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July 15 - August 4
Things Canadian * Trent-Severn Waterway * Locks and More Locks * Petersborough Night Festival * Lift Lock * Riding Out of the Water * Last Lock * Mast Back Up * Canadian Sheild Granite * 30,000+ Islands * Blueberries * North Channel * Last Bridge * Back in the U.S. * Epilogue
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Day 359 - Sunday, July 15
N 44' 08.5 W 77' 11.5
Dan and I got up at noon. The kids were already up and looking around at their new surroundings. We pulled up the anchor and headed to the nearest marina. Dan needed to find a phone and call in to Customs to get clearance for us before we could get off the boat. We put up our yellow quarantine flag one more time.
The marina we pulled into just had a gas dock and a few small fishing boats. Apparently, they didn't get quarantined boats pulling in very often. Dan made the phone call and was told to go to a larger marina for an inspection. That marina was a few miles off our path and we dutifully headed there. The kids and I did some hasty cleaning on the boat since we had never been inspected by Customs before. In the Bahamas they never came on our boat.
When we got to the big marina, Dan gave them another call. They said that they decided we didn't need an inspection. They just gave us a number that we had to write on a piece of paper and tape up in our window. Our number is 0278. We figured that the whole thing was just a test. Since we were willing to have an inspection and we showed up for it, they probably figured it wasn't worth their time to inspect us.
The main thing that they are concerned about is boaters bringing firearms into their country. We had had a shotgun onboard throughout our trip. Dan called it a "shark gun". Those are legal in the Bahamas. But we knew the gun wouldn't be allowed in Canada so while we were back in New York Dan had stopped at a sporting goods store and shipped the gun back home.
After our non-inspection, we continued travelling west. At 5:00 we anchored for the night since we were still a little tired. Dan and Zion were up for a swim. The water was very refreshing (cold). Dan scraped barnacles off the bottom of the boat. A few of them had survived in the fresh water. Hopefully this will be the last time he has to do that chore.
Zion got a chance to test his new and improved model sailboat. This time, he stuffed the hull full of styrofoam. Now it floats even when it's upside-down. He was very pleased to see that the model actually performed just like a sailboat should. A stiff wind from the side made it go forward.
Back on board, Tricia made a Mississippi River board game. It had all the hazards of the real thing - snags, locks, barges and boat wakes. It was lots of fun to play and brought back good memories.
We spent the evening watching Canadian TV. They have one station where everything is in French. We watched a nature documentary about lions and we couldn't understand a word of it, but it was fun trying. French is such a pleasing language to the ear, so smooth and flowing.
The other two stations we could get seemed to be their public television station, CBC, and then a station called Global. Global had a mixture of shows from different U.S. networks. We were never sure what would be on next. By 9:00 our reception was so fuzzy that we gave up for the night and went to bed.
Day 360 - Monday, July 16
Mile 10.5 on the Trent-Severn Waterway
Today we continued west, heading for the city of Trent which is the beginning of the Trent-Severn Waterway.
We reached Trent around noon. There was a nice city park and dock in town to celebrate the beginning of the Waterway. The park had the most beautiful flower gardens we've seen on this trip. There were patterns of pleasing colors in various geometric shapes, always symmetrical along a brick path.
We got off the boat for our first walk around Canada. We strolled down Main Street. One of the first things we noticed is that you see Canadian flags hanging everywhere, and the word "Canada" is on almost every sign. They have the same kinds of stores that we have, but they all have different, unfamiliar names. And lots of the signs are in French. I had expected Canada to be just like the U.S. and I was surprised at all of the differences. It really did feel a bit exotic.
Our first stop was the library. We had lots of e-mail to check up on. Tricia found some books for sale there from her favorite series, Sweet Valley Twins, but we couldn't buy them until we traded in our U.S. cash for some Canadian currency.
Dan headed to the bank with Zion. They learned that we get ten Canadian dollars for every six U.S. dollars. What a deal! So even though prices in Canada look a little higher, they are actually much cheaper. And, the Canadians have stopped printing paper $1 and $2. They use coins instead. The $1 coin has a picture of a loon on it, so it is called a "loonie". The $2 coin has a picture of a polar bear, and it is called a "toonie".
We stopped at the post office and got some Canadian stamps. Tricia wants to send all of her friends a post card from Canada. Their stamps are 60 cents (40 cents U.S.).
Before getting back on the boat we stopped for some homemade creamy rich ice cream that was being sold at the dock. The kids had butterscotch and Dan and I had maple walnut, in honor of the Canadian maple, of course.
Leaving the dock we headed into our first lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway. Every lock system is a little bit different, so we weren't sure what to expect here. Pulling up to this lock we saw a sign at the side, but the writing was very small, both in English and in French. We used binoculars to read that we were supposed to tie-up and wait along the blue line painted along the dock wall before the lock. As we were trying to figure out what to do, a clear voice came over a loudspeaker and told us to pull up and wait for ten minutes.
Soon the gates opened and we went inside. We were greeted by two friendly lockmasters in their uniforms of brown shorts and brown pin-striped shirts. They look a lot like U.S. park rangers, which makes sense since this Waterway is part of the Canadian park system.
The Waterway was completed in 1920. It had been built in pieces over a period of eighty years. By the time it was all done it was really too small for the commercial freight barges of the day, so it has been used primarily for pleasure boating ever since. The government promotes it as a great place for a family vacation, either by boat or car. Every lock is surrounded by docks and parking lots and picnic tables and flower gardens. People are invited to come to the parks and watch boats go through the locks. They can walk practically anywhere around the locks and the lockmasters enjoy talking to them.
And, most fun of all, almost all of the lock gates are opened by hand. One lockmaster stands on each side and turns a large handle to open the gate. They look like a modern version of that scene from "Conan the Barbarian" where he spends all day pushing a bar around in a big circle.
This is a big difference from the U.S. locks. Last summer, when we were on the Corps of Engineer locks that were built for commercial traffic, you had to wear your life jacket and stay on your boat at all times. You might occasionally talk to a lockmaster, but there was usually only one. And everything was automated. Things were pretty much the same in the Erie, except that the lockmaster was friendlier and the locks were smaller and prettier. But here things were very different. You could jump off of your boat after you came up in the lock and just look around for awhile. And the lockmasters would even help you handle your boat by tying you up or pushing you off, something that was never done in the U.S.
After the first lock, we went through another five in rapid succession. Most of them were ready for us with their doors open. We would just go inside, raise up, chat a bit, then take off again. Pretty soon we had the whole routine down and we were working like a team.
The locks closed at 8:00 so we found a nice spot off of the channel and anchored for the night. We failed to close the doors as the sun set and we regretted it. Our boat was soon filled with hundreds of mosquitoes. We spent about an hour, all of us killing mosquitoes as diligently as possible until they were defeated and we could safely go to sleep.
Day 361 - Tuesday, July 17
Steam Mill Island, Hastings, Ontario
Mile 45 on the Trent-Severn Waterway
The locks opened up again at 8:30 a.m. and we were ready and waiting. At Lock 7 we were surprised to see one of the lockmasters we had met the day before. He said that they work at a different lock every day, within a given area. At the next lock we were surprised to see a cute kitten come out to play. The lockmaster said that she and her siblings had been dumped off of the bridge into the river and he had saved her. She was the only one that survived, and she was a feisty one. She reminded us of Polly.
At the next lock Tricia got off the boat with the camera and recorded our
journey through the lock. She and Zion also got several chances to help the
lockmasters open the lock doors. They didn't like doing it, though, because
it made them too dizzy.
At one lock, the lock gate was immediately followed by a small turntable
bridge for road traffic. After opening the gates, the lockmaster let two
visiting children help him work the controls to open the bridge. They had a
The whole day was one lock followed by another. By the end of the day we
passed through eleven locks. Two of them had been double locks which are
awesome. This was our first experience with double locks. When you leave the
top of the first lock, you enter directly into the bottom of the second lock,
then you get raised again. When you are at the very top you can look down and
see the valley beneath you.
During the day we did make one short stop at the city of Campbellford. We
learned it was the home of the $2 coin since the artist that had drawn the
polar bear featured on the face of the coin lived there.
We had our first chance to go grocery-shopping in Canada. The prices looked about the same as what we pay back in the States, but when you figure in the exchange rate their food is amazingly cheap. But it is hard to shop quickly because all of the foods are labelled in English and French. You have to search to find the small print, like "low-fat" or "2%". It would take some getting used to. But it certainly is a fun and easy way to learn some French. So while I was translating all of the languages in my head, Zion was calculating all of the U.S. prices in his. He was finding lots of really good deals that were hard to pass up. By the time we left, I had lots of good groceries and a headache!
After we anchored for the night we immediately closed the doors in the boat to keep the bugs out. We had learned our lesson, or so we thought. Somehow the pesty mosquitoes just kept on coming in. They were even worse than the night before. We couldn't beat them so we had to retreat. We turned off all of the lights and went to bed early. Once we were in bed we could protect ourselves by hiding under our blankets. Tricia was able to stay up and read by using her flashlight under the covers.
Day 362 - Wednesday, July 18
Mile 89.4 on the Trent-Severn Waterway
We started the day with an easy lock and made a short stop in the little
Hastings for hardware and fresh fruit and veggies and more stamps.
most of the day travelling the thirty miles across Rice
Lake. Rice Lake looks like a vacation paradise. It is lined with cottages
and fishing boats. Halfway across we stopped for an afternoon swim in the
refreshing water. Even though this water is brown from all of the organic
matter in it, it is still very clear and we can often see the rock bottom if
it isn't stirred up.
We have noticed that the Canadians are extremely patriotic. You see
flags everywhere. Zion made a count and said that half of all the cottages
were flying the red maple leaf flag.
In the evening we reached another lock and then Peterborough, a city of
people. It is the largest city along the Trent-Severn Waterway. The
centerpiece of the town is Little Lake which has a giant fountain shooting a
geyser of water into the air in the center of it. There was a group of small
sailboats out with screaming kids onboard for some pleasant evening lessons.
The last lockmaster said that on Wednesday evenings there was always a Festival of Lights in Petersborough. They had an outdoor concert, a lighted boat parade and some fireworks. It sounded like fun so we decided to spend the night and enjoy it. We found an old concrete city dock on the edge of Little Lake. No one else was on it and the sign said it was a public dock, so we tied up for the night. Maybe it wasn't popular with the boaters, but it certainly was popular with the geese. The whole dock was covered with little land mines of goose poop. Anyway, we had it all to ourselves.
Lots of people were parking nearby and walking to the outdoor concert which was just around the edge of the lake. We were amazed to find how huge the concert was. There were thousands of people sitting on blankets and lawn chairs on the grassy slope surrounding the stage.
The band for the night was Celtic Fury. They did wonderful Irish and Scottish folk songs. In addition to the guitars and drums, there was usually a fiddle or a mandolin or a flute or a penny-whistle playing along. On some songs a group of dancers would come out doing Irish step-dancing, River Dance style. It was all wonderful.
We learned that Celtic bands are very popular in Canada where many of the citizens trace their roots back to the United Kingdom. This group told many stories about the Canadian legends and heroes that go with their songs. They said they felt like ambassadors for Canada whenever they performed in the States. They also had some funny songs, the most memorable one being "Oh, the girls are out to bingo and the boys are getting stink-o, it's just another Canadian Saturday night".
The band was so popular that they got called back for an encore. The lead singer said they would do a song that his Scottish grandfather used to sing to him at night before going to bed. Some beautiful lilting melodies came across the stage, but when the lead singer opened his mouth to start singing we heard a gravelly, hard-hitting, perfect imitation of Rod Stewart come out singing/screaming "Come on, Maggie, wake up. I've got something to say to you." Then the band went into an all-out hard rock version of the song while the crowd was laughing. The lead singer came up to the mike and said "Yeah, my grandfather was way cool".
After that rousing encore everyone moved their chairs closer to the edge of the lake. Darkness had come. Then we saw our first synchronized electric light boat show. Six small identical aluminum fishing boats came out of the dark. You really couldn't see them until they turned on their lights. They had strings of lights around the bow and up the mast and in geometric designs that resembled sails. The six boats weaved in and out of each other and moved around in formations while fun music played over the loudspeakers. It was beautiful and amazing that they never ran into each other. They had some powerful little engines and were doing lots of quick turns. Dan had gone back to watch them from our boat and he could hear them giving directions to each other over channel 16 on the radio. We never did figure out, though, how they managed to make their lights blink on and off in unison. Different lines would light up at different times and usually they were all in sync. It's still a mystery.
After the boat show there was a fireworks display. The fireworks were shot from a raft out in the middle of Little Lake. Some of them were water fireworks that went out into the water and then shot up above the surface of the lake (or maybe they were just misfires, I'm not sure). We were happy because we finally got the chance to see some fireworks to make our Fourth of July complete.
Day 363 - Thursday, July 19
Mile 120.7 on the Trent-Severn Waterway
Our morning started with something exciting - our first trip through a
lift lock. A lift lock is like two giant bathtubs side-by-side in the canal.
As one goes up, the other goes down. They are powered by huge hydraulic
lifts. It's like an elevator for boats. Your boat rides straight up in it's
bathtub of water.
Before going through the lift, we toured the little museum on shore. The first lift locks were built in France and England. Not to be outdone, Canada built one that was even bigger. It was built in the early 1900's with the hope that the Trent-Severn Waterway could be as successful as the Erie Canal. That commercial success never happened, but the lift lock is certainly an engineering success.
There were many shoreside visitors at the lock, too, including a bus of
Japanese tourists. We saw two families with young children watching the lift
lock, so we invited them to join us for the ride up. They all sat on the top
of our boat while we rode the elevator up. It was fun. We let them out at
the top of the other side and then continued on our way.
The canal continued through the city of Peterborough and it was very narrow. There was a bike path along the edge and lots of picnic tables. We even passed two young women out for crewing practice. Their long rowboat had come from Trent University. The canal from the University to the lift lock is long, straight, narrow and calm so it is used for crewing events throughout the spring, summer and fall.
The canal passed right through the University. We met another cruising couple on the red boat "Frankly Scarlett" and they told us that two of their children had attended Trent University. It specializes in environmental studies. All of the buildings on campus, including the dormitories, are built out of river stone and they blend into the natural environment. All of the universities in Canada are supported by the government to keep tuition affordable. They don't seem to have the kind of expensive, private colleges that we have in the States.
The rest of the day was one lock after another. On this stretch of the waterway the locks are completely manual because they are so small. The lockmasters have to turn cranks at the top of the lock gates to let in the water to fill them up. We were kept busy for the rest of the day as we passed through nine more locks. Tricia mentioned that they were starting to get a little boring. Plus, it was starting to get hot out.
In the early evening we reached the smallest lock yet, Lovesick Lake Lock. It only went up about five feet and it was a very narrow lock between two islands. The only way to get there is by boat. The lock dock was filled with boaters who were picnicing for the night. Since the lock was so small there was only one lockmaster on duty, but he didn't have to do anything by hand. Everything was automated and all he had to do was press a button to set the whole process in motion. He said the automation was a necessary thing because this was one of the busiest locks on the Waterway. He said they often did 60 or 70 lockages a day. I think it's popular because it's in the middle of some beautiful recreational boating lakes.
Tricia asked him how Lovesick Lake got its name. He said there used to be a Native American woman on one of the islands who fell in love with a handsome French furtrapper. But, she couldn't leave her tribe so she spent her days on the island being lovesick. I hope the trapper at least visited once in a while.
The scenery is incredibly lovely in this area. There are small rock islands scattered throughout the dark blue water, the horizon is edged with dark green forests and the sky is a brilliant blue. To me, this is the way a landscape should look. The most brilliant thing you see is the sky. Back in the Bahamas, the water was always the most brilliant part of the landscape. It was such a beautiful shade of sparkling turquoise that it made the blue sky look anemic. Now things seem back in their proper order again.
We were hoping to get through Buckhorn lock before the end of the day. The locks close at 8:30. Once we get through Buckhorn it will take us several hours of travelling across the Kawartha Lakes before we reach the next lock. Unfortunately, we missed the last lockage by five minutes. That meant we would have to wait until 8:30 the next morning before we could continue on the way.
We spent the evening tied up at the lock dock. It cost 45 cents a foot and you get to use the bathrooms on shore (no showers or electric power, though). Several other boats were also tied up for the night.
Two couples were on a rented houseboat next to us. They were from Windsor, the Canadian town across the river from Detroit. They were near the end of a one-week vacation. They told us about how people have to stop for a Customs check every time they cross the bridge from Windsor to Detroit. Usually you just have to tell them where you are going and they wave you through. If there is anything suspicious, they can stop you and search your vehicle. These days there are lots of people from Detroit going to Windsor to do shopping because everything there is so cheap when you have American dollars. They also go to Windsor for the casinos.
It was a nice, warm evening so the kids decided to take a swim. They were playing behind the boats when suddenly they started swimming back like crazy. Someone who was drunk had heaved over the back of their boat and the kids were trying to get away as quickly as possible. The other boaters who saw the incident got a good chuckle out of it.
Day 364 - Friday, July 20
Balsam Lake, Kirkfield, Ontario
Mile 163 on the Trent-Severn Waterway
We were the first boat through Buckhorn lock at 8:30 in the morning. Dan had lost a filling in his teeth the day before, so the lockmasters here spent some time on the phone trying to find a local dentist to help him out. No luck. There aren't any dentists around in this remote area. We'll have to wait until we get back to the big cities at the end of the Waterway. The lockmasters at Buckhorn are exceptionally outgoing and friendly "people persons". They have to be, to deal with the large number of boaters that go through this lock. Their lock is automated, too. One of the lockmasters said that he used to work at one of the hand-crank locks, but he prefers the constant activity of this lock to the peace and serenity of those others.
We spent the day motoring through the beautiful Kawartha Lakes. We passed through four locks with long distances of motoring between each. The piloting was easy, so we all took turns.
At noon, we anchored and went for a swim. Tricia and I did some sunbathing on top of the boat since we have a nice clear deck now.
By the end of the day we were in Balsam Lake, the highest point along the Trent-Severn Waterway at 840 feet above sea level. From now on, the locks will be going down instead of up.
Day 365 - Saturday, July 21
Lake Simcoe, Beaverton, Ontario
Mile 182.2 on the Trent-Severn Waterway
Today we were busy with locks again. Our first lock to start the morning
Kirkfield, another lift lock. But this time we got a chance to ride down
instead of up. After a few miles we did five more locks, one after the other,
to reach Lake Simcoe.
Lake Simcoe is the largest lake along the waterway. It is named for Sir John Simcoe, the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1791. He is well known for having abolished slavery in 1793, long before America.
Here's an interesting note that I learned about Canada. Ontario is called Upper Canada while Quebec is called Lower Canada, even though Quebec lies further north than Ontario. This is because the names came from their position on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Quebec is on the lower part of the Seaway while Ontario is on the higher part.
It was cloudy and windy so we tied up to the dock wall at the entrance to Lake Simcoe. We wanted to wait for better weather before we crossed the big lake. It was pretty rough out there today. A few families were at the dock park, enjoying fishing or picnicing.
We got a little rain throughout the afternoon and evening. There wasn't any town nearby, but there was a collection of cottages and a little marina and restaurant. I took a walk with my umbrella to get some exercise. The sign outside the cafe was interesting. The first item on their menu was "Peameal on a Bun". I'm not sure what that is, but I think I've finally discovered what Canadian cuisine is. They also boasted of "Meat Pies". I've seen signs at restaurants along our trip that said "Canadian Cuisine" and when I asked one woman what it included she said "Oh, things like bacon and eggs". Since then I've also seen ads for Steak and Kidney Pies. The most popular fast food restaurant in Canada is Tim Horton's. There is one in every town that is even a little bit large. Tim Horton mostly sells coffee and donuts, like a Dunkin' Donuts in the U.S., but they also sell soup and sandwiches for lunch.
Day 366 - Sunday, July 22
Coulter's Bay, Severn Falls, Ontario
Mile 231 on the Trent-Severn Waterway
In the morning the clouds were gone, the wind was down and the sun was out so we crossed Lake Simcoe. It took three hours, from 9:00 to noon, and we were suddenly reminded of what it was like to bounce along on the waves again. The canals had lulled us into a false sense of stability.
Since the weather was hot and sunny and it was a Sunday, pleasure boaters were everywhere. Even when we were back on the smaller lakes we did a lot of bouncing from the wakes of passing boaters. The first lock we reached was extremely busy. There were eight other boats in the lock with us when we went through.
By the time we reached our second lock at the end of the day, traffic had thinned out and we went through alone again.
There are some dug canals along this section of the Waterway and some of the places we had to pass through were very narrow. There was one spot between the rock cliff shore and a rock island where I wasn't sure we would make it through without scratching the sides of our boat, but we did.
Since the day was so hot, no one felt like eating much. But we did pick-up a quart of chocolate ice cream at the end of the day and made that our dinner.
Day 367 - Monday, July 23
Today was the highlight of the Trent-Severn Waterway. We had reached Big
Chute, the place where they haul your boat out of the water and carry it over
the rocks instead of using a lock to lower you. This is an unusual method for
transporting boats along a waterway. It was started as a quick, temporary
system to complete the Trent-Severn Waterway. There are huge falls on the
river here, surrounded by rock on each side. Building a track over the rock
was easier than blasting it out. By the time they got around to putting in a
real lock years later, the sea lamprey had become a problem. The falls keep
the sea lamprey out of the river system and they were afraid that a regular
lock would remove that barrier. So they built a better rail system instead.
You enter this lock by driving your boat on top of a submerged railroad barge. The tall sides of the barge are fitted with slings that can hold many different boats at once. On our trip there were three small boats side-by-side in front of us, then we filled up the back. There are five lockmasters that work here and they ride the barge back and forth all day, figuring out the best ways to arrange the boats in the various slings. They can climb up and down the side rails of the barge like monkeys. Our motor and rudders were hanging off the back of the barge so they wouldn't bump anything, and the back half of our boat was hanging in a sling. The front of our boat rested on the barge as it slowly came up and out of the water. That meant our boat was tipped forward while we were sitting on top of it, so it really felt like we were falling forward as we went down the tracks on the other side of the rock hill. This is the first time that the hulls of our boat have been out of the water in over a year. We tried to get a look at them to see what kind of shape they were in. It didn't take long to get back into the water on the other side. Slowly, the boat started to float again, then the sling was lowered and we were on our way.
Later in the day we went through our last regular lock. We tried to feel the proper amount of sadness knowing we will probably never see another lock for a long time, but I'm afraid that the sense of relief at finally reaching the end of these 44 locks was a bit more powerful.
After leaving Port Severn Lock, we were out on Georgian Bay. Now we can put our mast up again, and our daily cruising style will completely change one more time. We headed to Midland, the large city nearby.
We stayed at Midland Marina for the night. It was a very large marina with over five hundred boats, and it was very nice, too. It had a laundry and private showers and even an outdoor swimming pool. Since the day was very hot, we all headed to the pool. The kids found some other kids there to play with for awhile. In the evening, I did laundry while Dan prepared the boat for putting the mast back up.
Day 368 - Tuesday, July 24
Midland Town Dock
About 10:00 we started working on putting the mast up. The sunny skies had left and clouds were rolling in. The wind was gustier than we would have liked it to be, but the hoist was in a very protected corner of the marina so we didn't have to worry about any boat wakes this time. We decided to go for it.
This was another do-it-yourself hoist which we were very grateful for because it saved us a lot of money. Zion worked the hoist again, but this one wasn't a hand crank. It was motorized and all he had to do was push a little lever back and forth. Actually, it was harder to control this one than the manual kind if you wanted to move slowly. You had to push the lever in little bursts (Dan called them inks, as in "give it a little ink").
We got the mast up without any problem and we had most of the stays attached when we discovered that one of the remaining stays was jammed under the sling rope. We borrowed a ladder and used the boat pole and tried to get it unjammed but didn't have any luck. We finally came to the conclusion that we would have to lower the mast back down again and do the whole thing over. We were all feeling a bit discouraged by the prospect when a Fed Ex van pulled up. The driver got out and started to help us. He had a boat in the marina and he said he had lots of experience using this particular hoist. With his help, we lowered the mast again and put it back up. We were very grateful that he decided to entertain himself during his lunch hour by helping us.
When we were all finished, we took showers than left the marina about 2:00. We headed across the little bay to the heart of Midland. We pulled up to their public dock and stayed for the night.
After docking, Dan and the kids made a beeline for the library while I went to the grocery store. Midland was a beautiful tourist town. The waterfront was full of boats of all kinds. There were large cruise ships that took trips out on Georgian Bay every day. The main street of town was filled with businesses and stores. And hidden throughout the town were a large variety of well-done murals depicting historical or local scenes. The murals themselves were a good reason to visit the town. And there were lots of nice stores, too.
When we were on our boat in the evening we learned that lots of people go walking along the dock and looking at boats for their nightly entertainment. Our boat was a real conversation piece. Most people had never seen a catamaran before. In fact, the dockmaster here said we could make money if we wanted to give charter rides on our boat. Lots of the tourists here want to go for a sail but there aren't any charter sailboats around. I think we could have made money just by selling tickets to see the inside of our boat, but then I would have to clean it up.
Day 369 - Wednesday, July 25
Beausoleil Island, Honey Harbor, Ontario
N 44' 54", W 79' 51" on Georgian Bay
We spent the morning in downtown Midland again because Dan had arranged a dentist appointment. Tricia was thrilled to find a tiny little store called "Cat Nip" that sold cat things. She said it is just like the store she wants to have when she retires. She spent a bundle there.
I was happy to find a natural food store so I could get some more TVP granules (texturized vegetable protein, or soy meat). We were almost out. Zion liked the used sporting goods store.
We spent some more time at the library, too. This library was in a charming old stone building that had three floors and turrets, too. The reference librarian was particularly helpful and made sure we all got the time we needed for e-mail. Dan finally finished linking in all of our pictures from the Bahamas. While there, the librarian introduced us to a man from China who spoke perfect English. He wrote some Chinese characters for us - grass, water and boat.
We left the Midland dock around noon. It was very hot and sunny so we stopped after a few hours to take a swim off Beausoleil Island, a national park. Another family was already there and their kids were jumping off the high rock cliffs into the cool water. So, of course, our kids had to do the same.
The rocks around here are huge, old and worn. This is part of the granite Canadian Shield. These rocks are some of the oldest exposed rocks on earth, estimated to be over three billion years old. The glaciers passed over them and scraped them clean. So now they are huge mounds of ribboned rock with layers in every direction. The granite varies from streaks of black, to orangish-red and occasional layers of pure white quartz. Some of the rocks have such a swirling color pattern that they look like a marble cake.
All of the rocks are smooth and easy to walk and climb on. They are full of ancient cracks for footholds. The many cracks also hold the soil that supports the many trees, bushes and grass that seem to be growing out of solid rock.
Dan and I went hiking around the island while Tricia and Zion built some small breakwaters out of rock. We found lots of blueberry bushes, but only a few blueberries. Most of the berries were very small because they are having a drought here. Dan got lucky and found one blackberry plant with a few juicy berries and he gave them to me. What a sweetheart!
After our swim we climbed back onto our boat for dinner. Just as we were finishing, we heard some voices outside. A man and his grandson had pulled up in their Boston Whaler. Our unusual boat had caught their attention. They wanted to take a picture of us for their local paper.
After talking a bit, they invited us to come along on their boat and see their cottage on their own little island. We were happy to go for a visit.
When we got there we met Alan's wife, Barbara. Their cottage was built out of wood, and they were growing little gardens in the cracks in the rock around their island. The whole set-up reminded me of Jim and Marie's rock island in the Bahamas. Just like Jim and Marie, everything in their house was brought to the island by boat, including their drinking water. They had some beautiful old boats, including a wooden rowboat that looked like a showpiece. They gave us some extra zucchini from their garden which we were very thankful for, then they drove us back in the dark. They zipped through the rocky waters faster than we would ever go, but they knew right where every buoy and rock shoal was along this path.
They told us about the area. It's called the Thirty Thousand Islands because of the many rock islands along the shore, but when the islands were actually counted there were over 75,000 (and that's only counting the rocks that have something growing on them). Right now the water is three feet lower than usual because of the drought. You can see the normal waterline on the exposed rocks. It shows up as a thin black line.
Most of the cottages around here are only used in the summer time, although snowmobiles are used to get out to a few of them during the winter months. Each one has to have an approved septic system along with all of the other things you need to be self-reliant. That makes owning an island cottage pretty expensive, but even so it seems that every island that is big enough to have a house on it has one. I guess there will always be something very alluring about owning your own island no matter how difficult it may be to get all the comforts of home out there.
Day 370 - Thursday, July 26
Copegog Island, Parry Sound, Ontario
N 45' 15", W 80' 12" on Georgian Bay
Today was still sunny, but the heat wave broke with a cold wind from the northeast. The unprotected waters in Georgian Bay were very choppy, so instead of motoring around the outside of all the islands, we took the alternate paths that weave in between the islands. Going through them is like going through a maze. You have to keep your eyes open for markers and keep red on your right and green on your left. Often you can look ahead and see green on the right and red on the left. That means you have to weave around them so you don't hit any of the rocks lying just below the surface.
In the afternoon the wind died away to nothing, so we stopped to anchor. Dan had to get the bottom bolt into the mast. That meant all of the stays had to be loosened and he didn't want to do that in the wind. While Dan and Zion worked on top of the boat, I made some zucchini bread in the pressure cooker. It was cool enough that heating up the kitchen sounded like a good idea.
We decided to stay anchored where we were for the night since it was such a nice, protected area. We were near Copegog Island which was a public picnic area. The kids and I went up to the island in the dinghy and did some exploring. We docked at the base of some rock cliffs and then found a way to climb up to the top. The island was heavily forested between the rocks. The rocks are covered with a rainbow of lichen - gray, black, yellow, orange and misty sea green. My favorite combination is the sea green lichen covering pink feldspar rock. If you weren't standing on rock, you were standing on a comfy combination of old leaves and pine needles and thick moss. There were a few narrow paths to follow, but not too many. One led to the other side of the island where we found a dock, some picnic areas and some outhouses. The rocks over there were tiger-striped with bands of orange, black and white. Zion found some beautiful pieces of pure white quartz.
Day 371 - Friday, July 27
Bayfield Inlet, Big Burnt Island, Ontario
N 45' 38", W 80' 33" on Georgian Bay
When we woke up today there was perfect calm. The air was cool but the skies were sunny. It was a perfect day to put a lot of miles behind us. We motored all morning. In the afternoon we stopped to swim. The water was chilly but refreshing. Since it was so calm out we were able to put the boom back on and re-attach the sails. Now we are ready to sail again.
Day 372 - Saturday, July 28
French River, Eastern Outlet, Ontario
N 45' 56.1", W 80' 52.4" on Georgian Bay
We had to cross some open water this morning so Dan and I started out early while the kids were still asleep. Later in the morning we had to wake them up when it was time to dock at a marina. We needed gas, water and a pump-out.
I've been very impressed with the widespread Canadian devotion to clean water. Every marina we see, even the small ones, has a pump-out. And their pump-outs are all very powerful. Back in New York, it was hard to find one at all, and if you did it rarely worked or had much suction power. Pump-outs in Canada cost about $10 and they are not supported by the government. They are all private. Canada is also the only place where I've heard people talk about the need for stopping grey water discharge from boats. Grey water is the used water that goes down your shower drain or your dish sink. It is usually filled with soap and dirt and it is normally allowed to go right into the water from a boat. This surprised me when we started our cruise, but I soon learned that it is common practice on all boats in all of the places we've been, even on the big cruise boats. In Canada they are talking about making boaters hold their greywater and removing it at pump-out stations to keep the water even cleaner.
The water here is very clear. Even though the water is dark because of all the organic matter in it, we are constantly amazed at how far down into the water we can see. Sometimes we can see rocks that are ten feet below the surface.
There was a large group of men with their gear at the marina dock. They were waiting for some boats to show up to take them to their fish camp for a summer vacation. It is pretty remote around here. There aren't as many cabins along the shore anymore. They are truly getting away from civilization.
In the afternoon we were able to put up the sails and get a little help from them, but not much because the wind was variable. Around 3:00 we slowly and carefully snuck our boat up a little river channel. The channel was surrounded by steep pink cliffs on each side, and it was filled with islands of all sizes. We dropped our bow anchor, then tied a stern line to a tree on an island. There wasn't enough room in the creek for us to swing around on the anchor.
The kids and I took the dinghy out and spent hours exploring all of the water channels and rock islands surrounding us. We found lots and lots of blueberries. The bushes were everywhere, but unfortunately the berries were exceedingly small because of the drought in the area. Sometimes we would find blueberry bushes growing out of cracks in the cliffs. These blueberries were the biggest, I think because the cracks in the rocks held onto the water and didn't let it drain away.
Trish and Zion had great fun sending rocks sailing off of the cliffs to land in the water with giant splashes. They could even skip rocks across the channel. When we were out in the dinghy we grazed some rocks that were hiding right under the surface of the water. We left some white paint on them.
Day 373 - Sunday, July 29
Lansdowne Island, Killarney, Ontario
N 45' 56.7, W 81' 39.2 on Georgian Bay
For three hours this morning we were crossing the open waters of Georgian Bay. Luckily, Tricia and I had found James Herriot's second book at one of the recent book swaps, so we spent the morning in the front cabin reading more animal stories.
We continued motoring throughout the day, passing in and out of protected channels and open Bay water. This is one of the most pristine and undeveloped areas along the Bay. There are very few cabins. We didn't pass many boats, either, even though this was a Sunday. We have seen lots of canoers and a few tentsites along the water.
Near the end of the day we reached Killarney, the city at the beginning of the North Channel. It feels like we're back in civilization again. There are hundreds of boats, especially sailboats, tied up at the docks in this town. There are lots of people about on the docks, in the boats, and at the outdoor cafes. We continued through town and anchored for the night several miles from town.
Day 374 - Monday, July 30
Hotham Bay, Spanish, Ontario
N 46' 08.4", W 82' 16.9" on the North Channel
When we got up this morning the outside of our boat was covered with large mayflies. They were stuck in the dew. As soon as things dried up, they flew away. Funny, mayflies were the first strange creature that we came upon at the beginning of our trip last summer. We haven't seen any since, but now they've showed up again. I guess they wanted to say "good-bye".
We waited for our last bridge opening this morning. There is an old swing bridge that opens every hour on the hour to let you into Little Current, the last large city on the North Channel. Tricia even got out of bed to watch it. We've been through at least a hundred of these during the last year and knowing that we're going through the last one is bittersweet.
Little Current is our last chance to do e-mail before we get back into the United States next week. We made final arrangements for the end of our trip. When we reach the U.S., two of Dan's friends will meet us there. They will go sailing down Lake Michigan with Dan and Zion while Tricia and I take their car back home. She and I are more than willing to give someone else our places on the last leg of our trip. Lake Michigan is great fun for people who love to sail, but a bit wild for those of us with weak stomachs.
While we were at the dock in Little Current, we met Unity, a boat with some friends that we had met in Georgetown. They had done the Scavenger Hunt with Tricia there. They are continuing on the Great Circle and will be heading down to Mobile, just like we did last year. We sold them some of our charts. It was nice to see them again.
In the afternoon we left the dock and motored for another twenty miles before anchoring for the night.
We arrived back in the States on Wednesday, August 1. We entered the U.S. at Drummond Island, an island on the far eastern tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Luckily, Customs let us back in!
We spent the next few days cleaning up the boat and preparing it for the new "crew" that was coming to take it on the last leg of the journey. We moved the boat a few more miles to DeTour, the farthest point you can drive to on the U.P.'s southern shore.
Michigan is a wonderful place to take a boat. Their Department of Natural Resources offers financing and expertise to help all of the little towns along the coast build marinas. The marinas are all price-controlled and inexpensive if you have a small boat and they are well-used. We spent our last family day on the boat in the DeTour Marina. We were next to a local boating couple that told us about the great trip they took on one of the giant freighters that haul coal and iron ore through the Great Lakes. Apparently the freighters are trying to bring in some extra cash by allowing a few people to ride along on each trip. If you want to cruise with them you have to send in a bid on how much you are willing to pay for the experience. They had great stories of watching the crew load and unload day and night, and maneuvering the giant ship in tight places. They were treated like visiting royalty and got to eat great food at the Captain's table. It sounds like fun. To celebrate the end of our journey, we went out to eat at a nice restaurant. I enjoyed the local specialty, whitefish, while the rest of the family dined on chicken breasts. The guys just didn't feel like their digestive systems could handle steak. In fact, Zion had trouble finishing the second chicken breast on his plate because it was too much meat. I guess we won't be visiting McDonald's for awhile.
When we got back to the boat I gave each of the kids a letter I had written for them. I told them how proud I was of the many good things I had seen them do throughout the year and how glad I was that I had been able to spend time with them and get to know them so well. I am now sure that they have good hearts and strong minds and the ability to handle anything that life throws at them. In a way, I feel like my job is done. I've planted the seeds, watered them and fed them, tried to keep the weeds away. Now I can sit back and watch them flower. Our family's new adventure, the Teen Years, is just beginning.
On Saturday morning a sailing friend from back home, Reed Hardy, drove up to meet us. He joined Zion and Dan on the boat while Tricia and I drove his car back home. The three guys spent the next week bringing the boat down from DeTour, Michigan to DePere, Wisconsin. They will have to tell you about their manly sailing adventures in their own journal. Tricia and I enjoyed spending the week with my Mom and Dad and getting re-acquainted with all of the little cousins who aren't nearly as little anymore. It was a great week for us.
What was it like going home again? As Tricia and I drove through Brillion for the first time the same thought kept going through both our minds: everything is still the same. So much had happened to us over the last year and we had seen so many different sights, but here it's like time has stood still. It gives us a sensation of things being familiar and comfortable, and it feels good. After spending a year where every day was unpredictable and you were constantly dealing with new surroundings, it was nice to realize that suddenly you knew exactly where the grocery store was, and where the library was, and where a phone was and where your friends were and all those other little comforts of life.
We had only been home a day when Tricia and I were heading out of our driveway in our car and she said "Mom, doesn't it feel like we've always been doing this? Like we've never been anywhere else?" and she was right. That was exactly how it felt.
Overall, the trip was a great experience and I'm glad I did it. But I'm also glad to be home again. It's nice to see family and friends, to have a flush toilet and hot running water, a refrigerator and a big, soft bed. In short, it's nice to have all of the physical comforts again. The trip was exciting and fun but not very comfortable.
We're learning to shift our priorities back to the clock. We have to pay attention to what time it is again and we live by the big hand and the little hand. On the boat we lived by the weather and by the rising and setting of the sun. The weather determined what we would do and where we would go for the day. It was impossible to make any kind of plans to meet someone someplace at a certain time. It never worked. Mother Nature always had her own plans and we had to follow along. Now that we're back home, Mother Nature is insignificant and we are more in control of our daily destiny. But I do miss the beautiful scenery that was always outside my window during the last year.
I don't think I can really sum up this trip in any single way. I don't think I will really understand what I've been privileged to experience until I've lived a few more years and find out how it affects my feelings and my capabilities back home. I know I've gained a greater understanding of the vastness of the earth and the great multitude of people of all types who inhabit it. And learning from experience, when your daily life is totally absorbed in all the feelings and nuances that surround a subject, is truly the best way to learn. There is no substitute. This was an educational field trip extraordinaire!
Day 375 - Tuesday, July 31 - East Grant Island, Blind River, Ontario
N 46' 08.7", W 83' 17.2"
Day 376 - Wednesday, August 1 - Drummond Island, Michigan
N 45' 59.5", W 83' 49.0"
Day 377 - Thursday, August 2 - Drummond Island, Michigan
N 45' 59.5", W 83' 49.0"
Day 378 - Friday, August 3 - DeTour Village Marina, Michigan