New England might be nice, but about those roads and drivers . . .

Not much boating to report, because Misty Pearl hasn’t moved since we arrived at Basin Harbor.  Off to Maine to pull Mallory off the trail for a couple of days.  That meant driving through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  Lots of beautiful scenery.

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Between getting Oscar to the vet in Portland for a scratched eye, getting deep into the woods to get Mallory, and then a tad of sightseeing, we drove roughly a thousand miles of narrow backroads.  These states don’t believe in freeways.

The other thing is that all of the natives drive about five miles below the speed limit.  We figure it’s because eleven months out of the year they’re driving carefully on snow and ice, and during the summer month they can’t override the muscle-memory.  Or maybe they just figure the small town they’re heading to is about the same as the small town they just left, so no need to hurry.  Or—to be charitable—maybe they know more than Doug and actually take seriously all the signs warning about the dangers of hitting a moose.  Regardless, they’re as bad as snowbird Sun City-ers back in Arizona.

41DEFB23-98E1-4BD7-8009-26055857E7E6The towns may all look about the same, but at least they’re quaint and charming.  And sometimes quirky.  For example, in one of them we found the National Headquarters for the American Society of Dowsers.

Dowsers?  Didn’t they burn all the dowsers at the stake some 250 years ago?  Isn’t fraud a crime?  We would’ve ducked in to argue about paranormal gibberish but one of us is both fascinated and terrified by people who believe in ghosts, people who join cults, and dowsers, and was afraid of what might happen inside.  Dana wasn’t much interested anyway.

Speaking of being terrified, our one touristy thing was the Mt. Washington Auto Road.  Seven miles of 12% grade up and down a narrow windy road with thousand-foot drop-offs but no shoulders or guardrails.  Not even the passengers took their eyes off the road.  But the top was pretty cool.

The other noteworthy thing we saw was the site outside of Gorham, New Hampshire, where a week earlier a heroin junkie wiped out seven motorcyclists who were affiliated with a Marine Corps club.  Essentially the road was blocked by mourners and flags.  We didn’t take a picture.  Lots of finger pointing up here in New England, but the upshot is that the death penalty is too good for the scumbag responsible for it all.

A212687D-193C-47C3-BFC8-E9C7E9ED1D58Now we’re back and ready to head up to Burlington.  Incidentally, we fully expected to find Misty Pearl coated with seagull poop when we returned, because the seagulls are everywhere.  We had a few spiderwebs outside, but nothing else.  And these spiders are to Lake Michigan spiders as ping pong balls are to beach balls, so no biggie.

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But are the Chunky Monkeys Half Baked?*

Departures along our journey have been delayed because of fog, and wind, and rain, and boats, and breakfast, and dogs, and other things.  Today was a new one.  A triathlon.  Perhaps surprisingly—or mostly not—neither of us was participating.  But we still had to wait out the swimming leg before getting out of the basin.  In our world, swimming is what you do when the boat sinks.  No thanks.

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Plus we have reason to believe the last iceberg on Lake Champlain only melted a few short days ago, which makes it quite likely the water is less than 80°.  Which isn’t necessarily the only reason we aren’t doing a triathlon up here, but it’s a good one.

The plan was to enjoy a nice easy cruise up to Burlington.  Burlington is Vermont’s largest city by population, coming in at a whopping 42,000.  For perspective that our Arizona friends will understand, that’s smaller than Sierra Vista.  ASU’s student body is half again larger.  But it’s the home of Ben & Jerry, so we were happy to see the waterfront approaching well in advance of the predicted storm.

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img_8358Fuel at the marina was a bit overpriced but we topped off anyway.  None of that green-colored Canadian diesel for us.  Then we discovered that Dockwa had price gouged us.  And the restaurant wasn’t up and running yet.  And the other infrastructure advertised on the website was missing or lacking as well.  Fortunately Bob the Dockmaster understood our concerns and pulled strings to get us a spot next door at the Burlington Community Boathouse.  Unfortunately the rain and wind came before we could get over there, so we sat at the fuel dock and waited.

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After relocating to “Mr. O’Neal’s spot,” we headed up to Church Street.  Even in the spotty rain, we could tell that there’s more to Burlington than just depressing coat factory outlet stores near semi-abandoned malls on the bad side of town.  It turns out that Burlington’s actually kind of hip, although that spotty rain makes it hard to tell from a photo.

When we got back to the boat after dinner, the other boaters were abuzz about the sunset over the Adirondacks across the lake.  We missed it, so a photo of the sunset cruisers returning to the dock is the best we can do.

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We’re going to be here a few days so hopefully will catch a good sunset over the mountains before we leave.  Magic supposedly is steaming up this way to cruise with us for awhile.

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* Okay it’s a dumb Ben & Jerry title, although we think Cherry Garcia would approve.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

We’d thought about staying in Burlington until Wednesday.  Burlington is a very cool town with very cool shops and restaurants and delicious bagels.  However, Dana solved the mystery of how Church Street got its name so we decided that yesterday would be our last day on that stretch of Lake Champlain.

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img_8373To most of the country, Vermont basically is in Canada.  The crowd in the park watching the U.S. Women’s National Team win the World Cup might disagree.  Big crowd, big win for Our Team.

One last sunset over the shores of New York.  Dang, it just doesn’t get much better than sunsets with a glass of wine on Misty Pearl’s bow.  With Oscar, of course.

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93964446-F92B-4900-B6F9-FF56E7870EBEWell, sleeping with the windows and hatch open on a cool night might be better.  Or at least as good.  So this morning we slept in with the hatch open and consequently got a late jump on the trip up to Rouses Point.  No worries though.  Not a cloud all day, although we did come across the fairly hideous Colchester Reef “Lighthouse.”

Vermont shoreline is better than the New York shoreline, although both are pretty dang spectacular.

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02F46304-3958-4A2D-8036-B734202BC922Rouses Point is the last town before Canada.  It’s on the New York side so we kind of expected the kids to be playing stickball in the streets under spray from fire hydrants, but instead we found them fishing or otherwise messing around in what looked like a place where a wind gust would put them in the water.  This probably is a good place to be a kid.  If you enjoy wearing snow pants.

There are a couple of marinas in Rouses Point.  We know that, because for about a week we dithered over which one to use.  Dana made a reservation at a place someone recommended.  Then someone else recommended the other place instead.  Then someone else chimed in.  Anyway, we ended up at Gaines Marina, just in time to see them patriotically mowing the lake.  A quick look off our stern showed us why.

We last encountered this strainer-clogging mess last summer in Canada and now it’s this summer and basically we’re in Canada so we guess it makes sense.

3B369B60-95F4-47EB-AAD0-99F90A089413In fact, we’re so close to Canada that the lampposts have Canadian flag’s.  From here we probably could throw a baseball across the border if (1) we had a baseball and (2) we wanted to litter in Canada before we even arrive.  We almost can smell the pickerel (yum) and the poutine (yuck).  We’re meeting more Canadian boaters than American boaters at our marina, which came in handy when Dana needed help with a reservation request form that was in French.  Canadians all are super nice.

Rouses Point was a big smuggling port during prohibition, which is interesting but not that important to us.  It also is at the source of the Richelieu River, which is both interesting and important since that’s where we’re headed.  So we’re going down the river, but north, which is up to anyone looking at a map.  Very confusing.

Tomorrow we cross to the other side, so this is the last evening with the Gold Loop burgee.  Tomorrow the maple leaf goes back up, where it’ll stay until we get around to Maine in a couple of months.

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We Heart Canada

As we’ve probably noted before, some days are easy, some days are hard, and some days just have to be survived.  Some days, however, are both hard and incredibly awesome.  Today was one of those.

E304D1F2-F964-4D45-B39A-9EDC32F47FFBIt started out cool and clear.  Just like we like it.  Off the dock at 8, which is early enough to get a good start, but late enough to not suck from a getting-up perspective.

The first obstacle was a stretch of old pilings from an abandoned causeway.  Meh.  We found the opening with no problem.

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About five minutes later, we passed the ruins of Fort Montgomery.

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Fort Montgomery was built in 1844, the same year early Seventh-Day Adventists somehow concluded that the world was about to be destroyed.  (Turns out it was just bad math and the world actually is going to be destroyed at some later date.)  The fort either was to be defensive protection from the Canadians or as a launch pad for an assault on Canada, depending on what country the historian you ask calls home.  It was named for General Richard Montgomery.*  Through diligent research we’ve learned that Alabama’s capital is named for the same Richard Montgomery, which we find shocking.  We would’ve guessed that Alabama adopted the name Montgomery out of respect for the line of camouflage underwear—men’s, women’s, AND children’s—available in the high-fashion department at the Montgomery Ward in Sylacauga.

BB3F9FDB-BF52-45A3-9A96-DB4C8E1E9B7FAbout five minutes later, we passed into Canadian waters.  The physical evidence of the line of demarcation is limited to one small floaty thing that’s less conspicuous than a plain old channel marker.  We almost missed it entirely.  It’s a good thing we didn’t though, because five minutes later we reached the Canadian border patrol office.

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B38DE752-1EE3-432F-9D49-5B64ADD07D03The border guards were super pleasant and nice.  Then they boarded Misty Pearl and tossed her like Andy Dufresne’s cell after he stole the warden’s money and escaped through the sewer.

Fortunately we’re clean, of course, so they let us head on down the Richelieu.

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The river was cool and all, but then we reached the Chambly Canal—Canal de Chambly to the Québécois—which was downright fun.  The Chambly Canal is a National Historic Site, opened in 1843.  That’s before the Civil War.  And it’s just about the same today as when it opened.  The name “Chambly” comes from the Native Canadien word for “buttload of bathtub-size locks.”**

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In spots the canal barely was wide enough for us to squeeze through.  Especially with seemingly random channel markers (red to port, green to starboard?) and port-o-potties.

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But it was crazy scenic.  In several places the bridges and locks jumbled together in a pretty confusing way.  We’ve been through a ton of locks, but the small size and frequency of these bad boys was new.

But here’s the coolest part.  It’s all synchronized.  Listen on 68 and they’ll tell you if there’s an issue.  Otherwise just hold at the 10 KPH speed limit and cruise on through.***

96214594-713B-4D7C-8F32-A9AA9BF8F554Just like we suspect was the case in 1844, the bridge tenders nowadays sometimes run from bridge to bridge.  Or in this case, drive from bridge to bridge.  That’s right.  This isn’t just another canal photo.  The girl from the last bridge is in that car rushing to open the next one for us.  She stayed with us for at least three bridges and one lock.  That’s a trooper right there.

Then the last three locks dumped us in the lake.

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Although all of the canal was awesome, the prettiest and most narrow part was the first half.  Just after that point, Dana asked the second-most important question of the day: “This is so beautiful.  Why didn’t you do a time-lapse video?”  Grrrr.  So for anyone with two-and-a-half minutes to kill, here’s the second half of the canal.****

After the lockset in the photo above, we wheeled into the Chambly Marina.  Marina de Chambly to Québécois.

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In Burlington we were docked next to Frank and Frank, cousins who told us their other cousin had an Italian restaurant in Chambly.  So we went.  Cousin Joey even stopped by to chat and offer us free drinks.

Hey, here’s an interesting tidbit.  Fort Chambly is just around the corner, so close we could take a photo from our stern.

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Fort Chambly was captured and held—briefly—by Americans in 1775.  The American commander?  Richard Montgomery.  Dude apparently was a big deal up in these parts.  Which still doesn’t explain the whole Alabama thing, but then most of Alabama defies explanation.

Nice view of the church through the twilight haze from our bow.

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Tomorrow we’ll explore Chambly.

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* Not to be confused with Robert Montgomery Knight—nicknamed “the General”—whose Hall of Fame career was destroyed by scandal but who still holds records for chair tossing and funny quotes mocking Dale Brown.

** Okay that may not be true, but it could be.

*** We’re from Tennessee and Texas.  We don’t do metric.  However, from all the years Dana has spent running road races and all the years Doug has spent thinking about not running road races we know that 10 kilometers is 6.2 miles.  From there it just takes another hour or so to convert the speed to knots.

**** Clearly the most important question of the day was “Why didn’t you ask me that earlier?”

It’s like a different country up here, or “No hablo Français”

Today was supposed to be leisurely, at least until we had to start the chores that’ve been backing up on us like a toilet about to explode.  We even slept in right up to when Oscar decided it was time to get up.

img_8411Yesterday we got our first inkling that this language thing might be more, um, interesting, than we anticipated.  When we were in British Columbia, the locals sounded almost like they were from Minnesota.  Last year in Ontario, the accents almost were bland.  Like everyone was from Kansas.  Not so much in Quebec, where French is the official tongue.  Unfortunately, Dana—like Sam Cooke—don’t know much about the French she took.  Doug knows a bit about a science book but never studied French.  Which left us pretty disadvantaged.

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On our walk around town this morning we stopped for breakfast.  Uh oh.  No English subtitles on the menu.  Some stuff we sort of could figure out.  Some stuff not so much.  And the waitress—who was fun and engaging and attentive—couldn’t help.  But we’re learning.  For example, using our powers of linguistic deduction we now know the French word for “gas.”

Anyway, we walked to the church over which we watched yesterday’s sunset.  It was pretty cool today as well.

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img_8418We also bopped over to Fort Chambly.  Which was closed.  We knew it was closed because locked doors speak a universal language.

Right about that time Dana suggested that with the possibility of bad travel days ahead, perhaps we should go part way down—which is up on the map—the Richelieu River.  Hey that’s a great idea!  Back to the boat, walk Oscar a last time, clean the strainer, fire up the engine.  Off the dock at 11:15.  Chores can wait.

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Although we’re headed due north, the Richelieu flows that direction.  We immediately picked up the current.  Hey we’re going almost 10 knots!  We don’t know the exact exchange rate, but we figure that’s at least 13 knots Canadian.  Quaint towns dominated by steeples lining the river zipped by one after another.

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We’ve passed a bunch of ferries during our journey, but can’t recall another one that just rides back and forth on a cable, almost like the one that Josey Wales shot loose while escaping incompetent bounty hunters.  No propellers, just a winch.  Today we saw three of them.

There was one and only one troublesome bit about the run up to Saint-Ours.  While in Burlington, we met Loopers heading south.  They claimed there was a railroad bridge that makes men cry and women faint.  The current funnels through an opening just wide enough for one boat, they warned.  Companions of theirs were swept into the rocks and it took three boats to pull them out.  But we’ve heard horror stories before.  Probably nothing to fear at all.

Hmmm.  Navionics shows the path through the bridge, but mostly it’s covered with red warning icons.  This can’t be good.  The comments say lay on your horn and make sure nobody is coming upstream because once you commit there’s no bailing out.  But since going downstream in fast current makes a boat difficult to steer, down-streamers have the right-of-way, which we figured was good enough for us.

Ok, the bridge is coming up.  What the hell?  Why would the river be littered with kids right near a danger zone?  Just our luck.

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The narrow opening is on the port side, hard against the shore.  Which means you fricken can’t see what’s on the other side UNTIL YOU’RE ALREADY IN THE CHUTE.  We tried creeping up to the blind corner, but there’s only so much creeping one can do when the current grabs the hull.  We laid on the horn. Dana craned her neck.  “Nobody’s coming we can go.”  Followed almost immediately by “Oh shit there’s a big boat right at the bridge!”  It might have been our clean living.  It might have been our choice of a good boat.  Regardless, we threw the prop into reverse at about 2000 rpms and managed to back up just long enough to let the apparently-hornless bastard get by us.  In the panicked moment Dana failed to get a photo of said hornless bastard’s boat, but she recovered nicely in time for one just before we rode through like it was the log ride at Dollywood.  The Navionics screenshot of our path—in yellow—tells the story.

Well that was exciting!  How about no more excitement for the day?  We’d be fine with that.

A couple of hours later we reached the Saint-Ours Canal.  The Saint-Ours Canal is another National Historic Site, which is a tad odd since it takes less time to traverse the canal than it does to say “National Historic Site.”  The entire canal is just one lock.  On the side, Parcs Canada rents out oTENTiks at the lock.  No joke.  That’s what they’re called.  But they do look like fun.

Around a couple more bends and we docked at the Parc Bellerive Marina and Campground.  The last time we were at one of these marina/motor home joints was in Everglades City.  Our inability to read or speak French was an issue—again—at the adjacent restaurant, but it’s actually kind of fun.  Our “French” comes out sounding absurdly like something between Inspector Clouseau and Pepé Le Pew.   The nice Canadians all try to help us out, of course, although in a tone that Aunt Terri might finish off with a “bless their hearts.”  But hey, it’s their beautiful country.  We’re just happy to sit back and enjoy passing through.

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