Month: July 2018

Week 29 – Lock Hopping and Captain Fix-it Strikes Again!

Before we get going, I found this video about the Rideau Canal and thought it might be interesting for those who care about this (probably mostly my mom) !

Today we depart from Newboro Lock where we have spent the night and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings of nature and people on boats and who are camping who respect that peace.  A group of us gather to watch a very small weasel or maybe a mink hang on the edge of indecision at the side of the canal.  We can see him take a deep breath and leap into the water, paddling furiously to get across.  The sides of the canal are granite blocks that rise at least 2 feet from the surface of the water and we wonder how he’s going to get out.


Swimming back and forth, I think he is wondering the same thing but finally he figures out how to squirm into the lock mechanism and extricates himself.


He wriggles around on the warm stones drying his sodden fur and grooms himself until he is ready to scamper off to investigate what’s been left by the campers for his breakfast.


We have no set plan today (which turns out to be a darned good thing later on) for where we will end up, deciding to “lock-hop.”  Typically, we choose a place to aim for each day and lock through the locks between the start and finish points.  Today we decide to stop at each lock that has space for us and explore the surrounds and let fate and the water decide where we will end up for the night.

We start out at Chaffey Lock, which would have been a great place to stay if we had wanted an early stop for the night but we are lock-hopping so we get permission to tie up for an hour or so.  We explore their lockmaster museum, which traces the history of the lock and some of the Rideau construction history YouTube has a great video on this but it’s an hour long).  Wandering down the road, we come to the Opinicon Lodge Resort, which our Making Memories Canadian friends recommended as a great family vacation spot.  It is lovely, having been restored and enhanced in recent years to the way it was between 1870 and 1920 when it transitioned from a residence to a fish camp to an inn.


The flowers on the grounds are gorgeous – begonias and spider mums are decidedly happy with the temperatures and humidity levels here.


IMG_5530We continue up the road to discover the Chaffey Lock cemetery, made from the same timbers as the lock itself and marked by one of the three Celtic crosses on the Rideau Canal, commemorating those who gave their lives for the construction of this engineering marvel.  It is a somber reminder that great deeds require great sacrifice.

Finding our way back to our boat, we see a sign that says, “HAPPY chickens – eggs for sale.”  Sure enough we see a lot of very healthy (big) chickens pecking around under the trees and when we spy a sign on an empty office, we go in.  “Eggs in the fridge,” a sign says along with the prices for the eggs.  We deposit the required amount and leave a dozen happy-eggs richer!  Wish I’d gotten some pictures of the sign and the happy chickens but I didn’t think of it until too late!


Departing from Chaffey’s lock, we navigate VERY narrow parts of the canal through incredibly beautiful wooded forests and granite cliffs and come to Jones Falls lock.


We have been pre-warned that this set of three locks can take a long time to lock-through and so we are not surprised when the young park attendant advises that it will be at least 2 hours before they will lock us through due to the Kawartha Voyager’s imminent arrival and she “takes precedence over everybody.”  We have no idea what this means but we aren’t in a hurry and so we cheerfully set out to explore the area.

IMG_5553There is another defensible lock master’s home complete with a young lady in period costume who shares the history of this lock and a little about the original lock master and his family.  The home is not dissimilar to that of some of the lighthouse keeper’s homes that we have visited on our trip though they didn’t have rifle-slit windows!

We explore Kinney’s Hotel, another vintage vacation spot at the foot of Jones Falls and don’t find a Ben and Jerry’s but still manage to find ice cream cones that earn us a hike up to see the dam in an effort to burn off the calories they impart.  It has gotten hot so when we get back to the boat a swim is in order, even though we just saw a snake slide off the dock and swim UNDER water to the bank.  I’ve seen them swim on the surface but never under water before and it’s pretty cool.


The water is refreshing and as we are drying off, we suddenly see what the hold-up is.   The top of a BIG boat is just starting to rise out of the cavern of the middle lock.  It moves into the top lock which is in front of us and as the water raises it, we can see it emerge little by little until we see a mini-cruise ship with its bow folded up so it can fit in the lock.  We now learn that this ship cruises between Kingston and Ottawa 4 times during the season and then does the Trent-Severn, so joy-of-joys, we may see this beast again.  The lock doors open and she emerges, unfolding her bow as she moves past us.


IMG_5560IMG_5561FINALLY, we are in and through the set of 3 locks relatively quickly.


IMG_5572.jpgWe make it to Upper Brewers lock, as the late-comers to a cocktail party already in progress.  The boating community is a very friendly one, even when there are different languages involved. At first, 5 guys are willing to scrunch their boats down a few feet each so we can reach the power outlet (we didn’t ask them to do this) but then one of them offers us an extension cable and we are able to reach the outlet without messing up everyone’s lines, power cables and dinners.

It is fun to watch how some of these folks vacation.  Many do go out to dinner but more tend to stay on their boats and cook there.  We watch the two folks ahead of us prepare their meal. She changes out of a black bikini into a dress.  No, I am not kidding, the woman put on a real dress to eat dinner on her boat!  Her husband threw a slab of ribs on the grill on his swim platform and then dropped potatoes into a deep fat fryer!  She brought a salad and a candle to the dinner table when he brought in the meat and potatoes and at this point, we decide it must be a second marriage that is still relatively new! Or maybe we need to be making more of an effort – not sure which!  😊  Since I wrote this section, last week, we have seen a mother and daughter do the same thing; live in swimsuits but change into sundresses to cook and eat their dinners aboard their Benneteau. Maybe we DO need to make more of an effort!


It’s a good thing Jerry isn’t a picky eater and we enjoy a much less fancy meal, which tastes wonderful to us and is maybe even a bit more healthy!


After a few hours of travel the next day, we sit at the foot of Kingston Mills and can see the last lock lowering a boat that looks familiar. Sure enough, here come Mario and Claire again (we met them in Carillon lock and have leap-frogged them ever since).  They pull over and dock and we chat in our tortured half French-mostly-English way about the Thousand Islands.  These were not in our original plans but Claire says we HAVE to go see at least a little bit of them.  They show us which islands they love and off they go to try to get through the bridge in Kingston that only opens on the hour.  We now have a new plan for the next day.  So we settle in, watching boats come down the locks and families fill the docks, teaching their kids how to fish. The rain starts to pitter patter, spitting enough water to send the families running for home and we turn in.


The next morning, we fuel up outside Kingston, make it through that bridge and arrange to replace our batteries, which have been giving us fits with all the start up and shut down that is required inside in the locks.   Ivy Lea, in the Thousand Islands becomes our destination for batteries and we turn into the St. Lawrence seaway which looks night-and-day different here than it does north of Montreal.  There it looked a lot like Newark. Here it almost looks Mediterranean in its clarity and color.  It is not blue and not green but a mixture and it is crystal clear.  You can see the rocks and the creepy green weeds at the bottom 25 feet down and it is gorgeous!


And the islands are amazing – pink granite in many places with everything from tiny shacks to palatial mansions and everything in between.  Some perch precariously on single rocks and others spread out over large islands.  This is an amazingly beautiful area and reinforces the fact that while it is good to have a plan, it is better to listen to seasoned travelers and take their advice about what to see.


Many of these islands are part of the Parc Canada system and so our pass allows us to use docks, mooring balls and facilities on the islands at no cost which is sweet!  Jerry diagnosed a bad battery terminal and fixed that while we were under way this week but that wasn’t all of the problem (again, glad he had a spare).  The life of our port battery is about shot and he spends a bunch of hours hauling batteries in and out and getting us operational again.  It is nice to hear him turn the key and the engine come immediately to life!


After, replacing our batteries, we find a nice cove at the top of Hill Island and anchor in 8 feet of water but as we let chain out, we end up over 30 feet of depth.  They say that these islands were once mountain tops which is why you can go from 150 feet of water to 3 in seconds.  We must be very vigilant as we go through here.  The man who helped us fuel up told us that he hit a rock that broke his rudder and sent his prop up through the hull of his boat and he had to ground her to keep from sinking.  OUCH!  We are being VERY careful.


Our neighbors for the night are a house perched on a rock that has a 3-boat garage (really!) and a family of swans.  We get a swim in and then it starts to rain again.


The next morning, we pull up an anchor that is totally snarled in the creepy green weeds that I wouldn’t put my feet down to touch while I was swimming the night before (Tammy, I’m thinking of you!).


The day promises rain but we visit Boldt Castle anyway and the weather holds off a little while for us, thankfully.  George Boldt was friends with all of the who’s who of the gilded era and managed several prestigious hotels including the Waldorf in NY.  He and his wife Louise loved the Thousand Islands and George built Boldt Castle for his wife, intending to give it to her on Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately, she died that January and broken hearted, he never finished the Castle or set foot on the island again.

After years of neglect, the property is now being systematically restored by the Thousand Island Bridge Authority and it is a tribute to what you can do when “money is of little importance” (George Boldt’s words to his architect).  We take a photo for a family and the lady tells us she has been coming here since she was 10 years old and that she has watched as each year they complete renovations of additional rooms during the winter.


 It really is a gorgeous property and there’s no wonder it is one of the most visited historic homes in the US.  The weather turns more windy with severe thunderstorm warnings and we wait it out on the dock after touring the castle and the historic yacht house.  Eventually it clears and we are able to safely move on.


We spend the next couple of rainy days in the Thousand Islands exploring the town of Gananoque (Ganna knock way) and Aubrey Island waiting for the sun to return (If we come back, Milton, MacDonald and Mermaid might be on our list to stay at).  We got a glimpse of the color of the water our first day out of the Rideau when it was partly sunny and are dying to see its color when there is direct sunlight on it.  It isn’t green and it isn’t blue but is somewhere in between – maybe similar to shining a light through layers of emeralds and sapphires.


The islands that are part of the Parc Canada system are really nicely maintained for public use.  There are docks and sheltered coves on many of them, nicely appointed campsitesthat have a fire pit and fire wood (due to the rain the fire ban has just been lifted) and there are even composting restrooms on some of them.


People that we meet have been vacationing here for years and I can definitely see why they come back year after year.  The scenery is magnificent, people are generally congenial and fairly considerate as they share space with you and the water is like nowhere else I have ever seen.  Unfortunately, my photos just don’t do its color and clarity any justice at all.



We end this week moving from the Thousand Islands, in the St Lawrence Seaway, to the Bay of Quinte, in Lake Ontario.  We look forward to a reunion with our Snowtarian friend, Hans Wiemer who has kindly found a home for our boat in Trenton so that we can leave it here and go home for a few days to attend to some issues that need our physical presence there.


When we return we will be starting the Trent Severn Waterway, the 386 kilometer waterway that connects Lake Ontario with the Georgian Bay region of Lake Huron and we are very excited about this.  Well, I am. I think Jerry is dreading all the starting and stopping of engines that the 44 locks of the Trent Severn will demand. I have figured out a system to protect my poor bruised legs from the pressure of pulling an 11 ton boat onto a lock wall and am grateful for my zip tied noodle-pads!


Those 44 locks, include 36 conventional locks, two sets of flight locks, hydraulic lift locks at Peterborough and Kirkfield, and a marine railway at Big Chute which transports boats between the upper and lower sections of the Severn.  Here’s a video for those of you who want to see some of this!

Our pictures will follow next week or maybe the week after since we will be home for a few days!

A Change of Pace

Leaving Ottawa behind reluctantly, we enter the Rideau Canal and almost immediately come upon the Largest Beach Volleyball Tournament in the World.  It is put on every year by HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) and we pass boats and boats of guys going toward it who are really too old to be going to this anymore but I guess they are in it for the sightseeing rather than for competing in volleyball matches!


Once we get by this mess, we change the pace from city explorers, in a hurry to see as much as we can into country wanderers taking our time and enjoying the countryside.  There is no reason to be in a hurry here. The scenery is fabulous and there are locks every couple of miles, either singles or combined in stairsteps of 2 or 3.  So even if we pass someone, odds are we will end up in the lock together anyway.


A leisurely pace works well most of the time but other times you just HAVE to pass, as in the case of our following a home-made houseboat with an outboard engine, we laughingly dub “Escargot.”  To stay behind him, we have to keep popping the boat in and out of gear, which she detests and so finally we do pass him but he calls ahead to the next lock, telling the lock master to hold us up so he can enter first because he “has trouble steering in close spaces.”

We are so gracious when he finally arrives that I fear I am getting cavities from all the sweetness we bestow on this grumpy old man.  We wish him “Bon Vacances!” and leave him behind yet again.  There is space between the next couple of locks and we put enough distance between us to be free of him in the locks but for the next couple of days we play leap frog with him at various stopping points (turns out he can manage his boat very well even if he enters a lock second!).


And so, we slow it down, with no particular plan for where we will end up each evening, trusting fate to put us somewhere lovely and it does.  The first day out, we find Black Rapids, a spot that is usually full by noon but today has a space for us.  It is only eleven but we decide to take advantage of the peaceful surroundings by stopping here. We tie up to the wall and make friends with some Canadians whose boat is named Making Memories too and share experiences with them.  They depart after lunch and we settle in to enjoy a peaceful afternoon.  We are not far from Ottawa and a few families have brought picnic lunches to share on the tables in the shade of huge elm trees.


This is the first automatic lock (controlled by a push button panel) we have seen for a while and Louise, the lockmaster gratefully accepts some fresh basil that I have trimmed from my plant, breathing it in and declaring it the “perfect aromatherapy for a hot afternoon!”


Towards six PM (locks close at 7 here) I guess some of the folks from the HOPE event are on their way home because our idyllic setting turns into Woodstock, with boats rafted to each other, due to lack of wall space.  People are grilling, music is blasting, there are kids and dogs everywhere and then they all decide to jump into the canal to swim, bathe and even do a little laundry.  Canada is in the midst of a heat wave with the “humidex” putting temperatures well over 100 degrees.  We decide not to fight city hall and jump off our swim platform into the cool water. It isn’t deep and the bottom hosts a variety of vegetation so I don’t put my feet down.  It feels so good to cool down and get clean!  We are happy to have power so that we can use our air conditioners as white noise.  It doesn’t get dark until after 10 here and those of you who know us, know that we are toast long before then, even if the party continues!


The next couple of days see us travelling only 20 or 30 miles and stopping in Kilmarnock and then Smiths Falls.   Kilmarnock is really nothing more than a lock surrounded by fields and this time it is quiet and peaceful all night.  We tie off on the wall below the lock with another boat above it and one kayak camper lost somewhere in the woods across the canal.  Smiths Falls is more of a small city and is on a wide part of the canal so there are many boats on the walls and we opt for a finger pier in the campground so that we have water to refill our fresh water tanks.  We are pleasantly surprised to see that we have part of one water tank and all of the other still full so we are learning how to measure our water usage without gauges to assure us of our levels.

 Jerry changes our fuel filters while we are here and then we are off for the Rideau Lakes!


   Oh, for you boaters (or RV’ers) who are reading this; our black water gauge has worked intermittently since we bought the boat and it finally just quit a couple of months ago.  Lori on m/v Reality told us to flush some Tang down the toilets and guess what!?!?!? It worked, our black water gauge works reliably now so we know when we are close to needing the tank pumped out.  I knew that using Tang in a dishwasher once in a while keeps the guts healthy but it never occurred to me to use it in the holding tank on a boat (guess it might work in an RV too).  You learn all kinds of things from other boaters, thanks, Lori!

We pull into Rideau Ferry Harbor marina in hopes of finding a mechanic, as we have a couple of issues that we want professional consultation on and we are in luck to find Barry who owns a boat VERY similar to ours with the exact same engines.  He helps Jerry know what parts he needs to buy to fix a small oil leak on our dipstick or oil return (not sure of the technical language here) and explains that our engines were made when diesel fuel contained a lot of sulfur, which it no longer does and this is why we need to make sure we include an additive when we fuel up to reduce exhaust smoke.  We have been doing this but find that we may need to add a bit more than we had been doing.  Barry states that our Ford Lehman engines are beasts and that with a little care, they will run forever.


We are very reassured and after Jerry makes some of the suggested repairs, we spend the night at this marina, which really feels more like a summer camp than a marina.


We get out on the lake system early the next day and wander through the Little Rideau Lake system, finding Howes Bay and deciding to stay here for the night.  It is a tiny little bay that looks more like a cenote (sinkhole) than a real bay.  It feels like we are in Ireland, the trees and mossy undergrowth are so green and when the sun reaches high, the sandy bottom near the shore actually glows green.  The rim is completely rock-lined and the water passing by the rocks sounds like a constantly rushing river.  We can hear the wind in the trees and birds calling to each other but there are no human sounds at all and it is incredibly peaceful.


We pass the day swimming, reading, doing some boat chores and catching up on some work-related stuff before enjoying dinner on the flying bridge.  There are a pair of loons calling back and forth to each other as they dive for their dinners and the moon is high in the sky.


Later that night we will get up to gaze at the stars.  There is no city light pollution here and the stars are absolutely brilliant.  We can clearly see the milky way and note how much higher the constellations are from the horizon than they are at home.  This is an amazing place to call home for a day!


I would have stayed in Howse Bay for a week if we weren’t up against a bit of a time deadline now.  We move along and travel through a lovely part of the Big Rideau Lake.  On the shore, there are simple chalets and huge modern homes and everything in between, all proudly flying the Canadian flag on their docks and boathouses.  The shore line reminds me of Maine, very rocky and pretty.

The lake narrows down to a canal that again looks like it would be better navigated via kayak or canoe and it is SHALLOW!!!  The water is clear and, standing on the bow, I can see the bottom, rocky in some places and lush in others with waving weeds that reach green fingers up toward the surface.

IMG_5405 The boat ahead of us has to slow down to allow a swimming deer safe passage across the canal and then we come upon a sign that indicates a sharp turn and sounding one’s horn will increase odds of safe passage.  All along this canal, I have been praying that nothing is coming the other way because there is really not enough width or depth to allow two boats of our size to pass safely.  Fortunately, we make it without encountering any boats going the opposite way.

IMG_5489We come around the bend and see the walls of the Newboro Lock.  This lock is the pinnacle of the Rideau Canal, being 407 feet above sea level.  From here until we get to Kingston, Ontario, we will be locking down rather than upwards.

IMG_5502There is space along the wall, with power and we decide to stop, have brunch and then decide if we will venture further today.  We enjoy a quick snack of fresh fruit and some swiss cheese and crackers and then explore a little, deciding to spend the rest of the day and night here.


The wall fills quickly with boats that have the same intention and we are a sociable but quiet group of similarly aged couples.   This is a bottle neck lock and boats both large and small quickly stack up waiting to lock through.  It is amazing how the lock attendants fit as many boats, kayaks and jetskis as possible in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and also manage to keep their calm while boat captains and their crew are losing theirs all around them!  We see one woman on the bow of her boat berate her husband as they enter the lock, “You know, if you would PLEASE stop talking to everyone and get your line on the stern we might not get our bowsprit stuck in the works here!!?!”  She is still chewing him out a half hour later as they exit the lock and pass by our boat.  Poor guy.


We spend some time cleaning the engine strainers and putting some much needed wax on the boat.  This is a great setting to work in and the cool breeze makes it that much more enjoyable to spiff the boat up some.

When we are done, we rinse off and venture into town. Kilborn’s general store (a very misleading name) is an upscale/artisanal grocery, gift, clothing, shoe, furniture, household gadget and toy store laid out in a maze of different rooms and levels in what appears to be an old hotel building.  It is times like these where it is good to be a minimalist with no spare space and the only things we buy can be readily consumed.

0720181752aThere isn’t much else in the town other than the Stirling Lodge, which is a 100+ year old fishing camp and inn that was built in the 1830’s.  It has old time charm and we decide to eat here.  The restaurant is southern style home cooking situated in what used to be Col. John Kilborn’s (War of 1812 service) residence.  It is chock-a-block full of fishermen, enjoying the fish and chicken dinners and homemade pie afterwards.  The food is outstanding and I enjoy sautéed liver and onions while Jerry tries the Walleye and declares it excellent.

We spend a quiet night, sharing space with other boaters and a fair-sized contingent of campers on the other side of the locks and put a wrap on Week 28.  We look forward to visiting Alexandria Harbor and the 1,000 Islands and seeing our friends in Trenton and Brighton, Ontario next week.  We will then go home for a few days to attend Walker’s first birthday and attend to some personal business before we return to begin the Trent-Severn part of our adventure.

Week 27 Starts with a BANG and Ends with a Band and a Lot of Lights!

IMG_5142When we attended Rotary in Montreal, we were invited to visit the Week-ends Du Monde Festival which was just a short bike ride away from the marina.  The woman who invited us runs a non-profit to preserve the Chinese culture and traditions and she had arranged the Chinese portion of the Week-ends Du Monde celebration.  This included dragon boat races and a cultural exhibit of acclaimed Chinese artists: singers, dancers and instrumentalists, all taking the stage at different times during the day.


The Olympic Basin at Parc Jean-Drapeau

Let me begin with the dragon boat races.  In America, we have dragon boats which are long boats, wide enough to seat a dozen or so people in rows of two, who paddle hard one their side of the boat to move it very quickly through the water (yes, our boat has been passed by a dragon boat on Anclote River!).  But here, there are dragon boats with real dragon heads and tails, replete with scales painted along the bodies of the boats as well.


A REAL Dragon Boat

And the athletes!  We have attended some large triathlons but the crowds of athletes for these races must be well over 7,000 people strong, including a team from the NYPD.  We cheer for the boat of seniors who manage an excellent showing against all the younger rowers!  We are proud of their efforts.


The seniors take 3rd!

From the Olympic basin in the Parc Jean Drapeau, we make our way to the stages and snack on dishes from the various vendors, having no clue what we are eating but we know that it is all delicious.  We enjoy a number of different presentations and are sorry when it is time for us to go.


A Drum-Dancer

The next day we cram in visits to the Montreal Botanical Gardens (thank you Mid Brock for the idea)  and a trip to the top of the Observation Tower (tallest inclined tower in the world).


 The Botanical Gardens are some of the most beautiful we have ever seen and we really wish we had more time but we did cover a lot of the different gardens, favoring the simplicity of those with Asian influence, as always.

IMG_5176Jardins Botanique de Montreal (Japanese Garden)


But there are some others that are really interesting as well!

We return to our marina to spend the last afternoon of our stay in Montreal preparing the boat to be underway again after a week of being docked at Porte du Plaisance de La Ronde.  The marina is on Isle Ste. Helene next to a…wait for it… Six Flags amusement park (really!) and is a little inconvenient to get into Montreal until we figure out the public transit system and then it is a piece of cake.  The price is also very reasonable as the marina is not in downtown Montreal where most of the others are.  Being a little remote made sense since we were leaving the boat for part of the week to visit Quebec City anyway.


In Montreal, every Wednesday and Saturday nights at 10 PM, from the first week in July through the first week of August, different corporations represent their countries in an International Pyrotechnic Competition, which happens on one side of the amusement park right next to our marina.  The idea is to compete in presenting the most innovative fireworks technology to the public.  I guess they are judged at the end of the season.

Because we are the best viewing spot, it is like the Greenwich Town Party all over again as boat after boat pulls into our little basin.  We can’t imagine where they are all going to fit but by sundown they are anchored, moored and rafted together in every spare inch of water space there is. Parties are in full swing and people are dancing on the bows and roofs of their boats as the sun sets.  We find out later that there are well over 200 boats crowded in and our marina doesn’t charge any of them unless they dock, even though they have to put on extra staff in zodiacs to direct incoming and outgoing traffic all through the evening.  The people who run this marina are very personable and very efficient and I guess they have a heart for sharing their wonderful setting with others.


It gets dark and all of a sudden, one of the rafted boats turns on the simultast and Abba blasts out over the water, heralding the first of the fireworks!  You think you have seen one firework show and that means you’ve pretty much seen them all. Not so!  This fireworks display above our heads is completely synchronized with the Abba mash-up and is like nothing we have ever seen before.  Ash and gunpowder rain down on all of us because we are so close and we can feel the explosions in our chests and in the boat’s framework.  This reminds me of the time when I was a child and my dad anchored our boat close under a fireworks display only to have our gun-shy lab pee all over the bunks and then to find his decks pocked and burned from falling embers the next morning.  We too find a lot of ash on our decks the next morning but it is easily swept away.   It is an amazing show, full of surprises and displays that made the most jaded of us oooh and aaahhhh.  Pretty darn cool way to start the week!


We motor out of Montreal the next morning, successfully traversing a lock or two begore hitting the largest one in Canada.  The Carillon Lock looks like a giant garage and elevates boats 65 feet up to the Ottawa River.  We get into the lock along with 5 other boats beside and behind us and are immediately advised that the seal on one of the doors is under repair and that it will be at least an hour before we will be able to lock through.


We meet some new friends from Canada, Mario and Claire who are rafted to our boat and we practice international attempts at conversing in languages we don’t speak well but we have fun and we know what their grandkids look like and they know what Walker looks like.  There is a boat of Loopers behind us and we later take photos of each other and share them via text and email.  Technology really does help form friendships here.


Looper boat from Texas, Bella Blue. Lock door closing behind us finally!

We finally complete the lift of 65 feet and are turned loose.


Of course, all of the boats behind us in the lock end up passing us along the way but no matter, we all end up on the wall in Ste Anne de Bellevue at the end of the day.


We are now in the Canada Parks system and our pass allows us a free 48 hours on any wall in the system, even major cities like Ottawa .  The next day we are up and out pretty early but eventually the same boats pass us again (not sure where they all ended up).  We cover some good mileage and anchor in an isolated and gorgeous bay off Pointe Filions.


We are excited about getting to Ottawa and the beginning of the Rideaux (Ree-doe) Canal. Jerry and I are wide awake at 4 AM and cannot get back to sleep so we putter around for a while but we are under way by 6AM (it gets light by 4:30AM here so sleeping in is not easy) and as it turns out, this is an excellent decision as our timing will be important later that day.  We are thoroughly entranced by the beauty of the Ottawa River and hours later catch our breaths at the first sight of the city itself.  In Montreal and Quebec, the French influence is apparent, here it is very obviously influenced by the British and it is breathtakingly beautiful.


We get our first up-close look at the Rideaux Canal with its famous stair-step lock system, which takes a boat up 70 feet into the heart of Ottawa through a series of 8 locks.  We pull up to the blue line on the wall (this means you are ready to lock through).


Unfortunately, they have just started lifting another boat which means that it will have to go all the way up, if there are any other boats, they will be brought down and then we get to go (this can take 3 hours).  With that information we settle in to wait and it is only a couple of minutes before another boat arrives, docks in front of us and then our friends Mario and Claire, who were rafted to us in the Carillon Lock, raft to us again as there is no more dock space and then 5 more boats arrive, most of them 40’ or more.  SHEESH! How’s this going to work, we wonder.  Soon the lock manager comes down and asks who was first and so we and the next boat are to go into the lock first and then they will allow us to skip a lock (still not exactly sure how they managed this) and load the next few boats in the third lock behind us, since there are no downward-traveling boats.


These locks are hand-cranked open and closed the same way they have been for hundreds of years and the young men and women who have these jobs are cheerful, friendly and in VERY good shape as they direct us, prevent tourists from falling into the water and simultaneously keep the locks moving with maximum efficiency.


Locking through is a lot of work for captains and crew as we must move our boats under power from lock to lock, grab cables fore and aft and get lines around them so that the lines slide up along the cables as the water in the lock rises.  The water motion can be quite turbulent at times and so there is a lot of muscle required to keep a boat relatively immobile in the lock.  Plus, we are required to shut engines down each time we are in a lock.  So poor Jerry is busy navigating the boat into a small concrete shoebox with a 44’ boat ahead of and beside us, grabbing and securing aft lines, swinging down into the cabin to shut engines down, hanging on for dear life to the aft line as the water rises and then igniting engines and starting the whole process over again once the gates open.


I get to stand on the bow, grab a cable, yank our 11 ton boat toward the side of the lock and away from our companion boat, then hold lines and enjoy being a zoo animal as the crowds of folks along the sides of the locks point at us and take our picture (we were warned that this would happen by our Waterway Guide book).  All the while the sun is beating down on us and it is HOT but we are happy to be where we are.  The Parliament buildings rise on one side of the locks and the prestigious Hotel Fairmont Chateau de Laurier soars on the other side.


The view is spectacular when we have time to take it in.  We finally clear the last lock, duck under a beautiful stone bridge and find a spot along the wall in the heart of Ottawa just behind Amazing Grace III from St. Petersburg and another boat from Longboat Key docks a few boats behind us – AMAZING is right, what a small world!  We venture out and grab a quick dinner and we are done for the day, collapsing and reading for a while until we can no longer keep our heads up.


This morning we are so stiff that it is embarrassing.  Age is not for the faint of heart but motion is lotion and so we get up and take a very quick shower aboard (we now have to be careful of our fresh water usage since we have no way to refill tanks until goodness knows when).  We decide to attend the changing of the guard at Parliament and walk the few blocks to stand agog at this incredibly beautiful building.  It is somewhat reminiscent of Big Ben and yet is unique unto itself.


We stand at the edge of the East lawn and watch as tourists pester the guard about where the best place to stand is.  He points to the front and center portion behind the ropes and off they rush to shove their way into this already crowded section.  We are happy where we are and remain standing, watching the goings on that precede the event.


Our wonderful guard is the one in the middle!

We notice some folding chairs that are set up as a kind of VIP section on the parade ground but don’t think much of them until the same guard returns and asks us if we are just two people.  When we state that we are, he invites us to sit in the front row of the seats ON THE ACTUAL PARADE GROUND!!!  We cannot figure out why he chose us but we gratefully follow him and sit down with some other folks that it seems have been randomly selected to sit in this section.


We sat next to the kid with the backpack in the front row!

The changing of the guard starts and a young woman explains what is taking place over a loud speaker in English and then again in French.  It is a very impressive ceremony and because we sit through it, we are very comfortable and have a close up and personal view of all of the proceedings!  It was a once in a lifetime experience and I know we will never forget it.

At this point we opt for the Big Red Bus Tour (we have frequently used these as a way of getting the lay of the land in a new city to see where we want to return and where everything is in relation to other things) and learn a lot of history and geography.  The US Embassy here was the most expensive of all to build and our ambassador has a stately home that overlooks the Ottawa River and the mountains that are part of the expansive Gatineau Park across the way.  We learn about how the Canadian Royal Mounties and their horses are trained and where all the museums and cathedrals are but we are done. Jerry’s back is killing him and we retire to the boat for a few hours of R&R.

A little later we go to an exhibit which will only be in Ottawa until October called Mosaiculture 2018. It is a display of cultural and historical diversity with people, animals and places created entirely from over 5 million plants and I wish I could teleport my mother, sister and some of my friends who love gardens here.   This is something I have never seen anywhere in my life and Jerry and I are both amazed at the artistry that goes into creating these amazing beings who look almost lifelike but are made entirely from plants and flowers. I can’t describe this well so I will post all of my pix on FaceBook and this website for those of you who want to see more about this creation.


Notice how the flowers are shaded so there is white spray on the tops of the blue waves – amazing!


My favorite mooses/meese?!?


Mother Earth

After visiting another Basilica Notre Dame (this time with a personal tour guide – still don’t know where he came from exactly but he was very interesting), which is unique and a work of art, we grab a quick bite to eat and walk back to the boat to rest up for another couple of hours.

Notre Dame de Ottawa

We LOVE this city and really wish we had more time here.  I think one really needs at least a week to do it justice but we are doing the best with the limited time we have and are trying to cover as much ground as possible.


The sun is setting when we walk back to Parliament Hill for Les Lumieres du Nord or Northern Lights, which is a free show put on each night at 10 and yes we stayed up late enough to attend.  It combines lasers and projections onto the face of the Parliament building that trace Canada’s history and we and hundreds of others camp out on the grass to enjoy a spectacular show.  We learn a lot about the bronze sculptures of famous Canadians all over the city.


So today we leave Ottawa, regretting that we don’t have more time to spend but looking forward to what the Rideaux holds for us.

We’re Halfway and Had a Whale of Week!

This week marks our 26th week, the official half-way point of our Loop. It is a bittersweet point in time.  We have so enjoyed the first half of our Loop that we can’t imagine that the second will equal or surpass it but we are also anticipating that second half being in the Great Lakes and River Systems and have hurried some of the first half of the Loop in areas with which we are familiar in order to have extra time to spend in these uncharted (for us) areas of our country.

We are sad to leave the Lake Champlain area but, raising our yellow quarantine flag, we are excited to cross the USA-Canada border on July 1, which is Canada Day.


 We are the first boat to approach customs this morning and we think the fact that there are several boats behind us waiting (they only allow one boat at a time on the customs dock) might have played into how quickly we are processed and cleared through.  We have our lock passes for the season and are ready to go now!


We know we have a long day ahead of us with 11 locks to clear, which can be very time consuming but it starts out well and here we are in Canada!


We are pleasantly surprised by how little boat traffic there is and how efficient the locks system on this part of the canal is.  Each lock has its own DRY lines (no slimy, miserable lines like those we have had to deal with in NY) and each pair of lock tenders call ahead so that the next lock is open and ready for us.  This is VERY unusual in our experience and we are able to travel this beautiful section of the Chambly canal very quickly, which is good because the temperatures are rapidly climbing into the 90’s where they will remain for a week.


A swing bridge that opened for us.

The Chambly is a VERY narrow, man-made canal that travels alongside the Richelieu River, separated from it only by a narrow bank, topped by a bike path that is very popular on this day.


Our boat is a stately dowager who never hurries and we have been amused to see all the different kinds of craft, people and animals that have passed us on this journey and this day is not an exception to this experience!  At some point, I will do a separate blog-post entitled Things That Have Passed Us On The Loop! and many of the photos will come from this day!


This day we are very grateful to encounter no other boats traveling in the opposite direction as the rocky sides of the canal are too close for safe passage.  The locks towards the end of the canal are also unique in that they are tiny.  Some of the locks we have encountered, thus far, have been able to fit a tug and barge, along with several other boats, comfortably within their gates.  Others have been smaller but have still been able to accommodate a number of pleasure craft.   There is no way that more than one boat at a time can fit in these locks as some of them are as small as 110’ x 23’.  Our boat is 47’ long including the bowsprit and swim platform and is 13.5 wide, so you can imagine how proud I am of my captain who puts Makin Memories into each lock and extracts her successfully without ever bumping once.


These locks are old, made of wood and are man-powered or maybe I should say teen-powered.  Once we are secured in the lock, a pair of teens hand cranks the gates behind us shut. Then they walk to the front and again crank the sluices open by hand and once the water in the lock is level with the water level of the canal on the lower side, they hand crank the front gates open and out we go.  There is a bit of distance between some of the locks but the last three are a stair-step affair where we progress straight from one lock into the next.  It is amazing to look out of the top one and see the stair-step set of locks down into the Chambly Basin where the real celebration of Canada Day is happening.  We see boats anchored all over the basin and lots of others zipping around towing kids on all kinds of inflatable craft.


At this point the Canadian heat wave is getting to us and when we finally get into the basin, I beg Jerry to go ahead and anchor so we can swim to cool down.  I NEVER pictured my weenie-self swimming in Canadian water but once I am able to catch my breath again, the water is very refreshing.


Jerry using the fender that Bob Wilson gave us for swim safety

We decide to spend the night here, thinking that there will be some fireworks to celebrate Canada Day even though the customs folks informed us that most celebrations will take place the next night.  We relax on the front deck, drinks in hand and picnic while we watch the shenanigans taking place all around us.  It feels like a real vacation! While this year is a semi-respite-sabbatical year, once we left the keys little of it has felt like a vacation.  There are continuous challenges in weather, navigation, planning and mechanical issues and so we draw great breaths and relax into the sunset.  Ducks by the hundreds land all around us, munching on the lake weed and grasses that float nearby.  It is a lovely evening and we tuck into bed after checking the weather and battening down everything as there may be thunderstorms before dawn.


At one AM we are tipped out of our bunk by the wind leaning into our boat and the rain starts to pound on the decks. We climb up to the flying bridge to watch as lightning flashes and hail starts to pock off the decks all around us.  It is a little scary for a while because the wind gusts are so powerful.  We are almost always surrounded by sailboats so the lightning is not much of a concern.  The storm is fierce but moves through pretty quickly, returning the basin to stillness and leaving it that way until dawn.

IMG_4987I don’t know what church this is but it was gorgeous! I thought it was Varennes but couldn’t find a Google match.  It was along the east side of the St. Lawrence just north of Montreal.

We make a VERY long, 12 hour day sketching a giant U-turn as we go north up the Richelieu and then about face and head southwest up the St. Lawrence Seaway to Montreal.   There isn’t much current in the Richelieu but we are going against the tide and current on the St. Lawrence and it is a long, slow day.  We can actually see the SAME mountain Mt Sainte Hilaire when we reach Montreal that we passed that morning on the way out of Chamby Basin!!  IMG_4959The only saving grace is that we are able to beat the storm into our slip where we encounter Chris and Jay on Carolina, the first Loopers we have seen in a while.  We have pushed rally hard today so that we can take some time off the boat to go to Quebec City, by train and spend a few days there.

We take a train and enjoy a quiet ride through the countryside. Quebec City is a lovely blend of old and new and we wander the streets in the afternoon, enjoying the feel of Europe that is in the air here.  The gates and walls of the old city remind us how much history is here.

We book a tour (thanks to fellow Looper, Susan Webb for the idea) to whale watch the next day and turn in early so we can be up and ready for our departure from the foot of Chateau Frontenac the next morning.

IMG_4995We bus past Montmorency Falls (higher than Niagra) and the Cathedral of Ste. Anne de Boprais (wish we had another day to tour these) and through the gorgeous Charlevoix area.  The Laurentian mountains are visible in the distance on one side of the bus and the St. Lawrence seaway, which is VERY wide here, is on the other.


We learn that Quebec actually means, “place where the water narrows” in Algonquin.  Our bus driver/tour guide/whale naturalist machine guns information at us in French and then again in English.   I am pleased to see that I still understand a good bit of French, though speaking it is another matter!

We learn that Tadoussac is located on the north-west shore of the Saint Lawrence River, at its confluence with the Saguenay River. The cold, fresh water from the Saguenay and the warmer, salty water of the St. Lawrence, meet at an alluvial uplift that forces krill and other small animals upwards, to create a rich marine environment. 9 species of whales come here to feed though they mate elsewhere, which makes our chances of seeing some pretty good.

Upon arrival, we are divided into the groups we requested, the large boat folks and the zodiac folks.  They are herded onto a large triple decker boat and off they go.  We are outfitted in gear that looks like firefighter apparel – waterproof and to keep us warm.  This seems unnecessary as it is again 93 degrees but once we get out on the water of the fjord, the temperature drops precipitously and we are glad to have our gear.  We immediately see a pod of Beluga whales (we could kind of see them from shore because their white skin almost glows against the deep blue of the icy water).


A Beluga mother and calf

We see a pod of a dozen or so whales but cannot approach them as they are protected and fines are levied against captains who come within 400 yards of them.  We have a savvy captain though and he gets close enough and stops and lets their playful nature draw them closer to us.  He doesn’t want to get them too interested in us explaining that every 15 minutes they take exploring us is 15 minutes of missed eating that could really impact their overall health and so we are content to view them from a distance though the whales have ventured much closer to us now.


Next we are looking for Minke whales.  The Minke Whale is the smallest member of the rorquals and the second smallest species of baleen whale.  Our captain closes in on one and then a pair and we learn how to spot them and tell whether they are feeding or about to dive from the posture of their backs.  They are beautiful and very graceful and time flies as we watch them feed.


Lastly, we are on the lookout for the Fin Whale.  The fin whale is a large baleen whale that belongs to the cetacean species, which is composed of all species of whale, dolphin and porpoise. Measuring in at up to 90 feet long they are considered the second biggest whale in existence in terms of length, right after the blue whale and we now see where the term, “Thar she blows” comes from.  We glimpse the spout a long way off and motor closer.  This whale is not shy and rolls right next to our boat, dives and then comes up further away on the other side of the boat.  Again, we find a pair rather than a single animal and every eye on the boat is scanning the water to catch a glimpse of their spouts.  Sometimes we hear them before we see them and it is an amazing experience.


A couple of hours pass in no time and we zip back to do a last inspection of the fjord that was created by a quick moving glacier during the last ice age.  Amazingly, we had learned earlier in our cruise that the Hudson River actually meets the definition of a fjord as well, though most of us don’t see it as such.

This is beautiful country and we are glad we chose the zodiac as we seem closer to nature in it and it also moves faster so we end up seeing more species of whales than do our counter parts on the big boat (they only saw belugas).

We enjoy a quiet bus ride home, stopping at a local dairy that has a store where they sell all kinds of homemade cheeses and more impressive than that are the homemade pâtés  – they have rabbit, pheasant, duck and I’m not sure what else.  We saw these exact same terrines on the menu the prior night for $20 and here they are $3!  So we buy a baguette and a couple of bottles of local beer, a terrine and enjoy a mini-feast on the way home.


Arriving back in Quebec, we are starting to see evidence of the Fete d’Ete du Quebec (Summer Festival of Quebec).  They have been setting up venues all over town and the concerts start tonight.  Some of the venues are free and others, where the big name performers (Jethro Tull, Shawn Mendes, Lorde, Dave Matthews Band,  The Weeknd etc) will be require a wristband ticket.

It is hot but we venture out anyway and enjoy a young performer who is a warm up to the bigger names who will come later.  Fortunately the heat has been taken into account and the organizers have set up water stations for filling bottles and also for cooling off  and many young people hand their cell phones to friends and take advantage of the chance to get cool.

We are exhausted and return to our hotel and the music accompanies us. We are on the 18th floor, overlooking 3 of the venues and we can hear clearly when Jethro Tull starts playing Aqualung around 11!


Quebec has been an amazing side trip that we are really glad we did.  I wish we had more time to explore but we feel that we covered a lot of territory (walked over 20 miles while here) and became familiar enough with our part of town to walk different streets each time we ventured out without getting totally lost.  The flowers in parks and in the window boxes are breathtaking – begonias, trailing ivy, cosmos and more put me in heaven as did the ingenious ways in which they were displayed.  I totally understand the Quebec motto of  “Je me souviens” Literally translated as, “I remember” Because who could forget this wonderful place!


This morning we grab a quick breakfast and jump on the train back to Montreal.  There is internet aboard and so we are both able to catch up on some of our writing and other work and the 3 hours passes very quickly.  We arrive at the station in time to hustle to the Westin in time to make the Rotary meeting and are VERY impressed with how cosmopolitan this little club of 29 people is.  There are almost more visitors than club members as we have people from Ghana, New York, British Columbia and a couple of places I didn’t understand due to language challenges.  The man sitting next to me informs me that at one point they had 19 languages spoken in their club! That is impressive and even more impressive is that they netted $40,000 at a gala the week before.   For a small club, they do BIG things here!  Our lunch is amazing – two courses that we choose from a variety on a menu.  My table-mate says though the food is good here, it is nowhere near as good as when they met in Chinatown and had 5 course lunches!  We enjoy it, exchange banners and stay to chit-chat with members, one of whom invites us to a Chinese cultural event scheduled to happen the next day.


After lunch, we explore the old section of Montreal and enjoy the amazing architecture until it is time for the highlight of the day which is the Aura, a digitized laser/music experience that was designed specifically for Basilique de Notre Dame.  I remember being impressed by the laser show at Stone Mountain, GA when this was a relatively new type of entertainment but this show blows that away.  Montreal’s Notre Dame is possibly one of the top 5 most beautiful cathedrals I have ever been inside.  Now add an originally designed show that traces God’s creation from the birth of light, through the seasons and into every type of weather there is including the great flood and it is enough to leave you breathless.  Some consider this sacrilegious and Jerry and I talk about how we feel about this, concluding that this daily event brings people into God’s house, people experience art, music and God’s creation and an added bonus must be that the revenue helps maintain what has to be an exorbitantly expensive building in terms of keeping it as elegant as it has been since it was built in 1832.


What an amazing couple of days we have enjoyed to mark the halfway point in our Loop.  Can’t wait to see what’s next!


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