Alton to Lake Barkley – The Mississippi and Ohio Rivers

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Another great docktail party in Alton

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018:

We were waiting on a package from American Diesel and it showed up at 1030, so we cranked up and moseyed over to the fuel dock for a pump-out. By 1150 we were in the Melvin Price Lock alone and we exited the lock at 1155.  The lockmasters on the Mississippi locks are all about getting it done and they are helpful to the recreational boaters.  We made certain to not miss turning into the Chain of Rocks Canal (at 1230) on the left descending bank right after the Missouri River junctions from the right.  If you miss this canal, you hit the wicket dams or wing dikes and sink.  Could be rapids too.  I didn’t want to find out.  It’s a fairly long canal leading to the Chain of Rocks Lock, but we didn’t have any commercial traffic to speak of and we entered the lock at 1320 and we were out again in ten minutes.

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An up-bound barge with benzene passed us at 1342, we steered clear of him and negotiated the turbulence and the long wing dam at the fore-bay where the river rejoins.

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We spotted Gumby II at anchor in front of the St. Louis Arch and got a picture for Scott and Christy.

We passed on through St. Louis and at 1545 we slowed a bit to let the rain pass before trying to dock at Hoppie’s Marina.  Hoppie’s really isn’t a marina in the traditional sense.  It is just a couple of old rusty barges that they have for boaters to tie to.

One Looper said you best have an up-to-date tetanus booster to land there.  Oh, and it is full current so you have to come about and edge over, keeping the bow pointed up river.  The rain did pass somewhat and we docked with the help from Ray and his other brother Ray on the dock.  They know what to do and what to tell the captains for a safe landing.  The best part of being at Hoppie’s is the river briefing conducted each night for the transients.   It used to be run by Fern (she owns the place), but she’s had a knee replaced so her daughter, Debra, has taken over the duties.

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Debra did a yeoman’s job and we felt like we knew what to expect all the way to Paducah.  My electric connection was not the right voltage/amperage to keep our air conditioner working, so I got with Ray and I used my splitter and plugged into the 50 amp circuit.  It was fine after that.   All in all it was a good day and we made 44.2 miles on the Mississippi, but the night was spent getting rocked by wakes from the passing tows.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018:

Ray and Jonathan (sail boater) helped us get off the dock at 0925. Directly, we were cruising at 13 ½ mph at 1800 rpm.

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It was cooler in the morning at 59 degrees and a few clouds in the sky.  We were traveling with Happy Destiny, Sauvy B, and Imagine.  There was some debris in the river to dodge and at 1150 we noted that we’re in just over 70’ of water and getting pushed about by eddies.  We turned up the Kaskaskia River and at 1255 we tied to the lock wall below the Kaskaskia River Lock.  This is a good stop when going down the Mississippi and there were a number of Looper boats there with us: Float Her, Gypsy, Sauvy B, Aslan, Caeruleus, Tip-Sea II, Imagine, Happy Destiny, and Tortuga.

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There was a Corps of Engineers barge tied at the wall and boaters were given permission by the lock master to tie to it since space on the wall ran out.  Some boats were rafted to others.  The COE barge looked like it was set up for some sort of recreational activity.  There were chairs and an area that was covered.  We decided that we should just commandeer it for docktails.  (Sometimes better to ask for forgiveness than permission.)

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It was a good gathering and much was discussed about who was going where next.  As we were breaking up the COE tug Pathfinder showed up and informed us that they were  to take the barge at 0630 in the morning.  We decided anyone parked near it best move early.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018:

We woke up later than we wanted at 0635, cranked the engine at 0640 and were off the wall at 0646. Jane’s log entry for the weather says: “Who knows? It’s dark.”  We reentered the Mississippi and continued on downriver.  At 0745 I figured that we are about halfway done with our 220 miles of the Mississippi River.  Then we will be turning upstream in the Ohio River.  We made good time with the current and we passed a fair number of barges, some with large loads.

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We continued to dodge the logs and debris.  I noticed that the tachometer drops out from time to time.  I’ll have to figure that out.  During the run, we passed Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  My ancestor, Joseph McFerron, was an early settler here and signed the city charter.  He was also involved in the first duel between Missourians which took place on an island in the river.  He won.

I have been in touch with an old friend, Jere Plumley, who has been coming down the Mississippi from Wisconsin.  We are trying to figure where we might be able to meet up and now they are just a day behind us.  It was a mostly cool day and we covered 110.6 miles before we anchored behind Boston Bar just upriver from the I-57 Bridge at mile marker 7.7.  It was a quiet anchorage and we were the third and last boat to come in, but we had ample room and good holding in about 10 feet of water.  There was almost no swinging on the anchor as the current coming down behind the island held us in place.

Friday, September 28, 2018:

We wanted to get an early (0700) start, but we were socked in by the fog. We weren’t going anywhere until the soup lifted.  At 0800 there was still less than 300 feet visibility.

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Fog just starting to lift at 0945

It was lifting just around 0945 so we started getting ready and cranked up the anchor at 1020.  Surprisingly, it came up clean.  I expected to bring up enough mud to make a hog happy.  The other two boats came out just after us and in the Ohio River at 1105, Float Her joined our little group, but their catamaran is much faster and they went on ahead.  We skirted the massive parking lot of anchored and tethered barges that clog the Ohio.  I found good water to run in on the inside of the bend sticking to the left descending bank and running in between the barges anchored in the middle and the riverbank.  It helped me stay out of the higher velocity water in the channel as we made our way upriver.  We had to wait a few minutes at 1345 for the American Queen (tourist paddle wheeler) to clear the Olmsted Lock.  The Olmsted Lock is still under construction (3 Billion of your tax dollars at work) so, at this time there is no lift, but they only let one boat at a time pass.

As the afternoon wore on, I noticed that we kept experiencing momentary loss of RPM’s.  It was intermittent and I figured it had to be clogging of the secondary fuel filters.  If we could make it to Paducah, I could change them there, but I really didn’t want to do something like that if we were going to be on anchor.

We continued on upstream and passed over the wickets at Lock 52 and docked just about a half hour after sunset on the fairly new Paducah municipal dock with help from John, the dock master.  The dock is well lit and that helped.  We had only been averaging about 6 mph coming up the Ohio even though I was pushing the RPM’s and we were glad to make the entire 45 miles from the anchorage.  There is current at this dock that brings you to the dock from either side.  We were on the outside and it pulled us in.  Jane had cooked a curried dish while we were traveling and we ate dinner on the boat.  We were hanging out after dinner when some other Looper boats came in and we all rushed out to help.  There was a lot of excitement as some of the captains got to experience the effect of the eddy and hit another boat and the dock.  There was no serious damage, but it was tense for a bit.

We stayed at Paducah for another day. They were having a massive BBQ festival.  Ten years ago, I could have got my money’s worth on that.  Jane did some shopping and I changed the secondary fuel filters, which was a learning curve since I had never done that before.  I got that job done, tightened the lead for the tachometer, and replaced the air filter.  I also refilled the water tanks and we were good to go.  I showered and changed and we headed out to Paducah Beer Werks so we could watch the Gators dismantle Mississippi State.

Sunday, September 30, 2018:

It was sunny and 62 degrees in the morning. We got away from the dock without incident at 0810.  We were headed to Green Turtle Bay on Barkley Lake.  There are two ways to get there.  The shorter route would be to go up the Tennessee River, through the Kentucky Lock and then cross through the canal that connects Kentucky Lake to Lake Barkley.  We opted for the longer route going up the Ohio River to the mouth of the Cumberland River and then through the Barkley Lock.  It’s longer (44 ½ miles), but the current on the Cumberland is reportedly less and there is a lot less barge traffic and typically very little wait for the Barkley Lock.  The Ohio had lots of logs and debris to contend with, but the Cumberland was clean and scenic.  We entered the Cumberland at 1018.  At 1038 we passed Kentucky Chute where the water from the Ohio pours through and the brown muddy water of the Ohio gave way to the green water of the Cumberland.  It was a little turbulent at the Chute, but quickly the Cumberland embraced us with a gentle current and pretty tree-lined bends.  We only passed one down bound tow.

At 1500 we were waiting for the lock and tied in the shade of the high wall on the right.

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Barkley Lock and Dam

Twenty minutes later the gates opened for us and we moved in and Jane lassoed a floating bollard.  We had to wait a little bit for two more boats to join us, but soon we were being raised some 57 feet and by 1550 we were out of the lock.  We arrived at the fuel dock of Green Turtle Bay for a pump-out and nestled into our slip at 1630.  It was a skinny slip with floating finger piers on each side, and just wide enough for us and a couple of fenders. We bought ice when checking in and showered afterward.  We met crews from Antonia, Felix, Phanthom, Float Her and Good Life at the pavilion for docktails before heading into the yacht club for dinner.  It was a good day.

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Just a few of the many Green Turtles

 

Chicago to Alton – The Illinois River

Friday, September 7, 2018:

I checked every weather report known on the internet, phone apps, and NOAA VHF broadcast. There were conflicting reports between the point forecast showing one foot waves and others touting three building to four in the afternoon.  We had quite a discussion over whether to go or not.  I did not want a repeat of our experiences in Charlotte Harbor, The Potomac, or recently in Lake Michigan.  The last way and probably the best way to check the weather is to look out the window.  I walked the dock to see over the breakwater.  The waves were crashing over the wall, but not nearly as bad as the day before.  It was overcast with scattered showers and the wind was out of the east-northeast at 13 knots and gusting higher.  Around 0830 we heard from Mark aboard Antonia docked at DuSable and he said he could see a boat out beyond the breakwater that appeared to be stable in calm water.  We were ready to get to Chicago and be done with Lake Michigan, so that ended the debate.  In spite of the small craft warnings and with the full knowledge of the rough conditions we knew we would encounter, we started preparing to shove off for the 15.6 mile trek.  We retrieved our lines from the cleats and before I could get backed out of the slip, the wind was already turning us toward the sailboat tied next to us.  I put it in forward and brought the stern around with a quick blast and then backed out quickly.  I had plenty of room to reverse with nothing back there but the floating casino.  It was windy, but with the techniques I learned from Captain Billy back in Ft. Myers, I got her headed in the right direction.  We pulled alongside the fuel dock and Jane handed off the key card to the attendant.  Once we got out of the protection of the marina, the waves were coming from the northeast as expected.  It was rough but the spacing between the waves helped make it tolerable.  We were soon behind the breakwater of the Calumet River entrance and that helped as well. At 0930 we emerged through the opening removing our protection of the Calumet breakwater.  Jane hassled me about the way I was steering (adjusting for waves as need be to keep somewhat of course and as comfortable ride as we could, given the conditions) so I offered her the wheel and she commenced a tacking of sorts to diminish the effect of the beam seas.  We zig-zagged our way towards Chicago and at 1103 slipped behind the inner wall into the calm waters of the mooring area.  There is an outer breakwater wall some distance out and I realized that the boat Mark saw must have been between the walls because the waves were crashing and splashing high against the outer wall.  Nonetheless, we made it and docked at DuSable Harbor Marina on the tee head of E dock at 1112 with some help from Mark and his guest, Larry.  We got checked in with the marina and headed out walking with our folding grocery cart and made it to Marciano’s.  It was a ritzy two story store in a fancy high-rise.  After we hiked back and put the provisions away, we strolled down the dock to Antonia and gathered up Mark and Lezlie and their guests, Larry and Rose, and we all hoofed it on over to the Navy Pier for the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour.  The guide, David, was knowledgeable regarding the history and architecture as well as quite the comedian.

The six of us enjoyed dinner together at a nearby Mexican Restaurant and then met up on Sabbatical for some games and after dinner drinks.

We stayed in Chicago for the next two days and enjoyed getting to see my old Navy buddy, Ken Goetz. He is an official greeter for the City of Chicago as well as an attorney.  We were able to make it to Sully’s Tavern where the Windy City Gator Club met up to watch the Gators play Kentucky.  Gators got whipped by KY for the first time in 32 years.

Sunday we hiked over to the Urban Village Church for the 10:30 service and then found a cool vegan restaurant (Native Food Café) for lunch. We stopped on the way back and chatted with Christy on Gumby II where they are tied to the wall by the park. They are also Loopers and we have talked with them on the radio, but never met.

Monday, September 10, 2018:

We shoved off the dock from DuSable Harbor at 0930 and by 1005 we were through the Chicago Lock and entering the Chicago River basically going under all the same bridges we did on the architectural tour. At 1042 we called the Amtrack Bridge as we came under 18th Street.  Since our mast was down we could get right under all the other bridges, but we would need the Amtrack Bridge lifted.

We had to wait for a couple of trains to pass, but by 1055 we were through and entering the industrial area.  At 1318 we passed the Cal-Sag canal and at 1330 we passed our first barge on the “one whistle” (port to port).  At 1400 we encountered the Electric Fish Barrier which is to prevent the further intrusion of the invasive Asian Carp.  The Asian Carp are incredibly prolific and there are reports of them jumping on the decks of boats and leaving a bloody mess.

Luckily we did not have to endure any direct attacks but as we made our way further down the Illinois, we’ve had a number of them jump up and collide with our hull. (Thump!)  By 1520 we were in and out of the Lockport Lock going down 38 feet tied on the port on the floating bollard.

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At 1545 we came about to starboard and nuzzled up to the free wall at Joliet.  It is a fine municipal wall at Centennial Park with free electric.  We joined Compass Rose, Island Girl, Someday, Sea Jamm, Second Wave, Corkscrew, Misty Pearl and Free Spirit II for docktails at the park benches.

A plan was set for Dana aboard Misty Pearl to call the Brandon Road Lock early to make sure we could lock through without a long delay due to the barge traffic.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018:

Up early and by 0658 we slipped easily off the wall and out into the current with our flotilla of nine boats.

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The railroad bridge was up so there was no wait there and we all entered the lock at Brandon Road at 0730.  We arrived at the Dresden Lock at 1030 and we rafted up to Sea Jamm (Alan and Sherry) and Island Girl (Ken and Karen) to wait for the barge traffic to clear.  Sherry made lunch and the six of us visited and ate in their spacious saloon.  We finally got through the lock at 1355.  The original plan was to make it to Heritage Harbor Marina, but with the lock delay and the issue that we would still have to get through the Marseilles Lock, we changed plans.  The lock masters on the Illinois River are not too helpful to the recreational boaters so we (just about the entire flotilla) opted to stop at Spring Brook Marina (mile marker 251.8) for the night.  We docked into slip E22 as a huge Asian Carp leapt onto the dock.  Spring Brooke boasts a nice restaurant and everyone was geared to meet for dinner.  They had not anticipated any business and the cook had sent the only waitress home (or she called in sick, depends on which story you got), but he called in a friend of his to come serve us and we didn’t care that it took two hours to get fed.  The stand-in was a good bartender, the food was fine and we enjoyed getting to know different Loopers.

 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018:

We left Spring Brook Marina with a flotilla of eight boats: Misty Pearl, Sea Jamm, Island Girl, Someday, Corkscrew, Compass Rose, Second Wave and Sabbatical. At 0930 we were waiting at the Marseilles Lock.

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We were joined by Forever Young and Free Spirit Too.  The lock was occupied by barges and two tows (tug boats) down-bound.  It took until 1015 until the horn blew to let the tow operators know to leave the lock.  At 1150 the lock tender let us know by radio that he would have the lock ready for us in about 25 minutes.  The Corps of Engineers had a team there conducting underwater survey with a remote control submarine which further slowed things down.  At 1120 we got the green light to enter the lock and all the boats filed in at idle speed.  That took about another 20 minutes to get everyone secured to one side or the other and some boats rafted to others.  We had to wait for the survey team to get done playing with their yellow submarine.

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They finally finished and the upstream doors closed.  We exited the lock at 1230 and docked at Heritage Harbor Marina 20 minutes later.  The staff at Heritage Harbor did an excellent job directing each of us to our assigned slips as the six dock hands ran back and forth assisting each vessel.  Many Asian carp were jumping in the basin at the marina entertaining us.  The marina was great and Jane went off in one of the courtesy cars to the laundromat.  The dock master, Jeremy, gave a briefing in the office at 1600 detailing what we could expect downstream all the way to Hoppie’s Marina on the Mississippi.  He spent nearly two hours with us going over all manner of information and details.  It was great.  We all met up in the Red Dog Grill for dinner.  The food was awesome and it was half price wine night!

Thursday, September 13, 2018;

We dropped lines at 0800 and proceeded slowly toward Starved Rock Lock. We arrived at 0930 as instructed by earlier phone call to the lockmaster.  Finally, at 1100 we entered the lock with our armada of now 13 boats.

By 1140 we had completed the descent and were exiting the lock.  The lock master warned a couple of up-bound tows that he had released “a herd of turtles” and to be on the lookout for us.  The channel is narrow at that point, but we all got around the barges ok.

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The tow operators are friendly and helpful.  Much more so than the lockmasters on the Illinois.  We proceeded on downriver with some of the boats going elsewhere, but we docked in an old abandoned lock at Henry Harbor on the crumbling lock wall.  We were able to have electric, which was not the case for all the boats there.  Mark and Lezlie were there with Antonia and we all ate in the rustic restaurant and had a good time.

Friday, September 14, 2018:

It was another beautiful day. 65 degrees in the morning under a cloudless sky.  Since we had all come into the old lock from the downstream side and had our bows to the current, we had a plan on when to leave with the most downstream boat going first.  We were second and slipped away from the rocky wall without help and backed out of the ancient lock.  As we made our way down the river, we saw a group of eagles eating breakfast.  Asian Carp sushi, no doubt.

At 1045 I noticed a pontoon boat going in circles near the right descending bank.  They were putting out quite a wake and I noticed that there was netting all around the front and three or four guys on the stern trying to bow-fish for the jumping Asian Carp.  They must have been having a blast trying to hit them in the air with the arrows.  I could only imagine that beers and bets were involved.

We were making nine and half miles per hour with the current and by noon-thirty we were secured into the Illinois Valley Yacht Club (IVY Club).

Yacht clubs are always a good place to stay and this one was no exception so we planned to stay for two nights.  We were invited to utilize the bar and restaurant.  We took advantage that night and had a great meal and got to meet some of the members who all seemed very friendly.  One, Carolyn, offered to take Jane and Lezlie shopping on Saturday, so they made a plan for that.  While they were gone, I changed the starboard side primary fuel filter, so it will be ready to go on line when I need it.  We were able to watch some football via the digital antenna, but when the Gators kicked off against Colorado State, I had to employ the phone app to listen in on the radio.  Can’t get ESPN on the boat.  I see a smart TV in our future.

Sunday, September 16, 2018:

At 0753 we reversed out of the slip and idled out into the river. We had no flotilla with us this time.  At 0900 we talked to the lockmaster of the Peoria Lock.  The wickets were up and we would have to wait for a while to lock down. By 0945 we were in the lock and ten minutes later we were exiting.  For the next several hours we were alone on the Illinois River – no other pleasure craft or barges.  It got hot and I had Jane bring up a fan to the helm.  We put towels down in the ice chest and were putting them on our necks to cool off.  We can’t wait for fall.  After 79.6 miles we anchored behind Bar Island at mile marker 88.4.  It was a nice quiet spot and the island kept us from getting waked by the barges that run all night.  We ran the generator for air conditioning and cooked our veggies on the grill.

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Monday, September 17, 2018:

We pulled anchor at 0710 and proceeded down toward the LaGrange Lock.

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We arrived there to wait with HMS Vagabond.

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At 0840 we entered the lock behind a “light boat” (a tug with no barge) and HMS Vagabond. Ten minutes later, we were down and they invited us to exit first and we were on our way again.  We got to the Florence Highway Lift Bridge at 1121.

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Jane kept busy cleaning the boat as we cruised along.  She was unstoppable, and said Bobby was channeling through her.  We dodged a few tows, but it was never a problem and the captains always appreciate being contacted and tell us to have a safe trip.  These tows on the Illinois that have 12 or 15 barges will be thought to be cute when we get to the Mississippi and some of the tows push 35 barges.

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While we were in route that afternoon we Facetimed with our granddaughters, Hazel and Bea, and their other grandparents, John and Louise.  We chugged on and docked at Grafton Harbor Marina at 1715 completing the final 79 and half miles of the Illinois River.  Doug from Misty Pearl and Brent from Second Wave were there to help take the lines from Jane.  Doug is a Tennessee Volunteer, so there was some good natured smack talk going on.  We refreshed with a dip in the pool and later enjoyed dinner at the Grafton Oyster Bar above the marina store.  It was a good spot to spend a couple of days and we weren’t in a hurry.  The next day, Jane got into the laundry early and she got it all done.  Sandy and Kevin Tucker from Koastal Karma came by.  Their boat is getting repairs over in Port Charles Marina after hitting a log on the river.  The hit took out their running gear and transmission.  It was so expensive that an insurance claim was involved.  They left and we walked around Grafton a bit and had lunch in the Grafton Winery which was very nice and inspired a return to the boat for a nap.  That evening we joined eight others for dinner at Airie’s Restaurant.  The owner picked us up at the marina in his shuttle bus.  The restaurant is at the highest point in Grafton and the view was superb.  This time next year they will have a gondola ride open to bring diners from the bottom of the hill up to the top.  That will be a great hit.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018:

We were headed to Alton Marina and which is only 17 miles so we took our sweet time getting underway. We slipped off the dock at 1025 and when we got up to speed at 1800 rpm’s we were at 11 ½ mph.  This is where the Illinois joins the Mighty Mississippi.  There was a fair amount of debris and we played dodge-a-log cruising along.  At 1150 we were at the fuel dock in Alton and took on 223 gallons of diesel and got the holding tank pumped out too.  We were in our covered slip at 1300 and in the pool at 1310.  This is a great marina with perfect restrooms stocked with everything one may need.  They have a pool and two hot tubs all on floating docks and best off all is their deal for Loopers of buy 3 nights and get 3 free.  Again, we were in no hurry, so we enjoyed staying put for six days.  That night we had dinner with Mark and Lezlie and Alan and Sherry at the Bluff City Grill.  Good food, great company.

While we were in Alton, we got exercise along the trail, enjoyed the pool, rented a car and provisioned from the grocery, Tractor Supply, NAPA Auto Parts, and we visited the arch in St. Louis with Mark and Lezlie. We watched the Florida – Tennessee aboard Tanuki (Jerry was in the marching band at UF) and the Gators whipped UT with a bunch of takeaways.  I changed the oil while we were in Alton and we got the Velcro replaced on the port and starboard aft panels of the fly bridge enclosure (Thanks to Paul at Alton Landing).  We worshiped at the Bridge Church and took in a play at the Alton Little Theater (Neil Simon’s “God’s Favorite”).  We rode the bikes and enjoyed docktails (even with just diet tonic and lime, have to give the liver a rest periodically).

Mackinaw City to Chicago – Lake Michigan

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Saturday, August 11, 2018:

We (Jane) figured out that we can’t get a rental car here in Mackinaw City so we will have to cruise around to Petoskey where there is an Enterprise office. From there we will drive to the Detroit airport so we can fly home to Florida for a week.  After planning for about half the day, we took Shepler’s Ferry out to Mackinac Island.  It’s weird that these are spelled differently, but are pronounced the same.  The English named the city and spelled it just how it sounds.  We brought along our bicycles so we could ride around the island.  The ferry ride is very quick and they move lots and lots of tourists.  The business area of the island was very crowded and tacky-touristy.  If you want fudge or ice cream, this would be the place to go.  We rode out along the perimeter road to the west for a ways and then circled back to the Grand Hotel.  We just wanted to walk around and check it out and maybe get a late lunch there.  We got stopped at the front steps by a young lady whose job it is to collect the cover charge of $10 per person.  Really?!  Just to come in and look around?  I guess it keeps out the riff-raff.  We grudgingly paid the fee and found a spot for us to lunch in the Cupola Bar with a great view of the harbor.  We enjoyed a light lunch of tiny portions at a high price, but as we considered where we were and what it must cost to upkeep, we figured it was par for the course.  From our vantage point we saw Antonia cutting through the pass between the islands.

They had asked for a spot in the Mackinaw Island Marina and were told that it was all full.  After our lunch we pedaled out to the east and passed the marina.  I saw a bunch of empty slips, so I guessed that they were reserved for late arrivals.  We biked about a bit and were amazed at the age and great condition of the older homes and the beauty of the island.   The northeast side of the island has an anchorage with crystal clear water that reminded me of spots in the Bahamas.  After returning to the mainland, we joined up with Mark and Lezlie and hoofed it over to Audie’s Restaurant for a good dinner.  It is one of those older places that grew over the years founded on good food and great service.

Sunday, August 12, 2018:

We got a pump-out at the dock and I refreshed our fresh water supply. The forecast of light winds and seas of less than one foot would work well for us to traverse to Petoskey.  At 1110 we were off the dock and by 1120 we were under the Mackinaw Bridge which connects the Upper Peninsula with the rest of Michigan.  It was easy cruising in Lake Michigan, but somewhat confusing to the dock master when we arrived in Petoskey since another boat by the name of Sabbatical had arrived earlier in the day.  The dock master had incorrectly figured that the two reservations were for one boat.  We got it straightened out after some discussion on the radio and docked ourselves in slip C-6.  I put out additional lines and fenders since we would be leaving the boat for eight days.  I made sure with a nice tip to Dock Master Derrick that he’d keep an eye on Sabbatical while we were gone to Florida.  We secured everything and packed for the trip.

We got going early the next day for the four hour drive to Detroit. The travel home and back was without a hitch and sleeping in king sized beds at a hotel and home was a real treat.  It was good to see family and friends and our beloved Lab, Marley, who is too old to join us aboard.  The real treat was getting to watch our grandson, Jake, win the TC Invitational high school golf tournament at Candler Hills in Ocala beating out all players from 16 teams from around the state.  It was a whirl-wind visit, but we got all the boxes checked and Jane’s sister, Jill, returned us the Gainesville airport early on the morning of August 22nd.

On the way back into Petoskey, we stopped at Tractor Supply and bought all they had of the Rotella T-1 straight grade motor oil and continued to put the rental car to good use by hitting the grocery store as well. We turned the car in the next morning, but the wind was putting up 3-4 foot seas, so we were stuck for a while.  I changed the oil and then we went for a bike ride along the trail that follows the bay.  They have some great trails here and we could ride all the way back to Mackinaw City if we wanted to.

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Waterfall along the bikeway.

But we got as far as the Petoskey Brewery well outside of town.  It has been open for about six years and is in an historic building over a hundred years old that was originally built as a brewery, but closed down at the start of prohibition.  We had a good lunch there.  Later we walked the jugs of used motor oil with our grocery cart over a mile uphill to the Advanced Auto Parts store to dispose of it.  They take it without a fee.

On Friday, the weather failed to cooperate for any boat travel and we took advantage by getting chores done. We organized the other Loopers in the marina for docktails in the small boater’s lounge to exchange stories and plans.

Petoskey Docktails

Saturday, August 25, 2018:

We shoved off under overcast skies with a forecast of light winds from the south and waves of less than one foot. That would normally be a good day for travel.  By 1130 we were passing Charlevoix and the winds had picked up to around ten miles per hour.  Waves were between one and two feet.  As we passed Bells Bay we noted that winds were increasing.  Crossing the opening to Grand Traverse Bay, I could tell that the wind was using the full fetch of the 25 mile length.  At 1220 we were experiencing 3 to 4 foot wave quartering on our bow.  You just can’t depend on the weatherman any more.  We contemplated turning back to Charlevoix or ducking into Northpoint Village Marina because it could be a lot worse for us after we come around Lighthouse Point and are exposed to the greater Lake Michigan.  The mouth of Grand Traverse Bay is about 7 or 8 miles across, so we knew the rough ride would only last about an hour and on we pressed.  The waves were close together which makes for an uncomfortable situation and the occasional wave seemed to be five feet.  Once across the opening and in the lee of the peninsula, the conditions were actually quite pleasant.  At 1335 we came about the Grand Traverse Light and delighted in the approachable waters with the southerly winds blocked by the angle of the coast.  By 1400 the sun came out.  After 50 miles we docked at the fuel dock at Leland Harbor Marina just after 1530.  I’m not sure if I was worn out by the trip, or just not focused on what I was trying to do, but I started refueling the starboard tank, and very quickly heard it getting full.  So I stopped.  The attendant said that was only 15 gallons.  I was perplexed and then realized I had just filled up our holding tank with diesel at $3.46 a gallon!  Jeeze-mineeze!  The dock hands were all really kind about it and helped get it all pumped out and provided four rinses.  Maybe it won’t be dangerous with the combination of the diesel and methane!  I felt like the biggest idiot on earth, but I guess that’s better than hooking the pumpout hose to the fuel tank.  Within an hour we were all done fueling (162.75 gallons, not counting what went in the poop tank) and undoing my buffoonish error and we docked into our assigned slip.  That night we had a great dinner at The Cove on the deck overlooking the waterfall.  There’s a guy here who drives his car in the water.

Sunday, August 26, 2018:

With a suitable forecast of southerly winds at 5 to 8 knots and waves of one foot, we dropped lines at 0940. I think all the other Loopers in the marina left well before us.  I didn’t mind the late start since we were only trying to get 41 miles to Frankfort.  It was sunny and conditions out on Lake Michigan were flat.  At 1042 we passed Pyramid Point Shoal with slight rolling waves.  At 1130 a fog bank rolled it at Sleeping Bear Dunes and enveloped us.  Visibility quickly reduced to about 500 feet.  Even though we were within a third of a mile of the beach, we could not see the 450 foot high dunes.  I blew the horn occasionally to alert other boats of our position.  At times the dune peaked out from above the fog.  At noon the fog cleared somewhat and we had an estimated 1500 feet of visibility.

I heard Sea Jamm call over the radio to confirm nearby boat positions. Someday answered as well and we were all able to locate each other despite an inability to see through the fog.  They were both well off our stern. Sea Jamm was outrunning us and passed headed to the municipal marina in Frankfort.  By 1345 the fog had cleared and we had a visual on the other boats.  At 1445 we docked at Jacobson’s Marina.  Jacobson’s seemed to offer better protection from the wind plus they have a pool and hot tub.  We cleaned the boat and got showered before Peggy and Denny Rodebush showed up for happy hour aboard.

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Peggy and Jane worked together 100 years ago (their term) in the ICU at Alachua General Hospital back in Gainesville.  We walked over to Fusion for dinner after.  It was great catching up with them.  Denny completed the Loop in 2005/2006, so he knows what all we are going through.

It was rainy and windy for the next three days and Peggy and Denny showed us great hospitality touring the area and hosting dinner for us at their cabin. Denny has been building it himself and it is finished enough for them to live in.  We got to walk on the beach where I picked up a bunch of stones and found a Petoskey Stone.

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A Petoskey is a rock fossil from rugose coral.  They are beautiful when polished up.  We went to the historical Point Betsie Lighthouse and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Frankfort is Denny’s hometown and they summer here returning to Tampa for the winters.  On Wednesday we enjoyed docktails with the other Loopers at the pavilion in the waterfront park.  We got some musical entertainment from fellow Loopers, Jerry on the accordion and Joe with his bagpipes.

We wound up a great visit in Frankfort with dinner at Rock’s Place on Crystal Lake.

Thursday, August 30, 2018:

It was 46 degrees so we stayed in bed a little longer than we should have but by 0840 we were out of the slip and on our way. It was a mostly calm water cruise with slow rollers coming from about the five o’clock angle.  At 1400 we passed the Big Sable Light and the seas calmed after the turn.

At 1616 we entered Pentwater Lake in search of an anchorage.

8.30.1616It seemed like the anchorage has been replaced with mooring balls.  They don’t show up on any websites and are not marked, so I let down the anchor in between a couple of the unoccupied balls.  We grilled vegetables on the upper deck and enjoyed the mostly calm lake.  Just a couple of go-fast boats circling around but not too close.  We had clicked off another 64.7 miles of Lake Michigan with still plenty to go.

Friday, August 31, 2018:

The anchor came up clean as a whistle which indicated a sand bottom. Nice not to have to get out the hose to remove mud.  Mr. Weatherguy showed a south wind of 10 to 13 knots and waves of 1 to 2 feet.  We headed out to Muskegeon and reserved a slip by phone at Harbour Towne Marina.  It is 45 miles.  By 0850 we were back in the big lake headed south.  The sky was clear but the 1 to 2 footers were giving way to an increasing number of threes.

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At 1005 we passed the Little Sable Lighthouse and elected to run in closer to shore around 1130 due to the rough ride of three to four foot waves pounding on the bow.  Jane thought it was four to six.  Not that big, but rough.  Her personal journal is saying not nice things about Lake Michigan.  At 1445 we docked ourselves on a Tee head at Harbor Town Marina.  It’s a nice marina, well protected with a friendly staff.  We walked over to Docker’s Restaurant for dinner.  We sat out on the patio and they had an absolute killer band named Jedi Mind Ship playing.  These guys played from a different decade each set.  We moved over to the tiki bar after dinner.  It was a great show.  There’s a storm a-comin so we know we are not going anywhere on the first, but that’s ok.  College football is starting and this marina has free cable.  It is cable, but it doesn’t include the SEC Network, so Saturday morning, I called Dockers to confirm that they have the SEC Network. We could go back there to watch the Gator game.  Whoever I spoke with obviously had no idea about what she was talking about, because when we got there at kickoff we found out they don’t have it.  Oh well, we returned to Sabbatical, sat up on the fly bridge and listened to it on the phone app.  Just like the olden days of Gator football on the radio.

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Sunday, September 2, 2018:

The forecasters are touting SSW winds of 10 to 12 knots and waves around two feet. We decided that we could just go out and take a look and decide from there if it is something we want to put up with.  It could be ok or maybe not.  So at 0940 we dropped lines and slipped away from Harbour Towne bound for South Haven if we can get that far.  By 1045 Jane made an entry in the cruising log book that is difficult to read.  I’m sure it was difficult to write.  It says something that appears to say, “Too (expletive) rough!”.  I had to agree since my low back is giving me trouble.  She put in a phone call to Grand Haven Municipal Marina and we were assigned slip 18 so in we ducked and docked at 1150 after a trip of only 15.7 miles.  It’s going to take a long time to get off Lake Michigan at this rate.  We have a bracket that holds up our mast (in the lowered position).  We had lowered the mast before starting the Erie Canal and need to keep it down to get under some fixed bridges in Chicago.  In the pounding that we took on the lake, the bracket broke and our mast and boom were caught by the dinghy hanging on its davits.  After repairing the broken bracket, showers and a nap, we ventured out for the short walk downtown.  We had a very nice dinner in the Grill Room at Kirby’s.  Later, back on the boat, we had a great vantage point from the fly bridge to watch the Grand Haven musical fountains with light show. This has been a Grand Haven staple since 1962, though I’m sure the technology has changed over the years.

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The next day it was still too rough on the lake for boating. We walked all around town and all the way out on the breakwater to confirm that we did not want any part of it.  At least it is a cute town and they go out of their way to cater to tourists.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018:

After checking all the weather sites, I felt like we could cruise again, but I made sure to have a list of all the bail-out spots in case we needed to escape the lake. We would try to make it to South Haven, some 48 miles.  There were a few clouds and the wind at the dock seemed light.  At 0800 we backed out of the slip.  By 0825 we were in a 2 to 3 foot chop back out on the lake.  The mast bracket broke again.  At 1030 we were at Holland, but kept going with the knowledge that we could duck in at Kalamazoo River ahead.  At 1100 I noticed a 48 foot Meridian, (Prime Meridian) would pass by to our starboard.  His dinghy didn’t look right and sure enough they shortly weighed up and I realized that their dinghy had fallen off the mechanical brackets.  We came about and alongside offering assistance.  He didn’t seem like he wanted any, but we stayed on station, just in case.

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He had to cut the line to get it freed and directly waved us on and soon they were back underway.  By 1155 we pressed on at the Kalamazoo River entrance and at 1225 the waves had subsided to two feet and smaller.  At 1300 it was smooth sailing with a light chop of less than a foot.  By 1420 we passed the entrance to South Haven and elected to continue on to Benton Harbor and arranged for a slip at Anchor’s Way Marina.

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By 1630 we were scooting across glassy calm aqua.  Anchor’s Way is well up in the river at Benton Harbor, but the railroad bridge was swung open and we could get under the other two.  Docking at 1715 right in front of the pool was assisted by the friendly folks there.  The day had heated a good deal, so the pool was a refreshing benefit.  After showering, we walked around to Clementine’s for dinner on the marina side patio.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018:

We got an early text from Sherry on Sea Jamm that they were out in the lake heading south and the waves were tolerable.  Backing out of the slip at 0750 we got our new ball fender hung up on a pile and it got punctured by some metal.  It did save the boat from damage and I guess that is its purpose.  Out in the lake at 1103 we suddenly lost power.  The engine didn’t die, but it slowed way down.  I was pretty sure we didn’t hit anything with the prop, so I suspected the primary fuel filter.  In a minute, the boat seemed fine and we resumed the cruise.  We have two primary filters that can be switched from one to the other with a lever.  I figured that I could change to the port filter whenever we get where we are going.  At 1125 we passed New Buffalo and at 1204 we entered Indiana.  Shortly after the boat lost power again and almost quit.  After a few pumps on the throttle, I decided that it would be best to pull in at Michigan City, Indiana, and switch the filters.  At 1225 we came through the Michigan City breakwater and proceeded to the fuel dock at Washington Park Marina.

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Approaching Michigan City, Indiana

It took longer to find the fuel dock than it did to switch the filter lever.  We recranked and by 1257 we were back underway.  We then realized that we were in the Central Time Zone and it was now 1157.  Great.  We stopped and never lost a minute.  At 1215 we could see the skyline of Chicago and decided to switch from driving the rim of the lake to going directly to Hammond to make up time.

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With the wind coming from the SSW the waves were not too bad.  It would prove to be crucial since a storm was coming from the west and we needed to make up some time.  We docked in our slip in the lee of the floating casino at 1545 CDT with help from Alan and Sherry (Sea Jamm) after a 69 mile day.

We stayed in Hammond for two nights. On Wednesday night we went into the casino with Alan and Sherry but only to eat at the Asian venue.  The next day the wind blew and the waves crashed over the sea wall.  We knew we should not venture out even though Chicago was only two hours away.  We have pushed back our reservation at DuSable Marina at least four times, maybe more.  On Thursday afternoon Alan and Sherry picked up a rental car and we joined them for a drive up to Cicero to sample some of the famous deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s.  It lived up to the reputation.  Great – even with very light cheese.

Midland, Ontario to Mackinaw City, Mich – The Georgian Bay and North Channel

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuesday morning Amanda at Bay Port Marina gave us a ride in one of the marina cars over to Queen’s Cove Marina so we could retrieve the new credit cards to replace the one that was compromised. That was a huge relief to get those.  Jane took care of getting all the auto payments switched over to the new account.  It was a major pain in her backside.  We got the bikes out and went into town along the Rotary trail.  It is a gorgeous ride passing by the waterway lined with cattails and wild flowers and we explored downtown Midland.  We got back just as the rain came.  I wanted to buy charts of the Georgian Bay so we stopped in the marina store.  I ran into Captain Terry from Magic and he had just bought a set of charts and let me know to come over to his boat at 1700 for a chart mark-up session with Ken, the marina owner.  That was most informative and Ken was able to give us details about anchorages, marinas, and useful knowledge that we would not have otherwise gained.  On Wednesday, we returned to town and I stopped in at Little Ed’s Ski & Bike Shop to get the back brake adjusted.  Turns out that I’ve got a couple of broken spokes as well, but that will have to wait until we are somewhere else.  They were very accommodating at Little Ed’s and I was at least safe to ride again.  Later, we met the crews from Magic and Wine Speed at Lily’s Italian Eatery for a great dinner.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018:

I refilled our fresh water tanks and at 1000 we backed out of the slip and eased over to the fuel dock to get the holding tank pumped and buy ice. Magic and Wine Speed were there as well for the same process.  Our plan was to run together over to anchorage at Frying Pan Bay on Beausoleil Island.  We saw some other Loopers coming into the marina as we were getting ready to leave.  By 1025 we were all finished and ready to get under way.  We were not even a half mile out of the marina when Captain Terry of Magic called on the radio that he needed to return to Bay Port Marina with some issues as his bilge pump was cycling like crazy.  We continued onward with Wine Speed and we later learned that Captain Terry had a big hole in his exhaust hose plus a fuel tank leak in a cracked weld and a small fresh water system leak.  It just wasn’t his day.  As he was waiting to get the repairs completed, his GPS system went out and that had to be replaced.  I was knocking on teak thankful that we have had so little trouble.  We did have an issue that started the night before with our electrical circuits.  Some of the outlets were not working.  I tried to see if I could figure it out and was coming up empty.  Finally, I contacted Tim, the previous owner, and he quickly directed me to the GFI outlet that is mounted in the forward cabin closet.  I had forgotten about that one.  It is where we keep the dust buster plugged in.  One push of the reset button and problem solved.

By 1208 we were anchored in Frying Pan Bay. A storm passed through, but after that it was a pretty day and we explored with the dinghy and met some folks flying a State of Florida flag at their cottage.  They are from Miami and their cottage on Tomahawk Island has been in their family for generations.  Back on Sabbatical we grilled veggies for dinner and then Mike and Cindy came over from Wine Speed for after dinner drinks.

Friday, July27, 2018:

We pulled anchor at 1000 and by 1045 we were out in the bay getting rocked about some by 2 to 3 foot seas. We followed Wine Speed the whole way and loved getting back in the protected narrow channel even though it’s tight quarters.  By 1250 we anchored in Wani Bay.  There are several ways to get in there, but we took the safest route coming in along Twelve Mile Bay.  It’s a great little spot and there were only a couple of other boats there already anchored on the far bank with their sterns pulled back to the granite.  Mark and Lezlie in Antonia showed up after some time since we had let them know where we were headed.  We explored again in the dinghy putting around the little islands and rocks.  Then we had the others join us for docktails on our boat.

Saturday, July 28, 2018:

It was rainy early, but the forecast showed it to clear up and we pulled anchor at 1030 and cruised on to Henry’s Fish Restaurant along with Wine Speed and Antonia.  We encountered 3 to 4 foot waves in the bay where it opens at McCurry Rocks, but it’s only a short opening where we were exposed to the big water.  Henry’s is on Frying Pan Island (sounds appropriate) and that island is surrounded by lots and lots of islands.  This is prime cottage territory and the seasonal homes come in all shapes and sizes.  Some seem larger than the rocks on which they rest.  We arrived at Henry’s at 1135.  It was before opening time, but we didn’t have to wait long before we were allowed in to grab a table.  Right after that a float plane landed out front in the waterway and taxied over to the dock.  Some folks started climbing out and we were surprised that the small plane would hold such a large party.  They took the long table next to ours and I saw that they brought along two bottles of Dom Perignon.  We couldn’t decide if they had something to celebrate, or just lived like that every day.  We enjoyed the stop even though our food was less than exemplary.

At 1300 we dropped lines at Henry’s dock and resumed underway to an anchorage in Echo Bay.  When we arrived at Echo Bay we found no less than 21 other boats already anchored there so we decided to move on up to Spider Bay.  At 1405 we found the beautiful undisturbed spot we sought and we were the only three boats to anchor there for the night.  It was a little breezy, but not wavy.  Jane and I got the dinghy down and we picked up Mark and Lezlie to tool around checking out the surroundings.  There are so many little nooks and crannies amongst the rocks and islands, but it was too chilly for swimming. Wine Speed hosted the small flotilla on board for happy hour so we dinghied over to join them.  That night the moon seemed full and it was still in the sky in the morning.

Sunday, July 29th, 2018:

We were looking at a perfect day with SSW winds of 10 mph partly cloudy with no chance of rain and a high of 74 degrees. We pulled anchor at 1017 and followed Wine Speed through the maze of narrow channels, rocks and islands with Antonia bringing up the rear.

By 1150 we were waiting on the Rose Point Swing Bridge for the noon opening.  We docked at Big Sound Marina in Parry Sound on the first tee head at 1230.  The float planes take off and land in the sound on a regular basis and they are fun to watch.  Not fun was the effects of wakes from the passing vessels.  This was the rockiest marina we have been in yet.  I’ve no idea why they don’t enforce a no-wake zone at Parry Sound. We got rocked so bad that our breast line pulled the dock board up, cleat and all.  We washed down the boat and then made a long hike to the grocery store and caught a ride back on the taxi.  We dined out at Bistro by the Bay with the crews from Wine Speed, Antonia, and Magic.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018:

We refilled the fresh water tanks and then got Sabbatical over to the pump-out station. It is not in a convenient spot but is located right behind the Island Princess cruise boat and in front of the float plane dock, so I got her spun around and Andy got us pumped out for $30.  I’m not a fan of Big Sound Marina due to the rocking at the dock (Island Princess is a big time wake zone violator), the push button showers with no temp control, and the expensive pump out.  We were glad to be going and it was a beautiful day for it.  By 1000 hours we dropped lines from the pump-out station and by 1055 we rounded Killbear Point.  At 1420 we passed Pointe Au Baril Lighthouse.

Twenty minutes later we wound our way through the skinny Hang Dog Channel.

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We set the anchor in Alexander Passage in 10 feet of water on 70 feet of rode.  After launching the dinghy, we explored a number of hidden coves.  Jane practiced rowing, so she will know how just in case the motor fails sometime.

Antonia joined us at the anchorage and we joined them for docktails.  After dinner on our boat we stayed up on the fly bridge to take in the pink and lavender sunset.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018:

It was a drizzly and lazy morning. We were happy for any rain at all since it has been so dry and Canada is having a tough time with all the forest fires.  Mark and Lezlie left before us and we weren’t sure we were even going to go.  They reported back after a while that they encountered thick smoke from the forest fire.  Within minutes, we saw the smoke eerily advancing up the river.

We decided that it was time to get out of there, but did not have any particular destination in mind.  We just knew we wanted to escape the smoke.  At 1350 we were off the anchor and headed out down river into the haze.  The smoke was thick in places, but the cruising was otherwise enjoyable.  It cleared some after we entered the Byng Inlet and by 1548 we were docked at Wright’s Marina in Britt.  The air was clear in Britt, even though we were closer to the fire.   Magic and Antonia were also in the Marina and we docked next to Stout.  It is a 42 foot Krogan so it’s pretty distinctive.  I had seen their boat in Montreal and a couple of other times, but we had not met them yet.  Dave and Lisa are from Vermont.  We met up with Mark, Lezlie, Captain Crusty, and Dorothy in the boaters lounge after dinner for a drink and to discuss where to go next based on the fire news.  We decided to stay at least another night.  The next day we jogged down to the next marina where they have a convenience store hoping to buy some bagels.  After walking back, we whipped up a batch of blueberry-strawberry pancakes.  It became a pretty lazy day after that, but we did launch the dinghy and cruise up the river to explore.  I had a dickens of a time starting the outboard and finally figured out that the gas line connection was not fully engaged.  I pulled the cord until I had a blister.  I had to let it sit for a while and then returned and started over.  It cranked on the third pull.  We cruised past the islands and then turned north off the inlet into Still River (just a creek, really) and putted along.  We saw a helicopter transporting a huge water bag to the fire.  The firefighters were working hard, but failing to get it under control. We had made dinner plans to go to the only restaurant with Mark and Lezlie and Rick and Deedy from Rejoice so we headed back to get ready.  We walked with Mark and Lezlie and Rick and Deedy came down in their dinghy.  It was a surprisingly good dinner and the young girl waiting on us was the hostess, bartender, busser and waitress.  I asked if she was the chef as well.

Friday, August 3, 2018:

We didn’t rise early, but got the chores all done to shove off. I called around and finally got the Sudberry District of the Fire Service and confirmed that the Bustard Islands, French River Park, and Henvey Inlet were all closed due to the fires, but Beaverstone Bay and Collins Inlet were still open.  After engine checks and refilling the water tanks, we eased over to the pump-out dock and got that taken care of.  We said good-byes to the other boaters.  Antonia was having an electrical issue and was looking at having to drive two hours in the marina owner’s truck to buy a new $2500 inverter.  At 1035 we were underway.  Once out of the inlet at 1100 we found the Georgian Bay offering less than one foot waves and light wind.  We anchored beside a granite cliff in Beaverstone Bay near Pisa Rock.  I went for a swim, but the water was pretty chilly.  Jane wouldn’t join me but set up her stationary bike apparatus and got some good exercise and sun.  We realized that we were in a remote area and there was no cell service.  This makes Mama upset because the kids might need to call.  So we launched the dinghy and went riding in all directions to see if we could get a signal.  I even climbed up on the rocks to see if elevation would help.  It wasn’t happening, so I built a cairn.  It was pretty open but a very private anchorage since we were the only boat around.  Late in the afternoon we heard Mark calling over the VHF and we guided them into our location. Antonia got anchored well before the late sunset and came over in their dinghy for a long visit.

Saturday, August 4, 2018:

At 1100 Antonia and Sabbatical hoisted anchors under partly clouded skies.  We cruised together through the narrow passages and in between granite cliffs of this special place.  We passed through Mill Lake and into Collins Inlet.  This was some of the most beautiful scenery we have encountered.  We saw a few other boaters and fishermen along with some kayakers and campers in canoes.

We passed a beaver’s house with a satellite dish.  I wondered if they watch hockey or Animal Planet.

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Antonia was headed to a slip at Mountain Lodge in Killarney, but we turned off after exiting Collins Inlet and ducked away from the rollers of the Georgian Bay into Thomas Bay to anchor. It was very tricky getting into there as it is not a marked channel so we were creeping along at dead slow thankful that we can see the bottom and avoid the shallows whch are all made of rock.  The little bay is protected by a group of small islands to the south.  There are no houses around and the anchorage is about 500 feet across and maybe twice that long.  Once we got in, I realized that there are two entrances to Thomas Bay and I chose the more difficult route.  One sailboat was anchored already and we set the hook at 1320 glad that it was not smoky.  The granite hill to the west elevates probably a couple of hundred feet and is somewhat wooded with exposed rock in between the evergreens.

We set out in our trusty dink to explore several of these areas both on the mainland and the islands.  We went ashore in several spots and I noted the native blueberries were too dry to produce any suitable fruit.  We stayed on the lookout for bears and spotted various animal poops and had quite the discussion about what animal left which pile.  I found a good spot to wade and swim, but it was too cold for Lady Jane.  Jane took a turn at cranking and driving the dinghy so she could get familiar with that.  It warmed up as the day progressed and another Looper boat (Elixir) came into anchor.  They came by after we returned to Sabbatical and we chatted for a while.  They have a place on the St. Johns River in Welaka, but live aboard just about full time.

Sunday, August 5, 2018:

We retrieved the anchor at 1000 and eased out through the wider deeper channel where we should have entered the previous day. Dodging through the small islands and rocks (both exposed and submerged) we returned to the small craft channel to take us into Killarney.  At 1015 we were just cruising along with me at the helm and Jane standing next to me on the fly bridge.  All of a sudden she screams bloody murder!  It really took me off guard and just as I glanced in her direction, I saw a bat flying away out through the open curtain.  The furry guy had lit on her shoulder without her noticing it at first, but she felt something and looked down.  I’m sure the scream scared the bat crap out of him.  It sure woke me up.  We had no idea where it came from but surmised that it could have been sleeping somewhere on the fly bridge and the bouncing from the three foot waves disturbed it.  We entered Killarney Harbor at 1034.

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The town of Killarney lies on both sides of the narrow Killarney Channel that separates George Island from the mainland.  I heard that the guy who started Car Fax Canada and sold out is from here, has returned and is buying up the town and refurbishing everything.  It looked very cute from the water, but we were not stopping and just idled right on through.  We went off to the north into Killarney Bay and entered Covered Portage Cove at 1115 but there were way too many boats there.  There is a 400 foot cliff that you can hike up and get a picture of your boat from above, but we elected to let this wait for another visit and headed out to anchor in Browning Cove on the north side of Heywood Island.  The forested island is apparently uninhabited and the anchorage is much protected from wind and waves.  There is ample room in the three separate coves here to accommodate a good number of boats, but we found only eight or nine total.  The weather was kicking up so I expected some more would arrive and a few did.  We chose to set anchor in the center area and had it hooked at 1350. True to our custom we launched the dinghy and set out to explore the entire area.  As we putt-putted around the perimeter of the western leg we spotted a beaver’s house and then the beaver and then a second.  I tied our dink to a rock in about 4 feet of water and got out to swim and watch them zipping about and making loud splashes with their tails.  The beavers didn’t want to get too close to me and I didn’t want to get too close to them, but it was great fun hanging out there watching them.

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We finished exploring the areas of Browning Cove and got the dink put away before the weather rolled in. I let out addition rode for the anchor and reset the anchor alarm and slept like a babe.

A few days after we left there we heard accounts of four different boats that had been boarded by a bear and ransacked the cabin in search of food. That would not have been fun.  The bear was difficult to scare off, but I heard of no casualties.

Monday, August 6, 2018:

We pulled anchor at 0942 and headed out for Baie Fine and a visit to Topaz Lake. There was a slight ripple on the water and a little haze in the air.  By 1045 we entered into Baie Fine and passed Okeechobee Lodge.  Baie Fine is fiord that runs northeast from its opening on Frazer Bay about 8 or 10 miles back to a great anchorage known as “The Pool”.  It is a beautiful run between the granite cliffs and hills.

From there boaters will get on the mainland and hike up to Topaz Lake.  We anchored in The Pool with a lot of other boats and got our dinghy down so we could make the hike.  After tying off at the dinghy dock we set out on foot.  We kept following the trail, but it wasn’t well marked.  We just assumed we were heading in the right direction.  After about 20 minutes we came on some college kids who had canoes and they let us know that we had missed the turn off to the lake.  I guess if we hadn’t bumped into them, we’d still be out there wandering around in the woods or become bear food.  We finally came over the quartzite and granite ridge and discovered the clear blue water of Lake Topaz.  We met some other folks that were hanging out there.  I jumped in the water, but it was pretty chilly.

There are some areas we people can dive from the cliffs, but that’s not for me.  It is a beautiful and remote lake within the Killarney Provincial Park.  I understand that somewhere very nearby are the ruins of Al Capone’s summer house, but had no idea where to look for that.  Hiking back down was much easier since we didn’t get lost and we hoisted the anchor at 1430 and set out for the municipal marina at Little Current.  We backtracked along the Baie Fine and Frazer Bay.  I was hoping the weather would hold and that we could make it to the swing bridge for the opening at 1700.  It will only open on the hour.  The channel veers off to the south after the Camp Cove Point to go around a group of rocks and shallows.

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I felt I could cheat through the hazards and pick up some time to make the bridge opening.  Once within range I called the bridge tender and explained that I’d be just a couple of minutes late.  He advised that he could not hold the bridge open and I’d have to wait for the next opening at 1800.  That was disappointing, but on we trudged and I kicked up the throttle hoping to gain some more time.  Now, running at top speed, in unfamiliar waters, outside of the marked channel with granite boulders lurking just below the surface is not recommended.  However, I have come to trust our GPS and enjoy the redundancy of having Navionics on the IPad right there to confirm.  It is not only dangerous, but stressful as well to operate this way.  Adding to the stress is the weather was continuing to degrade and the wind was picking up.  Still, though, I realized that we wouldn’t make it to the swing bridge in time.  Another thought occurred once I got safely back into the marked channel.  I hailed the bridge tender again on the VHF and asked for the current clearance.  He reported that he currently had sixteen feet between the water and the bottom of the span.  I let him know that I could slip under that with a foot to spare and so we did not require an opening.  Jane let down the antenna and I backed off to idle speed for the approach.  She was nervous and stood on the deck box to see if we really could get under.   We slipped right on through.  That was a great win, but the rain hit just before we got to the marina and we docked in a downpour at 1730 after some confusion from the youthful dock hands about where our slip was.  We got cleaned up and reunited with Mark and Lezlie from Antonia for dinner at The Anchor Inn.  Later I whipped the Lady Jane in a double or nothing rematch at Gin.

The next day was a work day cleaning the boat. I fully scrubbed the upper helm still trying to get rid of midge stains etc.  Later we bought charts of the North Channel from Turners General Store.  Turners touts being the oldest chart dealer in Canada.  We had some delicious soup from a small café and took home some wraps for later.  After which I succumbed to Jane at Gin.  To clarify, this is a card game, not a drinking game.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018:

We went up to the conference room on the second floor of the Anchor Inn for Roy Eaton’s broadcast of the Little Current Cruiser’s Net. Throughout the summer, Roy broadcasts daily at 0900 on VHF channel 71, providing news, weather, and assisting cruisers by relaying messages and letting them check in from all over the North Channel.  Roy is a retired high school principal and just a great guy.  Jane assisted him by taking notes during the broadcast.

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He winters in Punta Gorda, Florida, so we will look forward to meeting up with him down there as we finish our Loop.  Once we were done with that, we shoved off at 1100 and stopped by Spider Bay Marina for a pump-out, dinghy gas, and ice.  After a bouncy ride in 3 to 4 foot seas we anchored in the lee of South Benjamin Island.  I think that Jane counted 37 other boats anchored here.  I didn’t like the first placed I picked out on the north side of the anchorage and we moved over to the south side near a small dock and cabin.  It was difficult finding a spot that felt like we’d have enough room.  I set the hook in 22 feet with only 100 feet of rode.  We of course had to get the dinghy down and explore all around the anchorage.  Most of the boats here were “trailer sailors”.  They pull their cruisers up from Michigan and then cruise the North Channel in a big group.  Just about all of them prefer to anchor and then back up to the rocks tying off to trees, rocks, or pins in the rocks.

We spent a good bit of time planning for a flight home to Florida for a week after we get back in the US.  Later up on the fly bridge, I became concerned about how close we were swinging to a submerged rock as the wind had changed.  Finally I went down and took a few wraps on the Samson post and even though it further reduced our rode, I felt better about it and we made it through the night without incident.

Thursday, August 9, 2018:

0738: Mark from Antonia called and explained that he needs a part from another Monk owner who is nearby our anchorage.  The other Monk owner is Mike Middleton of the Emma Jean and they were over on the east side of Croker Island.  Mark gave me Mike’s contact info and we made contact.  Good thing cell phones are working out here.  Mike brought the part over in his dinghy at 0830.  At 0940 we had pulled anchor and were headed out to Vidal Bay.  Soon, after discussing with Mark, we changed the rendezvous spot to the anchorage in Meldrum Bay.  We were cruising on smooth water, under clear skies with a light westerly wind.  At 1323 we rounded the point at Cape Robert and Antonia anchored in Meldrum Bay at 1525.  Jane spent the rest of the afternoon trying to make reservations for where we would leave the boat, get a rental car, and get flights out to Florida.  The Meldrum Bay Inn has a nice restaurant and that is quite surprising because this place is really isolated out on the west end of Manitoulin Island.  Manitoulin Island is, however, the largest freshwater island in the world.  The dinner was awesome and we were able to use the rest of our Canadian currency since this would be our last night before re-entering the USA.

Friday, August 10, 2018:

We had a long day ahead, so I pulled anchor and got us underway at 0720. Jane was still in bed.  At 0900 we submitted by the cell phone app ROAM to get clearance from Customs & Border Patrol for reentry.  At 1004 we crossed the border between Cockburn and Drummond Islands.  1009: Approved for reentry to USA.  At 1030 we were in Lake Huron on perfectly glassy smooth water under sunny skies.

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I was glad for the smooth water since we had 52 miles of open water to cross before reaching Mackinac Island.  We got there by 1645, but continued on to the Mackinaw City Municipal Marina.  The winds and waves picked up between the island and Mackinaw City, and there were the wakes from the ferries to contend with as well.  At 1745 I squeezed Sabbatical into a 15 foot wide slip well down the narrow fairway.  Jane keeps giving me high marks on docking.  We got dinner ashore at a restaurant called The Hook that opened 2 hours before we arrived. We enjoyed the Friday night Mackinaw City fireworks from the fly bridge around 10 pm.  It was a good day.  We loved Canada and we love being back in the good ole USA.

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Trenton to Midland – The Trent Severn Waterway

Tuesday July 10 and Wednesday July 11, 2018:

We took advantage of our time staying in such a nice marina and also managed to relax and recoup a little. I confirmed with Brian Smith of American Diesel that the correct amount of oil to put into the Ford Lehman is only 14 ½ quarts.  Not five gallons, like I had been using.  During our stay here in Trenton, I changed the oil, cleaned the air filter and degummed the intake manifold (maybe from using too much oil).  I also changed the transmission fluid, cleaned all the strainers and serviced all the batteries.  The Trent Port Marina has new HE washers and dryers and they not only free to use, but the marina provides detergent and dryer sheets.!  Jane did the laundry plus the sheets and mattress pad.  She was in laundry heaven.  We got the shopping done and took care of some business.  We were going to leave on Wednesday, but I was able to get an appointment with a good dentist to get my crown put back on.  It had fallen off a month ago and I popped it back on but now it won’t stay on anymore. The dentist keeps his boat here at the marina so he understands the urgency since we are traveling. It was a very well run practice and I was pleased with the result and price.  The dental practice was very modern, even had a 3-D printer from which to make same day crowns.  Wow.  The visit was less than $150.  Maybe I should have gotten one of those same day crowns anyway.

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Wednesday was Jane’s birthday, so I made her blueberry walnut pancakes for breakfast.  She didn’t want any gift from me, but Sherry from Sea Jamm showed up with flowers and a card for her.  That was so thoughtful.  I did take Jane out to Thai Sushi for dinner and when she tasted my vegetable green curry dinner, I lost it to her completely.  Happy birthday, Dear.  That’s what happy couples do.

Thursday, July 12, 2018:

After I washed the decks and refilled the water tanks, we cranked up at 0810 and made our way over to the fuel dock for a holding tank pump out. There was a sail boat already ahead of us, but by 0900 we were on our way up the Trent-Severn Waterway under crystal clear skies.

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We encountered more waiting at Lock 1 and entered the lock at 1050.  Less than 3 ½ hours later we had gone through six Locks with Sea Jamm.  We both tied to the west wall at Frankford and paid our $9.80 for the electric service.  The day had heated up quite a bit and we needed to cool off, so Jane and I went down through the park to the beach.  It’s not much of a beach, but there is some sand amongst the goose poop and we waded out through the river rocks and boulders for a refreshing dip.  We got back to our boat and the A/C had cooled it down nicely and so it was nap time.  When we woke up we found that several new boats had arrived on the wall and how they got so close in front of and behind us, I’ll never know.

Loopers and locals gathered for drinks at the picnic table after dinner.

Friday, July 13, 2018:

It was a beautiful day without wind. At 0750 we shoved off the wall with Alan and Sherry’s help.  We needed a full sideways push to slide out of the tight parallel parking spot having been hemmed in the afternoon before.  At 0830 we were battling the deer flies again as we went through Danger Narrows.  By 0930 we exited Lock 7 at Glen Ross going up 9 feet with Sea Jamm, and a Canadian couple and a sailboat from France with an older couple. We continued on locking with the same group for five more locks.

 

The locks on the Trent-Severn are not as antiquated as the locks on the Rideau.  Most have been rebuilt.  The double locks of 11 and 12 at Ranney Falls provided a lift of 48 feet.  It was only another mile to Old Mill Park at Campbellford and we docked on the west wall at 1400 with 30 amp power.

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We paid for two nights and will get the third one free.  We got out and walked the town a bit and then realized how tired we were.  Locking in the heat takes a toll and we returned to the boat for a nap.  There were about six or seven other looping boats along the walls on either side of the river.  We found a restaurant (Capers) that reminded us of Café Gardens and enjoyed dinner on their patio and their live musician.  On Saturday we ventured over to the farmers market and the Incredible Edibles Festival. Later there was a Rotary street dance with a great band.  We dined at Antonia’s, a great small ethnic restaurant, and then hung out aboard Magic listening to the music and watching the people.

Sunday, July 15, 2018:

We had planned to go to church and stay another night in Campbellford, but when we got up and moving, we decided to give up the free night and move on up the Trent-Severn. We left the wall at 1025 and locked in Lock 13 with three other boats.  Canadians, Dave and Leslie from Endeavor rafted to us and we kept the same order for each lock through 17.  Locks 16 and 17 are double locks and raised us 55 feet and into Seymore Lake.

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When we reached the Hastings Lock (#18), we went through alone as the other boats had made it through the lake much faster.  We continued on and the river gave way to Rice Lake.  Rice Lake is about 20 miles long and several miles wide in places.  There are a number of islands and some good anchorages.  We opted to drop the hook between Rack and White Island at 1705.  We went for a cooling swim and I donned fins and mask to check on our zincs.  They all looked good except I didn’t see the prop shaft zinc.  I brushed a lot of growth off the hull.  That was good exercise, treading water and working with the long handle scrub brush.  It was a very pleasant anchorage in fairly open water.  There were few fishermen around and we showered on the fantail.  After a beautiful sunset in the western sky, Venus flirted with the crescent moon before it descended as a dark orange fingernail.

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Monday, July 16, 2018:

We pulled anchor at 0755 and sprayed off some weeds that clung to the anchor, but not as bad as some had told us it would be. By 0845 we were at the mouth of the Otonabee River.  The river proved to be mostly rural with some cottages along the way at the Hiawatha Indian Reserve on our right as we moved up river.  By 1305 we had passed through locks 19, 20, and the Big Lift Lock at Peterborough (#21).  The Peterborough lock is not really a lock.  It has two pans and one goes up while the other works as the counter balance and comes down.  It is over 100 years old and each pan weighs 1300 tons when filled with water.  They just put an extra foot of water in the pan that is at the top when they are ready for it to come down, so the whole thing works sort of like a giant hydraulic teeter-totter.  It was amazing how fast it raised us 65 feet.

At 1345 a storm was coming so we tied up on the wall below Lock 22 at Nassau Mills. By 1510 the storm had passed and we were on our merry way again.  At 1812 we tied off on the starboard wall below Lock 27 at Youngs Point.  The lock master from Lock 26 had called ahead and had them leave a washroom key hidden for us at 27.  Youngs Point was a very pleasant and quiet place to stay the night.  The dining room at the local inn was closed, but we had plenty to eat on board.  The old bridge from 1885 still stands, but is only used for foot traffic now.  We saw some interesting sights along the way.

 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018:

We pulled Sabbatical  by hand from her spot at the end of the wall to the front of the blue line.  By 0900 the lock tenders had arrived and by 0918 we were out of the lock and cruising in Clear Lake.  It is appropriately named.  This is beautiful boating territory and it was a fantastic day under a cloudless sky with a good breeze.  The temperature was perfect and I made a mental note that this is the best day so far considering the combination of weather, water, and location beauty.  The islands and cottages are amazing and the rocks are intimidating.  It’s a good thing we can see them through the crystal clear water.

 

We paid very careful attention and stayed in the marked channel.

 

By noon we had passed through Hells Gate and the locks at Burleigh Falls, Lovesick, and Buckhorn.  We wanted a spot on the wall in Bobcaygeon with electricity but they were all taken so we went on through the lock there to look for a spot on the upper side.  Before we could get out of the narrow channel with boats tied up on left and right, here came a houseboat head on, trying to get into a spot to our port.  There would be no way for the two of us to pass between all the boats.  I recognized that the houseboat was a rental and knew immediately that the operator would not give way or even have good control of the vessel.  I was forced to reverse and hold position with boats tied within just a few feet of us on each side.  Meanwhile Houseboatdude further entertained us by crashing into a runabout trying to dock.  After we were able to get by Houseboatdude, the lock workers came out and helped make some room for us to tie up on the starboard side by pulling one of the locals ahead and they even helped us get docked.  It was windy by then, but we put it right where we wanted gently against the floating dock.  We walked over to the laundromat and then to the grocery store.  I wheeled the groceries back to the boat and Jane went to finish the laundry.  Bobcaygeon is a small touristy town and it’s pretty packed.  We dined at Embers after getting turned away from the Waterside Grill because they were overwhelmed and not taking tables.  The only complaint about this day is the welts from the deer flies and horseflies.  Jane’s entire right hand, wrist, and forearm are swollen.  It looks pretty bad.  We’ll be glad when the bugs quit biting.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018:

It was another beautiful cloudless day around 60 degrees in the morning. We left the wall at Bobcaygeon at 0720.  It was a perfect day to be boating through the Kawartha Lakes chain.  We entered Sturgeon Lake and by 0825 were rounding Sturgeon Point enjoying the beautiful day.

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By 1000 we had been through the locks at Fenelon Falls and Rosedale.  We then entered into Balsam Lake and with the lift from the Rosedale lock we were at the peak of the Trent-Severn Waterway and boating at 840 feet above sea level.  The whole area is just so beautiful.  By the time we had crossed Balsam Lake, we had caught up with our friends, Mark and Lezlie on Antonia. They were just behind four other Looper boats and we all continued in line through the narrow Trent Canal.

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We rode down in the Kirkfield Lift Lock (another set of hydraulic pans) for the 48 foot drop with Antonia and then continued on to Sunset Cove Marina in Bolsover. Antonia and our boat were the only Loopers that were staying the night there.

There isn’t much there, but we could have electricity, showers, water and get a pump out of the holding tank.  The four of us got together at the picnic table on the dock for dinner.

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Thursday, July 19, 2018:

I started filling our water tanks and soon Mark informed me that the water at Sunset Cove is not certified as potable. Great!  I stopped the filling and put the hoses away.  We cranked up at 1000 and I moved on over to the pump out station.  They charge $25 for a pump out.  It should be free when you pay for dockage.  While it was pumping, the owner’s dog jumped aboard hoping for a boat ride.

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By 1248 we had locked down through the Bolsover, Portage, and Gamebridge Locks and were crossing Lake Simcoe on another beautiful day.  Lake Simcoe is the largest lake on the Trent-Severn Waterway and the weather can be an issue for boating here.  We had a great day with almost no waves to disturb the clear green water.

At 1500 we were in the Narrows and had the Island Princess coming at us from ahead.

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I was glad to have already cleared the abandoned railroad bridge when I got his security call.  I moved over as much as I thought I safely could and let the captain know by radio that a port to port would work unless he wanted to wait for us to clear the Narrows.  It worked out fine and we docked at Port Orillia shortly after.  Docking at Port Orillia was without assistance from the staff.  To complicate the issue, they have cleats that fold down when not in use, so even when I had the boat right beside the finger pier, Jane had nothing to loop the line on.  Another boater finally came out and helped.  Boaters are good to help each other.  There are a bunch of Looper boats in the marina and Herb Seaton held docktails aboard Phanthom. There was such a large group, I’m sure I didn’t even meet everyone.  Later a group of us went out for dinner and had a disappointing experience.  But that’s not common here and the musician did come over and sing Happy Birthday to me.

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Friday, July 20 – Sunday, July 22, 2018:

On Friday we took care of some housekeeping items and I got another lease done. We felt great that we’ve turned over two rentals without going home.  We went out for breakfast and later rode our bikes way over the hill to the theater and saw the Denzel Washington movie, Equalizer II.  It took about an hour to ride there but only about 20 minutes to ride back since it was downhill most of the way.  For the weekend rounds, I was able to receive the British Open on the TV via the digital antenna.  We stepped over to the Metro Grocery in the late morning and coming back we had to cross the parade for the Scottish Festival.  Lots of Scots around here.

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We did some shopping, ate out at Vietnamese and Mediterranean restaurants, attended a cool church, watched the Open and the rain, got take out from Pita Pit, relaxed reading and of course planned the next legs of the cruise.

Monday, July 23, 2018:

We left the dock at 0730 under cloudy skies but almost no chance of rain. There was very little wind and Lake Couchiching was calm.  We caught up to Wine Speed and Magic waiting on the RR Swing Bridge to open at 0900.  The three of us were holding position in the narrow canal.  They had been waiting longer, but we only had to wait about ten minutes for the bridge to swing.  We had thought that we might stop at Lock 43, but we traveled with them for the bulk of the day.  By 0930 we had locked down at #42 and then we pulled Sabbatical into the fuel dock at Lauderdale Point Marina to take on diesel.  I commented on how much diesel they sell as we prefer to buy from a volume dealer to make sure we’re getting fresh fuel.  The workers on the dock said that they didn’t think they would even have enough to top us off when I mentioned that we’d probably take on around 200 gallons.  That scared me off because I surely didn’t want to empty their tank and get the dregs out of the bottom.  It wasted 20 minutes, but we had fuel enough to get to a better dealer.  On we went across Sparrow Lake and rounded the turn at McLean Bay.  The channel gets narrow there, but the landscape is gorgeous.

At 1115 we were in McDonald’s Cut and at 1207 we were the only vessel in the lock as we dropped 47 feet at Swift Rapids (Lock 43).  The lock attendant was nice to take our picture and email it to us.

By 1330 we had caught up to Magic at the Big Chute Marine Railway. Wine Speed had already gone over and was waiting in the pool on the lower side.  The Big Chute is not a lock but it does serve the purpose of getting the boats either let down or lifted up depending on which direction they’re going.  We went into the Chute with Magic. They were in front and we came in after.  We drove our boats into a submerged “railroad car” and then hovered over the straps while the attendants worked the controls for the straps to lift us out of the water.  Once both boats were secure hanging in the straps, the railroad started to move up out of the water on the tracks and over the hill and highway and then down down down into the lower water below dropping us 58 feet.  It was a crazy ride and the workers on the rig are great at working it and seem to enjoy moving the boats up and down.

By 1510 we had passed through Lock 45 at Port Severn and were set on continuing on to Bay Port Marina at Midland. Lock 45 was too small for us to lock with the other boats and they went on ahead.

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The channel coming out of Port Severn was extremely narrow and crooked.  We were able to navigate it without any problem, but this is one area to keep alert.

By 1630 we arrived at the fuel dock at Bay Port Marina and got refueled and pumped out before going to our slip.  They offer a buy-two nights-get a third night free deal so we opted for that since the day had been so long, we were ready for a rest and the rain is coming.

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Mural on Archer Daniels Midland flour mill in Midland, Ontario.

Later, we got the bikes out and rode over to the Boathouse Grill for dinner and ran into Herb (Phanthom) and Keith and Gail (Southern Style).  It was a fun place with a large waterfront patio and a good band.  It was a Monday night and the place was packed!

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Boathouse Grill in Midland, ON.
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Dragon Fly love.

Ottawa to Trenton

Monday, July 2, 2018:

We had enough of the city. Ottawa is a great city, but it is a city.  So, we untied from our spot on the wall under the bridge without waking the couple sleeping on the walkway.  We waved to Alan on Sea Jamm and Peter and Sally as we started south down the Rideau Canal.  We had to wait 20 minutes at the Pretoria Lift Bridge for the 0930 opening.  We just idled about trying to stay in place and under the shade of the fixed bridge just before it.  The wind was starting to get breezy.  The bridge opened right on time and a couple of other boats followed us through.  At 0947 we entered Dow Lake and continued on with the canal arriving at the Hartwells Locks.  We locked through with three other boats at 1025.  By 1108 we had been lifted 25 feet in the Hogs Back Lock and at noon another 10 feet at the Black Rapids Lock.  There are many locks on the Rideau Canal as we keep going higher and higher.  The locks are somewhat of a source of stress, but I realize locking with these locals in smaller boats that I’ve become a fairly competent captain and don’t really need thrusters or dual engines.  It was “South Florida” hot and humid.  I notice that at each lock the wind is picking up.  In this system, boats tie up at the blue line portion of the dock outside the lock.  The lock master notices and then comes out to give locking instructions.  When we arrived at the blue line for the flight of three locks (14, 15 and 16) we had to wait.

Since another boat had joined in ahead of us, I knew it might be an hour before we could enter the lock. I went for a swim in the basin below the dam.  That felt really great.  The lockmasters and their crew are all very nice and readily admit that their primary job is to make sure we boaters have a good experience.  Most of the locks are hand operated with antique equipment.

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It was quite the engineering marvel in its time. While I was swimming an older long-haired dude came by in his small boat and introduced himself as Mark Monnet, the AGLCA local harbor host.  He was very kind to offer to run to the store and get us anything we might need.  We were out of ice, so we said that’s all we need at this point.  What a great guy to come out and find the Loopers coming by his island in the river and offer to run errands.  He came back while we were still on the blue line waiting to get into the lock.  He had been to four stores and they were all out of ice.  It is understandable since today is a holiday and it is hot as Hades.  It was fun to talk with him and he even offered to bring us some of his marijuana that he grows in his back yard!  I told him I was writing a blog and offered to leave that part out and he said I should definitely include it.

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Mark Monnet with Insel aboard New Freedom.

We got our turn in the locks this time with Sea Jamm as Alan and his daughters had caught up with us.  We were through the flight of three locks and the hand crank swing bridge by 1500 and on our way to Hurst Marina.  We are looking forward to getting there because we can refill our water tanks, get a pump out, hook to electricity, and most importantly, they have a swimming pool!  At 1530 the skies turn purple and we smell the ozone and then the storm hit.  Jane was super getting the panels put back up so we’d be enclosed on the fly bridge.  Lightning and thunder and some hard rain came down, but onward we trudged.  The storm ended before we arrived at Hurst Marina at 1600.  It’s not fancy, but the pool felt great and they even have a hot tub.  We enjoyed the pool and the hot tub. Sea Jamm pulled in too.  Later Joe and Rhonda on Band Wagon showed up and docked next to us.  Jane and I went to the restaurant next door, Swan on Rideau, and dined on their vegi burgers.  It was a comfortable spot and we stayed another day doing laundry and boat chores tending to some of the varnishing and bright work.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018:

We got the dock boys to give us a pump out of the holding tank and then eased out of the marina at 0900. By 1220 we had made it through the lock at Burritt’s Rapids and tied to the wall.  They have electric available here, but the 30 amp failed to keep even just our air conditioner running.  The lock staff had the electricians out working on the problem.  I asked the lock master if generator operation was allowed.  She said of course, no problem.  So given the heat wave and humidity, we were worn out from the heat and battling the deer flies, so we cranked the gen-set and put on the A/C for a nap.  Later we got a little grief from a lady on another boat that had been sitting in a chair nearby.  She wanted to know if we planned on running our generator all night and said it was noisy.  Uh, it’s not at all, really, but we took her feelings into consideration and turned it off and went over to Lock 17 Restaurant and set up camp in their air conditioned bar.  I brought my computer and we used their wifi to complete some work on the blog.  We stayed for a several hours and enjoyed the friendly waitress and had a pizza for dinner.  This place also has a coin operated shower that I later came back and tried out.  It was awesome.

Thursday, July 5, 2018:

By 0900 I had received a refund for the $9.80 electric charge and we left the wall headed for Smiths Falls. There was a construction project underway at the swing bridge that was supposed to be finished in April, but they’re still working on it.  We arrived at the swing bridge at 0920 and the lock master said earlier that the contractor would be ready to let us through, but that wasn’t the case.  The workers said it would be a delay of half an hour.  By 1010 we they moved the temporary pontoon walk bridge and we went through.  We continued onward locking through locks 18, 19, 20, and the triple lock of 21, 22 and 23 at Merrickville.

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Manual Swing Bridge. The guys just gave it a shove and it swung open.

By 1357 we were through lock 24 at Kilmarnock and we pressed on locking at Edmonds and finally going through the doubles of 26 and 27 at Old Sly’s Lock. We were worn out with all the locking in this extreme heat.  I thought we left this weather in Florida!  Jane’s personal journal records that we were sunburned, tired, cranky and bitchy.  I can’t disagree.  We finally docked at Victoria Park in Smiths Falls and the electric worked so we were ecstatic to have air conditioning again. We biked over to the post office to mail some things and then on to the public “beach” (it’s a wall with a ladder to get into the river) for a cool-off swim.  It was very refreshing.  I think it hit 97 degrees here today.

Friday, July 6, 2018:

It was very windy and I was very unsure about leaving. I’d be just as happy to stay here at the dock and enjoy the town for another day avoiding locking in the heat and the dangers of putting our boat into the locks in windy conditions.  It was cooler and the wind helped with that.  Finally, I decided that I could manage the breezy conditions and we backed out of the slip at 1100 and by 1130 we were done with lock 31 (upper Smiths Falls).  By noon we were through the Poonamalie Lock number 32 and into the open lake relishing in a much cooler day than the oppressive heat of the last week.  It was very windy but with waves of only about one foot.  The lake was beautiful, enhanced by the numerous rocky islands and outcroppings.  I really loved the granite boulders and cliffs and the evergreens.  There were many idyllic lake cottages, some built out over the water.  We went past a small cable ferry too.

At 1335 we were negotiating the Narrows and by 1445 we had cleared the Narrows Lock. At this point we were boating on the Upper Rideau Lake and it seemed like we were on top of the mountain.  The sky was more expansive and indeed we were at the highest point on the Rideau Canal system.  We had been raised 275 feet above the Ottawa River and were now boating in waters 408 feet above sea level.  In places it is marshy and at others it is like boating in a mountain stream.

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We would have liked to have made it to the anchorage in Morton’s Bay, but the time required for locking wouldn’t allow for that.  We locked through at Newboro beginning our descent at 1530 and by the time we got through one more lock at Chaffey’s we were spent and tied to the wall at Davis Lock at 1655 for the night.  There was electric available, but we didn’t need the air conditioner in the perfect weather.

 

Saturday, July 7, 2018:

We’ve another perfect day in store with temperature in the 70’s, partly cloudy and a good breeze. We were ready to enter the lock when the staff arrived at 0900.  They were on their game and twenty minutes later we were on our way.  By 1120 we had gotten through Locks 39, 40, 41, and 42.  The bridge tender at the Brass Point Swing Bridge was ready for us and opened without prodding so we didn’t skip a beat.  This part of the Rideau has been the most enjoyable section of the journey so far.  We realized that locking in the cooler weather is easier, less exhausting and there’s a lot less barking at each other.  It actually became enjoyable.  Meeting the staff and chatting a few minutes each time was interesting.  They are all so nice.  By 1600 we had completed Locks 46 through 49 and at 1700 we docked into slip H23 (even though it was windy and the slip was in a somewhat difficult location).  Six jovial young dockhands were there to take lines from Jane as we eased in with caution.

Joe from Band Wagon came over to invite us to docktails aboard Wine Speed with Mike and Cindy and the Captain and Dorothy from Magic.  Kingston appears to be a happening spot for the weekend with the Busker’s Rendezvous going on.  Buskers are street performers and they have some really good acts with several going on at the same time.  We all walked over to Casa Dominico for a good meal.  Jane and I made good use of the marina showers before bed and they were really great.

Sunday, July 8, 2018:

We biked up to the First Baptist Church. It was evident right off that we had ventured into another dwindling congregation occupying a beautiful historic structure.  That is so sad.  After church we kept on a few more blocks to the Metro Grocery.  It’s ok, but it ain’t no Publix.  We stocked up and made it back to the boat and then walked over to enjoy the buskers’ shows.  They were great entertainment, but always with a pitch for the passing of the hat.  Buskers have to eat too.

Docktails were in the boaters lounge at the marina office. We only got asked to keep it down once.  That’s pretty good for this group.

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Jane and I went and enjoyed the “waterfront” deck dining at the Indian Restaurant.  Good food but the waterfront was a long reach.

Monday, July 9, 2018:

We slept a little late to leave with the others at 0730, but we got off the dock at 0745 with a slight breeze but without help and trailed the other three boats out into the North Channel of Lake Ontario. Wine Speed, Band Wagon and Magic are all headed for Trenton and we are up for the 71 mile day unless we get tired and elect to anchor along the way.  There is a cloudless sky and 72 degrees as we make our way behind Amherst Island.  The wind picked up as we moved along and around midday it was about 20 mph.  We kept plugging along and docked in slip E15 at Trent Port Marina at 1640.  Trent Port Marina is by far the nicest marina we have stayed in.  The entire facility is only a few years old and it is very, very well run.  Washrooms are spotless as is the entire place.  Here, as in Kingston, each washroom is a full bath, but these are brand new top of the line.  Landscaping is beautiful and they even have a “Help Yourself” herb garden.  Our group of 8 met on the patio for docktails and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity.  We then moseyed over to Tomosso’s for dinner.  (Somewhat of a pattern going on here).

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Bows of Sabbatical, Magic, Wine Speed and Band Wagon at Trent Port Marina.

 

Montreal to Ottawa

Friday, June 22 to Monday, June 25, 2018:

We borrowed the courtesy van from the Yacht Club and drove to Pierre Trudeau Airport. Our youngest son, Scott landed just before we found a parking spot and we gathered him up and returned to MYC and introduced him to Sabbatical.  We enjoyed having him with us and we all enjoyed discovering Montreal for several days.  We did lots and lots of walking and biking.  We even biked while he ran.  We couldn’t keep up with him.  It is a very hilly city.  We ate in a bunch of vegan restaurants and there are plenty to choose from.  We visited the Notre Dame Basilica, biked and hiked up Mount Royal, went for a dinghy ride, and had docktails with the other Loopers that were also staying at MYC.  On Sunday we even went to church.  We lucked out and the church service we visited was in English.  There was a lot going on in Montreal because they were celebrating Québec Day.  They had a great many parties and street closings and concerts.  Some got rained out, but it was all good.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018:

We departed the Yacht Club of Montreal at 1000 with Scott aboard. Once we got out of the yacht club’s basin and downstream with the current of the St. Lawrence it was a wild ride of eddies and swirling rushing flows making it difficult to steer as we were whisked along.  Soon the GPS showed us at 15.2 miles per hour.  That’s almost twice our normal cruising speed!  We rounded the north end of Ile St. Helene and by 1105 we had locked through the St. Lambert Lock.  It was great having Scott with us to give an extra hand with lines in the locks.  We arrived at the St. Catherine Lock an hour later and had to wait on a ship.  It wasn’t as bad as last time and we locked through the 40 foot lift by 1325.  At some point, a transmission in French came across on the marine radio.  I picked up the mic and replied, “Oui, oui, bon jour, Monsieur.  Jaunte Plume a re’ la tet.  Croissant, alouet, merci beaucoux, soup de jour.”  Ok, I wasn’t pressing the mic button, but we all had a good laugh.  That’s the extent of my French.  Arrival at the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club was uneventful and we eased into our assigned slip without a hitch.  The Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club was formed in 1888 and has quite a storied history with famous members including two members of the Molson Beer family as former commodores.  Our slip was two down from Dutchess which was formerly owned by the Molson Family and a beauty of a boat built in 1937.  The three of us enjoyed “health drinks” while hanging out at the pool.  Later we got an Uber and dined at a nearby Italian Restaurant outside on the patio.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018:

We said farewells and put Scott in an Uber for the airport which was only about ten minutes away. It was sure good to have him for a few days.

We refilled with fresh water and moved over to the pump out dock. A club member helped us so we wouldn’t have to pay.  By 1205 we were on our way in Lak St. Louis.  By 1355 we had made it through the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.  This is our first lock of the Parks Canada system and the locking here was easy with a floating dock inside the lock with an attendant to assist.  They sell ice and we bought some.

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We exited into Deux-Montagnes Lake and headed for the next lock at Carillon Canal.  The Carillon lock has a guillotine gate assisted by a 200 ton counterweight and the water lift is 65 feet.  It was a most pleasant and interesting locking experience and we enjoyed talking with the nice college girl who has the great summer job of working the lock.

We exited the lock by 1755 and only went a few more miles.  We anchored in 11 feet near Marina Camping Chatham.  The mud bottom provided excellent holding.  We grilled veggies and enjoyed being alone on anchor again.

Thursday, June 28, 2018:

We don’t really have a set plan on where to stop next, but we’ll just see how far we get and when we feel like stopping. We cranked the engine at 0915 and by 0930 we had it up and the mud washed off and put away.  The boat is a getting a little nasty with a bunch more dead bugs and some filth coming from the lockings.  We stopped at Golden Anchor Marina and took on 205 gallons of fuel at 1.40 per liter.  That worked out to $3.95 per gallon after the charge was adjusted for the exchange rate.  We had paid a higher price in Florida back in January.  We continued on after refueling.  At 1130 we drove off the charted area detailed on our Garmin GPS chip.  We still had Navionics on the iPad and my phone.  It would be hard to get lost along here anyway.  At 1345 we docked at Chateau Montebello.  It has a lot of history and is reportedly the largest log structure in North America.  Currently run as a hotel and resort by the Fairmont group.  It would make quite the destination wedding location.  It reminded me of the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.  Jane said it reminded her of the large wooden hotel in Bellaire, Florida, near Clearwater.  We changed into appropriate dress and ventured in for a late lunch.  I thought that it is a great thing that they offer a courtesy dock for no charge for any boaters that want to stop and eat or just walk around and look at this incredible structure.

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After lunch and some walking about, we continued on upriver and anchored in between Parker and Clarence Islands.  It was very quiet and peaceful.  We knew that we should watch for the rising full moon and since the clouds had cleared, we had some discussion about where exactly it would come up.  Jane was closest to picking the right spot and as we were in debate about it, we realized, “Whoa!  There it is!”  We loved being there together, in the river basking in the moonlight.

Friday, June 29, 2018:

We were off anchor by 0800 in slightly foggy conditions, but an otherwise beautiful day. Jane drove for a time while I piddled around the boat redressing lines and such.  At 0930 we had to dodge the ferries.  The chart said that they operate on a cable system, but I doubt that’s right.  What a hazard to navigation that would be.  By 1130 we were passing Rideau Falls in Ottawa and at 1142 we arrived at the famed stair-step locks of the Rideau Canal System.  This historical flight of eight locks is one right after the other raising boats up 79 feet to the canal level to bypass the Rideau Falls.  The locks are located right between the Canadian Parliament Building and the Chateau Laurier Hotel in downtown Ottawa.  The locks are still operated manually.  Most all the lock workers are college students working for the summer.

We treaded water for a bit as there was no room on the Blue Line dock and then we rafted up to a cruiser of a nice Canadian Family.  The SS Nonnie was already on the blue line.  We met the Australian couple aboard and they are doing the Great Loop too.  Soon New Freedom arrived and we tried to have them raft to us, but it was too much weight for the smaller cruiser, so we had them move up to raft with SS Nonnie.  There was a wait for our group to get into the locks with some boats on the way up and others waiting to come down.  Finally, our turn came and we entered the first lock at 1340 and by 1530 we exited lock eight.  This was a boating ballet of four boats moving one at a time into the lock, grabbing cables, shutting down engines, lock gates closing, water rushing in floating all vessels up, engines cranking, boats moving in the same order one at a time into the next lock, grabbing cables, etc. etc. over and over through the 8 steps.  All the while hundreds of tourists are watching, many asking questions and gawking at the process.  “What?  You guys are really from Florida?  How did you get here?  Where are you going?”  It might have been more fun if the day hadn’t heated up so much and if we’d had a little less wind to deal with.  We endured no scrapes and impressed the other boaters and the lock workers when they learned that Sabbatical is a single screw boat without thrusters.  Just past the top of the locks we docked under the shade of the MacKenzie King Bridge at 1535.

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During a walk to the Farm Boy grocery store in the nearby Rideau Center Mall we stumbled on a Chipotle Grill. I pointed out that we shouldn’t grocery shop on an empty stomach, so we pigged out first.  We got the shopping done and returned with our stock refreshed.  Lots of boats were tied to the walls of the canal on both sides.  The city is full of tourists of every description in town for Canada Day on July first.  Some of the Loopers gathered on our bow since it was in the shade.  We had Kevin and Sandy from Koastal Karma, Peter and Sally from SS Nonnie and Kip and Insel from New Freedom.  It was a busy but fun day.  The hot weather has followed us here from Florida.  We saw some interesting animals in Ottawa.  We saw black squirells, chipmunks, bunnys, and even a ground hog came out to beg for handouts.

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Saturday, June 30, 2018:

About 0730 six trolls came along the walkway and sat down next to our boat. They were just young people up to not much good.  A couple on skate boards, one on a bike and the others just on foot.  They just got out their marijuana and a bong and commenced to get high.  I was sitting right in the cabin just feet from them.  I thought about shooing them along, but I want to do my part to promote better relations between Americans and Canadians, so I just let them be.  Maybe it is their bridge and they do this daily.  Shortly, one of the boys takes a big hit and vomits on the sidewalk during a coughing spasm.  When they finally moved along, I went out and picked up their litter and hosed down the puke with my wash-down hose and pressure wand.  You’re welcome, Ottawa.

It was very warm but we walked about a mile and half to the farmers market. It was pretty simple, but we got a loaf of bread and some kale.  The best part was discovering the Green Door Restaurant right on the corner.  They offer a vegan buffet so we waited for them to open and then enjoyed the incredible smorgasbord.  After we returned to the boat, we walked over to the parliament building, but were too late to visit as they had reached the maximum number for the day.  Since it was so hot, we opted to walk around in the mall and found a good sale in the Eddie Bauer store.  When we returned the boat ahead had left, so we hand-pulled our boat on up into that spot.  We’d still have no electrical connection, but it was more in the shade escaping the late afternoon sun.  We walked on down the canal to join 11 other Looper couples for docktails in the park by where some of them were tied.  Man, it was hot!  I was happy for a cold shower later.

Sunday, July 1, 2018 (Canada Day):

We had to run the generator for some air conditioning so we could sleep. The heat wave is oppressive.  Midmorning we ventured out on the bikes for the Canadian History Museum.  We were stopped at the blocked off streets along the way and got a front row view of the band and the Governor General inspecting the Guard.

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We did make it over the Alexandra Pont Bridge to the museum which was a good thing to do on such a hot day.  The museum was free for the day and there were lots and lots of other people taking advantage of the same thing since it was 95 outside.  We got to see a really cool movie about a 2017 voyage of the Northwest Passage by the ice breaker C-3.

Later, we hosted the same group for docktails again plus with Joe and Rhonda from Band Wagon.  After everyone left, we enjoyed the fireworks over the river from our fly bridge.  It was a great display lasting about 45 minutes.

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Brockville to Montreal

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Sherry took this just after we left the marina at Brockville. The mast is down for upcoming low bridges.

Monday, June 18, 2018:

We left the Brockville dock at 0755 backing into the narrow fairway until I met the intersecting fairway that served the double row of slips. Three or four turns of up and back and I had her spun around to exit the marina.  Thrusters are for sissies.  We were on our way to Crysler Park.  We had some rain earlier and expected more in the afternoon, but it was sunny for the time.   We should get up to the marina at Crysler Park by 13:40.  By 0850 we were hitting 9.5 miles per hour merrily sliding along with the abundant current of the Saint Lawrence River.  Clouds began to close in but the current still was pushing and at 0940 we were making 12 mph over ground.  We arrived at the Iroquois Lock and found out that the online payment did not get to the right place and we had to cough up another $30.  Must remember to seek a refund.  At 1210, under cloudy skies, we glided through the marina entrance docked ourselves into a slip.  It’s a remote place without the amenities of any other commercial development around.  We’re fine with just dining aboard and moving on again in the morning.  The rain continued and got a little worse.  After it let off some, we moseyed over to the bathrooms for showers after watching the cruise line come in.  It looks like the size of boat that might have about 20 couples on board.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018:

We slipped out of Crysler Park Marina at 0945 headed for Valleyfield. It is 54.6 miles down-river (Northeast) on the Saint Lawrence and we will have to negotiate two locks, the Eisenhower and the Snell.  These are United States locks.  The skies are fully of puffy clouds and there’s a snap in the air with the temp at 62 degrees.  Jane found the floating bollard in the Eisenhower Lock a breeze as we were lowered and continued on at 1145.  We had another nice locking experience at the Snell Lock with a bunch of ex-navy guys handling the operation.  At 1247 we zipped along at the break-neck speed of 13.3 mph!  Without help from marina staff, and in spite of a firm breeze, we docked like pros into slip number 1207 at Marina Valleyfield around 1630.   When we checked in, it was obvious that we are in the land of the Francophones. It’s like being in a foreign country.  Ok, well, it is a foreign country.  By the marina, Valleyfield is preparing grandstands for the hydrofoil races.  I was glad to find out they won’t be running first thing in the morning.  We got organized and then set out with the trusty grocery cart for the hike to the SAQ (must be French for adult beverage store) and the Metro Grocery.  They were together in a plaza just over a mile away and the day had heated up.  I was thankful for the air conditioning when we arrived.  We stocked up and took a different route back through a residential section of modest homes and apartments.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018:

We took our sweet time getting ready to leave. I added a quart of oil during the engine checks and I refilled our fresh water tanks.  After careful consideration of the brisk wind and the proximity of the nearby wall at the end of the fairway, we backed out sans dockhand at 1130. I had my hands full bringing her around to port quickly in a three point turn before the breeze got us against the end wall.  It was accomplished without contact, super-goosing in forward, but not without some nervousness.  Jane gave me high praise on the handling.  At 1153 we were back in the St Lawrence and arrived at the Pont de Valleyfield (lift bridge) at 1210.  The next opening would be at 1300, so we took turns “treading water” and reading.  We passed through the Pont de Valleyfield at 1313 and arrived early at 1340 for the 1400 opening of the Pont de Saint Louis.  There is not as much traffic here and the tender opened early for us at 1345.  At 1420 we were tied to the pleasure craft dock at the Beauharnois Lock (#4) waiting for a “beeg sheep” to lock through.  By 1512 it was moving out of the lock, but these guys move so slowly that we couldn’t enter the lock for another 15 minutes.  The Canadian guys assisting in the lock were very helpful and fun to talk with.  I found out the ships are paying between $30,000 and $100,000 per lock compared to our fee of $30.  And that is really only $23 when you consider the exchange rate right now.  We exited lock 4 and by 1610 had made it through Lock 3 and entered Lak de Saint Louis with a view of Montreal in the background.  We found anchorage near the Kahnewake Marina in eight feet of water and settled in for the night at 1733. The evening lasted for quite a while as the sun seemed like it wasn’t ready to set. We enjoyed our spot from the fly bridge until after dark.

Thursday, June 21, 2018:

The good news – bad news of the anchorage was that it was good holding in mud but that mud came up with the chain and anchor and I had to get out the wash-down hose to keep the gooey stuff off the deck. We were underway at 1045 bound for the Yacht Club of Montreal under sunny skies in 60 degrees.  It is only 21 miles so we expected to arrive mid-day.  Alas, it was not to be.  The commercial traffic having priority over pleasure craft contributed to a long and slow day.  We arrived at Saint Catherine Lock at 1142 and bought tickets for the passage for both it and St. Lambert Lock.  These are both run by the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation which is contracted to the Canadian government.  They do an excellent job, but the lock masters do not reply to marine radio when hailed.  We had to tie up at the floating dock provided for pleasure craft and then go up to the phone booth to buy tickets from the vending machine (it does take credit cards) and then pick up the receiver from the phone in the yellow box to ask for lockage down.  I was informed that there would be a delay before we could enter the lock due to commercial vessel already in the lock.  We sat at the dock reading.  At 1215 we heard over the loudspeaker system to get ready to proceed for lockage.  That was a false alarm and meant for four recreational boats that were up-bound.  At 1245 we were back at the dock after being waved off and hollered at by the workers.  I returned to the yellow box phone for further information.  The lockmaster was very friendly and understood our confusion.  He said that after they recreational boats come out, there would be one container ship locking down and then it would be our turn.  The small boats came out and there was no ship in view.  At this point, I’m getting antsy, but know there is nothing I can do.  Finally at 1320 the ship comes into view.  It is very slow.  At 1440 I called again for an update only to learn that there is another ship coming.  These guys move in and out of the locks with all the rapidity of snails.  It’s amazing anything ever gets anywhere.  Finally, at 1634 we were let down (literally) 40 feet and coming out of the St. Catherine Lock.  Five hours for one lock and another to go and I began to wonder if we would arrive at the YCM before they closed.  Jane put in a call and learned that they would be there with staff until 9:00 PM.  At 1745 we were waiting at the St. Lambert Lock with two ships ahead of us and a private vessel coming up.  The drop down was 18 feet and we were out by 1925 and headed for the short run north before turning back sharp around the north point of Ile St. Helene.  This put us going against the full force of the St. Lawrence.  It was running at four and a half knots so that cut our speed to less than half.  The locals that rafted with us on as we were locked down had advised that we keep as close to the island as depth would allow avoiding the swiftest current.  It got shallow nearer the bridge and from that point I made a beeline for the entrance to the Yacht Club.  When we got there, I looked back at the cookie crumb trail on my GPS and realized that it was no beeline.  The track would best be described as serpentine.  A 4 ½ knot current is pretty much raging.  The young and capable dockhand, Lambert, was there to help with our lines when we finally secured at 2015.   YCM is an excellent facility and we did laundry and showered (they even provide towels here!) before turning in.

Brielle to Brockville

 

I never imagined that I’d get so busy on this trip that I wouldn’t have time to write about our adventures on a daily basis.  I guess my expectations were that I’d be lazing around and trying to find stuff to do.  Alas, nay; it’s not that way.  How can I be so busy?  I just don’t know, but I’ve tried to recap some of the essence of the last several weeks here.

Friday, June 1, 2018:

We left Hoffman’s Marina with the slack tide at 0620 and followed Kostal Karma out through the RR Bridge and the inlet into the Atlantic Ocean.  Magic and Wine Speed were ahead.  There’s a dense fog advisory until 0800 and the forecast seems accurate.  I’m glad that we can stay within the wake of a boat with radar.  The seas are running at two to three feet with the winds around 6 kts out of the SSE.  It was tolerable.  We were running a mile off shore to avoid the fish traps and fishing vessels.  At one point, I saw something that looked like it might be a crab trap buoy, but when I got up by it and looked down, I saw a semi-inflated yellow smiley face balloon grinning up at me.  It was a little spooky.  We only have 36 1/2 miles to go to get to Gateway Marina east of Coney Island.  By 0800 the visibility is much better; maybe a mile.  It rained from 0805 to 0825 and then the blue skies began to come out.  At 1005 we were crossing the main shipping channel timing our crossing by keeping pointed at the stern of the crossing ship.  They go faster than you’d think.  We docked at Gateway Marina at 1117 without a dock hand and way out on the crappy docks distant from the marina.  These docks are in bad shape and covered with goose poop.  After check-in we moved in to a better spot closer in and not far from the barge-mounted Polish Sailing Club.  We were here to see our son, Travis, his wife Rachel and their twins Hazel and Bea.  I don’t care how basic the marina is, I want to see my family and we were delighted by the visit.  They stayed on the boat for two nights and we went on a boat ride Saturday after swim lessons at the YMCA and lunch.  Their friends, Kristen and Jess came with us.  After the ride we went to Nick’s Lobster House for dinner.  I couldn’t get enough of this love, but we were moving on.

 

Jane wanted to go on to anchor by the Statue of Liberty Sunday, but the winds were too high for me to get comfortable with it.

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So, on Sunday morning this sailboat ran into us as they lost power in the marina. I had to jump onto the dock and physically pull them off. I thought they would pop my dinghy, but the inflatable held and broke his rail hardware.  They were obviously members of the local club without much experience.  We got them tied securely in the next slip.

We left Monday, June 4th.  There was a lot of traffic in NY Harbor.  The ferries zip by without warning and we were on alert for traffic from all sides.  We moved on up the Hudson after some picture taking and were glad to get out of the mayhem.

 

 

 

After passing Manhattan and the Palisades (cliffs in picture below) we reached Half Moon Bay Marina and enjoyed docktails with many other Loopers.

On Tuesday, we rented a van with Kevin and Sandy from Koastal Karma and our new Looper friends Gavin and Lica (pronounced Lisa) from New Zealand.  We visited the Croton Gorge Dam, lunched at the Culinary Intitute and toured West Point. Gavin and Lica sailed their catamaran all the way from NZ.  Lots of folks have told me that we’re brave.  I don’t think we are doing anything like what this couple is doing.  We loved getting to know them.

I loved hearing about and seeing the display of 13 links of the chain that George Washington had stretched across the narrows (1700 feet width) of the Hudson to prevent the British ships from using this critical waterway.  The thirteen links displayed represent the original 13 states.

West Point and the narrows.

Lots of things to see upriver.

We anchored in near Roundabout Creek and the sailors put on a relaxing show in the evening.

Thursday, June 7th:

We ran on up to Donovan’s Shady Harbor Marina on a sunny and warm day.  When we arrived, Brian Donovan himself was there to take our lines.  When we met him in St. Augustine, he was the consumate host on his 75 foot Hatteras and here, he was no less.  A real down to earth, engaging and delightful guy.  He lined up a lot of activities for our extended stay here.  The food at the Boathouse Grille was super and there was a pig roast and the Blessing of the Fleet.  Sabbatical was appropriately blessed.

 

Lovely sunset at Shady Harbor.

Monday, June 11th:

We moved on up to the Erie Canal.  There was some commercial traffic in the river (especially at the Port of Albany) to contend with, but once we got in the canal, not so much.  It was a perfect crystal blue day.

By 1545 we were in the Mohawk River.  In the locks, Jane is an expert at wrangling a line, cable or bollard.  She’s a super-duper line handler.

When we arrived at Mohawk Harbor Marina, Brian (yes, the same Brian) and his lovely daughter, Laura, were there to meet us and take our lines.  Very few boats in this new marina that Brian manages.  It is part of a 60 acre redevelopment project and about to take off.  There is even a casino here, but we stayed away from that.

June 12th:  As we continued on the Erie, we had glassy water on the Mohawk River and enjoyed meeting up with old and new Looper friends in Canajoharie.  How and why the Volkswagon Bug is on top of this stack, I have no idea.

June 13th:  More locks, guard gates that appear like water Guillotines, some canal wall construction and parallelogram bridges.

Thursday, June 14th:

Once we got around the dredge and on to Sylvan Beach on the west end of Lake Oneida, I could see the action on the jetty and knew that the lake was in no mood to let us cross, so we took a spot on the free city wall.  Jerry from Babe came to help us with the lines.  The wind was blowing pretty good.  After my trick on them in Minim Creek back in South Carolina I was surprised he didn’t have something up his sleeve for me.  We enjoyed happy hour on their boat and went to dinner at Harpoon Eddies with them.  We were treated to a nice sunset as the weather started to break.

Friday, June 15th:

We slipped off the dock unassisted at 0530 and entered Lake Oneida with a slight breeze out of the east on our stern.  By 0855 we were across the lake and through lock 23.  It turned out to be a beautifu morning and at 1023 we recorded not a cloud in the sky.  By 1150 we had made the turn up the Oswego Canal and were gettin let down and through locks 2 and 3.  At lock 8 we could see Lake Ontario and docked at Wright’s Landing at 1420.  We cleaned up the boat, pumped out and Jane did laundry.  Around 1800 our friends Harry and Sandy Seichepin arrived.  I was so happy to spend time with Harry, that I totally forgot to take pictures.  We had a great time and went out to a cool restaurant with them and their daughter, Annie, who is a student at SUNY Oswego, and then they took us shopping.  Love these folks.

Saturday, June 16th:

Off again at the crack of dawn and dawn gets up early here. 0538 and we are off the dock and heading out into Lake Ontario.  Winds are out of the SW at 7 kts and so it couldn’t be any better for the crossing of the east end of this Great Lake.  We got passed by Robert and Cheryl (Michigan Girl) as they were headed to Kingston.  We chatted awhile on the radio.  The passage was otherwise uneventful and we docked at the Clayton Harbor Municipal Marina.  There were a number of Loopers there and we got together for docktails aboard Phantom and then dinner at Bella.  This is our jumping off place before entering Canada.

Many interesting islands and houses in the 1000 Islands of the St. Lawrence River.

Boldt Castle and boathouse:

Singer Castle:

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We got checked in with Canadian Customs via the phone at Brockville and later went through the historic B&O RR tunnel before settling into a neighborhood tavern to watch some of the US Open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington, DC to Brielle, NJ

Wednesday, May 16, 2018:

We never got dinner last night due to the storm. We just stayed on the boat.  In the morning, Jane did a bunch of laundry while I finished with the last blog post.  It was drizzly, but we decided to go to the zoo anyway.  We hopped the free Southwest Shuttle and got off at the Metro stop.  Two short train trips and we were close enough to walk on to the zoo.  It was free.  We got to see most of it, but did not get to see the new baby gorilla.

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It is a great zoo, but in the midafternoon the hunger pangs were setting in.  We walked back to the Metro station and found a nearby Chipotle.  That fit the bill.  The Metro ride back was crowded and we lost our way coming out of the subway.  We had to walk around the block to find the stop for the shuttle bus.  We got back around 4:30 to the boat and did some planning since we are going to leave tomorrow even though the weather looks crappy.  It is set in for a number of days and we don’t know when we’re going to get any good cruising weather.  I laid out some stops for the next 8 or 9 days with marinas and anchorages and including a stop in Annapolis for the Blue Angels show.  We know we will have to be flexible with the schedule since travel totally depends on the weather.  Karen from Free Spirit, who we met in the club, came by with hand written list of her favorite Chesapeake Bay stops moving north from the Potomac.  It was a sweet thing to do and we appreciated having some experienced input.  Since we didn’t get to go out Tuesday night, we set out for a late dinner at Masala Art.  It is an Indian restaurant, tonight with an excellent musical duo that we did not expect.  Everything was totally superb!  I never knew you could fix okra like that!

Thursday, May 17, 2018:

We got word that our daughter, Meredith, who is on a trip to London arrived safely and I asked her to give my best to the Queen. She will get to see the royal wedding processional/motorcade from a sidewalk pub.

While Jane went up to the CVS to see if they carried Almond Milk, I checked out the engine and filled the water tanks.   Jane also had to stop in the office and turn in my key card and confess about hers falling out of her pocket on our bike ride to Georgetown.  The marina agreement calls for a $100 charge for lost key cards, but after she got the final bill, it was only $25.

Unassisted, we slipped off the dock at 1105 in a slight drizzle and I eased out of the Washington Channel no wake zone very slowly because 1) It is a no wake zone, 2) The police boat was lurking in the next marina, and 3) the high tide was over the sea wall on the west side of the channel and any wake would have been destructive to the golf course. By 1230 we were by Mount Vernon, but making good time and decided that we’d come back another time on a day that is not so slimy.   At 1345 we passed the inbound Looper boat Serenade heading upriver.  He called us on the VHF and we warned each other about the abundant floating debris in the water.  I had been dodging logs and trash the whole way.  I don’t know why there is so much trash in this river.  At 1545 we anchored in Aquia Creek in five feet of water on 70 feet of rode.  It is rainy, but the winds are light and the water glassy.  Later, Jane whipped up the most incredible dinner.  She made Veggie Fritters with garbanzo bean flour.  Topping the fritters was a yummy vegan ranch chipotle dressing.  I made sure she could duplicate this by writing it down.  It was totally awesome!  After dinner, I cleaned up and she read.  I got in some practice on my old guitar and she says I’m getting better.  Not good, just better.

Friday, May 18, 2018:

We awoke with the boat covered in midges. Like large mosquitos that don’t bite or sting, but when they hatch, they are everywhere.  They were all over the outside of the boat and they leave green poop stains.

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When I say they were all over the outside of the boat, I mean really all over.  I think from a distance our boat would have looked gray.  When I went up top to get ready, the back of the fly bridge enclosure was black with what must have been a million bugs.  They swarmed all over and around me as I got close to go through.  I went back down and told Jane to just stay inside.  I knew she wouldn’t do well with this. Now I know why some folks call these bugs Sons o’ Midges.  What a huge mess.  At 0845 it was raining and foggy, but my phone based radar showed that it would be breaking soon.  Our forecast was for ENE wind of 7 to 11 mph with showers and a chance of thunderstorms after 1400 and seas around one foot.  That doesn’t seem too bad and I thought that if we stayed here would we have twice as many midges tomorrow.  Maybe if we get moving the breeze will blow them away.  At 0945 the rain stopped so I cranked up the motor.  We got the anchor up at 1000.  At 1005 it started raining again, but I figured it will be over soon.  Jane stayed in the saloon while I drove from the bridge.  We communicated by cell phone (once I had my ringer turned on).  That would help.  I was alone on the fly bridge with about 5000 midges inside the enclosure. One got in my eye, another in my mouth and yet another up my nose.  I opened up the front windows and the back flap and tried blowing them out with the leaf blower. (OK. Now I see why Jane wanted to buy that thing.)  That helped some especially with the brisk wind coming from the east.  The ride became somewhat uncomfortable between Maryland Point and Mathias Point, but not unbearable and the rain should be letting up soon.  It finally did stop and I got us close to the left descending bank where the river turns south after Mathias Point so we’d be out of the wind.  Jane came up and tried her best to get rid of the bugs.  She brought the dust buster and also used the blower.  She did not like it.  After we went under the Harry Nice Memorial Bridge, I tried a couple of times to raise the Dahlgren Range Patrol on the radio.  They never answered so I had to assume that the range is not “hot” today.  I decided to take the detour they had me traverse on the way upriver so we could stay more in the lee of the shore.  It is a short cut anyway compared to the main channel.  The winds started to increase and shifted from ENE to SE and after Swan Point we were taking it on the nose.  The fetch extended all the down to the mouth of the Potomac and across the Chesapeake.  It resulted in some choppy seas with a short duration between waves.  The ride was too rough to continue and Jane let me know it with that look of fear or was it misery mixed with hate in her eyes.  I handed her my phone to look up the nearest point of relief using the electronic chart app.  We needed a protected anchorage and we needed it quickly.  She couldn’t do it so we switched places and I found one just up the Wicomico River at Bushwood Wharf Cove.  We switched places again and I stepped on her foot.  It was not a good time for that.  I heard a loud scream and then another. This, I am beginning to recognize as pain and expression of terror.  There were tears and white knuckles and then silence and white knuckles.  The forecast one foot seas were now four or more and I’m getting it from both weather and wife.  Thank goodness it was only five miles to the anchorage at Bushwood and once we rounded the point at Cobb Island the motoring was tolerable.  We anchored at 1437 in 13 feet with ample rode out given the conditions.

We worked together trying to clean up the damn bugs, but knew we’d only be able to do so much.  I got out the high pressure water gun and hooked it up to the stern hose.  That did some good, but when we get to a marina, we will need to do a major clean-up.  Later, inside, Jane’s foot seems to be ok and she is cooking vegetable curry and is talking to me.  Barely. The wind is hooting and vibrating the window screens to the point of a humming sound.  It’s a real wind instrument.

Saturday, May 19, 2018:

We got an early text from Meredith in England that she’s got a primo spot to watch the Royal Wedding on a big screen in a pub and the processional will pass right by. It is still raining on our anchorage spot in the Wicomoco River.  I reviewed the weather.  It was raining and there was a small craft advisory, so we just stayed put even though we’re getting rocked a bit.  After breakfast we tried to do some more cleaning up of the Midges outside.  We took off the screens and cleaned them and the windows.  It was pretty nasty and my sweetie was grossed out.  We took advantage of the idle time to finish up the work on our taxes and got it all ready to send to our CPA.  In the late afternoon it was just rainy and stormy.  We just have to wait out Mother Nature.  We played a spirited game of gin rummy after dinner and Jane won the prize of 20 minutes of back massage.  Yeah, right. Back massage.  So we both won.

Sunday, May 20, 2018:

It was an awful night on the hook. The boat would bob several times bow into the wind and then swing one way and get rocked side to side.  Then it would swing back, bob a few more times when the bow was into the wind and then swing to the other side and get rocked from that direction.  Neither one of us slept worth a darn, but the anchor did not slip one iota.  We got up at 0715 and it was still overcast but not so dark.  The rain had stopped.  After swearing night before last that we will never venture out in small craft warnings again, we decide to pull anchor and move on (in small craft warnings).  The winds are out of the WSW at 11 to 13 with gusts to 16.  Waves are forecast for 1 to 2 feet, we think we can get to St. Mary’s.  We changed plans a couple of times and elected on taking a slip at Dennis Point Marina on Carthagena Creek.  The anchor was up at 0840 and I got the mud washed off.  At 0928 we find waves in the Potomac of less than one foot and at 1000 the sun broke through and by 1030 we had rounded Rugged Point.  At 1210 we docked at the Dennis Point Marina and Campground.  It is a pretty nice place in a remote location and the channel coming is pretty crooked and tight.  I remarked that a tight channel leads to a snug harbor.  It was very snug.

They have a pool, and are trying to get it opened for the season by the coming weekend (Memorial Day).  But they do have a little restaurant and it looks like it will suffice.  Jane did laundry and showered while I detailed the boat removing all evidence of the Sons ‘o Midges.  I spent two hours on the fly bridge alone and Jane advised me to quit at 1600 and go get a shower.  The offerings in the restaurant were typical bar type foods, and I splurged on a crab cake sandwich and onion rings.  We were glad to have our feet on terra firma and enjoyed the evening.

Monday, May 21, 2018:

We dropped lines at 1000 for the approximate 40 mile trip to Solomons Island. A favorable forecast was showing winds from the east at 5 to 10 and waves to one foot.  Jane found us a marina there that boasts all the amenities for only a dollar per foot.  By 1100 we were back in a smooth Potomac under sunny skies.  At 1120 we passed Lookout Point and though the waves were rougher it wasn’t too bad.  At 1220 we were coming by the Point No Point Light in excellent conditions – no waves and glassy waters.  We were nearing another Navy firing range and I kept well away from it.  Regardless, soon their patrol boat hailed us to move in closer to the shoreline.  I willingly obliged.  We docked at the Calvert Marina with the help of Sammy the dockhand.  We immediately ran into Lorrie and Roger from Reality and met their friends Steve and Anna who have a 49’ DeFever, Journey.  We borrowed the marina’s loaner car, an old vintage Mercedes.   The girl in the office said it is old so don’t take it over the bridge.  Dang, we couldn’t get to Walmart, but got to the Wie Market that was adequate (but no Publix) and the wine store.  When we got back, another boat had arrived to the dock.  It was in the style of lobster boat.  They were flying the gold AGLCA burgee so we knew they had already gone around at least once.  We introduced ourselves to George and Caroline of the Lydia E  whose home port is Venice, Fla.  When we heard him talk we knew he wasn’t from Florida and we learned that George was a retired lobsterman from Maine.  So the bunch of us, George and Caroline, Jane and I and Steve and Anna all assembled at 1730 for docktails aboard Reality before traipsing over to the Hidden Harbor Restaurant.  Later we watched the space station flyover from the fantail of Journey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018:

The weather wasn’t begging us to move on so we stayed another day at Calvert. Jane did some laundry and cleaning.  I changed the water filter and finally finished painting the generator pan and few spots that needed touching up in the engine room.  It was cloudy most of the day and may have been ok for travel, but I was fine staying put.  We lowered the dink into the water and took a ride around the several creeks and the harbor.  There are a number of marinas here and we saw several Loopers.  We went by some very pretty waterfront houses.  Steve and Anna had left as did George and Caroline.  We met Robert and Cheryl when they docked across from us in their boat Michigan Girl.  He’s a retired fire chief from San Bernandino, but she’s originally from Michigan, hence the name.  So we had Robert and Cheryl and Roger and Lorrie for happy hour in our boat.  We all stayed in the saloon to enjoy the air conditioning.  Everyone retired to their respective vessels for dinner and the storm rolled in.

Wednesday, May 23. 2018:

We refilled the water tanks and cranked up at 0805 and moved out to the fuel dock. We took on 200 gallons of diesel at 2.95 per gallon.  At 0841 we were on our way to Annapolis.  The weatherman promised us northwest winds of 5 to 10 miles per hour and seas of one foot.  Isolated showers in the afternoon were also in the forecast.  At 0945 we passed the liquid petroleum structure.

It is joined to the shore by a tunnel.  At noon, in the middle of the Chesapeake, we experienced glassy flat water, but as we approached Annapolis, the chop got very rough.  There must have been at least 2500 boats in the harbor for the Blue Angels show.

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They put on quite a show and as the boats cleared out many demonstrated that they have a lack of respect for their fellow boaters.  It was a mass exodus but we were able to pick our way through and find a mooring ball in the main field.  Jane had trouble getting the mooring ball tied.  Probably because I had not prepped the line for her.  I was surprised that we found one on such a busy week.  It is graduation week for the Naval Academy.  I came down from the helm and we got it fastened.

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When we looked up, there were Steve and Anna on Journey tied to the mooring ball right next to us.

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We spoke for a bit and then launched the dinghy to go walk about the town.  Annapolis is a very cute town with loads and loads of history.  The dinghy dock is at the dead-end of what they call Ego Alley.

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Ego Alley is the canal of water that Pusser’s Landing overlooks.  Pusser’s has a very long dock-front and it was packed.  It seems like all the boaters here must bring their boat into Ego Alley take it all the way to the end, make a pivot turn in the tiny basin and boat back out.  Large boats, small boats and even sail boats under sail power do this seemingly without ceasing.  We also took the dinghy around the harbor and up Spa Creek a little ways and then returned to Sabbatical to get cleaned up for dinner.  When we were ready, Steve and Anna had us over to Journey for a drink and they versed us up on the best places to eat here.  Sailboat racing is very big in Annapolis and on Wednesday afternoons they race out in the bay.  As they come back into dock they make great sport of sailing right through the mooring ball field barely missing the boats there and entertaining those of us watching.  It is a great show.  We dined at Taco Vida on Anna’s suggestion and it was wonderful.  We got word from Meredith that she had arrived safely back into the USA and it was a Happy Birthday for her.

Thursday, May 24, 2018:

Jane had found a guy that does free walking tours of the town and so off we went to meet at the appropriate spot. We found out later, that he only does it a few days a week, but when she called, he was very helpful and emailed us a list of places to see.  We got on campus at the Naval Academy and walked over to watch their parade.

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It is the end of the semester and they have a lot of tradition and ceremony.  After the 4000 midshipmen were assembled on the parade grounds, I was glad we were standing in the back under the shade trees because we saw at least 20 midshipmen faint and had to be helped off.  It appeared that this is not uncommon as they seemed to have Navy hospital corpsmen positioned behind each company to assist.  After the parade, we visited the chapel which is beautiful and went down to John Paul Jones’s crypt.

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If you’re ever in Annapolis, this is a “must see”.  Then we walked all around the historical section, visited St. John’s College campus and went into the State House.  It is the oldest continuously used State House in the nation.  It has been lovingly preserved and it is very cool that they still use it for the Maryland state government.  It was at one time the seat of government for the United States and I relished in wandering through the building and standing in the very room where George Washington resigned his commission and turned the army over to the representative government.

We stopped at Pusser’s for a “Painkiller” before heading back out to the boat.

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Lorrie and Roger had received the part and repaired their engine, made the trip up from Solomons and were aboard Journey.  We were invited aboard and pretty soon so were two other couples and it was ad hoc docktails on the fly.  We retreated to our own boat and rested in the air conditioning and napped for a while.  Later, we dinghy’d back into town and walked about 15 minutes to Metropolitan Kitchen for one of the best and most economical dinners we’ve had so far.  We had three delicious appetizers all at half price.  That filled us up and we hiked back to the dink.

Friday, May 25, 2018:

The forecast showed a south wind of 7 to 10 kts in morning changing to 10 to 13 in the afternoon with seas of one to two feet so at 0842 Jane released us from the mooring ball and I eased us twixt the resting vessels in the glassy calm of the crowded field. The river out of the basin was much different from when we came in.  Where there were several thousand before, now, there were only a few boats.  It was a little rolly in the bay, but we had a crystal blue sky with not a cloud in sight.

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At 0930 we were under the Bay Bridge, but only making only six miles per hour against the tide.  We had been making for Havre De Grace, but Jane found us a spot just off the channel in the Bohemia River.  She found Brewer Bohemia Vista Marina for only a dollar fifty a foot and they have a pool.  The day was warming up and cool pool would feel pretty good.

By 1355 we were passing the Sassafras River and entered the Bohemia River at 1515. The wind had picked up but by 1530 we were docked in a slip and I got kudos on the boat handling from Christie, the marina owner and her dockhand.  I helped Jane get a load of laundry started and we hung out in the pool with the locals that keep their boats there on a seasonal basis.  Later, for dinner, we had a pizza delivered right to the boat.

Saturday, May 26, 2018:

I had studied the flows in the C & D (Chesapeake and Delaware) Canal and figured if we left around 0900 we’d have a helping current all the way through. We shoved off at 0905 with Jane not feeling well.  At 0940, even though I had been paying attention, we hit a submerged log.  I backed off immediately as soon as I felt the contact and put it in neutral.  The log popped up behind the boat and a little to starboard.  It was about the size of a fence corner post.  It was a glancing blow and Jane’s quick check below revealed no damage.  At 0956 we entered the C & D Canal.  We didn’t have any reservations, but before we passed Chesapeake City, I had contacted the Delaware City Marina and made arrangement for a couple of nights on their along-side dock.  The Delaware City Marina is located on a canal that runs from the Delaware River back to the C & D, but due to depth and a low bridge we had to go out into the Delaware and come back in from that end.  By 1055 we passed the Conrail Lift Bridge and by 1147 were passing under the Reedy Point Fixed Bridge.  We got out of the canal and entered the Delaware River turning upstream for about a mile to enter the Delaware City Canal.  As arranged, we called on the radio to confirm docking instructions and were warned about some shoaling and the swift current flow, and told to prepare for a starboard side tie.  At 1223 we pulled into the assigned spot with a starboard tie with the help of two young, but capable dock hands.  We had no more than got the lines fastened when they announced that they would now spin us about by hand and we needed to prep for a port-side tie.  I was somewhat miffed that they couldn’t let us know about that from the start so we could have all the lines and fenders ready, but we got it done and the result was that it would make leaving a lot easier.

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One thing they do at DCM is give a weather briefing every day at 1700 in the marina store. We met other Loopers there and Tim, the marina owner briefed us on using the Delaware Bay Operational Forecast System website to get currents and wind forecasts.  It is the best forecast system I have encountered and his demonstration was very well done.  It gave me confidence that we could make a very good decision on when to leave to traverse the river and bay.  At the lower end of the bay we would be entering the Cape May Canal and staying at Cape May.  It would be a full day’s run from Delaware City to Cape May.

We met Tim and Tricia King on the dock before the briefing and afterwards the four of us walked down to Crabby Dick’s for dinner. Crabby Dick is famous for his balls.  Crab balls that is, but they are served with a side of seaman sauce.  That should give you an idea of the entire motif of this place.  Tim and Tricia spoke of needing to buy a pair of headset walkie-talkies and we had purchased a pair, but never used them.  After dinner we headed back to our boat and got them out for Tim and Tricia try.  It was just what they needed since their boat does not have a fly bridge and they can’t hear each other when docking.

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Then we joined them aboard their boat, Patricia Anne, and we celebrated the sale with a glass of wine.  It had been a bad weather day with rain on and off and thunderstorms on the way.  Back aboard Sabbatical, we checked the DBOFS site and confirmed that Sunday would not be a day to make it to Cape May so we made a plan to walk to a local church.

Sunday, May 27, 2018:

We walked over to the Ebenezer United Methodist Church. There were only 16 total people there and that included us, the worship leader, the organist, and the lady who stood in for the preacher and delivered the sermon.  We met everyone there and they asked us to talk about our trip.  This church is over 100 years old and I hope they can find a way to get some young families in there.  It was raining when we came out and a couple gave us a ride back to the marina.  It was rainy and drizzly all day.  Jane did some laundry and the two of us returned to Crabby Dick’s to redeem our coupon for the free crab balls, then we strolled on down Clinton Avenue to their sister restaurant, Lewinsky’s on Clinton.  This guy has a real funky sense of humor.  Lewinsky’s is a little more upscale, but not much.  The food was incredible though and we enjoyed fried cauliflower and avocado hummus.

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Monday, May 28, 2018:

Having checked the latest update at 0500 and deemed the currents and winds to be favorable, I released us from the dock unassisted and eased us out the narrow canal at 0610. Bear and Patricia Anne had left just before six.  The forecast showed winds from the northeast at five to ten miles per hour with waves of two feet or less.  That should make for good conditions. However, in the afternoon the winds were to turn from the southeast and there was a slight chance of showers. By 0700 we were past Reedy Island and at 0925 we passed the Ship John Shoal light.

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We kept well to the side of the channel to avoid the container ship, Gluecksburg inbound at 0956.  We also passed a tanker and a dredge and the inbound Dole Columbia.

By 1130 we made the Miah Maul Shoal light and at noon we were running at 9 to 10 mph, well above our still-water standard.   Fears of the dreaded Delaware Bay had been replaced with a memory of a fine day cruising and we entered the Cape May Canal at 1320.  At 1345 we docked on a T-head at the South Jersey Marina and immediately saw Captain Terry of Magic.  There were a number of Looper boats there in the marina and other nearby marinas.  Docktails was being organized for later, but we needed to get to the store, so we took our folding grocery cart and humped it about a mile to the Acme Grocery Store.  I’m sure this must be where Wiley Coyote shops.  We loaded up our cart and dragged it back to the boat.  Cape May is a very cute little beach and boating town with lots and lots of old Victorian homes and many vacation rentals.  By the time we got back and showered, Docktails was in full swing on the patio with eight other couples.

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There was lively discussion about which way to go leaving Cape May.  Most were favoring to go out the inlet and run up the beach to Atlantic City.  I knew it was going to be foggy, so we were choosing to stay on the back side of the barrier island and go up the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway.  After Docktails broke up, we went with three other couples over to the Lobster House for dinner.  The Lobster House in Cape May is huge and a very well run operation.

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It was packed being Memorial Day, but the service and food were both top notch.  We would like to stay longer in Cape May, but want to take advantage of the weather in the morning and get closer to NYC.  South Jersey is a very nice marina with the best restrooms and showers we have found thus far.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018:

We left the dock at 0615. It was foggy, but we could see across the marina, so I was ok with that much visibility knowing that it should lift once the sun got up some.  It was still low light and as I eased out of the marina by the Lobster House, the fog was thick.  I mean pea soup thick.  I wasn’t sure I could see 50 feet.  I started blowing the horn and kept the throttle at low idle.  If we didn’t have GPS, we would have been stuck right there.  But we could see on the screen where to go, we just couldn’t see where we were going.  A shrimp boat emerged out of the mist in front of us like a ghost ship creeping along from our right to left.  He had not been blowing his horn and he could probable see us on his radar.  It was spooky and I was nervous.  We got around him without incident.  The crew on deck was as silent as the fog.  They disappeared as I eased by their stern.  Maybe it wasn’t even real.  We kept on at idle speed with a keen watch.  I had Jane fetch the fog bell and had her ring it every two minutes.  As we made our way up the NJICW and past where the other boats were heading out the inlet, I had some measure of relief knowing that other marine traffic would be minimal.  I was on edge and Jane was stressed by the fog, but by 0700 we were in Jarvis Bay and the fog was starting to lift.

 

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Not so for the boats that took the outside route.  I could hear them talking on the radio about other boats that they were spotting, especially one sailboat that seemed to pass very close and did not respond to their radio calls.  We followed the reds and greens very closely so as not to get out of the channel as it winds through the shallow bays and creeks.  We were feeling pretty good about our decision to take the inside route.  Besides the winding of the waterway, we had to contend with New Jersey fishermen.  Apparently, they only fish in the middle of narrow waterways and only a few will move to let another vessel get by.  I began to be unconcerned about putting out a wake where normally, I slow way down for fishermen in small boats.  By 0730 the fog was gone for us, but the boats in the ocean were still having to deal with it.  It was slow going for us with lots of “No Wake” zones,

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but we got through Peck Bay, Great Egg Harbor Bay and reached the Dorset Avenue Bridge in Atlantic City at 1235.

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We requested an opening, and the bridge tender obliged and began to sound the alarm and put down the barricades.  Directly, the barricades went back up.  What was going on?  After a few minutes, I radioed him again to ask and he said he had to abort the opening because a fire truck would be coming through.  After 20 minutes, he got clearance to open and we never saw any fire engine, but got past his bridge and continued to wind around through the maze of canals.  We spotted a family of geese crossing the waterway and Jane stood up to take a picture.

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That was all it took for me to lose concentration on the navigational beacons.  Damn squirrels. When I realized I was about to go on the wrong side of a green marker and was correcting, I spotted a red buoy and another green buoy beyond the green marker.  Those must be new channel markers, I thought.  So once I got correctly around the green marker, I headed for the green buoy.  I split the two buoys and made for the red marker number 206 in the waterway.  I was almost to it when we found the bottom with the keel. I thought I could perhaps just power on through it as I realized that the channel was just ahead.  No going that way and there was no going in reverse at that point either.  The low tide for Atlantic City was 1438 and it was 1320 when we ran aground.  We have Boat US (think AAA for the water) so we put in a call.  At 1340 we heard from Gary the Tow Boat operator and he said it would take him 45 minutes to get on scene due to all the no wake zones.  I knew by that time we wouldn’t have enough water under the boat for him to pull it off.  There was nothing we could do but sit and wait so we pulled out our novels and read.  When Gary showed up, he confirmed that there was nothing he could do for us until the tide changed because we were too hard aground at that point.  He went to get something to eat and we returned to reading while Sabbatical continued to lean further and further to port as the tide continued to drop.  Jane was concerned that we might fall over so I told her we’d be ok as long as we stayed on the starboard side of the boat.

Gary returned at 1545 as promised and we made fast his heavy bridle to our stern cleats. He was pulling hard and trying to blow the mud out from under our boat with his powerful outboards.

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We didn’t seem to be moving, so after a bit, I slipped Sabbatical into reverse to give some assistance and we could feel the movement begin.  By 1627 we were underway again with no damage to the boat, but a bruised ego for me.  The nearby railroad bridge was down and when we called the tender advised that we’d have to wait for two trains to pass first.  I’m sure that he had been watching us through the entire fiasco, so I told him I’d try to wait in the deep water.  Politely, he did not transmit his laughter over the radio.  We made it through the Atlantic City maze without further incident and at 1750 we anchored in front of the Coast Guard station in nine feet of water on 120’ rode and decided that we’d just stay right there for another day.

We spent Wednesday reorganizing and relocating food and stuff to get ready for Travis, Rachel and the twins that will be on board once we get to NYC.  We tried to figure out the best place to dock there and made reservations at Liberty Landing, but found out that it is too far for them to come visit us easily.  I was delighted that Jane was able to cancel the reservation without charge since they charge $5.00 per foot and base their rates on the overall length which in our case is 42 feet instead of 36 feet.  It would have cost $224 per night to dock there including their electricity charge.  Travis suggested a spot called Gateway Marina which is just east of Coney Island and much nearer their apartment in Brooklyn.  They only charge $3.50 per foot.  It was still a lot more than we’re used to paying, but cheap by NYC standards.  I was able to do some engine room maintenance, adding oil and cleaning out the strainer.  We grilled veggies on the deck and did some more route planning after dinner.

Thursday, May 31, 2018:

The Atlantic City high tide was 1004 and I knew from research that we’d want to ride the rising tide for at least the first twenty miles of the waterway. The forecast showed that we’d experience southeasterly winds around 10 knots with gusts to 20 in the morning.  Also a chance of showers in the morning with a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon was indicated along with a dense fog advisory until 1000 hours.  I determined that we should leave between 0730 and 0800 so we pulled anchor and left at 0740.  The NJICW is notoriously difficult to navigate and I couldn’t disagree.  The fog was not bad at all and there were few boats on the water.  Those that were, were fishing; right in the channel.  By noon we were crossing Barnegat Bay and it was getting foggy in the distance, but we could make out each marker without a problem, but then it got thicker and we had to rely on the GPS route to help us find them.  We progressed without a hitch and arrived in the Point Pleasant Canal at 1450 with a helpful flow and we were making 10 miles per hour at 1400 rpm.  Jane was impressed with my planning.  We exited the canal into the Manasquan River and turned to the east going down stream still being pushed by the formidable current.  We checked in with Hoffman’s Marina for docking instructions and told the girl that we had just exited the canal and were coming downriver.  She said for us to go past the railroad bridge to the third T-head and dock there.  We did, but that turned out to be their fuel dock and the hands there said we needed to return back through the RR Bridge and dock on the third T-head there.  Apparently, the girl we talked to doesn’t know where the canal is.  I negotiated the narrow RR Bridge both with and against the swift waters without a problem and we got tied for the night right behind our Looper friends, Kevin and Sandy on Koastal Karma.  Jane found the laundry (free) and we joined the couples from Wine Speed and Koastal Karma along with Captain Terry from Magic for docktails at the picnic table.   A plan was laid out for us all to depart around 0615 to make the open ocean run to Sandy Hook.  Jane and I joined Kevin and Sandy aboard Koastal Karma for dinner and we turned in at an appropriate hour given the long day (62 ½ miles) and the early departure tomorrow.