We are in Canada! We arrived in the town of Gananocque, Ontario yesterday afternoon (June 27th) and will be somewhere in Canada for the next several weeks. We’re here just in time to celebrate Canada Day on July 1st. Canada Day is a celebration of when the provinces of Canada as well as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick united, and from what we understand it’s kind of like our Fourth of July with fireworks and all kinds of celebrations of summer. Since we left home I’ve noted that that as pretty as places have been, none have beat the beauty of New England – well this area certainly competes! It’s really hard to describe the beauty here – and what a journey it’s been to get here!
When we left Amsterdam, NY we still had several more locks to do before completing the Erie Canal and the weather was cool and rainy most days. I was feeling a little blue when we set out the morning after Shannon left until we met three other Looper boats in the very next lock. We all use an app called NEBO which tracks boats and identifies you as a looper; it’s a good way to see where others are and to message each other. Before we got to our destination I had a message from Susan on “Lucky Me” inviting us to explore the next destination with them and the other boats they were traveling with. We stopped and tied up on a free wall in the little town of Canajoharie, NY. We walked in pouring rain to check out the waterfall and natural pool named “The Boiling Pot”, then had lunch in a little cafe. When evening came we went to…….you guessed it!……..Docktails on someone’s boat. We’ve been traveling with some or all of those boats since then, have met lots more that have come and go along the way, and have been having a blast!
We stopped in Little Falls, NY and stayed for two nights because of the rain! I mentioned that Danny’s birthday was June 17th, so at docktails the night before (Father’s Day), Susan organized a birthday celebration for him. This was hysterical; she had gone to all of the other boats and invited them to bring Danny a gift – the gift had to be something they had on their boat and didn’t want. He came away with a canned ham, canned vegetables, useless gadgets and even a roll of wrapping paper. He hates being the center of attention, but was a good sport and I think he actually enjoyed it!
From Canajoharie we stopped in Utica, and then in Sylvan Beach before crossing Lake Oneida. It was a beautiful, sunny, smooth and short crossing to a stop in Brewerton where we refueled and shopped for staples before Canada, where everything is a bit more expensive. An extra night because of more rain……of course…..and there’s a reason I keep talking about all of this rain!!
After Brewerton we were done with the Erie Canal and started on the Oswego Canal. There are 8 locks in this section, they all went down (the ones in the Erie all went up). At this point we’d done 24 locks, so although we’re always cautious, we weren’t overly concerned about doing these locks all in one day. Mother Nature said “hold my beer” and let us have it! The rain, rain, rain that I keep mentioning made the water levels super high. This meant that there were pretty strong currents in the river, especially coming into and leaving locks. Leaving Lock 3 on the Oswego was particularly scary, it looked like a washing machine and really threw the boat around. Luckily Danny and Done Diggin’ handled it well, but it was nerve wracking. The levels also made the water in the locks really high, so that catching the line to hold on to as the lock descended was difficult. Throw in some wind and picture hanging on to a slimy rope trying to hold the boat near the wall, and you can imagine how challenging these locks were that day. We were, in fact, the last boats to go through Lock 8, the final one before Lake Ontario; after we went through they closed them to all boaters because it was considered too dangerous because of the water level. The locks were closed for six days – we just made it!!
We spent 3 nights in Oswego, NY before crossing Lake Ontario. There were many discussions about wind direction, wind speed, which route to take – and when we finally got out on Lake Ontario it was perfect! There was almost no wind, which meant the lake was flat as glass. I’d talked with a Captain in the merchant marines at one of our stops who’d told us that he’d been to the North Pole, the South Pole, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific, but the worst butt-kicking he’d ever had was on Lake Ontario! We were lucky to have found a really good day to go.
Lake Ontario brought us to the St. Lawrence River and the 1000 Islands region. I cannot count how many times I’ve said “God, this is beautiful” since we’ve been here. The water is clear, there are islands everywhere and the cruising has been perfect. Clayton, NY was such a great stop that we stayed an extra day – even though it wasn’t raining! We toured an antique boat museum and took a pontoon cruise through the area and to Boldt Castle, an amazing castle that a wealthy man built for his wife back in the “guilded age”. It was breathtaking. As we’ve traveled on the St. Lawrence we’ve noticed many homes and boat houses that have been affected by the high water levels here, many are partially underwater. Some of the towns we hoped to visit have marinas or walls that we can’t tie up to because of the high water. We’re told that although this is not unusual after a rainy spring, this is the highest it’s ever been. We’re hoping the sun stays out so that summer can really get into full swing in this stunning area!
When we arrived in Canada we had to clear customs – this was much easier than we feared it would be, simply a phone call from the marina with our passport numbers and identification info for the boat. We’re now flying the Canadian flag along with the US flag, as is customary when boating in another country. Hey – we’re boating in another country!!!!! More important than customs – we were soon visited by Jim, the Gananocque Harbor Host bearing treats. A harbor host is someone who has completed the Great Loop, lives in the area, and volunteers to help loopers in anything they may need; we’ve met and called on a few so far and they bend over backwards to help, they’re great! We’ve been hearing about this Canadian treat “butter tarts” for as long as we’ve been planning on doing the loop, and Jim showed up with a bag of area info and some homemade butter tarts!!!! They were delicious. Kind of like little pecan pies, but instead of pecans there’s caramel inside. Yum. What a welcome to Canada!
This morning I am feeling excited, happy to be here and with a fun “tribe”, and really grateful to be on this journey. I’m going to earmark this blog entry so I can revisit this feeling the next time I get homesick or overwhelmed by this adventure!
Thanks as always for following along with us.
Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi