Saturday, June 26, 2010

Convoy HOOOO!

Our morning in the "Blue Hole" was just as spectacular as the night before that is if you ignored the 10,000 dead bugs on Blue. It took me a good half hour, but I was finally able to wash all the mosquitoes off the decks. I have never seen so many bugs in all my life. If Anna and I had left a hatch open, I am not sure if we would have survived the night. When Anna got up and saw the carnage, she went right to the drawer pulled out a piece of paper and wrote BUG SPRAY in big letters. The night before I had left the anchor light on, to alert anyone going through the area that we were there, it must have been the only light in three miles and the bugs zeroed in on it. Making our way through as many locks as we could, Anna and I found ourselves in Hastings Ontario. We pulled up to the Lock wall and were greeted by a giant Canadian 2 dollar coin. We then found out that Hastings was the home of the artist who designed the new 2 dollar coin and proudly displays it at the main park on the lock wall, it was huge. Hastings had lots of stores so Anna and I took the time to reprovision the boat. We have been pleased to see that Canada and the US are very similar when it comes to food prices and quality. The meat at the market is good and the produce is very fresh. We have been taking advantage of the farmers Markets we come across, and have had some of the best baked goods, we are not sure if it is just unique to this area, but the breads and muffins are some of the best we have ever had. Maybe it has to do with the french influence in the area, regardless it has been a true pleasure having a fresh muffin with a cup of coffee in the morning. The next morning in Hastings we ran into a convoy of American Tugs heading up the canal. We were happy to find that our friends Bill and Carol from the Tennessee Rover were in the mix and we were invited to join their Convoy. So off we went, a line of tugs making our way winding through the twists and turns of the canal. It's real fun to travel with this group, we all talked to each other on the vhf and soon I felt like a trucker on I95. The jokes and banter between the boats was truly entertaining One of the best was an exchange between the Tennessee Rover and the Money Girl. Monkey Girl had stayed a night in an anchorage the night before and had gotten a late start, as the day was coming to an end she had not yet caught up to the convoy. Andrew on the Freedom and Bill on the Tennessee Rover were ruthless to Bill and on Monkey Girl telling him to burn some gas dammit, if you miss the lock you will miss the party tonight. Bill told them he had just gotten off the phone with the banker and was putting her in the corner, he could see the dollar sings fly as he pushed his tug to 15 knots. After we locked through our last lock for the day we tied up and checked in on Bills status. Well it seemed the Monkey Girl had succumbed to a boaters worst fear. Bill announced that Alarms had gone off and the engine was in the red. He was not going to make it to the lock. We all felt awful, had our joking made him push her to hard. There was loads of discussion over the radio with advise and support, but ultimately it was up to them to get the boat in a place that was safe for the night. We were expecting big thunder storms that night and we all hoped their gear would hold through the night. That night the storms came in and turned up the Canal in a hurry. Anna and I both woke up and scrambled to shut the few open hatches, it was pouring and the wind was blowing hard with the loud crack of thunder every few seconds. In the morning we found that Monkey Girl had been unable to solve its engine problems and had lived through a hell of a night worrying about the holding power of it anchor. After a quick morning discussion it was decided that we would take one boat back trough the lock and tow them the final 6 miles to town. So off we went, our Convoy was now a rescue mission. As we approached the Monkey Girl and her crew we were greeted by Bill on the vhf telling us that he though he had finally fixed the problem and was going to fire her up. To all of our relief, he had been successful. I was very relieved, although the idea of towing a boat into the lock sounded exciting, I knew all to well how difficult it would be maneuvering our way through these narrow channels. Unlike Nantucket, the ground here is not sand it's rock. If you go aground here it most likely is going to be an expensive day. Arriving back at the lock we all took our convoy positions and off we went. That night we had the party we had been talking about all day before. It was Bill and Carol's 42nd wedding anniversary and we had a great time busting on Bill for forgetting to say happy Anniversary to Carol that morning. After champagne toasts and a few to many drinks Anna and I made our way back to Blue having had two wonderful days with these three other tugs and their crews. In the morning we were separated, your lock number is assigned to you in the order you arrive onto the lock wall the night before. There was a sailboat tied up before we arrived and the locks and only take four boats at a time. Having been the last boat in the Convoy we would lock through in the next rotation we said our goodbyes and made plans to see each other down the line. It will be good to travel on our own for a day or two, these guys were to much fun and the crew of old Blue are pretty tired.

That is one 2 dollar coin!

All three of the American tugs where red and made quite a spectacle heading up the trent. It made us miss our old boat Tootsie, she would have fit right in with this crowd.

This was the first flight lock we have seen so far on the trip. As you enter the first lock, it fills and opens into a second. Look at the size of those doors behind that is a wall of water the likes of which we had not seen before

The convoy of tugs as we made our way through Rice Lake.

Anna and I jokingly played a bit of the Gordon Lightfoot song "The Edmond Fitzgerald" over the vhf as the wind picked up on the lake. It made for a stir among the boats as they all commented that one should not test fate.

As always the views entertained us on every turn.

Anna thinks she might have found her dream house.

Lets face it, it is hard to wave at all the boats, these people seem to have come up with a brilliant solution.
If I was in the US I would definitely say this guy is a republican.

I could not believe I was able to get this shot. This hawk was hovering over the boat looking for fish. This was right before he dove down like an arrow into the river with it's catch.

There he goes. I wish the camera had caught the rest it was totally awesome.

Just awesome!

I took a few moments to teach Bill from the Monkey Girl how to splice line.
"The Student is now the Master Humm!"

The lock master at this lock was to funny. He had this monkey as his lock buddy. One thing I can say for Canada, the men and women that work for the park system are some of the nicest folks I have ever met.

The convoy minus Blue locking through.

The locks in Canada unlike on the Erie all open manually, this morning I was given the great honor of opening the lock for the convoy. Note the Lei Bill gave to the lock Master from the night before, it was a great night.

Moving on alone Anna and I came to the Peterboro lift, one of the most impressive locks in the world. It hydraulically lifts two pools of water up and down allowing boats to be lift up like an elevator. I was shocked to learn that this lock is over 100 years old.

That ram is half the width of our boat.

As one goes up the other goes down.

The towers support the tracks.

What a view.

Anna quickly found that she is still afraid of heights.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trent Severn Here We Come!

Our departure from Kingston was Bitter Sweet. It was time to push on, Anna and I had a great time in this city. The day before, late in the afternoon, we took the bikes off the top of Blue's deck and went for a wonderful bike ride on Kingston's waterfront trial. It was a beautiful day, the kind you tend to remember all year. Kingston has no beachfront, what it does have is a wonderful line of parks stretching along Lake Ontario. People could be seen with books and picnic blankets all along the lake. It reminded me of the early season on Nantucket when you have your first warm day of summer and everyone feels compelled to get outside and soak it up. As Anna and I sat and looked out on the lake it was as if we had a spell cast on us. I imagine you could spend hours staring endlessly at the subtle changes on the horizon. Surprisingly, the commercial traffic is much less on this area of the lake, what was once a horizon doted with large ships is now a blank canvas stretching endlessly as far as the eye can see. When Anna and I returned to the dock, we were greeted by the noise of a group of cigarette boats pulling into the slips around us. Man were they loud. I bet they used more gas pulling into the marina than we did so far on the trip. I had to laugh when I saw they had to shut down their engines to talk over the radio to ask for their slip assignments. Once docked I was surprised to see that each boat was not filled with the cast of Jersey Shore, rather each one had a young family. They set up their chairs and tables on the dock and had a huge gathering. I guess you can't always judge a book by it's cover, this group of boaters did not fit the image I had always associated with that type of boat. In the morning Anna and I pushed off for the Bay of Quinte. It was a full days steam to Trenton, the gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway. Our trip down the bay started with some rough seas, but after a few zigzags we finally made our way into the lee of the bay. Once we found some cover from the wind, the seas calmed down and we were able to hold our course. As we left Kingston behind, the landscape changed dramatically. What was once a sky line of a city was now a vista of rolling hills and farms. Small homes could be seen on the banks. These homes did not have the aura of wealth that the homes on the Hudson and St Lawrence had, rather they seemed like small cottages and family homes. It was nice to think that this was not an area that was caught up with the competition with the Jonse's. I was surprised at the lack of Marinas and stops along the way. This is very much untouched county when compared to what we have seen down south. We are told the farther we head up to Georgians Bay the more remote it will become. The idea of boating in a area where things are only accessible by boat is something we have been looking forward to with great anticipation. Our arrival in Trenton was a great relief. For some reason it had been a long day on the boat. I feel it had a lot to do with the rough seas we had dealt with at the beginning of the day. When the seas get to rough, we can no longer run the autopilot, which equates to a long day standing at the wheel. It also could have been do to the rain that settled in on us for about three hours in the middle of day. Whatever the reason Anna and I where happy to be in port, the city of Trenton is the home to Canada's Air Force Museum we had heard they have a great exhibit. The next morning was a total change from the day before, our bike ride to the Museum was accompanied by a cool dry air that made us feel great. We were extra excited to see that there where no hills between us and our destination. Every time we embark on these little excursions we joke about "Sunnyside" and the dreaded hills. The Museum was very impressive, but we were shocked to find that it was not the planes that caught our attention. In the back corner of the exhibit hall there was a small section devoted to a group of men that dug there way out of a military prison in WWII. I had remembered watching "The Great Escape" as a boy and thinking Steve McQueen was "The Man" as he jumped his motor cycle and tossed his baseball in the cooler. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the whole film was based on factual events. The exhibit showed some hand drawings from the actual men whom designed the tunnel systems along with a mock up of Tom, Dick, and Harry, the three tunnels dug under the camp to the woods outside the wires. It was a great time, only made better by the enthusiasm of our tour guide, a retired Air Force volunteer that spent a good two hours with us explaining all the exhibits. Leaving Trenton the next day, Anna and I began our journey trough the Trent Severn. The locks are similar to what we saw on the Eire, yet this canal has a totally different feeling. The nature we have seen is breathtaking. Taking advantage of a nice night, we opted to pull off the Canal and anchor in a cove called the Blue Hole. We soon found ourselves totally alone. In a tree across the anchorage a huge nest could be seen with a bald eagle chick. Anna and I spent the evening passing the binoculars back and forth as we watched these beautiful birds. There is no question why our county chose this bird to represent the USA. It is one of the most impressive animals I have ever seen in my life. Beautiful graceful and deadly all at once. The eagle made us think of home and how lucky we are to have been there with it in that cove on such a peaceful night.

Every house sports it's countries flag with pride.

This barn looked great against the backdrop of trees.

This Nordic "Somewhere in Time" gave us a nice wave then called on the VHF to say "Man you guys are a long way from home."

It has been a long time since we saw a sailboat enjoying a favorable breeze.

This kid had fun showing off his sailing skills. I bet my Nephew Will is enjoying the trapeze on his 420. I would love to use it with him but I think we would need a hurricane to keep from flipping with me on the wire.

Notice everything in Canada is in English as well as French.

This plane was raised from a lake in Norway after it crashed in WWII.
Click on the picure to enlarge it and read the story.

Here it is today totally restored.

This Russian MIG was a gift to Canada from East Germany after the unification.
Guess they didn't need it any more.

One of the main jobs of the Canadian air force is to offer search and rescue to its countries waters and wildernesses.

Anna liked the name of this plane.

" Negative Ghost Rider"

Ok this is way more impressive than a cannon.

"Blue" sitting pretty in the first lock on the Trent. Anna loved this lock because the lock attendent held the lock so she could get ice cream at a corner store a few meters away. She got a flavor called "Birthday Cake". It was interesting.

Much like the Eire the dams are cool to look at along side the locks.

The Blue Hole.

Hello Hello.......

One farm could be seen way off in the distance. It was no surprise that the eagles picked this spot to nest.

A family of swans came to say hello.

We were told that as the eagle matures, it will develop the white head that gives the bird it royal look. When it spread it's wing we could truly see the size of the bird. The nest was the size of a large tractor tire about thirty feet in the air.

Friday, June 18, 2010

200 Classic wooden Boats. WOW!

Our trip to Clayton NY was something Anna and I have been thinking about since we left Nantucket. Clayton is home to the Wooden Boat Museum, an exhibit that would be hard to find anywhere else in the United States if not the world. The boats are exquisite. If you were to measure all the teak and varnish in terms of miles I think we could almost make it home. Ed looked like a little kid drooling over the old engines and wooden speed boats. Not to many years ago he had restored a Jersey skiff, a 17 foot flat bottom speed boat with a direct drive 400 horsepower engine. "Make sure the boat is pointed the right way, turn the key and hold on for dear life" was how he described it. The engine is positioned in the middle of the boat leaving room for the driver back at the transom. Ed laughed as he told us of his two rides in the boat after its completion. He said he topped out at about 80 t0 90 miles per hour, put her back on the trailer and said to himself "OK I did it, but if I keep doing it I think it will kill me". He sold it soon after and on the buyers test run he didn't dare give it all she's got. Our stay in Clayton was delightful, the town is wonderful, many of the restaurants have views of the river and the shops are filled with things related to the 1000 Islands. At the end of the town we came across a great pub which had some of the best wings I have ever had. I joked that you know you are in a great place when the special board starts with, "Three draft beers and a basket of wings 12.99." In the morning we said our sad goodbyes and saw Ed off. We had a great visit with him, he made a great addition to the crew. With bad weather on it's way Anna and I decided to make a run for Canada. If we were going to be stuck for a few days, we wanted it to be in a spot where we could enjoy the sights. So Kingston Ontario it is. On our crossing, we could not have been in Canada more than a mile when Anna spotted a huge Canadian Coast Guard Cutter off to our port side hidden in a cove between to islands. Wow we thought what a cool ship. "Look, it looks like it is launching an inflatable over the side". "Wow it's coming right by us, they got ski goggles on and are really flying" "Man they look like the Navy Seals." "Wait what's he signaling?" "Cut my engines?" Suddenly Anna looked at me like an officer on the bridge in the movie "The Hunt For The Red October" "I think they intend on boarding us" she said. Board us they did, and was I glad I had asked our friends at Coast Guard Station Brant Point to give us an inspection before we left. In the end they were extremely polite and professional, they even gave us a recommendation on where to eat in Kingston. As they sped off Anna and I joked, welcome to Canada! Or arrival to Kingston was just in time, the winds picked up and we tucked ourselves up in our bunk feeling safe and cozy. In the morning we awoke to some stiff winds but sunny skies. Kingston is a cool city, many of the buildings are constructed of Sandstone. Americans refer to it as the Annapolis of Canada. After spending a day here, we have decided to stay a second. There are to be free concerts in the parks tonight and the weather is out of this world. We could not ask for a better introduction to Canada and its people.
Anna and Ed had a great time together.

Osprey nests are all along the river.

This boat house seems to have had a little problem.

It's the "Elle Belle" we hope they have a safe trip up the St Lawrence to Maine.

The Channels through the river keep us on our toes.

Clayton was a great town, the backs of all these building face the river.

This was our favorite exhibit at the Wooden Boat Museum.

The old outboards were too cool.

I bet Kim Tonkin would love to have this. He has a cool little outboard in his store on Nantucket.

These boats where spotless.

This one had a working steam engine.

It looks like it was right out an old Ford.

The appointments give the boats such great lines.

Once again is this a car or a boat.

Ed loved this Engine.

This wooden speed boat was about 7 feet long. You kneel in the cockpit and hold on for dear life.

This bad boy must have been some loud.

What a collection.

Anna Ed and I had dinner on the top deck and were given this great sunset. We hope Ed had a great time, we sure did.

This lighthouse marked our entrance into Canada. Little did we know what lay around the corner.

The Canadian War College located on the shore of Kingston Harbor.

Kingston as we approached the city.

This Ice Breaker was in a museum right next to our dock.
The Maple leaf is everywhere.
I loved the controls an the ice breaker.
Once again I marveled at the size of the old ships wheels.

The restaurants on the streets have a great atmosphere.

The town hall of Kingston was once the capital of Canada.

The sandstone building that give Kingston its charm.

Canadian pride can be seen on every corner.

Anna and I loved this fountain located at the park next to our dock.

What a wonderful night.