AUGUST--The Month of Rivers, Canals, Bridges, Locks, Motoring and Reaching Salt Water
Completed one of our longest sailing days on this adventure on August 1. Sails were up, filled with air and the engine was turned off all the way from Erie, PA to Port Colborne, ON--almost 60 nautical miles. Had some excitement outside Erie when the US Border Patrol requested persmission to board for a safety check. Just as they pulled along side while underway to board DISCOVERY, their engine failed---telling us they'd be back in a minute. However, they continued to drift away our of our sight. Watching through our binoculars, when they finally got their engine going, they continued back to Erie leaving us alone so we continued sailing to Port Colborne. Assuming this was an embarrassing experience for the Border Patrol!
Friends, Jo and Bruce Johnson, joined us in Port Colborne to help us through the Welland Canal. We transitted the canal with 3 powerboats passing under the first lift bridge at 8:15 AM and completing the last lock at 3:02 PM. Jo handled the bow lines while I handled the stern lines.
Carl was at the engine controls while Burce was the "human fender" using a 2x4 to fend us off the concrete wall. It was a very hot day and the winds were 15 to 20 knots pusing us against the wall as we slowly were lowered in the locks. By the time we completed the eighth lock, we were pretty pretty proficient. Anchored in Weller Bay and cooled off by swimming in Lake Ontario pleased with the day's work.
Sailed northeast across Lake Ontario form Port Weller to Coburg. The winds picked up around noon - we had a double reef in the main sail and an average boat speed of 8 knots reaching 9.7 knots at times. As we reached Coburg we saw a Saga 35, Asherah, coming into the harbor. Carl invited the owners of Asherah, Ann and Stephen Middleton to join us on Discovery for wine and appetizers. Ann and Stephen purchased hull 1 which was located in Texas and then moved the boat to St. Catharines, ON for refurbishing. Jo and Bruce took Carl and I out for dinner in Coburg to a fantastic Tapas Restaurant with outdoor seating. A great way to end a fun day.
Passsed through the Murray canal to get into the Bay of Quinte. The Murry Cannal is a very narrow passage that is five miles long with 2 highway swing bridges. The toll ($5.00) is collected in a brass cup fixed to the end of a long pole. Anchored two nights in this area - anchored reminded me of Harbor Island which is located north of Drummond Island in northern Lake Huron.
Anchored in Kingstorns Confederation Basin. Jo and Bruce left us in Kingston but not before having a great breakfast at Pam Chanco Deli and Bakery. Many thanks to Jo and Bruce for thier help and companionship.
From Kingston we followed the Canadian Middle Channel through the Thousand Islands where the St lawrence River begains. The Tousand Islands (there are actually 1800 islands filling an area 50 miles long and 5 to 15 miles wide). There are hundreds of secluded anchorage with narrow and twisting channels. The area is very similar to Lake Huron's North Channel except the are located close to large towns with great restrauants and stores for provisioning.. Fell in love with the town of Gananoque but had to keep moving east. As I've told several people, themost difficult part of the trip is moving on - We enjoyed every area and so it would be easy to stay to long.
Both of us were a little anxious about transitting the locks between Prescott and Montreal without extra hands on board. The first lock was a easy one, the Iroquois Lock with a drop of only 1 to 6 feet. It was good way for us to learn how to enter and grab lines with just the two of us. The next 2 locks, the Eisenhower and Snell, use a different process... you actually tie the bow and stern to a floating bollards. When we tied to the bollards in the Eisenhower Lock, we were told that the incoming sailboat will raft off us. The sailboat, Sweet Mary, was a beautiful 50 foot schooner just purchased by a couple from England, Mark and Julie. The original owner had built the schooner in a warehouse over a 19 yearr period in Holland, MI. The previous owner's daughter, Susan, was also on board helping Mark and Julie from Toledo, OH to Montreal. We traveled through the Snell, Upper Beauharnois and Lower Beauharnois Locks with Sweet Mary rafted off us. For the last two locks, Cote Ste. Catherine and St. Lambert, we rafted off Sweet Mary and a third sailboat rafted off us.
At Montreal, we said good-bye to Swee Mary---she was continuing out the St. Lawrence Seaway. We hope to meet up with Sweet Mary somewhere this fall or winter between Annapolis and the Bahamas. While Sweet Mary sailed off into the sunset, our focus was turned to finding a place to take our mast down so we could transit the canals and eventually get to the Hudson River. Our original plan to have the mast taken down in Sorel was blown apart when we called and found out the mast stepping crane was broken, the part was on order but no idea when it would be operational again. The marina in Longueuil (a suburb of Montreal) informed us that we could lower our mast at the marina next door to them. Therefore, we did not go to Port D'Escale in downtown Old Montreal. Shortly after docking in Longueuil, Carl checked out the mast stepping marina only to find out they could not take our mast down because the water by the crane was only 5 feet deep (we need at least 6 feet to float our boat). Not all was lost, we were able to take a water taxi over to Old Montreal where we walked around, had dinner and enjoyed the street entertainment. Also, Carl located a marina near Repentigny who said they had the expertise to handle a mast our size and the water was the necessary 6 feet we needed.
August 15 and 16 are two days we will never forget! When we arrived at Marina de la Rive Nord in Repentigny, the owner, Yvon, came out into the St Lawrence River channel so he could show us the way into his marina. Half way up the channel to his marina----we ran aground. Yvon then pulled us with his powerboat while Carl revved the engine up to plow our way through mud. People from the marina peered out of their boats to see what the commotion was all about. We finally made it to the area where the crane was located. Once tied up to the dock, the mast came down without any problems. Yvon and his crew knew what they were doing. That night, we were beat---it was a hot, stressful day plus getting the mast ready to pull and then getting it set in the cradle was hard work. Early the next morning we started worrying about how we were going to get back out into the St. Lawrence River Channel. Yvon arroived by 8:00 AM with a plan for getting us out which included sounding the fairway to determine where the deepest water was. Carl steered the boat following the deepest path but we still ran aground. Apparently, the water dropped lower over night because we were stuck in areas we passed through the day before! For 400 yards, DISCOVERY was pulled forward by a powerboat while Carl "fire walled" our engine and twisted the steering wheel hard left to hard right to hard left so that we fishtailed out---taking almost an hour to cover a distance of 400 yards (plowing our way through at least 200 to 300 feet).
Left the St. Lawrence River approximately 40 nautical miles northeast of Montreal where we entered the Richelieu River at Sorel. The first lock on the Richelieu is the St. Ours Lock which is relatively new and not part of the Chambly. The St. Ours Lock was the first time that the lock filled up with water to raise us. We tied to a floating dock that moved up the lock as the lock filled with water. Passed several quaint Quebec villages--tried to stop at Sainta Antoine at the ckity dock (a concrete wall) but wakes from passing boats made it impossible to tie up without damaging the boat's hull. The thrill ride on the Richelieu River was at an swing bridge where the opening was very narrow and the current was very swift. Carl wanted me to take a picture but by the time my camera was ready, the current had moved us too far down the river.
The Chambly Canal is run by the Canadian Park Services. Eight of the nine locks are in the first 1.5 miles of the canal. There are also 9 swing bridges to pass through along the way. According to the crusing guide, the Chambly Canal is very similar to the European Canals with hand operated locks, canal-side restaurants and a bike path that runs next to the canal. Lock 9 is at Saint Jean which is a lively French Canadian city. There was a loud party going on a few hundred feet from where we were trying to sleep. The next morning when we left at 6:30 AM, we found out what the partying was all when we were escorted by hundreds of hot air ballons. One of the ballons came real close to us. The pilot shouted at us with his great French Canadian accent "I am ging to touch the river". He dropped his basket into the Richelieu River and then fired this burners to get enough air to lift 3 people, a basket and a whole bunch of river water.
Lake Champlain is a fantastick place to sail---sandy beaches, rocky harbors and numerous coves and islands for anchoring. Of course, at this point our mast was down so we slowly motored Lake Champlain from north to south. Stayed in Burlington, VT two nights doing the tourist things--Ben and Jerry's for ice cream, walking around the downtown area, window shopping, library, Farmer's Market and out for dinner. Anchored one night below Fort Ticonderoga (taken from the British in 1776 by Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys). We dropped anchor to the sound of canons firing.
Entered the Champlain Canal at Whitehall, NY and followed it to Waterford, NY some 60 miles. There are 10 locks on the Champlain Canal--we were getting pretty comfortable with this locking business. I at least put one of the line under the blow cleat....Carl just held on to the line. We were in the process of going down in Lock 7 when we found out the water was to shallow to go up the small channel into Fort Edward. The Lockmaster said "no problem" and then he stopped draining the lock and started filling it. We backed out of Lock 7 and went up the canal to another city dock for the evening
Stayed two nights in Mechanicville where Carl replaced the water pump on the diesel engine. He also noticed the bracket that holds the oil dipstick and throttle cable was broke from wear. Carl needed to find someone to weld the bracket. He started walking a cuople blocks and came across 2 guys pounding on some metal so he asked them if they knew where he could be the bracket welded. The 2 guys volunteered to do it! Can you believe his luck.
The last lock we completed was the Federal Lock at Troy and we were finally in the wide open Hudson River. We planned to stop at Castleton-on-Hudson to pick up a mooring at the Castleton Boat Club. The Boat Club has a large crane for "do-it-yourself" mast stepping. Our original plan was to have the mast stepped in Catskill, NY but that plan was thrown out after stopping in Castleton. We hired a guy from the Boat Club to help us. I essentially cranked that mast up using a hand crank winch. It was hard work but we had all the time we needed to make sure we rigged the boat properly. Left our mast cradle at the Boat Club to use again when we return to Lake Michigan. The Boat Club told us there is a 90 % chance the cradle will be there when we return.
The Hudson River is interesting--Eagles, tidal currents, West Point Military Academy and the beautiful Highland sections of the river where the Hudson cuts through the Appalachian Mountain chain. We used moorings at the friendly Poughkeepsie Yacht Club and the funky Hook Mountain Yacht Club in Nyack, NY.
Arrived at the West 79th Street Boat Basin on August 30th. Stayed 2 nights.Took the subway down to 14th Street to join Carl's cousin, Karen, for dinner near Union Square.
Traveled over 750 nautical miles in August and completed almost 1500 miles since leaving Pentwater on July 13th. We have had great weather---hoping it will continue.