These little town blues are melting away

By getting to Waterford this afternoon, we finished our last stretch of the New York State Canal System.  Hell, after the Federal Lock tomorrow we may be done with locks forever.  Fine by us.  But before exiting the Erie Canal today, of course, we first had to leave Little Falls.

The Beast.  The Guillotine.  The dreaded Erie Lock 17, with fierce winds, strong current, and asymmetrical filling that pinballs boats around wildly no matter how seasoned the crew might be.  We lived through it going up with Second Wave, but just barely.

Lock 17 was the first lock we faced Wednesday morning, after a disappointing meal in Little Falls Tuesday evening.  We chose to believe that a heron on a lamppost brings good luck, however, and headed in.

Meh.  Going down in Lock 17 is a big nothing-burger, although the specter of a chain breaking and dropping the blade on our heads was momentarily chilling.

Absolutely gorgeous day to Amsterdam, with a few highlights along the way and only those stories about Amsterdamers untying boats in the night to dampen our spirits.

Corn?  Where we’re from you don’t hear much about the rolling cornfields of New York.  Do New Yorkers even eat corn?

This is Herkimer Home, built in 1764.  Not surprisingly, the Herkimer Home State Historic Site webpage asserts that General Herkimer’s courageous performance at the Battle of Oriskany on August 6, 1777, was “a significant turning point in the Revolutionary War.”  This claim seems a bit sketchy, however, since nobody has ever heard of the Battle of Oriskany.  The house looks cool from the river though.

Then past the bucolic village of St. Johnsville.  Beautiful setting, although we skipped it this time.  By the way, the sad tree to the right of the little lighthouse might look all nice and innocent, but it isn’t.  That tree is evil.  Just look at those claws.  Anyone flying a drone near that tree better have easy access to Brent, Chief Weaver, and $500 for the St. Johnsville VFD fundraiser.

The paucity of boats on the system allowed us mostly to cruise right through the locks without waiting.  You radio ahead, the green light pops on, and then you go.  Easy.  We did have to wait a few minutes at Lock 12, however, for the dude in a homemade sail/rowboat.  Took him a good while to maneuver out.  The Lockmaster told us his dog jumped overboard in the lock—which might’ve slowed progress—but it was a cute dog in a neon life jacket so we didn’t get too worked up.

Amsterdam is a hardscrabble kind of town, with those nasty but true stories about local hoodlums setting boats adrift.  The pedestrian bridge across the river, however, is as pretty as any you’ll find.

Maybe the hoodlums all are in prison or found consciences, or maybe our decision to loop lines back to boat and leave the lights on worked, but either way the anchor alarm didn’t go off and we woke up right where we were supposed to be.  The worst thing about the stop turned out to be the trains, which thundered and whistled through our cabin all night.

Thursday brought a quick hop down to Schenectady, after the unexpected fog cleared out.

Three uneventful locks and fifteen uneventful miles to Mohawk Harbor, but more cool scenery.

Here’s the iconic abandoned remains of a coal-fired power plant built by Adirondack Power & Light in the 1920s.  Shortly after constructing the magnificent facility, the foolish folks at APL realized that using the adjacent river to generate hydroelectric power was way more efficient than burning coal that arrived by rail, one carload at a time.  Duh.

Back in the day, we both loved to waterski.  Our last boat before Misty Pearl was a Supra.  What we never did with any of our ski boats, however, was pull a wakeboarder directly across the path of a 32-ton trawler in a narrow river, because that’s just stupid and annoying and you never know if the trawler people might be looking down at the Wordle or something when the guy on the board falls off.  But Dana allowed that they couldn’t be all bad because they had a cute dog.

Hey look!  That gorgeous Marlow behind us in Mohawk Harbor is Magic Jeannie!  Art and Jeannie were looping when we were—in different boats—and we met up with them several times along the way.

Also, that’s an odd collection of flags on the marina flagpole.  The Star-Spangled Banner and overly-busy New York state flag make sense, but that teeny blue flag underneath them?  That’s an AGLCA sponsor burgee, which implies that we should’ve received a discount but didn’t.

The closest we’d been to Schenectady before Friday was the Schenectady Yacht Club fuel dock.  We missed out that time.  Schenectady may be awkward to spell but it’s an awesome little city.

Schenectady is home to Union College, founded in 1795.  The Garnet Chargers.  Cool campus.

For a tiny school nobody outside of New York knows about, Union College has pumped out an amazing number of big shots.  Scores of federal and state legislators, judges, governors, academics, generals, and Chester Arthur, who is one of those random Presidents you forget when trying to name them all.  This boulder celebrates William Seward—Union College Class of 1820–who orchestrated the deal that brought Alaska into the United States.

Contrary to the opinion of people who despise Sarah Palin, buying Alaska wasn’t a folly at all because without it the Paxtons wouldn’t have become rich and Andrew wouldn’t have had a place to take Margaret before Gammy faked the heart attack and then true love prevailed.*

Schenectady’s big claim to fame, however, is its glorious history of industry.  GE’s factory buildings once covered a huge chunk of the city.  Thomas Edison waged the “Current War” with George Westinghouse from this massive campus, until they ultimately joined forces and formed the heavy metal band AC/DC.

The rest of the city was covered by railroad stuff.  The Schenectady Locomotive Works—later folded into American Locomotive Company—provided train engines during the Civil War.  The most well-known of ALCO’s 90,000 locomotives—actually the only one anybody can identify by name—was Jupiter, which was the first to cross Promentory Summit that day in 1869 when the two halves of the transcontinental railroad were mated.

We celebrated all that history stuff with Magic Jeannie and Wine Down at the yummy Italian place.  Nobody had corn.

Yesterday one of us watched replays of Tennessee football victories, while the other one Ubered to Troy with John and Felicia for the massive Farmers Market.  Troy is famous as the home of the original Uncle Sam, and for cool old buildings.  And for the massive Farmers Market.

We all reconvened at sundown for docktails and insightful stories about St. Augustine.

This morning’s trip to Waterford was mostly locks, although we again found some cool scenery and interesting sights along the way.

We thought this might be the roofline of a grand hotel, or maybe an administration building at another small college nobody has heard of.  It’s neither.  We looked it up.  It’s a five-bedroom private home.  15,000 square feet, but only five bedrooms.  Plus a lovely green lawn extending out into the Mohawk River.

About that crap.  It’s everywhere.  This poor couple with his and her pontoon boats has to plow a path just to get to shore.

Maybe everyone up here is so used to clearing snow all winter that it doesn’t bother them, but it bothers us.  This big clump got caught up under us in a lock, and only came free after some maneuvering that shouldn’t be necessary on a narrow waterway.

Anyway, now that we’re done with Erie locks, we might just throw away the gloves we used to hold the lines.  The gloves are disgusting, because the lock lines are disgusting.

Disgusting or not, at least we can report that we did the entire run from Oswego to Waterford and didn’t lose a single one.  Not everybody can say that.

Unlike Sylvan Beach, Waterford’s restaurants are open on Mondays.  But we’re here on Sunday, so obviously Waterford’s restaurants are closed on Sundays.  Grrrr.  We’re ready for a city that never sleeps.  Tomorrow we hit the Hudson River again.  Hopefully we’ll reach the Big Apple by Friday.  If we can make it there, we’ll make it anywhere.


*“Do you prefer to be called Margaret or Satan’s mistress?  We’ve heard it both ways.”

Erie Schmerie (Season 2)

For a great many Loopers—including us—the New York Canal System is the first exposure to locks on narrow waterways.  And the concept seems cool.  The Erie Canal is all historical and romantic, for example, in an Industrial Revolution sort of way, and there’s even a song about it.   Then you hit the Chambly, or Rideau, or Trent-Severn, and you realize that the New York locks aren’t that fun.

Then after three hundred or so locks you’re over them completely.  Just hard work.  If we want to get to Alaska, however, we gotta get through Oswego and Erie one more time.  At least the Oswego River is full of beauty and interesting stuff.

Remember the weird Canadians who put that huge ugly dog statue in their yard?  We found where their cousins live.

Uncle Joe, on the other hand, has a trading post.

Here’s an old stone bridge.  Not to be confused with The Old Stone Bridge.  We have no information about presidential visits or honorary salutes at this one, but it’s pretty anyway.

Here’s the place where old canal workboats go to die.

Just before leaving the Oswego, we passed Phoenix.  Jarring every time.  This Phoenix literally did rise from the ashes, after a fire in 1916 destroyed virtually the entire town.  The blaze started with a spark at the Sinclair Chair Factory and quickly spread to the Duffy Silk Mill, which sound like fictitious places where Curly, Moe, and Larry might work.*  Unfortunately for the New York version of Phoenicians, the silk mill also housed the water pumps, which not surprisingly stopped working pretty early on.

About that fancy mural.  First, as mottos go, “A Community on the River” is, um, not good.  Sing Sing Correctional Facility also is a community on a New York river.  Why advertise that you’re no better than a maximum-security prison?  Second, why include information that almost immediately is obsolete?  That’s nearly as foolish as putting all your water pumps in a flammable building loaded with the finest combustible fabrics.

We thought about stopping in Phoenix, but didn’t.  Instead we made the turn on the Oneida River towards the opposite of Buffalo.  Seven locks behind us.

Pirate’s Cove is a small family-run marina that had exactly one spot into which we could fit, so we stopped for the night.  Quirky joint.  Justin is an awesome dockhand though.

After tying up we headed to the restaurant for the live music.  The Scoundrels won’t be mistaken for The Beatles, but their amp does go to 11.

Since leaving the Oswego River, we’ve been on the Erie Canal, which more accurately is not a singular canal but instead is a waterway of rivers with some canals and a bunch of locks thrown in with them.  One list we found in a trade publication for construction managers says the Erie project was the ninth deadliest in the history of mankind.**  We’re not sure what OSHA documentation is available from, say, the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids of Egypt jobs, but no doubt many good people died just so we can complain about locking through.

“The early bird gets the smooth water,” as the old saying goes.  Up and out before 7.

Gorgeous Monday for boating.  Only one lock.  Nice.

“Never pass up the chance to get diesel for under $4,” as another old saying goes.  The stop at Winter Harbor took almost an hour, but we last topped off in Grand Marais and now can make it to Ft. Lauderdale.

Most of the day was spent crossing Oneida Lake, which is strangely not tricky for something so big and yet so shallow.  Just point towards the lighthouse—which really is just a light on top of a tower—and twenty miles later you’re at Sylvan Beach.  Easy.

Easy for us, but probably not so easy for the solo sailor who appeared to be heading twenty miles across to the shipyards at Brewerton while affixed to the stern of TowBoatUS.

Sylvan Beach was a convenient stop, with TripAdvisor reporting a nice list of well-regarded restaurants.  All of which are closed on Mondays.  Grrrr.  You’d expect one guy in town to think to himself “Monday crowds are small, but if I have the only open joint in town I’ll get everybody,” wouldn’t you?  Nope.  But no worries, Monday was a great day for some backyard grilling.  Not in our backyard, of course.  Our backyard is in Scottsdale and it’s still one million degrees there.  So we grilled brats in someone else’s backyard.  Yum.

Upon closer inspection, Sylvan Beach leans a tad to the tacky side.  Not that there’s anything wrong with tacky.  But the amusement park with tilty whirly coastery rides that were built from a Tinkertoy Construction Set?  No way.  If we wanted headaches and vomiting and quite possibly an agonizing death, we’d go back to Tin Pan Galley.

Today, more of the slog.  All the way to Little Falls.  The cute Canadian locks weren’t too bad in the rain, although maybe that’s because we sent Brad and Kate out.  We definitely could’ve done without rain in the bigger Erie locks or done with someone else to get wet.

We’re not certain that any of the maritime museums around here have an exhibit entitled “Mysteries of Lock 22,” but if one does we’re confident it includes the prominent display of a cleat attached to a good-size chunk of Mainship fiberglass.  Lock 22 was our first one of the morning.

Mostly drizzly and cold, but with a few dry opportunities to poke a camera out along the way.

During one of the many long straight stretches of isolation, one of us suggested getting some action shots from the drone while underway.  Responsive silence from the other one of us, however, quickly resolved the matter.

Along the way we passed Rome.  Rome claims to be the “Copper City,” which (1) being from Arizona and (2) having just visited Copper Island, was a surprise.

We looked it up.  At one point Rome in fact was a major producer.  Paul Revere started a copper foundry that still is operating here, although he likely wouldn’t be pleased by Revere Copper Products’ 2.8 Google stars.  We only saw a bit of the town from the canal, but we feel confident it wasn’t built in a day.

Next along the route was Utica.  Utica is famous as the home of Willie’s Bagel Cafe.  Willie and his 4.7 stars put Paul Revere to shame, but more importantly Willie opens early.  As we learned when we were in Utica with Second Wave five years ago, when you need a bagel shop, you need a bagel shop, and Willie’s is the place to go.  Doug had to get up on the flybridge in the rain to take a photo as we cruised by, but it’s worth it.

Eliphalet Remington of Ilion started making firearms in 1816, probably to keep people from making fun of his first name.  Although Remington Arms ultimately became an iconic piece of Americana, the company went under a few years ago.  We don’t know if the country store still is around.

Then a run of barges.  Someone repurposed these abandoned ruins into delightful planters.

The little fella in this one looks scared to leave the nest.  The sign on the side says the micro-tug is part of the “Green Propulsion Project,” which sounds about right.  It will burn zero fossil fuels while being pushed around in a barge.

This barge is loaded with some of the prop-dinging detritus left in the canal by the recent storms.  The smiling dude on the tug radioed us with warnings as we approached the lock he was cleaning out.  Some close calls, but no damage.

These are guard gates.  Essentially they slam down when the water gets too high.  Odd.

A photogenic egret welcomed us to Little Falls.

We love Little Falls, but are too tired to give it much blog attention.


*The world’s entire population of intelligent and civilized peoples of every race, color, and creed, agree that Curly, Moe, and Larry are the only Stooges that matter.  Alabama fans, of course, prefer Shemp.

**With a 40% casualty rate, the Panama Canal topped the list.  Who the hell takes a job where survival is only a slight probability?

Send in the clowns

We’re old enough to recall way back on Thursday when we were tired of Sackets Harbor so decided to run up and stay in Clayton until Monday.  Yuck.  Huge waves.  Wind.  Rain.  Finger pointing.  Back in the St. Lawrence Seaway, we dodged Beatrix, who was headed to Cleveland in the wind and waves.

One thing we forgot about was current.  As in the same current that gave us a good push on Thursday was going to extend the trip from Clayton to Oswego by at least an hour.  But we safely rounded Tibbets Point—given to one John Tibbets in 1799 before all that war funny business—and Tibbets Point Lighthouse.  It’s one of many “most photographed lighthouses” we’ve passed, so we did our part even though everything was gray and nasty.

Then into the Thousand Islands and Clayton.

After a torrential downpour on the dock, things kind of looked up for a minute.

Until the wind and waves beat the hell out of us all night.  Islander Marina and Lodge is not well-protected.  Actually, it’s not protected at all.

But at least the sun came out on Friday, allowing a walk about town and down memory lane.  We do love Clayton.

More than five years later, the chairs—which are back to being Adirondacks and not Muskokas—are slightly faded but in the same order as in the original photo we recreated.

Of course, since we’d been to Clayton and figured we knew what’s up, we didn’t bother checking the town calendar before we arrived.  Idiots.  This is the Clayton Opera House, where Judy Collins was performing at the exact time we were sitting on the boat some seven hundred yards away, grumpy after a crappy day of traveling.  Idiots.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Oswego Canal has opened again, so no need to dilly dally.  Mostly horrible travel days in the foreseeable future meant breaking up the trip into two marginally safe shorter days.  Which meant going right back to the same Sackets Harbor we shouldn’t have left, which in turn explains the finger pointing.  We figured if we left before sunrise, however, we’d be tied up before the bad stuff hit later on.

Algosea met us in the Seaway as she tried to beat the crappy weather to Montreal.

As we neared Sackets Harbor, we couldn’t make the math work out.  Basically we spent a bunch of stomach-churning hours on the water, suffered through sleepless bouncy nights, and wasted $200 worth of diesel fuel, all so we could miss a Judy Collins concert.  Send in the clowns?  We are the clowns.

But sometimes, dumb just isn’t dumb enough.  Just a few miles from that protective bosom we previously referenced, we figured “What the hell, this hasn’t been bad at all.  Let’s just go on to Oswego.”  Idiots.  Just about the time we passed the point of no return, the waves reached and then exceeded the gloomy predictions.  Six feet into the trough.  Six feet onto the peak.  Oscar and Benny were throwing up even though they’re only with us in spirit.  The middle two hours joined the handful of worst times we’ve been on the water.

The waves finally started to subside a bit, just as the Coast Guard alerted mariners to a thunderstorm zooming across Lake Ontario.  Lightening.  Driving rain.  Fifty-knot winds.  Take shelter.  Take shelter?  WTF?  We’re twenty miles from land and travel at eight knots.  We fired up the radar and watched it roll directly over us.  Didn’t seem quite as bad as predicted, but still unpleasant.

Fortunately the storm kept zooming, and was gone as we approached Oswego.

There’s Fort Ontario, which technically played a role in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 but mostly not.  The Czech hedgehogs were added later to stop Nazi tanks, or maybe as a breakwall.  We’re not sure.

There’s the Oswego Lighthouse, famous for that time in 1942 when a Coast Guard lightkeeper was stranded by a storm and six Coasties died trying to rescue him.  Still baffling to us, since it’s really not that far from shore.  Also, the storm that created all the drama “produced 65 mph winds and large waves.”  So basically what we faced today, and yet nobody is going to build us any monuments.  Whatever.

The clouds were regathering as we rounded into the Oswego River, tempest-tost.

The goal was to reach the wall between Lock 8 and Lock 7, which hopefully will be protected from big winds.  First, however, we had to cross the big grassy area which concealed logs and such.

A small window gave us time to run into town for sushi.  Yum.  We now recall why we like Oswego, even in the face of evidence that the weather here always sucks.  Cool town.

This fortress-looking place isn’t a jail or an armory; it’s the Oswego YMCA, which dates to 1855.  Pre-Civil War.  We figure the Village People of the day included the Indian, of course, but probably not a construction worker or policeman.

After sushi, we got together with Spirit and Young America on the wall.  Briefly.

Because right then it started pouring again.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.  Either we stay another day, or we don’t.

NOTE OF EDIFICATION:  After our last post, TexasBob commented about the good villagers of Sackets Harbor welcoming President Monroe in August of 1817 with a 19-gun salute, which typically is used for lesser dignitaries.  Like Mike Pence.  So why?  Turns out that between 1810 and 1841, the honor for the top guys required the number of guns to match the number of states.  Although arguably it proved to be a huge mistake, Mississippi became the 20th state on December 10, 1817.  And there’s the explanation.

Oh don’t you remember sweet Betsy from Pike, or In 1814 we took a little trip

First of all, there wasn’t a drone show in Trenton Friday evening, no matter what the seemingly nice couple on Latitude Adjustment promised us.  Maybe the weather thwarted the event or maybe the seemingly nice couple was punking us—bummer either way—but we had Thai Sushi for lunch so everything worked out fine.

Saturday was catch-up day.  When you put off boat washing for two weeks because you’re having so much fun with your guests, you have to pay the fiddler, as the old saying goes.  To paraphrase the great Cal Smith, Saturday was the day the first installment was due.   Some washing and other chores later, we made ready to take off, eh.

6:00.  A.M.  Not a great time for anything other than sleeping, but those ten hours across Lake Ontario weren’t gonna start themselves.  So eastward we went, burning our retinas by looking directly into the morning sun.

We’re always saddened to leave Canada, and this was our shortest season north of the border yet.  A few last things, however, before dipping over to New York.  For reasons only they understand, Canadian sailors also were up early, artfully posing in silhouette right smack where we needed to go.

Hey Look!  Some festive Canadians already have inflated their traditional Halloween unicorn!

Yup, we’re suckers for unicorns.  And red barns and colorful sails.

Then out to where we couldn’t see land.  The dude narrating the video we watched about the military history of Sackets Harbor quoted a British Admiral who supposedly said “The waters of Lake Ontario are more fierce than any sea in the world.”  Obviously that guy didn’t pick his weather windows like we do.  Beautiful all day.  And no flies this time either.

A Big Orange sunrise wasn’t the only thing the early departure delivered.  The Gypsy Swing Band at Sackets Harbor Battlefield was serenading us from afar as we landed, so we popped up to check them out.

Apparently some French guy with deformed fingers created their musical genre—which the leader carried on about at some length—in the 1930s.  Which may or may not explain why we were the youngest people there, but certainly explains why we didn’t stay very long.  Also, can you even say “gypsy” these days?  Regardless, we had a reservation at Tin Pan Galley, an iconic Sackets Harbor eating establishment.  Very cute place from the outside.

Public Service Announcement: DON’T EAT AT TIN PAN GALLEY.  A local at the marina warned us in no uncertain terms that while the place used to be awesome, the new owner is running it into the ground.  We yelled at him later for not being even more insistent.  Because that place is horrible.  Horrible service.  Horrible food.  The replacement food they reluctantly bring out after you send back the horrible food they messed up the first go round?  Equally horrible.  Our man Phil—with whom we bonded during the two-hour ordeal—was the only redeeming thing about the joint, but you’d be better off just paying him to come play at your house.

Unfortunately for us, the weather outlook sucked until at least Thursday.  Up to eleven-foot waves between here and Oswego.  Yeah, we ain’t going out in that.  The point, of course, isn’t that by staying in the protective bosom of Sackets Harbor we’re necessarily smarter than that British guy who was terrified of Lake Ontario back in 1809; it’s quite possible that he didn’t have multiple weather apps on his iPad.  The point instead is that this post leans heavily into Sackets Harbor stuff because we’ve been here a while.  It’s okay though, because it’s a neat little historic town.

Here’s the old Union Hotel, built in 1817.  Solid.

The scary part is the stained-glass window with the square and the compass and the enigmatic G.  Just a few short days ago we watched The Man Who Would Be King, starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine and loaded with with Masonic-themed plot lines.  This can’t be mere coincidence.  We thus must allow for the possibility that the window was left for us by 13th century bricklayers as some sort of coded message about the Widow’s Son, although if so it’s lost on us because the one Freemason we know well enough to ask refused to tell us any of the secrets.  If the message instead was “Go get ice cream at the cute place down the street,” however, message received.

Our initial thought was that the guy who commissioned this stump art must be a very proud American.  Cool.  Then we looked closer and decided that, like us, he also must be a sucker for red barns.  Super cool.  Then we looked even closer and that’s where he lost us.

Sackets Harbor dates to 1801, when NYC businessman Augustus Sackets happened by and decided the well-protected harbor would be a good place to name after himself.  Good move by ol’ Augie.  It’s still a well-protected harbor, which we enjoyed while the fierce waters roiled just outside.

A few years later, the newly formed United States decided Sackets Harbor would be an excellent place to station troops and boats, so as to prevent the smuggling of goods like flour into British-controlled Canada in violation of the U.S. Embargo Act of 1807.  The theory may have been that tea without biscuits—which in an early act of rebellion our fledgling country had renamed “cookies,”—would drive the Brits too off-kilter to be a serious threat.  It obviously didn’t work, however, since the War of 1812 happened.

As war raged, Sackets Harbor became the epicenter of action.  Warshipbuilding took off as the leading industry, and thousands of soldiers moved into the area, making it one of the most heavily fortified towns in America.  Many of the soldiers were stationed at Madison Barracks in Fort Pike—named for Brigadier General Zebulon Pike*—which later were repurposed as an apartment complex.

In June of 1812, a fleet of Canadian Provincial Marines launched the first attempted raid on Sackets Harbor.  Given the unyielding politeness of the attackers, of course, the Americans repelled them easily with the brig USS Oneida’s sixteen cannons and a single cannon on shore.  Easy peasy.

The following April, General Pike used Sackets Harbor as a launchpad for an attack that captured Toronto, which history would regard as a resounding success except (1) Pike was killed, and (2) the Treaty of Ghent ultimately gave the city back so that Canadians could have at least one MLB team to root for after the Expos folded.  Pike is buried at the local cemetery, but it was drizzling and we both had made the questionable decision to keep our umbrellas and raincoats nice and dry on the boat, so we didn’t go look for him.

When we ducked out of the rain and into Fargo’s Deli and Market, the nice lady at the counter told us that the entire Fort Pike area is haunted by the ghosts of soldiers who are scattered about in unmarked graves.  We’re dubious about the ghost thing, but did find confirmation about the unmarked grave thing.  What’s left of some two hundred mouldering dudes is under this field.  RIP and thanks for your service.

Back to the war, where the British were peeved about losing Toronto.  On May 29, 1813–150 years to the day before Doug was born—they waded over from Horse Island and came ashore at the spot where we took a photo this morning.  It’s not that far across, but soaking wet has to be a bad way to start a battle.

Britain’s primary goal was to capture or destroy the Navy shipyards at Sackets Harbor, although they also may have had designs on the red barn the Americans creatively placed on the battlefield.  Or maybe that came later.

Anyway, the combatants fought with guns and bayonets in the field where the Gypsy Swing Band was playing a few paragraphs ago.  Lots of people died.

At one point the American forces foolishly burned up all their own stuff because they anticipated losing but then they pulled the upset.  True story.  As near as we can tell, however, the War of 1812 basically played to a draw, which is why King Charles III has a house in Quebec City instead of, say, Albany.

Today we not only scootered to the view of Horse Island, but also to the Old Stone Bridge.  Under other circumstances we’d note its historical significance but since everything we know comes from that green sign, we won’t.  Cool old stone bridge though.

Tonight, docktails with Liberty and Slàinte Mhath.  Good times.

When we decided to stop at Sackets Harbor rather than go straight to Oswego and down the canal, we had plenty of time to get to Baltimore before our September 15 deadline.  Fools.  All the storms deposited water and debris into the system to the point the Oswego Canal is closed.  Grrrr.  And more rain is on the way.  Grrrrrrrrr.   As evidenced by this wordy post, we’ve already been too long in Sackets Harbor.  So tomorrow we’re backtracking to waste a few days in Clayton.


*One of the museums noted that before the war (i.e., while he was alive), Zebulon Pike “discovered Pikes Peak.”  We certainly can buy that Pike explored a mountain in Colorado that subsequently was named for him, but it seems unlikely indeed that it already was called Pikes Peak when he found it.  Also, the little snack bar at the top of Pikes Peak supposedly sells “doughnuts . . . which collapse or go mushy if transported to lower altitudes.”

Put a bow on the TSW, ’cause that’s a wrap

To anyone hoping for an insightful essay about Kawartha Lakes flora and fauna or historical tidbits about the poor Italian bastards who died digging locks for us to enjoy, we’re sorry to disappoint you.  Feel free to skip this post and wait for the next one, which may or may not be more informational but definitely will be shorter.

Because after we picked up Brad and Kate in Port Severn, we had so much fun over the next nine days that we forgot all about the blog until they headed back to Wyoming from Campbellford, just two stops from Trenton.  Then for the last two days we were resting from all that fun and forgot all about the blog.  So basically this one post has to cover the entire Trent-Severn Waterway.  Which is asking a lot.  We’re including a bunch of photos, however, which will provide the gist of things to folks who haven’t been in these parts and haven’t read the more detailed reports from our last time through here.

Day one was a Big one, as in Big Chute Marine Railway.

Just enough time for a quick drone flight of questionable legality whilst we waited at the bottom for our turn.

We’ve often wondered why Canada still uses this ponderous and expensive mechanism instead of just digging another conventional lock.  At least according to a young lady in a green Parks Canada shirt at a subsequent lock, it’s because the Big Chute acts as a barrier preventing the spread of invasive sea lampreys.  That part made sense.  The part where she said they attach to boats but fall off and die on the trip over land didn’t make sense and we didn’t see any carcasses when we walked around, but whatever.  Once again the ride was pretty cool, even behind the shirtless dude.

Kate immediately proved her worth in conventional locks.  Brad did a masterful job of standing around.

Just as we promised our guests, the ride to Orillia was just about as awesome as possible.

If any of us were doing a Big Year, we could check swans off the list.

Because (1) he was born there and (2) he recently died, Orillia is all about Gordon Lightfoot (RIP).  Among other tributes, they attached guitar sculptures with themes about him or songs from his catalog on every lamppost in town.  We got photos of about thirty of them, but we figure it’d get pretty tedious if we included every one.

Most of the day out of Orillia was the uneventful crossing of Lake Simcoe.  Still,—because as Dana later correctly observed, “Brad and Kate put the voodoo on us”—we were having so much fun we failed to take our usual number of photos.  Just one picturesque passage, and the Bolsover Lock Wall the morning after some docking funny-business and Code Names.

Incidentally, we love us some Kate and don’t want to offend, but if the clue is “Halloween,” “unicorn” may not be the best guess when “pumpkin” and “witch” are available.*  There’s also a good argument that it’s unwise for husbands to drink away the afternoon at the Bolsover Lock while wives walk to the small town, but maybe that’s just a myth.

Going our direction, the Bolsover Lock is at the start of the dreaded stretch involving shallow, stumpy Canal Lake, followed by the narrow Trent Canal, followed by the even shallower and stumpier Mitchell Lake.  Yuck.  Actually, Canal Lake turned out ok.  We posted our jolly ranchers on the bow to look for stuff we might hit.  No damage done.  Despite the rain we remembered to take a picture of Canal Bridge, which an earlier sign says was the first in Canada to be made of reinforced concrete.  All we know is that it’s just as cool from both directions.

We also made it through the canal unscathed.

As an added bonus we got to watch Kate jump when we blasted the warning horn just above her head as we rounded a blind corner.

Particularly with a Kate aboard, one reasonably might assume this is Leonardo DiCaprio gazing out from the bow, watching for icebergs.  Nope.  It’s Brad.

We did bump a few times in Mitchell Lake, but we’re quite certain it wasn’t anybody’s fault.

Oh yeah.  The Second Highest Hydraulic Lift Lock in The World sits in the Trent Canal.  Although mechanical problems meant we had to kill a couple of hours before even starting the long one-hour journey to the top, we took not a single photo of the lock.  Just Tumbleweed waiting at the bottom on the same wall where we spent a memorable night next to Second Wave across from the naked dudes.

Wait a second here!  A golf course?  Who works up a business plan for a golf course that for 52 weeks every year will be covered in either snow or goose poop?

Out of curiosity we looked up the applicable rules.  Per Rule 23-1, you may remove any “loose impediment” in your putting path, without penalty.  Ironically, however, the looser the goose poop is, the more difficult it is to remove.  That sounds like a significant penalty to us.  Regardless, check goose off the Big Year list.

And Common Terns.  Check.

Also, who says, “Honey, I think the back yard is just about perfect.  All we need is a huge dog statue.”?  And who responds, “What a great idea!”?

Yup, there’s some sketchy judgment in this stretch of the Trent-Severn Waterway.

Just past the hideous, er, interesting big dog statue, we rolled up to the Rosedale Lock wall for the night.

Although the Rosedale Lock may look remote, we found a Kawartha Ice Cream stand within walking distance, down past the canal banks where nice people set up boat-watching blinds.

We stopped at Rosedale primarily because the lock attendant called ahead to check out the Fenelon Falls lock wall situation.  Jam packed.  At least that set us up for a nice day to Bobcaygeon, although the only photos we took to prove it are of a colorful cottage and a houseboat on which we won’t comment.  We particularly are taken with the sit-down paddle board contraption.

But we did get a spot with power when we arrived, and have a photo to prove it.

At first glance, this might appear to be a photo of the musician setting up for the live performance we waited over an hour to enjoy but then got tired of waiting for and went back to the boat.  Nope.  It’s a photo of Tumbleweed, artfully framed by the restaurant window.

Saturday brought a rainy cruise to Lakefield.  That’s the story.  Just rain.

And a church on an island.  Rain and an island church, with “doors open to all.”  Obviously by that they meant “doors open to all with a boat or a willingness to swim to church.”

But the rain lifted just as we pulled in ahead of the increasingly-frustrated lady on the radio who couldn’t get the dock guy to answer with her slip assignment, and the sun was out by the time Doug got the drone up.

Lakefield is a cool enough little town.

On the walk into town, we stopped by an awesome used book store housed in an old train station.  The Meads bought books.  Nobody took a photo.  Dinner at the canoe place.  Nobody took a photo.  We did get a picture of the pleasant road back to the boat, but admit it’s not much.  The sunset, however, was a good one.

On our way out of Lakefield Sunday morning, we passed a boat named Shag Master III.  We all clucked judgmentally but didn’t take a photo.  A mile or two later—as we were prepping for the next lock—we discovered that one of our two big orange ball fenders was missing, almost certainly for some reason other than because Doug failed to secure it properly after loosening it to remove a dock line from the cleat they shared.  Grrrr.  We need that fender for the Erie Canal.  Wait another second!  Here comes Shag Master III’s tender, bringing a big orange ball fender.  We mentally took back all that misplaced sanctimony as we cruised on towards Peterborough, through gorgeous scenery, with Kate continuing to handle locks with ease and Brad continuing to stand around.***

Peterborough.  Home to The World’s Highest Hydraulic Lift Lock.  No need to be up-down-uppers this go round, because down gets you the view over the edge.

While in the last lock of the day, Doug chatted with some kayakers who were in there with us.  Took some photos for them.  One of them returned the favor and caught us from kayak level when we left.

What’s most interesting about this photo, however, isn’t the angle.  Or Tumbleweed.  It’s that Mainship 400 off to the left.  That’s right, it’s our old pal Red Pearl.  We met Steve and Kathy in Historic Cocoa Village, hung out on their boat in New Smyrna Beach, and had a fun dinner with them at a Thai joint in St. Augustine.  That was 2019.  In 2021 we tied up behind Red Pearl at ZMI in Deltaville but nobody was aboard.  Crazy to see them in Peterborough in 2023.

Peterborough sort of is like Fountain Hills, only without notable scumbag Joe Arpaio as a resident.

Staying an extra day gave us time cruise around in the dinghy for a bit, which in turn allowed us to pop over for a catch-up chat with Red Pearl and another low-angle Tumbleweed shot.  Big fun.

Before leaving town we had some good meals, explored, and stumbled over the site of Peterborough’s “first commercial building,” which a man “of Loyalist stock” built in 1856.  Very exciting stuff.

After Peterborough, another fantastic cruising day took us to Hastings.  This stretch lacked locks so we spent most of it on the flybridge, which was much safer and more pleasant after Doug figured out why the flybridge autopilot remote wasn’t working.

Sadly, we reached Hastings on Tuesday, not Thursday.  Thursday is Karaoke Night at McGillicafey’s Pub.  But we ate and walked around and had the requisite “loads of fun” anyway, although we didn’t catch a fish.

Wednesday morning three of us slept while Dana got up for an epic sunrise.  Which is why God invented cameras.

Brad and Kate did their 31st lock with us—Lock 13 for those scoring at home—just before we reached Campbellford.  Doug wept at the thought of having to go out and hold lines himself the rest of the way, but covered it up nicely.

One final meal in town, one final walk past The World’s Largest Statue of a Toonie,*** and they were gone.

We’re insanely lucky to have great friends meet us or join us along our somewhat aimless way.  We enjoyed every minute of the nine days we traveled with Brad and Kate.  Lots of laughs and stories from when we all practiced law in Phoenix a gazillion years ago, to go along with deeply insightful discussions about politics and religion and stuff, which sounded really intelligent after much gin and wine.  Even after multiple non-alcoholic beers Dana was able to score a draw with Kate in the eye-rolling competition.

Anyway, the Meads left us in Campbellford.  Too bad for us, but also too bad for them.  Because somehow we’re two for two in finding a cool country band playing in the park, and this time we didn’t even have to schlep chairs across the river.  Just sit on the back porch in our pajamas.  That right there’s what clean livin’ gets you.

Back to relying entirely on ourselves, yesterday we headed off for Frankford and new sights to see.  Know what’s an even worse idea than Goose Poop Country Club?  A paddlewheel boat on the Trent-Severn, that’s what.

The only thing less efficient than paddlewheel propulsion is paddlewheel steering.  And steering on a narrow, winding, lock-filled waterway is kind of a big deal.  Also, while we envy two-story roominess, there’s a lot of surface area on that sucker.  It’s easy to picture the proud owners on the day of her maiden voyage, loading her up with provisions and friends and family.  Maybe smashing a champagne bottle on what would be the bow if she had one.  Then—moments after pulling out—a two-knot breeze hit her on the beam and pushed her right into the weeds, where she sits to this day.  Sad.

Six locks after leaving, we were pleased to pull into the Frankford Lock approach at a quite reasonable hour, mostly because we lucked into beating Slainte to the blue wall in Campbellford.

We were even more pleased to see plenty of available wall space.  When we last were here—with Blomo aboard—Loopers jammed the place like clowns in a VW.

Here’s a photo of “town,” and what we think is the only traffic light.

Dinner at Dimitri’s was fine, before we had to speed-walk back to the boat to avoid the thunderstorm.  But we slept well in the rain, and Dana got up early enough this morning for another good photo.

Then a short seven-mile run to Trenton, which would’ve been much faster had it not involved our final six locks.  Still some last-minute scenery along the way though.

Lock 1 technically is the start of the Trent-Severn Waterway, but was the last one for us.  Which is good, because we’re ready for a few days without one.

One last hurdle though.  After exiting Lock 1 we spotted a deadhead floating in the middle of the Trent River.  Deadheads easily can foul a prop and ruin the day for an unwary boater.

Dude was just dog-paddling along, smilingly oblivious to his potential role in fouling a prop and ruining a boater’s day.

The last thing we put behind us—other than our final Canadian poomp-oot for the season—was the starting line for folks going the traditional way.

That’s right, baby.  We now know the Trent-Severn Waterway forwards and backwards.  We’re staying at Trent Port for a couple of days before heading stateside.  Supposedly there’s going to be a drone show tonight.  If it’s worthy, we’ll post a photo next time.


*Fairness might dictate noting some equally foolish guesses by those of us who live on Tumbleweed, but we control the blog.  And life ain’t fair.

**We admit that these cheap shots at Brad are totally misleading.  He repeatedly offered to help with every task possible, so as to not just stand around.  It’s absolutely not his fault that we felt more comfortable with Kate.

***Again with Queen Elizabeth on Canada’s money.  We just don’t get it.  Also, we asked yet another Canadian for an explanation of the Governor General.  She said “I don’t know.  I don’t pay attention to politics.”