July 22 – 25 Onward to the Trent-Severn Waterway

To leave Kingston, one has to go out into Lake Ontario.  Those who are familiar with the  Great Lakes know that they each have a life of their own.  They are vast areas of water and winds can stir up some brutal waves;  hence the reason that we waited for a calm day on the water.  It was beautiful as we traveled toward Picton, intending to anchor for the night.  Funny thing about anchoring, sometimes it works like a charm and other times we wonder why the anchor can’t seem to find a hold.  

There are electronic navigation programs that we use and many good anchor spots are marked with an anchor image on the charts.  Looking at the charts, we saw two coves along the way that looked like great anchoring spots, even though there were no anchor symbols there.  So we went to each and tried several times to anchor.  We drug up huge clumps of grass each time we raised the anchor because we couldn’t get a hold. Smarter people than us purposely did NOT put an anchor symbol in those coves.  We traveled a little farther and found a MARKED anchor spot and spent a lovely evening.

The next night we stopped at Trent Port Marina, located just east of the start of the Trent-Severn Canal.  We would consider this marina to be the Ritz of marinas.  It is a city run marina, fairly new, and it is BEAUTIFUL. Great slips for docking. There is a building there that houses the marina offices, a place to get ice cream and sandwich type food, a community room, a boaters’ lounge, beautiful and FREE laundry machines, and fabulous shower rooms.  After staying in Kingston at a boatyard marina, we thought we had died and gone to heaven.

Boaters’ Lounge has comfy seating and a TV. Even a fireplace for cooler days.
The tiled shower rooms were so wonderful and BIG. This is not the norm for most marinas.
The Gateway to another waterway on our journey.

On the 25th, we started our journey on the Trent-Severn Waterway, so named because it combines the Trent and Severn Rivers with canal locks; back to going through locks. Canada Parks operates the locks and we can’t say enough about how wonderful their staff people are. They are so helpful getting boats in the locks and tied up properly.  They often call ahead to let the next lock know how many boats are headed their way so that the next lock is often opened and waiting for our entry.  They are pleasant and conversant with the boaters – great customer service!  We went through 13 locks the first day.  One – or should I say two – of the interesting ones was Ranney Falls lock which is a double lock that raises boats 48 feet. It was rather daunting when we entered at the bottom and looked up and up.   After being raised a part of the distance, the front lock doors open and we moved into the second portion of the lock which carried us the remaining distance.  

Our view from the bottom of the double lock.
Halfway up the lock.

We traveled through the Cambellford lock (at mile 32) and stopped for the night on a wall. Exploring the town, we found ice cream (a MUST for Loopers), the Tooney Monument, a walking path with a suspension bridge over the waterway, and the World’s Finest Chocolate Factory outlet store! What a town!

In the park at Cambellford is a monument to the Canadian Tooney. This is the hometown of the designer of the coin. A tooney is a $2 coin. It’s easy to remember because it is TWO colors.

Like a kid in a candy store – literally! SO hard to make a decision at the Chocolate Outlet store.
On our walk over the Suspension Bridge that goes over the waterway. Just a little bit of a swing as we walked!

We came across this structure, pictured below, on our walk to the bridge. Four of us tried to guess what it was. Turns out to be a constructed habitat for birds called Chimney Swifts. The birds cannot perch, as other birds do, because they have very short legs. Instead, they cling to the walls of chimneys or tree cavities. They build nests of twigs that are glued with saliva and attached to the masonry surface inside a chimney. These man-made chimneys are built to help repopulate the Chimney Swifts which are on the Endangered Species List.

A chimney that has been built to encourage Chimney Swifts to nest here.

July 17 – 21, 2019 Another Visit to Kingston and a Visit to the Castles

Engine 1095, known as the “Spirit of Sir John A,” originally debuted in 1913. It was fully restored in 2013 and sits outside the Kingston Visitor Center as a reminder of the importance of the railway system in the growth of Canada as a country.

We had planned on only a day or two at Kingston, but once again the windy weather kept us from moving.  We hung out with boat friends from Halftime and Tug O’ My Heart.  We found some more concerts to attend and an outside Movie on the Square.  We got to the grocery store and the LCBO store.  LCBO – Liquor Control Board of Ontario.  All of the liquor stores in Ontario, Canada are owned by the government and prices are the same throughout all stores.  Kind of interesting.

Movie night on the City Hall Square. This square is also used for the Farmers’ Market, an ice skating rink, and numerous other community events. Can you guess the name of the movie? Momma Mia 2 – it was a singing crowd that night!
Outdoor concert in the amphitheater at City Hall. We did a little dancing on the sidelines that evening and got some audience applause.

Days were going by and we were running out of things to do.  Friends rented a car and we decided to go to Alexandria Bay to visit Boldt Castle and Singer Castle.  To do that, we had to go thru the US/Canada border.  Canadians had told us some horrible stories of going through the border – how rude and surly the agents were.  Well, we experienced it ourselves.  We pulled up to the agent and handed over our passports.  His reply was “Windows down and sunglasses off.”  He then proceeded to ask questions in rapid succession, seemingly to try and trip us up on our answers.  Let’s just say we didn’t feel very welcome returning to our own country.

That business behind us, we headed to Alexandria Bay to take a tour boat over to Singer and Boldt Castles.  Sad to have to buy a boat ticket when we’re still paying a mortgage on a boat!  

Singer Castle is on Dark Island in the St. Lawrence Seaway.  It was built by Frederick Bourne who was the 5thPresident of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  It was owned by the Bourne family until the 1960’s and was known at that time as The Towers.  It is four stories and has 28 rooms.  Now for the interesting part – it has secret passageways throughout the house, tunnels to boat houses, and a dungeon.  Not sure what that last item was used for!  THEN we found out that people can actually stay there overnight.  There is a double suite to accommodate up to 8 people.  It includes dinner and breakfast AND guests have the run of the castle and grounds including all the secret passageways.  If we had known that, we would have gotten some other Looper couples together and stayed for a night.  Maybe NEXT time!

Singer Castle – design was based on a castle in a book entitled Woodstock. It is the only remaining existing castle on the St. Lawrence to be completed, fully furnished and resided in during the heyday of the Thousand Islands.

After Singer Castle, the tour boat took us to Heart Island, home of Boldt Castle.  Unlike Singer Castle, construction of Boldt Castle was never completed, nor lived in by the Boldt family.  George Boldt was a self-made millionaire, working his way up from a hotel kitchen worker to the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  He and his wife Louise brought many new practices to the hotel business (like providing sheets!) that forever changed the way hotels operate.  From Wikipedia:

He built Boldt Castle on an island in the Thousand Islands area of New York State.  The enormous castle was intended as a gift for his wife, but when she died suddenly in 1904, construction was halted.

Boldt Castle on Heart Island.

Louise died in January.  The completed home was to have been presented to her on Valentine’s Day.  George Boldt never returned to Heart Island. The castle was vandalized over many years, but is now owned by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and had been restored according to the original plans.  The completion of the Castle continues.  It is an incredibly beautiful “home” and it is a monument to the deep love that George had for Louise.  There are heart designs incorporated into numerous design elements throughout the castle.  There is a Boldt Castle app which you can download for a tour of the castle.

Hearts abound in the architectural details of the castle as well as on the grounds.

Returning to Canada, we waiting for over an hour to get through the Customs Station.  There were multiple gates open, but there was a long line of cars in each.  The best we can figure is that there are a lot of Canadians who spend the weekend in the States!  Unlike our entry to US, our re-entry to Canada was businesslike, but very cordial.

Checked the weather when we got back to the boat – good to go for tomorrow!

Red Chairs are all over Canada. Many are placed in picturesque locations to showcase the beauty of Canada. This one was on display at the outdoor concert in Kingston.

July 10 – 16, A Return to the Rideau

What goes up, must come down.  We had made our way to Ottawa, via the Rideau, and we could have made a mini-loop by continuing to Montreal and then into the St Lawrence Seaway and into the Thousand Islands, but perhaps that will be saved for another trip.  Instead we planned to return on the Rideau and stop at locks we had bypassed along the way.  Such a plan didn’t happen.  We stopped at many of the same locks, just because that’s how the days happened, but we were able to do more exploring.  So here is a look at some of the Rideau locks.

Black Rapids– This lock is off a roadway, some houses about a half mile away, but not close to anything else except a bike path. Many “land people” go there for picnics, and boaters enjoy the breezes in the shade.  It’s the kind of place that people congregate to talk because there isn’t much else to do.  Here we met some girls who were kayaking.  Two were friends from Florida (1 originally from Canada) and the other was on her own.  They all had tents and were kayaking the entire Rideau, but only one direction.  They wanted a tour of the boat, which we were glad to give, and they were grateful for the additional offer of some cold libation.  These were tough ladies.  We had seen them along the canal, and were often surprised at how quickly they caught up to our location.  It was also here that we met the mother of the computer technician for the light show in Ottawa.  She frequently bikes to the lock to have “a bit of company.”  We guessed she is in her late 70’s or early 80’s – still going strong.

Our new friend Jennie (bike helmet in hand) who we met at Black Rapids. Later met her son in Ottawa.

Merrickville– a charming little town that is a tourist favorite.  In the warm months, the flowers are abundant outside the stores and restaurants.  There was limited space available when we arrived, so we were tied to a wall that was parallel to a street.  A storm blew in – literally – and the wind and waves hit us broadside on the boat.  We half expected to be ON the road if the storm had lasted much longer!

Window boxes and flower baskets abound in Merrickville.

Hurst Marina– Not a lock, but a necessary stopover for us to get water and to do laundry.  We look outside the boat, and here comes another Meridian, the same model as ours, but a different year.   We go to meet the people and it turns out they are from Isle of Palms, very close to where we had bought our boat in Beaufort, SC.  We felt a little embarrassed when we told them where we had bought the boat, because they had gone all the way to Ottawa to buy their boat.  They were taking it back home!

Smiths Falls– Yes, that is spelled correctly. Several years ago, Canada dropped the apostrophes from City/town names.  Lots going on there over the weekend.  We ate at a restaurant called “My Place,”a little European type café with wonderful food, cooked to order. Can’t be in a hurry – it’s a dining experience.  The Heritage House Museum is a historic house depicting the upper middle class life of the Bates Family.  In addition to the household furnishings, there are other exhibits such as the RCA  exhibit.  RCA vinyl records were once produced in Smiths Falls.  Of special note:  the front and back of the house are identical, as it was considered rude to receive guests at a “back” door.  One side of the house faced a waterway, and the other a driveway.  Guests might enter either way and the Bates did not want to offend their guests.  Additionally, the house features a 2 story privy.  Mr. Bates became very ill shortly after completing the house and he was confined to his bedroom on the 2ndfloor.  The higher privy was added for his convenience.

Front door, back door, or is it back door, front door?

Tweed– a place I never imagined we’d be visiting. Located in a former Hershey Chocolate factory, Tweed grows cannabis and in October intends to start producing cannabis chocolate bars.  The tour was actually very enlightening – never knew there was so much involved with growing “wacky tobaccy.”  It’s grown under very strict supervision and only the female plants are used.  If a male plant should invade a growing room, it can ruin that entire crop.  And a female plant can “change into” a male plant, hence the strict supervision of the plants.  Who knew?!  Connoisseurs can apparently detect different fragrances of various types of cannabis, each providing a different experience for the user.

Some of the growing rooms at Tweed.

Car Show– A weekend car show caught Ed’s eye. Always interested in those classic cars.

Tour of the Town– we joined a walking tour of the town on Saturday morning.  Not only was the guide able to give us info, but several of the other participants were long time residents and we got “the inside scoop” on events that had occurred over the years.  For example, a daughter of a prominent citizen had studied medicine and also went to Europe to train as a surgeon.  Highly educated, she was not able to practice when she returned to Canada as females were not legal to be licensed.  As a joke, a neighbor in town called on her to deliver kittens from his cat.  She did so and then promptly sent him a bill for $1500.  As her brother was a lawyer, the neighbor had no choice but to “pay up.”

Did some biking at Smiths Falls. Ed had a real challenge getting on this one!

Library – On the town tour we learned about the grants that were offered by Andrew Carnegie to build free public libraries in Canada, US and various other countries. There are 111 of them in Ontario alone. Until this was done, libraries were usually accessed only thru a paid subscription which limited the access to mostly people of financial means. Carnegie credited much of his success to what he had learned from reading as he grew up, and he wanted this opportunity to be available to as many as possible. The early libraries were designed and built in a variety of architectural styles, but the plans were eventually standardized to a Beaux-Arts design such as the one in Smiths Falls.

A Carnegie-built library in Smiths Falls.

Le Boat Headquarters on the Rideau – these are houseboats for rent.  The boats are big rectangles surrounded by rubber bumpers.  Think of bumper cars, but boats.  People who have no boating experience can rent these to cruise the Rideau and strike terror into everyone who sees them coming! I think they get a training video and someone takes them through the first lock and then leaves the people to fend for themselves.  We tried to avoid being in locks with them as we saw more than one mishap. 

Jones Falls– Shortly after we tied to the wall here, we looked out to the other side of the lock and saw a boat that was almost “toy like.”  Two fellas were in it and they tied to the far side of the wall.  Couldn’t resist a closer look.  The boat was about 4 ft wide and 12 feet long, made of plywood. Inside on either end was storage space filled with plastic bins.  The inside center was flat and empty except for two foam mats which folded up on either side – the sleeping accommodations!  There was room for two people to sit – one in front and one in back – a 3 horse power motor, and a small bimini over the back seat. A makeshift “sail” was onboard to use if the wind was coming behind the boat. Todd had made the boat – cost about $300.  Turns out that his canal and mooring passes for the season cost more than the boat!  He was taking his friend to Kingston, then was expecting his wife to join him, but only for a couple of days!

Many different boats “ply” the waters of the canal.

Davis Lock– The description for this lock is “an isolated, quiet, and beautiful setting.”  Right on all accounts.  We were surprised to find several boaters here who meet at the lock each summer to spend a few days together, enjoying each others’ company. We attempted to go for some walks, but once we left the Lock property, the bugs were swarming around us.  It was like being in an episode of Twilight Zone.

Kathy sittin’ on the dock at Davis Lock.

After leaving Davis Lock, it was back to Kingston for a day or two, or so we thought.

July 7-9, 2019 Ottawa – A Capital Place

We rounded the last bend of the Rideau and there before us was the city of Ottawa, capital of Canada.  It’s a lovely sight when boating into the city.  The old stone buildings stand high and proud.  The best part was that the canal runs through the center of the city, so there we were and there we STAYED.  Boats can tie up to the canal walls, so we were in the heart of the city.  Even had electricity! The Canadian Senate (temporarily housed in the old Railway Station) was right next to our boat.

We wasted no time. Friends were already there and were ready for a bike ride.  So we quickly unloaded the bikes and off we rode.  The city is VERY bike friendly and SO many people ride their bikes in Ottawa.  We rode thru part of downtown, past several embassies and stopped at Rideau Hall, home of the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada. The position is currently held by Julie Payette, who was previously one of Canada’s astronauts, and who flew two missions in space.  I like her official motto – PER SPEREA AD ASTRA (Through hardship to the stars). The grounds of the home are like a huge park – so beautiful.  We took a tour of the home, saw the Changing of the Guard at the entrance, then were off on our bikes – all the way to Quebec!  OK, to be honest, we rode to the Province of Quebec, which was over a bridge to the other side of the river.  The city of Quebec would have been MUCH farther. 

Changing of the guard at Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General.
A bike ride into another Canadian province.

So what else did we see in Ottawa?

The Senate Building– the government buildings are currently undergoing MAJOR renovations to bring them up to the 21stcentury. The Senate is now in the old railway station – a beautiful interior – and right next to our boat.

The interior of the railway terminal, the current temporary home of the Canadian Senate.
The senate chamber.

The East Block– this is the building on the east side of the Parliament building.  Originally home to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Members, some of the offices have been restored to their original interiors.  Tours take people through these offices and through history.

The facade of the East Block.
A restored Cabinet meeting room in the East Block.
The original library – similar to our Library of Congress — on Parliament Hill. It survived the fire that destroyed most of the original Parliament building.

The Royal Canadian Mint – makes collector coins, Olympic medals when events are held in Canada, as well as coins for many other countries.  We asked about free samples and the answer is always the same – “That’s on tomorrow’s tour.” Interesting Note:  The medals from the Olympic winter games held in Canada – if all assembled together – would form a picture of the Orca whale –“powerful and knowing no boundaries.”  Each medal recipient was given a drawing of the total picture with an indication of what part of the picture was on their medal.  Thus, each medal, was unique.  The same was done for the Paralympic winners.  Their picture was of a Raven – “ a supremely creative and agile transformer.”

Kathy thought of stealing a gold bar to pay for our trip, but the guard just outside of this photo looked pretty intimidating.
Ed’s face on the new Canadian quarter.

The By Ward Market– BIG indoor/outdoor market area with fresh produce, meats, cheeses, bakeries, artisan crafts, clothing – you name it. Fabulous.  Got a flat of fresh strawberries for $8 Canadian. That’s about $5.60 US.  

One of the many fruit and vegetable stalls at the By Ward Market, just 4 blocks from the boat.
Pubs beside the By Ward Market.

The Changing of the Guard at Parliament Hill – Daily ceremony at 10 AM has two military bands, one a bagpipe band, and SO many red coats and black furry hats!

The daily changing of the guard ceremony, including a band and corps of bagpipers.

Chateau Laurier –One of the Fairmont Chateaus, it is a BEAUTIFUL hotel built in the early 1900’s as part of the Railway’s plans to give people destinations to travel to via the railway.  That being said, today the owners want to build an addition in a style of architecture that is so incongruous with the original building that it is just plain UGLY.  The people are up in arms, but the hotel seems very intent on following through with their plans.

Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral– the interior has so many statues, that it is rather overwhelming to see.  The ceiling looks like a starry night, with gold stars on a deep blue background.  There are several pillars in the church that look like they are made of marble, but are actually painted wood.  A truly awesome place.

The interior of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Stair Step Locks– there are 8 locks in Ottawa that are consecutive and form what looks like a staircase.  We were not continuing past Ottawa, so we chose not to do the locks in our boat, but boat friends were continuing, so we went along for the ride and to take pictures for them.  Ed rode with a sailboat that was being singlehanded on the trip – his assistance was much appreciated.  At the end, we disembarked, said  “au revoir”  and walked back into town.

The stair step of eight locks to from the Rideau canal to the Ottawa River.

Confederation Park– home to several sculptures and lovely walking paths.

Lord Elgin Hotel– Although not as grand as the Chateau Laurier, it is still an elegant hotel and was quite the place in its heyday.

Bakeries– I don’t think we have spoken much about the bakeries in Canada, but they have many of them and Ed hasn’t found a one that has disappointed him!  So many delicious items – but SO many calories to walk off. 

Just another bakery in Canada!

Carillon Concert– The bell tower in the Parliament Building, also called the Peace Tower, does a daily concert of music.  Lovely to walk the grounds and listen to the music, an eclectic mix – something to appeal to everyone – Beethoven to the Beatles.

The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. One of the most recognized symbols of Canada.

The Grand Finale – the Light Show on Parliament Hill– this year entitled “Northern Lights.”  Performed at dark – 10 PM – the show is projected onto the Centre Block on Parliament Hill and the narration tells the story of the history of Canada.  Visitors fill the grass grounds in front of the building.   It’s a fabulous show and we were so glad to be there for opening night.  We would have missed something special if it had started any later in the month.  Of note:  at an earlier lock, we had met the mother of one of the computer technicians who designed the show.  He was quite surprised when Ed approached him and said “Your Mother wants to know if you are busy working here.”  This provided a quick intro to a conversation with him. He couldn’t imagine how we knew his mother!

Three days was hardly enough.  Ottawa is a beautiful city and has so much to do.  Even in winter, the city is alive.  This picture was taken from one of the information boards.  Perhaps another trip…but not at that time of year in a boat!

July 2 – July 6, 2018 Rideau Canal – Jewel of Canada

Parks Canada now operates the locks and beautiful parks have been established at the locks. Lock Keepers used to live at the locks in cottages such as the one on the left.

After all the activity in Kingston, it was time to start on the Rideau Canal (pronounced ReeDoe’ or Ree’doe or Ree due’ – take your pick). Thought perhaps that would be more leisurely and relaxing.  Forget that!  On the first day the temps were in the 90’s, we traveled 26 miles and went through 11 locks.  At each of the locks, we were standing outside in the sun holding lines to keep our boat close to the walls and not colliding with other boats.  Perhaps it was the heat, or perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we weren’t impressed with the scenery on this first day, but we seriously discussed turning around and heading back to Kingston.  SO many people had told us that this was one of Canada’s jewels and was so incredibly beautiful.  What were they thinking?

One of the locks at Smiths Falls. Many are emptied for the evening to lessen the stress on the gates.
A full lock, preparing for our entry to lock down to a lower level.
Some locks have road bridges crossing them. The lockkeeper controls the opening of the bridge. Many are hand cranked to open.

That evening we received a text from our “Steadfast” boat friends who were a day ahead of us.  They told us that their second day was incredible and they were so excited at what they were seeing.  OK –  we’ll give it another chance.  Their description was understated.  The next day we were enchanted.  We were traveling thru walls of stone that opened onto lush greenery and sparkling water.  

Better scenery on the Rideau.

At the first lock, someone told us about a fabulous hotel/lodge at the next lock that we just HAD to stop and see.  With an ice cream shop as our incentive, we stopped to see the Opinicon.  It’s been around since about 1910 and had fallen into great disrepair.  It was purchased at auction by a couple – the wife had spent many wonderful summers at the hotel as a child and she wanted her own children to have the same experience.  It only took a few million to do it, but she and her husband could afford it. They own or have significant interest in Shopify –a Canadian internet shopping company.  It truly is fabulous and the ice cream was outstanding.  Only 4 locks this day – much more manageable.

The Opinicon Hotel.

The next day was July 4th, but alas, no fireworks here in Canada.  We went thru 12 locks, but at a more leisurely pace. The entire length of the canal is 125 miles and 49 locks.  It took us 6 days to reach Ottawa, about 3 days longer than we had planned. But what’s the point of our trip if not to stop and see all the wonderful places along the way?  The canal is truly a jewel.  It is also a passage through Canadian history.

A note about this canal:  It was built after the War of 1812.  Britain was concerned that Americans would try to take over Canada by blocking supply routes in the St. Lawrence River.  The canal was built as an alternate route to supply troops and protect against invasion.  Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From A History of the Rideau Canal:

In 1826, Lieutenant Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers was assigned to design the canal and to supervise its construction. Colonel By faced a stiff challenge, to create a navigable waterway between the Ottawa River and Kingston, through what was at the time a wilderness of rough bush, swamps and rock terrain, funded by an awkward system of British parliamentary grants.

Initial construction of the Rideau Canal started with preparing the area for the Ottawa locks in the fall of 1826. Major construction on the rest of the route started in 1827. By November 1831 construction had essentially been completed with 47 masonry locks and 52 dams creating a 202 km (125 mile) waterway, one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. Although chastised by the government for cost overruns, Colonel By had created one of North America’s best navigable waterways. The exquisite stonemasonry of the control dams and locks are admired by waterway travelers to this day.

 Almost all of the locks are hand cranked to open and close the lock doors and open sluice doors to let in or let out water. Col. By had the forethought to make the locks wide and long enough to accommodate passenger steam boats which were just coming into their heyday.  In the end, he was exonerated of charges brought against him, but in his lifetime, he was never recognized for what he had created.  He died only 4 years after the canal was completed.  

At the Narrows lock, Ed gets to try opening one of the gates. After the gates are opened, the bridge has to be hand cranked to open it.

The end of the canal is in Ottawa.  Approaching the city is like boating through a park.   There are twists and turns through landscaped hillsides, beautiful trees, and flower beds scattered everywhere.  We approached Ottawa on a Sunday.  The Col. By Parkway runs alongside the canal.  On Sundays, it is closed to traffic until 1 PM and open for biking, skating, and walking.  Canadians don’t get a lot of warm weather, so they are out in full force during warm sunny days.  We traveled slowly through the approach and around the last bend, there it was…Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

Almost there, closing in on Ottawa.
Our first view of downtown Ottawa, the famous Fairmont Chateau Laurier.

June 28 – July 1, 2019 Oh Canada!

The last lock in Oswego, beyond the gate is Lake Ontario.
Lake Ontario on to Kingston, a very calm day on the water.

Cruised across Lake Ontario to Kingston, Ontario in Canada.  The Lake was like glass and we put the pedal to the metal (or fiberglass) and took off across the big water.  After so many slow days and “no go” days, our engines deserved a little fun! The temps seemed to drop as we got closer to Canada – or was it our imagination? Could not score the primo marina in downtown Kingston, so we settled for the boat yard marina a few blocks away. Can’t complain.  It was a holiday weekend and we were lucky to get a spot anywhere.  Got settled, then walked into town to get familiar with the city and what was happening for the weekend.   Took a Hop On, Hop Off Tour of the City to get the lay of the land and learn a little history.  Big Band Concert was scheduled for the evening – BINGO!  So we found the spot, but so did some rain.  Not to be discouraged, the group moved over to Monte’s Pub.  Worked for us!  

Kathy is the “I” in Kingston.
Outside Kingston City Hall.
Enjoying a concert with Bill and Kate, our “Steadfast” friends.
Confederation Fountain at the city park. This is the marina we didn’t get in. The round buiding is a military fortification tower, one of seven.

The next day was a wonderful Farmers’ Market on the Public Square – finally, some fresh strawberries.  We miss the strawberries and peaches and blueberries from home.  Found a few other goodies including Butter Tarts.  We’ve been to Canada numerous times, but this is the first time we have heard SO much about butter tarts.  I think it’s an Ontario thing!  Anyway, it’s like a little round tart with Pecan Pie filling minus the pecans.  What a sugar rush! Later there was Irish Music in Confederation Park and we took a tour of the city hall building.  Beautiful building and learned a lot of history from the tour guide.  For example, the mayors used to have a one year term.  There was an official kind of chain (necklace) worn around the neck for ceremonies and each mayor added a piece to the chain.  Those things got mighty heavy after awhile and a new one would have to be designed and made – starting the process all over.  

A farmers market behind the City Hall building. During the winter it is an ice skating rink complete with a Zamboni.

Our phone service plan was picked up by a Canadian Service once we got to Canada.  So late Saturday afternoon we were taking a little siesta and suddenly this alarm started blaring in the boat. Jumping up, we were checking the electric panel and any other possible source of the noise.  Were we sinking?  Were the bilge pumps overloaded?  Finally figured out it was our phones.  The noise was a tornado warning being sent thru the Canadian phone services in the area.  OK – we look outside and it’s sunny, blue skies, no clouds.  What the heck?  Later in the evening, some Looper friends were over for dinner and the alarm went off again.  Looked out the window and saw some nasty clouds brewing to our east. So we’re in a boat, in a marina, on the water.  Where will we go if a tornado does approach?  Our best guess was the shower stall in the marina bathroom. Fortunately, no tornado came, but the ducks in the marina were searching for shelter.

Ducks searching for storm shelter.

Other things we found to do:

Big outdoor arts festival.  Artists from all across Canada.  Such talent!

Walked the streets to see lots of beautiful old homes – not all extravagant, many quaint cottages that look like a fairy tale!

Saw Big Fireworks on the water.  Ed says it was in celebration of my birthday, but I suspect something else!

Ferried to Wolfe Island– another quaint little town, but has a BIG turbine farm – 86 turbines.  Also has a great bakery and ice cream store.

July 1, Confederation Day, a holiday in Canada. I found my “brother” on the ferry to Wolff Island.
One of the wind turbines on Wolff Island. I wanted to stand under one just to see the size close-up.
The Kingston waterfront.
Sunset at Kingston Marina

The Erie Canal

June 15 – 27, 2019     Do the Best Things Come to Those Who Wait?

Moved on through some more locks to a little town called Canajahorie.  Never did find out where that name originated.  Had a big group of Loopers on the wall, so lots of company.  The little town had a wonderful art gallery and it happened that there was a musical program there with performers doing songs about the Erie Canal.  Really helped to put us in the Ol’ Timey Way of traveling the canal.  I daresay that we are a little more comfortable than those early travelers.  The next day was rain all day, so no moving.  Good day for a movie on the couch with new friends.

Canajohari, NY, on of the last two “idiot” lights in existence.
I didn’t know there was a need for eyepatch emporiums.

On to the highest lock on the canal – Little Falls, NY.  Saw some beautiful old stone buildings that have been repurposed into stores, apartments, and offices.  Got out the bikes here and rode part of the Erie Canal bike path, and upon the recommendation of a long time resident of the town, we also visited the library to see a display of Herkimer Diamonds.  They are quartz, not real diamonds, but they naturally form into beautiful cut stones.  The display case looked like a jewelry store!

The Little Falls mural on the side of the canal building, a restored freight warehouse on the canal.
The original Little Falls canal stonework.
In the Little Falls lock, the highest lift on the Erie Canal.

On to Rome, NY, site of a reconstructed Fort Stanwix.  This fort was originally built to protect the portage between the Mohawk River and the Wood Creek.  This is also the area that prompted the building of the Erie Canal in order to transport people and goods from east to west.  Dinner was at a real Italian neighborhood place called Vigneto. When we walked in, everyone called out “hello.”  The people across from us ordered a pizza and when Ed commented on it, they offered to share.  We were already full, but it did look good!

Checking the weather, we saw that rain was expected in two days.  We had to cross Oneida Lake, which is wide, and can get some strong waves if winds are coming from the west.  So we made a long run on Wednesday, June 19, bypassed some other stops and made it to Brewerton before the rain came.  We expected to stay the rainy day and then continue on to the Oswego Canal, which would take us north to Lake Ontario.  That was the plan, but the rains came down hard, especially in Oswego.  We were preparing to leave Thursday when we got word that the canal had been closed due to high water.  So we waited.  The marina kept getting more and more full with boaters coming from the other side of the lake and could go no farther.  And we waited…and waited…and waited.  Meanwhile we kept revising plans for where we would go next; cutting visits because we were losing days.  There were a few perks.  The marina had a courtesy car, so we went to WalMart, Target, Home Depot, and any other place we could think of.  All the laundry got done.  One marina had a cookout for all the stranded Loopers.  Then our marina had Italian Night Dinner for everyone at the marina.  We got to know more Loopers, and docktails were numerous.  “Locked in” had new meaning for us.

Escaped on Thursday, the 27th.   We joined a flotilla of other boats thru the Oswego canal and completed 8 locks in the one day.  The most exciting lock was the one that had rapids on the other side as we exited.  The high waters caused the rapids and we watched as the boats in front of us plowed thru, one at a time.  There was a sailboat that we weren’t sure would make it, but it finally did – almost sideways.  Our turn came and it was like a flume ride at Disney, but we lived to tell the tale!   We tied up to a wall in Oswego and did some exploring.  Saw yet another fort of historical significance, some fun walk/bike paths, and a wonderful canal walk that was decorated with community art work.  Checked the next day’s weather prediction for crossing Lake Ontario – a 50+ mile trip.  Couldn’t have asked for a better report.  The day promised smooth waters, low winds, and no rain. Maybe all the wait was worth it! Canada, here we come….

Our escape from Brewerton, eight boats in our flotilla. There were three flotilla of boats from Brewerton that day, twenty boats in total.

New York – Part Two

June 10 – 14, 2019   

Our next stop was Catskill, NY, not chosen because of any particular site to see, or historical place to visit, but because there was a washer and dryer at the marina! For some reason, the places we stopped at since entering NY didn’t have laundry facilities.  The dirties piled up.  Only 1 washer and 1 dryer meant that I was doing laundry from about 1PM until 10 PM.  But it was done.  Time to move on.

On to the current capital of NY – Albany — and docked at the Albany Yacht Club.  Now that we are no longer Lyft newbies, we got a ride and went downtown to the capital building.  WOW – what a building.  Beats the Nations Capital building by a landslide.  There were 4 or 5 architects who worked on it – not intentionally so many — but each had their own idea of what it should be, so basically each floor is a different style.  But it blends beautifully – it should for the millions (in today’s money, probably Billion) that was spent on it.  To give you an idea, one of the grand staircases is called the Million Dollar Staircase!  After that, we walked the government complex area which is built around a large water feature and a stadium like structure called The Egg.  Because it does look like an egg!  We got into the State Museum for just a few minutes before closing time – needed a whole day there!

The million dollar staircase from above.
Every million dollar staircase needs an equally impressive ceiling.
The Egg, a performance space in downtown Albany.

We left Albany and headed to the Federal Lock and the start of the Erie Canal.  Ed made an earlier entry on the blog about that, so now we will pick up on the Flight of Five.

The Flight of Five is the first 5 locks on the canal, so named because you have to go through all five in one day.  There is no overnight stopping in between any of these locks. Interestingly, the first lock is #2.  Don’t know what happened to #1.  We were alone going through these locks – no other boats going thru at the same time – so with no one to see us, we handled each lock without any difficulty.  No one to see our locking prowess!  After the 5 locks, we were headed to Scotia when Ed noticed a spillway across the water a distance ahead of us.  Huh, can’t go up a spillway, so there had to be another lock.  We had somehow missed that detail in our nightly planning.  So we went thru another lock and then on to Scotia before the rain came.

Erie Canal Lock E2, the first of the Flight of Five. Lift of 33.55 feet
Inside the Canal Lock. It was less stressful when we were alone.
Approaching a guard gate. These are used to drain parts of the canal allowing maintenance.

Next day we headed out to Amsterdam, NY.  Wind picked up through the day.  More boats traveling, so we had company in the locks.  As we were approaching one of the locks, there was some swirly water.  Then we spotted a log across the mid section of the entrance, causing us to alter course, at which point the wind caught us.  If there was ever any doubt, we were able to prove to ourselves that our boat will fit crosswise in the locks!  Of course, there was an audience to view our travesty, but no significant harm done to the boat. 

In Amsterdam, we were on a wall in a town park.  This park has the usual playground and walking paths.  There are some outdoor music events during the summer. The park is on the upslope of land.  Strangely, there is no direct road access to it.  To access the park on land side, you have to walk on the rooftops of buildings.  There is also parking on the rooftops.  To access waterside, there is a beautiful pedestrian bridge that is landscaped and has information boards with facts about the canal and local area. I certainly give the town points for making use of their waterfront, even if it is in an unusual way.

Amsterdam pedestrian bridge.
One of the commerative markers on the pedestrian bridge.

June 1-9, 2019 New York is Bigger than We Think

Left Manasquan and headed to Great Kills Yacht Club in Staten Island, NY.  The Club is very supportive and welcoming to Loopers. Harbor Host John met us at the dock and gave us a run down on everything.  We got settled then headed to the train to take us to the Staten Island Ferry and into the big city.  Gotta love New York City – so much to do and a personality all its own. Here’s the run down on what we did in 3 days…

            Governor’s Island – Used to be a Coast Guard base, now owned by the city.  Former officers’ houses are now used by arts and education organizations with displays, interactive programming and such.  Summer concerts and island tours.  A GREAT park has been literally created (thus expanding the size of the island) and offers lots to do including “glamping.”  New Yorkers are willing to pay $150-$750 per night to camp out in tents.  

            Broadway – So many choices, so little time. Went to see “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre.  Great Show. Followed that with a visit with Ed’s niece Michelle and boyfriend Matt for drinks at Lillie’s Victorian Establishment.  Fun place.

We discovered the story behind the Wicked Witch of the West.

            Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Saw Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

            Central Park – Took a day just to walk in the park (BIG PARK) and people watch. No problem getting 10,000 steps on this walk!    

Lunch at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. A sandwich with a little chandelier to add some class.

On the 4thwe headed to NY Harbor with 4 other boats.  The purpose of the “group” was to take each other’s pictures in front of the Statue of Liberty.  It’s sort of a rite of passage for Loopers.  Happy to report that we successfully completed pictures in the busy harbor without once getting a radio call from any of the MANY boats criss- crossing the harbor.  Then onto the Hudson River – a part of New York City, but a part that becomes a world of its own.   Just a very short distance out of the city, trees start to form canyon walls on either side of the Hudson and we saw the Palisades on the New Jersey side. It is a majestic site in Spring. In the Fall – when ablaze with color – we can only imagine the beauty.  For the next several days, we enjoyed this beautiful vista.

Lady Liberty and Vitamin Sea.

We anchored in Nyack, NY.  Rented a car and headed to West Point to tour the campus – so beautiful and so much history. Although many cadets were gone for summer break, there were several there for special training. Tragically, one of those cadets was killed and 20 were injured the next day during a training session.  A reminder that no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

Then headed on to Hyde Park and enjoyed the FDR Hyde Park Home and Presidential Library.  SO interesting.  Special exhibit about D-Day – which was very significant as we were there on the 75thanniversary.   And for a special treat , we ate dinner at the CIA – otherwise known as the Culinary Institute of America.  Food was wonderful and the presentation on the plate was exquisite.  The next day we moved just a few miles to Norrie-Mills State Park.  What a gem!  Marina was nestled into a cove of trees – beautiful place to walk and enjoy the pleasantly COOL weather.

FDR’s Hyde Park Home.
Dinner at Bocuse – the French themed restaurant of the Culinary Institute of America. Photograph by Steve and Kathy, fellow Loopers on United 771.

On to Kingston – former capital of New York – before it was burned to the ground by the British. Docked at the Hudson River Maritime Museum – another gem.  The museum seems to be small, but actually has a large area of exhibit space and showcases many boats including iceboats, which literally sail over the frozen river in the winter.   An iceboat belonging to the Rockefeller family — on display — was once clocked at over 100 mph on the ice. There is also a building next door which teaches wooden boat making to people of all ages.

Nine days in the State of NY, and there are many more to come.

As you read our blog, we’d love to have comments from you. Yes, we are meeting lots of new people, but we miss people we already know and love. Please keep in touch through the blog, or e-mail, or texts. Nothing like having a bit of home while we are away.

May 27 – May 31, 2017 There’s More than One Kind of Gambling.

In Cape May we stayed at the Canyon Club Resort Marina – sounds like we’re living high on the hog! It was a lovely place.  A beautiful pool, which we never got in, and a wonderful Memorial Day cookout for everyone at the Marina.  The grilled hot dogs and burgers smelled and tasted great.  There was a courtesy van that took us into the historic part of Cape May.  The town décor is VERY Victorian.  Don’t know that I have ever seen SO much gingerbread trim on houses and buildings.  There is a pedestrian mall that allows shoppers to walk without worries of cars to dodge.  We walked thru Congress Hall – a beautiful old hotel – the kind with lots of polished wood and velvet chairs and sofas.  The ocean beaches were filled with a big weekend crowd and there was also a big crowd of Loopers.  Many of the Looper boats were at another marina – which was fully booked.   We had to hike over a big bridge to get there, but it’s never too far if “docktails” is the end result.  There were a total of 18 Looper boats in port, so we made quite a crowd.  Lots of fun meeting new people and swapping stories.

Docktails in Cape May; 18 boats were tied up in three marinas.
Interesting architecture in Cape May.
LOTS of Victorian detail on the homes.

We stayed until the weekend crazies were gone, then made our first trek into the open Atlantic Ocean to go to Atlantic City.  There is an inside New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway, but it’s not well maintained and the part to Atlantic City is very shallow.  With recently repaired props, we weren’t willing to gamble on the inside route.  So we gambled on the outside route.  We had some big waves, but nothing we couldn’t survive.  Got to Atlantic City and docked at the Aquarium which included admission.  Thought that an Oceanside city would have an impressive Aquarium, but not so much.  Went through in about 45 minutes – and we looked at EVERYthing.  Then we walked to “the strip.”  Not a Vegas kind of place, but we walked through a casino or two. For all the gambling we’re doing with this boat, we didn’t bother laying down any money in the casino.  

Planned for the next day by texting, calling, and talking with other Loopers.  At this point, we could get on the Intracoastal – we had been told that it was OK if we were careful.  Several other boats were going back on the outside.  OK – so maybe we’d gamble on the outside. The next morning we weren’t going anywhere.  The city was fogged in – the kind of fog that doesn’t want to lift.  Some boats did leave – bigger gamblers than us.  They used radar and eventually made their next port.  We stayed and rode our bikes down the famous Boardwalk.  It was a lot longer than we expected.  Never did quite make it to the end.  Fog didn’t lift until 2:15 PM.

Atlantic City Boardwalk in the fog.
Atlantic City Boardwalk late in the afternoon.
Shrimper in the fog.

So the next day we followed another Looper out to the Atlantic.  We got through the inlet and things didn’t look so good.  Much rougher than two days previous.  Got to the 2nd bouy in the channel and Kathy said – no way.  Turned the boat around and returned.  We connected to the inside intracoastal route.  That turned out to be not so deep.  We had a constant eye on the depth finder – listening frequently to the alarm signaling low water.   A Looper way ahead of us called on the radio and warned that he had hit a low area – grounded – and was warning others to go wide around him.  When we reached him, he had started to list.  The towing service got to him and tried, but couldn’t help until high tide would come in.  Later we heard on the radio that his fuel was leaking and the Coast Guard was there trying to help get that under control.  Not a good day.  We continued –  still watching the depth finder.  We were headed to Mansaquan, but had to first go through a canal.  The ride was like a flume ride at a water park. So glad to get through there without hitting a wall!  Then we headed to Captain Bill’s – “no frills” kind of place.  Ate at a great restaurant next door, but we tossed all night as commercial fishing boats went in and out.  Didn’t feel so bad when we later heard that the more expensive marina wasn’t any more comfortable.  Gambling – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Atlantic City from the water on our day of departure.
Atlantic City the night before we left.