Back in the USA!

The boat entered Canada on July 5, 2023 and left on September 15, 2023. Lance and Brenda made a trip home mid August, but the boat was there for, what, 72 days?

Our last few nights in Canada included a lock wall with electricity (Frankford), a marina with free laundry (Trent Port in Trenton) and an anchorage that turned out to not be very protected from the way the wind blew in the middle of the night (Witlow Pt in Hay Bay).

Frankford, Ontario where you can tell autumn is on its way
We found our sign in Campbellford!
Trent Port Marina where the transient docks were pretty empty. Canadians are putting their boats to bed for the winter and getting their snowmobiles and hockey sticks ready to go 😉
Comfy boaters lounge at Trent Port Marina…right next to the FREE laundry and the individual toilet/shower rooms.
Anchorage at Witlow Point. The anchor came up full of weeds the next morning. It took half an hour to get it cleaned up and back in its place. Should be a five minute process.

We considered spending a few more nights in Canada to see the Thousand Islands area, but we had to keep one eye on the weather (Hurricane Lee, lookin’ at you) and another eye on the calendar.

The Canadian canals close on October 9 this year and the Erie Canals on October 11. If we are not below a certain point on the Hudson River, our boat will be stuck in Northern New York for the winter.

There was a good weather window on Friday to cross Lake Ontario. We could not see another good day for about a week, so we decided to take the bird in the hand, so to speak, and cross the big lake when we had the opportunity.

It was a long travel day, over 7 hours, and the lake was a little bumpy, but we made it safely across and went through our first New York Canal System lock.

Last glimpse of Canada 🇨🇦
Crossing the International border. Canada 🇨🇦 —-United States of America 🇺🇸
Found a flag hanging from a pedestrian bridge.
First night back in USA in Oswego, NY, between locks 7 & 8 in the Oswego Canal.

For the past three nights we have been on the Oswego Canal. It is an offshoot of the Erie. we have been on free lock walls or town docks. Many of the locks have room to tie up before or after the lock, and some towns maintain parks beside the canal with docks to tie to. The idea is they want you to stop and spend money in their town!

Dock in Minetto, NY
Stewart’s Ice Cream. Quite delicious!
Attended Minetto United Methodist Church right across from the park. They had a very well done cantata based on the story of Daniel and the lions den. if you look closely, you can see Daniel in a baseball cap with a “D”, sitting right next to King Darius

Tonight we are in Phoenix, New York at a wall that is free and has an electric connection box. The electric is 15amp, and has a plug-in like you would find in a house. A normal marine hook-up is 30 amp or 50 amp. We have an adapter that goes from a regular household plug-in to a 30 amp plug which we can plug into the normal shore power cord. We just have to make sure not to try to run too many appliances at a time.

View out our window at Phoenix, NY

Tomorrow we take a left turn at the end of the 24 mile Oswego Canal and will be on the Erie Canal at milepost 160. So 160 miles until the Hudson River! We are moving right along!

Locks of all shapes and sizes

The locking systems on the Trent Severn are really amazing! Lots of good ingenuity and engineering went into them.

The busier locks and those with long drops use hydraulic pumps to raise and lower the boats. The less busy locks with shorter rises/drops still use manual methods to open valves and to open the gates.

After Labour Day the student workers go back to college and the locks are working with skeleton staffing. One morning, the one of the regular workers was covering at another lock and Lance volunteered to help get the first locking going, while they waited for an additional person.

The most interesting of all is the Peterborough Lift Lock, although the flight locks are fun, too.

Peterborough is similar to the Kirkfield lift lock, but much bigger and functioning as designed. It is also in the middle of a populated area, so it gets more press and attention.

We arrived at the top of the lift lock just as they were making their last run of the day. Our timing was deliberate, as we wanted to spend the night there to be able to walk around and take pictures.

Dockage for the night at the top of the lock.
Looking down from top of lift lock. The two tubs counterbalance each other. When a foot of water is added to the top, it forces the top one down and pushes the bottom one up.
Peterborough Lift Lock

We were alone at the top of the lock for the night, except for a couple of jet skiers who pulled in and ran off for a couple of hours and except for the judo club who use the adjoining stairs as a training run.

40 stairs here. 60 more after this.

The next morning, after the crew arrived at the shoulder-season start time of 10am, we were greeted with the news that there had been a break in during the night and some of the breakers and pumps had been messed with.

Ed, the lock master. He is planning to retire after this season, with 30 years under his belt.

They had electricians and maintenance people and even a welder in to get things fixed.

Our friends on the American Tug “Katie B” caught up with us before it was all fixed.

Finally, just before noon it was ready for us. In this case, pictures really are worth thousands of words.

It took right at two minutes!

We stopped in at the Peterborough marina for a pump out and to get filled up with water, but didn’t stay.

After just one more lock on the south side of Peterborough it was a long lock-free afternoon through a river and a lake before arriving at Hastings. The lock was in the middle of town, so we walked around a bit enjoying the canal side.

The next day took us through our first flight lock. This is a situation in which there is a long drop which they divide into two. You exit one lock directly into the next.

Top of Healey Falls flight of two locks
Exiting the bottom of the two
Cottages by the lakes and rivers

We ended the day in Campbellford, where the city has a canal wall with power pedestals and a “buy two get one free” deal. We are taking advantage of the deal and the electricity and the nearby stores and laundromat to get things done.

At the city wall
Music festival on various host porches
Sunday afternoon hike to Ranney Gorge suspension bridge
Our sign!

Attended a local Free Methodist church on Sunday, but neglected to get a picture.

One huge item off our plate. Gary from “Katie B” helped Lance put the new part on the windlass. There were complications in the fit of the new part, but with Gary’s know how and file and Lance’s drill, they were able to make it work. So we have a working anchor again! Yay! Just in time to be in locations to be able to use it.

Sunset walking home from dinner out with Gary and Carol on Katie B

We have about two more travel days on the Trent Severn and then we’ll be in Lake Ontario waters before entering the Erie Canal.

Orillia to Lakefield – Lock 26 – Labour Day Weekend

We left Orillia the Thursday before the last weekend of summer, Labour Day weekend.

It is a huge deal in Ontario, Canada because it really does mark the end of summer. Schools all start up the day after Labour Day, so kids and teachers and everyone are back to the grind.

It turned out to be a really good weather weekend, so there were a ton of people out enjoying the water.

We knew that it would be touch and go whether we could get space on a lock wall or not. We had purchased a moorage pass for the Trent Severn Waterway that allows you to stay on the lock walls, but it does not guarantee you a space.

Day one was no problem. We studied the Skipper Bob Trent-Severn Waterway book and picked what looked like a nice spot that hopefully was available. Turns out, we were the only people on the Talbot Lock 38 wall that night. It was really beautiful with an almost full moon, the maples beginning to turn red, and “smoke on the water” in the morning.

Two locks further on was the Kirkfield Lock, number 36. It is a lift lock, wherein two tubs of water (each tub holding several boats) go up and down using the weight of the water in one tub…plus a bit more added in…to lower one tub while the other rises. Last year about this time, there was a major mechanical failure in one of the gates. (Read about it in the underlined link.) The lock was closed for a while and then they implemented a temporary fix. Instead of the water weight of the opposing tub providing the pressure to raise the other tub, they used a pump to raise the loaded tub. This temporary fix is still in use a year later.

When all is working as designed, the transit takes just a few minutes for one tub full of boats to come down and the other tub full of boats to rise up. With the current temporary system the trip up takes and hour and the trip down takes about 24 minutes. They can only do one up or down at a time, not like before when they could do an up and down concurrently.

Lock master closing the back gate of the tub
Starting up
Need to get up to the top level where that gate is holding back the water in the canal. I think it was this gate (on the other side) that had a mechanical failure last year
Getting closer…
We’re floating pretty high in the sky
Almost there…
Made it!
View from the top

The hour long ride up was interesting. We snapped pictures as we inched up, went below to make lunch, snapped a few more pictures and pretty soon we were up at the top, ready to continue on.

For whatever reason, there is a swimming pool in the non-operational tub.

After Kirkfield lock there are two long, very narrow cuts to traverse. Many people point to this area as one of the most tense.

Narrow, rocky channel after Kirkfield lift lock
A closer look at the rock
A different kind of rock just off the side of the boat
From Lance’s Facebook post: Today we traveled some NARROW channels and lots of shallow water. At the top of the Kirkfield Lift Lock, larger boats are to make a “Security” call on the radio to let other boats know you are entering the VERY narrow channel. The boat in the picture responded that they were headed our way and most of the way through. We waited for them to go past us before entering the channel. We repeated that same process at another narrow channel, with a different result. We had made the same radio call. A few minutes later another boat entered the cut coming towards us and and then did the “Security” radio call. We responded that we were already in the channel and most of the way through. They could see us but kept on coming. Thankfully there was a slightly wider spot where we could pass. I believe we are through with the really narrow places for this part of the trip
This boat in the channel in front of us turned out to be three young boys fishing. By the time we got to them they had moved over enough for us to get by.
From a distance we couldn’t tell what the white object in the middle of the channel was…a boat? A rock? The binoculars told us it was a family of swans. They also moved out of the way by the time the boat got there.

I think the long ride up the lock has discouraged people from travelling below Kirkfield because the locks downstream (towards Orillia) were pretty quiet while the next few locks were packed with people enjoying the long weekend.

We picked a lock to aim for as it is popular among the looper crowd, being right in the middle of a cute town, Fenelon Falls, Lock 34. We knew that it was a long-shot, but decided to go for it, although if we saw an open space on Lock 35, Rosedale, we would stop there.

Well, Rosedale was full. Fenelon Falls was full. (I mentioned lots of people out enjoying the weekend, right?) The next lock was in the town was Bobcaygeon, but even the book said it is almost impossible to get a spot there as it is super popular with the locals who come into town for lunch, dinner, shopping, etc.

We figured we would need to just keep going until we found a spot on the wall. After the locks close, you can tie up on the blue line for the night, so we figured we’d end up on one of those a couple locks down the canal.

But miraculously, as we were pulling into Bobcaygeon around 5:00pm, we saw a spot on the wall! We pulled over and tied up.

Saturday Farmer’s Market
Bobcaygeon sunset
Busy locks, crowded walls
The Kawartha Voyager came by us on the way to the lock. The passengers were on a six day cruise. This is the same ship that was in the Kirkfield lock last year when the mechanical malfunction occurred.

This was a Friday evening. At that lock you can stay two nights, so that is what we did. We walked around town, went to the farmers market, got some Kawartha ice cream (twice), picked up a couple of things at the grocery store, walked through the blow-out sale at a huge shoe store and chatted with other boaters on the lock wall and with people of town who come to the lock park to people and boat watch.

Locals enjoying the busyness of the locks

Sunday morning we walked a couple blocks to a Baptist church. It was a very nice service.

Baptist Church a couple of blocks away

Since we had come to the end of our allotted two days, we headed out down the waterway to find our next night’s lodging after church, aorund noon.

This area is called the Kawartha Lakes region. It has a number of large and popular lakes where people boat, play, and fish. The lakes were crazy with boats going every which way. There are houseboat rentals in the area and the untrained houseboat drivers just added to the crazy!

At one point we counted 19 boats coming towards us. Lots of people enjoying the water.

The locks were also extremely busy. At Buckhorn, Lock 31, we noticed the same phenomenon that we saw at Bobcaygeon; locals, mostly senior citizens, bring their lawn chairs and coolers to sit in the park that surrounds the lock just watching the boats going by and engaging in conversation. We were part of the show!

After three locks that were totally full, we turned a corner into a lake that wasn’t such a good play lake for water toys as there were rocky islands all around. There were still a few boats and PWCs out, but significantly fewer than on the bigger, deeper lakes.

This church is accessible only by boat. We had hoped to go there this summer, but the timing did not work out. We need to research a nearby anchorage to be able to go next year. The church is in a rocky passage called Hell Gate and near an island called Devils Elbow!

The next lock, Youngs Point, Lock 27 had plenty of space on the wall, so we stopped there at about 5:30pm. We were exhausted from the effects of boating, going through locks, dodging boats, and navigating. It was a good stop and we did not get a single picture!

The next morning, this morning, we took it easy and started out about 10:33 am, intending to do seven locks to get to the top of the Peterborough lift lock to spend the night. We got to our first lock just six miles down stream when we noticed that there were power pedestals on the empty lock wall. We took note for next year when we come back that Lakefield, Lock 26 has power…and then we got to talking.

It was going to be a hot day and having electricity meant that we could run air-conditioning and charge up our Bluetti solar generator. So, just six miles after starting for the day, we called it a day. Or two. It is supposed to be hot again tomorrow, so we will use our allowed two days here, too.

There are only a few locks that have power (electricity) available and this is one of them. The electricity (called Hydro in Canada) is not included in the moorage pass but at $9.80 Canadian per day is a great deal. It is much, much cheaper than paying $80 or $90 for a marina somewhere!

Car Delivery #2 – Pennsylvania?? What??

When we finished Lake Superior we had staged our car in Orillia, Ontario, to have it ready to get to Toronto for my (Brenda) dad’s memorial service in mid-August.

When we got to Orillia, the question was…to where do we move it? Vermont? The Hudson? New Jersey? Where?

We prayed a little prayer and God brought to mind a former co-worker who moved to a small farm in south central Pennsylvania. He still commutes occasionally to Washington, DC, so it would be relatively close to the Chesapeake, once we arrive there later in the fall. And it was only around eight hours from Toronto where we would depart for our trip home.

I sent an inquiry…would he have room to park our car? ABSOLUTELY was the answer! Yay! And bonus, we would get to see him and his family.

So we drove to Toronto, rented a car, and headed south with our two vehicles. We crossed the border near Niagara Falls and had a reservation in Tonawanda, NY, near the western end of the Erie Canal.

The harbor host in Orillia had sent us a link for a Nexus only bridge where there was hardly ever a backup crossing the border. Since we both have Nexus cards, and are trusted travellers with both the US and Canada, we were able to use the “Whirlpool Bridge”. It was slick! While the Rainbow Bridge had an hour back-up, we were able to go a mile or so downstream to the Whirlpool Bridge and there was only one car in front of us.

Niagara River and Whirlpool Bridge – a must if you are NEXUS card holders

For whatever reason, the hotels in Tonawanda and Buffalo were double price the Saturday night we were there. A hotel which showed in the $90 range for Friday, was $170 for Saturday. We didn’t ever find out what the reason was, but it was very frustrating to have to pay big bucks for something that should be under $100.

We looked at google maps, and the Erie Canal was less than 2 miles away from the hotel. We drove over and walked the waterfront. We were so glad we did! We found a sister-ship there, a Bayliner 3587, who routinely cruises the Western Erie canal.

The Erie Canal river walk in North Tonawanda

The Western Erie canal has many of the low bridges you sang about in grade school…”Low bridge, everybody down…Low bridge, for we’re comin’ to a town”. A boat must be able to clear 15’6″ in order to make it under the lowest bridge and cruise the western section of the canal.

Group of friendly Western New York boaters spending the weekend on the Erie

We had measured our boat and calculated that if we were to take down the radar, the gps antenna and the anchor light, we would be able to make it. We thought. But you never know for sure. It was wonderful to see that a boat configured just like ours, without all those things on the radar arch, could easily make the trip.

The trip through New York and Pennsylvania was scenic. There were many small towns. We went past the Little League World Series headquarters.

Conrad Weiser Homestead State Park

I knew some of my ancestors were from the part of Pennsylvania we were going to. As I was studying the Rand McNalley map, I noticed a state park entitled “Conrad Weiser Homestead State Park”. That name looked familiar so I looked in my family tree and, sure enough, Conrad Weiser was my 7th great-grandfather. It was only a little way out of the way, so we planned our trip to take in the site.

Then, once there, we saw a sign for “Charming Forge, 2 miles”. Another ancestor, who married Conrad Weiser’s grand-daughter, had a forge there which provided bullets and things for the Revolutionary War. We took the little detour and saw the “mansion” that is still occupied today.

The house my ancestor, George Ege, built at Charming Forge, PA. Note in mirror that we’re still in two cars at this point!

This was deep in Pennsylvania Dutch territory as we drove twisty small roads through historic towns. It was very interesting.

So great to see Danwe and his middle daughter. Danwe and I worked together at World Vision. We shared travel to both Senegal and Bangladesh over the years.

It was great to see my former co-worker and those of his children who were home that day. One of the great things about this location is that it is only another 8 hour drive to North Carolina where we plan to spend the winter.

On the way back, we stopped at Lockport, NY, the last lock on the western Erie Canal. There is a visitors center with some of the history of the canal. One interesting fact: the rock that was chiselled out to make the canal was used to build nearby buildings, including homes for many of the men working on the canal. It makes sense. You don’t want piles of rock lying around. Might as well build things.

Double lock in Lockport, NY

We made it back to Toronto to fly out to SeaTac for a couple of weeks at home. It was good to see lots and lots of family at the memorial service and to have some quality time with our kids and grandkids in their home.

Nana and kids at the park. Photo credit: Gramps

We are in the Trent-Severn Waterway!

The Trent-Severn Waterway, TSW for short, is a canal system linking lakes and rivers together, much like the Erie Canal is.

We are starting the TSW from Lake Huron and will exit into Lake Ontario.

There are 43 or 44 locks to go through, including some very unusual ones. We went through one of them yesterday.

But to back up a minute, at the southern end of Georgian Bay (part of Lake Huron) we stayed a few nights in Midland at Bay Port Yachting Centre, a huge marina.

It was a long weekend in Canada and we wanted to not be jostling with other boats to get through the first couple of locks, so we waited. Then the weather forecast was for high winds so we waited some more.

We were able to attend church. It felt good to be there after having been out for the previous three Sundays. They sang songs we knew so that was an extra blessing!

The time came on Wednesday morning for us to cast off our lines and head out for Port Severn.

Just before the Port Severn lock there is a narrow and tricky channel, Tug Channel, in which you don’t want to meet another boat. And that channel goes under a highway bridge so you cannot see who is coming.

A boat in front of us, going the same way, called a securite’ to alert any boaters coming through Tug channel downstream out of the lock. Someone answered saying that the boater should be advised that there were five boats circling in the small body of water just before the lock and to please wait.

We heard that and slowed down to wait as well. We waited out in the bigger body of water for about a half hour, and then headed up the channel after the down bound boats had come by.

Waiting on downbound boats as they come out from under the highway bridge and navigate Tug Channel. This one is Faith, who we met last May in Elizabeth City, NC shortly after they started their loop.

When we got up to the lock, there was a boat on the blue line, one circling in the water and us. So we circled through another lock up and down cycle, until there was room on the blue line for us.

The dam spillway and lock at Port Severn, our first lock. There is one boat on the blue line and two of us circling in this small pool waiting to tie up at the blue line. By the time we tied up, there were four boats behind us circling. You can see the definite boundaries to the water and the rocks.

The blue line is the “line up and wait” section of the walls just before the locks; there is one on both the upper and lower sections. There is also a gray line section where you can tie up for up to a day or two.

Blessings Flow tied up to the blue line. Photo credit: Laura Drexler. Laura has been going to all the locks this summer and has photographed boats and put them on Facebook. I understand she is a teacher and has an interest in the locks. I talked to her here from the other side of the channel.
Blessings flow and the boat ahead of us waiting on blue line. This is the smallest lock and they were only taking up one boat at a time. Photo credit: Laura Drexler

Finally it was our turn to enter the lock and be lifted 12 or so feet to the next level.

Doors opening to let in up-bound boats. Note the cables hanging from the lock walls. They are attached at both top and bottom. Photo credit: Laura Drexler

Lance pulled slowly into the lock while I was on the bow of the boat to grab a rubber coated cable with a boat hook. (Truth be told, I forgot to take the boat hook with me that first time.)

I slid a line around behind the cable and back to our boat and temporarily attached it to the cleat, then ran back and grabbed the cable near the back of the boat and slid the line around.

Then Lance turned off the motors and came to manage the back line while I went to the front to tend the front line.

As the boat rises in the lock, you hold the loosely looped line around the cleat but do not tie it off. If the line gets hung up on the cable or something, you want to be able to quickly release it. Not have it cleated.

We were happy when we reached the top and were ready to head on out.

All throughout this section, there are narrow rocky channels where you have to watch your reds and green aids to navigation (Atons). Fortunately the lock has signs reminding you which side is which and the lock master also made a point of calling it out. It is especially important for that first lock as the system switches at that point and is opposite than out in the bay.

Handy sign showing which side is red and which side is green going forward.

The Big Chute Marine railway was the next lock, several miles up the waterway. We were hoping to be able to stay there for the day on one of the gray line docks, then move over to the blue line after the lock closed to be one of the first ones the next day.

It all worked out that way, but it was much busier than we imagined. We knew there was scheduled maintenance that day, but hoped, being a Wednesday, that not as many local boats would be out and about.

We managed to squeeze in between a small boat and this couple on a pwc. He was kind and helped us catch our lines to dock.
We spent the night on the floating blue line and moved over to the blue line on land in morning when our turn came.
Chatting with our blue line floating dock neighbors

The next morning our turn finally came. A looper friend happened to be docked on the upper side and was able to come say hi and take some pretty amazing pictures and video of our trip over land and road on the marine railway.

Heading into the Big Chute rail car
Our boat must hang off the back because of the way the running gear (propellers and shafts) is configured. Every model of boat is different, so the marine railway staff must know a lot about hull configurations to not damage one by improper loading or placement.
Thanks Raeyann for making the long trek down the stairs in the rain to say hello and shoot some pictures. We met in May in Norfolk at the AGLCA rendezvous.

After the Big Chute we went through a lot of forested countryside, winding our way through the atons to keep to deep (enough) water. Interspersed every so often were lakes that looked plenty wide but had very specific narrow channels marked to avoid rocks or shallows.

Section of TSW lined with cottages, each with their own dock. Slow speed limit here. 10kph or about 6mph.

We ended day 2 in Orillia where the boat will stay while we move the car forward to a friend’s house in Pennsylvania and then fly home for a couple weeks for my dad’s memorial service.

We had left our car nearby at the home of the local harbour host, in early July. He and his wife brought our car to the marina and then we went out for a delicious meal at a small waterfront restaurant. It was great to finally meet him.

Ken and Georgi who kept our car for us this past month. Next, we move our car forward to Pennsylvania, where a former co- worker is going to let us park it on his property!
Lots of looper boats in Orillia today. Most of these are headed in the opposite direction than us. So we’ll just see them this one time, rather than running into each other time and again as we would if going the same direction.

When we arrived and went to the office to pay, there was some sort of an event going on in the room off the lobby. When we heard it was Loopers having docktails, we said , “We’re loopers!” and crashed the party. So we met a good number of the folks on these boats.

Georgian Bay

We had been watching the progress of some Tacoma friends and knew they were in Killarney at the Sportsman Inn marina. We needed to pump out after several days on anchor so chose Sportsman’s Inn in hopes that we might run into our friends.

As we pulled into the dock, guess who was there waiting to help with our lines?

John and Carol from Tacoma, our home town

Killarney is quite a little destination, with a historic lodge and world famous fish and chips restaurant. The marina let us pull into an empty slip while we walked to the grocery store to replenish a few things.

Busy channel! Requires a sharp eye and a head on a swivel.
Historic Killarney Lodge, as we passed by

The fish and chips place wasn’t open yet, but we were able to stop in the local bakery to pick up some goodies.

Butter tarts are a Canadian thing. They are similar to pecan pie, but may or may not have pecans. And they are small. Like cooked in a muffin tin and able to be eaten in a couple bites.

The butter tart we picked up at the bakery was maple walnut flavored and is by far the best one we’ve had.

As we headed out of Killarney, we saw more of the bare rock islands that Georgian Bay is known for.

We took a route through Collin’s Inlet, a narrow 10 mile fjord-like waterway t that connects two bays. For most of it, there is plenty of room to pass if you do it slowly.

At the end there is a very narrow, very shallow piece that you don’t want to meet a boat in. Fortunately, our AIS picked up that there were a couple boats coming towards us, so we slowed down to let them come by.

There turned out to be five big go-fast boats, so we were glad for our AIS. We had heard some vhf radio calls about “Hey, you weekend warriors, slow down through the anchorages. You are responsible for your wakes.” We are pretty sure these five boats were the ones he was talking to.

Note the kayaker and the beaver lodge. Lance says the beavers here don’t know how good they have it; they do not need to dam up a stream to have enough water to make a safe lodge.

We spent that night at an anchorage in aptly named Beaverstone Bay. There were lots of beaver houses and lots of rocky islands.

The next day we followed the route to the Bustard Islands. They are a circlet of islands similar to the Benjamin’s in the North Channel.

We spent one night there. The waves had been forecasted to be kind of high the next day, but when we woke up, the forecast had changed to 0-1 foot waves. So we left.

Well, the forecast was wrong. It is hard to tell how big the waves are from the fly bridge, but they were big enough to have to brace yourself as you sat in the chair. When I went downstairs, I sat on my butt and went down step by step.

We had a “bail out “ plan which we decided to implement. Instead of going all the way to an anchorage near Point au Baril, we cut in at Byng Inlet and went to Wrights Marina in Britt where we stayed three days waiting for the seas to subside.

You can see the implementation of the bailout plan. We had intended to go from point A to C. When the waves were too big, we headed to point B. The shoreline is so rocky you cannot just head in anywhere. It must be at a marked entrance.

There was another route we could have taken, but the books suggest that boats over 40 feet might consider bypassing it. We do not regret taking the more open route even though it put us in bouncy seas.

The anchorage near Point au Baril inlet was very peaceful. We spent two nights there and enjoyed the almost full moon.

“Prime Meridian” in the moonlight. Some fellow loopers we first met in Wrights Marina in Britt.
Blessings Flow in the anchorage. Picture by Maggie on Prime Meridian. Sometimes we take pictures of each others boats!
While we were at this anchorage, Seth and Jennifer from Witness stopped by to say hello. We have been following their YouTube channel for a couple years and had corresponded a few times. It was a huge honor to have them go out of their way to see us. They are from Portland, Oregon and are close to finishing their loop with their two teenagers.

Our next stop was Parry Sound. Parry Sound is the biggest town in those parts and we did a major provisioning run to Walmart. It involved a taxi both ways.

As we pulled into Parry Sound there was a cruise ship in port, the Viking Polaris. Our friends had been on the sailing just prior to this one, so we missed seeing them.

Viking Polaris in Parry Sound

The route out of Parry Sound was one of narrow passages where you have to really keep an eye on the buoys. There was one swing bridge we needed to wait for.

Along that route there are also osprey poles that have been erected. There were nests and ospreys in most of them.

We went to a popular anchorage, Echo Bay. It was a Tuesday when we arrived, but the bay ended up being quite full by the end of the day. It was the first place where we “med moored”, tied the back of the boat to a metal post installed in the rocks. We learned a lot by observing how the boats after us did it.

Tied to the shore. This lets more boats occupy the anchorage. There were 24 boats here by the time night fell.

One boat tried five or six places before finding one that worked. He backed in to where he wanted to be, then pulled forward a ways, a little over a boat length, to drop the anchor. In a couple of his tries, it looked like his anchor would be on top of others, so he abandoned that spot and went to another.

Most boats kept their motors running after dropping anchor in order to keep the back of the boat in position, then someone from the boat took a rope back to tie it off. Some swam the rope back, some used a paddle board, some used a dinghy.

Other boats stern tied as well

The next morning when we went to take up the anchor, a plastic piece on the windlass broke and the anchor rode would not go down into the locker. Bad news. Lance ended up pulling the 65ft of chain and the 55 lb anchor up by hand. It was not easy.

After he got it up, he tied it off and that was the end of our anchoring for the near future. He was able to identify the part and order one from Fisheries Supply in Seattle. We’ll pick it up when we’re home in a couple of weeks.

We headed out from Echo Bay for the southern most part of Georgian Bay where there is a national park with docks available on a first come, first served basis.

God blessed us with a dock in a small bay called Honeymoon Bay. We had first tried the larger Frying Pan Bay around the tip of the island, but the docks there were full. A looper on Clare told us that he had seen an empty dock about an hour earlier in the next bay over. There was a small work boat just leaving as we pulled in, so we took the dock and stayed three nights.

Tucked into the single dock at Honeymoon Bay, Beausoliel Island, Ontario.
There is a Parks Canada campground at Honeymoon Bay. People either canoe in or get dropped off by a water taxi.
This is Clark and Laura. They are teachers and serious canoeists who were camping here. Clark is an outdoor educator and educated us about poison ivy!
Yikes! And to add to it, there are rattlesnakes in the island that are protected, as in you cannot hurt or relocate the snake. Clark almost stepped on one as he was on a hike. We didn’t get out on the trails much!
A storm blew through one afternoon.
The storm is brewing
The storm is here

Baie Fine to Snug Harbour – North Channel part 3

After leaving our prime Little Current location of the closest dock to the swing bridge, we cast off our lines to go through the bridge at the top of the hour and head to Baie Fine. There were four boats going our direction, but there were probably a dozen or more boats lined up to come into Little Current.

Baie Fine was a 25 mile jaunt from Little Current. The last 9 miles are fjord-like, according to what we read.

The waterway was fairly narrow, compared to the rest of the cruising, and had some tricky navigation around rocks in the lake.

This is a “red right” situation. We keep the red to the right/starboard side of the boat and then keep the following green to the left/port side.
You can see what the green is protecting us from as you get closer.

Once we were past the tricky parts in the beginning, it opened up and reminded us of the mountain lakes/reservoirs we grew up on. Long, winding waterways through wooded hills. The rock here is granite, as opposed to the basalt in Washington, but it looks very familiar.

The last couple of miles before “The Pool” (the end of the waterway where it opens up a bit) were much narrower, more like the width of a river, but with no current. We began to see boats anchored next to shore about a mile away from the end. We were concerned that it was crowded at The Pool and people were anchoring a ways out.

But we got to the pool and found it quite open, with lots of room. There were several boats there rafted together (two sets of “rafts”), but most of them left by the evening, leaving only four boats in the anchorage.

It was a very peaceful setting, with just the geese and the ever changing landscape to watch. The landscape is ever changing because the boat doesn’t stay in one place while on anchor. It continually floats this way and that according to the wind (or current/tide if we were in a place with those). Our make of boat tends to dance back and forth more that boats with a deeper keel or less up top to catch the wind.

The geese were interesting to watch. The bottom of The Pool is weedy and when you bring up your anchor, it has a large clump of weeds. Once you pick them off the anchor, the weeds just float in a clump. Apparently, these floating clumps are a delicacy for the geese. I watched one family (mom, dad, three gosling teenagers) picking at the clump. As soon as they swam away, another couple of geese came right over and began eating. Then another 4 or 5 showed up. Fun times.

Goose family eating away

In sight of our boat is a large cottage with an Evinrude flag right under the Canadian flag. This cabin belonged to Mr. Evinrude of Evinrude engines. He’s gone now, but the family still owns it.

When we were at Blind River a couple weeks ago, we met a man (an American, our age) who when he was a teenager was on a small boat in Baie Fine. Mr. Evinrude had a large fancy boat docked at his house. One of the boys on the boat yelled out, “I like your boat!” To which the man answered, “I like your engine!” And he invited the boys over to tour the boat. They had no idea who he was until they were part way through the tour and caught on who it was they were talking to. Fun story that made seeing the cottage more special.

Evinrude cottage. Note the granite cliffs.

There is a lake, Topaz Lake, that people like to hike to. The water is cold and clear and from nearby you can look back into the bay and see the boats anchored. And, in season, you can pick blueberries.

We are not much for hiking, but figured we would regret it if we did not go. We heard it was a 45 minute hike, but we did it in 30 minutes and survived. It was quite a hike and you followed the marks attached to trees to find the way.

Red to the lake
It really was a hike. There was climbing involved.

It was beautiful, and we went prepared to swim. However, the rocks on the edge gave us pause. We knew we could jump INTO the water, but were not sure we could climb OUT! So we enjoyed the view and then hiked back to the boat and jumped into the water there.

Panoramic view of Topaz Lake

You had to go a ways off the lake trail to get to the spot to see the boats back in the pool. The slabs of granite were pretty amazing.

Bluff from which you could see our boat.
Blessings Flow floating in The Pool

We took containers for blueberry picking, but the berries were so small that we just ate a few on the trail and called it good.

Tiny but tasty

It was the morning after we arrived that we took the hike and swam and then left for our next anchorage.

We were headed to another on Fred’s List, Covered Portage Cove. It is not far, as the crow flies, from The Pool, but you had to go around two different points of land to get there, so it was 27 miles, taking three hours. It was getting late when we arrived.

Long way around

Unfortunately, the anchorage was very crowded. We picked a spot and dropped the anchor…and it dragged. We tried again…again it just plowed through the muck. We did that FIVE times and couldn’t get the anchor to set. So we turned around and headed out.

We called a nearby marina to see if they had a slip available. Nope. All full. so we headed back the way we came, down the channel six miles to another anchorage, Snug Harbour, which was not at all crowded and the anchor set the first time.

Snug Harbour

We stayed at Snug Harbour for two nights because we were going to stop by Killarney for fuel and a pump-out and did not want to face the weekend craziness. So we waited until Monday morning and it worked out very well.

Little Current – North Channel Part 2

From Hotham Island, the next logical place to visit is the Benjamin Islands. They are a unique circle formation of islands. I’m told the circle is because there was a dome formed in ancient times that has been worn down over the ages.

But, logical or not, the wind was not right for anchoring there, so we cruised in amongst them, took some pictures, and headed out for Little Current.

Outer Benjamins rocky islets

Little Current is the biggest town in these parts. It is in Northeast Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin Island is huge and forms the southern boundary of the North Channel. We’ve been hitting spots on the north side of the North Channel, but there are also plenty of spots to see on the south side, on Manitoulin. Much of Manitoulin is First Nation land. Little Current is near the eastern most part of Manitoulin, where there is a channel between the island and the many islands off the mainland.

Swing bridge east of Little Current which opens for a short while on the top of the hour. It is a one lane road which links Manitoulin Island with the mainland. We went through it leaving the next day.

The big sound bite amongst cruisers is that there is no “little” in the current going through Little Current. The current can be quite strong and makes docking a challenge. And you never know which way the current is flowing. There are no tides here, so it is atmospheric pressure and winds that determine the direction.

We were very, very pleased to be assigned a space on the wall section of the marina, which is much easier docking than trying to get into a slip. Some tricks Lance learned in La Connor, WA where the current changes with the tide helped with docking here.

Downtown Little Current, taken from the Anchor Inn whose onions rings were outstanding!
Starters for a whitefish sandwich lunch

We met other Loopers here who have the same model and year boat as us! 1999 Bayliner 4087. We had a tour of their boat, Caribbean Soul, and got some ideas about decorating and storage.

It was a Bayliner day for Little Current, as a Bayliner 4788 was docked right behind us.

Being right on the wall gave lots of opportunities for chatting with people walking by on the boardwalk.

One of the special memories from here is attending the 9am broadcast of the North Channel Cruisers Net. Every day Roy Eaton broadcasts a half-hour-ish show containing local news, weather, and announcements. At the end of the broadcast, he invites cruisers to call in to the show and state their boat name and where they are. He broadcasts from the basement of the Anchor Inn and welcomes people to his broadcast room.

AGLCA burgee on the wall in Roy’s collection.

As I mentioned in the “Part 1” segment, many of these cruisers come year after year and are well acquainted with each other. It was fun to hear names of boats we met at Hotham. It felt like we were part of a community, even if just for a little while.

Roy Easton prepping for his daily Cruiser’s Net broadcast

Lance and I arrived a few minutes early to the basement broadcast room and it was obvious that Roy was busy getting things ready. We told him we didn’t want to be in his hair and asked if there was something we could help with. “Well, yes, since you offered!” he said with a grin. And he put us to work folding a stack of maps and stuffing goody bags which are given to those who attend his broadcast in person.

There is an excellent grocery store in Little Current, up a flight of steps and across a park from where our boat was docked. We put the folding cart into use. Lance hauled it up the stairs and we rolled it back down the city streets, full of groceries.

Hauling our haul of groceries back to the boat. Thankfully, it is always downhill when you head to the boat.

There was also a laundromat close by, so Lance spent a couple of hours there getting the clothes clean and listening to an audio book.

We spent two nights there as we got errands done and waited for favorable weather.

From Hotham through the Benjamin’s to Little Current

The North Channel (Part One)

We spent a little over a week exploring several anchorages and a town in the North Channel.

After our first anchorage in Long Point Cove, we continued to hop to the anchorages recommended by Fred, a former Looper who generously spent an hour with us in Sault Ste Marie going over recommendations.

From Long Point Cove to Beardrop Harbour to Hotham Island to The Benjamins to Little Current to Baie Fine to Covered Portage Cove to Snug Harbour

Beardrop harbour was next. It was bigger than the previous anchorage and had a lot of the flat, slanting rocks the area is known for. On our dinghy ride, we went through a “cut” and peeked out into Whalesback Channel which was full of additional rock islands of all sizes.

Beardrop Harbour smooth rock islands (picture taken through baggie to keep phone dry!)

We tried to find a place to climb out of the dinghy onto a rock, but nothing showed itself as a great candidate. We’re not as limber as we once were. Still it was fun to get close to the rocks.

Couldn’t get onto the rock without stepping in water. So not yet.

There were more boats in this anchorage than the last, but still plenty of room for us to find a spot.

The next day we drove the boat through the Whalesback Channel we had glimpsed the day before. They say there are a number of anchorages on the island to the south, but we were headed for the next one on Fred’s list.

One interesting piece of navigation was at “Little Detroit”. It is a short, narrow channel. In order to make sure you don’t meet an oncoming boat, you call a “Securite” (pronounced Se-cure-it-TAY) on the VHF Radio, channel 16. “Securite, Securite, Securite. 40 foot motor vessel passing west to east through Little Detroit in 5 minutes. Opposing traffic take note”. (Apparently “detroit” is a french word meaning “strait”.)

Looking into Little Detroit
It sure seemed closer than that!

We ended the day at anchorage number 3, Hotham Island South bay. We had an incredible experience there. The anchorage itself was quite wooded, with an island in the middle. It looked like a Pacific Northwest Cascades mountain lake. But that’s not the incredible part.

Hotham Island sunset

Shortly after we pulled in, a woman came paddling by in her kayak. She was from one of the two “cottages” on the bay. She invited us to happy hour on the deck of their cottage at 4:30…bring your own beverage, no food.

So about 4:30, people on all the boats anchored there, about 10 maybe, started climbing into their dinghies and heading over to the small dock. We all sat around on the deck, chatting, for a couple of hours. The cottager, Elaine, introduced all the people by first name and boat name, starting at one end of the bay and going clear around.

Hotham Island happy hour. The hostess is standing and in a blue shirt. Their winter home is Arizona.
Picture taken by our hostess

Most of the people on the boats spend their summers on their boats, cruising from one anchorage to the next. Then in the fall, they put their boats in storage, either in Canada or Michigan and go to their winter homes. They do this year after year, so many of them are well acquainted with each other and see each other throughout the summer. There were folks from both Canada and the US in the mix.

In the course of chatting, we heard that one of the cruisers owns a solar panel company. Come to find out, it was the company we had purchased our solar panels from. Before buying them I had called for a consultation and had spoken to Tom, the very man who was on the deck!

“Cottage” appears to be a term used for what we in the PNW would call a “cabin” or “lake house”. In the same way that many families have cabins in the woods in Washington, families have cottages along the waterways.

Friendly cottage

We spent three days in Hotham Island South anchorage and attended the deck happy hours twice. The cottagers, Elaine and Norm, had been cruisers at one point and knew how isolating it can be. Even in a crowded anchorage, you don’t meet the other people unless you dinghy over to say hello. This deck happy hour is a real blessing to the people to happen into Hotham Island South.

We made it to the North Channel!

One longish trip from Hilton Beach Marina to Blind River Marina and then one very short trip on into the islands of the North Channel.

Blind River Marine Park, Blind River, Ontario Canada

On the advice of Fred, a gold looper and frequent North Channel cruiser we met in Sault Ste Marie, we picked Long Point Cove as our first anchorage.

Blessings Flow at anchor, Long Point Cove
Took a little dinghy ride after dinner
Shallow channel through the rocks

When you choose one anchorage, it means you don’t choose any number of other ones, so it was really great to see that this anchorage lived up to Fred’s top anchorages list.

It feels very remote, but I have between two and three bars on my cell phone, so win-win. I can post some pictures.