Greetings from GREAT Lake Michigan

This lake is mighty! If you ask google, you’ll learn that it is second largest of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one located entirely within the US.  If you  venture out by boat as we’ve done this week, you’ll find that it’s vast, dazzling and mesmerizing; it can also be fierce, fearsome and downright formidable! We’ve been lucky so far as we’ve traveled south on the Michigan side from Mackinaw to Ludington where we are now – so far we’ve only had one really bouncy day on Friday when we came here.  If you ask Danny he’ll tell you it was “perfect out there, just a little chop”. In fact the other two captains, Greg and Kevin on TxAu and The Laurie Jean will tell you the same; well maybe not Kevin, their boat is the smallest and was taking the waves pretty hard.  In truth the waves were 2 to 3 feet with an occasional 4 tossed in just to make sure you’re paying attention.  The thing about the lake that’s different from the ocean is how close together the waves are; we had a 6 hour journey to get here on Friday, it was a long time to be pounding, rocking and rolling!  So I learned why some boaters refer to the large as “Lake Bitchigan”!  But we were never in danger and I wasn’t nearly as whiny and anxious as I would have been when we started this trip almost 11 months ago.

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The Laurie Jean – this wasn’t the day the waves were going over their bow – they weren’t smiling and waving that day 😁

Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island were the last stop before we crossed into Lake Michigan, it’s in between the upper and lower peninsulas.  There are no cars on the island, people travel either by horseback, horse and carriage or bicycle. It’s like being in a different century and I’ve always wanted to go there. We rode our bikes all around the perimeter of the island, played pitch and putt golf and had a cocktail on the porch at The Grand Hotel.  I would have loved to had dinner there but after 6 pm men are required to wear a jacket and tie and women a dress or skirt (yes, really,) and since we traveled by ferry from the city to the island and rode bicycles all day, it just didn’t work. My favorite part of the day was the ride around the island, it’s really hard to describe how beautiful the water is there.  Mackinaw gets added to my list of favorite stops and I’ve imagined bringing my kids and Lilah back for a summer vacation sometime. Ryan and Amanda, Shannon, Evan – this is a test to see if any of you ready my blog, if you do please comment and let me know your thoughts on this idea! 😚

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No cars! Horses, bikes…..and horse poop!
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Arch Rock, Mackinac Island. I took this photo from the top, about 200 feet above the lake – you can see the kayakers below
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The infamous Grand Hotel
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Leaving Mackinaw and starting The Lake Michigan piece of the journey

Many people told us that The Georgian Bay and the North Channel in Ontario would be the most stunning part of the trip, and we definitely loved it there, but I have to admit that I’ve been truly surprised and delighted by Lake Michigan. It feels like you’re out on the ocean, it’s just so dam BIG!  All along the shore there are sand dunes and lush green hills, and each port we’ve stopped in has been quaint and totally alive with summertime!  The weather has been ideal for boating and sightseeing and we did a lot of biking this week to go see beaches and lighthouses and view of the lake from the “other side”.

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Dunes on the shore

So this week we left Mackinaw and traveled to Charlevoix as a first stop.  The biggest “attraction” here are the Mushroom Houses; these are really unique homes built by a self taught builder named Earl Young. They really do resemble mushrooms! Danny remarked that it must have been difficult to cut the rafters for those houses.  I have no idea what that means, but I assume he’s right.  They’re cute and are apparently available as rental properties –  I bet they’re expensive especially given the proximity to the lake and the downtown area.

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Mushroom house in Charlevoix

 

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Downtown Charlevoix, MI – another charming town

Our next stop was Leland which includes the little village of Fishtown.  This is another quaint town but instead of all t-shirt stores and pubs, there are upscale shops on the Main Street and Fishtown is a cool little area with shops in shacks all along a small inlet that leads to a waterfall.  When we arrived in the harbor the water was a stunning aquamarine color, I couldn’t capture it by camera.  It’s like the Caribbean only no palm trees – or salt – and the water is COLD…….never mind it’s not like the Caribbean after all but it sure was pretty!

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Fishtown

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After Leland we traveled about 35 miles to Frankfort. That day the water was flat as glass, like a pond! I obviously far prefer it like that though I’m told that’s more unusual than the rougher days.  We’ve been leaving port really early – approximately “O Dark Thirty” because the waves attend to pick up later in the afternoon. So if we leave at 6:30 we can be in town by noon or 1:00 ish and have the afternoon to check out the town and prepare for the next day.  There’s usually docktails at 5 or 5:30 before dinner –  it’s not exactly a rule on The Great Loop, really more of a suggestion – we take it seriously! Docktails are a fun part of buddy boating but there are other advantages too.  It’s just better and smarter to be out on the water with someone who cares about whether or not you make it to port.  We communicate boat to boat via vhf radio about important and silly stuff and the other day when it was rough it was particularly reassuring to hear those voices, if for no other reason to than to distract you from the next wave! I like boating better with my  buddies.

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Early AM Captains meeting – should we stay or should we go now?

 

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Pier walk to lighthouse in Frankfort
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Blueberry pie delivered by Kevin

So we’ve spent the weekend in Ludington, another vacation community with a lighthouse, a maritime museum and lovely beaches.  There’s a state park about 8 miles from the marina; Danny and our friends all rode out there yesterday, I had made an appointment for a much needed mani/pedi before those plans we made so I skipped it.  Priorities people.  Danny’s nephew Shannon and his wife Diane drove about 2 hours from their home in Grand Rapids to cone visit us this morning, it was really great to see them. I meant to get a photo but forgot.

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The little people we’re traveling with from the lighthouse at Ludington State Park
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Ludington lighthouse
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Our reward for launching at first light.

We will get moving again tomorrow and should be in Chicago by next week,  then we’ll be flying home for about a week for a short visit.  I can’t wait to see everyone, I’m getting at that homesick phase again, seems to happen about every 6 to 8 weeks.  This is the trip of a lifetime, but there’s no place like home.

Thanks as always for following along our adventure,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

 

 

 

 

Back in the US of A!!!!

This week we finished up our time in Canada.  Although there’s way more to explore in the Georgian Bay and North Channel, we decided it was time to cross over Lake Huron to Michigan, and back to the good ol’ USA.  We entered US waterways at 10:48 on August 6th and checked in via an app that allowed us to clear customs by filling out a form and having a brief video chat with a Border Patrol agent.  Kind of cool to do it from the moving boat.  Danny was a little bit sad to leave Canada behind, but we both felt happy to be back in the USA!

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The US Border Patrol let us back into the country. Phew!

We’ve been in Drummond Island, Michigan since Tuesday and will travel when the winds die down.  Our fleet has gone from 4 boats to 3 this week, our friends Susan & Greg on Lucky Me decided to stay in Canada and visit more towns.  We’ve caught up with other Loopers we’ve met along the way and met some new folks as well, last night we hosted docktails aboard Done Diggin’ with some new and familiar crews.  Our friends have friends who summer on the island, so we were able to do a little bit of touring with “locals”.  The island is filled with pine trees and coves all along Lake Huron with cottages  and boats all around.  The population is about 1,000 in the winter months and at least triples in the summer.  It’s been a good stop.

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Some of the 12 people that were somewhere on our boat at Drummond Island.

 

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Remains of an old stone home on Drummond Island
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Lake Huron through the trees

Many boaters and almost all loopers have boat cards made before setting out on a trip like ours; when you meet someone new you exchange boat cards.  I recently got a book to organize them and try to write where we met on the back of the card.  So far, we’ve collected 90 boat cards at marinas and docktails all throughout the trip.  I don’t remember everyone, but many are boats we’ve traveled with and gotten to know.  When we meet someone new we tend to refer to them by their boat name until we get to know them better.  Danny and I are often called “Diggin’”.

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Lots of boat cards and room for more!

What an incredible summer we’ve had so far.  I’ve pulled together some “fun facts” and statistics of our trip so far:

  • When we left Blind River, Ontario, our last Canadian port, we were at the northernmost point of the Great Loop and closer to the North Pole than to Fort Myers!  Wow!
  • We spent 40 days in Canada and traveled on 26 of those days
  • We spent 22 nights in marinas in Canada, 11 nights on lock walls and 6 at anchor (7 if you count the one we “aborted”, which I don’t)
  • Since leaving home on 9/23/18, we have traveled approximately 4,271 miles!
  • We are almost halfway through our Loop.  We started and will finish in Fort Myers hopefully in November and have traveled about 2,250 “Loop” miles.

 

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The circle is where we started and will finish – the X is where we are now (roughly)!

Statistics aside, the best part of this journey has been the people we’ve met and continue to meet.  I’m continually surprised at how different each boat, each couple and each person is, and that in spite of those differences we come together and have such a good time.  There are SO many laughs….none of us take ourselves very seriously! The best way to share this part of the journey is through some of the MANY pictures I’ve taken, or one of our friends has taken and sent to me.

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Fellow loopers Barbie and Jeff on a powercat named “Aisling Ghael”; she plays the Irish Whistle, he the Banjolin
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This collage came from our friend Susan – great snapshot of our summer together

While waiting out the winds, we’ve done lots of boat cleaning – inside and out…living in such close quarters can get messy sometimes, and there were lots of spiders in Canada that wanted to ride with us every day!

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Yikes! He’s making himself at home

When the winds finally do die down we’ll move on to Mackinaw Island, hopefully tomorrow. Sometimes it’s spelled Mackinac – but still pronounced Mackinaw….there must be a reason why – maybe I’ll figure it out when we get there.  Meanwhile, the sun is shining, the wind is blowing and we are safe at port on our nice clean boat.  More adventure awaits!

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Beautiful sunrise on Lake Huron

Thanks as always for following along our adventure!

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

Anchor Woes and lots of Odes!

This morning we are in a town called Kagawong which is in Manitoulin Island on the North Channel in Ontario.  Ontario is really a big province and we’ve seen a lot of it since getting here a little over a month ago. It’s truly hard to describe the beauty of these waterways; these pictures probably do a way better job than I can.  We’ve traveled for the last nine days, but we’re staying here today.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful morning …….  but it sure hasn’t been that way all week!

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Seagulls outside the boat this morning. I’m a little confused as to why there are seagulls in the lake…..

 

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When we left Parry Sound last weekend we traveled through the Georgian Bay, tucking into anchorages along the way.  The first stop was Regatta Bay where we rafted up with the fleet and took our dinghies to another “famous” fish place called Gillies.  It wasn’t as good as Henry’s (in my opinion) but we had a good time, as always.  The night before we got there, we’d challenged each other to write a new looper toast – since we “docktail” every night we’d gotten a bit bored with the existing one which an old Irish blessing that goes like this:

There are good ships and wood ships and ships that sail the sea; But the best ships are friendships and may they always be

So, back to Gillies…..We decided to make a contest of the new toasts, and invited a Gold Looper couple anchored nearby (when you finish your loop, you go gold) to judge.  All of the entries were great and our reactions and voting may or may not have gotten a bit loud.  OK, we were loud.  So, we were “shushed” by the owner; she literally told us to “be quiet”……wow.  Our toast tied with TxAu’s toast – ours is #1 below, Nancy’s is #3. YOU be the judge now but remember this is MY blog 🙂

  1. There are stinky ships and leaky ships and docktails by the sea; But the best ships are the friendships with drunken fools like me! (Done Diggin’ – mostly Danny)
  2. Through shallow channels, narrow rivers and lakes that are deep and wide; we have no fear of travel with friends by our side. (Lucky Me – Greg & Susan)
  3. We are Looper boats with dinghy floats, over 6000 miles to see.  But the best of these trips are the great friendships, and grateful we’ll always be (Tx Au, mostly Nancy!)

Monday turned out to be one of the more challenging days we’ve had lately.  We launched Regatta Bay at 8am in cloudy skies and knew there was some weather expected later in the day.  We traveled through some very narrow channels surrounded by rocks all around.  At one point near “Hangdog Reef” I made Danny go on the wrong side of the channel to avoid hitting a giant boulder that looked way too close for comfort for our wide boat, I’d watched TxAu narrowly clear it in front of us and they’re about 4 feet more narrow than we are. We made it through safely, but both agreed we shouldn’t have gone on the wrong side of that green buoy, and to be honest I don’t think we should have been in that channel at all.  I looked back at my notes from the briefing we had about the bay after the fact – which is no good – and we were actually told we should avoid that channel and that area.  We were lucky.  We all got to the bay safely and rafted together as usual, with anchor lines on the bow and ropes securing us to trees on the rocks in the rear to avoid “swinging”.

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Tex and “Billy Goat” Sullivan securing a line from the boats tied together to a tree on the cliff. Generally makes for good holding

Later that evening as we were finishing up our pot luck of pulled pork and Mac n’ cheese however, our luck changed.  Near as I remember, here’s what happened – the wind started gusting, and our boats started moving.  Quickly.  Together. Toward the rocks!  As it started pouring with thunder and lightning, everyone scrambled to their boats and the madness ensued.  We needed to start the engines and get the hell off of those rocks – TxAu came closest to hitting them, in fact if their dinghy hadn’t become a huge fender, I think they may have!  We needed to untie from each other, pull the anchors and untie the ropes on the back – Tex and Danny actually ended up cutting them with knives that were quickly passed to them by Nancy & Laurie. Then we realized that TxAu’s anchor line was crossed with ours.  Kevin and I were on the bow of our boat struggling to free them with long boat poles – we ended up losing the poles overboard before Kevin yelled to the captains (Danny and Tex) to maneuver enough to get them untangled.  Then we slowly moved forward.  Lucky Me was the first to get to safety – they were actually closest to the rocks so we were relived they were ok.  Laurie Jean stayed tied up to us until we got into a more open area because they were also close on the other side!  As soon as we were safe we radioed one another to make sure there was no damage and that everyone was ok.  This whole ordeal only lasted about 10 minutes according to Danny, but if felt a whole lot longer!  Since there were a couple of hours of daylight left (thank God it’s light out until 9pm here), we found a marina a mile or so away and tied up safely for the night.  Some of us had another drink on our boat that night – happy to be all together again and all safe.  The next morning we went back to the scene of the crime and recovered what was left of the lines we cut and one of our two lost poles.  I wrote another “ode” about the ordeal to share with the fleet.  This is the last one in this blog, I promise!

It was dinner time on Done Diggin’ with the whole crew; TxAu, Laurie Jean, Lucky Me and Diggin’ too

We were rafted all up side by side, when Texas yelled – Hey! Did our anchors slide?

The rocks on our stern were suddenly near, we spring into action filled with fear

Engines were started, lines were set free; What’s happening now?  Your line is with me?

Adrenaline, strength and a little bit of luck; We’re untied – we can move now – Holy F*!@

Thunder, lightning and windy skies; Slipped anchors, sharp rocks and frightened cries

We moved on slowly to find a place for the night, Our bond a bit stronger our friendships still tight

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The terror behind us, we moved on to another beautiful anchorage in Bustards Bay.  It was a little bouncy on the bay that day and windy at the anchorage, but we held firm!  The anchorages just keep getting prettier, we put our kayak in and paddled around looking for bears – they say they’re all over the place here but we haven’t seen any yet.  From Bustards Bay we moved on to the town of Killarney which is the end of the Georgian Bay and beginning of The North Channel.  We were a bit disappointed with the marina there, so stayed only one night instead of the two we’d planned.  We did catch up with some other loopers for docktails, which was nice.

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We’ve hauled the kayak all the way from home; nice to have it in the clear waters of the bay now

On Thursday we traveled from Killarney to Baie Fine to the prettiest anchorage yet.  Our guidebook says that Baie Fine is the closest thing to a fjord we’ll ever cruise in; it is in fact the most unique place we’ve ever boated in! Again, hard to describe the beauty of our anchorage in “The Pool” at Baie Fine.  We took our dinghies across the bay to climb about a mile and a half up the mountain to Lake Topaz for a swim.  The hike was good for my body and for my soul – I’d been feeling a bit “off” for a couple of days, maybe because of how difficult a day we’d had, probably because I’m missing home and my family again.

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Swimming in Lake Topaz after hiking up the hill
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We made it to the top
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Charlie – thee resident turtle at “The Pool” in Baie Fine. He comes around to the anchored boats around dinnertime – that’s a piece of bread near his tail

Yesterday we cruised from Baie Fine to Little Current for a quick provisioning stop and then here to Kagawong.  Later today we plan on a little bit of sightseeing – there’s a waterfall you can hike called “Bridal Veil Falls” and an old Anglican Church that’s adorned with boat parts!  There will no doubt also be planning and docktailing later today; all in all a great end to an eventful week!

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View of the bay at Little Current from the top of the hill. It should actually be called “Fierce Current”, it was tough to dock there.

I hope your weekend is great – thanks as always for following along on our adventure,

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We are very tanned….I’ve never been this brown. Note the weird brown section on my nose – it really looks like that, it’s not just the camera lense. It just got like that from wearing my sunglasses all the time…….ugh

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

Georgian Bay Adventures

This morning I was walking around the downtown of Parry Sound, where we docked last night, and a woman told me to enjoy the day before it got too hot.  She said it’s going to 28 and will feel like 32.  Hmmmmm…….That sounds COLD to me! I have no idea what that translates to in Fahrenheit and I’m probably not going to learn Celsius at this point in my life.  It will just add to my happy confusion as we travel through this beautiful, scenic neighboring country of ours.  Oh Canada!  You do not disappoint.

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Beautiful morning on the bay.
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I think this is half & half……I hope!

Parry Sound is the birthplace of Bobby Orr.  Apparently a lot of people in the area are Orr’s, but we didn’t run into any while we were there.  We did go to the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame and had a great dinner at the Wellington Pub – the owner of the restaurant actually picked us up and drove us to the restaurant!  It was pretty rainy yesterday, actually the first rainy day we’ve had since we got to Canada on June 29th.  Not bad.

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Bobby Orr was born in Parry Sound – there’s a small and interesting Hall of Fame in his honor.

 

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The Tribe at dinner….notice we are all looking more and more tanned as the days pass.

This week we’ve had a few more boating firsts.  We anchored overnight for the first time on this trip; we’ve only done so at home a couple of times.  The first night was in Monument Channel; it was so peaceful and I loved listening to the loons when I woke in the early morning.  We are with our buddy boats, we all took a dinghy ride around to explore, had docktails on the bow of Done Diggin’ then back out on the dinghys for sunset.  The next day we arrived early at Echo Bay, a popular anchorage, and it was already pretty crowded, so we all rafted together for the night.  It took a little bit of time for us to all get situated, but we held really well thanks to the coordination of our friend Greg on TxAu. Once settled we all swam near the boats and then took the dinghy’s for about a mile and a half ride to Henry’s a popular tourist spot for fish & chips.

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Kevin from “The Laurie Jean” tying a rope from our fleet to the shore.
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The fleet safely rafted up in an anchorage – left to right is Laurie Jean, Done Diggin’, TxAu and Lucky Me
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We bullied another poor man into taking a picture with us. He’s the current owner of Henry’s…..I forget his name but it’s not Henry and he was a good sport.

As we were all floating around in the water that day, we wondered aloud what day of the week  it was and talked about what may be happening in our “real worlds”.  Right now this trip feels like a long summer vacation – swimming, kayaking, boat rides and hanging out with friends.  Beautiful days filled with summer activities in an idyllic setting. Very “On Golden Pond”.

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Even busy captains deserve a break sometimes

 

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Pulling out of our anchorage at Echo Bay.

This morning we had a short, 15 mile journey from the marina in Parry Sound to another beautiful anchorage in Regatta Bay.  There are many, many routes and countless places to visit on The Georgian Bay; today’s travel took us in both the “main channel” and the “small boat channel”.  It’s important to stay vigilant in some of these narrow channels and to watch for submerged rocks!

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It’s usually “red right return” when navigating, but sometimes not! Not sure why, Danny could explain it. So instead of a fancy electronic system, our boat has plastic clothespins to aid us in our travels!
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My very own binoculars. I use them to help find buoys or to find our designated slip in a marina. I also check out pretty houses on the shore, how people decorate, what’s for dinner, what’s on their tv………kidding………mostly.

 

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We saw about 340 feet of water today! Way more than the 2 feet we saw back in Georgia!

We are all rafted up again for the night and plan on a pot luck dinner tonight with pulled pork, baked Mac n’ cheese and a docktail or two.   We’ve challenged each other to come up with a new toast for docktails…..Danny and I came up with two and I also wrote a limerick, so we’ll present them all at docktails tonight.  May the best boat win!

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Our boat mascot is a 2 inch screaming goat, Robyn & Terry brought him to us this winter. We found this little pirate on the ground in Little Falls, NY and gave him to the goat. Although he frequently falls off, they are a good pair and fine mascots.

Thanks as always for following along on our adventure.

Having a blast in Canada!

 

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

 

Feeling Groovy!

I usually update once a week, but yesterday was such an eventful day that I thought I’d write a “special edition” of Done Diggin’ Diaries!  We completed the Trent Severn Waterway portion of the Great Loop and entered the Georgian Bay.  Since starting the Trent Severn on July 3rd, we’ve traveled through 45 locks which brought us up to more than 840 feet above sea level then back down.  We cruised through gorgeous lakes and very narrow river ways and saw quaint little towns and met lots of nice people. We “oohed and ahhhd” at some unique and interesting homes built into the ledges along the way and loved seeing people swimming and enjoying summertime, but the big deal for me was that yesterday we went through Locks 44 and 45 – the ones I was most nervous about.

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Fun place on the side of the river
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No caption required!
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The last narrow channel!!!

Lock 44 is called the Big Chute.  It is literally a railway that takes your boat out of the water, across a street and over a lawn, then down a steep hill and into the bay.  AMAZING!!!  You stay on the boat while this is happening, and though it takes only about 7 minutes, it is truly a boating experience of a lifetime.  I remember Danny showing me a video of it a couple of years ago when we (ok he) was planning this trip; it seemed so far away and too make believe – and now – we’ve done it!  When we got to the lock we tied up and walked around for a while to watch other boats go through and we talked with the lockmasters about our boat so they could plan how we’d fit.  After a while we looked at each other and said ‘OK, let’s do it”.  It was a bit of a thrill and I’m not gonna lie – there were some awkward victory dance moves on the bow of the boat when we finished.  Guess which one of us was dancing………

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The track going down the hill to Georgian Bay
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Our boat is over the land! About to go down the hill into the bay.
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We shared the lock with another boat and two jet skis! Look in the bottom right hand corner you can just see one. I was afraid we’d squish them when we started floating in the bay, but it was all good. The lockmasters really know what they’re doing!

Once out of the Chute I could focus my worry on Lock 45 – the last one before dumping out into the bay and the most narrow one on the waterway.  More than one boater told us we couldn’t fit because of our beam. Danny kept reminding me that he’d done the research and we’d be “fine”.  God, I hate how much he uses that word – “FINE”!  All of the literature and a phone call to the lock assured us that the lock was 23’ wide and we’re 21’ wide, so the “math” worked.  But that meant Captain Dan had to carefully maneuver in between the unforgiving cement walls and hold the boat while I grabbed a cable and tied a line to secure it to the wall on the bow, and then he had to run down and hold the stern line.  OK, we’ve done that over 70 times by now (Erie Canal has 23 locks and Oswego has 8), but never in such tight quarters.  The lockmasters who operate the locks are incredibly knowledgeable and encouraging and it actually seemed like they were pretty excited to put a boat of our size through the lock.  I’m relieved and happy to say that it went beautifully; although we only had about a foot and a half to spare, we fit and got in and out successfully.  Weeks of worry about that are over.  Phew!!

So now we are in the Georgian Bay, a beautiful and huge body of water with challenges and opportunity unlike others we’ve had so far.  Tonight we’ll attend a briefing that the marina manager offers to outline some routes and some anchorages.  We hope to be going out “on the hook” often over this next part of the trip which means swimming and kayaking and dinghy rides with our Looper buddies.  Life is good, we are blessed.

Thanks for following along with us,

“Getting better all the time Captain Dan” and “Getting a little less nervous all the time Cruise Director Jodi”

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Our view of the Georgian Bay from our boat – home until tomorrow when we start exploring

 

Traffic on The Trent

The waterways have been busy this past week, many Canadians are vacationing and there are lots of us Loopers in the area, which makes finding space at the “free” walls a bit of a challenge.  Well not exactly free, but less expensive than marinas on the East Coast of the US, for sure.  We purchased a pass from Parks Canada which allows us to go through locks and tie to walls near locks and in towns at no cost, and if you’re lucky enough to get a spot with power (or hydro as they call it here) you pay just $9.80 Canadian for the night.   It has been VERY hot and humid here, though I hear it’s not as hot as it as at home, so I wasn’t very happy when we didn’t get spots with power a few nights this week. We do have a generator that we can use to power the A/C but you can’t leave it running all night – it’s noisy and the CO2 would be dangerous, so I am more than happy to say that we’ve been in a marina plugged into power since Thursday.  It’s amazing how luxurious it feels after sweating all week on the walls!  I guess it was only three nights that we were roughing it – but they were long nights!

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Each lock wall tells you where you are – there are usually picnic tables and washrooms for boaters

 

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Our friend had a friend with a helicopter – cool view!

We stopped in the towns of Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls, Thorah; these are all small towns in the province of Ontario, if you’ve never heard of them don’t feel bad – neither have we!  We are nowm.    in Orillia, which is a big town with lots to do.  Over the weekend there have been as many as 15 looper boats here, our friend Susan organized a big docktails event on Friday night and we got to meet some more new Loopers.  There was a Scottish festival complete with a parade of bagpipers and we went to a great Farmers Market yesterday morning.  I had a little retail therapy yesterday while Danny did some trouble shooting on our A/C units……fingers crossed he’s figured it out!  It’s been such a good spot that we decided to stay an extra day!

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Finally arriving in Bobcaygeon. Look at that “ICW mustache” on the hulls……gotta clean that someday!
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There was NO shade at this spot

A few days ago we reached 840 feet above sea level, the highest point of the Trent Severn Waterway.  That means that in the remainder of the locks our boat will go down, vs. up as we did for the first 35 locks.   We have traveled through 41 locks so far since leaving the town of Trent!  We have 4 more to go before reaching the Georgian Bay.  On Thursday we went down on the Kirkfield Lift Lock; in this lock the structure or “basket” you’re in isn’t enclosed and you’re suspended nearly 5 stories in the air before it moves down.  Our boat wasn’t right up front (and I’m glad), I’m told that the view from there can be pretty scary if you’re afraid of heights!  I’m not necessarily afraid of heights, then again I’ve never been in a boat 5 stories high over a river…..until now!  This trip just keeps bringing more and more “firsts”!

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Done Diggin in the Kirkfield Lift Lock

This part of the journey also brought us through some VERY NARROW waterways, our guidebook describes these areas as “those narrow rock cuts all cruisers dread”.  I did.  For about the past three weeks I’ve been reading about the area, and then started getting texts and photos from Loopers ahead of us that pretty much said (paraphrasing here) “Oh My God you’re too wide you’re never going to make it”.  I would calmly (hahahahahahaha) relay that information to Danny who would patiently (hahahahaha oh my God I’m killing myself here) say “we’ll be fine”.  We were.  So far, so good – there are more narrow and shallow parts to come, but we made it through the spot that everyone kept warning us about.  Phew.

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Boy this looks skinny!!
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We made it!

While we’ve been at the marina for a few days we’ve taken the opportunity for some boat and self maintenance!  I had a mani/pedi, Danny had a haircut and we did some cleaning; Danny spends hours cleaning dead bugs and dirt from the rivers and locks off of the boat, only have to do it all over again a few days later.  It looks nice while it lasts! We also grocery shopped, or “provisioned” as they call it in boating life and I caught up on laundry.  Laundry is a bit of a challenge, I miss having my own washer and dryer.  Sometimes it takes hours to do a few loads because there’s only one washer and dryer for a big marina.  You also have to make sure you have plenty of quarters – or loonies ($1 coins) here in Canada.  When you’re living on a boat, you still have to take care of all of that day to day “stuff”.

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Nice clean cushions on our deck – and a new custom-made pillow from a talented woman in Bobcaygeon

 

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No dead bugs on the deck…..for now!
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Taking time out to beautify!

Tomorrow morning we’ll head out for the last section of the Trent-Severn before getting to Georgian Bay.  Three more locks to go including the Big Chute and the skinniest one yet !  Hopefully my next update will have good news and photos for those as well.  Fingers crossed…..it’s getting tricky!

Thanks as always for following along our journey with us.  Sending hugs.

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

 

Trent-Severn Travels

We are slowly moving along the Trent-Severn Waterway to get to the Georgian Bay and North Channel, an area that we’ve been told again and again will be a highlight of our trip.  Even the locals tell us that boating there takes their breath away every time they have the opportunity to do so. It’s been slow going this week, we’ve traveled 5 days but only 100 miles, there have been 30 locks we’ve had to go through which takes time – 15 more to go until we’re done with his part of the trip. Before I go further, let me tell you a little about the great experiences we’ve been having with the locals so far.  Aside from the fact that they don’t believe in slowing down or stopping for crossing pedestrians (not kidding, more on that later) they have been incredibly welcoming and kind to us traveling boaters.  From the students working for the summer on the locks to the other boaters and people who are walking through the towns where we’re tied up, they’re friendly, helpful and really happy to chat with American neighbors. Maybe they’re just so grateful that it’s summer, apparently it was a colder and longer winter than usual this year, but we’ve run into some super nice people.  And the weather has been really beautiful.

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Anchored out behind “Big Island” near Bobcaygeon – a town we keep trying to get to!

We spent a couple of nights on a wall in the town of Campbellford with many other Loopers.  It was a nice little town with some shops and restaurants, a great bakery, a chocolate factory and a beautiful area to walk, hike and swim to work off some of those baked goods and chocolate!  Campbellford is where I was almost hit by a car backing up into the crosswalk that I was walking on with 9 other people – after telling the driver that I was going!! I banged on the rear window and yelled that I was there to avoid being run over and then she yelled that I was in her way!!  A Canadian couple who are looping told us that crosswalks are really more of a suggestion than a law here, and joked that the reason drivers fly by pedestrians waiting to cross is so that they can quickly get out of our way! Crazy.

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Swimming hole in Campbellford, ON

As we were getting ready to leave Campbellford an older couple told us about a friend who had a catamaran like ours being built in his front yard.  When we arrived in the next town, Hastings, ON, the gentleman they told us about was literally waiting for us.  His friends had told him we were heading that way and he wanted to take us by car to his house to see it.  To be honest, neither of us really wanted to go, we’d just finished a long day, but I’m so glad we did.  He was just so sweet, the boat was really cool, and I think he enjoyed showing it off as much as we enjoyed seeing it.  I’ve thought about him every day since and hope he stays healthy and well.

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This sweet man met us at the lock and took us to see a catamaran being built in his front yard

After a quick overnight in Hastings we traveled to Peterborough, which is a fairly good sized city with shops, restaurants and a huge marina.  We stayed two nights and celebrated our 8th anniversary at a steakhouse that was recommended.  We also hosted docktails on our boat while in Peterborough – there were 14 people including me and Danny.

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Anniversary dinner in Peterborough, ON

 

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Docktails on Done Diggin’

When we left Peterborough we had a long day of locks before arriving at our destination.  The highlight was traveling through the Peterborough Lift Lock which brings you up 65’ in a “pan” of water to get to the next level.  I was anxious about it when I read about it, but we rode our bikes over to watch it the day before we locked through which took away a lot of my fear.  It was actually easier than most of the locks, you just tie your boat to a pole and take a ride up. It’s hard to really describe this engineering marvel and historic landmark, you can check it on line if you’re so inclined! Just google “Peterborough lift lock video” (I tried to attach a link but can’t!)

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The view from the top of the Peterborough Lift Lock – up 65 feet in the air!
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Here we are entering the lift lock. You can see a “pan” up on the right – they fill that with water which makes the other side lift. Fun!

From Peterborough we traveled to Young’s Point and then to Buckhorn.  We are trying to get to a town called Bobcaygeon which is a popular tourist destination but unfortunately there hasn’t been room for us on the town wall or in a marina over the weekend.  So we spent two nights in Buckhorn and now we’re waiting out the weekenders at a beautiful anchorage.  One of our buddy boats, TxAu (Texas Gold) is here with us, we’re hopeful we’ll be able to stay in town tonight before moving on.  This area we’re in is referred to as Kawartha Lakes, it’s a very popular vacation spot for Canadians and there are tons of lakeside homes, cottages and many boaters.  A lot of people rent houseboats for a week and travel through the canal and lakes.  Interestingly, you don’t have to have anything more than a credit card to rent a houseboat so it’s been interesting watching some of them maneuver through small spots and into lakes.  Makes us feel like we almost have some experience!

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A tiny house on a tiny island near our anchorage. The sky and the water are so blue and beautiful.

While at dock the other day I looked at my logs and did some calculations.  As of Friday, we’ve been gone from home for 258 days (less about 35 that we’ve gone back home) and have only traveled on 98 of those days.  We were in Fort Lauderdale for 6 weeks and Fort Myers for 4 weeks over the winter, so that brought the number of travel days down….but we’ve gone 3900 miles so far!  I can’t count the people we’ve met or the memories we’ve made and look forward to more.

Thanks for letting me share our journey with you.  Sending hugs.

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

 

 

There are good ships………

 “There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea.  But the best ships are friendships, and may they always be”.

This is a toast I’ve learned recently at docktails and it truly sums up this segment of our loop.  For almost a month now we’ve been more or less traveling with the same group of boats and it’s been amazing.  Each boat is different, each couple and individual is unique, but the commonality is our sense of adventure and appreciation for the beauty and challenges we face, as well as the willingness to share “our loop” with each other.

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“The Tribe” celebrating Canada Day aboard Lucky One in Kingston

 

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Laurie and Nancy – our “stowaways” who hopped on at a lock for a ride into town.

We spent two days in Gananocque, Ontario (called “Gan” by the locals) where we cleared customs upon entry to Canada.  It’s a town with a population of about 5,000 that grows in the summertime when the “Islanders” come to their summer homes in the Thousand Islands area.  We really enjoyed the small town experience there; we bicycled, pigged out at “RibFest” and went to see “Anne of Green Gables” at a dockside playhouse.

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Downtown Gananoque, Ontario

 

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Danny eating a “blooming onion” while waiting for the ribs to be ready. Yes, I had some too.

Next up, Kingston, Ontario which was very different from Gan!  It’s a busy city with grand 19th century buildings and streets named “King” and “Princess” and “Queen”. There are lots of good restaurants and shopping and a thriving waterfront section with a huge marina.  Our friends stayed downtown, but by the time I called for a reservation they couldn’t take us; sometimes the beam (width) of our boat makes it hard to fit into marinas.  We need to be on a face dock or “T head” because we’re 21’ wide; most boats on the loop are probably about 12’ to 15’ wide.  Since they didn’t have a space for our double wide, we ended up at a marina about 5 miles away.  That meant MANY 5 mile bike rides back and forth to town so we could enjoy the city and the Canada Day festivities.

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Downtown Kingston, Ontario on Canada Day

It was nice to have a break from the locks while we traveled through the Thousand Islands area, but after a quick stop in Trenton, we started our journey down the Trent Severn Waterway and back into the locks.  Big time.  There’s a lot of history along this route; it took almost 90 years to complete the “canal” that connects Trenton to Port Severn. The Trent-Severn Waterway is made up of 44 locks which gradually take you from 243’ above sea level to 840’ above sea level.  Yes, 44 locks! So far we’ve done 12 in two days of travel.  This is traveling at a snails pace unless you want to do a really, really long day.  Yesterday, for example, we traveled 19.5 miles and it took us 6 hours and 47 minutes which included over 2 hours stopped in  6 locks.  The picture below is a screenshot of a log of our journey.

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We’re getting more and more familiar and confident with locks, but you can never say you’re good at them  – at least I can’t, I’m way too superstitious.  They’re tricky and everyone has a curfuffle or two along the way, including us.

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A double lift in this lock!

Instead of marinas along this stretch, we typically “moor” to a wall in town.  We stayed in the small town of Frankford for two nights.  Our friends had actually gone ahead of us one day because we had to wait at a marina for mail and as we locked through the next morning, all of the lockmasters knew we’d be coming.  Our friends had told them to watch for Done Diggin’, that we’d be coming along and joining them for our 4th of July celebration; Greg on TxAu (Texas Gold) had cooked some pulled pork and we had pot luck, docktails and a lot of laughs! We stayed an extra day so some of the guys could go golfing, and the other women and I took the opportunity to go to a salon, I really needed to get the roots done!  Tom Pierga, my hairdresser and friend, if you’re reading this I’m sorry to say I cheated on you!!

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Beauty Day!
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This is lockmaster, John. He told us we better hurry up and get the corn to the 4th of July party!!

 

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“Moored” at a wall in Frankford, Ontario. Laurie Jean, Done Diggin’, Lucky Me, and TxAu (Texas Gold). You can see that our boat is a lot wider than the others.

So, this morning we are in Campbellford, Ontario, the home of the person that designed the “toonie”, Canada’s $2 coin – the “loonie”, by the way is the $1 coin – it’s hard to get used to coins being dollars!!!

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A tribute to the person that designed the “tonite” $2 Canadian

The weather is perfect, it’s sunny and about 70 degrees, with a high of about 75 today; it’s been really hot and humid the last few days!   We got here last night and will leave tomorrow, so later today we’ll check out the town which boasts the Best Bakery in Canada and a Chocolate Factory.   I swear we do way more than just eat and drink on this trip, although it does seem to be a pattern…..gotta get moving and work off the butter tarts and ice cream!!

Thanks, as always, for following us and traveling along.  Sending hugs.

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

Summertime and the living is easy…..sort of!

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!

 

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Oh Canada!
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Gananocque, Ontario

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!

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Such fun with this “tribe”! Susan & Greg on Lucky Me, Nancy & Greg on TxAu (Texas Gold!) and Laurie & Kevin on Laurie Jean

 

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This is what it looks like when you’re entering a lock. This one is on The Erie Canal and we went up about 20 feet. On the Oswego the water level went down.

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!

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Birthday Boy

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!!

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Docktails on Done Diggin’ while we were at Sylvan Beach

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!!

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Whitewater boating outside of Lock 3 on the Oswego Canal. Not fun!
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I’m standing near the bow of the boat ready for a lock!!!

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.

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Lake Ontario

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!

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Boldt Castle in the 1000 Islands

 

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Gananocque, Ontario

 

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Summertime

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!

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Woah…….butter tarts!!

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!

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Sunset with the tribe in Clayton, NY

Thanks as always for following along with us.

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

 

Hours of Routine and Moments of Terror!!! Oh, and Home Sweet Home.

On May 19th we arrived at Coeymans Landing Marina in Ravena, NY and rented a car to drive home for appointments and family time.  Our boat was safe in this nice little marina on The Hudson River for almost three weeks while we spent time with almost everyone!  My kids and Lilah of course, our BFF’s Robyn and Terry, my sister Brenda and all three of my brothers and sisters-in-law and my youngest niece Tessa. We also met up with two of Danny’s brothers and a sister-in law for lunch and I even gave Danny some “alone time” and had lunch with my friend Noreen and a dinner with my friend Doreen.  On our last day at home we went to Lilah’s recital and watched her shine – I’m pretty sure a star was born – and we went to my cousin Maureen’s house for a really fun (if not huge!) cousin reunion.  I am so very grateful to have seen so many people that I love and that I’ve missed while we’re on this adventure.  Especially Sweet Lilah – I know every grandmother that reads this understands the joy of hearing  your grandchild call you Grammy (or Grandma or Nunna or something!) and may even get teary-eyed thinking of their little arms wrapped around your neck or their hand in yours.  I certainly do.  OK, I’m not crying – you’re crying!!!

So, after three weeks we returned to the boat – I’m really afraid if I’d stayed longer I might not have returned, I was starting to settle into a routine there again.  Danny, on the other hand, in true Captain Ants in The Pants fashion, couldn’t wait to get back to Done Diggin’ and The Great Loop.  It may have been because he spent so much time cleaning up the flower beds and yard while we’re home, he worked his butt off.  But everything was starting to bloom and really look beautiful when we left.

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Early summer on “our river”

Shannon drove back to NY with us and spent 4 days on the boat traveling the Hudson River and was with us as we started The Erie Canal. She just left this morning and I miss her already.  This part of the trip is one that Danny and I have both been looking forward to, we’ve read a lot about the unique little towns along the Canal and also about the LOCKS!!!! If you’ve never been through a lock on a boat, it’s really hard to imagine; picture the locks on the Erie as a set of “stair steps” across the state of NY – “liquid elevators” if you will.  Big gates open, you enter into the chamber where water is falling between the closed doors ahead of you and you grab onto lines that come down from the walls to secure your boat while the gates close behind you and the water rises (or lowers in some cases) to meet the level of the next body of water.  Sound scary?  Well, it can be!  On our first travel day on the Erie we went through six locks and all but one of them went well. We’ve done a handful of locks prior to this and had some idea of what to expect, but locking, as in any other part of boating, can bring surprises as it did in Lock #5 on the Erie Canal.  As Danny was pulling along the wall, Shannon and I were grabbing for the ropes, but this time he wasn’t slowing down!  I was yelling “STOP” and Shannon was hanging onto a line for dear life when he yelled that he’d lost control of the boat.  In the lock.  No control.   OH SHIT!!!!  In almost no time our 43’ boat went completely sideways in the chamber.  This is nightmare-worthy stuff.  Thankfully the lockmaster and the boater behind us could see what was happening so they didn’t close the chamber and start filling – I cringe to think what would have happened if that was the case.  So here we are not only sideways, but literally wedged into the lock walls.  We couldn’t move.  Thank God for the kindness of other boaters; after a lot of running back and forth and pushing and trying to go, the boat behind us threw a line and literally pulled us off the wall.  We were able to secure, lock through and get out safely.  I don’t have pictures of that.  I’m kinda glad to be honest, I have to try to get it out of my head!!!  We got to Crescent Boat Club in Halfmoon, NY where we had to stay an extra day so that Danny could chase the electrical issue.  It literally took all day, but he did it and we were able to travel yesterday to Amsterdam, NY where we’re sitting today waiting out the rain.  I am NOT doing locks in the rain.  I’m just not that tough!

 

So, on we go.  Armed with life jackets, gloves, a knife just in case we need to cut a line that may get caught – and a major case of the butterflies in my stomach – we will continue our journey West on the Erie Canal then to the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario.  We’ll cross Lake Ontario to enter Canada sometime in the next couple of weeks.  We have plenty of company now.  We see other Loopers at every wall we tie up to for the night and have had some great conversations and a few docktails with some fun people so far.  The scenery and the people continue to be the best part of the trip.  I read on someone’s FB post today the the Loop is hours and hours of routine…..interrupted by moments of terror.  Yup, I’ve had a minor interruption this week.  I’m looking forward to more and more hours of routine and the beautiful scenery promised as we continue to head North.  Here we go!!

Thanks for traveling along,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi