Back into Canada

One of the reasons we checked back into the United States for a couple of days after the Rideau Canal was to get a “reporting number”. That, and to buy less expensive diesel fuel. 🙂

You may remember that when we entered Canada north of Lake Champlain, we asked the Quebec border agents to stamp our passport because they do not provide you with a “reporting number”.

This reporting number is a pretty big deal. It allows any local law enforcement to see at a glance that you have properly checked in to Canada. Every US flagged boat you see has a piece of paper taped to the boat windows with their reporting number displayed.

The US Canada border has a lot of easily traversed water (4 of the 5 Great Lakes). In a car, you have to go through a checkpoint to cross the border. There are no checkpoints/gates on the open water, so this reporting number is the method Canada uses to check compliance with the border crossing rules.

So we wanted a reporting number.

We both have NEXUS cards, which means we have been interviewed by both Canadian and US immigration and are considered “trusted travelers” by both countries.

When we left Clayton, NY, we were just a couple of miles from crossing into Canada. We called the NEXUS phone number and gave our information, including our boat documentation number to the agent. He asked a few questions regarding weapons and a fast list of items including did we have drugs, alcohol, or food (and a bunch of other things that were too fast to remember but we didn’t have any). We said yes to the food question and once he determined that it was for personal consumption it was OK.

He asked where we would be landing and we told him Picton, ON which was still several hours away. We told him we would be there at 5:00 pm and he said that if no border agents had shown up at 5:05 pm, we were free to go. And he gave us the precious reporting number.

As it turns out, we had not reached Picton by 5:00, but we messaged some friends who were already there and they said there were no border agents anywhere. So we considered ourselves good to go.

It was two long days of transiting the waterway between Clayton, NY to Trenton, ON, but we are now one lock into the Trent-Severn Waterway. We will hang out here for a couple of days, to go to church on Sunday and to do an errand when things open up on Monday.

The Thousand Islands

At the east end of Lake Ontario, right where it is turning into the Saint Lawrence River, is a stretch of islands known as the 1000 Islands. The US-Canada border runs right down the middle.

We had heard of it but did not have time last year to make the slight detour to visit.

This year, when we finished the Rideau Canal at Kingston, ON, we deliberately turned left into the St. Lawrence instead of right which is the way to the Trent Severn Waterway.

We are so glad we decided to do it. It is like being in the San Juan and Gulf Islands, or outside Sitka, AK in terms of lots of small islands covered in evergreens. Some of the islands are quite small but still have a house (or cottage as they are known here) built on them.

Parks Canada owns several of the islands and has docks covered by our moorage pass. We are taking advantage of those first-come-first-served public docks.

The first day we went to Mermaid Island where we found an open dock. There were several other boats there and we enjoyed talking to some of the people.

On one of the islands, Georgina Island, the current flows in such a way that it makes a “lazy river” that you can float down. We had seen it on an episode of Scho and Jo and it looked like a lot of fun. We cruised up several miles to the island, hoping the dock would be free. And it was!

Georgina Island
We rigged a line with a float to hold onto while swimming.

We were alone on it last night and with a family today. The family showed us which trail to take and where to enter the water to get carried around back to our boat. We all floated lazily in our life jackets. It was great fun.

Pearl – a Bernadoodle. She and two others are on the neighboring boat.

After two mights at Georgina Island, we cruised a few miles to the US border, checked in with the CBP ROAM app, got our clearance, and continued to Boldt Castle, on an island near Alexandria Bay, NY.

Boldt Castle is interesting in that it was never finished at the time of building it. Mr. Boldt was building it for his wife to enjoy, and when she died, he called off the builders. The outside was done, and various parts for the inside were in warehouses in NYC, and the plans were all complete, but he just walked away.

After being in a disintegrating state of disrepair for several decades the bridge authority acquired it and has been renovating and finishing it according to the original plans. This is all paid for by entrance fees, as opposed to governmental money.

Placeholder for Ottawa River and Rideau Canal

We are behind on the blog, so this post is a placeholder with a few pictures

Ice cream 🍨 boat!

The Big Rideau Lake looks like a place you could spend a summer enjoying. Lots of hand powered locks on the Rideau.

Lots of pretty country and sights to see throughout the Rideau Canal

The Canadian Border to Montreal

We got up bright and early to make our way to the Canadian border. In this one location, the check-in to Canada customs is in person at a building with a dock on the river. In most of Canada, you check in via telephone. But in this one location it’s in person.

Approaching the border. The yellow quarantine flag says you have not yet cleared customs. After clearing in, you take down the yellow flag and fly the courtesy flag of the country you are visiting.

The dock opened at eight and we arrived a few minutes before that. The customs people were very friendly. They had both of us get off the boat although in general, only the captain gets off the boat. We took in our passports and our Nexus cards. They took our Nexus cards and were more interested in them. We specifically asked to have our passport stamped.

All checked in

When you check in via phone, as it done in most most places in Canada, you receive what’s called a reporting number. This number is to be prominently displayed on windows on both sides of your boat so that any law enforcement can see at a glance that you have properly checked into Canada.

Since this location is in person and since it’s Quebec, which does things a little differently, they do not give you a reporting number. This is why we asked to have our passport stamped, in order to prove to any law enforcement that we did in fact check into Canada.

After check-in was done, we made our way 20 miles down the Richelieu river to the beginning of the Chambly Canal. This is a canal that runs right beside the river. The canal is quite historic and narrow and a lot of fun.

The canal runs beside the river

There are nine locks in the canal. The lock masters and bridge tenders are all Parks Canada employees and they monitor channel 14 on the VHF. Their first language, here in Quebec, is French so we generally started a conversation with bonjour, and then started speaking English.

The first lock, lock 9, is in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Then come a number of bridges which must be opened and then from locks eight down to lock one they come in quick succession.

The first bridge to enter the Chambly Canal
There are some narrow places in the canal, especially at the bridges!

Locks 7, 6, 5, and 4 are all about a quarter of a mile apart. About a mile beyond lock 4 is the pool above locks 3/2/1.

The Chambly locks are unique in that the lock attendants hand you a rope that is nice and clean. The rope is attached to a bollard at the top of the wall and you loop it around your cleat to manage it as the lock drops down. In the New York canal systems, the ropes hang into the water all summer, so they get slimy. The Chambly ropes are kept on top of the lock, so they don’t get as wet and disgusting.

This pool has a wall to tie to and electricity for boaters who dock there.

Last winter, when they were on early bird special, we purchased our Parks Canada lockage and moorage passes. These allow us to go through the Parks Canada lock systems and to tie up at the lock walls. Not all lock-stations have electrical hookups, so it is a good day when you find a spot available with electricity.

Electricity (or hydro as they say in Canada) is not part of the moorage pass and costs CDN $10.75 additional, which is a great deal. We were able to buy two power units. That is, we were able to plug into two different 30 amp power plugs to power both sides of our boat. Having power to both electrical inlets means we can run air conditioning.

The pool above lock 3 is in the town of Chambly. It is right in town in a park setting and is very pleasant. There are two ice cream shops within one block. We bought at the first one we came to. We found two grocery stores within several blocks.

Above Lock 3, Chambly, Quebec

The next morning, we walked over to Fort Chambly. It is a fort similar to Fort Ticonderoga and the other forts along this waterway. It was very interesting to see the history from the point of view of the French Canadians. Although the museum information didn’t come right out and say it, there seemed to be some regret that the French surrendered to the British during one of the early wars.

Fort Chambly was built about the same time as what was then called Fort Carillon that later became known as Fort Ticonderoga. These forts were important as supply stations to wage the various wars they were in. So it was a big deal when the British beat the French and took over their forts. It was a big deal when the Americans beat the British and took over their forts. Fort Chambly was never in American hands.

We got ready to traverse locks 3, 2, & 1, which are a stairstep flight of locks. From there, we turned right, into a marina where we had a pump out and took on some fresh water.

Chambly Locks 1,2,3

From there we continued down the Richelieu River . It was another 30 miles to the next lock, which was the last lock on this canal river system. That lock was is called Saint-Ours (pronounced Sant Oars).

All along the river, there are towns every few miles. You can spot the towns because they all have church steeples that are very tall. And silver. This area was colonized by the French and the Roman Catholic Church had a lot of influence in the area.

The land was divided up into seigneuries. The seigneurs had responsibility for dividing the land. They made an effort to have people’s land front on the river, which is the “road that moves”. Consequently the land tracts are very long and narrow. When you look at a satellite view of the area even today it looks very pixelated because of these long, narrow lots.

The Saint-Ours lock wall was nice. There was not any electricity, but it was nice. We were the only ones tied up. There was a concert in the park that night so we went over to listen. It was a woman singing songs in French. Apparently they were either popular songs or songs from musicals as most people really knew them. We didn’t know anything about them, but it was interesting to listen to her. It was a nice nice evening out.

From Saint-Ours, we continued down the Richelieu River which in fact was heading due north.

There were several cable ferries that ran across the river from one side to the other, as there are not very many bridges across the river. One bridge of note had the span that you go under clear over on the west, the left, bank of the river. Most bridges you cross right in the middle but this one was clear over to the left side. It was on a corner so you really couldn’t see if anyone was coming towards you before you enter the channel. There was quite a current there. The books talk about this bridge and tell you to be aware of it, but we did not run into any troubles. There was no one coming toward us. Just before the bridge, though, there was a paddle board club. These paddle boarders are hard core to paddle through that current.

The Richelieu River runs into the Saint Lawrence River at the town of Sorel-Tracy. You can turn right to head to Quebec City and ultimately the Atlantic. We, however, turned left to head to Montreal. Turning left on the St. Lawrence river meant we were going up river against the current. We had been with the current coming down the Richelieu River so we had been making good time. We really noticed a decrease in speed as we turned up the St. Lawrence.

We had identified several anchorages on the river. It was much like on the Hudson, where there are islands in the middle behind which you can anchor. Our navigation software shows us where these anchorages are. We anchored on the side one of the islands. It was very close to shore, but the current kept us in a straight line so we didn’t swing over and run into the shore.

Anchored behind an island in the St Lawrence. Coincidentally, as the crow flies it was very close to St Ours, where we spent the previous night.

The next day we continued up river into the city of Montreal. The current gets even stronger the closer you get to Montreal.

There were huge ships on the St. Lawrence river. We have an AIS or automated identification system, on our chart plotter so we are able to see the big ships on the chart plotter even before we can see them in person.

The day after we arrived in Montreal was forecasted to be a very stormy day. The marina in downtown Montreal did not have room for us for all of the days that we wanted to stay, so we took instead, a marina across the river from Montreal in Longueuil (pronounced something like Long Way).

There is a high-speed ferry that runs from just outside the marina over to old Port Montreal. We took the ferry over and walked around old Montreal and had pizza at an outdoor restaurant and had a crepe with Nutella on it in a pedestrian mall. It was fun to walk around Old Montreal for a few hours.

As forecast, the next day was very stormy so we just hung out at the boat.

The next day was Sunday so we took advantage of being in port to attend church at the tall silver steeple church there in Longueuil. This church turned out to be a cathedral. It was all in French, but was still very interesting to see. We could recognize the Apostles’ Creed, as the cadence was the same as in English.

From the Cathedral, we took an uber into town to buy a part at a hardware store and do a Walmart run.

Recognizable, even with French initials

Sunday afternoon was oil change day. We have a small electric pump to pump oil out of the engine. We have had the pump since last fall and used it for our last oil change. Last fall, we pumped all 13+ quarts per engine out through the dipstick tube and it took forever! When we had our mechanic on the boat over the winter, we asked about installing hoses that would make it easier. He looked and said we already had the hoses! Who knew? So the oil change this time went much, much faster.

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain is 132 miles from top to bottom. Its southern end connects to the Champlain Canal which runs to the Hudson in New York state. Its northern end is the beginning of the Richelieu River which runs down to the St Lawrence in Canada. The west side of the lake is New York. The east side of the lake is Vermont.

We took 10 days to explore the lake and just saw a small portion. It would be a great place to have a boat and spend your summers out on the water.

Continue reading “Lake Champlain”

Champlain Canal

You know, the early wars kind of run together in my head…the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

I really need to sort it out because an awful lot of the early history in the communities along the Champlain Canal have to do with one or more of these wars.

60 miles, from Waterford, where the Erie takes off to the west, to Whitehall, at the base of Lake Champlain. The Champlain Canal. We stayed in Mechanicsville, Fort Edward, and Whitehall.

And, come to find out, there was a time when Benedict Arnold was a good guy. He did a lot of good for the Americans in this part of the world. It seems he put together a Navy of sorts and repelled the British from coming down Lake Champlain and down into the Hudson.

A lot of the towns have “Fort” in the name. Fort Edward, Fort Anne, Fort Ticonderoga. Not many of the original forts are still standing, but there are signs all around the towns telling about what happened there.

Fort Edward free wall. With electricity.
Fort Edward Historical Society. We stopped in and discovered it was more a library than a museum. The women there were happy to give is a brief history. Fort Edward is where, pre canal days, people (troops and others) left the Hudson to portage over to Lake George.
Group of loopers at Fort Edward.

Before the Champlain Canal was created, people boated up the Hudson until it turned west at Fort Edward. Then they portaged the boats over to Lake George which runs north and south. When they reached the north end of Lake George, it was a pretty short (although steep) portage over the Lake Champlain, which gets you all the way to Canada and most of the way to the St. Lawrence River.

There was a lot of back and forth between the French and British, and later the British and Americans over these forts. It’s all very interesting.

As you continue north from Waterford on the Hudson, it gets narrower and narrower. There are locks to control the water level, but for much of it, it still feels like a river. Eventually, the river goes west and an actual canal takes off to the north and east. There were places that reminded us of the Dismal Swamp, down in Virginia/North Carolina, only a bit wider.

The towns are all a little sad. They clearly had their boom times, but now are really struggling. The parks along the canal tie-ups are cute and well-kempt, but there are quite a few empty storefronts in the towns.

Whitehall. Lots of empty storefronts.
Whitehall, NY

One thing that is nice to see along the canal is so many kids/teens out fishing. Kids will ride their bikes down to the river/canal with their fishing gear to pass time.

In Whitehall, the canal tie-up is right next to the fire station. The VERY LOUD siren goes off at noon each day. We couldn’t figure out why it was going off at an odd time until we saw cars with little blue lights tearing into the parking lot. It is a volunteer fire department and these were the volunteers. Called there by the siren. (They may have had other communication devices, but the siren is a nice touch.)

The big story on the Champlain Canal, as far as boating is concerned, are the low bridges. You have to be able to get your boat under a 17′ air draft in order to be able to do the Champlain.

We measured the boat a couple of years ago and we are 17’6″ to the top of the anchor light. Once we take off the plug-in anchor light and a twist-on GPS antenna, we are 16’7″. According to our calculations and measurements. Sure hope they were accurate!

There is one highly publicized 15.5″ bridge that would be a show stopper except that the lockmaster/dam master can let extra water out of the “pool” between the locks and get the air draft to 17′. It takes a couple of hours to let the water out, so we called in the evening to request the lowering for the next day. They told us that it should be ready by 10 am, so a couple of us pulled off the dock promptly at 10 and headed for the lock.

There were three boats in the lock that day, two of which – including us – were close to 17′. We let the shortest boat go through first, to see what it looked like. Then we went through and then the boat that was just a bit taller than us. Whew! We all made it.

Great celebration aboard Blessings Flow to safely make it under the bridge.

Then, it turned out there are a number of 17′ bridges along the four day trip. We slowed down for them, calling to each other on the radio whether the clearance looked good. One boat had put together a “cheater pole”. A person would stand on the bow with the carefully measured pole as they slowly, slowly approached. If the pole hit the bridge, they would know they should not continue.

Our friends on a boat slightly taller than ours, coming to one of the low bridges.

We all made it all the way to the end, although at the last bridge, the cheater pole did touch. Happily, they had build some and inch or two leeway into the pole, so the boat made it through unscathed.

Doing some maintenance along the way at one of the town walls. In this case it was replacing duckbill valves in the vacu-flush system.

A Day in New York

We have both spent a bit of time in New York and have seen some of the highlights, however we had not seen the 9/11 memorial and wanted to see it.

There are several choices for getting from your boat into the city, but very few are budget friendly. The marina that many loopers stay at is $7.50/ft per night for our size boat and more for larger boats. That would be $322 per night.

Granted, it is right across the river from Manhattan but that is still a bit rich for us.

Continue reading “A Day in New York”

Three Glorious Days, or Maybe Four

Getting down Delaware Bay and then up the coast of New Jersey out in the Atlantic are very weather dependent. It isn’t unusual to get “stuck” in one of the cities along the way for up to a week waiting on weather.

To be in the right place at the right time when a weather window comes is pretty unusual. But that’s what happened to us this past weekend. Three days, three legs and boom, we’re to New York. Hallelujah and thanks be to God!

Continue reading “Three Glorious Days, or Maybe Four”