Thursday, June 28, 2007

Canada Info & More T.I. pics

Hello again: We are about to head across the St. Lawrence River to Gananoque, entering Canada. It is easier to cross the border once and stay on the Canadian side until we re-enter the US in the waters surrounding Michigan.

Our cell phone coverage is more limited in Canada but we do have coverage. Data (using our air card to read e-mail and to update our blog) is limited to what we can do in wireless cafes, libraries, or piggybackingo onto an unsecured network. So don't be worried if you hear from us less frequently! We will be writing blogs and selecting pictures for the blog as we go; you may see massive uploads periodically!

The Thousand Islands are beautiful. There are lots of rocks and many are extremely difficult to see. This is one of the more prominent ones!

Many islands have beautiful homes. This is Calumet Island, with an interesting tower along with other structures. This island was formerly owned by an industrial magnate, and is now a bed and breakfast, available by the week.

Here's an island with a more modest home. We love looking at the scenery and how people have fit their lives into the landscape.

Here's how we socialize on the water! This is a photo of Bob and Sue a few days ago when we were anchored in the bay near Picton Island.

You'll hear from us again as soon as we have wireless access in Canada!

Best wishes, Kathie and Doug

The Thousand Islands area

Well here we are, in the Thousand Islands area of eastern Lake Ontario & the Saint Lawrence River. This could easily be called the Ten Thousand Islands, or the Ten Million Islands. There are also a *lot* of rocks!

We travelled about 70 miles diagonally across the south east side of Lake Ontario, from Sodus Bay to Sacket's Harbor. This little town has a lot of history, and was the site of one of the most strategically important battles in U.S. history... I think we can agree that things would have been very different if New York had become part of Canada!

The lake was very calm for this crossing. The autopilot steered us on a course right for Stony Point; for a while we were out of sight of land. On the map, I patched in a bathymetric plot of eastern Lake Ontario. It is very deep and there are steep canyons & ridges along the bottom. We did not cross the deepest part, but I saw the number 556 on our depth sounder.

Here is a link to the NOAA website with more bathymetric info, for those who are interested.

The shoreline here is very steep & rocky. This is a view looking eastward past Stony Point and the islands protecting Henderson Bay.

From Sacket's Harbor we went northward into the beginning of the Saint Lawrence River. The southern tip of this area is Tibbet's Point. This photo shows the Tibbet's Point Lighthouse.

Once we were past Tibbet's Point and the southern shore of Wolfe Island (named after the British general, not because many wolves live there), we were officially among the Thousand Islands.

This photo shows a fancy house with a tower on Calumet Island. It also shows one of the gazillions of rocks which make this area a challenge to navigate.

But we did navigate safely, and reached a very pretty harbor for the evening.

Here is a photo of our anchorage near Picton Island. Bob & Sue in 'Tom-Kat' have already anchored securely.

We like to keep our favorite anchorage secret, since crowds tend to ruin it. But since this is already a popular spot, we are going to reveal the location (link to MapQuest).

We send our best wishes to all
Doug & Kathie

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Haven't you left yet?"

When we were preparing to leave North Carolina, we were delayed by projects and indirectly, weather (the timing of wind and rain slowed completion of projects, most of which were being done outdoors). We wanted to leave by May 1 to reach upstate NY and Canada early in the cruising season for more time in places that are far from North Carolina. We finally left NC on May 19 and people asked “haven’t you left yet?” We learned was that “soon” is a better reply because there are so many variables.

We have been in a similar situation on the south shore of Lake Ontario, waiting for the wind to calm down so that the lake will smooth out; our boat isn’t very comfortable when waves are over 2 feet and definitely not with waves over 3 feet! While waiting, we have enjoyed the congenial company at the marina where my cousins keep their boat. We had a marvelous breakfast in Sodus Point with Bob’s mother Ellen (see photo), who has a cheerful laugh and is a great conversationalist.

Doug has also been adding a cam cleat to our hoist for the dinghy, requiring some fiberglass work for the support. Here's a family photo with Doug's basket of fiberglass supplies. As always, Hank is a big help!

We have exhaustively shopped and restocked, and on the way, found some great local places to eat, especially ice cream and frozen yogurt! Lest you think that we will be deprived of goodies while on the water, Doug and Sue, my cousin’s wife, are baking pies!

Doug’s friend Martin is hoping for a sweet potato pie when we reach Wolfe Island in the Thousand Islands. So, last night just to be sure that our boat’s oven is adequate for producing this delicacy, last night he baked another S.P. pie, this time for friends in the marina.

It was terrific to host them in our aft cabin; thanks to Bob and Sue for wine to accompany the pie!

So, hopefully we’ll be up in the Thousand Islands soon. Today is beautiful and calm, and hopefully tomorrow when we plan to depart, it will be the same. We hope that you are well and happy! Kathie and Doug

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What do we do all day?

The Winnie W had a smooth trip from Oswego to Sodus Bay, traveling about 30 miles west along the southern shore of Lake Ontario.

Here is a photo of us steaming past Chimney Bluffs near Sodus Bay. Thanks to Karin for this shot.

First of all, we've had a great time in Sodus Bay and Rochester. We met with Kathie's cousin Bob & his wife Sue. They cruise on their boat Tom-Kat and we're planning to do much of the Loop in company.

Photo: Barb, Jim, Rick (left to right)

We were treated to a picnic dinner by Tom & Sue's sailing friends in Sodus Bay. This was a very nice occasion, meant as a 'Bon Voyage' celebration for Bob and Sue. The food was great & the camaraderie better.

Photo: Karin, Liz, Sue, Bob (left to right);

It's a common question from friends and relatives, "When you go cruising, what do you *do* all day? Don't you get bored?" Often the implication is that we are lazily sipping funny-colored drinks with a little paper umbrella stuck in the glass and occasionally stir ourselves to rub on suntan lotion.

I wish I had the talent & grace to answer this question as folk singer Eileen Quinn (link) in her song of the same title.

Ho hum, another gorgeous sunset.

The truth is that it's a lot of work. With the welcome help of Tom & Sue, we spent almost two full days provisioning & hunting for needed parts; then of course we had to stow them. In fact it was a several hours job just to put away Hank's new supply of dog food. It had to be double bagged in plastic, then carefully placed under our partially depleted current supply of dog food in the V-berth (forward) which is packed with all kinds of other necessities.

Everything had to be moved, most of it several times, & re-organized along the way, with allowance for bumping elbows & stubbing toes in a small compartment. We also check everything for moisture, as boats have been known to leak once in a while.

Here is a photo of most (not all!) of the "stuff" that we moved & re-stowed during this process, stacked in the head (bathroom) temporarily. Doesn't this look like fun?

Currently we are watching the weather and planning to head to the Thousand Islands area at the eastern end of Lake Ontario.

Hope you all are well & happy!
Doug & Kathie

Sunday, June 17, 2007

It's all about Hank

One thing we like about the Winnie W is that she is a dog-friendly vessel. The ladderways are short & not too steep, the high bulwarks & railings help keep him from falling overboard, and we have plenty of stowage for dog food.

Here is a photo of Doug working on the netting around the bow pulpit. Hank came along to supervise and then decided that Doug was doing a good enough job. We were crossing Oneida Lake when this photo was snapped.

We added the netting for safety and also built a ramp to make boarding & going ashore easier & safer for Hank. He's athletic & fearless about leaping from the boat, however we want to encourage him to stay aboard at all times unless specifically allowed.

Sorry for the slight blurriness of these pics but the action was hard enough to catch.

One of the best rewards of cruising with a dog: Hank makes friends everywhere we go. These little girls decided to help us give Hank his exercise; later on they had him running up & down the kid's slide on the playground.

Hope you all are well & happy.
Doug & Kathie

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Locking through; now we're on Lake Ontario

As of 11:15am today, we have completed 23 locks on the Erie Canal and 7 locks on the Oswego Canal (there is no lock #4). Locking can be intimidating but we have learned how to do it and have a system. Here's an action photo of us "locking through," taken by Annemarie from Karma as they locked through ahead of us in the Erie Canal.

Yesterday (6/15), we reached the junction of the Erie Canal with the Oswego Canal at Three Rivers, where the Oneida and Seneca Rivers form the Oswego River. Here's what the helm station looks like as we navigate! Charts and guidebooks, the ship's log; it's easier to keep track if we move a "stickie" arrow along the chart.

James, here' what I was photographing while you were on the phone!

We headed north on the Oswego Canal and spent the night at the free dock between locks 7 and 8. We were welcomed by Ron and Jean from Dubhe; we'd met them in Kingston earlier this month.

Here's a photo of the Winnie W at the free dock. We are in the Erie Canal with the lock visible behind us, and the Oswego River with the falls to the right of us in the photo.

Here's a photo of the lighthouse station at the end of the jetty at Oswego, as we entered Lake Ontario.

We're now on our way across Lake Ontario to Sodus Bay where we will meet my cousin Bob and his wife Sue on Tom-Kat. Tonight their friends Jim and Barb on Reach are having a Bon Voyage picnic to celebrate that Bob and Sue are starting the Great Loop this week! You can follow Bob and Sue's progress on the Loop at this link

Best wishes, Kathie and Doug

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Interesting Photos from the Erie Canal

A picture is worth 1,000 words, and here are some from yesterday's journey on the Erie Canal.

Here is a link to our location (~3:30 pm Thursday)

The strangest picture in this section is of someone putting a jet ski in the back of a pick-up truck!

We saw this while we were below a lock, waiting for its lockgates to open.

The scenery is beautiful beyond words, more than we'd expected, and we had high hopes!

Hank generally has free run of the boat except when we are locking. Then, we secure him in the aft cabin, because if he fell into one of the locks, it would be disastrous. Otherwise, he spends his days watching the scenery or napping in the sun on the foredeck or inside the pilothouse at our feet.

Here's a guy hanging out on one of the navigational buoys.

There are barges and tugs, all working to maintain the locks and canal system. They are 50-100 years old! One lock-keeper said to us after a short delay entering: "Sorry for the delay, but this equipment is 90 years old!"

Although the Erie Canal opens May 1 or thereabouts depending on spring run-off, many people recommend not starting up the canal until June 10 because the high water levels from melting snow bring debris with the high water. Here is a photo of debris; you can imagine the damage this could do to a relatively small pleasure boat.

You can see evidence of the old canal in some locations. Doug will give you details in a later post.

If you look at the chart (we are using Richardson's Chartbook and Cruising Guide for the Hudson River and Adjacent Waterways, courtesy of our friends John and Georgie), the Erie Canal is often between the NY Thruway and the Conrail railway. It's odd to be in an area that looks so remote and to have these two major transportation arteries nearby. Some of the cruising guides (ex., Skipper Bob's Cruising the NY Canal System) mention train and road noise at areas to anchor or tie up for the night. Most of the time we are tired enough that the occasional sound of a train or traffic doesn't bother us!

Hope you all are doing well
Kathie & Doug

Connections Abound!

Several days ago I (Kathie) mentioned that we were meeting other cruisers and other “Loopers,” and that’s continuing to happen. Yesterday, we traveled in tandem with Kaos, Legrace, and Seaquel yesterday, going through locks together.

Seaquel started one lock behind us, and Kaos was kind enough to initiate holding the next lock so we could all travel together. Kaos later sped ahead to make more miles and we three others continued at a slower pace; when Legrace and Seaquel stopped for the day and we pressed on, we passed Sun Cat tied to a wall as we continued on to Little Falls NY.

Docking is always the toughest part of a boater’s day. We are usually pretty well organized, having discussed how we will approach the dock and what we will each do, and assembled and placed equipment such as fenders and docklines where we need them. We are always geared up, and yesterday there was a cross wind that made docking a bit more difficult. The young lady running the “canal center” was there to take lines and a gentleman from a nearby boat stepped out to help. He disappeared (it was dinnertime) and we didn’t see him again until this morning.

Link to Mapquest for our position last night

The Winnie W is behind Karma at the dock.

Turns out, Karma with a Florida home port on her transom, carries Hardy and Annemarie, who previously lived in our North Carolina community. They are still members of one of our home yacht clubs, FHYC!

Here's Hardy and Annemarie proudly holding up their FHYC burgee!

We discussed our cruising speeds and decided to travel together, locking through at the same time (efficient for both lockmasters and cruisers). We have posted photos of them, their boat,
and “locking through” together. You can see Anka, their Portuguese Water Dog, on their boat in the lock, ready to help!

We look forward to meeting more new friends and soon-to-be-friends from “home.”

We hope that you are all doing well!

Kathie and Doug

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Erie Canal.... no mules

We spent the night tied to the wharf above Lock 8 on the Erie Canal. It is a lovely park, and the old canal path is now a popular jogging & biking trail. But let's back up so you can see a little of what it's like to travel this way

Mapquest link to our location

The first two photos show what it looks like to enter a 35' lift lock from the downstream side. This lock is one of five in the Waterford Flight which lifts westbound (and lowers eastbound) boats past the Cohoes Falls and the smaller falls & rapids where the Mohawk River empties into the Hudson. You can see the sill of the upstream lock gate, and then we took a pic looking back as another boat entered the lock by the towering downstream gate.

It's springtime in upstate New York! Well, OK maybe early summer... we spotted these geese with their goslings swimming around on the Mohawk River.

This photo shows the dam & lock entrance at Lock 7 which is just north west of Schenectady. The dam looks pretty high but it's only about 15'... the Erie Canal has been rebuilt several times and these locks & dams are about 90 years old, each set (of locks and dams) replaced about ten of the old locks on the original canal.

This view of the downstream lock gate shows the turbulence of water being let out of the lock itself as the water level is lowered to allow a boat to go downstream.

The next photo shows the view over the river from the lock after being lifted to the upstream level.

In this area, the Mohawk River has many islands. Five are named for the area's Indian tribes: Isle of the Cayugas, Isle of the Mohawks, Isle of the Senecas, Isle of the Onandagas, and Isle of the Oneidas. I looked for one named Isle of the Tuscarora, which is a tribe that moved from our home area of North Carolina in the early 1700s and joined the Iroquois Confederation.

A scene from the Mohawk River

Now here we are at the park at Lock 8. Two other boats on the Great Loop cruise also tied up for the night here and it was great to meet them. We had been talking on the VHF radio as we navigated the river & locks earlier in the day so we it was nice to meet them in person.

Hank loved it here; we took him for several long walks.

There is a section of the original Erie Canal still recognizable here. When you realize that this ditch was dug by hand for over 300 miles, it is quite impressive. I (Doug) will post more later on the canal history and the importance of canals in general. Kathie took several photos of one of the old locks; you can see that they are quite small compared to modern locks. These stone-walled locks are not original but a later upgrade. The original locks & bulkheads were wood.

Hope you all are doing well! We are having a great time and would definitely like to return & spend more time cruising in this area!

Doug & Kathie