From Stony Lake to Bobcaygeon

June 27, 2012

Burleigh Falls before the lock

Stony Lake provided us with a wonderful weekend: 1½ days of warm sunshine allowing for walks around the grounds of the resort and a great dinghy ride and then a Sunday of rain and wind, encouraging us to stay inside, to read the Toronto Star offered to us by a pair of women boaters docked next to us, to do a few lil’ projects that just hang around for such a day, but not to go out to the Inn at Mount Julian restaurant for dinner. We went out anyway and had a most unusual, but quite delicious, meal over looking the storm-clouded lake, very dark and threatening!

Kawartha Voyager exiting the lock

We delayed our departure from Stony Lake for a couple hours to see if the remaining storm clouds would lift and if the wind prediction might improve… The clouds parted ever so slightly for the sun to hit the lake, but the winds remained at 10-15 mph… With only three locks on the day’s itinerary, we decided to go… and actually had improving weather all the way to Buckhorn.  But each of the “only 3 locks” provided a new challenge-  At Burleigh Falls Lock, we had to “dance” while the lock emptied, and then dodge a houseboat struggling with significant water turbulence as it departed the lock.  Lovesick Lock (#30) is the smallest on the Trent Severn with a lift of only 4 ft., but always has strong winds, even on a calm day.  So… we learned more fine points of locking in the wind there!  After a very short ride and with the help of the very strong lockmaster, we escaped Lovesick without injury.  On to Buckhorn Lock where we had to “dance” and dodge again, this time because the very large TSW cruise ship Kawartha Voyager was in the lock and coming out on our side!!!  Three locks were definitely enough for us on this day, and we stopped on the outside wall of Buckhorn Yacht Harbor, a rather large, immaculately kept marina and boat yard with many, many slips but none with enough water to hold Sojourner!  With the early stop, we walked the mile or so into town. We stopped at the local Canoe shop where the proprietor proudly explained how he builds canoes “the old way”, i.e. with wooden slats on the inside and a canvas skin on the outside.  His canoes were absolutely beautiful-  the finest hand-crafted, wooden works of  art. We also revisited the Lock on land as it is celebrating its 125th birthday this year!!  After an early “linner” (blend of lunch and dinner) in town, we picked up a couple cans of propane for the grill and headed back to the marina for an early evening.

Proprietor explains the building process

The next day brought us to Bobcaygeon, one of the largest communities we’ve visited so far and clearly a major tourist destination!  Bobcaygeon is the rental houseboat capital of the Trent Severn, and we are hoping to pass through before the season really starts… this weekend with Canada Day on July 1st!!  This was our first travel day without locks (!!!) since we entered the Trent Severn 2 1/2 weeks ago, and after maneuvering through both Buckhorn and Gannon Narrows (aptly named very skinny bodies of water), we ran the length of Pigeon Lake, a wide, reasonably deep, and beautiful body of water!  The lake sported white caps  and 1-2 ft waves as the predicted diminution of the wind did not occur, but we enjoyed the ride anyway as Sojourner got to be a “big water” boat for at least a little while!  We had hoped to stop at the Whetung Ojibwa Centre, an estimated half hour off the main course between the Narrows. The art gallery is known for its First Nations arts and crafts, and we were really looking forward to both the adventure of getting there AND the native art we would see.  Unfortunately, the wind was really howling, and as we headed in toward the shore, the water became quite shallow and the channel, even narrower and we still couldn’t spot where we were to dock.  So discretion won out, and we returned to the main route to Pigeon Lake and Bobcaygeon.  A very early arrival in Bobcaygeon gave us much time to explore the town, pick up some supplies and even visit the lock right in the middle of town!

Sojourner in Bobcaygeon

The next two nights we’ll spend on lock walls, somewhat like we did at Lock 6 in Frankford, only this time using our generator for power instead of plugging in to an external power source.  The first is in the community of Fenelon Falls (Lock 34), and the next, in Kirkfield (Lock 36).  Fenelon Falls is the next to last “up” lock because we are approaching the “summit” of the Trent Severn.  From there on, we travel “downstream” to Georgian Bay.  So, after Fenelon Falls, we’ll enter from the top, and the locks will be emptied instead of filled to get us to the next level. Kirkfield is home to the only other lift lock on the American continent, and the second highest in the world.  There, we will do the reverse of the Peterbourgh Lift Lock, i.e., cruise into a self-contained tub of water at the top of the 49 ft. lift, and along with some 230,000 gallons of water weighing 1,700 or so tons, we will ride down the “water” elevator.  The water tubs do not have very high sides so this should be an interesting experience, especially when first entering …. up 49 ft. in the air….  We’ll keep you posted!!   In the meantime, here are some more pix of our adventures over the last couple days:

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Peterbourgh to Stony Lake

June 24, 2012

Lift Lock at Peterbourgh

First and foremost, we made it through the BIG lift lock at Peterbourgh!!  After all the anticipation and nervousness, it was actually quite an easy and comfortable lock… as locks go! This one is different because instead of a single lock chamber filling with water (or emptying water out), the lock has two chambers, one at the bottom and one at the top. When the gates close, the two, counter-balanced lock enclosures themselves rise and fall.  In the case of Peterbourgh, we entered at the bottom and tied off to horizontal, rather than the regular vertical, cables on the wall. The gate behind us closed, and Sojourner sat in a BIG tub of water that began to rise when one foot of additional water was added to the tub at the top of the lift. Gradually we moved upward as if in an outside elevator partially filled with water- very smooth, no current and no turbulence because no water entered into or drained from our tub.  When we reached the top, the gate at the other end of our  lock enclosure opened, and we simply cruised out-  65 feet higher than we had been only moments before!!  Soonly thereafter, we cruised through the campus of Trent University, what a wonderful setting for great thoughts!!

Trent University on the TSW

After THE lock, the remainder of day could have been anti-climatic, but it was not!  The Peterbourgh Lift was the second of 7 locks we did that day, and we shared almost all of them with big beautiful motor yacht, a 50 ft. Viking.  We didn’t think the two vessels could fit in a lock together, but the lockmaster had different ideas.  In fact, he said there is “…SO MUCH room that [we] could have bought the bigger boat!”   Sojourner’s bow pulpit reached out over the Viking’s dinghy and that seemed too cozy to us-  But the cruisers on the Viking were delightful, and together we managed to keep the two vessels separate and apart as they rose in the locks in tandem.    The Viking, Lost-in-Time, went on after the Lakefield lock, but we decided we had traveled far enough for the day and pulled into the Lakefield Town Marina, a very picturesque spot right downtown in yet another charming TSW community.

Tight squeeze in the lock

It is amazing how much the cruising can change in the span of a couple days.  As noted earlier, to Peterbourgh, we cruised primarily through rivers and canal-ways lined with marshes, farm land, pastures and deciduous forests.  The canal cottages and camps sported bright green lawns: most, freshly mowed and many, quite large.  From Peterbourgh on, the terrain, geography, topography, and water all began to change.   As we approached the Canadian Shield, the TSW meanders through more lakes and the coastline of the waterway is increasingly rocky.   That is not to say the water is without grass and other vegetation!  We hit the worst so far between Peterbourgh and Lakefield:  shallow water and heavy water-borne vegetation-  what a delightful combination-NOT!!  We had to stop two or three times to go into reverse momentarily in order to clear the grass from the propeller!

Lovely Loon on Clear Lake

Once through the transitional “grasslands” as it were, we found ourselves in a series of long, blue and relatively deep lakes:  the Katchewanooka, Clear Lake and finally Stony Lake, rimmed by and increasingly filled with the granite slabs and rocks of the Canadian Shield.  Trees still abound, but even the grandest of waterside homes do not have large grassy lawns.  There’s simply little soil without rock outcroppings. The water itself is different as well: deeper and clearer, but full of rocks and boulders!  Perhaps most striking of all, we now go to sleep and awake to the call of the Canadian loon.

Rocks in the water!!

From Lakefield we moved on to Mt. Julian, a traditional Canadian resort community on the aptly named Stony Lake.  We plan to stay for a couple days and simply enjoy this absolutely gorgeous setting!  We know no words to describe the beauty we are experiencing, but perhaps the Peterbourgh to Stony Lake pix set on Flickr will share some sense of it….

A rock island in Stony Lake from the dinghy


Traveling the Trent Severn Waterway I

June 22, 2012

We’ve figured out how to upload pix with a less than stellar internet connection but haven’t solved the video issues….yet!

The pictures in this hot-linked Flickr set entitled Trent Severn Waterway 1 highlight more sights along the first segment of the Trent Severn Waterway… through lock 19 of 45! Most of the journey thus far has been on the Trent River with short excursions through Rice Lake and along rivers joining the Trent, e.g., the Otonabee River which runs through the city of Peterbourgh.

Some of these scenes may look much like the Erie Canal and Mohawk River… others are quite different, and you will notice a seeming change in the economic status of those lving near the waterway as well. We are about to enter the Kawarthas region which is the major recreational area on the Trent Severn.  We understand it is quite different from what we’ve experienced so far…  we’ll see!


Living the Dream!!

June 20, 2012

1st sight of Canadian soil after crossing Lake Ontario!

“You are really ‘Living the dream…’” has been the universal response when we tell Canadians we meet what we are doing, where we’ve been, and where we are going.  And they are absolutely right!!

After a delightfully smooth and uneventful crossing of Lake Ontario from Oswego NY to Kingston, ON, we dutifully checked in with Canadian authorities.   That process included flying the bright yellow quarantine flag until officially admitted to Canada at which time we switched out for the courtesy, red and white, Maple Leaf one.  We also had to report our stash of 8 bottles of beer, no wine, fresh fruits, vegetables nor firearms.  Surprisingly, we didn’t have to provide any passport or vessel documentation info.  As the Canadian border agent explained,  “We have you in our system… once there, always there!”  Accepted officially, we posted our 13-digit Customs Record so no matter where we go in Canada, officials will know we entered legally.  The whole process took less than 30 minutes, and we are free to roam wherever we would like without checking in again!

Kingston ON emerges from the storm.

We laid over a day in Kingston, which enabled us to visit with Karla, a former law student of Carolyn’s and her two kids, Oscar and Sydney Jane; we also met up again with Kate and Gordon of Viking Star, and we all waited out a storm of major proportions in the safety of the marina.  Good weather returned quickly and we moved on to Trenton, the Gateway of the Trent Severn, where we spent another day, picking up some last minute supplies, purchasing our “Trent Severn Waterway” pass which allows us to transit the entire waterway in one direction once this season, and checking out the first of many, many locks to come!

We docked next to this bridge in Trenton, ON

The first day on the TSW (Trent Severn Waterway) involved traveling only 7.6 miles, but 6 locks and at the top of the 6th, at Frankford, we were ready to stop for the day!  For the first half of the trip we are traveling up river (the Trent River, primarily) so we enter locks at the bottom and are transported upward by the filling of the lock.  At the top of the Frankford Lock, we found Viking Star and several other boats from previous stops along the way, especially Ess-Kay Yards in Brewerton, NY!  We also enjoyed meeting cruisers on four Canadian boats when all we gathered for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the shade of giant willow trees near the lock wall.

What’s behind the BiG blue door??

Day Two took us through 6 more locks, including a “double” or “flight” lock.  Different from the Waterford flight on the Erie Canal which has 5 locks in rather rapid succession but still separate and apart from one another, the TSW flights are two locks right together.  The first lock raises the boat to the level of the second, and we simply moved from one to the next under the watchful eye of the Lock Masters.  The 2nd lock in this first flight has been renamed the “Holy Sh..t” lock as that’s what one of us uttered when we glanced up from our lock transiting duties and saw the massive blue metal wall towering over us!

Carolyn’s off to do laundry… in the dinghy!

Day Three and yet another 6 more locks took us to Hastings where we spent two nights and a day enjoying this delightful village: eating incredible ice cream and yummy fish & chips, experimenting with a Canadian delicacy, beef gravy on French fries (!!), doing some laundry, and waiting out a rainstorm or two.  Communities similar to Frankford, Campbellsford and Hastings dot the eastern segment of the TSW, especially near the locks, and we could spend all summer visiting them!!   But instead, we moved on to Peterbourgh, a much larger municipality and the location yet more locks, including the famous Big Lift Lock, but more on that later!

Cottage communities all along the waterway

The terrain we are traveling through is beginning to change.  On our way to Peterbourgh it began to be much more rural and isolated, with deciduous forests separating pasture and farmland, not unlike parts of the Erie Canal, or the inland rivers of Kentucky and Tennessee, for that matter.  The water is different as well-  Rice Lake is the first rather large and long body of water we have encountered, and on the way to Peterbourgh, we cruised it from one end to the other-  Sojourner revved up for the first time since entering the TSW, hitting 1800 RPM’s and 7.8 knots… for about 45 minutes.  She then returned to the much more sedate, TSW pace as we turned off Rice Lake into the Otonabee River, a narrow and sometimes quite shallow waterway through truly isolated countryside.  At the very end of the day’s journey, we did one, small lock (#19), cruised a big circle around a massive city fountain in the middle of Little Lake, and pulled up to the Peterbourgh Marina dock.  The day started out chilly; racing on Rice Lake was down right cold; but now it is 95+ degrees F; the brisk south wind has disappeared, and we may well have to close up and turn on the AC for the very first time!

We plan to be in Peterbourgh for two nights before facing the Big Lift Lock-  stay tuned for that adventure!!  By the way, we are having trouble uploading pictures…  so bear with us while we figure out a way to get more visuals available, both pix and some nifty videos Carolyn has made going through locks!  In the meantime, here’s a slideshow offering a small taste of what we are experiencing:  

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Central NY Vacation

June 11, 2012

Storm brewing in Brewerton

So where do boats and boaters go to vacation??  Wel-l-l, different places, we suppose, but Sojourner always seems to return to the same place:  Ess-Kay Yards in Brewerton, NY, on the Erie Canal/Oneida River, just off the west end of Lake Oneida.  Syracuse and the very good friends who live there are close by so we never mind her choice for a holiday!!

Four Susan/Sue/Susie’s having barbeque

Our plan was to stay a couple weeks and then head to Canada and the first two of the three significant segments of the Loop we have yet to experience:  the Trent-Severn Waterway and Georgian Bay. We stayed three weeks and, as always, had an incredible time!  During our stay this time, we met several other cruising folks who we hope we’ll see again along the way and finally came face-to-face with Kate and Gordon on Viking Star, a beautiful vintage Nordhavn. Larry of Larry’s Marine Services in Melbourne, FL, had introduced us via email, and we had been corresponding all the way up the Atlantic coast so it was great fun finally to see and meet them in person!!

As usual, Kim, Ethan, Craig, Tammy and the others of Ess-Kay Yards pampered Sojourner.  In addition to a shady slip and a great slip mate, Lucky Find III with Dottie and Big Al aboard, she received oil and filter changes, anchor light repair, generator troubleshooting, and dinghy fixing, as well as three gigantic, shiny new, bright white, round fenders, a fresh NY Canal System burgee, and several new stainless steel deck fittings!

Roasting marshmallows at the lake

We, on the other hand, enjoyed time with our dear friends (Susan and Sue, Maurie [of Hawk Channel fame] and Dominique, and Susan’s Mom, Phoebe), as well as friends from long ago and new ones too!  At a dinner hosted by M&D, Carolyn and old friend Bernice shared stories of their adventures in the early days of the Syracuse NOW chapter; we hosted a rained out boat picnic that nonetheless provided some time with Travis, a former law professor of Carolyn, Susan and Maurie’s; and over dinner  with Sue and Susan at the famous Dinosaur Barbecue, we finally met Susie, another long-time email correspondent!  Time spent at Sue and Susan’s Lake House is always special.  One highlight this year was a Memorial Day celebration at which we met Suzanne and Hetty, truly fun folks who also live in Syracuse… and another was the afternoon spent at Chittenango Falls, a 165-foot waterfall and series of rapids just outside the village of Cazenovia and a few miles from the Lake House.

Ess-Kay’s Kim and Ethan with Sojourner’s Oswego crew

The end of our CNY holiday came sooner than we might want, but not quite as soon as anticipated!  Susan and Sue signed on for the last leg of the NY Canal System trip to Oswego, and we were making final preparations when it became clear the weather had other ideas, resulting in an extra, very wet, chilly, yet fun day in the area. The delay also enabled us all to accept a dinner invitation from Hetty and Suzanne so we enjoyed another delightful evening with new friends!

Approaching one of 8 locks to Oswego

The next day dawned bright, dry, and warm, and after a poignant dockside good-bye to Ess-Kay, we cast off for our canal adventure!!  It was great:  warm, sunny and NO wind, though with a crew of three lines people, Sojourner wouldn’t have minded some breeze at all!!  A perfect day on the water ended with both not-so-good and great surprises- Susan and Sue had taken a car to Oswego and left it at the marina so they had transportation home, and it was only upon our arrival at the Oswego International Marina in Sojourner that anyone realized the keys to the car in Oswego were safely stored in the other car waiting back at Ess-Kay.  After more than a few moments of intense….., reason prevailed, AAA was called, and with the car alarm blaring, the extra, valet key was retrieved from the glove box!!  Knowing the Susan’s could now get home, we went on to enjoy an incredible evening with Kate and Cathy of Oswego, friends of Hetty and Suzanne’s, who, upon learning we would be cruising right by their place on the Oswego Canal, generously opened their home and provided us with a relaxing and delicious evening to cap off a very full and exciting day!   As the sun set in Oswego, Sue and Susan headed home reluctantly, and we made last minute preparations for the next day’s adventure, crossing Lake Ontario…  Next stop:  Canada!!!

Here’s a slideshow with more pictures of our CNY Holiday and the Oswego Canal trip:  

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The Erie Canal 2012!

June 5, 2012

All new signage!

Next stop:  the Erie Canal!!  We made that left turn after the federal lock at Troy and within ½ hour, pulled onto the “free” docks at Waterford, the starting point for the famous Erie Canal.  [The city docks are no longer absolutely free, but we were most happy to pay the $10.00/night now required for electrical power!].  The canal was completed in 1825 and, until just a few years ago, served as an essential commercial waterway.  Now, passage on the canal is restricted to recreational vessels, as long as they can pass under bridges with only 18 ft. clearances.  The anchor light above the radar array on our mast is our highest point and with it, our “air draft” (height above the waterline) 17’ 9.”  Thus, we clear those bridges with space to spare-  as long as no one takes a deep breath at an inopportune moment!

Low bridge AND a lock!

Like so many other places we have visited more than once, the Erie Canal has offered us a variety of experiences, and weather is always the primary variable.  Weather-wise, this trip westward on the canal was much like our first:  sunny, warm, and NO wind!  Quite different from the trip back in Fall 2009 when we were about rained out or that of early summer 2010 when the wind created challenges we had a tough time meeting!   No matter the weather context, however, the Erie Canal is truly one of the highlights of our grand adventure.  As such, it is one well documented in earlier blogs and picture sets.  See for example, “I’ve got a Mule and her Name is Sal…”  blog posting from Sept 7th  (last one in 9/2009); the Canal Sights picture set;  the Locking Through pix set; and the pix set from our trip with son Doug and grandson Isaac from Brewerton to Oswego and back on the Erie and Oswego Canals. We even offer musical accompaniment to your cruise through the Erie Canal!

As suggested in the Hudson River posting, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irene was both extreme and horrific, and it is still very much in evidence. There’s perhaps no place where Irene’s power may be better seen today than along the Erie Canal.  It is truly amazing that NY State was able to repair the locks and restore the canal sufficiently to open the waterway this spring. Much work was accomplished but much remains, and thus it was Irene that made this trip on the Erie Canal substantively different from any of our earlier trips.

Beginning with the Waterford “Steps”, i.e., 5 locks within just a couple miles, we “locked through” 22 locks in 3 days.  Irene expressed herself most powerfully through raging water, and the resulting damage is still very obvious. In places, the course of the Mohawk River has actually changed, and we saw many creeks permanently clogged with debris. Innumerable navigational markers were moved or missing, and the canal itself still has significant debris as do many of the locks.

Schoharie Creek totally clogged with debris.

Especially hard hit were the waterway and the canal structures between Locks 8 and 13 (YouTube views of Lock 10).  At the very least, the raging water filled and then overflowed the lock structures.  On the positive side, this scrubbed the lock walls absolutely clean, but also it was also powerful enough to damage the massive steel lock doors and gear mechanisms in the process.  Now, some lock doors don’t close completely and on occasion, some don’t close at all!  At   some locks, the rock jetties separating (and protecting) the boaters’ approach to the lock from the water charging over the dams were washed away and are still in the process of being rebuilt.  And at Lock 9, the storm blew a 50 ft. hole in the approach wall across from the jetty as well.  Thus, there was no protection at all as the water rushes over the dam, swirling into the pool at the bottom of the dam and into the lock itself.   That Lock 9 has no tie up lines on one side, the side we usually use, and that the lock operator chose not to communicate with us, both contributed to some rather uncomfortable moments as we tried madly to switch all the fenders to the opposite side, grab the lines, and secure Sojourner to the lock wall, but we succeeded eventually and were even more thankful for the lack of wind that day!!

Repairs continue…

The Erie Canal does not have many marinas and even fewer that can handle a boat of Sojourner’s stature….  So we planned to stay at the same ones we had used before.   But we learned canal side businesses suffered from last year’s storm as well, and not all have recuperated yet.  Heading west, the town of Amsterdam comes just before Lock 11, right in the middle of the most heavily damaged area.  River-link, “our” marina at Amsterdam still has no power, no pump out… no docks!  We tied up on the wall and lamented that Carolyn’s birthday could not be celebrated at the gourmet restaurant affiliated with the marina that used to be!  We talked with the owners, and they assure us they are rebuilding the marina so all was not lost there.

The Canal’s natural beauty survived the storm.

Our next stop was beyond the storm’s primary path, and we found the Ilion Village Marina and RV Park in Ilion, NY as charming (and functioning) as always.  The same held true for our destination point for this portion of the journey:  Ess-Kay Yards in Brewerton, NY on the Oneida River just west of Lake Oneida.  We pulled into Sojourner’s CNY summer home exhausted but ecstatic to finally arrive and looking forward to a couple ”down” weeks, visiting friends, relaxing, doing lil’ boat projects, and generally enjoying some time tied to the dock!  [Additional pictures of the Erie Canal 2012]