Month: August 2018

Weeks 32 & 33 Slow Start but a BIG Finish!

Weeks 32 and 33 are being combined in one blog post because they were VERY slow going for us, which is tough after losing a whole week going home the week before this.

While some valuable things happened, we also spent about a week and a half sitting at marina docks due to mechanical issues and then weather challenges.


This is frustrating because we are seeing the first signs of Autumn in some of the maple trees that are trading their verdant garb for yellow, rose and gold.  It is beautiful but we feel it is happening WAY too quickly!

We have become subconsciously aware of the clock ticking down toward our arrival in Chicago, if we are to be there by the first week or so of October.  We still have so much territory we want to explore prior to that!

All that being said, let me recap these last two weeks because there were some very cool experiences as well as some major Loop milestones.

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The first milestone we check off is the Peterborough Lift Lock in the Trent Severn Waterway.  This is a feat that we have been anticipating since we first started planning this trip.  Herb Seaton, the AGLCA Harbor Host for Tarpon Springs introduced us to the idea of the Loop almost 3 years ago and this lock was a real attention-getter and remains one of the most talked about sections of the Loop when Loopers get together!

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It was built in 1896 and most of it is the original structure.  It is comprised of two huge bath tub-like caissons each of which is perched atop a 7.5’ diameter, water-filled, steel ram (like a big vertical, metal tube).  These rams are connected and at the appropriate time, the valve shifts the weight of water from one to the other – there used to be a granite ball which eventually became pitted and so was replaced by the valve.

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One caisson of water is up and the other is down.  Each loads as many boats as will fit inside and a gate closes off entrance to and exit from them.  Then the valve opens and the water in the upper caisson’s ram is channeled into the lower ram forcing it 65’ upwards. No power is used, only gravity and it is almost eerily quiet as you move towards your destination.  The feeling is awesome and honestly this lock is probably the easiest we have navigated because there is no water turbulence. Once you are in the caisson, the water that is it is static and so it is a very smooth ride, unlike many of the other locks where we are trying to hold a 12 ton boat steady against a torrent of water rushing into or out of the lock.

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We were pretty pleased to make it to and through Peterborough but our engine has really been having issues.  The constant stopping and starting in the locks and the low RPM at which we have been running between locks has been making her smoke like a chimney and we finally make arrangements to have a mechanic look at her later that in the week.

We enjoy the Trent Severn and some of the interesting sights along the way but once we are in Lakefield (supposed to be a 24 hour turn around) we are there for 5 days and 4 nights.  Although it is a nice little town with an OUTSTANDING fresh market, we find that we are just not comfortable staying in one place that long anymore!

During this time, Jerry pays for and earns another semester credit in his Baccalooperate degree under the wonderful tutelage of his mechanic/mentor David who is supposed to be retired but I think he really enjoys the teaching part of his job!

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They “rock” the valves or pistons or something (really Jerry should be writing this!) and generally tune up the engine and change the oil and filters.

32 (97)They repair the oil return and re-scribe the dipstick so that it is now accurate.

32 (104)As we suspected, the port turbo elbow was reaching temperatures of over 750 degrees, which is not good and when the mechanic tries to clean it, he says that it pretty much resembles a colander.  So, a new one needs to be manufactured in Toronto, as this part is no longer available in the market – hence the delay in getting back on the water.

In the meantime, we have Danielle (the adorable 27 year old electrician/diesel mechanic who is buying David’s business and reminds us a little of Annie Causey) refreshes some of the older wiring aboard the boat making her safer and more reliable.

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And so we are finally able to get under way.  We spend the next night on the lock walls at Bobcaygeon (busy tourist town with GREAT shops and restaurants) and then on the new floating docks at Talbot lock (a quiet, bucolic setting that we like better!).


We lock through the highest point on the entire loop when we clear the Rosedale lock at 850’ above sea level and we did another, smaller lift lock at Kirkfield (I know, I stink at selfies!) with a boat similarly named to ours.  We are now locking downward, thank goodness as it is much easier and less stressful than locking up is!

We traversed Canal Lake, biting our nails the whole way as our depth sounder was only registering 3-4’ of water and were happy to see the end of it as we went through the hole in the wall bridge, built in 1905.


Along the TSW we have been moved from our marina dock space twice to make room for Calliope, a 75’ boat which amazes people up here, especially when they find out that her owner’s  110’ “big” boat is in Florida because she can’t fit through the locks up here.  The majority of boats up here are in the 30′ neighborhood which makes sense for scooting around the shallower water in and about the islands and canals.


We have twice seen the Kawartha Voyageur (think back to the post about the river cruise boat that can fold her bow up in order to fit into the locks on the Rideau and Trent Severn) though she hasn’t inconvenienced us again with lock delays since that time at Jones Falls on the Rideau, thankfully!


We emerge from the Trent Severn Waterway into Lake Simcoe, where we are amazed to see the water turn from river-brown to Florida Keys azure. The lake is gorgeous and the little town of Orillia is charming as well.


Rotary is well represented here though when we try to attend a meeting, the Rotarians are nowhere to be found, in spite of showing the day as a meeting day on their website (this is unfortunately something we have found frequently on this trip).


We sit at the Port of Orillia Marina on Lake Couchiching (Ojibiwe for “inlet”) for 4 days and 3 nights waiting on the weather to clear. It has been raining with wind gusts to 35 and 40 mph.  The marina is fabulous, with newly renovated bathrooms and complimentary laundry facilities.  So, everything on our boat is now freshly laundered and smells great!


The Zebra mussels (pictured here inside a lock wall) that live in the lake eat the particulate which makes the water VERY clear but this also results in monster 8′ tall weeds  and grass that threaten all the intakes of the boats in the marina.

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Consequently, this boy has the job of raking the weed out of the marina slips and getting rid of it each day and I want to ask him if he knows who Sisyphus was!!! Between this and cleaning the prodigious amount of Canada Goose poop off the dock every morning, his job is definitely an uphill battle!



We depart Orillia after a wonderful evening of a community band concert followed by the movie American Graffiti at the Rotary Aqua Theater in Lake Couchiching Park.   The skies finally clear for a gorgeous sunset, it gets cool and then cold and we watch  most of the movie before a stray shower sends us all scurrying for home!

The trip from Orillia takes us back into the Trent Canal, narrow and scary-shallow.  It probably isn’t as shallow as our depth sounder indicates; we think the sonar is bouncing off the dense vegetation along the way.


The pine boughs are close enough to brush our flying bridge and we are fortunate not to encounter a boat headed in the opposite direction as there literally isn’t room for more than one boat at a time here.


We have a new experience in the Swift Rapids lock, dubbed the “Colossal” lock.  It raises and drops boats 50 feet in about 8 minutes, which is SUPER fast!  The Parcs attendant loops my line around a pipe and walks away (first one with a bit of an attitude). I look at this pipe and think, “this isn’t going to work,”  Once we are down about two feet my line will be hung up here and that is not good.

IMG_6200Another person explains to me that the pipe is set onto a floating buoy inside the lock wall and will coast down beside me.  Okay, that’s a first!  It works amazingly well.

The highlight for the day is the Big Chute Marine Railway that lifts 4-6 boats totally clear of the water in slings and transports them across a hunk of granite that is part of the Canadian Shield and which would have been difficult to blast through to create a lock. It is the only marine railway operating in North America and it is a greatly anticipated ride!


We round a corner of the waterway and there are 3 small boats ahead of us on the blue line (where you wait to lock through) and we hear from them that the operators have closed Big Chute for a half hour of maintenance.  No problem, we all chat and the excitement is palpable, especially for those of us who are first-timers.  Finally the Parcs folks finish pressure washing big Chute’s deck and doing what all else they needed to do and are ready for business.  A loud speaker booms across the water, announcing the order in which they wish the boats to enter the tram as it glides on rails into the water.


Three little boats go ahead of us and we are the last boat in.  It is amazing how easily this all works.  Each small boat hits its mark, one, two, three and in we go.

As we glide into the tram behind the smaller boats, the attendants work the sling lifts upwards against our hull which slows us to a stop right where they want us.  From here on out it is an easy ride.  The tram moves upwards to its peak and then glides down the opposite side.  Tourists are racing down the steps to keep up with us, snapping photos along the way.

IMG_6224Finally, the tram starts to submerge and the small boats begin to float. Engines ignite and off they go and we follow suit with a successful exit from Big Chute now behind us.  What amazing feats of technology we have experienced on this cruise!

We have completed 123 locks and finished the last one we will encounter for a while at Port Severn. We opt to spend the night at Bay Port Marina and are so glad we. Not only is it a lovely marina, the owner Ken MacDonald has a HUGE heart for Loopers and does an hour and a half tutorial on the best places to go in Georgian Bay.

18009You literally could spend years exploring these 30,000 islands and we wish we had more time but we will spend the next week and a half or so exploring the Georgian Bay section of Lake Huron before we cross over the North Channel and head for Mackinac Island – and back into the States!

Weeks 30 and 31- Home and Back Again!

Because we went home for a week and I lost my writing momentum, weeks 30 and 31 are being combined!

 We start out by moving the boat from Belleville to Trenton, with our dear friend Hans, his daughter Silke and husband Doug along with our first canine visitor (Nova, a giant Schnauzer) aboard Makin Memories.  All fare well and we enjoy both the company and the scenery as we travel down the Bay of Quinte (Qwin tee).


Hans, going way above Rotary’s “Service Above Self” motto, has secured a spot for our boat from a friend, who is another Trenton Rotarian (Thank you, Eben James!) where the old Trentport Marina used to be.  It is the perfect spot to leave the boat for a week; private and secure, sheltered and shaded from afternoon sun by a huge tree in a lovely park and our hearts rest easy when it is time to leave her to go home.


Before leaving, we attend the Trenton Rotary meeting and have a wonderful time being with Hans and Keith and Joan Stainton (Keith has been a regular Snowtarian at our club in Tarpon for 34 years and Hans has also attended for over a decade!).  Afterwards, they return to our boat, along with Wilf Wilkinson, past Rotary International President (what an honor!) and we have drinks (We should have had some Scotch on board!) and great conversation on the back deck as the sun sets.


Hans drives us to Toronto the next day and after visiting with his other daughter, Anke and her family and enjoying a wonderful meal together, we fly home.  Home was a whirlwind of visiting with family and friends <3, painting the entire interior of one of our rental homes (Thank you Tom, Faith and BJ for the painting help and Mike E for advice), arranging for transitioning our rentals to a real property manager (Tarapani-Banther & Assoc. YAY!!!) and meeting with our business partners at Alpha UMi, in the new office, to discuss recent accomplishments and plans for the future.


We celebrate Walker’s first birthday with lots of water and more babies than I have seen in one place in a LONG time!!!  It is great fun to have so much family in one place at the same time and Walker is a real trooper remaining happy throughout a long afternoon.  It makes our hearts so full to be with him and family for this milestone celebration! Can’t wait to meet his little sister next time we are home!!!

We accomplish a lot in a short period of time and are sad to leave friends and family but are happy to return to Canada where it is raining but where it is MUCH cooler than in Florida!


My mom, who is a happy and healthy 85 years young, has stated on a number of occasions how she regrets never having visited Niagra Falls and has encouraged us many times to go there if we possibly could.  Once we decided to go north through Lake Champlain rather than west through the Erie Canal, the Falls were pretty much off our itinerary but when we needed to go home this month, for medical reasons, and realized that the Falls were only an hour away by car from the Toronto airport, we decided to rent a car and go upon our return.

We are both SO glad we made that choice!  The town of Niagra is a cross between Disney and Vegas and so holds little interest for us but the falls! Oh my gosh!  When we round a corner and there they are in front of us, we about lose our minds.  I never expected the water to be so blue and beautiful and while I have seen videos and photos, they truly pale in comparison to reality.


The sheer power of the water that goes over the rock escarpment is staggering.  The walkway along the Ontario side of the falls affords views that are stunning and as we progress downstream, each view is more amazing than the last.  There are throngs of tourists literally from everywhere in the world but it is a moving crowd and so you are able to get to the railing for a great view as you move along the walls.


 The weather is gray and drizzly when we arrive and in spite of the beauty of the water, as it is, I long to see it under bright sunlight.  After our initial walk along the side of the Falls, we wander through the gift shops and the Garden of the Theater (which resembles a formal English garden, complete with boxwood mazes and gorgeous flowers) just killing time.


We are rewarded when the sun comes peeking out from behind the clouds and so we walk the edge of the falls in reverse this time, taking some of the same photos again but with perfect lighting this time.  It was just spectacular! Thanks, Mom!  If there is one lesson we have learned well on this trip, it is to listen to the travel advice of people around us.  We have detoured off our planned route a number of times and have always been really grateful that we did.


Our cousins, Tog and Doreen, who were aboard in New London, had recommended Niagra on the Lake and so that is our next stop.  Again, we are ecstatic to have such great advice!   Along the way to town there are miles and miles of vineyard after vineyard.  Apparently the soil which is mostly shale here is perfect for growing happy grapes.

We stop at Wayne Gretsky’s winery for a sampling of his wines.  Gretsky was #99 on the NY Rangers when I was a young fan and also played for the St Louis Blues, the team for which one of my high school friends was a rabid fan.


 His wines are lovely and Jerry discovers Baco Noir, a red wine that is made from grapes that grow in Ontario and has aromas and flavors of red fruits, cedar and wildflowers as well as toasty oak, according to the young lady who is educating us.  Jerry loves its flavor (when we got back to the boat, we found that there was a bottle of Baco Noir in the beautiful gift basket that Keith and Joan had given us in Trenton!!! Thank you Keith and Joan!).


I thought I had taken a photo of the gift basket that Keith and Joan gave us but hadn’t ☹ Here are some of the fun things that were in it! Thanks again, Keith and Joan!

I am partial to the ice wines that this vineyard produces.  I was introduced to ice wine when I was teaching a Series 7 Course (the course that potential stockbrokers must take and pass to be licensed) in Heidelberg, one frosty German winter.  Towards the end of the week and after class, the manager of the office took me and all of his guys who were my students out for drinks and, at his urging, I tasted my first ice wine.  Ice wine or Eiswein, in German, is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine.


The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water inside of them does, resulting in a more concentrated grape juice. The grapes must be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. With ice wines, the freezing happens before the fermentation, not afterwards, like other dessert wines.  We buy a bottle of each of our favorites and will save them for special occasions.


From there we drive into Niagra on the Lake. This little, VERY upscale town is not far from the Falls and we spend the evening wandering the streets and stopping to eat at the Shaw Café (our table is the empty two-top just behind and to the right of the statue of Shaw in this photo).


There are flowers everywhere and the view of Lake Ontario is lovely as the sun is setting.  We really LOVE Ontario and hope that someday, if we put an RV trip into play, that we will come back and be able to spend more time exploring some of the towns we had to pass due to time constraints on this side trip, like St. Catharines.


The next morning, we meet up with Hans and drive, through pouring rain, back to Trenton where we find our boat damp on the outside but nice and dry inside.  We open her up and air her out, spend some time catching up on paperwork and retire early.

The next morning, we find presents hidden in nooks and crannies and it takes us a moment to determine that the black squirrel who frequents the park next to our boat has grabbed nuts off the trees and hidden them all over the back deck of our boat!!!

We have some work to do before we gear up for the next part of our adventure on the Trent Severn Waterway.  We have been having issues with a fussy thermostat and Jerry spends some time removing the old one and replacing it with a new one, while I work on paperwork.

He finishes and we start her up.  All looks good; the gauges are showing the proper temperature, there are no leaks and Captain Fixit has struck again!  So, off we go, waving  to Hans and Nova as we pull away from our home-away-from-home in Trenton and into the Trent Severn!



It is less than a mile before we hit the first of 6 locks that we plan to do during the first day on the TSW. Hans is there to say a final good bye and we are sad to leave him and Nova but hopefully we will see them again when we get up into Lake Simcoe, where his daughter resides.


The locks are still manually operated on the Trent Severn Waterway but rather than hand cranking them, like on the Rideau, the Parcs Canada attendants walk in circles, pushing a turnstile-type thingy to open the sluices and the lock doors.


We don’t go far, having gotten a late start and we pull into Frankford at Lock 6 about 3 PM.  There is power on this Parcs wall (this always makes our batteries and our captain happier).  After exploring town and doing some provisioning, we cook some fresh mushrooms, onions, garlic and basil into pesto sauce for pasta.  We enjoy a really great dinner but even better is our dining room, which is a picnic table under the GIANT weeping willow next to our boat.  You just can’t beat the scenery from the places we have eaten along the canals!


The best part is dessert!  While in town, we bought some of the Butter Tarts that Canada is famous for.  They are like mini Chess Pies in a shortbread crust and are very rich making them TO DIE FOR!!!


After dinner we spend a couple of hours on the flying bridge, enjoying the colors of the sky as it dumps rain somewhere but not on us.  A line of threatening clouds sweeps over us and the grayness scrubs the sky, making way for a rose and gold sunset.  This line is bringing a cool front and we sleep really well until about 11 when it starts to rain in earnest.  We leap up and close the windows and ports as thunder booms around us.  Turning on the AC to remove the dampness, ensures that we sleep soundly until morning.  It is in the high 50’s this morning, crisp, clear and cool!


After breakfast, we move up 6 more locks, going a whopping 21 miles, and are at Lock 12 just outside Campbellford, ON.  Rotary is everywhere here; designated trails, library and a commemorative bench for Rotary International President Wilf Wilkinson’s visit!  We are sorry that Rotary here meets on Mondays as we can’t stay that long and so will miss the meeting.  It looks like a very active and productive club judging by its presence in town.

There is not a cloud  in the brilliant, blue sky and the temperature is a dry and cool 80 degrees.  This cruise was supposed to be called “Chasing 80!”  I guess we have finally found it.  We are enjoying a bike ride into Campbellford and will maybe have dinner out tonight.

IMG_5920We’ll see what adventures await us when we start a new week tomorrow!

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