Saturday, July 26, 2014

Heading into the North Channel

It was a very busy week, and I felt like I was going day after day.  One new place, then another.  Today, I am taking a break from travel as the rain pours down.  The lightening and thunder have just started.

Earlier today, before the rain, I was able to head "up the hill" to the outside of town, to a cafe for lunch with a couple new friends, Steve and Lili, who are docked beside me.  We are in a little town, Kagawong, on the northern shore of Manitoulin Island, in the North Channel.  The town dock is small, reflective of how small the town is.  I don't think they have a gas station, but there is gas available for boaters at the docks.  They have one church (maybe two), and the 86 year old town mayor runs a small convenience store across the street and lives above his store.  This little store carries approximately one of a variety of things:  ketchup, mustard, milk or butter... just one each... but no half and half.  I had to go up the hill to the other convenience store for half and half.  They do have an abundance of ice cream!  Fortunately, when I came in, the dockmaster drove me up the hill, so I only had to come down the hill, a scenic walk by their famous "Bridal Veil Falls", where half the children in this town were swimming.  The other half were at the docks, swimming.  Today, there was another group of kids playing chess.  They have a couple mazes, one from pines and the other made with rocks.  It is a great little town!

I had a "this is a small world" moment after docking my boat.  I pulled in beside this large cruising boat, "Good Karma", with a gold looper burgee.  (Gold burgees are flags for people who have completed the Great Loop.  I have a white burgee, meaning I am in the midst of doing the Loop.)  In April, 2013, as "Good Karma" was heading through Southport, and stopped at Bald Head Island, I had been contacting Katherine about working online, while doing the Loop.  As they came through, I was able to take the ferry to Bald Head Island and have dinner with Katherine and Kermit along with two other couples doing the Loop.  It was definitely a good surprise to see them again.  They have just bought a new boat, and had barely put the name on the boat the day before.  They are taking it back to their home port in Ohio.  It is a crazy small world!  It was great to catch up with them.

Over the last week, I have been trying to stop at all the places I have been told are great places.  I have been successful at some stops, unsuccessful at others.  After Parry Sound, I headed up to Pointe a Baril, which is a small town up an inlet in the Northern part of the Georgian Bay.  It was somewhat disappointing, with just a small store for provisions.  However, there was an anchorage nearby, which was very peaceful.

 After anchoring, I headed towards Britt, a town in Byng Inlet.  The best part about this town was all the other loopers, who also stopped there for the night.  I met 3 couples on a catamaran, "Joint Adventure".  Tom and Tim from "If" showed up, as well as Diane and Henry from "DeDe".  I had not seen Diane and Henry since Norfolk and had not seen Tom and Tim since Waterford.  We were able to talk about our plans for the next few days, and we ended up meeting a couple more times during the week.

From Byng Inlet, a couple of us headed to the Bustard Islands to anchor for the night (DeDe). Another looper boat joined us there, "Tata", who I had met in Parry Sound.  From the Bustard Islands, we all headed off to Killarney.  In Killarney, we were again joined by If, and a couple other Looper boats including Halcyon.  While sitting on Halcyon with Diane and Richard, I saw Tom from No Compromises (from Southport) head by!  I gave Tom a call, and met him and his friend, Vera, a little later for a drink at the marina.

The following day, the plan was to head to Baie Finn, where there is a beautiful anchorage.  It is very well known.  However, I also knew that there was going to be bad weather today, and wanted to be at a marina for any storms.  My thought was to head to the next stop, Little Current.  Little Current is the town one has to go through to get from the Georgian Bay into the Northern Channel.  There was a line of boats entering Little Current.

Early in the day, I tried calling to make a reservation at the Little Current City docks.  I couldn't get through to anyone.  So, I figured I would just get there and find a spot.  This proved to be the first time on this loop that I was turned away!  As I came in, I was told there were no transient slips available.  I then asked if I could tie up just for lunch, and I was told there wasn't any space for tying up for lunch either!  Fortunately, Jim and Tricia, from Joint Adventure invited me to raft up to their boat, which was at the end of a T-dock, so I could at least enjoy lunch.  I had lunch with Tom and Vera.  I went back to my boat, visited with Jim and Tricia for a while, then headed here to Kagawong. Little Current is quite the busy place, especially this weekend. They had a cruise ship come in, a rendezvous and a regatta.  However, I feel I still got to enjoy best of Little Current, the fish tacos at Anchor Inn!

Not sure which lighthouse, but all the lighthouses have the same distinctive red roofs and white walls.

Pointe A Baril Lighthouse

Strawberry Island lighthouse
 There are so many houses on islands, and the further west, the more distant the houses are.  Here are three interesting homes which I felt were "picture-worthy".

I have to include some of the other pretty pictures I have taken... just because it is so beautiful up here.
View from my anchorage spot in the Bustard Islands

Leaving the Bustard Islands at sunrise.

Killarney - A great little town!

Regatta Sailboat headed to Little Current

Regatta Sailboat headed to Little Current

Looking out from Kagawong into Mudge Bay
I should be heading back into the United States this coming week. I will make a couple more stops before checking in with customs.  I look forward to being able to talk on my cellphone without worrying about running out of minutes.  I also look forward to having internet more regularly.

Meanwhile, for a few more days, I will enjoy the North Channel.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Into Georgian Bay

It is hard to believe that only a week has gone by and I have done so much.  One of the highlights of entering the Georgian Bay is going through the Big Chute, Lock 44, railway lock.  I arrived at Big Chute and docked at the free docks. It was in the afternoon, so I walked over and watched how the locking was done.  As it approached 5:00, I talked to the lift operators, and they encouraged me to go ahead and do the Big Chute then, as it was quiet and they could put me "front and center" with the best views.  I headed to my boat, and went over to the loading area. Another boat was already there, but they were asked to let me go in front.  The lift operators put boats where they want them.  It was amazing to ride the lift, on the front of my boat.  We head out of the water, over a road (and the railroad signs come down), then down the other slope and into the water.  It was so impressive, that I decided the following day to buy a day pass for $40 to do it all over again.  The second day, I was able to take a video. It was pouring rain the second day.  During the night, I stayed at the bottom of the original railway lift.

Big Chute Railway Lock:  They can hold many boats. The building is about three stories tall.
Heading west, over the hill.

At the summit, approaching the lock building.

Heading over to the other side.  There are huge granite rocks down the middle.
About to be put back in the water.

The original railroad lock and car.

My view up the original railway lift from my boat.
I don't know if I mentioned it, but at every lock, there is a power station.  Each lock is like a mini Hoover Dam (near Las Vegas).  Power is generated from the flow of the water.  The flow downstream is regulated by the dams and how much water is allowed to flow through.  There are times, like after a rain, when the water levels upstream are high, so they let more water flow downstream.  These adjustments affect the turbulence around the locks.  The turbulence can be difficult to maneuver in, especially when being asked to go "Dead Slow".  Some of us have talked about having to power through the turbulence, then we find ourselves heading into the lock faster than we like, so then we slow it down very, very quickly... to "dead slow".  Interestingly, Canadians call power or electricity, "hydro".

At the very last lock of the Trent Severn waterway, I was met by my friend Jim, from Bluenoser.  He met me in Port Severn for lunch, then boarded Annabelle with me and we officially headed into the waters of the Georgian Bay.  We went to his hometown, Penetanguishine, where he and his wife live. I spent a few days in Penetanguishine with Jim and Wendy.  I spent way more time on my boat, doing repairs, than I planned.  I think Jim would have enjoyed showing me around more.  Jim finished the Great Loop early in June.  I think he is still getting adjusted to home life.

While in Penetanguishine, I decided it was time to change my oil, having been just over 250 hours, since my last change.  I also had to tighten my alternator belt.  Jim helped me with both, and it is probably better to do these things with good company.  While I was cleaning up the mess, the service manager walked by and asked if there was anything I needed.  I asked about where to dispose of the oil, and he took it for me.  Then, I mentioned that I thought my auto pilot pump was not working.  He offered to have someone look at it the following day.  I had been fortunate earlier that day, the marina had a spare alternator belt for my boat, since I had been using the spare I brought.  The following day, his mechanic came and looked at the boat, and said the auto pilot pump had seized.  He banged it with a crescent wrench, and it started working.  However, there was no way to tell how long it would last.  They actually were able to find the exact same pump at a sister marina.  They brought it over and put it on my boat the following morning.  With all this good fortune, I decided to mention the stern thruster not working as well, which is a pain to get to.  Again, they said they could fix it, and they did... on the same day.  Although these repairs cut into my touring time, they were appreciated!

All things considered, I enjoyed the days I spent in Penetanguishine and appreciate Jim and Wendy for their wonderful hospitality.  Jim picked a great marina for me to be in, walking distance from his home, and with great staff.  Jim helped me plan my trip for the rest of the Georgian Bay and through the North Channel, which I am already enjoying immensely.

The first stop after leaving Penetanguishine is Henry's, a place known for its fish and chips.  When I arrived at Henry's, the owner welcomed me with a big hug, telling me he had been expecting me.  Of course, I didn't know who this man was that was giving me this big bear hug, so I had to ask him who he was!  Steve, from Atla, had told him ahead of time that I would be showing up later that day.  The docks were busy, and there are times, there is a line of boats just to get to the docks.  There are seaplanes that dock there also, taking passengers to Henry's for lunch or dinner.  Their signature dish is pickerel, a locally caught fish.  I enjoyed my lunch and headed to Echo Bay, where I anchored for the night, next to Atla and about a dozen other boats for a peaceful evening.  Sans Souci Island where Echo Bay is located, is a state or provincial park.  It doesn't fall into the federal Canadian Park system and they charge for going to the shore.  Many boats were tied to the shore, and had to pay $10 for the privelege.  Another boater had his dinghy at the dinghy dock, and he was also charged.  I watched as the state troopers went around collecting for the evening, long after 5 p.m, just as it was starting to get dark.

Henry's as I was headed off towards Echo Bay

Seaplane coming into Henry's

Seaplane one finger pier over from Annabelle

Paul, the owner of Henry's.  Some people call him Henry.

Even late, on a Saturday night, these guys are working and making sure all the park fees are collected.

Anchored in Echo Bay.  The white boat has tied to the shore, so has to pay.  Neither Steve (Atla) or I had to pay.

From Echo Bay, I left early in the morning, headed to Parry Sound.  It was foggy, but I wanted to get to Parry Sound early, to schedule a seaplane flight.  Paul (owner of Henry's) had introduced me to the owner of Georgian Bay Airways, and I wanted to make sure to get onto the schedule.  They scheduled me in the afternoon, with another couple, on the "Blue Line" tour, which covers a couple days in my travels.  It was a great perspective from high above the water, showing the outlines of the different rocks below, which can't be seen at the waterline.  Here are some pictures:

Headed to Parry Sound in the fog. Many islands have their names painted on them.

Today, I am heading to Point a Baril, once the fog lifts.  The list for this week also includes the Bustard Islands, Killarney, Baie Finn and Little Current.  It is hard to say when I will get to any of these places.  We are supposed to have rain on Wednesday.  Fog and wind will also play a role as to where I end up on any given day.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Counting down to the Georgian Bay

I have finished 41 of the 45 locks on the Trent Severn Waterway.  Two of the locks were lift locks.  As usual, there are always new challenges on this trip.  I left Campbellford and headed to the Petersborough Lift lock, and was the first on the lock for the 110th anniversary.  I thought it was way, way cool... but the Canadians are laid back about everything, and I was more excited than anyone about it.  At the bottom of the lock, my stern thruster worked fine, then at the top, it quit working.  I have been handling the locking and docking without the use of my stern thruster and working on my boat handling skills. The cables between the locks are closer together now, so I am tying up the stern of the boat on the port side, then heading to the bow of the boat to hold onto the second line.  The most intimidating lock so far on the Trent Severn has been the Kirkfield Lift lock.  This lock drops 49 feet, and you are suspended in the air in a large container of water.  I was the first into the lock, so headed to the front of the lock, followed by Francesca, another Looper boat. We also had a canoe and one other boat with us.

Going down the locks can be intimidating.  As you can see from the picture, instead of heading towards a wall, I am headed to the edge of what feels like a cliff.  You can see how close I am to the edge, as I was sitting on the front of my boat, floating in a pool of water!

The waters are beautiful up here.  There are small islands, lakes, and some very narrow channels.  I have not had auto pilot for a few weeks now, so taking pictures is more difficult.  Surprisingly to me, there are more small, single engine seaplanes.

Yesterday, I arrived in Orillia, Ontario.  Chuck and Margaret, on Francesca, let me know they were planning to cross Lake Simcoe, so I decided to cross as well.  The lake was very peaceful.  The traffic heading into Lake Couchiching was terrible though.  There is a railway bridge, which is barely wide enough for two boats to pass through, and there was a line going each direction.  Today, was rainy and windy, so I stayed here in Orillia.

I am tempted to leave tomorrow and get one day closer to Georgian Bay.  My friends, Jim and Wendy from Bluenoser, live in Penetanguishene.  They left Southport Marina with me the day I started the Loop. I am looking forward to visiting them.  From here, it is a two day boat trip.  Jim will get on my boat at the Big Chute Railway lock, so he can be onboard with me when I head into his home town.  Georgian Bay has the reputation of being the most beautiful place on the Great Loop.

Here are a few random pictures.  It is beautiful and fairly cool up here. The temperatures have been in the 70's.

This church sat alone on one of the many islands.

Small islands and rocks everywhere. The channels are narrow!

A Glass House

Another beautiful sunset

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Starting the Trent Severn Waterway

I am currently in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. I have gone through the first 19 locks on the Trent-Severn Canal.  I think these locks were built for my boat!  The cables, which run down the lock walls, are attached at the top and bottom. They are spaced approximately 14 feet apart, which is approximately the distance between my midship cleat (outside my helm window) and my stern cleat. They do not want the engines running in the locks, as the locks are smaller than along the Erie and Oswego canals.  I have been tying off outside my window at the helm, then going to the back of my boat to tie off the second line.  It has been so easy!

My bruises have not gone away completely from the Erie Canal,and are mostly healed.  I bought some pipe insulation tubing and cut it to fit my front windows, for tying up, to reduce any chance of getting more bruises.  This has been very helpful!

I had to tie up to the port side in a couple locks, but it has not been problematic because of how the locks are set up.

I have gone through two sets of "flight locks", which are two combined locks.  Once the first lock is finished, you move your boat forward into the second lock.  They are impressive!  Locks 11 and 12 have a lift of 48 feet combined.  Locks 16 and 17 go up 54 feet.  The lock masters are responsible for more than just one lock here. For instance the lock master for Lock 15 got the lock raised, told me to head to 16 and 17, and once he was done letting someone else go down the lock, he would head upstream to raise me for the "flight lock" of 16 and 17.

For most of the locks I have been the only boater to lock through.  The lock masters generally call ahead to give subsequent lock masters a heads up on who is on the way.  When the locks are far apart, I will call the lockmaster on my cellphone to let him know I am headed his way.  I have only had to wait a few minutes for a couple locks, due to other people coming downstream.  In general, the locks are ready when I get there.

At each of the locks are walls for waiting to go in, with a blue stripe (I haven't tied off to any yet.)  There are also areas on the walls to tie up your boat for the night.  There is a seasonal pass to cover the cost of "mooring" on the walls, which is on a first come first serve basis.  The walls do not include electric. There are restrooms, but no showers.  There is no internet service available.   So, for the showers and the internet, I have spent a couple nights at municipal marinas.

Heading up flight locks 11/12

At Campbellford Municipal wall.

Top of flight locks 16/17

Getting ready to exit flight locks 16/17. The lock master allowed me to get off the boat to take some pictures, while I was still tied to the lock wall.

Lock master's office and public restrooms at Locks 16/17.  He had a beautiful garden.

Lock 20, at Peterborough.  My next lock.
Part of staying in Peterborough is because of weather.  It has been getting very windy and the weather reporters are predicting rain and thunderstorms.  This morning I left the Hastings lock wall (lock 18) at 5:15 a.m, so I could cross Rice Lake before the winds kicked in.  I knew I wanted to be in a marina for any storms.  First thing this morning, I made reservations at the Peterborough municipal marina.  When I arrived at lock 19, I found out the next lock was having problems and was closed.  I arrived here around noon and the lock walls were full.  There was potential for boats to get stuck in Peterborough without a place to tie up.  I think the lock ended up opening this afternoon, but meanwhile, I am glad I am here, because the winds did pick up substantially this afternoon and clouds are rolling in.

Canadians know how to have fun!  I took these pictures along the way.

Here in Peterborough, there must be a dozen "looper boats".  I also have crossed paths a couple times with other boaters.  In Oswego, I met "gold loopers", Pat and Dick on Knight Life, who did the loop a few years ago.  They were heading one direction, and I was headed another.  In Campbellford, we crossed paths again, as they headed south, while I was heading north.  They gave me great advice about places to go in Campbellford, including the "Butter Tart factory".  The pecan tarts are better than any pecan pie I have ever had in my life!

Knight Life heading south, while I am further up heading north.
Rick and Anne on Assisted Living were in front of me for the first 6 locks. They were celebrating the 4th of July, with their boat decorated and handing U.S. flags to all the Canadian lock masters.  They should get an award for patriotism!
Happy 4th of July!  Assisted Living
Other interesting things...
I mentioned before how easy it was to get through Canadian Customs... a simple phonecall, and they didn't even ask for my passport number!  OK... that was my experience, and the experience of many other people here on the waters.  However, one of the loopers decided to declare a shotgun.  The Canadian customs asked him about alcohol, and he explained he had a liter of alcohol, or something like that.  They boarded his boat to find a few gallons of alcohol.  They took his shotgun away, then decided to board another Looper boat, who was traveling with him and went through their boat too.  I saw him earlier today, and he said he was probably lucky they didn't throw him in jail.  I think he was given an ultimatum of losing the shotgun or leaving the country.  I am looking forward to talking to his wife, to get her version of the story!

Some random pictures:

Centennial Fountain at Peterborough. Ontario