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 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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Seems like yesterday

img_6200Looking back through the tunnel of time, our first official Looping month is in the books.  We haven’t regretted it for a second.  768.8 nautical miles.  Five states and one district.  Two bays and one ocean.  Twenty-three canal locks.  One Statue of Liberty.  Only one major docking embarrassment.  Only four or five overflowing junk drawers.  Zero lost drones.  Zero dogs overboard.  Dozens of new friends.   Those are darn good numbers.

As surreal as we find thinking about what we’ve done so far, we find it surreal-er to see how little we’ve done compared to what’s left.  We have a wall map in the pilothouse on which we place a numbered red dot at every stop.  It puts things into sharp perspective.

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What we have regretted, however, is the WiFi situation.  One of the many things we took for granted in Arizona was fast and consistent internet access.  Marina WiFi as a general rule is not good, bless their hearts, and internet is very important for resolving arguments and watching videos of baby animals.  We bought a Redport WiFi booster well before we started but until now hadn’t found anybody competent to set it up on the boat.  We haven’t configured it yet but at least it’s installed.

img_4016The first night in Brewerton we settled in at dusk to watch an episode of Downton Abby we downloaded before we left Washington.  Almost immediately the volume was drowned by what sounded like an army of digeradoos in the boat.  Fifty thousand digeradoos.  (That’s the last quote from Walk Hard you will read on this blog.  Promise.)  Turns out the Brewerton Speedway—1/3 mile of banked clay—is just across the Oneida River from where we were docked.  Ample sunlight remained to allow a short drone flight over to film some action, but in a democratic vote the idea was rejected soundly by a landslide margin of 1 to 1.

img_4012Loop or no Loop, this is the time of every year when we find ourselves woefully behind on the Continuing Legal Education credits we need to make the State Bar of Arizona happy.  That meant a couple of days watching videos of lawyers rather than exploring central upstate New York.   The clouds and scattered showers at least provided the proper dreary ambience.  We did walk to the local Mexican food restaurant.  Not a Chuy’s but passable, even with the Spanish version of Achy Breaky Heart on the soundtrack.

img_4021Dana’s sister Liz arrived on Sunday from Texas.  Given the shockingly high number of Texans on the Loop, hopefully she feels right at home.  Except her home in Austin is much bigger, of course.  The Stagg sisters took the Hobies for their maiden voyage while the rest of us cheered from the deck.  Actually the boys were sleeping but Doug cheered from the deck.

img_4023On the way back from dinner we stopped by the car show/local band/ice cream stand.  All small towns are pretty much the same, although this one was cold.  In late June.

It’s customary for boats traveling in foreign waters to fly a small courtesy flag to honor the host country.  We aren’t much for customs, but we also figure Customs might be less likely to hassle us if we show proper respect.  Kind of like putting a sticker supporting police on your car in an effort to avoid tickets.  We picked up our maple leaf and will hook it up when we get there.

Tomorrow we head to Oswego to wait for a good window to cross Lake Ontario.  We have no interest in the 14-foot waves that blow up when the storms roll in from the west.

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St. John must be proud

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We got up, left Amsterdam, cruised through some locks, it was beautiful, blah, blah, blah.  But that’s not what this post is about.

img_3959We docked at small, quiet, and sort of quirky St. Johnsville marina and popped into town.

img_3963St. Johnsville was founded in 1725 by Jacob Zimmerman, who may or may not share  a family tree with Steve Zimmerman, who provided great service work on Misty Pearl, and with Steve Zimmerman, whose daughter attended elementary school with Shannon.  In fact, based on our experience and knowledge Jacob may the only Zimmerman in history who isn’t named Steve.   But that’s not what this post is about.

During some down time, Doug flew the drone around town and then down to the dock.  And right into a real tree.  Rather than look at the track on the phone to see where said tree was located, the better plan seemed to be assuming the crash site was across the river, waking Brent (Second Wave) from his nap for help, jumping on the personal bicycles graciously offered up by the marina, and riding into the woods with no idea where to look.  Dumb plan.

The good news:  after looking at the flight path, it was obvious the tree in question was next to the marina.   That beautiful tree at the top of this post.  Even better news:  eagle-eye Brent spotted a tiny red light.

The really bad news:  the red light was about 60 feet off the ground, in a completely unclimbable tree.  Time to panic, because it seemed very unlikely that Dana would authorize buying another drone.

img_3987But wait.  While walking through town earlier, we had seen the Fire Department doors open and volunteers working a fundraiser.  Why not go up and ask for help?  Maybe they have a device specially made for retrieving drones after morons crash them way up high.  Off on the bicycle and back to town, only to find nobody around.  Oh crap.

The three guys sitting outside the market were not firemen and had no ideas about drone rescue.  One of them suggested calling it in as an emergency, because someone probably would respond.  That seemed a bit dramatic.  And potentially criminal.  The more helpful guy noted that down two streets, left on Washington, in the yellow house on the right, lives Chris Weaver, the Fire Chief.  He might be home.

Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Dumbass.  Dumbass who?  Dumbass Doug.  Not only was Chief Weaver home, he already was relaxing with his family.  One logically might have expected him to explain that a drone in a tree was not really his problem.  Instead he immediately said he would put on shoes and come check out the situation.

img_3975Thirty minutes later the fire truck rolled up to the marina with an extension ladder, a chain saw, and a long pike.  Shannon Whiteman, Alex Countryman, and Fred Doxtader came to help as well.  After some discussion about strategy, up went the ladder and up went Chief Weaver.  One slip and he would be visiting with St. John and Jacob Zimmerman immediately.

Down came the drone, with only a smashed battery and broken propeller.  Down came Chief Weaver with nothing smashed or broken.  Amazing.

We left the Fire Department with a donation for their fundraiser and with our gratitude.  We won’t be forgetting the good folks of St. Johnsville, N.Y.

As for the drone video we recovered, here you go: