Hi Y’All,

The trip to Charleston for the Admiral’s family reunion was uneventful, although clearing customs and catching our next flight in an hour and fifteen minutes at JFK was kinda tight.  Thank goodness for Nexus cards.  Told a Customs officer about our tight connection, and he walked us to the front of the line that snaked twice around the room, opened the barrier with a “have a nice day, folks”, and we were on our way.  Our niece, Emily, a Charleston resident, picked us up at the airport, and the three of us bar-hopped through the barrier islands to Wild Dunes Marina, where we met the rest of the gang (8) for lunch while we waited for our beach house to be cleaned and readied for our week of fun in the sun.  During the week, the gang swelled to 20, but no one went hungry or thirsty (we know the drill, been doing this for 28 years or so).  3 books, and lots of beach time for me is typical of these vacations, where we all parallel play, meeting on the porch for cocktails and chatter before dinner every evening.  Suzanne is a great cook and organizer, and her sisters Sharon and Sheila are no slouches in this department either-Betty Ford and Weight Watchers cross my mind often after our annual Julyfest.  The high point for me (and the Admiral) was having our Alison’s beau, Ben ask me if he could marry her.  Awesome-another kid to worry about (just kidding-sorta).  Problem was we had to keep our mouths shut, as he hadn’t asked her yet.  Back at the Girl, we found a boat card tucked into our door from “My Dreams”, a 42’ Krogen moored in the marina.  Unfortunately, between cleaning Alizann, farmers marketing, butcher shopping, and entertaining our neighbors, Guy and Lise-all in 25 hours, we couldn’t hook up with Ted and Sue who had spent the day touristing in Quebec City.  Hope to catch them along the way.  Had to catch the tide at 0400, so spent the night in the outer commercial harbor as the lock into the marina didn’t open until 0700.  The pilot boats going in and out at flank speed didn’t do wonders for a peaceful night, but we were wide awake at 0’Dark-thirty so left early.  Quebec City from the river at night was a sight, as many of the old buildings are illuminated, standing out beautifully against the moonless sky.  Eight hours later, when we arrived at Cap A L’Aigle, our stop on the way to the Saguenay, it was blowing around 17-20 knots, and we were happy to be there, as the seas were building (steep, close lake waves-not long ocean waves).  Not a lot to share about this stop, just an overnight.  Severe wind warnings were in effect for the following day, so we thought we might get stuck.  After checking the weather charts, our prediction was no wind until afternoon.  At 0500, the winds were light and variable, so off we went.  By 0700, winds were sustained at 24, with gusts in the 30’s.  Three hours later, we were happy to be at Tadoussac, the opening to the Saguenay.  So sorry, the docks are almost full, and your boat will overload them in this heavy wind-#@!&!!.  No way to anchor here in this wind and with water this deep.  Up the way to Anse St. Jean.  This time, the Admiral calls them on the phone-no problem, we’ll keep a space for you-whew!  The next few hours, we’re beating up the river in 28 knot winds which are howling down the fjord.  We’re in whale country, but there is no way to see ‘em, as the tops are blowing off 3 foot waves.  Turn the corner into the bay, and the waves subside somewhat, but the wind is still fierce.  MDO talks to the marinadude, he takes one look at us with the binocs, and tells us no way we’re coming in there in this wind-strike two.  Up at the head of the bay, there’s little wave action, and the wind is down to 15.  The bottom shoals up quickly from over 150’ to 5, so there’s little room to drop an anchor.  If the wind changes, the Girl will be laying on her side on the bottom when the tide goes out.  Looks like the wind will stay steady for the night, so we shoot the hook down for a good grab on a silty bottom.  Our dinghy ride over to the marina doesn’t reveal a pretty picture.  All the boats (and docks), are rockinanrollin’, creakinanbangin’-looks like a real puker at the marina tonight.  In spite of this, the place is pretty proud of their docks-they want $10 Canadian francs to tie up the tender and go in to town to spend money on dinner and trinkets and trash.  No can do, bucko-it isn’t the dough, it’s the principle.  Back to our calm, but shallow anchorage for some red meat off the grill.  That’s what I’m talkin’ about!  Shallow water was a non-event, wind stayed steady.  Early A.M., and they’re pouring out of the marina like rats from a sinking ship.  Late breakfast, and we’re off to Baie Eternite (the prettiest anchorage in the Saguenay).  Cruising guides say that there are 8-10 mooring balls in the bay, as it’s too deep to anchor,200+ ft.  As we round the corner, cool, only four boats on the moorings.  Not cool, there are only 4 moorings to be seen.  We’ll do a drive-by and see if anyone’s leaving.  We approach the first; the Admiral shoots across a greeting in French, and gets the reply “we don’t speak French”.  Okay….So this American couple from Atlanta, doing the Down East route and is leaving on the tide in 2 hours.  We just hung and waited after I launched the dinghy and went in to shore to pay for the mooring.  Samuel, the ranger and I had a long conversation, made longer by the fact that he spoke very little English, and I very little French.  When he discovered that the Admiral is a marine biologist, he ran back to his boat to get a flag for our boat indicating the we were “Ambassadors of the Saguenay”, as well as phone numbers to call and report any whales in trouble, or humans not following the guidelines.  When I returned to our little ship, the Admiral was happy, happy, and happy.  Lunch, then on the ball by 1300, and we were off to hike to a statue of the Virgin, some 500 metres above the bay, and erected in the late 1800’s-good story, I think Suz will fill in the details.  When we returned a few hours later, the Girl was riding peacefully, as the wind had died.  Quick cocktail cruise before dinner took us past “Sunshine Express”, owned and crewed by Robert and Michelle, a couple from Quebec City.  After yakkin’ for a few minutes, they invited us aboard, and regaled us with tales from their 30 years of cruising from the St. Lawrence to the Bahamas.  They shared some favorite spots with us, and were just a delight to be with.  Finding our way home on this moonless night was a challenge for me, but MDO had us dialed in.  Just when I started to doubt her, the Girl loomed up out of the darkness about 20 feet ahead of us (no lights, ‘cause we were just going on a short cruise before dinner).  Dinner is overrated, bed is good.  After Robert telling us that we had seen the best of Saguenay, we decide to cruise back to Tadoussac to spend the night, and, hopefully, see some whales.  We’re beginning to feel jinxed, as we haven’t seen any yet.  From all reports, we thought this would be like our trip to Antarctica, where you saw a whale every time you turned your head.  On our way down the fjord, Suz spotted a pod of Belugas from over a mile away.  We crept over, and watched as about 20 or so cruised up the bank, moving upstream.  They are a stunning, pearly white, and just take their time ambling up the shore, cruising inches below the surface, and breaching (sorta) every few seconds.  Back at Tadoussac, we are refused a dock space again (strike three).  It’s late in the afternoon, and there are high wind warnings again, but we’ll cross the St. Lawrence and make our way 30 miles or so to Anse L’Orignal, a fairly sheltered anchorage.  Two hours into the trip, the wind comes up as promised, but its 20 knots on our stern.  We round into Anse L’Orignal (Moose Bay) after sunset, and anchor in 20 knot winds just before dark.  There are 2 sailboats in there as well, and we’re all rockin’ and rollin’.  Winds are now gusting to 32, and the wind generators are howling, but it’s a pretty big bay, and we have plenty of chain out, so we’re sleepin’ tight.  Get up at first light, and one of the sailboats is gone, the other pulling anchor.  We’ll be on our way after breakfast for the short run into Rimouski,QC.

Bon Jour mon amis,

I’ve been bad, bad, bad.  Where do I start?  The transit of the Richelieu Rapids was a non-event.  It was a narrow channel, but no commercial stuff coming the other way.  We had a big guy a couple of miles behind us, but after some hasty calculations, and not some minor debate, we decided that he wouldn’t catch us until we were out the other side.  Immediately after exiting the rapids, PortNeuf was hiding behind an old freighter breakwall, augmented with a newer stone one.  We threaded our way in the “S shaped” entry, and found ourselves in a square, well-protected little marina.  There was only one dock big enough to hold us, so in we went.  We started out on a fairly long dock, where they also sold gas, but by the time that the harbormaster quit saying “pull forward, pull forward” (in French), we were wedged between the dock and a 20 foot finger with about 3’ to spare on either side, bow in (more on that later).  So, I pay Annabelle, the high school aged marina gal for the nights’ stay, and happen to mention that if she looks like her Mom (who I met earlier, and doesn’t parlez vous anglais), when she grows up, she will be very pretty.  The restaurant here is a good one, and the only one for quite a few miles, so making an earlier reservation was helpful.  The deck dining area is right above the yacht club’s patio, and I hear 2 women below my table chatting it up about how that American told Annabelle that her “Mommy was pretty”. I lean over the rail, and it’s Mom talking to one of her friends.  She blushes ever so slightly, and then asks me if I’d like to take a look at her bateau.  Given that the Admiral is in the washroom, I politely decline, as I value my life.  The next day at the time of our scheduled departure, the wind is blowing 24 knots, with gusts to 30 or so, with high wind warnings until midnight.  There isn’t much of a village, and the Catholic Church is in disrepair and locked.  They do have a bar, however, so after our 5 mile power walk, a few brews are in order.  Back to the boat, and dinner there, as the restaurant is pretty proud of their food (as evidenced by the prices).  After dinner, the wind calms down, and I think that we should turn the boat around to get ready for our morning exit.  Had a little redpop with dinner, so we figure we’ll just turn and leave in the A.M., as the winds are predicted to be light and variable.  Wake up to the 17 knot light breeze (we’ll talk about the veracity of Canadian weather forecasts later), and curse ourselves for not taking “the bird in the hand” last night.  Turning the boat in a 64 foot space (we’re 53 overall) becomes a production, as everyone around feels obliged to help, and offer advice without being able to speak a word of English.  We retie after turning, as we now have to take tide and current into account for our travels, and it’s not time to leave yet.  This really gets everyone on the dock’s panties in a wad, ’cause they just can’t understand these crazy Anglais.  By the time we’re ready to leave, the wind is a sustained 20-good call on turning the Girl early.  Just a quick comment about tides and currents.  Since Trois Riviere, the St. Lawrence River has been tidal, that is, sometimes the current is withya, sometimes agi’nya.  It can be as much as a 7-9 knot swing, depending on the state of the tide.  So…you don’t just travel when it suits you, you have to look down the line and calculate time, speed, and distance, and the state of the current on different segments of your course.  This is aided, in our case, by “The Atlas of Tidal Currents of the St. Lawrence River”.  Very important when you’re travelling in an 8 knot boat.

By 1300, the Girl is stern-to at the Port of Quebec (Quebec City), not without a little drama, as the young lady (who can’t see this whole huge marina from where she sits) is on the VHF, telling us to pull into a slip that already has a boat in it.  Who’s there to catch our lines?  Bill and Lauren (remember them?-Grand Banks Classic).  They’re fresh from Ottawa, and Canada Day, feelin’ real proud to be Canadians, and we want to hear all about their trip.  We take a look across the fairway, and there on the wall are “Texas Ranger” and “Spirit Journey”.  Lauren has wanted to meet Ron from “S.J.”, as they have carried on an email correspondence (long story about Krogen blogging), but haven’t met.  You know how much we hate parties, but it’s time to take one for the team.  A couple of calls on the VHF, and its cocktails aboard “Alizann” at 1800.  One of our Quebecois friends, Clairmont fondly calls these get togethers “5 to 7’s”-I don’t know if this is endemic to the region, or just one of his personal “isms”.  Anyhow, one thing leads to another, and soon we are all out in the Old Port, foraging for food.  A good time had by all, but an early night as the other Krogens are off on the tide at 0700, and we have tourist stuff to do tomorrow.  Quebec is really two cities, an old and a new.  Like Montreal, they have gone to great pains to preserve their rich heritage.  The Old Port, and area inside the old city wall could be any small village in western Europe.  With Bill and Lauren, we walked just about every inch of the old city.  After breakfast in an Old Port bistro, we walked every street, window shopping (and more).  Then it was a ride on the funicular up to the high ground, where the Chateau Frontenac, fort, Citadel and the Plains of Abraham (a sight of 2 historic battles-English and French) are located.  Next to the Citadel was an amphitheater, where some rockers were doing sound checks, and just havin’ a good time rockin’ some familiar riffs from various artists.  Of course, we had to see what was going on, so we strolled over to make some inquiries-Oh yeah, Billie Joel is the headliner for the Quebec Music Festival this week, and he’s playing tonight-cool.  From there, we walked the top of the old city wall from beginning to end.  Along the way, we had to stop at a few incredible churches, including the Notre Dame basilica and the Ursiline Nuns Monastery.  The day morphed into evening, and after a 5 to 7 at Bill and Laurens’ (where she informed us that her pedometer had recorded something like 8,990 steps today), we finished with dinner in an Old Port restaurant, with the promise of more fun stuff in the morning.  Sadly, Lauren was a bit under the weather, and anyway, they had to reprovision for their next days’ departure, so we left them, carrying an invite for dinner at their place after our day.  Suzanne and I walked up to the John Baptiste quarter, which is old, but not too touristy, where the Admiral found an “Aveda” salon.  (I don’t know much about this stuff, but our friend Jeff, who cut MDO’s hair for 20 some-odd years, told her that those were the places to go when out of town).  Yep, they could take a walk-in at 1330, and yep, they liked doing short hair, so the deal was on.  Killed a few hours going through the small neighborhood marches (markets), butchers, vegetables, cheeses, specialty foods and etc., as well as getting a personal guided tour of (of course) the St. John the Baptist church by a Master’s student from France.  Oh, did I forget?  There’s also the chocolate museum (actually a chocolate shop with a funky little “museum” attached) - a good spot to get a little gift for tonights’ hostess.  While Suz was getting sheared, I had a bierre at a sidewalk bistro, and watched the peeps.  Musta’ been close to the college, as there were lots of tats, piercings, and generally a predominately youngish population-good fun.  The Admiral was happy, happy, happy.  Short hair again.  On the way back to the boat, we stumbled upon another music venue, and listened for a while to some French-Canadian Hiphop.  Down the road was a street performer from the local street performing community (yes, there really is one) who entertained us for a bit.  Had to get back, as we were flying out the next morning at 0500 for the family reunion in Charleston, SC.  Bags packed, boat buttoned up, we ask Lise and Guy, our Quebecois boat neighbors if they will watch our babies (herb garden) while we are gone.  Heck yeah, and our boat too, if we’d like.  I love boaters.  Dinner at B & L’s, home too late, and up too early (0300), and off to the International airport on July 13th.  I’ll fire this up into space, and catch up in the next few days, got to catch the tide now.  No pictures, cause I’m on somebody’s home network up here in the Saguenay fiord with my Rogue, and it’s SLOW.  So slow, it didn't go.  Now I'm even behinder-I'll get some stuff written tomorrow-11 hour day.

 

Bon Jour,

A cool and overcast day greets us on this “We’re going to Montreal” day.  A couple of locks, connected by a 20 mile, man-made ditch, imaginatively named Chenal Sud (south canal), and we’re in the big city.  Wouldn’t be much to talk about if we hadn’t had a hydraulic overheat alarm screaming at us in this narrow channel between the locks.  Fortunately, no freighters, so non-essential hydraulics shut down, and we do a U-turn to get to an emergency anchorage about a mile back.  Meantime, I’m down in the engine room.  The strainer for the cooler looks good. So I pop the top, open the seacock, and get no water.  Cool, there’s probably a plastic bag or something sucked up against the outside of the thru-hull.  I pull the hose, and reopen the valve-whoosh, lotsa’ water!  Looks like the end of a stick in the hose, so I give it a yank-Nothin’ honey.  A pair of pliers extracts weed that’s a perfect mold of the inside of the hose, hard as a rock.  Reattach hoses, open seacock, and we got water.  Shoot the cooler with infrared pyrometer(thermometer).  Temp. dropping means we didn’t fry the impeller when it ran dry-unheard of!  As I emerge from the 110 degree engine room, the Admiral reports that we’re almost to the anchorage.  No need, another U-ey, and we’re back on track.  While we’re waiting at the next (and last) lock, all other strainers (engine, generator, and air conditioning) are checked-all good.  Rounding Isle St. Helene, we are banging our heads against a 5-6 knot current.  As the Girl’s top speed is around 9 knots in calm water, she’s getting a cardio workout while blasting along at 2.1 knots.  45 minutes through these swirling waters, with the wave tops blown off by a 15 knot headwind give the Captain time to think about contingency plans in the event of a mechanical failure.  Better not to verbalize these thoughts at this time.  Anyhoo, the wind blows the clouds away as we approach the Montreal Yacht Club, our home for the next few days, and after a call on the radio, we get our fenders hung for a bow-in, portside tie.  Only problem is, that the guys on the dock inform us, is that you’re not allowed to bow-in.  Okay, change all fenders while hanging in the narrow fairway, and back in blind, as the bridge is covered, and I’m driving from the pilothouse with the Admiral whispering instructions in my ear over the two-way radio.  Can’t help but notice our new neighbor standing on the deck of her brand-new Azimut 53 (fa$$$t trawler), with her bitch-wings* on, guiding me in with the laser stare.  Better to be lucky than good.  We’re here.  Lots of adrenaline, and it’s only 1300hrs.  After tidying up the Girl, paying the rent, and etc., a walk is in order.  The marina is in a part of town called Vieux(old) Port.  If you didn’t know better, you’d think that you were in Europe.  The warehouses and old city buildings, built from the 1700’s on, are well-preserved, and beautifully restored.  Since Canada Day(their 4th of July) is tomorrow, it’s a holiday weekend and things are hopping.  Restaurants look kind of touristy, so into the Marriott to confer with the concierge.  Got the perfect place for traditional French cuisine. 5 or 6 blocks, and 2 alleyways later, we’re asking the maître d’ for un table pour deux.  OMG!  He has a tux on, there’s crystal, china, and silver on linen tablecloths.  Normally, wouldn’t get too excited by that, but I’ve got cargo shorts, flipflops, and a T shirt on.  I bring this to his attention (as if).  No problem, we look “grand”.  Great dinner, good service, good story.  Next day is exploration day.  Needless to say, we put on some miles (around 10, we figure) on foot, then 8 or 10 more on the double-decker tourist trolley.  On foot, we hit every Catholic church (there are lots) from Vieux Port to the International and Financial Districts.  The underground city is also a must-see.  It’s a series of underground shopping malls, interconnected, and stretching for miles below downtown.  Supposedly the largest of its’ kind, and pretty cool.  A trip to the “marine hardware store” as recommended by our friend, Scottie, takes us to a part of the waterfront that we might normally miss.  It’s Canada Day today, and they’re closed.  Peering through the dirt-encrusted windows, it’s clear (sorta’) that we’ll need to come back tomorrow.  (Checking out the hardware store in any town that we visit is compulsory for Yours Truly.  It’s almost a religious experience).  Hit the Chamber of Commerce (equivalent), buy billets for the tourist bus, and we’re off for a driving  tour, highlighting the different districts of the city, culminating with a climb up Mount Royal, the city’s namesake.  When we get to the trolley’s central hub, we gotta get off, and it seems that the busses are done for the day-no more hop on hop off.  What’s another mile or so walk?  Did I mention that it’s 90 degrees?  Our dogs are barkin’ by the time we return to the Girl after stopping at the Cirque De Soleil ticket office for front/center tickets-tomorrow’s performance.  Fireworks are in order for tonight.  Good news is that they’re over the river, and our boat is the perfect viewing platform-Whew!  Shopping day today, so off come the bikes.  The trip to the hardware store is a lot quicker than yesterday.  Oh Yeah, this place is the real deal.  More of a supplier of navigation equipment and charts for the big guys than your typical marine store, but they’ve got a hodgepodge of small stuff too.  The guy working the counter is a part timer, being a retired radar and systems designer from the Canadian military.  The real business is going on behind a stack of crates at a computer terminal, where a young lady is busy on the phone and computer, filling orders for the big boats.  2 hours later, after coming in needing nothing, we’re back on the road with $180 Canadian francs worth of oddsnends, and an earful of politics, navigational issues, and the general state of world affairs (I love talking to people).  Armed with a recommendation, it’s lunchtime, then off to the grocery store for fresh fruit and veggies.  I was amazed that a 12 pack of Labatts was only $12.99.  By the time taxes were added, over $18.  I guess that’s the price you pay for the superior (hahaha) health care system.  –sorry, couldn’t resist.  I think that this is our 4th Cirque De Soleil performance, but they never get old.  Canwegoagain?  Canwecanwecanwe?  July 3rd, and time to depart.  Our trip down with the current gives the Girl a personal best 13.2 knots at ¾ throttle.  After the glandular trip in Montreal, MDO and I are looking for a quiet anchorage tonight.  The bill is filled with a spot in the Sorel Islands.  This is a group of low-lying Islands at the west end of Lac St. Pierre.  Kind of out of the way by land, and the cottages, some shacks, some with generators and satellite dishes, are only accessible by boat.  All of the structures are on stilts, much like places in the low country of South Carolina.  It’s so pretty here, that we stay 2 nights, enjoying the sunny days, and cooler temperatures, exploring the bays and islands by dinghy.  On Saturday, the 5th, we’re off to Trois Rivierres.  We anchor off the public beach at the river’s mouth, as the charts show no detail farther up the river.  Even though we’re still on the Seaway, there’s very little current here.  The water flowing out of the river is full of tannins, which make it kind of a black tea color, whereas the Seaway water is your typical turbid blue-gray.  There is a clear line where the river and Seaway currents are fighting to a draw, as evidenced by this change in color (sorry-geeked out for a minute there).  We anchor just inside the line.  CRIKEY!  These Canadians do NOT waste a Saturday!  There’s a beach volleyball court set up, complete with loudspeakers, a D.J., decibels to spare, and a crowd to match. Sail and power boats, jet skis, kite sailing, paddleboarders and waterjet boot play. We have ring side seats for the Cirque D’eau a Trois Rivieres.  I’m layin’ on the boat, catchin’ some rays with my ear on the deck, and I think that the generator’s still on.  Thump! Thump! When I get up and find that it’s not, I realize that it’s the hull vibrating from the French disco music on the beach, even though we’re 500 yards away.  If Salaberry was cooking a few Saturdays ago, this place is on steroids.  We notice again that Canadian boaters have a different concept as to what constitutes a close quarters situation.  Boats whip by at speed, and so close that you can tell the eye color of its’ passengers.  Oh well, what a circus, but all’s well that ends well.  At 1630, sharp, the party’s over.  Music stops, rafted boats break up, and the crowds on the beach thin out.  We had kinda hoped that things would go on a little longer, as it was fun spectating.  It’s been windy and sunny all day, so I’m a happy camper.  The solar panels and wind generators are “puttin’ money in the bank”-I love not having to run the generator.  The wind stays up all night, and the morning dawns gray with high wind warnings issued for the whole day.  We have a shot of chain out in 13 feet of water, and we haven’t moved a yard, so we feel comfortable leaving the boat for an explore by tender.  As we are unloading “White Star”, I spot 2 trawlers about 2 mile away heading toward us.  Suz grabs the binocs.  “They look like Krogens” says I, “They are” says she, “48’s”.  We fire up the AIS**, and discover that they are “Texas Ranger” and “Spirit Journey”, both owned by folks that we met at the Krogen rendezvous in Solomons last Fall.  A quick chat on the VHF confirms that they are heading to the marina in the next bay over.  After a 2 hour exploration of the 3 branches of the river in the tender and banging the crap out of the prop (but no need for a sheer pin, Andy), we’re at their boats catching up.  Looks like we’ll see them in Quebec City in a few days.  Still blowing like stink, and the high wind warnings are on for the next few days, we up anchor the next day, for a short trip to Batiscan River, a quiet anchorage a few miles from the village of Batiscan (pop. 1000).  It’s shallow there, so we come in on the low tide-the theory being that if we run aground, the tide will lift us off when it comes in.  No worries, we glide in over a shallow depth of 6.3 feet (we draw about 5 and change right now), and anchor in 9 feet.  We keep the amount of chain out to a minimum, as the boat reverses direction when the tide moves in and out, and there isn’t a lot of room to swing.  Pretty cool spot.  Very natural, except for a clearing on the other side of a grove of trees, where there sits a high end trailer-type park.  There are some very expensive looking land yachts there, which are obviously weekend getaway spots.  Attached is a little marina, which looks like the parking spot for the boats, attached to these R.V.s.  We dinghy’d over and walked around.  Only a few people at home, I guess most at work in a city somewhere.  They had a very nice, brand new restaurant/bar at the place too-unfortunately, closed on Monday.  Somebody put a lot of Canadian francs into developing this place-I hope that it works out.  By the way, they have an open internet, hence me slaving away over a hot keyboard, waiting for the tide to be right at the Richelieu Rapids.  Gotta go soon.  Tuna sandwich delivered by the Admiral.  It’s still windy, but sunny.  Should be a good day to shoot the rapids, and then overnight at Portneuf before Quebec City.

Au Revoir,

Marty

**AIS-automated identification system.  It’s basically a transmitter/receiver similar to a transponder on an airplane.  It transmits your boats vitals-name, size, speed, course, destination, etc.  It receives same info from other boats that are equipped with AIS systems.  The gizmo then uses algorithms to compute closest point of approach, time to closest point-basically, probability of collision for the vessels.  It displays this info on your electronic chart.  Pretty cool, ‘cause it can see “around the corner” and farther than radar in most situations.  It is required on commercial vessels, but can be installed on pleasure craft. 

Yo,

A few hours of motoring through the Bay of Quinte brings us to Kingston, Ont.  It’s the bomb!  Once the capital of Upper Canada, it still retains its’ regal style.  The thunderstorms have chased us all day, and the sky looks like they’re going to catch us real soon-like.  It’s super calm, and the surface of the water is like that jar of mercury that we’d marvel at in eighth grade science class (before rolling it around in our bare hands and spilling some on the floor-explains a lot about the present brain damage).  Nonetheless, weather radar shows storms bearing down on us, and we are not to be disappointed.  The harbor whips up into a froth, and the Girl is soon strainin’ at her lines.  No worries, we be laffin’.  Weather passes, off to dinner.  Chez Piggy (Anne’s suggestion-you remember Anne)  presents us with an eclectic selection of Canadian and nouvelle cuisine.  We order Meguisharah(sp?) oysters.  Never heard of ‘em, but WTH?  Tender little guys, and very sweet too.  Hope we’ll see them again, as they are from back East.  Great dinner, wine list questionable.  Next morning-warm and humid.  Andy and Jody should be here for cocktails tonight, so cleaning, unpacking their linens, trip to the super and farmers markets are in order.  (I can’t be trusted food shopping, so guess who’s cleaning?).  I’m rewarded with a chocolate almond piece of goodness that the Admiral has picked up at the bakery we spotted yesterday.  All is (almost) forgotten.  It’s hot, humid, and sunny, but the weather radar shows dogmeat (storms) stretching all the way back to Michigan-think A & J driving.  Looks like rain is imminent, but we throw our bikes on the free ferry to Wolfe Island, home of one of Canada’s largest wind farms.  What a shocker (no pun), they don’t grow wind there, they harvest electricity FROM the wind.  690 volts from each turbine (X86 turbines), boosted to 24,000 volts before shooting over to the mainland, where it is boosted again to around 200,000 volts, and injected into the grid.  Sorry to burden you with my nerdiness, but I love this stuff.  Our 20 mile tour brings us back to the ferry dock where the locals have graciously built a pub with outdoor seating-Beer us!  A & J are in the parking lot that used to be called the 401 in Toronto.  No worries, MDO will whip a boat dinner, and we’ll wait cocktails for them (yeah, right).  They’re here, and the rain that has been following them all day is hot on their tails.  No sooner than we get their stuff on the boat, it lets loose.  Lightning and torrents of rain-as Andy would say, “a real turd-floater” (think this has to do with latrines, and Viet Nam).  The next several days has us all doing the tourist thing in the Thousand Islands area.  Lots of self-guided tours, trolley rides, tour boat rides, castles, museums, forts and etc, zigzagging from Canada to the U.S.A. Without lots of details, let me just say-trolley tour of Kingston, Canada’s military College (our West Point), Fort Henry, restored Coast Guard cutter and museum, Antique Boat Museum, Boldt Castle, Singer Castle, and lots of cottage(?) gawking, finally ending in Brockville, Ontario, where Andy & Jody will catch the VIA (train) back to Kingston and their car. We do a mixture of marina and anchor out nights, jumping between nature and man made.  Did I mention that Andy is the self proclaimed (and highly acclaimed by all he feeds) “Grillmeister”?  Jody holds her own in the Hors Douvre creation department, so with Suzanne’s able direction, we were not hurtin’ for food.  The Admiral will fill you in with some details regarding sites, attractions, and etc., I’m sure.  Gotta say a few words about our buds, A & J.  They gave us our first fix, starting a lifetime of addiction.  When we camped with 2 kids in our 19’ runabout, they were the Mothership that we followed and rafted to on weekend and then weeklong cruises.  They sponsored our membership in The Great Lakes Cruising Club.  Our children were about the same ages, so we shared in their successes, commiserated on their needs for improvement, and supported each other as only true friends and confidants do.  You get the picture.  This visit was our third on the Girl, the first being on her maiden voyage from Solomon’s, Maryland to Troy, NY, the second being to Isle Royale in Lake Superior.  After cruising together for 25 years on our own boats, it’s super comfortable having 4 heads together, running the Show.  We were sad to put them in their cab at Brockville, but will look forward to the next time that we see them.  Guests gone.  Time to……CLEAN.  Four hours later, the Girl is spiffy inside and out, the guest linens are clean, vacuum-bagged, and stowed away.  Last stroll through the Brock, uno mas cervesa (oh, that’s a year down the line), and we’re all done in for the night.  Brockville was definitely a great stop, with the exception of no Wi-Fi (as was advertised, but this ain’t my first bait-and-switch), and hey, the world will still be turning when we reconnect.  Sunny and 70 degree weather with puffy cotton-ball clouds sees us off in the A.M..  A short cruise with the current takes us to the backside of Toussaint Island, about ½ mile above Eisenhower Lock, where our dynamic (?) duo will spend the night, mostly out of the current (.5 knot).  We haven’t done these locks before, and as they are pay-as-you-go, a recon mission is in order.  White Star* is over the side, and off we go to chat with the lockkeeper.  Talk about a contrast from the Trent/Severn!  The lock cannot be approached from land.  There’s a wall to tie up at, and a closed circuit phone to talk to the officials on, all behind a tall security fence.  I call, and chat it up with the lock tender, and he gives me the drill.  Oh, by the way, he knows that we are up behind the island, because he has a security camera in that bay (note it’s a half mile away).  I observe that skinny dipping is probably out, and he replies “yeah, that he can see right up there” (not really sure what he meant by that, don’wannaknow.  An old canal, used before the Seaway was built, takes our ride into a very cool lowland with bountiful wildlife.  Blue herons, too numerous to count, a beaver, and a mink are all spotted.  When we turn off the engine, we are greeted by a cacophony of birdsong.  Lock through in the morning, and travel uneventfully on another sunny, 70 degree day.  Our primary depthsounder is acting cranky.  Won’t register any depth over 20 feet.  Call Furuno tech support, and I’m not likin’ what he has to say.  Cha-Ching!  We’ll review further when in Montreal, in the meantime, the backup is purring along.  Early afternoon ends this short travel day outside Cornwall, anchoring in a 2 knot current, on a boulder-strewn bottom.  First time for us in heavy current, and it’s kinda creepy to see the water blowin’ by us when we are not moving.  Uhhhh….not so comfortable leaving the boat, so we work on our tans, and do small boat chores the rest of the day.  Saturday at noon, and we are pulling into Salaberry- de- Valleyfield.  Pretty chill little town with the emphasis on fun.  Not many boats anchored out, so we pick a spot that we think will be out of the traffic pattern-as the other end of the harbor has a fountain in the middle that gushes about 100’ into the air.  Boy, did we get here at the right time!  There are two boats in the harbor when we arrive, and two hours later, there are 52.  With a phalanx of jetskis slaloming between the anchored, rafted, rockanrollin, everybody laffin’ boats, this is a happenin’ spot.  Down goes the tender, the Admiral and I are off to cottagegawk, and check out the town dock.  Whip by the marina to purchase a Quebec flag for the Girl, as a Canadian flag is not entirely apropos here makes us aware that we’re not in Kansas anymore.  Je ne parle pas francais, and you’re in deep merde here.  Good news is, that after we tour the Ancien Chenal, and stop at a local bistro, we are able to use some of our knowinanylanguage the key phrases that get us bierre,  saumon and boeuf tartare-Yum!  Back to the Girl to mix up a little sippy-sippy, and we’re motoring through the anchorage to do a little rappin and boatlovin’.  A guy on a Cruiser Inc. waves us over, and produces a Passagemaker magazine, pointing to an ad for Kadey Krogen (our boat). No, Parlez vous Anglais?  No problem.  Little sign language, lots of broken Francais on our part, and he and his femme are in our tender to go take a tour of the Girl.  When it comes to bateau’s, we all speak the same language-the tour was a hit.  Krogen, sign us up for another commission.  A little Joni Mitchell, then Neil Young to honour our Canadian hosts with dinner, and we’re rackin’ for our early morning anchorup on our one-stop trip to Montreal.  0700, 18 degrees, C, and we’re off.  First bridge has a 3 knot current in the approach-no problem.  Big problem.  The bridgetender ain’t makin’ it happen.  Doing donuts between two caissons in a narrow channel is not our idea of fun.  We’re just about ready to pull off after 15 minutes of this foolishness, and he gives us the green light, raising the draw.  A 55’ Tiara (go fast) runs up our stern, and races us to the next lock (no contest!).  Suzanne checks the name and hailing port (Boyne City, MI) Arriving at the next lock, we find that there’s no room at the inn.  All of the spaces at the wall are taken up by boats waiting to lock through.  Our pal is sitting at the spot that was ours, had proper etiquette been followed.  No worries, we tie up at the upper reach, outside the security fence.  Off the boat, stroll up to the fence to chat with other boaters who have been waiting for 2 hours.    Seems that it’ll be another 2 hours before we can lock through.  Life at 0 knots.  Hers truly comes up with her BIG dog and remarks that she’s trapped like a rat in a cage (behind the security fence), and should have landed where we were.  I can now address her by name (thanks Suzanne) surprising the BeJesus out of her, and let her know that it’s too bad.  (All the while thinkin’ that Karma’s a bitch!).  It’s a beautiful day for a boat ride, and after meeting some very cool Canadian folks on their new boat who rafted up with us through the 2 locks, we’re on our way, with an invitation to visit them at their home on the St. John’s River for steaks and redpop a few weeks down the line.  Montreal is in sight on the horizon, and Lac St. Louis is like the city market on steroids (boats, not cars).  A real shocker to my I’mtheonlyboatonthewater system.  Late afternoon brings us to the anchorage that MDO spotted on the chart, and we’re the only boat there.  6 foot depths don’t scare us any more after our numerous brushes with terra firma in the Trent/Severn.  Stir-fry, la bierre, a gorgeous purple and pink sunset before rack-time.  Tomorrow brings the last 2 locks, and a 5 knot current (against us) till Montreal (home for the next few days).

 Bon Soir,

Martin

***”White Star” is the name of our tender(dinghy).  When we were casting about for a name for the little one, our friends Phillip and Catherine from the U.K. (3 solo transatlantic crossings) had the answer.  As my maternal Grandmother was a Titanic survivor, along with her mother and infant sister, it seemed the perfect way to honor one of my favorite people on the planet, thus, White Star, the Titanics’ parent company.

Loonie Toonie in Canada

 

I don’t know about you but when I travel one of the first things I look at is the country’s money. Beside the obligatory king, queen, president, czar, etc. The money usually has an historic building, animal or pyramid with a scary eye.  I like to ask the locals, “Why is the …. on your money?”  Why is there an Egyptian pyramid with a scary eye as the top on ours? I have no idea.

Canada has some fun money. The “Loonie “ is the $1 dollar coin and you guessed it has a Loon( a northern  duck like bird that has a unique song) on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the other. It is bronze in color and is the size of our quarter. The “Toonie” is the $2 dollar coin and no it does not have Daffy Duck on the back. It has a polar bear.  It is about the size of our fifty cent coin, has silver outer ring and a bronze colored inner ring.   Canada does not make paper $1 or $2 dollar bills.  The new larger denominations bills, $5, $10, $20, etc. are high tech and appear to be very difficult to counterfeit.  The bills are made of paper but near one end there is a clear Mylar(not sure what it is) strip with a hologram. Good luck trying to photocopy. 

 

One last thing about Canadian money. They no longer make the penny and ignore the penny. For example, if something costs $1.91 and you pay with a “Toonie” you receive ten cents back as change. No looking in the car ashtray for the pennies. Try that is the US! I would bet that there are more Canadian pennies circulating in the US than in Canada.  I love the Canadians!

- The Admiral -

16 June, 2014

Hola Mis Amigos,

Let me just say that the territory between the last 6 locks of the Waterway is unremarkable.  Getting back to civilization-road noise, industrialization, etc.  A bit of rain and drizzle made this gray area grayer.  As we rounded under the highway bridge in West Quinte (formerly Trenton), we rang up Craig on VHF channel 68 at the Frazer Park Marina.  As we backed into our slip, he was there to catch our lines along with our oldnew Canadian pal, Bill (Grand Banks Classic “Sea Star”).  Must be a story here-there is.  Seems that after they left us in Hastings, they were plagued by a recalcitrant transmission which insisted on overheating.  He was well and properly vexed about this, since both trannies had just been rebuilt by one of the best outfits in Ontario.  Delving deeper, the Admiral asks “What type of transmission?”  Velvet Drive.  “Velvet Drives SUCK!” says she, still smarting from an ulcerating wound over 7 years old.  (But that’s a different story about a different boat and not at all positive about the product or the complete and utter lack of customer support).  After agreeing to agree on this matter, it seems that the rebuild shop does understand customer support, and hired a local mechanic, and shipped a part free of charge-couple days lost, everybody happy, happy.  The rest of the good news is that we were able to enjoy Bill (a.k.a. Ed) and Lauren’s company for another evening of dinner and chuckles.  Tomasso’s provided the venue and the good grub.  It’s a very popular place, attested to by the big week-day dinner crowd.  After breakfast, Sea Star was off, and we were ready for some exploration.  The Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial Museum is about 4 km. out of town, and was VERY worth the ride.  When we arrived, a docent latched on to us, and gave us a very thorough Q and A session, as well as some tips and tricks for getting the most out of our visit.  Besides the indoor displays, including a Halifax heavy bomber (the only one in existence), there is an outdoor static display of twenty-five or so aircraft-all Canadian military except three.  Had to get my picture made next to an F-104, my favorite Cold War era jetsled.  Two-and-a-half hours later, back to the boat through a misty drizzle to check the weather and regroup.  New neighbors!  A shiny 34’ American Tug,”Great Laker” is tied next to the Girl.  Anne and Larry are from Michigan and are completing the Great Loop (down the Mississippi, across the Gulf, up the eastern seaboard, across the New York canal system to the Great Lakes).  He says the weather will hold, so it’s off to Mount Pelion, an area of high ground just out of town where Samuel Champlain met with (and probably screwed over) First Nation leaders in the 1600’s.  The view was great, the ride straight up.  Whew!  Gotta get more exercise to go along with that redpop.  Live music at the park, 75 yards from our little ship gave a nice backdrop for dinner cooked aboard.  Postprandial cocktails see Anne and Larry waddling (just kidding) back from Tomasso’s.  Can’t have one without the other (sorta like Temptation and the Hawaiian War Chant for you U-M fans)-How ‘bout comin’ over for a drink?  Yep, Larry’s a Michigan alum, met Anne while living in California, and returned to Michigan around 7 years ago.  They’re headed up the T/S to complete their Great Loop after having their boat on the hard in New York this winter.  As an aside, I think that Krogen should get us on the sales team, as I have acquired TWO hot prospects in just three weeks (just sayin’).  It’s Saturday, and colder (52F).  Quick trip to the Farmers market to pick up some strawberries, and we’re outta’ here.  Get “Great Laker” pushed off the dock, then it’s our turn.  Now that we are underway, I hafta say a few words about Craig and Frazer Park Marina.  It ain’t much to look at (the facility), but has to rank among our most enjoyable stops, due to its proprietor, Craig.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a more gracious and helpful guy.  When we couldn’t find a strong young guy to help us raise our mast, he was right there on our boat helping.  He has a wealth of knowledge about boating and his town, which he is happy to share with you.  Having been there for 17 years, he is fully invested in making sure that his “peeps” are having a good time.  Good Folks.  On our way to Picton, the Girl is telling us that she is happy, happy, happy to have 100 feet of water under her keel, and some room to breathe around her.  Planned to anchor in Picton, but the harbor is so cluttered with mooring balls that we tie up at the town dock, which is in need of major amounts of TLC.  They’re pretty proud of it though, and charge us accordingly.  The town itself is pretty cool, built in the late 1800’s, it looks a lot like many of the other towns and villages along the way.  Revitalized, presumably for the tourist trade, it was pretty vibrant on this sunny Saturday.  On the way home, we checked with the little inn on the harbor to see if we could buy their password, and have interweb on the boat.  Absolutely not!  “Here’s the code, didn’t know it went that far”.  Life at 7 knots in small towns.  Our 10 mile voyage to Prinyers Cove brings us in around 1200.  Sure enough, the bay is littered with mooring balls (all unoccupied).  There is a little marina with a dock to tie up to.  I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I wasn’t born yesterday.  It’s starting to dawn on me that all these balls are producing income for the docks.  We drop anchor in the mooring field, and take a long dinghy ride to cottagegawk.  Dinner off the grill, and a little reading to get our itinerary ready for Andy and Jody after we meet them in Kingston.

See Ya’

12 June, 2014

Hi Y’all,

After 2 nights in Peterborough, it’s time to load up the bikes and get on down the river.  74 degrees and sunny as we pull away from the wall at Lock 20.  Seems that folks are running aground in the middle of the channel below Lock 19, sooo.. we have a chat with the Lockmaster-yes, it’s true, in fact, Wayne (the navigation director of the Waterway) is in the barge setting new ATON’s (aids to navigation-translation-buoys) as we speak.  Down goes the lock, and there is the barge getting’ busy.  We’re through with no problema.  Over the winter, the effluent from the power plant had been depositing silt, making the original channel unnavigable(?), so the channel is moved-simple unles you’re the first boats through in the Spring.  Muskie season opened yesterday, so as we run merrily across Rice Lake, the fishermen are as thick as the Dammit flies were on the boat a week or so ago.  The Admiral is hoping for a pic, so when we pass a boat with one on, we have to stop.  After a valiant fight, our fisherman reels in a huge 7” perch-no muskie picture today.  Hastings Village Marina is our home for the night as we need to get hooked up to some city water to wash all of the pollen (there’s lots), and bugs (there’s more lots) off the boat.  They have a cool system for pumping out your holding tank too, with a setup at each slip, so we get that taken care of too-sorry about the pottie talk.  As we’re finishing up our deck scrubbing, etc., a couple comes by asking about the Girl.  They’re on the Grand Banks Classic that we saw moving towards the Lock earlier(they spent the winter working on her, and she is one pretty girl).  One thing leads to another, Bill and Lauren are soon getting the cooks tour, causing a relapse in their WKV48 (WannaKrogenVirus).  Sure, a little red wine would be nice.  Getting’ late, “what are you guys doing for dinner?”  A few more burgers on the grill, and pretty soon we’re making a night of it-so goes the boating deal.  We’ll probably see them in the St. Lawrence after they do the Rideau Canal.  Breakfast at Banjo’s, and we’re off to Campbellford, whose attractions for us are food-the best bakery in the world, a chocolate factory, and more restaurants than a village its’ size should have.  The town wall at Campbellford is situated at a pretty little town park, with electricity for the boaters-cool.  Off come the bikes as we will stay 2 nights here.  There’s a bike trail along the canal to the next lock,complete with a pedestrian suspension bridge over the rapids, so we take the round trip, which deposits us right in front of the chocolate factory.  Being the good friends that we are, and knowing our pals, Andy and Jody will join us in a week, we take one for the team, and plunge in with empty backpacks.  Mission accomplished.  Chocolate?-check.  On to Dooher’s (evil bakery), where the sticky buns will be coming out of the oven (it’s now 1030-good to have local knowledge of the baking schedule).  Baked goods?-check.  We’ll scope out menus at the restaurants on our way to the grocery store for fresh veggies and fruit.  Back at the boat, something’s been bugging me in the darkest hours of the night for the past week since we kissed the bottom hard.  Out with the SCUBA, into the drink (with a lifeline as there’s a current).  Yep, the bottom of the keel is pretty chewed up, as well as the bottom of one of the wings, but not the deal that I conjured up in my nocturnal musings.  It’ll be fine without repair, but you know I’ll reglass it when the boat is hauled the next time for routine stuff.  While I’m diagnosing a defunct motor starter on the dive tank compressor (What do you guys do on the boat all day?), Eric and Pam, who are doing the Great Loop in their 45’ Carver Voyager stop by for a chat.  They’re from North Carolina, so MDO and they are soon fast friends.  I get the motor starter figured out.  There is a fuse inside a plastic fixture hidden from view that is blown.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a friend in the 8,000 (maybe a slight exaggeration) spare fuses that I have on board.  Have to find one when I get to a town with a population of more than 2,000.  Cocktails take us to the civilized hour of 1945, and we mosey up to the restaurant that was closed last night (Monday) for dinner.  They stop serving at 1930-#$@!!&&!  I boldly walk into the kitchen where there are people with sharp knives and let them know how I feel about their work ethic.  Grrrrh.  I’ll show them!  Back to the boat for a gourmet meal of Stacy’s Pita Chips (I’m still waiting to grow up).  Morning brings a driving rain that stays with us all day, making the six locks for the day a kinda wet affair.  We love our dryer.  On route, we pass the Kawartha Queen, a little cruise boat carrying 48 liveaboard passengers to the various sights up and down the Waterway.  Frankford is a cute little village at Lock 6.  Someone in the community had the foresight to install electrical pedestals at the lock wall to encourage boaters to stop (and hopefully, spend some dinero in town).  It works!  9.80 Canadian pesos for hydroelectricity.  Rain looks like it’s passed, we’ll head to Trenton today, the 12th, then off to Kingston, to pick up Andy And Jody.

Hasta Luego!

Trent-Severn Waterway

 

Built in stages between 1833-1920, the Trent-Severn Waterway provides a link between Georgian Bay( part of Lake Huron) and Lake Ontario. The Trent and Severn River along with numerous lakes form the backbone of the waterway. Historically, this route was utilized for travel by the Hurons, to the north and the Iroquois, to the south, in upper New York State, where it was known as the “Iroquois Trail.”  The waterway also provided a venue for continual conflict between these First Nation groups.   Samuel Champlain utilized this route by paddling and portaging through the rivers and lakes.  The waterway as we know it now was begun in 1833 with the first lock built in Bobecaygeon. The concept for building the system was controversial and water rights were fought for vigorously by the farmers, mill owners and the lumber industry. All depended on the waters for their livelihood. Originally, the concept was designed to promote local development and aid movement of timber, grain and other goods from west to east. The path was complicated by the many timber slides, dams and mills along the way. During the early stages of the Waterway’s construction, water was the main transport of goods as there were no steamships or railways. That was about to change. Railways were expanding and steamships were carrying goods.  The waterway was too narrow and shallow for the larger ships. The economic boom did not occur and the timber industry was in a decline. The waterway was an economic bust. It was almost abandoned. After 87 years, it was finally completed but obsolete for commerce.  Instead, it became a mecca for tourism and recreation. The Trent-Severn is 240 miles long, with 45 locks, (36 conventional, 2 hydraulic lift-Peterborough and Kirkfield, a marine railway Big Chute) and 160 dams. The rise from Georgian Bay to height at Balsam Lake is 262ft and then the decline to Lake Ontario comprises the total drop of 597ft. from west to east.  It is an engineering marvel.

In modern times, the Trent-Severn Waterway has become one of the recreational gems of Ontario. The waterway is now dotted with cottages, the old railway beds have become bicycle trails and is a paradise for fisherman. It also provides many homes with hydroelectricity. 

To put things in prospective, the Erie Canal which connects the Atlantic via the Hudson River to Lake Erie was built from 1817-1825. The building launched New York City ahead of Philadelphia as a shipping center and was an economic boom to the small villages along the canal.

-The Admiral-

Hello, Friends,

Well…..got the cell phone issues ironed out in Orillia, so we bid this fair marina adieu at 0830 on the 2nd.  It’s clear and 65 degrees as we toodle out into Lake Simcoe, one of the pearls strung together by the T/S waterway.  Two hours across mid-lake brings us to the entrance to the Trent Canal.  The guys from Parcs Canada are in the narrow, windy entrance with the barge and claw, picking up trees, roots, and such.  They pull this stuff up on deck, then go to work with the chainsaws (I could so do this stuff).  Had to let them know that we’ve already done a lot of work for them, chipping up flotsam with our propeller.  Such is life on a Spring transit.  The next few hours takes us through a straight, man-made ditch which is sometimes above the surrounding terrain.  Where we parallel a road, it’s somewhat disconcerting to look down at the wheeled vehicles passing by.  The guys that operate the next four locks travel ahead of us in their golf cart to get to the next lock (maybe a mile or so) and ready it for our arrival.  Along the way, cows are coming down to the ditch for a sip.  Canal Lake is a narrow, man-made lake which has a narrow, 6 foot deep channel down the middle of the otherwise 2 foot deep lake.  The Parcs dudes haven’t been here yet, so we hit stumps and such on the bottom every couple hundred yards.  What new bottom paint?  Entering the canal again, we slow to a crawl.  Engine temperature up, and it feels like we’re aground, although the depth gauge says 6’.  Aaahhh-been there, done that.  Put the Gal into reverse (kinda freaky in shallow, narrow channels), and a hunk of weeds and bottom the size of a mini Cooper floats up in front of us.  Much better-de boat she don’ run so good wit’ de weeds and gunk on the prop and rudder.  Weather radar shows a nasty thunderstorm on its way, we hope to make it to the top of Kirkfield (second highest lift lock in the world-highest is in a couple more days).  So….we’re racing at breakneck speed (3 knots), and doing semi Crazy Ivan’s (aforementioned) to get rid of weeds every couple hundred yards and make to the lower reach of the lock a few minutes before closing time, and as it turns out, about 15 minutes before the STORM.  Up we go.  On the way up, The Captain decides that we will be better off pointing the opposite way, against the downbound wall to weather the storm.  Lockmaster says it’s no problem; the width of the upper reach is 100 feet or so-cool.  Rain starting, turn initiated, MDO calling out distances from stern.  What? 4 feet from the wall?-Can’t be...the bow is only 10 feet from the wall.  Long story short, tie up and the skies open.  After the storm passes Yours Truly shoots the width of the channel with the rangefinder-66 feet (we’re 53 feet overall).  Depart wall at Kirkfield at 0800, barometer falling, 66 degrees and drizzly.  More shallow, narrow channels and weeds.  At midmorning, coming out of Mitchell Lake, we announce ourselves on the VHF radio as entering the narrow waterway.  300 yards in, a sailboat with its mast lashed to the deck comes around the bend, balls out (excuse me), and immediately runs aground HARD!  We stand by, ready to lend assistance, and not willing to try to get past until they get their boat floating again.  Could have been avoided (Am I the only one that notices the lack of radio usage among sailboaters?).  Bobcaygeon is our wall for the night.  Before we leave the Girl, for our trek around town, she is assaulted by a delightful family in their rental houseboat.  With 100 yards in front of her on the wall, and me there to catch their lines, the intrepid captain decides to ignore me and all modicum of common sense, and attempts to take off our bow pulpit with his cabin.  Bow pulpit is still there; sure glad I brought the Milwaukee polisher and some heavy compound.  She’ll be like new in a couple of hours.  After our stroll, which revealed one incredible shoe store, Bigley’s (no Kidding-it’s huge!), we settled down on the back porch to watch the high jinx of other rental houseboat captains while having a sip.  The 4th dawns sunny and 59 degrees.  An uneventful morning of weedy travel brings us to Lovesick lock, so named because of an Indian (not PC) fable of a lovelorn brave who spent time here.  The spot was recommended by a friendly couple that we chatted with in “The Bob” the day before.  It’s totally inaccessible by road, so is very quiet and remote.  The lock staff arrives every morning by boat, leaving every evening in the same manner.  It was so pretty there that we stayed for 2 nights, getting to know Derrick, the lockmaster, and Amy, his assistant who attends college at Trent University.  They suffered through all of the Admiral’s and my questions.  I think that they may even have warmed up to us by the end of our stay, letting Y.T. operate the lock (under close supervision).  While there, our houseboating friends who recommended this place, arrived.  We spent a couple of great days with them, chattin’ it up, and learning new skills.  You see, Mike and Donna are fishin’ magicians, while we just go to the hardware store and buy “pretty hooks”-most of which have years of dust on them.  They imparted quite a bit of their knowledge on us, and Mike even pronounced that our tackle box and its contents were “not that bad”.  We had cocktails on our back porch, and were invited to their campfire that night, joined by their son, Justin.  We were sorry to leave them, but they were headed back to work, while we had to write the next paragraph in The Life.  The trip to Peterborough Lock (the world’s highest lift lock) was uneventful, although shallow, narrow and weedy with multiple bottom touches and semi Crazy Ivan’s.  Is there a recurring theme here?  The Peterborough Lock is truly spectacular.  When you pull into the upper chamber, it’s like you’re driving to the edge of the world.  The Girls’ bow is 8 feet above the water, and the front gate on the lock is about 4 feet, so you’re looking 73 feet straight down to the lower reach from the bow of the boat.  Google it-it’s pretty cool, and was built over 100 years ago.  So we’re pullin’ out of the chamber into the lower reach and the lockmaster comes over the P.A. and announces that we could teach the other boaters a thing or two about boat handling!  (Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.  I could fill a small stadium with people who had witnessed some of the bonehead moves that I’ve pulled (just on the water)).  Stayed at the wall, Lock 20, in Peterborough.  Our bike ride took us into town for dinner at Ashburnham Ale House, thanks to Lockmaster Wendy at 20 (she really should work for the Chamber of Commerce), a storehouse of local knowledge.  I really have to take a minute to tell you about the Lockmasters and assistants on the T/S Waterway.  It is truly a family business, with multiple generations of families working the Locks, dams and water control systems.  The Lockmasters (and Mistresses (?)) have to be the most gracious and cordial group of folks you could meet.  Much of The Waterway’s charm and personality is due to these amazing characters who really take ownership in the enterprise.  Anyhoo, we slept like rocks after deciding to spend a couple of days here.  Our coffee stroll in the morning took us back to the Peterborough lock, where the Lockmaster, Ed, recognized us and dragged us into his office, offering us juice, hot chocolate or milk (they don’t drink coffee).  Well……we had to meet Rob, the mechanic at the lock, and Ed’s childhood friend.  Together, they took the Admiral and I across the upper chamber to the control tower.  There, they had me bring the level up in the lower chamber and raise the upper chamber to ready them for the days’ transits-I’ve always loved to be the one pushing the buttons.  Got to see some of the inner workings-Shhhh!, and an hour or so later, they had to work, and we had to go play.  Back at Lock 20, Wendy let me open the manual lock gate, which involves walking around in circles around a capstan until the gate is open (something Tom Sawyeresque about this picture).  Off to the farmers market for fruit and veggies, and I’m sure some more yakkin’ with the locals.  We scoped out an internet coffee shop this afternoon, so will attempt to shoot this off into space from there.  Later.

Ciao a Tutti,

Travel day today.  Anchor up at 0517.  Spraying off the anchor chain in 42 degree weather gets the blood flowing, coming back into the toastywarm pilothouse slows it right back down.  Today (Friday), we’ll make a beeline down Georgian Bay to Victoria Cove Marina on Hog Bay to get ready for tomorrows’ entrance to the Trent Severn.  Had to brave some 6” seas on the way down, but the trip seemed quick, as we both occupied ourselves with chores (MJT with things mechanical, MDO with techie stuff).  Ran all the way down the bay with stabilizers off, gaining a little better than .1 knots of speed. (when you live Life at 7 knots, .1 is significant)  Note:  The Girl is equipped with active stabilization-This system consists of a couple of fins that project from the sides of the hull below the waterline.  The fins are interfaced with an inclinometer coupled to the brains, telling the fins to tilt thiswayandthat, decreasing the roll of the vessel for a smoother ride.-cool stuff.  Who says we don’t get a return from the space program?  1430 arrived in a heartbeat, and we were greeted at the dock by a gang of gregarious Canadian marina dwellers getting primed for the upcoming weekend.  Didn’t have the last line cleated before the Admiral had one of the gals onboard Ooohing and Aaahing over the custom made pilothouse door screens, snappin’ away with her mobile (puhlease!... we don’t call ‘em telephones here eh!  Spent the rest of the afternoon making the boat shorter, as the fixed bridges on the Trent are as low as 22 feet.  That meant taking off the boom, dropping the mast, and lashing everything down all tight and tidy.  It’s good to have a strong wife (and smart too!).  After work was done, we took our usual stroll around the marina to look at the pretty boats.  Didn’t make it 100 yards before we met Doug and Ian, owners of a 30 something foot SeaRay.  Ten minutes led to a half hour, and before we knew it we were all at the marina restaurant, having dinner where, it seems, Ian is a fixture, right down to the waitress knowing what he would order (day of the week), and what he would have to drink (time of day).  Well…….woke up before dawn with a case of pregame jitters (used to feel this way before every swim meet).  Read and heard about the wicked currents in the narrow, twisty, shallow spot under the highway bridge at the entrance to Port Severn.  It lived up to it’s billing.  Slalom course between buoys barely wide enough for the Girl’s righteous butt.  Kissed the rock bottom in the guaranteed 6 foot channel depth (yeah, right!), but squirted through.  Locking was a breeze, and tied up afterword to buy our passesandpermitsetc.  Gave us a chance to chat it up with the lock tenders, and for Yours Truly to change his undergarments.  Off to the Big Chute-the second most photographed spot in Canada behind Niagra Falls (how do they figure this stuff out).  It’s called a lock, but in actuality it’s a rail car that you pull your boat onto.  The dudes strap you into place, then the car rolls up an inclined track, lifting you 58 feet to the next pool.  Very awesome, but over in around 7 minutes after the loading is done.  Gave us a chance to look over the Girls’ bottom-no damage couldn’t even find a scratch although I KNOW we hit.  Okay, on to Swift Rapids Lock, where we spent the night at the top, tied to the wall.  Oh, by the way, the temperatures are now in the 70’s, as opposed to the high 30’s and low 40’s that we saw over open water.  Sunny, beautiful.  We used to get a little jittery when the depth guage read 10 feet.  The T/S will cure us of that.  Ran through quite a few areas of 7 and 8 feet.  Of course, where the water shallows, it has to speed up to get through.  My new theorem:  Shallow water + fast current = need for Xanax.  What do you think?  Can anyone write me an Rx?  Off to Orillia, Ontario to spend the night at their megamarina-no kidding….HUGE, but empty except us and a few other craft.  We needed to get some cellphone issues ironed out where we had interweb access, and access to mobile (see, I’m getting’ it) stores.  That done, we’ll be heading out today for whoknowshowfar, and get tied up to a wall somewhere to wait out the predicted thunderstorms this afternoon.  The next paragraph in The Life.

…….Ciao!

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Captain's Log

Hello Strangers,

It’s been a loooong time since we’ve had decent internet, so I’ll try to cram some pictures up into the ether, and get caught up on the last few weeks. It’s the 18th of April, and the kids have come and gone.

Jeremy, Jodi and Mikaela arrived right on time, as Suz and I waited for their taxi at “Red Boone”  in Georgetown. We all had the $10 Burger and a Beer special with a couple of ala carte brewskies.  After that, the obligatory stroll through the few gift shops and knick knack shacks there.  The weather window was open, so the next morning, we ran the ten hours up to Cambridge Cay and grabbed a mooring.  Unfortunately, little Miss M had a case of the Mal de Mer, but was a trooper all the way.  The next day, Jody and Mikaela had their first snorkel lesson from Yours Truly before we set out to explore the grotto at Rocky Dundas.  There, we swam through the narrow passageway (exposed only at low tide) into the large cave with a hole in the roof, the sun pouring through and illuminating the interior.  Next, we dinghied to Compass cay, where we hiked to “Rachel’s Bubble”, a frothy tidal pool there.  Back to the girl for lunch, then the 2 mile dinghy ride to “The Aquarium” for a little reef snorkel.  On the way home, we checked out the sunken plane off the coast of Pasture Cay, then beached the tender in search of iguanas-none were found.  Next day took us to Staniel Cay, where we saw the swimming pigs, then dinghied to “Thunderball Grotto”, so named because some scenes from a James Bond movie were filmed there.  The current was fierce, but our new snorkelers kicked its’ butt.  One group of touristas was leaving as we arrived, and we had the place to ourselves for a half hour before the next group of revelers arrived-sweet.  On the half hour ride back to “Alizann”, the winds came up, and the blue/black skies opened.  As our friend Andy would describe it, “A real turd floater.” All we could do is laugh, as we drove into the 30 knot winds, sunglasses on, to keep the driving rain from tenderizing our eyeballs.  The plan was to shower and return to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for drinks, but squall after squall nixed that program.  We had a spirited night of cards instead.  Ohhhhh……weather.  We had planned on a stop at Rudder and Lee Stocking Cays on our way back to Georgetown for their plane, but increasing seas and winds dictated a change in plans.  The Admiral and I did NOT want the vacation to end on a seasick note, so we opted for a run to Emerald Bay Marina before the weather, where we could all spend a day poolside, with cocktails from the tiki hut.  It turned out to be a great call, we missed some sights, but we made up for it by snagging 2 Mahi, a Wahoo, and a ‘cuda.  The girls, avid freshwater fishers, were ecstatic, even though a shark hit one of our Mahi’s taking off the tail while reeling in.  It did, however, make it a lot easier to bring in.  The pool day was perfect.  For $50/head we were allowed to use the facilities at Grand Isle Resort, and enjoyed the day, with lunch and cocktails around the pool.

April 7th was turnaround day.  We all got up early.  Availed ourselves of the free laundry facilities at Emerald Bay for towels, sheets, etc., and cleaned the Girl inside and out.  Having rented a car for the day, we dropped J,J,&M off at the airport, and picked Ali and Ben up, as they had flown in on the same plane that was carrying the rest of our gang out-how convenient.  Same program.  Into Georgetown for beer, burgers, and the tourist thing, then back to the boat by way of “Prime Meats”, a specialty butcher shop.  Besides gorgeous cuts of meat, the butcher there makes a chicken salad that I’ve been lusting after since our stop there a couple of weeks previously.  The weather permitting, we had decided to run the “Boatguest Circuit” again, so we headed back to Cambridge Cay, then work our way back to Georgetown.  There, we hiked the Cay, and got Ben (another first time snorkeler) hooked.  Struck out on iguanas again, but hey, it’s all in the process.  Next, it was Staniel Cay, where we DID get to have docktails at the yacht Club after hiking the south end.  We departed Staniel on the 11th, headed for Farmer’s Cay for the evening.  Along the way, we anchored off Black Point on Great Guana Cay in order to stop at “Lorraine’s Mom’s” house to see if she had any fresh bread for us.  Jackpot!  Raisin Cinnamon Coconut, and just plain old coconut loaves were warm out of the oven.  We made our way down to Farmer’s Cay by late afternoon, anticipating a good day of fishing on our way to Georgetown the following day, as we had been skunked on our way to Cambridge.  We weren’t disappointed.  We boated 3 Mahi, and lost the biggest one (which Ben had fought for over 30 minutes) due to my inability to get him gaffed when he came alongside the boat.  He straightened out the hook (literally), and swam off.  I’m pretty sure I heard him laughing over my curses.  Our videographer discovered the challenges of filming with rolling seas, and left her breakfast on the deck.  BUT….she did get some good footage of her hubby reelin’ in the lunkers.  Once at anchor outside Georgetown, I found out how handy it is to have a Chef as a son-in-law.  Together, we had those fishies butchered in no time, sharing a few techniques along the way.  A spirited game of cards ended their last night with us.  (By the way, the Wells family kicked the Tuck family’s butts for the week).  Seems to be a pattern here.  Maybe we’ll play dominoes next visit.

April 12th.  The taxi doors weren’t even closed, and I was feeling pretty empty.  We were so lucky to have our kids with us, but I wanted more.  Strange, how when they’re growing up, you take it for granted that they’ll always be there as you chase the almighty dollar.  Then, they’re gone, and you wonder where all that time went.

I’ll do the 13th-18th later.

-Just Me and Ma for awhile.

n

March 22nd.  Another cloudy day was forecast, and around 10h00, we were off to shore to pick up our bread.  Bad news, Darlene had run out of propane, and was an hour or so behind. No worries, we walked over to “Hidden Treasure”, where Denise was just opening, and put in our order for dinner.  Lobster for Suz, and Grilled Mahi for me.  Later, Darlene fed us some Bahamian pea soup while we waited for our bread.  That evening, we were the only guests at “Hidden Treasure”.  Denise, the owner, sat with us and told us that she had just moved back to Cat Island from Nassau, where she had worked as a banker for the past 19 years.  She and her husband own a home there, and in fact, he is still there, working as a chef in a very upscale resort.  He has to work for a few more years, but she was tired of the traffic, sirens, congestion, and “pop, pop, pop” (I assume gunfire) at night in Nassau.  They’ll have a long-distance relationship until he is able to retire.  In the meantime, she’s growing a business on her childhood home of Cat.

Wednesday morning and the overcast was thinning giving the promise of a sunny day.  Perfect.  We planned on walking to the Hermitage atop Mt. Alvernia, the highest point in the Bahamas, snappin’ along the way.  So, here’s the scoop on Father Jerome.  Born in England in1876, John Cecil Hawes trained as an architect, and later became an Anglican priest.  After the hurricane of 1908, he was sent by the Bishop to the Bahamas, where he became known as Father Jerome, to rebuild damaged churches.  The seven churches that he rebuilt on Long Island all bear his unique stamp, with thick stone walls and barrel vaulted roofs.  After Long Island, he settled on Deadman’s Cay, where he ministered to the locals.  He then took a “sabbatical” (my words), and acted as a wagon driver, monk, horse breeder, and missionary, before converting to Catholicism and becoming a Catholic priest.  Upon returning to the Bahamas, he built many catholic churches, as well as the St. Augustine monastery in Nassau.  Nearing retirement, he arrived in New Bight, on Cat Island where he built his last church, Holy Redeemer.  There, he also selected a site atop a rocky outcropping on the crest of Comer Hill(the highest spot in the Bahamas at 206 feet), as the spot for his retirement home, known as the Hermitage.  There, he lived in isolation until his death in 1956.  We had a good hike up to the top, and snapped quite a few along the way.  The place had been deserted since the late 50’s, but was still in remarkably good condition.  Unlike many places we have visited around the world, there was no graffiti or evidence of vandalism.  We were able to walk through the residence and chapel, which commanded a360-degree view of the island and surrounding sea-very cool.  We were the only people there, and with the wind whistling around the structure, it wasn’t difficult to put yourself back in time and imagine life here.  On the way down, we descended a very steep, rocky trail connecting sculptures depicting the stations of the cross.  Pretty apropos for the week before Easter.  The road leading back to the beach was bordered by fields that had obviously been under cultivation at one time, as they were bordered by rock walls.  The fields were now overrun with low scrub, and a few scattered papaya trees.  We ventured off, and picked a few papayas, and found some cabbages, tomatoes, and goat peppers, all growing wild.  With some effort, we found a few ripe veggies that weren’t rotten and stashed them in our backpacks. 

Back at the dinghy, we were dismayed to find it high and dry on the beach.  In spite of our having anchored it with the wind blowing it away from the beach, the current had brought it back to the sand (on a falling tide!).  #$!@%!!.  The transponder for the depth sounder had snapped off, breaking the wire, and making it useless.  There was no way that we were moving the little boat (at 750#), so I got a lesson in Conch cleaning from Kotti, who worked at Hidden Treasure, and had a beer.  Later, with some additional help, we got the tender wet again.

Thursday, the 24th, we took a 9 hour ride over 2’-4’ seas under an overcast sky.  No fishies, the dry spell continued.  We passed through Rudder Cut, and turned north to drop anchor in the lee of Rudder Cay, a private island marked with “No Trespassing” signs wherever you might think of going ashore.  We stayed here until the 26th, and got some good pictures inside a grotto looking back at the Girl.  We also visited a stainless steel sculpture of a mermaid sitting at a grand piano, commissioned by David Copperfield, and anchored to the sea floor in the neighboring bay.  What?  Go figure!  (Our trusty little waterproof camera got flooded a couple of months ago, but Jeremy is bringing a new one on the 1st, so if we go back, I’ll snap a couple).

Saturday, the 26th, we headed for Lee Stocking Island, where we planned to stay for a few days.  Again, no fish caught-this was getting old.  We dropped anchor just off a Caribbean Marine Research station, abandoned in 2011.  We explored there for a few days, both on land and sea.  The station reminded me a little bit of the abandoned outports in Newfoundland.  Looked like everyone stopped working and just left.  The station was quite extensive, spread out over the entire north end of the island, and we walked through each and every building there.  One afternoon, while sitting on the back porch reading, Suz spotted a couple of locals in a skiff paddling to shore around a half mile away.  Long story short, they had run out of gas.  After we brought them some gas, the motor wouldn’t start.  We ended up towing them a couple of miles to Children’s Cay.  They promised to take us lobstering the next morning as a gesture of thanks, but never showed up.  Undeterred, we searched out some coral heads on our own, and Suz actually spotted a crawfish (spiny lobster).  He was tucked back into a hole, with no chance for a shot, but we eventually teased him out onto his “porch”.  One shot.  Right between the eyes, and we had our first bug.  Happy Birthday, Suzanne.

It was almost kinda creepy.  I woke up last night with the feeling that something was wrong.  As the mists of sleep cleared from my brain, I realized that it was quiet.  The wind had completely died.  Our forecast looked good, and I thought “Tomorrow’s gonna be a good travel day”.  By 05h45 the wind was back, and the dinghy was thumpin’ against the side of the Girl, torn between following the tidal current or the wind.  I got up and retied her, then watched the stars slowly blink out as nautical twilight gave way to dawn.  By 08h11 the dinghy was stowed, the anchor up, and we were underway under sunny skies and an 11 knot breeze.  As we exited the cut, we found the seas running at about 2’-4’ on a 7 second interval.  As soon as we cleared the 30 meter contour, the lines were wet.  By 09h32, the drought was over.  Fish on!  It felt like a biggie, and it was.  That 42”, 16# Mahi took 200-300 yards of line off the reel before I could even think of gaining some ground on him.  Before we finally had him next to the boat, he had jumped a half dozen times, sunlight reflecting off his blue green hide, violently trying to shake the hook.  He still wasn’t done, fighting furiously when he saw the boat, and before Suz could get him gaffed, we had visions of losing him like the one a couple of weeks previously.  “I can’t get ‘im, I can’t get ‘im………Got him!”  Suz hauled up the gaff, and dropped our prize to the cockpit sole, where he promptly shook the hook in about 3 flops.  Lines back in the water, and within 15 minutes somebody had stripped our other Ballyhoo off the hooks.  I had only rigged 2, so we trailed artificial lures the rest of the way to Conch Cut near Georgetown, and got nuthin’.  By the time we had the anchor down at Stocking Cay, across from Georgetown at 13h11 (exactly 5 hours after we had left), the laundry was done, and our battery bank was fully charged.  We got the dude filleted, and some boatchores done, but mostly enjoyed the breezy sunny day.

Bigtime pre-visitor boatchores tomorrow.  Jeremy, Jody and Mikaela arrive on the 1st.

-Later

G’day

Well…….Conception Island was a well-worth-it stop.  While we shared the anchorage with 6 other boats on Friday, we were all by our lonesome all day on Saturday.  The island is completely uninhabited, save for the flocks of birds that live here, and we enjoyed a real sense of isolation.  On Saturday morning, we took the dinghy to the south end of the bay, and anchored in 12’ of water, over sand and right next to a coral reef.  We snorkeled the reef, trying to hone our lobster and fish-finding skills.  This island is part of the Land and Sea Park, so it is a “no-take” area.  I figured that since this was the case, we’d find tons of lobster.  Nope.  I’m thinkin’ that we really need to get with a pro so we can learn the ropes, ‘cause I’m sure that there are plenty of bugs in these hidey holes.  I was just starting to feel a little chilly when I caught some movement out of the corner of my left eye.  Suz was on my right, so it got my attention.  I turned my head to see a 6’ Reef Shark swimming toward us.  He stopped, and swam a couple of tight circles about 15 feet from us.  Then, he swam past us at a distance of about 10 feet, and looped back before swimming toward shore over the coral.  Now Suz and I have swum around sharks plenty, most of the time with SCUBA, and they usually pay you no attention, nor are we bothered by their presence.  This guy just didn’t feel right.  We decided that it was time to get out of the water, and we literally swam the 50 yards to the dinghy back-to-back.  We saw no more of our pal.  After a late breakfast on “Alizann”, we headed to shore, and anchored “White Star” 10’ off the beach.  We crossed over to the windward side of the island, and were treated to a mile long, coarse sand beach.  We walked it in total solitude, with the sun high overhead, marveling at the myriad colors of the ocean over the sand and offshore reefs.  Back on our, the leeward side of the island, the sand was finer, and a lighter color.  We walked the shore of our bay from north to south.  The late afternoon was spent reading on deck.  Towards sunset, a sailboat arrived and anchored about a quarter mile away.  Our tender was already stowed on the boat deck, so we didn’t go over to say “Hi”.

By Sunday morning, the swells that had started to roll into the anchorage the day before were becoming quite pronounced.  No matter, we were up early for an 07h00 departure to Cat Island.  We fished for 4 ½ hours before one of the reels started screaming out.  We hooked up, and had a good fight for about 30 seconds, then, not much.  I could still feel a fish on, and I knew this was bad news.  Barracudas hit hard, and go fast, but have no endurance.  They’re totally passive until you get them out of the water to unhook ‘em, then they’re all muscle and teeth.  Yep, Barracuda.  What a pain in the butt.  And………in 1500’ of water.  He musta been lost or something.  After I dehooked him, he was back to the races, and I was ready to call it a day.  The Bight at Cat Island was just around the point, and shallow water was a half hour away.  The seas were predicted to be running out of the East, making the West-facing Bight a perfect anchorage.  Instead, the 3’ waves were coming out of the Southwest, rolling into the Bight, which ran several miles from north to South.  We quickly scrapped Plan A, which was to anchor in New Bight, and motored over the shallow sand to the beach which ran along the southern edge of the Bight.  There, we found that it was still windy, but 100 yards off shore, the swell was negligible.  We spent a quiet afternoon on the boat, the day made almost perfect by spaghetti and meatballs.  The wind died nearly completely, and we had a totally calm night.  Just before dawn, the waves started lapping, and we heard the wind generators start to wind up.  All of a sudden, the motion detector (burglar) alarm went off.  I went to the salon to check things out.  Nobody around, but the flag on the stern was drooping down, and, I believe, set off the alarm (note to self).  Well…..within 10 minutes (literally), the wind was blowing 22, clocking from West to Northwest.  This usually indicates the beginning of a frontal passage here, and a Cold Front had been moving through the Southeast states the day before.  The black clouds to the Northwest, and the light horizon below them told us the Front was here.  We could expect the wind to go to east within 12-18 hours.  We got the anchor up, and headed North to New Bight.  By the time that we arrived an hour later, the wind had subsided to 5 out of the Northnorthwest, so we tucked in tight to the beach and had some breakfast.

Time to explore.  We dropped the dink and headed to shore.  Ha!  No place to tie up.  Just a long beach and no docks.  I beach the dinghy and drop off the Admiral, then anchor just outside the break, and wade in.  I miscalculated the depth by about 6”.  Man, I hate starting a walk with a wet crotch!  I know, T.M.I.  First stop is the police station/post office/island administrator/driver’s license/BaTelco building.  We get the lowdown from a very pleasant officer, and find that the post office has an open internet network.  Yay! I might be able to shoot some of these blogs up.  We walk the shore road up to the North, and spy a bunch of gaily colored shacks on the beach.  None are more than 150 square feet in size.  The signs on them indicate that they’re bars and restaurants.  Most are closed.  It is a full party during Island Regatta week in August. We stop at “Hidden Treasure”, which is open, and is reported by the Cruisers Net to have great seafood.  After checking with the kitchen, we agree to go in for grub before we leave the island, depending on the weather.  Further down the road, we wander into an open door and meet Darlene, the local “bread lady”.  She’s gonna bake us loaves of coconut, cinnamon, and wheat bread that we can pick up in the morning.  A half mile down, we visit Holy Redeemer, the last Catholic church designed and built by Father Jerome before his death (more on F. J. later).  Gilbert’s Grocery (and rent-a-car) is our turning point about a mile-and-a-half down the road.  The mail boat (supplies) comes in on Thursday, but not this Thursday, so we grab a couple of $4 Mangoes, lettuce, eggs, red pepper, and celery-$40.  Yeow!  Suzanne reminds me that this Thursday is Holy Thursday, and that most business (in our experience) will be conducted on restricted hours, or not at all, during Holy Week here in the islands.  The Front arrived before we got home, but it actually felt kinda good walking in the pouring rain, just as my shorts were beginning to dry out. 

17h00.  Time for an iced coffee with rum.

-Later

Wednesday morning didn’t come quick enough.  I was excited about getting some lobsters, and had a lot of stuff to do before we could go. Low tide was at around 10h00.  That meant that our bikes, which had been idle for a while, needed to be unpacked, chains and derailleurs lubed, tires aired up, and luggage racks re-installed, then dropped to the dinghy for their ½ mile ride to the dock.  Snorkel gear needed to be unstowed, and packed in to carryable packages.  Peanut butter toast, and we were on our way by 08h30.  Due to the early low tide, we decided to head to the spot that was only a mile or so from the boat.  Since “everyone” knew about this spot, we figured that we’d maybe only get a bug or two.  After we got the bikes loaded with gear, Suz decided that mine looked like a vehicle out of “Mad Max”, with our spears sticking out over the front tire.  The road out to the beach was a challenge.  The island is comprised of rock, and any unpaved roads (and this is most of them) are surfaced with large sharp rocks, and are deeply rutted, with washed out sand in any depressions.  We had a nice swim, but that was about it.  Figured that the place was “lobstered out”.  We stashed our bikes behind Tyrone’s house, and hotfooted it back to the Girl, as the Georgetown gang had organized a beach cleanup outing for 13h00. 15 or 20 of us made a nice dent in cleaning up a 2-mile stretch of beach on the windward side.  Through our stay this year in the Exumas, we had become very familiar with items from the ill-fated “El Faro”, the freighter that went down with all hands during Hurricane Joaquin in October.  Among other flotsam, we picked up numerous syringes, jars of mayonnaise, yogurt, Axe bodywash, plastic tubes of M&M’s, and roll-on deodorant.  Many of the aerosol cans were nearly decomposed by rust, and there was virtually no glass-just PLASTIC!  It certainly makes you think twice about buying products packaged in this stuff.  There must be a better way.  Back to the boat for a quick wash up, and to shore for the “Closing Ceremonies” at Sou’ Side bar and Grill.  Busy day, so it was an early night for me and the Boss.

Thursday, St. Paddy’s day and we’re on a bug hunt again.  This time, we’re off to David’s secret spot on the windward side of the island opposite McCann settlement.  It’s about a 5 kilometer ride, but since it’s only 0900, the temperature is conducive.  On the way down, we can hear the feral goats in the underbrush next to the road, the kid’s plaintive cries sound so human, it’s eerie.  Once off the main road (and I use this term loosely), we’re confronted with a washed-out two track littered with 3” in diameter, sharp rocks and eroded gashes up to a foot deep which climbs up, angles down to a brackish pond, then climbs back up as it meanders the ¾ of a mile to end on a cliff overlooking the coral reef below.  After taking a few moments to admire the view, we unload the bikes and stash them in the undergrowth.  Next, we’ve got a half mile hike over the razor-sharp coral rocks out to the beach.  This stuff is mucho serious.  One fall, and you’re gonna end up with a cut to the bone.  We’re not really visualizing ourselves being treated for an injury in a third world country, so the going is slow.  Once down to the beach, we’re treated to a mile of desolate sand, and blue, light blue, sorta blue, green, aqua water.  (I think that the Bahamians must have as many words for the water color here as the Inuit have for snow.  The variations never fail to take your breath away).  Not a soul in sight, and no sounds indicating the presence of other humans.  Full of anticipation, we pull on our diveskins, snorkels, and fins and embark on our small game hunt on to the uncharted reef.  Two hours later, as the tide starts coming back in, we’re thinking that we pretty much suck at this lobstering thing.  There were tons of good “hidey holes” among the coral heads and rocks strewn around the bottom, but did we see a single lobster?  Nein!  The best we could do was a 4’ barracuda that followed us the whole time that we were in the water. On the way home, we stopped at the Hillside Market, as the “Mail Boat” had come in the day before, and fresh vegetables would be on the shelf.  Only problem was that when we got to the checkout, Suz didn’t have any money, and she thought that I should have some.  By the time we brought the bikes back to the boat by dinghy, and I returned to the store to pay for our stuff, she had the Girl ready to go.  The rest of the Georgetown crew had pretty much departed while we were gone.  We took the ride up to Calabash Bay on the northwest end of Long Island laying atop the pilothouse roof, catching some rays, with the autopilot remote in hand.  The anchorage there was reported to be affected by a fair bit of ocean swell, but in settled weather like we were finally experiencing, we figured that it’d be fine for an overnight.  Well……...It was pretty rolly.  We didn’t bother to take the dinghy down, and opted for sundowners on the back porch, as we planned a morning departure for Conception Island.  We were so excited about having scored fresh fruit and veggies, that we took full advantage.  Suz whipped up some slushies on this, the 50th anniversary of their invention. (‘cept hers were made with papaya, banana, coconut cream, rum, ice, and of course, soy milk and protein powder to keep things healthy).  We love our Vitamix.  For dinner, it was salad topped with, you guessed it, grilled Mahi.

We were out of the anchorage by 09h00.  Since we would be crossing deep water on our way to Conception, the rods were out, and the hooks baited.  We’d been doing so well fishing, that we figured that all it took was to wet a line.  In spite of the Admiral doing the fish dance and chanting her soon to be patented fish call, we came up with a giant goose egg for our 2 ½ hour efforts.  We’re now entering through the reef to the anchorage on the northwest end of the island.  The Bight is ringed by a shallow, rocky coral reef to the north, and a mile of pure, sandy beach to the east, and rocks to the south.  There are only 6 other boats here, and it looks like a great place to hang for a few days.

-Later

Friday, the 11th.  We’re waiting for A.J., the water taxi driver, to come and pick Andy& Jodie up for their trip to the airport.  I hate these times, the long farewells.  Typical to “island time”, he doesn’t arrive at the boat until 30 minutes past the agreed time.  Andy is fit to be tied.  In his mind, he’s already on his way home.  After A.J.  finally arrives and picks A&J up, we should be busy cleaning the boat, but are in a catatonic state, so we spend the rest of the afternoon just chillin’.  A few of the boats in the anchorage are planning a trip to Long Island on Monday, with some excursions after arrival, so we want in.  We call “Five and Dime” to get in, and are told that all of the spots for the activities there are filled.  No room at the Inn.   A half hour later, we’re called on the VHF, and are told that there’s an opening, as one of the boats hasn’t paid their dues.  Quicker than a fly on you-know-what, we’re over to “Five & Dime” with a hundred and five rockets to pay our dues.  We’re in. 

On Saturday, we spend the day makin’ water and doing laundry, as well as cleaning the Girl, post guests.  The office is reconfigured from a guest stateroom back, and our trusty little ship is returned to normal.  At 05h30, A.J. picks us up for our soiree into town for the “Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival”.  Live music, Bahamian food and drink are on the schedule.  The music is good, the food is great, and the night goes quickly.  Before we know it, we’re home.

On Sunday, the 13th, the winds had subsided to around 13 knots or so.  The seas were predicted to be running 1’-3’, so we saddled up to head over to Long Island.  I wasn’t in much of a hurry, as I had taken a quick look at the chart and figured it was about 18NM to our anchorage.  Suz looked at me kinda funny when she asked, and I told her that I wanted to leave around 12h00 or so.  We got the dinghy up and secured, and got under way at around 11h30.  We hadn’t plotted a course.  I figured that we’d do it once underway, as it would be a short hop.  NOT!  Thirty-eight miles?  I don’t know what I was smokin’ when I thought it was only 18, but we were lucky that we had switched to Daylight Savings Time, or we wouldn’t have made it before dark.  We made Thompson Bay at Long Island just before dusk, and dropped the hook in around 10’ of water at the northern end of the bay.  No time to explore as it was getting dark, so we left “White Star” on the boat deck and settled in with the 4 other boats scattered in the bay.  Today, we crossed the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees, 25 minutes North latitude), the farthest south that “Alizann” has been.

Monday.  Race day.  We expected the sailors from Georgetown to start arriving just after noon.  We dropped the dink, and headed to the newly rebuilt dinghy dock for some shore recon.  We stopped at the “Sou’ Side Bar & Grill”, which would be the focal point of the upcoming shoreside activities.  There, we met Tyrone and his wife Vanessa, the owners of the 400 square foot (Maybe.  This included the 2 porches) establishment.  It was empty, save for a guy sitting outside under the shade of a Sea Grape tree.  We sidled over, and introduced ourselves to Alton, locally known as “Big Al”, as there were 2 other men by the name Alton on the Island.  We trolled for some local knowledge, including good snorkel spots, the location of the market, if there was a place to “top off” our cell phone, where we could drop off our well-traveled packages of post-hurricane relief supplies, and etc.  (Later, we would find out that he, and his partner, Sue, were former Georgetown liveaboards who had recently sold their boat and were now living on the island.  They were also the local organizers of the soon-to-arrive Georgetown to Long Island rally.)  We checked out the local scene, which didn’t take long, topped off our data plan on the IPad, found that the “mail boat”, which brought fresh produce to the market, would arrive in 2 days, and headed back to Sou’ Side for lunch and a brew.  The Hogfish was tasty.  Right about then, the first boats of the rally were appearing on the horizon-no sails (no wind).  We beat a hasty retreat back to the Girl, as we had decided that our late evening choice for anchoring was too far from the lone dinghy dock.  We re-anchored a half mile or so from the dock in 6’ of water, and watched as the 30 or so boats in the rally streamed in, motoring all the way.  In the evening, we all convened at Sou’ Side for a potluck of shared heavy hors doeuvres, supplied by our fellow cruisers, and 2/$5 Sand’s beer, supplied by the bar.  Team “Alizann” was smoked in the Conch races.  We didn’t even make it out of the first round.  I’m pretty sure that there were some professionals in the mix.

Tuesday was a big day.  The big yellow schoolbus from St Peters Anglican parish school was at the dock and loaded by 08h30 for our grand tour of the south end.  David, our driver (and Harbormaster for the commercial harbor, and lumberyard owner, and former grocery store owner, and jack of all trades), gave us a running commentary on the history of the island as we headed “up south”.  Like Canadians in the Maritimes, South is referred to as “up”, and North, “down”.  For our tour, I had the best seat in the house.  Since the bus was full, I sat on an upturned 5 gallon bucket next to David.  We all witnessed firsthand the devastation that “Joaquin” had visited on the people here that were hanging on by their fingernails, even before the storm.  We hit a Blue Hole, where a couple of us climbed and dove off a 50’ cliff into the 630 foot deep water below.  (The Admiral and I did it twice, with 4 other folks taking a shot each).  Next, it was off to “Rowdy Boys” for lunch and sips.  After our bus tour, the crew headed back to their respective boats to “get pretty” for the night’s trip to the cave at Stella Maris for dinner and sips.  Suz and I stayed behind.  David had promised to show us his “secret spot” for bagging lobster (known locally as crawfish).  We took the bus up to his house, where we transferred to his wife’s car for our expedition to the windward side of the island.  There, he showed us the “spot”.  At 18h00, and we were all back on the busses for our trip down north for the nights’ festivities.  On the way, we stopped at a roadside bar for a few roadies ($3 beers, as negotiated by Big Al).  Dinner was literally in a cave.  We sat on the rocks, and supped on grilled Mahi, chicken, peas and rice, cole slaw, and, what?  Hot dogs.  David got us back to the dock safely, and we motored home.

-Later

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