to spend time with like minded people.

Moving along we spent a night in Campbellford.  The girls went shopping while I did some boat chores.  The genny needed oil and fuel filter changes, with that complete we slipped out  mid-afternoon.

After a failed attempt to anchor above Lock 7 we moved on to Frankford.  Arriving late and with most spots taken along the wall, we were forced to take a spot that left our bow blocking the lock.  That led to an early morning so that we could catch the first lock opening clearing the path for others.  Arriving late at the lock meant that dinner plans were a bust.  We Googled 'pizza' in Frankford and found Dimitri's Pizzeria Restaurant.  A short walk later we approached a place that looked dark and empty.  Inside it was a rocking Saturday night crowd getting ready for Karaoke night.  We had a blast, the food was great and we wish we could have stayed longer.  With a young girl in tow and an early morning ahead, regretfully we had to leave.  When we left there was only one empty table in the place.

A short trip and few locks later, the Trent-Severn Waterway is now complete.  I must tip my hat to the cottage owners along the waterway, not one incident of resentment to our presence.  Quite the opposite,   Saturday evening felt like we were Santa in a Santa Claus parade.  Many a large gathering stood and waved as we passed by.  Even more impressive, while we unsuccessfully tried to anchor up a shallow back channel, three separate cottagers came out to see if we were ok.  They don't usually see such large boats up that channel.  They thought we attempting to go the wrong way.  Unfortunately, we could not get our anchors to hold.  Onward.

To the contrary, this section of waterway has put us in contact with some of the most ill willed lockmasters that you would ever want to cross paths with.  The supervisor of the 'She-devil' at, coincidently named, Haig's Reach Lock 10 will be hearing from us come Monday.  Not to mention the 'jerk' at Lock 11/12 and 'Ace' at Lock 7.  It's strange, most of the lockmasters were some of the most pleasant people, ever helpful.  Yet, this list is not complete naming the less than stellar staff along the way.

Overall, the Trent-Severn has been a great experience.  We didn't anchor out as much as we would have liked.  But, we had a better trip than we had expected.  We did bump something on Canal Lake right in the middle of the channel.  Nobody would appreciate that.  Also, we leave the channel with an annoying squeal emanating from our starboard drive.  We are currently blaming grit picked up in the shallow, dirty, weedy water that we have encountered.  Let's hope that a good long run across Lake Ontario clears that up.

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler, an ever present reminder to keep moving. Soon we will be in another country.  Our adventure continues.
The morning mist at Frankford lock

16 August 2012

Big Chute to Peterborough

It's been a while since we have had wifi.  I have been able to post our location on the Google Maps widget every night (using my cell phone as a modem for my laptop), but my last post was a more than a few days ago.

The weather at Big Chute was cold and dreary and that continued into the next day, so we travelled.  It was a great day to just sit at the wheel and sight see.  This is cottage country, so it was slow moving.  Sparrow Lake and Couchiching are the only real places to pick up and get moving.  In addition to all the cottages, we get introduced to the many low clearance swing bridges on the Trent-Severn.

3 short blasts of the horn is a request for the bridge to be opened.

The scenery is really quite beautiful.  It's been a while since I have navigated a channel as narrow as McDonald's Cut.

McDonald's Cut
We had hoped to anchor out on Lake Couchiching, but most all the anchorages were open to the north.  The wind was from the north-east and building.  Later that night the wind would build to over 20 knots, and a bit of lightning and lots of rain.  I guess we made the right choice to take a slip.  Besides, Port of Orillia is a fine marina, there are a lot worse places to seek refuge.  Adding to pleasure, we met some new friends.  They had a young girls only a year or two older than Macara.  They were back and forth, chatting and playing.  Macara even slept over on their boat.

It is never a good sign to see a windsurfer fly by your chosen anchorage.

More rain.  So, we travelled, this time all the way to Bobcaygeon.

Along the way, we saw more cottages.  No really, we did.  It seems to be a never ending competition to have the biggest, nicest cottage on the lake.

A touch of class.

The scenery changes once you leave Lake Simcoe.  No longer do you see wind swept pines and high rocky cliffs.  This is more like farm country.  Man-made canals and man-made lakes.  Canal lake used to be Grassy Creek, it is buoyed from one end to the other.  The Ports book says that maintenance staff regularly sweep the channel for dead heads.  Well, they need to get back there cause we hit something.  It is a sickening feeling.  I have been able to snorkel under the boat and I didn't see any damage, but sickening just the same.

Arched bridge across Canal Lake.  Built in 1905.
Since we left Georgian Bay all the locks have been lifting higher.  Kirkfield is the height of land on the Trent-Severn, this would be our last lift, a unique one at that.  From here on to Lake Ontario, all locks will be a decent.  And the buoys are reversed, so pay attention.  This was our first hydraulic lift lock.  Until now, we enter a chamber, they closed the door behind us, filled it will water and we drove out the front.  Kirkfield was different.  They lifted us up 49 feet in a giant bath tub.  Quickly too, it was a bit of a rush.  It sure built up the anxiety for Peterborough, a 65 foot drop!

Kirkfield Hydraulic Lift Lock 36
When we left Orillia we were told that Fenelon Falls was an easy destination.  A nice looking spot with full electrical service at the lock, a first.  But, it was busy with lots of boats and it was still raining.  So, you guessed it, we pressed on.  By the time we reached Bobcaygeon, the rain began to quit.  It looks like we have our destination for the night.

We decided to tie up at the lock wall (it's half the price of a marina slip) as the lock is right central to Bobcaygeon's downtown.  As we approached the lock I noticed an Osprey nest built right above the lock entrance.  Soon after we got tied up there was as many as 4 Osprey on the platform.  Then I saw them catch 2 fish only about fifty yards off the back of my boat.  I can't stand this, "Where is my camera"!

With the weather finally nice and the girls a little weary after a long travel day, we decided to stay put.  Beaches, ice cream and shopping were the order of the day.

Finally, we are blessed with consecutive days of nice weather.  We drop down one lock and travel six whole miles.  Our first anchorage of the trip!  Pigeon Lake, east of Big Island.  This is a popular spot!  Houseboats, cottage boats and fisherman, but we knew this going in.  Standard operating procedure with the houseboats seems to be drop a stern anchor about a boat length from shore and then proceed to crash into the island.  Once there, tie up to a tree.  Hey, it works and it's a rental.

We have been carrying around a dozen worms in the cockpit freezer since the North Channel.  Macara finally wants to go fishing.  Great choice!!!  Right off the back we caught Largemouth Bass, Rock Bass, Blue Gill, Sunfish and plenty of them.  Final count 26 fish.  That'll keep a little girl happy.
Macara's 1lb 8oz Largemouth on worm and bobber.
All of a sudden, that was 3 days in the Bobcaygeon area.  Time to move on.  Next stop Lakefield.  A relatively quiet night on another lock wall.  Macara continues to be a fishing machine!  Landing another 30 fish!!!  Same dozen worms.  A few perch that would have been worth a frying pan if I had known that they would keep coming.

Next stop Peterborough!

Remember Kirkfield.  The rush that we felt going up 49'.  Now it is time for Peterborough, a 65' drop.  This time it will be different, we are going down, looking out over the front of our bath tub.  Too much build up I guess, it just didn't have the same rush.  Don't get me wrong, she is an engineering marvel.  Just not the same feeling of acceleration.

Peterborough Lift Lock 21
Sorry for the long post.  We will have to work harder to find wifi more often. 

Gotta run.  There is more fun to be had!!!

09 August 2012

Trent-Severn Big Chute Marine Railway

Go where the wind blows you.  Words to live by.

With the forecast calling for big winds, there was no more time for waiting.  It was time to go.

We had an absolutely beautiful trip across Georgian Bay.  There were lots of boats on the water.  Trying to get to where they wanted to be before the forecasted winds pick up.  Fisherman take note... I don't recall ever marking so many fish on the sonar.  Lots of bait fish even.

Day 2.  The Trent-Severn.  Navigation buoys.  And locks.  Lots of locks.

One of the highlight features of the system is Big Chute.  Instead of a lock, a marine railway car.

Big Chute.  The view from the observation deck.
Knot Yet entering the Big Chute rail car.

Knot Yet going up and over.
Crossing the road at Big Chute.
They build some pretty nice cottages on the Trent-Severn.
Not a bad little get away.
The wildlife knows the way.
Osprey nest on a navigation aid.

07 August 2012

A few things to tidy up first

After another great trip to the North Channel.  May I never tire of that place.  We decided to go back to Wiarton and try and clear up some administrative stuff.  We had hoped to see our mailbox stuffed full of Health Cards, dinghy registration numbers and our new PLB.  One out of 3 was the best we could do.  The PLB and Health Cards are going to try and catch up with us someplace.

Tomorrow we leave.  Has anybody heard that before?

The wind gods do not appear to be favouring us.  Or maybe they are just giving us the kick in the rear end we need to get going.  If there is a time to leave, it is tomorrow.  And even that is questionable, but we will try.  If we don't make it across the bay tomorrow we are staring at forecasts for 25knots for the next 3 days.  That's not my idea of fun.  So, tomorrow we leave.

My life on the internet these days looks like this...



I can't change the weather, but I have plenty of information to aid me from suffering from it.