We make the 8:00AM opening of the bascule bridge leaving Lake Charlevoix and five smooth hours later we arrive at Traverse City (38NM). This a great town with a college feel to it. First inhabited by native populations and then French traders, who named it ‘La Grand Traverse’ due to the long crossing they had to make by canoe across the mouth of the bay. Eventually, it became a logging and railroad town, now the economy is primarily based on tourism. The area is the largest producer of tart cherries in the U.S. and has a huge festival in July attracting 500,000 visitors. Front Street is the hot spot with something for everyone; shops, restaurants, bars and a movie theater. A bit further down from the marina is Old Town which has some great gathering places, as well. We do our standard walk, jog, bike about town and even a rideshare to play mini golf. Traverse City is an awesome town which looks like it is only getting better.
Lake Charlevoix (18NM) A short trip to Lake Charlevoix, so fast in fact, that we had to wait for the bascule bridge to open. While we wait several big boats do what I really don’t like to see, pass without any VHF announcement in a skinny channel with a wind and current...very rude and very impolite. We clear the bridge with oncoming traffic and hail the marina for our slip assignment. The wind has now built and is gusting to 12 knots as Larry expertly maneuvers us into the slip. We are also very appreciative of Charlevoix City Marina’s tight docking crew. Charlevoix is named for the French explorer, Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix who explored this region in the 1850’s. The Homestead Act of 1862 brought Civil War veterans and land speculators to Northern Michigan. This act made 160-acre tracts of land available for $1.25 an acre. Eventually, with the augmentation of Round Lake (located before Lake Charlevoix) to connect to Lake Michigan combined with rail operations, this area became one of the busiest ports on the Great Lakes shipping out more than 40 million board feet of lumber. Now the area is a summer retreat for many local Michiganians and tourists alike. We jog and bike all about town and then take a tender ride out to the huge body of water that is Lake Charlevoix. We ride down to the South Arm and look at all the pretty houses and then head back to Round Lake as the afternoon winds pick-up.
We have now transited all of the Great Lakes; Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. So perhaps a couple of jaw-dropping quick facts would be appropriate at this point. These 10,000 year old lakes were formed at the end of the last ice age and as the glaciers melted approximately 14,000 years ago they retreated north and left deep depressions in the ground, which over time then filled with water. The Great Lakes contain 6,000,000,000,000,000 (six quadrillion) gallons of water. Enough to cover the contiguous U.S. in almost 10 feet of water. They supply 20 percent of the world’s fresh water and 84 percent of North America’s. The total surface area is almost 95,000 square miles, bigger than the combined area of the U.K. These huge lakes have tides, however small, measuring less than five centimeters twice a day. Alright, I will stop there…
We have a nice cruise with a little rain and chop as we enter Lake Michigan and dock at Beaver Island (40NM) Municipal Marina and have a pleasant time in this little town. Historically, the town was a fishing village that ran out of fish and fast forward to today, their livelihood comes from tourism. If you are looking for a busy port this is not the place to stop but it does have a nice pub called the ‘Shamrock’ with a great bartender ‘Erica’. The town even has a brewery ‘Whiskey Point Brewing Company LLC’ along with a nice bike trail with lovely scenery. We move on to Petoskey (31NM) named after a prominent merchant and landowner, Chief Ignatius Petosgay. What a sweet, tourist friendly town with a great Bayfront Park. The history of this town is similar to those mentioned recently but by 1874 Petoskey had trains arriving three times a week, bringing thousands of people from cities like Indianapolis, Chicago, Cincinnati and Detroit. Visitors built summer cottages or joined summer resorts. Ernest Hemingway (born in Oak Park, Illinois) began summering in Petoskey in 1900. The trains no longer run but summer tourists still flock here to enjoy the waterfront, restaurants, breweries and gas light district with shops and bars...we do the same. A quick jump across the bay the next day to Harbor Springs (3NM) a very picturesque town with beautiful homes and an amazing harbor. We cruise the town on bikes and foot and enjoy this lovely place.
The winds are strong as we head toward Mackinac Island (38NM) blowing 15 to 20 knots with a 4 foot chop but we make the trip in about 5 hours and pull into the East Dock Marina. The marina here is tiny but sufficient and gives us access to this amazing state park. Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) was first used as a summer fishing spot by the Great Lakes American Indians. They called the island Michilimackinac which meant ‘place of the great turtle’ because of the hump-backed shape of the island. Later the name was shortened to Mackinac. Much like Sault Ste. Marie the island was then further established by European settlers creating missions followed by forts, war (site of the first battle of the War of 1812), fur trading, fishing and then tourism. The island was declared a U.S. national park from 1875 to 1895 (the second national park created after Yellowstone). In 1895 the park was then turned over to the State of Michigan, becoming Mackinac Island State Park, the first state park in Michigan. The majority of the buildings and homes on the island date to the mid 1800’s and are kept in near perfect condition with meticulously manicured gardens and flowers everywhere. Cars are not allowed on the island as when they first arrived in 1898 they startled the carriage horses and were banned by the Village Council. So without cars you then have horses doing all the work...and bicycles...thousands of bicycles. The main streets team with bike riders of all shapes and sizes, ages and capabilities. The bikes, combined with horse carriages and drayage, results in an overwhelming effect on the senses...especially your sense of smell! During our first foray into the town we have a beer at the renowned ‘Pink Pony’ bar and on our return to the boat Larry meets the owner of a bike shop (Jim Fisher of Mackinac Wheels) and they arrange to do a ride the next day. On his return Larry is ecstatic to have finally gotten out on the trails for a 13 mile ride. I jog around the island (8 miles), just me and hundreds of bike riders. Later we toured Fort Mackinac and then had a beer on the famous porch of the Grand Hotel. The following day we go for a 16 mile bike ride around and up and over the island to visit Fort Holmes, the airport, and the art museum. Dinner at the Grand Hotel that night was a fabulous end to this great day.
Moving through the North Channel, which technically started at the Killarney lighthouse (photographed in the last post) toward Gore Bay we definitely notice the difference in landscape. There is a great deal of exposed quartz in some areas and the islands are much larger with fewer cottages. We depart LIttle Current without issue, as we have a nice end-tie and Larry is a pro now at getting off the dock sideways, even with a current pinning us in. We stop at a marina in Gore Bay (26NM) for the night and poke around the town. We find ‘Split Rail’ Brewery and have a nice frosty lager by the water and then a pizza dinner down the street that has a local guy playing the guitar. Cute town with a nice harbor. We move on toward The Benjamin Islands the next day. There are four islands that make up this group and most of them offer pretty scenery with pink granite, green pines and gorgeous sunsets. We pick a little pocket bay at Croker Island (14NM) and are the second to anchor in this area. Throughout the day more and more boats show up as it is the weekend and soon the little bay is packed. One sailing vessel arrives late in the day and basically anchors over our chain...we will use an anchor ball in the future. A pretty night with winds less than predicted is always nice. Up early the next morning we make a long run (8.5 hours) up the North Channel to an anchorage at St. Joseph Island in Moffat Bay (67NM). A perfect night at anchor without wind or anchor alarms. A quick hop around the corner to Hilton Beach (4NM) the following day to tie up in a marina as the winds are forecasted to pick up tonight. We wash down the boat which has been covered with bugs for weeks and when we are almost done I proceed to crush my fingers in the engine room door. A bit of a nervous moment but I quickly figured it was a flesh wound and with ice, ibuprofen and many band-aid and glove changes it will heal. We move up St. Joseph Channel to St. Mary’s River and reenter the US at Gore Kemp Marina in Sault Ste. Marie, MI (27NM) which means ‘the Rapids of St. Mary’s’ in French. Sault Ste. Marie is a city on the northeastern end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula on the Canada - U.S. border and separated from its twin city of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, by the St. Mary’s River. The two cities are connected by the International Bridge. The area was first inhabited by Native American Ojibwe or Chippewa people who gathered in this area to fish for ‘white fish’ which were found in the rapids. Later the French Jesuits settled the city in 1668 making ‘The Soo’ the third oldest continuously inhabited city in the U.S. west of the Appalachian Mountains (the first is St. Augustine, FL followed by Jamestown, VA). Fur trapping and trading was the base of the economy then later a tannery, Fort Brady and shipping. The St. Mary's River was the only water connection between Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. However, there was a section of the river known as the St. Mary's Rapids where the water falls about 21' from the level of Lake Superior to the level of the lower lakes. This natural barrier made it necessary for the construction of the Sault Locks, a project known as the St. Mary's Falls Canal. The first lock was built in 1797, on the Canadian side, but was destroyed in the War of 1812. The United States built its first lock in 1855. Today there are 4 locks in use, continuously being visited by ships and tourists. Tourism is now the main source of income in ‘The Soo’. So we spread some tourist dollars at the local watering holes and meet some fabulous local people. This is a great town and we hate to leave but after provisioning and getting the Doherty’s back on board we head to the locks of Lake Superior. We can’t come this far to not ‘dip our toe’ (as Larry puts it) into all of the Great Lakes. We ‘up lock’ on the Canadian side where pleasure vessels can transit (the U.S. side is for commercial traffic). It is a slow, smooth fill and we tour Lake Superior for an hour then return to ‘down lock’ and head to an anchorage at Whiskey Bay, St. Joseph Island (52NM).
We depart Parry Sound on a clear morning and continue to move north up Georgian Bay a short distance to Long Bay right above Narrows Island (18NM). The bay is rather narrow itself but the cottage we are anchored in front of and near to, is not occupied and after an hour with no one telling us to move we decide to stay. It is a sunny afternoon and we take the tender out for a drive. We explore some of the granite outcroppings and are surprised by a water snake bringing a large fish he caught up on to shore. We watch as the snake struggles to get the fish into position to devour it when Larry makes mention of a stealthy black mink running up right behind us (literally less than a foot away) and toward the snake. The snake is gone in a flash, the mink dashes into the brush and the fish swims away, happy not be eaten for dinner. Too bad I didn’t have my camera-phone to document this moment of nature that took place in less than 60 seconds. Back on board the boat that evening the water in the little bay is like glass and we are entertained by a water skier slaloming in and out of the skinny bay right in front of the boat. The next day is looking a little overcast and by the time we pull anchor it is getting a bit windy. As we head toward Shawanaga Inlet the rain starts up and then the wind is soon to follow. We duck into a cove and lay the anchor next to Maskinonge Island (10NM). A nice anchorage that is protected from the wind. We dry off and spend the night there. An uneventful evening with exception of another ‘friendly local’ buzzing our boat in his skiff at 2:15AM yelling “Have a good sleep!”. With the sun shining the next day we prepare ourselves for the narrow exit by Pointe au Baril and out to Lake Huron. Larry waxes the boat and I watch the helm while we make the four hour cruise. We enter Beaverstone Bay and place a securite call as we start north up the Collins Inlet. This inlet is another very narrow and very shallow cut with a major blind turn. After you make the turn you can breath again and enjoy the gorgeous views. Smooth granite rocks plunge into a channel that is lined with dark green pines and birch trees. It smells like the forest. We think how lucky we are to be able to do this passage, if it was not for this years high water (3 extra feet) we would not have had the clearance. We anchor in Mill Lake off Collins Inlet (50NM) and stay for two nights as there is foul weather predicted for the next day. Well, I am thankful we stayed. The wind was up most of the day and at 3:00PM a squall came through with winds up to 40 knots. You could feel our 90,000 pound boat heal over in the wind and strain against the chain. By the time I gathered our foul weather gear to prep for the worst the winds passed and the water was flat. I am so relieved that our anchor held...that was a little scary. The following day is gorgeous and we continue up Collins Inlet through a few narrow passages to Killarney (12NM). A very busy port/channel town with marinas on both sides and boats criss-crossing the channel at all angles. We figure out we are across the channel from the main marina on the St. George Island side and squeeze into our spot. Sportsman’s Inn Marina is huge and owns most of the land and resorts in this town. They have two full marinas and a huge lodge with bars, restaurants, a swimming pool and a new $18 million event center lodge. That evening we make friends with Willy who runs a little oyster/seafood shack in front of the marina and it turns out he is involved with a company that makes Tequila...what are the chances!!! Nice guy and he makes great jambalaya with fresh shrimp. We continue our tour of this little town and finish up our culinary ‘musts’ with a stop at Herbert Fisheries for some of their famous fish and chips. I could leave the chips but the fish was amazing. Barely battered and cooked quickly and lightly. Definitely the best I have ever had. We enter the North Channel toward Frazer Bay the next day (38NM). It is a very pretty and narrow bay with few anchorages. We duck into a couple that are either too deep or already filled and then finally choose one we think will work. We put the tender in the water and explore the end of the bay where you park and walk up a little path to Topaz Lake. Very pretty...just too many people. We tour around a bit more and when the wind kicks up we run back to the boat and quickly stow the tender. We end up pulling the anchor and backtracking out of Frazer Bay to a shallow spot across from the mouth. Good idea, as it was nice and calm all night. A quick transit the next day in gorgeous weather brings us through a swing bridge to Little Current (11NM). We do a bit of provisioning and check out the town which is small and quaint and enjoy the comforts of a ‘marina’ night as we have a few more anchor nights ahead.
I am so happy to be back on the Independence. Larry was so sweet to pick me up at the Toronto airport and sit in a total of four hours worth of traffic. Midland Bay is beautiful and hot! They are experiencing a heat wave and it is easily 30 degrees warmer here than when I left San Francisco, spiking today in Midland at 87 F. We spend the next day at Bay Port Marina provisioning and doing odd jobs to get ready for a few days at anchor in Georgian Bay ‘land of 30,000 islands’ (Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada). Larry is fortunate to get some time with Ken McDonald the harbor master and former owner of the marina. Ken is a great wealth of local knowledge and that is very important in these parts, as well as having detailed electronic navigational charts and paper charts. The next day we depart from Midland Bay and get our first taste of some of these super-narrow channels/cuts that head up to the pretty island-filled pockets. The channel is maybe twenty-five feet wide and maybe that deep. We are about to enter this cut after waiting patiently for an opposing sailboat to clear. As we enter, we are flat-out shocked to see a group of five boats quickly rounding the sharp elbow of the cut in the opposite direction. We are certain they will back down on their speed as we have already entered the one-way channel but no, they just barrel right on toward us making us back out of the channel. Wow, not the best boating etiquette or safety performed by these ‘locals’ but a true testimony to Larry’s incredible boat handling skills. After collecting ourselves we proceed on toward a bay that we have been told is great for anchoring. We arrive at Browns Bay (14NM) and anchor more than 200 yards from shore. As we anchor we hear a child scream “Go away!”. We don’t. The anchorage is lovely and we are not surprised when we are joined by another boat. They are ready to put down their anchor when a woman from a cottage on shore screams “No!” and her husband races out in their aluminum skiff to chase the boat out of the cove. He comes to our boat and tells us that we can’t anchor here that it is a navigable channel. Well, we know this is not true from our charts and stand our ‘ground’ and have a lovely night in the gorgeous little cove. The next day we navigate a few more cuts, this time without incident. We anchor near the top of 12 Mile Bay (21NM) and are greeted, this time, by a friendly ‘cottager’ on his seadoo welcoming us to the area. How nice after the previous night! Our transit to the top of Spider Bay is a shorter day in mostly deeper water with a few skinny spots and some chart watching (16NM). After anchoring we hop into the tender for a dinner cruise to Henry’s. A must if you are in the vicinity as it said to have great fish - and it does. The real skinny stuff comes into play the next day as we head toward Parry Sound. Larry squeaks us through several cuts that are no more than 22 feet wide and 13 feet deep as they twist and turn through glacier carved granite. We play it safe and announce ‘securite’ calls on the VHF radio so that opposing boat traffic will know we are in these channels. We are very happy when we make it to the swing bridge at Parry Sound (13NM). We dock at the Big Sound Marina and walk into town. The history here at Parry Sound is all about logging and the future is all about tourism. The marinas are full, cruise boats are packed and the Georgian Bay Airways seaplane charter and tour company is doing a brisk business as their planes lift off all afternoon. We walk over to the new Trestle Brewery and enjoy some cold ones and then have a final, final at the Wellington, which is worth a visit just to take a peek at their old photos - a great glimpse into old Parry Sound’s past.
Larry and the crew left Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, MI and headed North up Lake St. Clair to enter the St. Clair River. The west side of the river is Michigan and the east side is Ontario, Canada. He fought a current of 4 knots the entire way to Port Huron, MI (41NM). The next day Independence entered Lake Huron and docked at Goderich, Ontario Canada (49NM). From Goderich to Elgin Harbor was 51NM and from Elgin Harbor to Tobermory was 52NM in 3 to 4 foot seas with a 7 knot wind. Luckily Larry had fixed a glitch with the stabilizers the prior day and they performed perfectly for this rough transit. The following day brought them to Lion’s Head (33NM) where they spent an extra day due to wind but that allowed Larry to get in a 22 mile mountain bike ride. After transiting from Lion’s Head to Beckwith Island (48NM) they anchored for the evening. Finally, arriving at Midland Bay (18NM), outside Toronto (2 hours plus drive in traffic - both ways for poor Larry). As ships pass in the night, the Doherty’s left the boat to check on their home in Virginia and I returned to the boat. I missed 292 nautical miles and am sorry not to be more descriptive in this post...but what can I do....make up for it in the next post!
It was a nice cruise on Lake Erie from Cleveland to Sandusky, OH (46 NM). The Yacht club was a pleasant place to stay for a couple days and allowed us to get a few chores done and bike around town. The best part of Sandusky was getting a visit from my Sister JIll and her hubby, Bill. So fun to bar-hop about town and have them aboard for the night. We were actually able to take Jill on a cruise to Grosse Ile (45 NM) while Bill drove to meet us. We cruised by the pretty Put-In-Bay and regretted the bad weather day that kept us from spending time there. The Ford Yacht Club at Grosse Ile (French for ‘Large Island’) was dealing with very high water due to the previous days wind but a nice place to spend an evening. We say goodbye to my family and push on the next day to the Grosse Pointe, MI (29 NM). A nice uneventful cruise up the Detroit River in 2 to 4 knot currents as we pass by the Detroit waterfront and into Lake St. Clair. We now understand that if fate delivers us a lovely cruise day, we are typically met with some bizarre issues or challenges in our final minutes of approach to our slip (or well). On this occasion, right as we are preparing to pull into the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club (in a shallow channel) we are buzzed by a coast guard helicopter three times and then approached by the ‘Michigan Conservation Officers’. Three officers in a 14-boat aluminum skiff in bullet proof vests and side arms. After retreating to deeper water to deal with our new friends (who are really game wardens certainly not Coast Guard as their job is to enforce environmental laws and not boat registration) we are released and resume our approach to the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. The club is beautiful and the town is filled with gorgeous, stately, old brick homes. Larry and I cruise (in our rental car) over to St. Clair Shores and visit a few of the local boat-up bars. Our favorite was Mike’s on The Water a multi-level bar and restaurant right on Lake St. Clair. It’s a shame I have to fly back home tomorrow, as I would have loved to spend a little more time in this charming area. I will be off the boat for eight days. I am sorry to miss any part of our trip but duty calls. I only hope the Captain takes good notes and photos for his next web post on the Independence Chronicles.
After three days transit (23NM to Dunkirk, 50NM to Erie and 67NM to Mentor) we land in Cleveland, OH (20NM). This is a great city and our three nights here just scratch the surface. We are docked at the North Coast Harbor Marina right in front of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Hall is an amazing collection of historical memorabilia, vidoes, educational information and a garage band performance space which any ticket holder can use…guitars, drums, amps all set-up and ready to go. The Hall’s building was designed by architect I.M. Pei in 1988, who also designed the Louvre pyramid. We were sad to hear he just passed away on May 17th, 2019. Pei was 102! A walking tour of the city takes us along the preparations for the Major League Baseball All Star Game, which is next week. The downtown is buzzing with activity and road closures but we find our way to the architectural gems, the Warehouse District, the sweet bars and the friendly people of this city. The following day is the fourth of July and when the rain breaks we jump in the tender and head to The Flats. A collection of brew pubs, bars and restaurants where we are obligated to have a few beers and then do a slow cruise along the back waters of the Cuyahoga River. We return to the safety of the Independence, as all sane boaters know how crazy this holiday can be. We barbeque and watch the fireworks and are thankful for this great country we live in.
After a beautiful crossing on Lake Ontario we arrive at St. Catharines, ON Canada (26NM). We now kibitz amongst ourselves about the Welland Canal. It is absolutely ridiculous how little information is available. We have paid our $200 transit fee and run through every on-line site for additional information on how to proceed through this series of locks which lift you from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. These locks are a bit more intimidating as they convey freighters. The commercial traffic has priority and so you never know when you will be able to enter a lock. There are eight locks and generally all are 40 foot up-locks. A little area familiarization is called for so we check out Lock 1 after dinner and see a few sailboats passing through but still have so many questions. We put the questions on hold for an afternoon and rent a car to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and the beautiful little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Their flower budget must be astronomical as I have never seen such a manicured town in my life. After a nice lunch we are back to solving the Welland Canal Conundrum and we drop by the Lock 3 Museum and Visitors Center. We are directed at this time to the St. Lawrence Seaway Administrative Building which of course will not allow you in the building with out an appointment. Larry finally kicks it old school by using the boats VHF radio to hail Lock one and ask them for a phone number to get further information. This gets us the info we need, however it may not be info we want. We are told we have to enter the Welland Canal and tie up to the port wall where there is a phone booth…YES…I just wrote the words ‘phone booth’, You use this phone to contact the lock masters which will let you know what time you can expect your opening. We depart bright and early the next morning and after making the call we get an opening in 20 minutes (could have been hours!). We hop to it and set our fenders and lines, don our life vests and gloves. Lock one does not present huge issues but is a bit bouncy at times. We are just happy to be on our way. It is not a fast trip by any means but considering we were thinking this might take hours if not days, we are thrilled to be allowed into each of the eight locks with out much delay. The summer interns are delightful and the lock masters are very efficient. You must consider the immense size of these locks that fill with 20 million gallons of water with in 20 minutes. They are meant for huge cargo vessels and we are the little boat in a very large bath tub. We really have to prove ourselves in the ‘stair-case’ locks. Locks 5, 6 and 7 that lead one into another. No break, grab your lines that are thrown down 40 plus feet and hang on for the ride. Lock 7 is the craziest, as it fools us with a slow fill and then turns into a tempests boil, driving us from wall and almost wrenching the lines from our hands. The adrenaline subsides as we get a rest before the last lock and before you know it (ok…eight hours later) we are done with the locks and at the mouth of Lake Erie (26NM). It has been another epic day. I can’t aptly describe how such a slow motion journey can turn into such a thrill ride at a moments notice but I am just happy to be writing about it on the flip side, healthy, everything in one piece with a cold beer in my hand. Please check out Larry’s video of Lock 2 and 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kLCofipudk&feature=youtu.be
Ok…I was thinking that the New York Harbor was busy. Well let me make note that the Toronto harbor is definitely a runner-up for winning the award for busiest harbor. We pull into the harbor after a nice cruise on Lake Ontario (56NM) to find tall ship cruises, water taxi’s, ferry’s, and small pleasure crafts all out for a summers’ jaunt, along with planes landing at the local airport…talk about sensory overload. We are thankful to dock at a waterfront marina without incident (right in front of a local brewery!) and head out to explore this amazing city. Larry and I tour the CN Tower on this gorgeous day, so high above the city it is breath taking. We even spot our next place to have a cold one…at the Roundhouse historic railroad outdoor museum. The Canadian Pacific Railway originally built these stations in 1897 to clean, inspect and repair steam rail cars and engines, then turn them back to rotation for their next run. Now it is an outdoor museum, restaurant and brewery. Toronto is one of the most diverse cities I have experienced. To hear 10 different languages as you transit from one spot to another is nothing…they are truly multicultural. The Pride celebration was in full swing as we walked around town and culminated with a multitude of choral performances held right at the waterfront. What an amazing day. The following day we make it past the waterfront and Roundhouse Park to the Distillery Historic District, back tracking through Old Town and the Financial District to the trendy North York and back to the waterfront. A most successful, but too brief visit, we head toward our next adventure…The Welland Canal.
We depart Thousand Islands, Clayton, NY on a the first day of summer, met by a mix of cloud and sun. Larry takes us on a horseshoe-shaped cruise past the many beautiful islands, lighthouses, bridges, the old Boldt Castle and through skinny channels leading to the Canadian side of the Thousand Islands. We are able to register via mobile phone with Canadian immigration (thank you Owen) and get a virtual stamp in our pass ports. Our first port of call in Canada is Kingston, Ontario (38NM). We are unable to stay at the municipal marina as they are also dealing with high water issues so we anchor in a gorgeous little bay and get the tender in the water to see Kingston. What a vibrant city filled with university students and plenty of others enjoying this gorgeous first day of summer. The next day we make a smooth trip on Lake Ontario to Cobourg (56NM). Great weather and a pretty place to stop for the evening. Cobourg was founded in 1817 and was a successful port town which expanded to build an ill-fated railroad. As one historical placard read, ‘…the 1852-1898 Cobourg and Peterborough Railway like many others of this period suffered from excessive optimism, land speculation and faulty engineering…’ and contributed to the financial hardships of Cobourg during the late 1800’s. Climbing out of this financial hole by way of industry during the early 1900’s, Cobourg was especially known for building electric railway cars for Toronto and Montreal. We depart Cobourg for Toronto in the morning and are excited to spend some time in the big city.
The crew of the Independence departs Oswego, NY on Lake Ontario bound for Thousand Islands, Clayton, NY. We are so fortunate to have this Great Lake actually acting like a lake. Just a couple of days prior to our crossing the waves were reported to be nine to thirteen feet. We cross the lake dodging large logs and debris but other than that it is as smooth as silk. At the three hour mark we reach the St. Lawrence Seaway at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, where the Great Lakes waters commence their 1,000-mile journey to the Atlantic Ocean. The first 60 miles of this waterway is Thousand Islands (actually a collection of 1,864 islands). Half of the islands are on the American side and half on the Canadian side. We pull into the marina at Clayton Harbor (54NM) and our good friends Sharron and Rob Grant from Jupiter, FL and Clayton, NY come down to the boat to welcome us. We spend the next couple of days visiting with them and enjoying this sweet town and their beautiful home here along the banks of the French Creek Bay. It all ends too soon as there are thousands of islands to visit and so after three nights we shove-off in hopes of seeing a few more.
We spend an additional day at the Oswego Marina to detail the boat, as we have not cleaned her thoroughly since Norfolk, VA. The weather is fantastic so once we are done we walk around Oswego. This is a charming city that has seen a tough winter and its citizens are ready for summer. The high water is still a problem but appears to be slowly receding and life is returning to normal. We enjoy the sites of Oswego and tomorrows weather is expected to be similar so crossing Lake Ontario to Clayton, NY should hopefully be uneventful…
With the rain pelting down in Brewerton and the gray skies above us, it was a little dark in the cabin of the Independence. So close to the finish line of the Erie Canal (just one lock away) and the start of the Oswego Canal - only to be told we may have to wait one, two maybe three days to continue. You can only imagine the mood. But, good news prevailed via a Notice to Mariners web alert provided by the fabulous New York Canal System. Larry was notified via e-mail push that the high-water emergency repairs at Phoenix dam had been completed and the Oswego locks had reopened. Away we go bright and early in the drizzly rain the following morning. Nothing can keep us from accomplishing this next goal in our Loop. We complete the last lock…lock 23…of the Erie Canal and eagerly ply the waters of the Oswego Canal through its 8 locks. All down-water locks, smooth as silk and the lock masters are as nice as can be. The Oswego River is powerful and its waters crash over spillways with epic force. As we exit our last lock and the last lock on the Oswego Canal…lock 8…we can see the river banks are still swollen as sand bags line side walks and the high water is evident. We are so thankful to the New York Canal System for providing this once in a lifetime experience. It is a slice of American history and an engineering marvel that most Americans may never see. But, if you get the chance go for it…you will not be disappointed.
From St. Johnsville, NY we transit locks 16, 17, 18 and 19 on a warm, gorgeous day. We have all been wondering what lock 17 will be like with it’s 40 foot rise. It turns out to be no big deal as the lock-master gives us a nice ‘slow fill’ and away we go. Larry was very clever and used his new GoPro to do a fast forward video…please click on the following link to view Erie Canal Lock 17 Time Lapse Video
I am happy we took the time for a quick stop at Little Falls to experience this cute town. We walk around and do some provisioning and return to the boat all in an hour and half. Back on the canal we continue through two more locks and tie-up for the evening at a marina in Utica, NY (25NM). This busy place is either in the process of growing or shrinking, as it definitely feels like it is in flux. After grabbing a beer we head back to the boat to have dinner with new friends, Rev and Sam, at the Aqua Vino Marina Restaurant. Rev and Sam are doing the Great Loop on their Carver boat dubbed ‘Here’s to Us’. We have a great meal with them and look forward to seeing them in the future. The next morning brings quite a bit of rain so we let that slide by and then head out toward lock 20 followed by our first ‘down-water’ locks…lock 21 and 22. The down water lock is just as you would think, instead of the water rising while you are in the lock it falls. This to me, is a nicer and calmer experience for reasons I am not sure. The end of this chilly wet day brings us to Sylvan Beach, NY ((23NM). This little town sits along side Lake Oneida and has a sweet 1950’s feel to it. There is a little amusement park with a tiny roller-coaster and crazy, spinney looking rides. The beach is very pretty and we just wish we were here during nicer weather. The rain continues the next day and the winds are heavy so we end up spending two nights at Sylvan Beach. Today we crossed Oneida Lake and are now at Winter Harbor in Brewerton, NY (19NM). The bad news is that we can’t continue on from here as the Oswego Canal is closed due to an emergency at the Phoenix Dam. This has caused the closure of locks 0-1 and 0-2. So we are stuck here for now…hoping it will only be two or three days…hopefully…