2017 Summer Cruise Overview

Trent-Severn / Georgian Bay overview

Just a bit of geography for readers who might not be familiar with the cruising grounds referenced in these posts. Above is a general overview of the Great Lakes. Well, the ones closest to the areas we’ve been traveling these past few months.  Georgian Bay, highlighted in green, connects to Lake Huron to the  west, and is the southern edge of the Canadian Shield. It’s similar to the well-known Thousand Islands area of the St. Lawrence to the east, and is known as The Thirty-Thousand Islands because of all the islands, about 30,000. Who knew??

To the north and west, lies the body of water highlighted in blue known as North Channel that also connects to Lake Huron.  Also lying along the southern part of the Candian Shield, it’s more remote and less developed. Both areas are wonderful cruising grounds with virtually unlimited anchorages. North Channel and Georgian Bay connect through a channel at Little Current. The maroon highlight is the Trent-Severn Waterway, and the violet depicts the route from the terminus of the Erie/Oswego Canal at Oswego to Trenton, Ontario, where the Trent-Severn Waterway begins.

Our route will be up-and-back, retracing our steps. We discussed a loop that would take us from North Channel south across Lake Huron, down the St. Clair River and across Lake St. Clair, past Detroit to Lake Erie, then east across Lake Erie to the Welland Canal then north to Lake Ontario and back to Oswego. Alternatively, the Western Erie Canal from Buffalo east to the Oswego Canal junction would be an option, but very low bridge clearances and high water levels would require more than just laying our mast back to gain adequate clearance. Either route adds over 200 miles more than the retrace return trip. Given our time frame, we’re choosing a slower pace.  We prefer cruising with a very loose itinerary.

Location Map

Individual posts are geo-coded so they correspond in date to the location map. The location map categorizes the posts based primarily on the general area of the cruise, showing the route followed on that cruise. Clicking on a location pin on the map will open the post that corresponds to that location.  The icon on the top of the post or the sidebar will take you to the map or the link above.

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Good grief!

So, over the past holiday week or so I’ve been given grief on at least five occasions about not having updates. I could offer lots of excuses, but there’s an old saw about those… So I’ll just get to it. I’ve been pretty regular with posting photos, and since we’re clear that a picture is worth a thousand words, I figure I’ve done the equivalent of a whole bunch of posts. But I know it’s not the same, and it falls back to the excuse thing. Truth be told, I’m a slacker. But it’s at the same time gratifying to know that someone is actually reading; besides, who wants to write stuff nobody reads?

I’ll catch up those backdate posts and fill in some details of our cruise up the St. John’s River. It was uncharted territory for us, so there’s some fresh material there. Thanks for coming along!

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Holidays in north Florida

Ortega Landings holiday lights
 
 

Ortega Landings holiday lights

Happy Holidays from Jacksonville. JAX has become our December destination at the Marina at Ortega Landings. It’s a secure setting if we need to travel, there’s a Publix within easy walking distance, and home of UF Health, for all those annual checkups. There’s even a vet within walking distance! This year we did Christmas there, and traveled to St. Augustine on the 27th. We’ll spend some time in St. Augustine until after the New Year when we’ll continue our southward migration.

St. Augustine holiday nightscape
 
 

St. Augustine holiday nightscape

St. Augustine is wonderful over the holidays, despite being a bit crowded.  The buildings in town are outlined in lights, the night view from the harbor is beautiful, very festive. LOTS of people!

St. Augustine holds a special importance for us that came about on our first trip south on the ICW back when…  As neophyte cruisers, we were pressing south  intently, and that, coupled with the stress of our first trip and every day presenting unfamiliar circumstances, we really weren’t enjoying the trip very much. We joined an experienced cruising couple for cocktails in St. Augustine that first year, and they quickly made the observation that we were stressed. They made a convincing case for us to stay long enough to enjoy the experience. We took their advice and stayed a week. It was excellent advice from experienced cruisers, and we’ve taken the advice to heart. Rather than pursuing a delivery, we now stop for a few days at various locations along the route. It was good advice, and we pass that advice along to new cruisers we meet in our travels. Not to say we never push to travel, but we’re aware that pushing has its price, and we make the effort to stop and find the ice cream shops. Since that adjustment in cruising  philosophy, St. Augustine has become one of our favorite destinations!

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Family in Savannah

Some discussion months ago resulted in a plan to meet up with family somewhere along our route south. The choice filtered down to Savannah. It’s one of our favorites, it’s a destination that our daughter and family had not visited, and a marina we’d visited before was an option at reasonable cost. Plans were made and a date chosen. Now arriving at a chosen destination on a particular date by cruising boat is always tricky, and the complexity is proportional to the number of miles between the destination and the starting point. As a result, we rarely commit to a specific arrival date.  There’s not much on board a cruising vessel that’s more treacherous than a schedule!

So, the unscheduled approach of hurricane Michael added some uncertainty to our plans, but our approach to planned travel is to get to within a couple of days’ travel of our destination and spend time close by to minimize the potential for traveling in bad weather. As it stood, our reservation was scheduled with a two day buffer, so even with the passage of a hurricane within a couple days of our arrival, our travel worked out without the need for travel in poor conditions.

Coffee Bluff pack
 
 

Coffee Bluff pack

At Grandma & Grandpa's
 
 

At Grandma & Grandpa’s

Hardshells ready for the table
 
 

Hardshells ready for the table

1st dip in the Atlantic - Tybee
 
 

1st dip in the Atlantic – Tybee

We had an enjoyable visit. Coffee Bluff Marina is owned by the City of Savannah, and is a small, friendly place. Very dog-friendly, and our crew enjoyed joining the pack on the pier during our stay. The marina is off the beaten path south of Savannah, but our rental worked well to shuttle between the kids’ lodgings and the marina, since toddler bed times required them to be back at an early hour. We saw lots of sights around Savannah, despite some rainy weather. Our grandkids had a great time at their Air BnB that had a kid-friendly yard. They enjoyed getting feet wet in the surf, a contrast to their experience with the Pacific cold water! And they had a great time exploring the odd house in which their grandparents live! We treated son-in-law David to some Maryland style steamed crabs, enjoyed on the patio of the marina, and he was able to experience a few of the myriad dining experiences Savannah offers. Grandma & grandpa had a great time with the grandkids while mom & dad had a quiet night out at the Pirate House restaurant. We had the luck to see a few dolphins in the river, even if they were a bit further away than we’d have asked for!

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Wow! Ten years!!

Holy cow! How time flies. We started our first trip up the Hudson and the New York Canal system in August of 2008. We’ve been cruising for over ten years! In that time, we’ve logged  35,880 nautical miles (that’s equivalent to 41,290 statute miles).  This trip south on the ICW marks our 9th trip down “the ditch”. Some other factoids…

  •  We cruised the Bahamas 7 times, and plan to travel to the Bahamas after the 1st of the year, our 8th trip.
  • 4 trips on the Hudson River & New York Canal System.
  • 249 Locks transited
  • 2 trips to Florida’s west coast.
  • 3 cruises into Canada
  • 6041 engine hours accumulated
  • 19,720 gallons diesel fuel
  • 30 Main engine oil changes (about 120 gallons)
  • 3,830 Generator hours accumulated
  • 3 refrigerators purchased (We have a bad track record with expensive marine refrigerators!)

No drownings, no shipwrecks, towed once, no crew lost. I’d say our cruising time was a success! It certainly has been an enjoyable ride, and we still love our small ship. There’s simply no other place we’d rather call home!

Thanks for cruising along!

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Southbound ICW

Our 2018 summer was mostly unremarkable, the bulk of our time spent at our “home” base at Stansbury, tending to aging parents, enjoying crabs from Frank’s crab outings, lots of dog swimming, Mexican Train, and enjoyable times with good friends. We planned to depart Sept. 15, much earlier than our typical end of October departure, but delayed our departure date due to hurricane Florence, knowing that the areas we’d be traversing would likely experience damage given the dire forecasts. That indeed turned out to be the case, and there were travel problems. So we ended up slipping lines on Sept. 25. Although there were some problem areas due to Florence, in particular the Socastee swing bridge that was out of commission for several weeks. We were blessed with favorable weather and were able to make several ocean runs and bypass those problem areas.

Oriental- post Florence damage
 
 

Oriental- post Florence damage

Storm damage debris
 
 

Storm damage debris

Of the areas we typically transit, North Carolina was hardest hit, particularly New Bern and Oriental. Our original plans considered a stop in New Bern, but with one marina destroyed and another sustaining significant damage, we put off any thoughts of a visit. We did stop in Oriental; the public dock sustained only minor damage, however most of the structures in town had damage on the first floor. The curbs were stacked with brush and construction debris awaiting disposal. It was quite a mess.

As if Florence wasn’t enough, as we made our way south we watched as Michael developed. Although hurricane warnings weren’t issued for our area, there’s never a clear-cut prediction. Understandably, contingency planning parallels our daily travel plans in those circumstances. As the storm progressed, we decided to stay put at Beaufort, SC. Our stopover began on a mooring ball, but we opted to move to the marina. It would enable us to stow the dinghy and have shore access for the dogs rather than try to dinghy to shore in gale conditions. The latest predictions were for gale storms for our area, so we doubled up on lines, fenders, and taped up the pilothouse doors. Storm ready. We had some 40-50 kt gusts, lots of rain, and the Beaufort River got pretty snotty, but we were secure. No storm-related damage, and the storm passed without any significant local impact. On to Savannah.

Riding out Michael in Beaufort, SC
 
 

Riding out Michael in Beaufort, SC

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Back to our “Home base”

Just an update to make up for some lost time.

Our trip to Canada, Georgian Bay and North Channel was memorable. Cruising the canals is such a laid-back experience. No real weather worries, you cruise when you want, travel short distances without any real concern about where to stay. If a little town looks interesting and there’s space on the canal wall, you stop and tie up for the night. It’s a very relaxing pace, it’s nearly universally pond-calm. Lots to see, and the folks along the waterways are interesting and friendly.

We returned to Maryland to our “home” marina at Stansbury Yacht Basin. Our original plan to visit Great Kills was waylaid as a consequence of hurricane Jose, and instead we stayed at Half Moon Bay at Croton, NY. About 40-some miles up the Hudson, we were reluctant to venture closer to the anticipated path of the storm. All weather-based decisions are a crap shoot, and staying worked out OK, although no clear advantage had we moved to Great Kills. The storm pretty much was a non-event.

With still more crappy weather predicted to follow Jose, we decided to make a run for it. We left Croton by mid morning on the 21st with intentions of traveling to perhaps Barnegat, contingent on conditions. As it worked out, conditions weren’t too bad, so we continued without stopping, transiting most of the lovely Jersey coast after dark. Rather than transit the Cape May canal in the dark at low tide. we made our way around the Cape and headed up the Delaware Bay, passing the canal cutoff just about daybreak. With favorable winds and riding the flood tide up the bay, we made excellent time, getting almost a 2 kt. boost from the tide at times, all the way to the C&D canal. We entered the Canal and picked up a boost there as well, and yet another boost from the ebbing tide when we hit the Chesapeake and the home stretch to Stansbury.

As we left the canal, an engine check revealed a new noise. Uh-oh. Not supposed to hear that. Oh, it’s the alternator. Maybe it’ll hang on for just another 2-3 hrs to get us to the slip. Well, ALMOST! At the Bowley’s #2 marker, had to shut down. Well, I’m not changing out an alternator with 3 miles to go! A call out to TowBoat/US, time for a welcome shower while awaiting his arrival. He towed us the last couple miles of our 36 hour run from the Hudson. The belt squealed its dissatisfaction as the Cummins came to life just long enough to back us into our slip! Frank had dinner going on the grille as we tied up! What a great welcome home! Other than the unceremonious end with failed alternator bearings, the trip went exceptionally well, our quickest trip yet from 40 miles up the Hudson to Middle River in just 36 hours. Our typical transit of that route is 4 days! Secure in our slip on the 22nd September. 260 nm in 36 hours. It was good to be safely home!

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Erie Canal redux

From Oswego, we began our trip back down the Erie Canal on Saturday Sept. 9 with our first stop at Ess Kay Yards in Brewerton where we had spent time in July, so a little over two months later for our return. We arrived early afternoon. We had previously scheduled mail delivery, so we picked up our mail, some parts ordered for us, borrowed the courtesy van and did a circuit to refill both propane tanks, pick up prescriptions, grocery run, Lowe’s to replace mats that went overboard in Penetang, and some takeout pizza. A very busy afternoon! Our Sunday began foggy, but we weren’t in a big hurry to get going. We took on about 300 gallons of fuel and bid farewell to Kim and Ethan, and headed to Sylvan Beach. Finally, warm weather! We enjoyed strolling in tee shirts and shorts in the evening, and moved on the next morning.

Former Masonic Temple Little Falls
 
 

Former Masonic Temple Little Falls

A few overnight stops down the Erie at Little Falls where we enjoyed another warm stroll and walked past some interesting buildings downtown. The architecture from the 1880’s-early 1900’s is very interesting, and some of the buildings still retain some of their original grandeur. The Masonic Temple pictured was built in 1914. and was sold in recent years. It was converted to a residence, and was sold again within the past few months. It appears to be in good repair, but as a heating guy, I can imagine the beast of a boiler that lives in that huge building’s basement! I can also appreciate that heating and maintaining that system involves costs that would leave most prospective buyers slack-jawed when they learn about boiler replacement! Still, an impressive building! The incredible prosperity of the whole Mohawk Valley and surrounding area during the turn of the century boom years of the Canals and industrial expansion is clearly reflected in the architecture of the region. Likewise, the downturn in fortunes in the time since. It’s very sad to see those former monuments to prosperity fall into ruin, yet encouraging to see some of them preserved in their original condition.

Amsterdam Pedestrian bridge
 
 

Amsterdam Pedestrian bridge

Armory Building- Amsterdam
 
 

Armory Building- Amsterdam

Amsterdam, our next stop shares a similar experience as a once-thriving industrial center that now struggles to stay afloat. Once the home of Mohawk Carpet Mills, the mills now sit empty, many demolished, and jobs sent far away. The area has seen some revitalization since our first visit in 2008 with evidence of improved prosperity. The Riverlink Park in Amsterdam features a well-maintained park with floating docks and free laundry! Not expensive at $1/ft., it’s a short walk across the lovely new pedestrian bridge to the opposite side of the river. We planned to dine out at a local small italian restaurant, the Armory Grille, but it was closed Tuesdays. Alternatives involved re-crossing the bridge where we found chinese take-out in a repurposed 80’s mall. Not the tastiest chinese we’ve ever sampled! One the plus side, there was no line!

From Amsterdam we completed our transit of the Erie Canals, arriving in Waterford on Wednesday, Sept. 13 in the last locking. At this writing 9/14, we’re located in Kingston where we arrived around 1545 hrs. in time to raise the mast and put the boat deck back in order. Tomorrow we’ll clean up fenders, deflate and stow the ones we use in the locks, and over the next few days we’ll make our way toward New York City. At this point we plan a layover in Great Kills on Staten Island for a day or two while hurricane Jose decides its path and we can plan ours!

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Back the Trent-Severn

Campfire at Kirkfield Lock
 
 

Campfire at Kirkfield Lock

We left Swift Rapids on Tuesday the 29th of August, for a leisurely pace back through the Trent-Severn Waterway over the period of a week, stopping at some of the places we stopped on the trip west, with the difference that our stopoververs were overnight, moving on the next morning.

Handsome old Peterborough home
 
 

Handsome old Peterborough home

Foggy morning at Lock 7
 
 

Foggy morning at Lock 7

Some of the stops were intentional duplications: Kirkfield Lift lock for a very quiet night with a campfire that was extinguished by a timely rain shower at dusk, Orillia and the Mariposa Market for fresh baked goodies, Bobcaygeon where there was a live band in the park, Peterborough Lock 20 and dinner out, Campbellford for more Empire cheese and Dooher’s Bakery in the morning, and Lock 7, nothing special there, except for killing a bit of time since Lock 3 was closed for repairs. It seems that one of the lock doors started to come apart, and on the Labor Day holiday weekend (yes, Canadians have Labor Day that coincides with the US holiday)! We were kept apprised by the lock tenders as we progressed, and decided to stay at Lock 7 in case the repairs took longer than anticipated. Lock 7 greeted us with pretty dense fog the morning of the 6th. Since we were in no hurry, and the lock schedules are abbreviated after the holiday, we started at 10 AM, when the locks open. As it turned out, Lock 3 was in operation that morning, and we continued with no additional delay. We arrived at Trenton in the afternoon Wednesday the 6th of September, early enough to pump out, catch up on some laundry, wash down the decks, and top off the water tanks. Our plan to depart early Thursday morning to cross Lake Ontario took a detour with winds in the 25kt neighborhood that afternoon and predicted to persist through Thursday. We needed to be in Oswego before 1630 hrs in order to enter Lock 8, that required leaving Trenton before sunrise, but since the swing bridges crossing Murray Canal were also on the 10AM schedule, it wouldn’t be possible to transit Murray Canal in time to put us in Oswego by 1630. Since the wind was blowing like stink, we decided to delay departure from Trenton until Thursday noon, then transit both bridges in the Canal that afternoon, stay overnight in the well-protected canal, then leave at first light to head across the Lake.

Brighton Road Swing bridge
 
 

Brighton Road Swing bridge

That plan worked quite well, the last bridge had a long enough wall to tie to, although it was adjacent to a section that’s collapsing, and we did scrape bottom on some rocks next to the wall, but it was just the stabilizer dragging on some loose rock next to the wall. We simply moved away from the debris. No tide other than a bit of wind effect so no worries there. It was a very quiet night, and there’s a mowed path that parallels the canal for about 3/4 of a mile. Up at dawn, the wind had laid overnight, and true to forecast, the Lake was about 3 ft. waves, going our way, so a fairly gentle ride to Oswego. We arrived in plenty of time to lock through and tied up between Lock 8 & 7 in Oswego, and walked back to the video check in to clear Customs. Back in the US on Friday evening Sept. 8, as planned. Saturday morning will begin our trip back through the Erie Canal.

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Trent-Severn Waterway – eastbound!

Coming down!
 
 

Coming down!

Our first day heading back through the Trent-Severn pretty much duplicated the trip west, our stopover point, Swift Rapids Lock 43. The highlight of that leg of course, is the Big Chute marine railway. We were the last boat loaded, and just fit with our stern hanging over the end of the platform a bit. No worries, the operators are very good, and since the platform actually supports the weight of the boat along the full keel, it’s actually quite stable. There are straps similar to those on a travel lift with the significance that the straps on the marine railway don’t actually carry the weight of the boat, but serve to support and balance it. The whole marine railway experience is quite unique, it’s remarkably smooth, and really isn’t much more involved than a conventional lock when all’s said and done! Another ride on the rails!

Pole in granite
 
 

Pole in granite

Our overnight stay at Swift Rapids was chilly, but the mosquitos have gone into hiding. We were able to walk across the hydro dam and back the rugged service road, a crew had been working during the day to remove one of the turbines from the plant, it was loaded onto a truck and the crane as well as the truck were preparing to move out the road as we walked. The turbine was interesting to see, we were told it had some wear issues and needed to be serviced. They were very careful securing the load for the ride out on the bumpy service road! An interesting observation was the installation of the power line poles that serve the hydro generating plant; a number of them seem to run across large sections of granite, it occurred to me that they were installed in the rock, and upon closer investigation, discovered they are in fact, drilled into the rock! Fascinating!

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Georgian Bay & North Channel bread crumbs….

Bread crumbs, indeed. Our travels on this cruise, in fact, every time the boat moves, are guided by our chartplotting program. For non-boater readers, it can be likened to Google Maps. Our position is shown in real time overlaid on a chart of the area. If it shows waterways, it’s a chart, maps show roads. The chart shows land features, water depths, obstructions, and ATONs, or Aids To Navigation, that are anchored to the bottom and mark bouyed channels, hazards, or speed restrictions. Waterborne road signs, if you will.

Our chartplotter is actually a PC-based computer program, it displays all the data that the various systems on board collect such as depth, position, course over ground, speed, heading, wind speed and direction, air temp, water temp, AIS data for nearby vessels, and many other pieces of information. The program also keeps track of our position continuously, and lays down a bread crumb trail of our movement, or track. Those tracks are data that can be viewed, manipulated, exported to other programs and recalled. It’s a timeline record of exactly where we were at what precise time. Although the location map on the blog shows a location related to each post, it doesn’t show how we got there. The graphic below shows our tracks (in red) for the time we were in Georgian Bay and North Channel, for a good depiction of our travels. The grid on the chart is lat/lon, each line is 20 nm (nautical miles) wide by 30 nm high.

North Channel -Georgian Bay tracks

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