Trent-Severn Waterway

Trenton to Hastings

So, who knew sailing the Trent-Severn would produce new bodies with bulging biceps?

In the first 12 kilometres we negotiated six locks, requiring strength training and resilience.

We were on a roll, when alas, coming through Frankford Lock 6 we were told someone had run into the gates of Lock 9 and the waterway was ‘closed’. Always look for the positives… We were at a very pretty lock and were able to tie up to the lock wall which had power. Not only that, the boat who moved to make room for us on the wall were Canadians who had lived not only in Australia, but in the next Sydney suburb to us! Ah – the conversations!

It was also a wonderful stop to do some cosmetic boat work. The old girl needed a bit of sparkle, so we took the opportunity of revarnishing her rails and bulwarks.

Early the next day, as there were quite a few boats parked waiting to continue the locking experience, we threw off the mooring lines and sailed to the next lock.

And the next lock, and the next…

In fact, we sailed to Lock 12, the spectacular Ranney Falls Flight Locks. Once through, we tied up at the top of the lock for lunch. We walked to the suspension bridge which is 32 metres above the river. I wish I could say I was dewussified, but could only manage a little way on the bridge. Mark took the photos for me.

We stayed the night on the town wall in Campbellford, and met more lovely boaters. Bought the one pound of dark chocolate at the World’s Finest Chocolate factory, bought the muffin from the much talked about Dooher’s Bakery, and walked the town.

Now that we have this locking routine off pat, we left early again to beat the crowd to the lock. Only two boats lock up together (unless you are really friendly). Arrived at the lock at 8.15 am for a 9.00am opening with one other boat ahead of us. No flies on our backs! Make hay while the sun shines… The locking gods were chuckling and in cahoots with the weather gods. We arrived at Lucky Lock 13 to be told the valve was not working and the lock inoperable.

Parks Canada were on the job: maintenance crew on hand, divers deployed, heavy rigging raised the valve. We climbed the stairs to the top of the lock to watch the workers. The repair was completed in one hour, just enough time to have a cuppa and do Sudoko, and in Mark’s case, a little more sanding.

As we locked through I gave the lock mistress some home baked biscotti. Luckily, I had already baked them… we went through five locks in eight kilometres. The only difference with these locks were we had to alternate between port and starboard tie-ups. Again, literally no flies on our backs! No time for a second morning cup of coffee. And did I mention the weather gods were at it again? It rained.

No time to stop for lunch, so we had it on the go.

Although the sky was grey, it did not dull the beauty of the waterway. Water lilies are blooming, cottages are decorating getting ready for Canada Day on 1 July.

Each lock is bursting with colourful flowers in eclectic containers. Everything is lush and colourful. It is such a treat to be here.

Such is Life!

Passage to Trenton

Yesterday was a wonderful day to sail to Trenton. Originally we were only going to sail 40 miles to Picton, but with glorious weather we decided to push on – 9 hours in total, to Trent Port Marina another 30 miles. So glad we did, as Trent Port Marina is one of the best marinas we have stayed in. It is new, with wide berths (slips), has sensational bathrooms, free laundry, help yourself herb garden and a beautiful boaters lounge. Very nice, indeedy!

We departed Kingston before 9.00am. Heading westwards, we sailed past Kingston Penitentiary…

and Rockwood Asylum – a creepy group of buildings which housed the criminally insane when it opened in 1878. It closed in 2000. On the trolley tour, our guide explained it was the site of horrific experiments and treatments. There was a tour, but that one was not for me!

We sailed on the smoothest of waters, though the North Channel to Adolphus Reach. We saw the wind turbines on Amherst Island.

We entered the protected 60-mile long z-shaped Bay of Quinte (Kwin-tea). No one before us, no one behind us!

We passed pretty little towns and ferries, large industrial sites along the foreshores, as well as tugboats and tows.

But let it never be said we waste an opportunity! Whilst underway Mark did some preparation for varnishing and I polished the metalwork. I also put my body through some pilates moves.

Oh, the sailing life!

Such is Life!

Reflections on the Rideau Canal

Reflections on the water are simply gorgeous.

We enjoyed amazing anchorages, some by ourselves at locks, and others in company with delightful boaters.

The Rideau Canal is a pristine waterway: shallow, narrow in places, and at times, extremely tortuous. It is comprised of canals, rivers and lakes with well-marked channels. The water lilies are just beginning to bloom and lie as thick carpet in undisturbed bays and offshoots.

It is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America. Most of the locks are operated by hand, using the same mechanisms that were in use in 1832. The locks are lessons in history, with most having lockmaster homes or blockhouses (used by soldiers to guard the waterway from the Americans) which have been turned into museums. Each lock is surrounded by beautifully manicured parks, welcoming boaters with washroom facilities and some with power on the docks.

We saw quite a few creatures: turtles, blue herons, white swans throughout, loons, Canada geese, a deer by the water’s edge, a beaver swimming for his life, and a muskrat dodging our bow. But the creature I was so excited to see was the bald-headed eagle in all its glory – a sight to behold!

And who knew that sailing the Rideau Canal, with all its magical places, would bring us to the ‘other side’? For those who like mythology – we sailed the River Styx and passed Point Charon. At one point we sailed past the Duke of Wellington’s profile, and amazingly, the Island of Man!

Close encounters today were man-made. We manoeuvred into one lock which needed a swing bridge to be swung before we could lock down. In another lock we needed the road bridge to be raised.

But perhaps the most disturbing encounter I experienced was the continual gunshots which sounded as we passed by the Joyceville correction facility. Not a pleasant sound with what has been happening in the States in recent times.

This side trip was a very welcome excursion. We were only on the Rideau Canal for five days, but they were glorious days. We have noticed there are now more boaters out enjoying the weather and summer season. We are very pleased we did not meet in the narrow, blind bends, where boats are requested to sound their horns. As an experience – priceless!

Such is Life!

Westport – Rideau Canal

We decided to stay at Westport for two nights to complete some touch-up brightwork (varnishing) and a week’s worth of laundry. Besides, the town is over a Venetian-style bridge, and Bushranger is resting in a idyllic setting. The weather has turned hot and humid, needing our air conditioning to be given a run. The winds have ceased. The clouds are gone. Gelato beckons.

Yesterday, we sailed through some hair-raising areas: skinny 90 degree turns; around blind corners; low water depths; winding skinny canals. And throw a few raindrops in. What fun!

The scenery was heavenly. At times it was difficult to realise where water stopped and started.

And we had an encounter with a deer at the water’s edge and a beaver who swam across the canal in front of us. No snakes today!

I would like to impart a short story. We have found all Canadians to be very friendly and helpful and courteous. While I was completing the laundry, Mark found a hairdresser to have his hair cut. After knowing Mark for only 30 minutes, this lady gave Mark the keys to her car to enable him to purchase beer from a shop one kilometre away. She insisted he take her car, as the day was hot. Unbelievable! How nice is that?

Today, Mark found the craft brewers – just around the corner! He had the chance to savour a local brew whilst we ate a late lunch in a most pleasant setting.

And to round the day off, we dined with boating friends at The Cove, engaged in much laughter and fun. For our son, Craig, we tried the Canadian dish Poutine. We’ve ticked that box!

Such is Life!

Dipping into the Rideau Canal

We had an early start to the day to catch the 7.00am bridge opening for the start of our excursion into the Rideau Canal. Our plans have changed yet again, due to the closure of the Trent-Severn Canal system because of flooding. It is not expected to open for a week. Not to lose a precious opportunity on our travels, we decided to tootle up the Rideau for a few days before we need to retrace our steps. A win-win situation!

Moving through the locks, some are flights of four locks, ran smoothly with the aid of the Parks Canada personnel. Each lock is manned by staff who help you, which is very much appreciated as locking through is a tiring procedure. When we reached Brewers Lock we were first amused, then amazed at how the Karwatha Voyager, a pleasure craft which sleeps 45 guests and has a staff of 14, fits into the locks and fits under the 22ft height bridges. I had a great chat with the manager who said it was built specifically to the measurements of the locks and uses hydraulics throughout. The bow of the ship even folds up and the chairs fold inwards! All guests remain on board – what a ride!

Bushranger waited patiently for our turn to enter the lock and ride heavenwards. The locks are all in superb condition with the locking mechanisms the same as used in the 1800s – hence the need for the Parks Canada staff to operate them.

On exiting each lock, we were greeted with beautiful scenery at every turn. And the turns can be quite acute as we negotiated skinny, twisting and ever-changing waterways: varying from river to bay to lake to gorge; passing under lift bridges, through swing bridges. Mark loved the various challenges.

And to finish the day, we are now residing at the top of a flight of four locks at Jones Falls, at a picturesque picnic area. Earlier, we had sundowners with two other boats at the bottom lock. It was a long way down, and even longer on the way up!

And as for encounters: I saw three water snakes (not happy) and one turtle!

Such is Life!

Close Encounters

Over the last few days, life has been interesting!

Our first encounter of note was with this big boy in the area of the St Lawrence Seaway known as The Narrows. It was aptly named! This ship was travelling at 13 knots towards us, and we were making 5 knots up river. Discretion is the better part of valour – Mark did a u-turn and circled close to the riverbank.

Our second encounter was with the wonderfully friendly Canadians, either side of our slip and along the pier of the marina we stayed in, in Gananoque, Ontario. We made it to Canada! Our new leg begins. In celebration, Mark raised the Aussie flag once he had completed customs formalities.

Gananoque, (pronounced Gan-an-ock-we) is a cute town in the Thousand Islands, arrived at through some stunningly narrow channels between islands. Very picturesque. After exploring the town, we decided to walk one of the well-marked trails. This third encounter I really could have done without! Not long into the walk, low and behold one of the things which really freak me out happened. A snake slithered three feet away from my sandal-clad feet. I wish I could say I remained calm. I wish I could say I pulled Mark away from the snake. I wish I could say I didn’t let out a blood-curdling scream. Alas, I was a blithering mess. But, we did continue on with the walk… past signs of poisonous plants warning walkers not to touch; through swarms of gnats; fending off big, ugly, black, biting flies; past tic-infested grass. And they say Australia is dangerous!

The next encounter was Kingston – the city of limestone. With its waterway, spacious parks, heritage listed homes, amazing eateries and more, this city is drop-dead gorgeous. We did a trolley tour yesterday to get our bearings and a little history. We drove through the Royal Military College. I am in awe of Annapolis and West Point, but the buildings and position of the RMC are sublime. The RMC is overlooked by the sprawling Fort Henry, perched on the hilltop with commanding views. Dotted around the Kingston waterfront are the Martello Towers – redoubts. One is situated in Confederation Marina where we reside.

We had a lovely encounter with some Canadian friends whom we had met on the Erie Canal. They invited us to their 1826 home for drinks before we walked to their yacht club for dinner. Kingston is a very walkable city. The evening was one of laughter and good friendship – a truly lovely encounter!

Today’s encounter was a real eye-opener. We did a tour of the Kingston Penitentiary. It was decommissioned in 2013. It was a sobering insight into the harsh life of correction facilities. We listened to stories from former correction officers – appalling and inspirational. A place to avoid at all costs.

As I had ’dragged’ Mark there, he deserved a beer, so after our return walk we detoured for a gelato for me, and a craft beer at a brewery for Mark. On the way, we found this Irish sign. American friends may not get the Aussie humour with this sign!

Our last encounter for the day was one exceptionally amazing tapas dinner at an eatery with abundant ambiance. Life is good!

Such is Life!

Playing in the Thousand Islands

We have just spent four delightful days playing in the Thousand Islands area, returning to Swan Bay each night. We met up with daughter Claire, son-in-law Brad, and grandkids Nash, Ben and Finnley, and their dog Byron, for much needed family time and to make memories – us in Bushranger, them in their RV.

We played at Boldt Castle: a grandiose Gilded Age Rhineland castle in Alexandria Bay. It was to be a display of George Boldt’s love for his wife. Before it was completed in 1904 his wife died and all construction stopped, never to be visited by Boldt again. For 73 years, the castle remained vacant and left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow and vandals. It has now been acquired by the TI Bridge Authority and millions spent on it. The rehabilitation is impressive.

We played on the water. Swan Bay is very shallow with underwater forests of seaweed. The waters are crystal clear, just made for exploring with the dinghy.

We played at fishing. Mark showed, once again, that where he is, no fish abound! Despite that, Brad caught a number of fish off the jetty. Through sheer determination, Nash caught a fish on the last morning, producing one very happy chappy!

We soaked in the sunsets.

We played with the grandkids on board. The boys had sleepovers.

We celebrated my birthday.

Yes, we played together on the park equipment, in the pools, on the shuttlecock court. We took Byron on walks. We sailed back to Clayton, but couldn’t play very much there, as most shops / whiskey tasting / gelato shops were closed – it was Tuesday!

We made beautiful memories!

Such is Life!

Clayton and TI, NY

We have just spent three delightful lazy days in Clayton, meeting up with three other looper boats. Camaraderie is alive and well.

We enjoyed walking through the town…

And visiting the Antique Boat Museum, where we drooled over the beautiful craftsmanship and designs. This visit was a highlight of our stay, although Mark did enjoy trying the sustenance at the local craft breweries.

We enjoyed sunsets… and watching the big boys pass close by, but not so much their turbulence which meant we rocked and rolled in our berth.

Today we sailed down the St Lawrence River, heads swivelling from side to side, taking in the gorgeous islands and isolated homes adorning these rocky outcrops. We sailed through the area known as ”The Narrows” and was very glad we didn’t meet any ships.

Tonight we are in a lovely marina, Thousand Islands Club, watching people come and go by boat to the restaurant. We have a prime waterside position, listening to the live band on the lawn.

It is hard to know where to look: the islands; the ships passing by; people watching; boat watching; house watching… The possibilities and enjoyment are endless.

Such is Life!

Not having fun, but then we reached Thousand Islands

Loved the ambiance and history of Sackets Harbour. Absolutely! Walked the battlefield, had a tasty lunch in a cute brewery, met lovely people.

Then it rained! And rained! And rained! And the wind howled, and howled, and howled. At one stage we had wind gusts up to 30 mph. Bushranger rocked and rolled. What to do with oneself, confined in a small boat? Tried my hand at cooking almond biscotti. (Definite improvement needed here!) Defrosted the fridge, (even though it didn’t need it!)

Today started off with grey skies and with wisps of wind. Mark warned me the first hour of our voyage would be heading into the wind and choppy waves. Mark warned me the second hour of our voyage would be side to side rolling. Mark foretold me the last two and a half hours would be following seas. He was right on all counts.

Forewarned, I downed my seasick tablets. Secured all items below – or so I thought. Made our coffee and took biscotti to the upper helm, knowing I was not coming back down below for a long time. Let the fun begin!

No fun had by me. Mark had fun. In the riding bronco stage, I maintained equilibrium. In the rock and roll stage I maintained equilibrium by lying down athwart ships, holding on for dear life.

Once we sailed into the St Lawrence River, ahhhhhh. I could see Canada. I could see blue sky. Actually, I could see quite a bit as I finally opened my eyes… I saw the broken coffee cup, shards on our steps leading to our stateroom. I saw our door had rolled shut. I saw our lamp which is secured by velcro lying horizontally. I saw the big ship come sailing by, pushing out a huge bow wave.

We are now residing peacefully at a marina in Clayton, NY. And I am having fun again. We walked the colourful main street, something I will do again tomorrow with my purse! The islands we have sailed by are very picturesque. Mark has already tried a flight of local beers, whilst watching the sun set over the water. Did I mention we found an ice-cream shop with an Adirondack chair with a view?

Yes, we are having fun again!

Such is Life!

Sackets Harbor gem

Farewell to Oswego. We passed through the last lock this morning to a gloriously smooth Lake Ontario and no wind.

Today was a good day! The waters were smooth and the sunshine warm on our faces as we headed to the region known as the Thousand Islands. The colour of the water was a deep green. As land came into view it reminded us of the Whitsundays in Australia. Just glorious!

We sailed 5.5 hours NE on Lake Ontario to Sackets Harbor, NY. What a gem of a place! It is picture-perfect. It has loads of history with a battlefield from the war of 1812. The natives are really friendly and welcoming. Architecture dates back to 1805. Eateries abound. It is totally walkable. We found the icecream shop. I am in heaven!

And did I mention the sunsets are exquisite?

As an aside: Who would have thought that during this looping adventure I would gain so many valuable skills such as stepping the mast? Or being a bow and stern thruster?

Such is Life!