Someone should invent a cruise-through boatwash

img_4217Yesterday was supposed to take us to Trenton, which is the western point of The Bay of Quinte and eastern terminus of the Trent-Severn Waterway.  The day was perfect for traveling.  Except for the 15- to 18-knot winds.  So basically the day was horrible for traveling.

At least it was cool enough to walk around Belleville, which didn’t take very long but long enough to photograph the scenic Moira River as it passes through.  img_4215Also Canada Geese.  We’re used to seeing these guys flying overhead so it’s weird to realize that this is where they head for the summer.  Mostly here they just swim around, often with babies.  They also put their butts in the air a lot.

Once in a while, even beautiful days turn rotten.  Those are the days one of us (usually not Doug) thinks we should deep clean.  The other one of us may or may not respond with something that sounds like “waaaaa” but with a sprinkle of light profanity.  img_4222Yesterday was one of those days.   Most of our crusty-bug collection came off with some heavy scrubbing and another dash of light profanity, but despite the huge volume it seems unlikely that in the past week we finished our year’s allotment.  So basically we will have to do it all again in a week or two.  That said, Misty Pearl did seem happier.  We also were happier after a taco picnic with Brent and Karen, although our joy ended when Matthew was killed in a freak motorcar crash moments after Mary gave birth to his son and heir.

Today was a bit warmer but much less windy, so off we went through the unmowed forest of aquatic growth surrounding our slip.  The boys barely had time to settle into cruising position before we reached Trenton.  10.2 nm is our shortest day yet but we need to stage for the Waterway.

86651F42-6211-4F3C-A4A0-408BA57B2AA9A couple of days ago Crossroads posted a photo of tight docking.  But Barry and Robin are pros.  Ignoring our rank amateurism, the Trent Port folks decided we should shoe-horn up beside scared-to-death owners of a sailboat that Misty Pearl outweighs by 18 tons.  They and we hastily started adding fenders before we squeaked in.  Any time two boats are rubbing fenders it’s not a good thing.

44969F40-16AF-4499-94C7-E443B239F108Since we are staying here for another day, we hiked up to TSW Lock no. 1.  Beautiful trail along the Trent River to get there.

The Canadians don’t need modern conveniences like mules or steam engines to power the gates on the lock.  No siree.  2A7813FD-658F-4B1D-BA59-C39D889D1E01They do it just like they have since the lock was built in 1910 – with college kids pushing a turnstile.

In any event, we greatly look forward to this stretch of the Loop.

Allô! Ça va bien Ontarians?

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Hello!  How are you, Ontarians?  Or something like that.  But first, we spent a glorious yesterday in Clayton and the Thousand Islands.  Of all the many charming places we have visited so far, Clayton, N.Y. is the charmingest.  There are cool restaurants.  The grocery store has a courtesy shuttle.  The water is clear thanks to invasive zebra mussels.  The park out-Spreckels Spreckels Park.  The views of that clear water are everywhere.  The sunsets are epic.  It’s just a really neat place, although maybe it can be 15 degeees cooler (but not 80 degrees cooler) next time we visit.

As Dana put it, yesterday was one of those magical days.  Not to be mean to people who go an office every day, but the kind of day that makes us happy we don’t go to an office every day.  Wait, that’s every day.  But this was an even better every day.

img_4124One of the neatest things about Clayton is the whole Wooden Boat Stuff.  Turns out Clayton is the home of the Antique and Classic Boat Society.  Who knew?  There are numerous shops with quality St. Lawrence River memorabilia and history.  We ducked into several of them on our walks about town.

The Antique Boat Museum is full of classic wooden boats, motors, and history.  We spent a couple of hours there and could have spent several more.

img_4115While on a restored 110-year-old 110-foot-long houseboat, a teenaged boy touring with his parents sat down at the ballroom’s custom antique piano and flawlessly performed a perfect period piece of music.  He was so spot-on we thought he might be a plant, but he wasn’t.

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img_4168Even the Wood Boat Brewery where we ate dinner was worthy of buying a t-shirt, despite the 2-hour wait for our pizza.

img_4145One of Dana’s trip requirements was cruising up through Thousand Islands.  So we did.  According to a local tour guide, however, officially there are 1864 of them, which means nearly half are sad little specks with an inferiority complex.  To be considered an “island” in these parts, the land at issue must (1) be above and surrounded by water year-around and (2) have at least two trees.  Supposedly they all have names.   We don’t know this one’s name but it probably didn’t make the top Thousand.

Between us we took a bunch of photos but agree that none really does the place justice.  You just have to come visit.

img_4498St. Lawrence was a Catholic martyr and the patron saint of cooks and comedians because—according to legend—as he was being cooked alive he asked to be turned since he was done on that side.  (This seems rather unlikely, but does bring to mind Edmund Blackadder’s story about Sir Thomas Moore.)  None of that of course explains why he has a river named for him or who installed the statue of him—bizarrely holding the grate on which he was roasted—along that river, but it’s a good story.

img_4160-1George Boldt started to build a huge mansion in about 1900 and then quit before finishing it.  We heard various stories about how he made his money but generally it had something to do with the Waldorf Astoria hotel.  The joint was pretty opulent and pretty unfinished, but it seems much of the construction was done in the past 20 years to turn it into a tourist destination, accessible only by boat.  Probably worth one trip but definitely not two.

Mid-day, we even moved the boats.   Other boats had reserved our slips so Second Wave and Misty Pearl had to go out into a narrow passage, spin 180 degrees, and dock on a wall.  Not to mix dance and sports, but after a perfectly-executed water ballet, we stuck the landing.  Bravo to us.

We planned to leave at 9 this morning, but during the the engine room check we found diesel fuel in the bilge.  Seems pretty certain it had something to do with Doug changing the filters.  Sure enough, in a very non-judgmental way Brent found, ahem, an extra gasket lodged up in the main fuel filter.  Problem solved and on our way at 9:10.

F37A1EFB-7DFB-4CB2-9AD8-B8F932E08457Just out of Clayton we passed into Canadian waters.  Rounding Wolfe Island at the Wolfe Island Light we expected to see herds of moose.  And hockey players.  Mostly it looked a lot like the islands we just had admired.  Beautiful yes, but a tad disappointing.

08CC1B35-8016-46D7-BA1F-D5CCE40451FBKingston, Ontario, was a major naval base from which the British overlords launched ultimately-unsuccessful attacks on the good guys circa 1812.  The Canadians still honor the British monarch on their money so they aren’t completely without fault, but we figured we would forgive them since  (1) it was over 200 years ago, (2) we weren’t even born then, and (3) we are going to be in Canada for A month or so and might need some help from them.  Plus as we discovered on a backpacking trip in British Columbia two summers ago, it’s a very clean place.

We docked in Kingston, cleared customs, and had a nice stroll through town with Second Wave.  The Confederation Basin Marina stuck us about a mile from the shore so each dog-walk requires crossing a maze of dock, but we’ll survive two nights of it.

Happy Canada Day! or How far can flies fly anyway?

Although Oswego was a very pleasant surprise, we were ready to move.  But then weather on Saturday scrubbed the mission.  West winds on our end of Lake Ontario are a deal-breaker.  Effectively unlimited fetch and 15-knot winds mean 4 to 5 foot waves on the beam as we plow north.  So put we stayed.  Lake Ontario is called the Graveyard of the Great Lakes for a reason.  Maybe the reason is just to sell posters at the museum or dupe people into buying houses in Oswego rather than risk their lives, but still.

Things looked better for Canada Day so we planned departure for 8.  At 7, another couple of Looper boats left Oswego.  We fired up the engine and set the lines for easy release.  Then one of the boats—Canadian Eh—pulled right back in and tied up.  Although the winds had shifted, they encountered 4-foot waves and turned around.  The other Looper boat—Miss Norma—reported that things smoothed out after an hour or so, however, so we threw on some bluegrass gospel and took off.  (We agreed that we would change the music if Pandora gave us Nearer My God To Thee.  No need to tempt fate.)

img_4080After setting a course at 12 degrees, we settled in for a nice cruise.  Not a cloud in the sky.  The thought of biblical plagues never crossed our minds.

Then the biting flies landed.  Ogden Nash once observed: “The Lord in his wisdom created the fly.  But then he forgot to tell us why.”  He didn’t forget.  There just isn’t any good reason for flies.  If the apparently-amphibious fly population in the middle of Lake Ontario is the result of Rachel Carson’s battle against DDT, perhaps we lost the war after all.  It was like someone snuck a dairy farm on the boat.  A good chunk of the trip we spent trying to kill them.  A 12-gauge with birdshot would have been more effective than our measly fly swatter.  We kept at it only because we feared Canadian Customs would think we were smuggling livestock.   We hoped the buckets of carcasses we threw overboard would send a strong message to the other battalions but that didn’t work.  The closest land was 30 miles away and they kept coming.  How is that even possible?

img_4081Dana thought it funny to see Doug on the hunt.  Obviously she doesn’t appreciate impressions of Mr. Miyagi in his post-Arnold’s career.  Fly-killing with style, baby.  Ultimately, however, you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.  We fled to the pilothouse and turned on the generator for AC.  If only we had put 2 and 2 together and left the flybridge earlier.  Duh.  The silver lining, if any, is that using more fuel might give us an extra inch of bottom clearance on the Trent-Severn.

800C5E06-6B98-4C10-B9BC-ACFA6F72CB9EThere aren’t many exciting photo opportunities when no land is visible and no odd boats are present for much of the trip.  Dana even took a nap.  After five hours we sent out a dove, which returned with an olive branch to confirm there actually was land out there.  We shortly reached the St. Lawrence River, which oddly starts at the lake and flows northeast past Montreal on its way to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Tibbett Light welcomed us to Thousand Islands, almost Canada.

img_4090Thousand Islands is home to Thousand Island dressing, at least according to the locals who sell it.  We suspect that may be myth but we’ll go with it.

Eight hours and 55.7 nm after leaving Oswego, we tied up in the Town of Clayton, just across the river from Canada shoreline.  Clayton is filled with summer visitors who tell us it “usually is so cool at night we wear jackets.”  Yeah right.  It was brutally hot and humid and will be that way all week.  Maybe Canada will be different, although the Canadian barge that waked us didn’t seem too worried about our comfort.

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This will be our last U.S. stop for a few weeks.  The boys hope to get stamps in their passports.

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On a foggy day in Oswego you can’t see diddly

img_4079TripAdviser lists 26 things to do in Oswego, N.Y.  Six of the top 11 are museums.  Number 1 is Ontario Orchards.  So we went there.  Ontario Orchards is a cross between Hadley’s off I-10 in Cabazon—a must-stop place on the way to softball tournaments in Southern California—and Dickens Fruit Stand.  It’s cool and all, but the ranking certainly doesn’t speak well of the museums.  We picked up some hard cider, a pie, and assorted boat snacks.  No offense to the good folks at Ontario Orchards, but don’t get the hard cider.  The pie, however, was delicious.

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The number 2 Oswego attraction per TripAdvisor is Fort Ontario .  In some form or another there has been a fort on the shore of Lake Ontario at Oswego since 1755.  It was closed on the nice day we arrived and we didn’t go back in the rain the next day, but the various signs documented significant history and we later did test out the drone–with a not insignificant pucker-factor given The Incident–to see what was inside the walls.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Fort Ontario is that next week it’s hosting an event to celebrate the Madeline books series.  You know, Miss Clavel (played by Fargo’s Marge “Margie” Gunderson in the movie), the Spanish Ambassador, eleven little girls whose importance was limited to filling out two straight lines, and of course that dog-hiding scamp Madeline.  The connection to a nearly 300-year-old fort in Oswego isn’t exactly obvious, but we should be gone anyway.

img_4050We initially had thought about leaving on Thursday.  Good thing we didn’t.  Until about mid-afternoon the fog on the lake was thick enough to eat with a spoon.  We have no radar until we step the mast after Chicago.  No fog for us please.

img_4077Fortunately the sun came out in time for us to visit the maritime museum, which is number 3 on the list.  Every small town in this part of the country has at least one small building called the “Maritime Museum”—as well as a plethora of monuments to local sons and daughters—which may explain why this one is ranked below the fruit place.

img_4054The museum part we saw was okay, although we probably could’ve done without the poster proclaiming Lake Ontario as the Graveyard of the Great Lakes and identifying all the huge ships that didn’t survive a crossing.  After that we contemplated just buying a house and staying here.  The museum did offer up some possibly-true trivia to use at cocktail parties, however, so all wasn’t lost.

The boat to the famous lighthouse was not operating and—at least in our personal rankings—a 2-mile walk, on the rocky breakwater, in the wind, to a closed-up building, was pretty low.  We did get the drone out there, but the shrill high-wind warning led to a fear-induced abortion.

img_4073Here’s a link to a cool story about the lighthouse.  After reading it last night we thought even more about just staying here forever, but the fact that the locals hear “the timeless screams of the six lost souls” at the haunted lighthouse scared us more than the storm.  We rode out there on Second Wave’s dinghy and heard nothing, however, so maybe there are no ghosts after all.  The nice Coast Guards who stopped to make sure we had the requisite life jackets (we did) confirmed the story.  The tragedy part, not the ghost part.

img_4049Wind direction willing—despite the documented deaths and despair—tomorrow we leave Oswego to start the Great Lakes/Canada leg of our Loop.  Roughly that will involve crossing Lake Ontario, cutting through the hopefully-not-too-shallow Trent-Severn Waterway to Georgian Bay, across the Northern Channel, nipping the corner of Lake Huron en route to Lake Michigan, and finally down to Chicago.  We don’t much care about Lake Erie, but missing Lake Superior—which according to the legend from the Chippewa on down is the big lake they call Gitche Gumee—is a real bummer.   Mostly because our use of applicable lines from The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald is eliminated.  Superior they said never gives up her dead, but we don’t know any songs about tragedies on Lake Huron.  Hopefully nobody will write one about us.

Dana photographed a grizzly bear with her phone.  Doug photographed a sock puppet with his.

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On a clear day in Oswego you almost can see Canada

img_4036Turns out Dana and Liz never learned the Erie Canal Song; a stronger indictment of the Texas public school system hardly is possible.  Regardless, today was a great day to enjoy the last 10 miles of our piece of the Erie.

img_4028From Brewerton we shot through one last Erie lock, where Liz proved to be quite helpful.  Meaning that with two people to handle the lines Doug could sit on the flybridge without doing much of anything.  Too bad she leaves tomorrow.

img_4035A sharp right at the Oswego River/Canal put us on last the last stretch of ditch before meeting the Great Lakes.  We’ll be through several of them before it’s all over.

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img_4033The Phoenix police presence on the Oswego was jarring and unexpected until we learned that there is a Phoenix, N.Y.  Who knew?  Just on the other side of Phoenix was a cool single-span bascule bridge that stopped traffic to let us pass.

Time for a quick walk around the marina after safely docking.  We’ll be here for a few days until it’s safe to cross Lake Ontario.

img_4040Then off to dinner at the expensive but mediocre restaurant about 200 yards from the boat.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull concluded that a gull’s life is cut short by boredom, anger, and fear.  We think it more likely that mediocre but expensive Italian Wedding Soup is to blame.  This dude slurped down the entire cup in about 3 minutes.  We never saw him fly after that.

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