Exploring the Chesapeake Bay

September 23, 2021

From the Crew:

Before we start today’s adventure, I would like to go back to the previous entry I wrote about the difference between West Point and the Naval Academy.  The museum at the Naval Academy was very interesting.  The first floor was a history of all the naval battles, encounters etc. from the beginning of our country to the present.  The second floor was entirely made up of ship models and it’s one of the largest collections in the world.  There were even models made of food bones leftover from meals by French POWs in England during the 18th century.  Leave it to the French to bring food presentation to another level.

Anyway, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about these two military academies.  Both are equally challenging in academics, physical endurance, leadership, team building, tradition and a host of other things.  I must say that the Naval Academy has an aesthetically beautiful campus designed by an architect.  So why do they feel so different to me? The best word I can come up with is “reverence”.  When we toured West Point, I had this overwhelming sense that I was on hallowed ground.  Maybe it was the canons overlooking the cliffs of the Hudson, maybe it’s The Long Gray Line connecting the cadets to all those who have gone before and all those to come….” reverence” is the best word I can come up with. On the lighter side, I must say the midshipmen have much nicer uniforms.  Who can resist those whites?

A Maryland Flag Painted on a door.

When we came down to Maryland, I started noticing these flags on many buildings.  I’m talking drycleaners, gift shops, beauty salons, police stations, hospitals…this flag was ubiquitous.  At first I thought there must be a big regatta or NASCAR convention because the flag certainly looked like a race car start or finish line flag…you know, “the checkered flag”.  My second thought was maybe there was a big horse race coming up, and the track was promoting the race with something that looked like jockey silks. I knew I was reaching on that one.  Well, we come to find out that this is the Maryland state flag!  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Aside from being unusual, Marylanders LOVE this thing.  It’s on everything.  I mean kitchen towels, napkins, high end jewelry, cheap jewelry, glasses, all manner of apparel from hats to flip flops…it’s everywhere.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in a state where the state flag is flown in so many places.  Usually, the state flag can be seen on town greens and state buildings, right?  Not here.  Can you picture the Connecticut state flag in your mind? I can’t.  Actually, I thought there was a big oat tree in the middle, but I looked it up.  I was wrong.   But, boy, I now know the Maryland state flag.  Truly amazing…maybe they have the right idea.  So, what does it represent? The two distinct designs represent two family crests, the Calvert and Crossland families.  Calvert was the name of the Lords Baltimore who founded Maryland (black and gold).  Crossland was the mother’s family name of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore. They couldn’t decide which one to put on the flag so they put both.  They also couldn’t decide whether to be for the Union or the Confederacy during the Civil War so they had people fighting on both sides.  A lot of indecision here.  It must be tough being the middle of the East Coast.

From Rob:

Day 18 / September 15

Tilly got up early this morning and we went for a walk.  As we were planning on meeting friends of ours from the DC area, Tilly and I scouted “addresses” near the dinghy docks so that our friends Ed and Carmen would have a location to navigate to.  The day was hot and we ran our generator most of the day to keep the air conditioning running.

Ed and Carmen arrived early evening and we had cocktails and appetizers prior to heading out for crab.  We went to a great restaurant that was on the Severn River near the Naval Academy.  This was the first time on this trip that we had crab by the dozen.  We shelled, picked, and hammered away at the delicious treat.

Days 19 -21 / September 16 – 18

We left Annapolis and headed for St. Michaels.  When we were at the rendezvous, I was talking with boaters from the area about places that we should visit over the next week and a half.  One on of the gentlemen asked where we were planning on going.  I mentioned St. Michaels.  He pulled out his navigation app on his iPhone and showed me good spots to anchor there as well as other recommendations. He also told me that there were log canoe races going on this weekend.  More about that later.

St Michaels, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The large sailing vessels are skipjacks.

I have seen pictures of St. Michaels and Anita had been there on her sail training class over twenty years ago.  As you enter St. Michaels directly ahead of the entrances channel is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.  The harbor splits into two sections, one west and the other east.  The west harbor is more protected and was our harbor of choice.  However, there were many boats anchored in that section and we decided to head for the eastern harbor.  We ended up anchoring just off the entrance channel which is exposed to the Northeast but there was not a lot of wind forecast.  We took a walk into town looking for cream.  Anita was running low, and “happy wife… happy life”.  Personally, I prefer my coffee straight up.  Anita found her cream and some other food incidentals.  We enjoyed a brief walk around town.  It is a cute village that is very much a tourist destination.

Sunsetting on St. Michaels.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at night.

Friday, we spent some time preparing for our friends Leslie and Tim to join us for a night.  They had been at a reunion and were on their way back to Connecticut.  Additionally, it was “Friday Night Food Night”.  We had a great visit with them.  As we were partaking of “Friday Night Food” the log canoes started to show up.  The log canoes are sailing vessels used for fishing in the Chesapeake over 100 years ago.  They are so called as they are made from a number of logs, typically 3 or 5.  The canoes are narrow and long and carry a crazy amount of sail.  I would guess maybe 200 square feet.  They have a centerboard and no internal ballast.  In order to keep the canoes righted, planks are inserted on the windward rail and people go out on the planks as movable ballast.  There are about 16 of these canoes on the National Register of Historic Sites.  Most, if not all, of the canoes were racing. 

View from the Crew:

I need to comment on the log canoe races.  The Captain did a great job in describing them.  Although I have to say that when Rob told me there were going to be log canoe races in St Michael’s, my immediate image was that of log rolling.  I thought there were going to be people standing on logs as they spin around trying not to fall off.  I wisely didn’t share this concept with the Captain and waited to see what materialized. Well, I was way wrong on that one! So, then I thought these beautiful smallish boats were going to carry logs in some kind of race situation.  I don’t know, maybe which boat can carry the most logs without sinking, or who can hold x number of logs in a race.  I never saw any logs, however.  While watching these boats I finally asked Rob, “So where are the logs?”  To which he responded in his usual patient manner that the boats were made of logs.  “Ah, I get it now!”, I said.  But really, aren’t all wooden boats made of logs?  There are nuances I sometimes don’t “get”.  Anyway, to see crew sitting and hanging on to a small plank that sticks out of the side of a boat to provide ballast so it doesn’t capsize doesn’t seem like a rational undertaking.  Certainly not in my world. So here’s my advice.  If anyone ever asks you to crew on a log canoe, respectfully decline.

From Rob:

Saturday, while we were eating breakfast, the canoes were rigging and then went out into the bay to race.  All the canoes have a chase boat that follows them in case of capsize.  The chase boat also carries most of the crew on the way out.  Log canoes are about 25-30 feet long and have a crew of about 12 people.  It is a lot a crew for such a narrow and short boat.  Most of the crew is ballast.  It was really beautiful to see the canoes under sail across the water.  After breakfast the four of us took a short walk into town and Tim and Leslie headed for home.  Anita and I discovered a farmers’ market and were able to locate freshly baked pretzels. 

A log canoe and it’s chase boat heading out to race.
Log canoes racing.

We returned to the boat to drop Tilly and the pretzels off and then we visited the maritime museum.  Much of the museum is dedicated to oystering and crabbing.  Did we mention we’ve had a few crabs on this trip?  They have several skipjacks in the water and one as a permanent display in a building.  Skipjacks are sailboats that were used for oystering.  The boat has a simple design and most of them were built in backyards.  They are wooden and a very long boom and short mast.  They are easy to sail.  The skipjacks worked the bay from about 1900 until the 1980s.  They would drag dredges, big wire baskets with rakes on the leading edge.  The dredge would plow into the seabed.  After dredging for some period of time a gasoline powered winch would raise the dredge and deckhands would sort out the lobster from the dirt and other dredging, which were swept overboard.

Crabbing is still a huge industry in the Chesapeake and there are many crab pots everywhere.  They are almost as prevalent as lobster pots in Maine in some places.

Day 22 / September 19

Sunday morning, we walked about 3 miles to a grocery store.  It was very hot and humid but we were able to adequately provision.  When we got back to the boat, we got underway.

An estate on the Wye River.

Our destination was Pickering Creek on the Wye River.  The Wye River is just around the bend from St. Michaels.  We headed about 8 nautical Miles up the river to Pickering Creek.  One of the rendezvous participants had suggested this location as being very quiet.  That was an understatement.  The only thing that you could hear were birds.  The trip up the Wye was beautiful with many large estates with lawns running down to the river.  About 8 miles up the river we came to Pickering Creek.  It was pristine.  All wooded with only a couple of homes in view in the distance.  There were two other boats anchored about a quarter of a mile from us.  We had a great dinner.  We grilled turkey tenderloins and were able to eat on the top deck. 

Pub Trawler on Pickering Creek.

Near dusk, Tilly and I headed to shore.  We were anchored a couple of hundred yards from an Audubon Camp.  We used there landing to head ashore.  As it was getting dark the deep woods were a little spooky and I heard many animals scurrying around.  Back on the boat Anita swears that she heard “Dueling Banjos”.  Tilly and I spent as short a time as possible and headed back to the boat.

From the crew:

Okay, I’m sure I heard “Dueling Banjos” and being in an isolated wooded area with no lights makes Nature Girl very uncomfortable.  Let’s remember I’m 100% Italian and grew up in New Jersey.

From Rob:

Day 23/ September 20

As usual, Tilly and I headed ashore early in the morning.  With the light of day, the place was not at all scary.  We walked a couple of miles down the two-track until we came to a road.  Mind you, not a paved road, but there was a road sign.  All along the track was a huge farm field of beans of some sort.  We also passed the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society building and gardens and some truly amazing spider webs.

Chesapeake Bay Herb Society building.

Back at the boat we headed out to Kent Narrows.  This is a narrow passage between the Delmarva Peninsula and Kent Island.  On the way we passed a sister ship to Pub Trawler.  As I recall Mariner Yachts, the builder of Pub Trawler, was located in Kent Narrows, as well the broker who sold her to us.  We got a slip in a huge marina with a laundry.  It was well timed as we were running out of unmentionables.

Day 24 / September 21

Anita had some homework to do this morning and we had a late start.  We decided to head to Fredericktown, Maryland.  Mostly we selected this location as our son-in-law and grandson are Frederick III and IV.  It was a pleasant trip up the Sassafras River.  Once again we experienced many large estates.  We arrived late in day and stayed at a marina. 

Day 25 – 26 / September 22 – 23

On our morning walk Tilly and I encountered a doe and two fawns, just off the drive and up the hill about 30 feet away.  They were obviously used to seeing humans up close and did not run.  The doe did stamp her back foot to let us know she did not want us to approach any closer. 

After our walk we got underway with the goal of reaching Chesapeake City prior to big winds setting in.  As we arrived in Chesapeake City the free dock was empty.  I found this fortunate as Thursday heavy rain was projected and I did not need to get in a wet dinghy to take Tilly ashore. 

Once we settled in, we walked around the harbor to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Museum.  The history of the canal was quite interesting.  In 1666 a Dutch immigrant suggested that a canal between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays would aid economic progress in the new world.  It took until 1829 before the canal was finally open.  The original canal had four locks with the bulk of the canal being higher than both bays.  In order to accomplish this water was pumped using a steam powered waterwheel.  The museum is in the old pumphouse and the steam engine is still in place and part of the museum.  The canal has since been widened and deepened twice and the locks were eliminated.

The next morning, before the monsoon set in, Tilly and I walked along the canal.  As we walked the path, a bald eagle flew over within about 50 feet of us.  I was quite excited.  We walked further along the path and saw another large bird in a tree.  I pulled my phone out hoping to get a close-up picture of an eagle.  Unfortunately, as we close enough to identify the bird, I discovered that it was a turkey vulture.  Instead of the anticipated awe, I checked my pulse, just to make sure it wasn’t waiting for me.

Automobile transport ship passing in the canal.

While we were in Chesapeake City an automobile transport ship transited the canal.  It appeared as though it just cleared the Chesapeake City bridge.  We noticed that the antenna mast midship was lowered in order to clear the bridges.

We enjoyed poking around the Chesapeake.  Having only scratched the surface, I believe that we will likely return.  The one drawback is that the water was muddy with many jellyfish, and although the water was warm, I avoided swimming.

A few jellyfish.
it seems fitting that we had perfect light just before sunset on our last night at Chesapeake City.

Anchors Aweigh (and rendezvous)

September 9, 2021

Rob writes:

Days 7-9/4&5-Saturday and Sunday

Saturday morning and Tilly and are up early in anticipation of going offshore to Cape May.  It’s way shorter a trip to Cape May.  Yes, you can go all the way down to Cape May on the ICW, but it is very winding and shallow. Tilly and I went to the beach.  I figured it was early and let her run.  She had a great time.  When a car showed up on the beach I put her back on a leash and we walked around the corner to the Atlantic City inlet.  Mind you, this is about 6:00 in the morning.  There were many trucks backed up to the beach on the inlet that had tents up, loud music, and the beer was certainly ready if not opened.  Presumably, it’s not legal to stay on the beach overnight.  There were a lot of guys setting up but no women in sight.  I would guess that the guys set up early and the families show up later.

There was a lot of boat traffic in the inlet, mostly recreational fishermen heading out.  I spent a lot of time turning into wake to keep Pub Trawler from rolling.  There was a little bit of swell left from Ida, but few waves.  The clouds cleared and we had a beautiful run down the New Jersey coast. 

As we approached Cape My there were vessels of all nature in the ocean and in the inlet.  There were commercial and recreational fishermen, parasailing boats, small power boats, whale watching boats, jet skis, kayaks… you get the picture.  We had arranged for a slip for two nights at Canyon Club Marina.  As we entered the inlet, we were barraged by the “New Jersey Navy”.  The inlet itself is easy to Navigate but the multitude of vessels being driven with complete disrespect for other vessels made the length of the inlet challenging and frustrating (by the way this is my “get off my lawn” tirade).  The tirade continues… Entering the No Wake Zone in Cape May we also discovered that very few vessels understood the concept of a No Wake Zone.  Tirade over!

I usually do a pretty good job of maneuvering Pub Trawler, she’s not lithe, she has a lot of windage (exposed area) and a full keel.  The windage causes us to move with the wind and the keel subjects us to whims of the current.  We approached with the intent of heading bow in.  As we neared the dock, we discovered that the finger pier did not extend far enough out to allow us to easily board.  So, Anita quickly re-rigged to allow for us to back in.  At about this point the wind picked up and there was current pushing us away from the slip.  I was having a difficult time getting my stern to back toward the slip and we we being pushed toward the boats on the other side of the fairway.  I scuffed the dinghy on a piling putting some abrasion on our chaps (cloth coverings on the inflatable tubes).  About this time the Harbormaster redirected us to the T-head at the end of the next dock.  I as able to regain control and easily land on the T-head.  After a frustrating landing I had lunch with a beer and spent the rest of the day doing a thorough cleaning of the boat.

Canyon Club was hosting a fishing tournament.  Anita and I have never seen so many Sportfishing boats in one place.  Although this may well be their regular clientele, there was a lot of hardware in the air. 

Tilly commenting on all the fishing hardware and sport fishing boats.

Sunday of Labor Day Weekend we took a tour of Cape May and the Emlen Physick mansion.  It was very interesting.  Cape May is full of Victorian cottages.  In the late eighteenth century and early twentieth century it was one of the most popular summer destinations on the East Coast.  In the 1970’s the town was no longer as popular and was falling into disrepair.  Many Victorian homes were being raised for Urban Development.  Then the town became a National Historic site and the remaining Victorian homes were saved from the wrecking ball.  Today the town is vibrant again and the homes have been beautifully restored.  Anita and I realized afterwards that we had not taken any pictures, sorry.

Day 10 / Labor Day

We got and early departure from Cape May, leaving through the Cape May canal, into Delaware Bay.  Once on the bay we had 3–4-foot waves almost on the bow.  This is the longest stretch that we will make on this trip (twice).  It’s about 64 nautical miles with no good place to bail out.  As we headed up the Delaware Bay the waves subsided and we entered the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  The canal connects the Delaware Bay with the Chesapeake Bay.  We transited the canal most of its length to Chesapeake City where we anchored out for the night.  The weather looked a little iffy a couple of days out.  We were planning on staying an extra day in Chesapeake City, but due to the forecasted weather we decided to get a jump on the weather and travel 20 miles to Still Pond, where we can anchor out.  We will return and through the canal and maybe spend a couple of nights at Chesapeake City.  There is an Army Corps of Engineers Museum highlighting the canal and a great restaurant where we ate on Pub Trawler’s delivery trip, six plus years ago.

Sunset in Chesapeake City.

Day 11 / September 7

One of the issues that we have with anchoring out is that we need to find an anchorage where Tilly can go ashore.  In one of the cruising guides it mentioned Still Pond having a beach were dogs can run.

We are heading to a trawler association in Pasadena, Maryland.  They sent an email out warning that there was a lot of flotsam in the Chesapeake to the north of Pasadena.  They were correct in that message.  We had to keep a constant watch at the water to avoid colliding with weeds, branches, logs, etc.  It much like the Connecticut river in the spring. We arrived at Still Pond and there was one sailboat anchored out.  It was a nice secluded and scenic spot.  I let Tilly run free for a while and she greatly enjoyed it.  After a great dinner, we were both exhausted and headed to bed early.

Tilly was barking at a piece of flotsam. I picked it up so that she could further investigate.

Day 12 / September 8

We had planned for another night at anchor somewhere, but were having a hard time finding an anchorage meeting Tilly’s requirement.  We decided instead to head to the Maryland Yacht Club, where the rendezvous is being held, a day early.  We had some chop coming across the bay, but nothing awful.  Pasadena is where Pub Trawler was laying when we bought her.  It was kind fun returning to her former home.  The yacht club is where I first filled her fuel tanks almost seven years, ah memories.  After an uneventful landing, we settled in until next Tuesday.  Our slip overlooks the slip that Pub Trawler was in previously.

Seven Foot Knoll light on the approach to Pasadena and Baltimore.

From the Crew

Well, the Captain failed to mention that one of the crew celebrated a birthday today…that would be Tilly!  She turned 3.  I told her she’s not a teenager any more and needs to take on some responsibility to which she responded, “Woof!”  Hope springs eternal that that represented a positive response.  The subject of Tilly is a whole separate blog entry unto itself.  I will just say, at this point, that she spent her day pretty much like every other day.  She did have a special dessert…a “Frosty Paw”, which is an overpriced fake ice cream product made for dogs.  She loves them…sucks to be her.

Day 13-17/ September 10-14/MTOA Rendezvous

From the Crew

Well, here we are at the rendezvous!  I’m addressing the non sailors from here on in this entry.  First, the concept of a “rendezvous”.  When Rob started referring to rendezvous’(plural), I was excited.  My vision was one romance.  You know, candles, soft music etc.…I couldn’t wait!  Well, in the boating community, a rendezvous is basically a boating convention, where all the attendees have common denominator, whether it is the type of boat, or brand of boat.  For example, this rendezvous was the national MTOA (Marine Trawler Owners Association) Rendezvous).  So, there were about 50 boats of roughly the same type.  They can be different size boats and different brands, but generally they were considered trawlers.   And like all conventions there’s a lot of eating and drinking, and in this case, talking about adventures on their boats.  And like all conventions, there are many seminars.  Really very impressive. It runs the gamut from line splicing to insurance issues, to first aid issues, to fiberglass care and repair.  My eyes glazed over just reading the schedule.  Anyway, they really try to have something for everyone.  So with that in mind, Rob signs me up for a Woman Underway class, which was part classroom and part on the water.  Its focus was maneuvering in tight situations.  He even offered up Pub Trawler as one of the participation boats.  There was no getting out of it for me.  Have you seen any romance yet? Going on.  There were 6 women on our boat with an instructor (not Rob).  I won’t go into detail, but we all did an adequate job and we learned a lot, AND we didn’t damage the boat.  A good day. 

Women Underway Training on Pub Trawler.
Pub Trawlers route during Women’s Underway Training. Note the multiple approaches to the dock.

The other highlight for me was the walking tour of Annapolis.  It was great, and Rob and I hope to go back to Annapolis after we leave here.  We went through the Naval Academy on the tour and we want to go back to the museum they have on the grounds.  Several years ago, on our first trip up the Hudson, we toured West Point.  Rob and I both agree that the atmosphere at The Naval Academy is very different than West Point.  It’s hard to describe really.  Maybe it’s the architecture and layout, maybe it’s because the USNA is a part of Annapolis, a thriving small city, whereas West Point is rather isolated.  Maybe it was because it was a beautiful fall football Saturday in September.  I don’t know.  When we go back, maybe I’ll have a better way to describe it.

Sunset in Pasadena.

I’m writing this on our last day here in Pasadena.  There’s a big dinner and awards ceremony tonight.  As I said, it’s a convention.  What never ceases to amaze me is the recall Rob has of every boat he’s ever seen.  It seems like he has a photographic memory.  I, on the other hand, remember nothing.  No, take that back, I know where all the grocery stores are.  I guess it’s all about perspective.

Officers’ Row at the Naval Academy.
Inside the Naval Academy Chapel.
John Paul Jones crypt.

Day 17/September 14th/ Annapolis

From the Crew

We decided to return to Annapolis, this time by water.  We were told by several couples not to anchor in the outer harbor but to go up Spa Creek and look for moorings .  By the way, moorings are those big, mostly white, balls that boats attach to.  I think they are somehow anchored to the seabed making them a rather safe alternative to a marina or just anchoring, at much reduced price.  A little like a Holiday Inn compared to Marriott.  Anyway, as we proceeded up the creek we were in a very residential area.  Beautiful homes…and all the streets that ended at the creek had small parks and dinghy docks.  Needless to say, Tilly was very excited and so was the Captain, but perhaps for different reasons.  Very close to us on other moorings were couples we recognized from the rendezvous.  We invited them over for cocktails, and it’s always pleasant talking to boaters about where they’ve been and their experiences. 

Approaching Annapolis we saw this yacht. We commented simultaneously that we forgot to pack our helicopter.
In the Academy Museum, the wheel from the USS Hartford.

I need to tell you about one of the couples.  They are authorities on “anchoring” and wrote a book about it which the Captain purchased.  I’ve come to realize that there is a lot to know when you anchor, and in my non nautical mind, it’s not as simple as dropping a hook in some water and hope it catches on something.  Both of them gave seminars at the rendezvous, he on anchoring and she on “money savings tips when cruising”.  Get this…they built their boat out of wood in their back yard…yes, their backyard AND they have LIVED on it since 1997, that’s 24 years. And did I mention it is a rather small boat (34’), and they use Ice as refrigeration.  Whoa, that’s a bridge too far for me! They are a fascinating couple and a couple to admire, notice I didn’t say “aspire”.

Heading to the Chesapeake

September 3, 2021

Year 4, Day 5

From the Crew of Pub Trawler (Anita and Tilly):

Well, it’s been a long time since I set pen to paper or keyboard to website as it were.  It’s also been a long couple of years, hasn’t it?  I guess it’s only18 months, but it sure feels like years.  Anyway, I think a recap is in order as we resurrect our blog.

If you’ve followed our travels at all, you know we are doing The Great Loop.  My perspective is somewhat different than the Captain’s and rightfully so.  If you want to know the facts, please read Rob’s entries and you can, more or less, skip mine.  So, the concept of The Great Loop is travelling from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico via mostly inland waterways thus making a loop.  Many people (Loopers) complete this adventure in a year or two.  We are now at year 4 and have done approximately one third, I’m guessing.  It’s nice not to be in a hurry, but honestly, I’m not getting any younger, and the first three years has been somewhat redundant.  You know Rob has always said he could spend a couple of years on the Great Lakes (spoken like a true Michigander).  I would roll my eyes and say, “Really?”.  Well, we have and we will probably be spending more time in the future to be able to continue on the Loop.  But I digress…. here is a quick recap.

Year One: Travelled from CT, through NYC, up the Hudson to the Erie Canal. From the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal, hung out on the Thousand Islands for a bit, entered Canada at Kingston. Entered the Rideau Canal and sailed to Ottawa and Montreal, took a train back and forth to Quebec City, and came home via Lake Champlain and the Hudson and backtracking to CT. It took 4 months, a truly remarkable trip.

Year Two: Peat, Repeat. Same beginning, but at Oswego we sailed farther west and entered Canada at the Trent Severn Waterway/Canal and on to Lake Huron.  It’s almost at the top of the Great Lakes (Lake Superior is farther north but most people don’t care too much about it) and it looks sort of like a palm tree to me.  Forgive the description, Lake Huron is about as far away from a palm tree as you can get. Anyway, there’s Georgian Bay, the North Channel and lots of natural beauty. It’s sooo beautiful it almost become monotonous…just my perspective. The crew really enjoyed The Sault (pronounced Sue or Soo) So much for Lake Superior. Let’s move on.  Anyway, we made our way down the western side of Lake Huron to Bay City, MI, the Captain’s home town. We wintered the boat (indoor storage) there so that Rob could work on the boat while visiting his Mom who was in an assisted living facility.  But then we all know what happened during the winter of 2020.   

Year Three: Undaunted by the pandemic, we sold our house, sold or got rid of, most of our stuff, drove to Michigan, cleaned out Rob’s Mom’s house and sold it, got on Pub Trawler and headed south.  We sailed down the western coast of Lake Huron, eventually getting to Detroit where we entered Lake Erie.  Lots of fun stuff in Ohio…Of course the pandemic threw a wet rag on things, but we still managed to see the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and a number of cool things along our way back to the Erie Canal. This time we traversed the entire canal and ended up renting a cottage in Newport, RI last winter. (This is the Cliff Notes version).  The crew was becoming increasingly unhappy without a home…do I hear the words “Mutiny?”.  So, lo and behold, we found a house in Portland, CT in an over 55 community and moved in in March.  So here we are.

Year 4

Having decided to work on our house, we postponed another long trip.  Instead, we are travelling to the Chesapeake.

Day One-8/29 (Sunday)

We left CT and Peat, Repeat. Stayed in Milford.  The Captain has been keeping an eye on the weather…the best I can say was that it wasn’t looking good. Rob was figuring out where we could get to, where we could stay etc.  Marinas have very little space available.  The boat industry boomed during the pandemic so it’s at a premium both in terms of availability and $$$$.

Day Two-8/30 (Monday). 

Anchored in Manhasset, which we always do.  It’s free and walking distance to a Stop & Shop, what more could you want?

Day 3 -8/31 Tuesday

This is when we go through New York City.  You psych (or brace) yourself because anything can happen.  Let’s remember Pub Trawler is competing with water taxis, barges, sightseeing helicopters that swoop down in front of you, not to mention the Staten Island Ferry, the Circle Line, police boats and other assorted craft. Of course, the first thing to navigate is Hell Gate, rather a catchy name, I think.  Remarkably, we have never had a problem going through, although horror stories abound.  I told the Captain that I thought the Race at the end of Fisher’s Island is far worse.  Again, this my perspective and Rob pointed out that he always times it so we go through Hell Gate at the ebb (I think it’s the ebb).  I guess it would make a big difference.  It’s good that one of us is knowledgeable.

New York City coming into view.

It was a beautiful day in New York, and regardless how many times we go down the East River, past the UN, under the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower, Financial District, and ultimately the Statue of Liberty, it always takes my breath away.  I’m clicking pictures like I’ve never seen it before.  Don’t ask me why….

Tilly standing watch, heading into New York City.

The major difference this time is that we are going to a marina on Staten Island.  I don’t know a thing about Staten Island except for the ferries and that Pete Davidson is from there. Tilly and I are excited for this new experience. And, wow, what an experience! We were staying on the back side of the island (Jersey side).  We went under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and around. We entered this lovely bay and stayed at Great Kills Yacht Club (another charming name).  Let me tell you that we had NO awareness of being in one of the boroughs of New York City. It was quite rural.  Well maybe that’s an exaggeration in Midwestern terms but it’s certainly not densely populated.  There are beautiful beaches and you can’t even see the city.  I was amazed.  If it wasn’t for the NY & NJ license plates, we could have been anywhere in CT or RI.  We liked it so much that we want to stay there again on our way back.

Approachng the United Nations Building on the East River.
No trip though New York Harbor is complete without a picture of the Statue of Liberty. We we fortunate to get the Staten island Ferry in the shot as well.

Day 4-9/1 Wednesday

Ida is giving Rob agita (ah gee ta).  It’s one of those Italian words…it roughly means heartburn or indigestion.   Looking at many, many navigation charts, websites, wind charts, we knew this would be the worst of it.  We made it to Brick, New Jersey on the Jersey intercoastal waterway.  I will leave the details to the Captain.  It was a long day, followed by a long night.  We were off shore until we got to the ICW, but the seas were okay (non nautical term).  Anyway, so far so good.  I realized that I grew up in New Jersey (Bergen County) and I know nothing about it.  Except for one or two trips to the Jersey shore in the summer, I don’t think I went anywhere in New Jersey.  Don’t ask me why…

Heading into the outer bands of Post Tropical Storm Ida.

Day 5-9/2-Thursday

After a wild and exhausting night, we woke up to a stellar day.  We were happy to see Ida go and we decided to stay put so I could do laundry and we could regroup a little.  This is called a “lay” day.  It’s not that we are laying around but the boat is.  Another thing we are running into is that many marinas have pilings as attachment points.  This strikes a fair amount of angst in my being.  Approaching the slip, my job is to get the line around the piling, which typically means lassoing the damn thing.  Listen, I just about have the cleat thing down, never mind playing Annie Oakley.  The idea here is that you have all these lines running from both sides of the boat to these pilings, and the boat sits in the middle.  This is because these are “fixed” docks, i.e. permanent, so the boats go up and down with the tide and the docks don’t.  If I am wrong about all this, I’m sure the Captain will correct the misinformation.  We are heading to Barnegat tomorrow and then Cape May.  I’m really happy to be seeing so much of New Jersey.  I’m almost proud to be a Jersey girl.   

At sunset the day after Ida, on the New Jersey Intercoastal Waterway (ICW).

Day 6-9/3-Friday

Woke up to a “beautiful day in our neighborhood”.  The Captain had quite a job as we had many lines tied to the pilings due to the storm.  You know the “steep learning curve” I always talk about?  Well, while watching the Captain, it becomes clear that after 23 years, I’m still on the upward part of the curve.  I still screw up the knots when I rig the boat and I REALLY have to concentrate.  This does not come naturally.  Maybe I should look into Prevegen.

Anyway, we started hearing incredible engine noises.  Not from our boat, thank God.  Actually, it was more like a roar. It wasn’t too long that we saw these cigarette boats (or as Rob calls them ”penis boats”) The man has a way with words, doesn’t he? One by one they were heading out.  I can only imagine what the Indianapolis 500 must be like.  Rob pointed out that he bets that many of them follow NASCAR.  That sure makes sense to me.   

So, we’ve changed our plans a little.  We are heading to Atlantic City…no, not to gamble but to anchor out.  There are a couple of anchorages there and it will make the trip to Cape May shorter as it would have been a very long day tomorrow. 

So, we made it to Atlantic City…very long and tiring, especially for the Captain.  Not that it was a “rough” ride but it was extremely tedious.  When the locals tell you to be really careful and honor the buoys, you pay attention.  And, indeed, you had to.  If you wandered outside of this shallow canal, you were screwed (another non nautical term).  The Captain did a great job and we anchored in a shallow inlet.  Part of having a dog on a boat is considering where you can bring her to shore.  There weren’t too many good options but Rob managed and Tilly was grateful, we think.  It’s hard to tell with her. 

Travelling to Atlantic City is interesting because you can see it from quite a distance and you think you are very close, but then you look again and it seems to have moved and is farther away and in a different direction.  I know it didn’t move, but the route was circuitous to say the least.  So, what is there to see on the ICW in New Jersey?  Well, I was amazed by the density of the houses/condos on this spit of land. From the ICW you could look down the streets and see the dunes of the ocean on the other side and every inch of land/sand was built on.  One big storm, like Sandy or Ida would wipe out the entire island. Sayonara, Long Beach Island.  On top of that, there are only 2 bridges to get on and off this island.  The traffic and congestion must make the Bourne Bridge look like a freeway.

Navigating though the marshland to Atlantic City.

Okay, I also was impressed with how brown the water is.  The Captain called it “cappuccino”. Did I mention the man has a way with words?  Not very attractive, but it’s because the ICW is so shallow and muddy and marshy.  This brings up my thoughts on entomology.  You are probably bracing yourself for this.  As you may have remembered from past trips, I am not one with nature.  Nature and I have a rather tenuous relationship and that includes the insect world.  I told Rob that I don’t mind creepy, crawly bugs because I figure I can outrun them, but flies and mosquitos are another story.  When I hear the “buzz” by my ear, I go crazy.  I totally lose it.  With fly swatter in hand, I become Anita The Hun, running around the cabin swinging at anything that moves.  Rob and Tilly stay very still.  And for the life of me, I can’t think of anything that mosquitos are good for.  They are miserable, carry nasty diseases, and feast on me like it’s a buffet.  I know birds and frogs eat flies, which is fine, but I’m sure they could they could be retrained to find an alternative food source and broaden their food horizons.  So, anchoring in a marshy inlet is just the perfect recipe for flies…Jersey version.  They are small, don’t buzz and aren’t very fast which made my job much easier, but they are prolific little devils….you take out ten and there are ten more.  Time to move on to Cape May.

Our view of Atlantic City at night.

The Captain has a few words:

No, we didn’t fall off the edge of the earth.  I started the last post for 2020 on October 6, 2020.  I still intend to finish at as it covers the Western Erie Canal.  Anita has really covered this portion of the trip very well. 

This is one of the few times that we have started a voyage with really minimum planning.  I did rough out a schedule to try and take advantage of tidal currents and such.  As Anita mentioned we have stayed in a few marinas.  Typically, we anchor out when possible.  But when we have long days or there is not a convenient place to take Tilly ashore, we try to dock into a marina.  In past years this has not been an issue, however I was concerned that with the number of new boaters since the beginning of the pandemic it seems to be a little harder to find slips in marinas at the drop of a hat.  So far, this has not been the case on this trip.  The only marina that I booked ahead was Milford.  We have been lucky to find marinas with one or less days’ notice.

The weather has been iffy many days with moisture and winds driven by hurricane Ida.  The worst was our night in Brick, NJ.  Brick is in a great place on the New Jersey Intercoastal Waterway (NJICW).  I is very protected for all directions except the south.  As it turns out, when the remains of Ida blew through New Jersey, the winds were fairly strong, and directly from the south.  Starting around dinner time the wind got strong.  The marina has wave mitigation around its perimeter. As the night progressed the wind got stronger and stayed consistent from the south.  We were on the portion of the NJICW that is Barnegat Bay.  The bay is about 30 miles long and virtually oriented North and South.  Brick is at the North end of the bay and the water piled up in the North.  At one point the water was almost level with the dock.  I sat up and watched the lines and our relationship with the dock and the neighboring boat.  Fortunately, about 12:30 AM the wind went West and I was able to head to bed.

In the morning I discovered that our only damage was that we had lost one of our four solar panels and the cover for the grill.  All in all, we were quite fortunate. 

I found it quite fun running the NJICW, even if it did require constant attention.  As it had been so windy, we did not want to go offshore around New Jersey as the waves were significant and would have been uncomfortable.  Thus, heading down the NJICW allowed us to travel a good distance that day in relative comfort.

Regarding nature on our trip, we saw many Osprey up close and I saw a dolphin between Staten Island and Manasquan, NJ.

Selling Dirt and other fun stuff.

August 29, 2020

Rob writes:
Pardon us for not writing, we have been all over the place.  A couple of weeks into our trip we got an offers on our house in Connecticut.  Once the inspection contingency was cleared and we had about two weeks to empty our house and put things in storage.  So, we laid up Pub Trawler in Port Clinton, OH, rented a car back to Michigan to load items from Mom’s.  Then we drove to Connecticut, packed up and emptied our housel, and headed back to Ohio to continue our adventures.  Many thanks to our good friends Donald and Irving, for letting us stay in their “annex” for several nights before heading back to the boat.

But I digress.

On July 18 we left Port Huron, MI and headed down the St. Clair River.  The chemical plants of Sarnia, Ontario soon faded over our stern and we were both surprised about how beautiful the river is.  There are many large homes on the river.  We also had about a 5-knot current with us, Yahoo.  As we approached Lake St. Clair, we passed Algonac, and the marina that is on the site of the original Chris Craft boatyard.  I was amazed at the size of the buildings.

Black River in Port Huron

Transiting Lake St. Clair the wind built out of the West which provided us with beam seas.  The seas built until the ride was almost uncomfortable, as Pub Trawler has a tendency to roll in beam seas.

We were relieved and delighted to arrive at the Metro Park Marina in Harrison Township, MI, a far northern suburb in the Detroit Metropolitan Area.  The Park has two marinas that are located in semi-circular coves.  We were assigned a slip and the first thing that we realized was that the end of the docks where underwater.  Although they were mostly dry on the land end and the docks where only about 30 feet long, it made for difficult boarding for Tilly. We requested a different slip and backed into the slip.

Docks underwater at Metro Park.

The Metro Park is a huge complex with miles of trails, swimming pool, water park, par three golf course and other facilities.  It is well used, we arrived on a Saturday afternoon and many families were picnicking.  Sunday it rained and so, the park was more peaceful.  Tilly enjoyed stalking the gaggles of Canada Geese on our walks.

From the Metro Park we headed down the rest of Lake St. Clair and into the Detroit River.  I haven’t been in Detroit in a long time and it was interesting to see it from the water.  We opted not to stop in Detroit proper and headed on to Wyandotte.  We were able to provision at a small store a couple of blocks from the marina. 

Approaching Detroit

After Wyandotte we transited the remainder of the Detroit River and headed out into Lake Erie.  One of my goals in life was to boat on all five the Great Lakes.  I have now met that goal.  What’s next?

We spent most of a week enjoying the Erie Islands, including South Bass Island (Put In Bay), Kelleys Island (not misspelled by me), and Middle Bass Island.  Each of the islands have their own personality. 

Put in Bay is typically party central.  In this year of Covid-19 we did not see much of that.  It was a little sad seeing a mostly deserted harbor as well as mostly empty restaurants and bars.  The Island has a main street that is about six blocks long, that is primarily eating and drinking establishments, many were not open on the days that we were there.  We did however find ice cream.  Tilly and I got in some nice long walks.  Anita and I walked to the Crystal Cave, where we were able to enter purportedly, the worlds largest geode.  A geode is a rock, typically spherical, that is filled with crystals.  The cave also had an associated winery.  Taking the cave tour entitled you to a glass of wine.  Let’s just say that we didn’t buy any bottles to take back to the boat.

Pub Trawler at Put In Bay, in front of the Commodore Perry Monument.
Anita in the “worlds largest geode”.

Kelleys Island is more family oriented and interestingly, had many more visitors.  We stayed in a marina that was pricy and about a mile from town. We did some touristy things, and even went out for lunch one day.  One of the things that Tilly and I do on our walks when we are in small towns is to walk until the sidewalk ends.  We succeeded in doing so on Kelleys.  However, when the sidewalk ended after about an hour of walking, the road turned away from the marina.  I had virtually no cell coverage so I used a navigation app on my phone to sort out where we were.  It made little sense to back track, but we did walk almost another hour before we arrived back at the boat.  Tilly drank a lot of water and napped the rest of the day.  I may have dozed for a few minutes myself.

Friday night food at Kelleys Island.

On Middle Bass Island there is even less things to do.  The three of us walked about a mile to the grocery store.  Anita was hoping to do some light provisioning as we were running low.  Unfortunately, the store did not have much to choose from.  She did however, replenish our pretzel larder.  We also went out to dinner at an outside eatery and were treated to an excellent perch dinner.

While at Middle Bass I looked out the window and saw an Amphicar heading out into the lake. Amphicars were German cars that turned into a boat. When I was in high school, there was one for sale in Bay City. I would see it everyday from the bus and lusted after it. I walked out to the breakwater to try and get a picture. I asked a guy on the dock if he had seen it. He responded that there were seven or eight that rolled down the boat ramp and headed out. Although they were too far away to get a good picture I did see one on land a couple of days later.

An Amphicar on the hard. Note the propellers.

Then on to Port Clinton, where we laid the boat up for three weeks while emptying our house (see above).

Next up: Transiting Lake Erie.

Back in (and on) the water

July 16, 2020

It’s been a long time since I last posted.  And, no, we did not drop off the edge of the world.  A lot has happened in that time.  We are healthy and doing well, and hope you are as well.

Last September, after leaving Mackinaw Island we had a “slow race” down Lake Huron.  Much of our time on the water was dictated by King Neptune, who was not happy on Lake Huron.  Either that or he was throwing one great party.  We spent a couple of days at Cheboygan, Michigan where I lived in the mid-80s.  By the way, you can’t go back.  We woke up at the dock on Hammond Bay, which was closed, and we were the only boat, and it was 27 degrees Fahrenheit one morning.  Then on to Rogers City, Presque Isle, where we were the only occupied boat, Harrisville, Tawas City, and finally Bay City, my home town, where we laid up for the winter.

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Sunset from Hammond Bay

Pub Trawler spent the winter inside in heated storage.  My plan was to visit my mom every six weeks or so and spend time working on the boat.  But between the marina being closed on Christmas week and COVID-19 I was only able to spend much of a week in February on the boat.  The good news is, my good friend Tom Sokoloski, was able to make the road trip with me and we got the critical path items completed.

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So, I spent much of my time over the winter getting our house ready to sell.  We placed the house on the market and in the middle of a pandemic we were able to sell the house.  We will be returning to Connecticut for a couple of weeks to put our belongings in storage.

Anita and I decided that we would spend the winter in the Bahamas.  Did I mention that COVID-19 happened?  At this point our plans are uncertain.  If we don’t make it south for the winter, our plan is to winter in Newport, Rhode Island.

On to the late spring, early summer/2020.

We headed to Bay City at the end of June.  We finished the critical boat projects, and emptied my Mom’s house in preparation for selling.  We launched the boat on July 8 and moved on that afternoon.  The following day, our good friends Mark and Margie Black joined us for a booze cruise on the Saginaw River, a trip that I have always wanted to do.  After returning to the dock we ended the evening with a game of four handed cribbage.

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Ready to splash.

The following day we moved the boat to the mouth of the Saginaw River in the pouring rain, where we finished our initial organizing of the boat and had cocktails with the realtors who listed Mom’s house.

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Ready to cruise.

On Saturday, we left the Saginaw River behind and headed out on Saginaw Bay, with Caseville as our goal.  The trip was lumpy.  We had beam seas (waves on the side of the boat).  Pub Trawler is very comfortable and handles seas well, except for beam seas.  The trip was about 40 nautical miles, and it was on the edge of being uncomfortable.  We both commented that is was about as uncomfortable as we would like it to be.  But we got over it.  In my life I have been to Caseville many times.  The last being when I was in High School.  I really did not remember the town, as we spent most of our time at the State Park beach.

 

July 26, 2020

Due to  COVID-19 our activities are limited.  We are not visiting museums and having other boaters over for cocktails.  We stayed in Caseville for two nights.  Tilly and I got in some good walks, and I was able to work on some projects that did not get finished over the winter.  We also made a stop at the Dairy Queen, our first such stop of the season.

From Caseville we headed to Port Austin, which is very near the tip of the Thumb.  For those who are not familiar with the geography of Michigan, Michigan is shaped like a mitten.  If you look at the palm of your right hand you can fairly represent the map of the Lower Peninsula.  Bay City, my home town, is in crotch of the Thumb.  Port Austin is a pretty little town.  The marina is not open as they had ice damage to the floating docks over the winter. So we anchored out.  I typically prefer to anchor out as it provides some solitude.  At times being at a dock we feel as though we are in a fish bowl.

We spent much of the night rolling in the harbor as there were sufficient swells that somehow got around both ends of the breakwater.  It did subside overnight.  The rolling allowed me to experiment with deploying the anchor in a manner that reduced the rolling.

From Port Austin, wen planned on heading to Harbor Beach on the northeast part of the Thumb.  However, the marina is closed for construction and it is reported that the holding is not good in the harbor, making anchoring an imprudent idea.  As luck would have it, the seas laid down and so we continued on to Lexington.  It was a 62 nautical mile run for us.  Our typical days are 20 to 30 mile runs and the day got long.  About half way down the Thumb I heard a boat approaching us rapidly from behind.  As I turned around to see what was going on, I was surprised to find a Customs and Immigration vessel hailing us.  We had a short exchange.  They wanted to know where we traveled from that morning.  I reported that we left Port Austin and we had not been in Canada, they were done with us and sped off.

Lexington is another cute little town with lots of shops and restaurants.  The harbor was located adjacent to a very nice town park.  They had tennis courts, sans the nets,  on the edge of the park and Tilly got to run around off the leash for a bit.  She was in heaven.  We spent two nights at Lexington.  By this point we were starting to get into our boat rhythm and able to relax.  Anita got a little grocery shopping in.  We met several other couples who were on their yacht club summer cruise.  We would see many of them again at our next stop.

After two nights in Lexington we left on the early side to make it to Port Huron before the weather turned ugly.  It was starting to rain as we pulled into Port Huron.  We had to wait for two bridges as we made our way to the marina. We were quite pleased with the Marina in Port Huron.  It is on the Black River, a tributary of the Saint Clair River.  The marina is located adjacent to the Saint Clair County Community College campus, which is quite large.  We have traveled through Port Huron many times, as it is where we enter Michigan when we travel through Canada.  The weather improved in the morning and we were able to get some touristy shopping in.  On our second day we decided that we needed some fresh vegetables.  We located a store that billed itself as having fresh produce, bread, etc., and it was only about a mile away.  Being the master navigator that I am, I lead the way.  After arriving about where we expected the store to be, we found ourselves in a residential neighborhood with nothing that resembled a grocery store / market.  I pulled my phone out and discovered that we had been walking in the wrong direction.  Neither Anita or Tilly were pleased with me as it was approaching 100°.  To top it off, Anita went into the store to discover that their produce supplier, had stop distribution due to extra restrictions imposed around the COVID-19 pandemic.  On the bright side, it was Friday and after showers we partook of Friday Night Food.  You may recall on Friday nights we typically have cocktails and snacks for dinner.  This was our first official Friday Night Food Night on the boat this season.

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Friday Night Food at Port Huron.

It feels so good to be back on the boat and cruising again.  More to follow.

Resting and relaxing (kind of),

Rob

Back in Time to Mackinac Island

September 8, 2019

Tilly speaks:
The dogs here are really big.  They have hooves instead of paws.  I really want to play with them, but they ignore me (mostly).

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Tilly dictating.

Rob’s Turn:
As you might imagine, Tilly did not speak those exact words in English.  However, Anita and I understood the meaning and we able to translate for her.

While Anita was in Connecticut, I was able to spend a couple of days with my Mom.  Her recovery is really going well and we hope that she will be able to return “home” soon.  After picking Anita up in Detroit, we visited Mom and were able to accompany her to her orthopod appointment.  Then we hopped back in the car and headed back to the Soo.  We did a major provisioning trip, and went back to the boat.

In the morning I travelled to the Canadian Soo, and returned the rental car.  We spent the rest of Friday, chilling out the getting ready to shove off on Saturday.  The weather had turned cool and very windy.  I had planned on scrubbing the boat as it is getting dirty.  I just didn’t have the energy to do so.

On Sunday we stopped for a pump out and headed south on the St. Mary’s River.  After about one-half mile we encountered heavy fog.  It is somewhat unnerving travelling in fog with the potential of sharing a narrow channel with ships on both directions.  Fortunately, we were not passed by ships in either direction while in the fog.  We were now backtracking to the Straits of Mackinaw.  We passed now familiar places, such as Neebish Island and Lime Island, and returned to the first anchorage where we had stayed after returning to the states almost a month ago, Harbor Island.

Tilly and I went ashore.  She is no longer hesitant to jump out of the dinghy over water, as long as she can make land without getting her knees wet.  We headed up the path on the hill near the entrance to the harbor portion of the island.  I kept her on her long leash, but she had a good run.  As we were getting in the dinghy, I realized that she and the leash were full of sand burs.  We stayed in the cockpit for about a half hour removing burs.  Some were so thick on her shout that I had to cut them out.  Her fur in her nose is now unsymmetrical, further adding to her charm.

From Harbor Island, we headed to Government Island, in the Les Cheneaux Islands.  We spent Sunday night there.  Signs of fall are setting in in Northern Michigan.  I even broke down and wore long pants for a couple of hours.

Monday morning, Labor Day, we had a leisurely start to the day to allow the Marina at Mackinac Island to empty out.  We left for Mackinac late in the morning.  With only 15 nautical miles to go, we only had a couple of hours of travel.  The winds had gone light overnight, but were building, along with the waves, over the morning.  The trip was enjoyable, and we were happy to be at the dock by the time that we got there.  There was a large (for the Great Lakes) cruise ship near the entrance to the marina.  The section of the marina that we were in was almost empty, except for several looper boats, one other power boat, and two sailboats.

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Fort Mackinac on the harbor on Mackinac Island.

A little background on Mackinaw Island.  Much of the Island is devoted to State Park land, being Michigan’s first state park (1904 if I recall correctly).  There are no automobiles or trucks allowed on the island, except for a couple of emergency vehicles.  Transportation is primarily by bicycle, or horse-drawn


conveyances.  The movie “Somewhere in Time”, with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was shot on Mackinac Island.

After a brief settling in, Tilly and I went for a walk.  She has never before seen a horse, and we are sure that she views them as big dogs that want to play with her.  She made a few horses nervous with her “lets play” behavior. There is an 8.2-mile trail at the shore of the island that allows you to bike / walk / ride a horse around the island.  Tilly and I walked around the southeastern end of the island, a little over a mile and back. After our return, we invited Anita to join us for a walk around the “downtown” area. Then we settled in for cocktails and dinner.  The marina shares the harbor with the myriad of ferries carrying people to and from the Island.  As Labor Day is the unofficial end or summer and tourism slows dramatically, there were large crowds leaving the Island all afternoon and well into the night.  My cold has gotten the better of me and I also had a couple of significant naps.

Tuesday was forecast to be a windy and rainy day.  For a change the forecast was quite accurate.  The reviews of the marina at the island mention that the harbor can get quite lumpy If the winds are out of the south / southeast.  We were able to confirm this to be true.  So, with the rain, wind, and lumpy harbor I took the opportunity to sleep much of the day.  I think that Anita was getting quite tired of the noises associated with my cold.  I can be an incredible gacker. I was hoping that sleeping the day away would help reduce my volume level, and it may have, but I couldn’t tell the difference.  At cocktail hour we were invited aboard one the other looper boats in the marina.  There were four other couples.  It was pleasant, and it allowed me to talk with someone from Minnesota regarding cruising to St. Paul in the summer, which is on my planning list for the summer of 2021.  To get there you need to go down the Illinois River to near St. Louis and then up the Mississippi to the St. Croix River.  Dan informed me that it is a great trip.  I think that we’ll keep it in our plans for 2021.

Wednesday the wind abated and it was warm and sunny.  After morning walks and breakfast, Anita and I got the bikes down and biked the 8.2 miles around the perimeter of the Island.  There was enough lingering breeze that we did not overheat.  The week after Labor Day is quite busy on the Island as many people of a certain age (our age and older) travel that week.  The ferries were packed in the morning with passengers arriving at the Island in the morning and leaving the Island in the afternoon.

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Anita and me at Arch Rock, Mackinac Island.

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The “Caribbean blue” water around Mackinac.

After our bike ride we had lunch aboard and then took another walk into the “business district” of the island.  Anita found a shop that had many hats while Tilly and I sat on the porch and watched the fashion show as Anita tried on hat after hat.

Then we walked up the Grand Hotel.  The Grand Hotel is built by railroad companies around in the early 1900s.  It is a beautiful stately hotel with the longest porch in the world.  When I was in college, you could walk the porch and visit the lobby, before 6:00 PM.  Now they charge $10 per person to walk the porch.  We decided that it wasn’t worth the $20 and I’m not sure that Tilly would have been welcomed anyway.  It was very interesting that while we were walking may people on carriages shouted out “Hi Tilly”.  Apparently, Tilly is a celebrity on Mackinac Island.  We had planned on going out for a elegant dinner while on the Island, but with my cold I couldn’t taste anything.  So we had elegant dinners aboard Pub Trawler.

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A back-lit Anita in front of the Grand Hotel.

Thursday, we bid farewell to Mackinac Island and started our slow race down the Michigan shore of Lake Huron.

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A fuzzy picture of the Grand Hotel from about 5 miles away. You can see the hotel from over 20 miles away.

PS: As a harbinger of the weeks to come, the pump out at the island was not functioning and our holding tank was full.

In a Superior State of Mind

 

August 27, 2019

More ramblings from the captain:

August for us has been a whirlwind.  With some things planned and others not so much.  We arrived in Mackinaw City on a very windy Thursday morning.  After securing Pub Trawler and taking care of administrative items, registering in the marina, etc. I hopped on a bus for the airport in Pellston, Michigan to get a rental car.  Pellston is in the north central region of the Lower Peninsula.  An interesting point about Pellston, in the winter it is often the coldest spot in the Lower Peninsula.  We had planned on getting a car and driving to Connecticut for the birth of our third grandchild.  As I was approaching the airport, I received a call that my mother had fallen and bumped her head.  Due to the head bump the assisted living facility that she is in sent her to the ER.

I picked up the car, then Anita and Tilly and headed for Bay City to see mom.  We were waiting for the results of her tests when the nurse asked if the orthopod had been in to talk with us.  We were quite surprised that an orthopod would be speaking with us regarding a bump on the head.  When the doctor appeared some time later, he said “We think you have a fractured hip and we’re going to give you a new one tomorrow.  So, instead of heading to Connecticut, we hung out in Bay City.  Mom got her new hip and was in generally good spirits.

Meanwhile in Connecticut our daughter Sarah was scheduled for childbirth on Friday morning.  Her delivery was postponed several times on Friday and finally was rescheduled for Saturday.  We got a call from our son-in-law Eric Saturday evening, announcing the birth of our third grandchild, Caroline Jo.  Mom and baby were doing well.

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After determining that Mom was stable and doing well, we hopped in the car and headed to Connecticut.  It is twelve-hour drive door to door.  Monday morning, we met our new granddaughter.  What a sweetheart!  We also spent some time on Tuesday with the grandkids.  While in Connecticut we were able to run some errands, pay some bills, and catch up with friends.

Wednesday, we crawled back in the car and drove back to Michigan, spend more time with Mom, who has been moved to rehab.  Mom is doing well.  We also caught up with friends of ours on Michigan.

Friday, we drove three hours back to the boat, returned the rental car, and settled back in to the boat rhythm.  We spent Sunday and Monday doing touristy things in Mackinaw City.  We walked around town, did some shopping, took a picture of me in front of the Dairy Queen that I managed one summer, 44 years ago, and toured the icebreaker Mackinaw.  The Mackinaw, built for the war effort in 1944 was the largest icebreaker in the world at the time.  It’s beam (width) is so wide that it cannot transit the St. Lawrence Seaway.  So, it is locked in the Great Lakes.  In the mid-nineties, the Mackinaw was retired and has become a museum ship.

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We also had a visit from a friend of ours from southwestern Michigan who was on his way to Mackinac Island.  We have not seen “Biffer” for about 10 years.  It was a short visit, but great to see old friends.

Biffer

By Tuesday morning we were itching to get underway.  We had beautiful weather with near calm seas.  We left the marina in Mackinaw City and headed back to De Tour Passage.  We had through De Tour Passage on our way down from the North Channel.  De Tour Passage is also the gateway to the St. Mary’s River, that connects Lake Huron to Lake Superior.

After passing through De Tour Passage we made our way to Lime Island.  Lime Island has several ancient lime kilns, producing quicklime for mortar.  It was a state of the art refueling station in the late 1800’s well into the 20th century.  Originally refueling ships with coal, and then with bunker oil. When diesel engines became popular in the mid-1900’s the facility became obsolete.  There was a boat full of people that landed just before us.  The skipper was telling us that his father had grown up on the island, as his grandfather worked in the refueling facility.  He pointed out the cabin where they had lived.  The island is now a state recreation area, where you can rent cabins.  We stayed one night, on the boat thank you.  The cabins have no cooking facilities and Anita is not too keen on camping.  Tilly and I did a little hiking, visiting the Lime Kilns on the island.

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The harbor on the island is the pier from the refueling facility.  Being on the island side of the pier kept us out of the wake from the many ships transiting the St. Mary’s River, but allowed us to view them.  There were many ships that passed in the evening and overnight.  I enjoyed watching them and being so close.  Most of the ships were the smaller 700 foot ships.  We did see one or to footers, ships over 1000 feet.

From Lime Island, we proceeded to a Marina in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (the Soo).  We spent a couple of nights at the Soo and had the pleasure of lunch with my cousin Jim and his friend Laura, who drove up from Alden, Michigan to see us for lunch.  We had a great time.  The restaurant where we had lunch was not busy and we spent two to three hours catching up.  After lunch, Jim was gracious enough to accept my offer to have him drive us about six miles to fill one of our three propane tanks.  Having the tank filled pretty much ensures that we will have enough propane for cooking, grilling, and most importantly, baking for the rest of our trip.  After returning from refilling the propane, Jim and Laura left for home and dropped us off at the grocery store.  Anita was delighted as the Soo has a Meijer store.  Meijer’s stores cause Anita to go week in the knees.  As we are heading to Lake Superior where the harbors are very far apart and have very limited services, we were delighted to be able to provision for several days.

So, on Thursday morning we left for the Soo Locks and Lake Superior.  There are five locks at the Soo.  On the American side there are four locks.  The newest, the Poe Lock, serves the footers (ships over 1,000 feet, The MacArthur and Davis Locks serve smaller ships, and the Sabin Lock is currently closed and will be replaced with another lock to serve footers.  The Canadian Lock is smaller and primarily serves pleasure craft and tour boats.  We hopped across the border to the Canadian Lock and were able to lock through in a short time.  We locked through with a tour boat.  I was on a Soo tour boat while the Poe Lock was being built.  The Poe Lock opened in 1962, so I was probably six or seven.  The St. Mary’s River Continues for about five miles, and continually widens until entering Whitefish Bay at Gros Cap.  By the time we arrived in Whitefish Bay, the wind had piped up.  Our goal for Thursday was the get to Whitefish Point where there is a harbor of refuge.  After four or five hours of bashing into the waves we arrived at Whitefish Point.  The harbor itself is small and provides docks for about a total of 12 boats, half of the slips are reserved for Native American fishing tugs and a research vessel from the nearby Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point.  We were able to pick up a dock, there was no electricity or water, however, it felt great to be out of the waves.

On our way to Whitefish Point Anita got an email confirming her need to be in Connecticut on Tuesday.  It is over 100 miles to Marquette (where rental cars are available) from Whitefish Point and we only had one good weather day ahead of us.    100 miles would be a very long day for us as we travel at about 7.5 knots. So, we decided to spend the night at Whitefish Point, visit the shipwreck museum, and return to the Soo, about 37 miles away.

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In the morning Tilly and I took a short walk, and came back for breakfast.  The shipwreck museum opened at 10:00.  We made it to the museum just after 10:00.  It was about a mile walk.  We thought that we would be the only ones there.  Fools!  At shortly after 10:00 the parking lot was full.  Just to set the stage.  There are over 6,000 recorded shipwrecks on Lake Superior.  Perhaps the best known is the Edmund Fitzgerald, that sank in the early seventies and was immortalized by the Gordon Lightfoot song.  The museum is on the grounds of the Whitefish Point Lighthouse and Surf Station.  We took the tour to the top of the lighthouse as well as all the other buildings.  The centerpiece of the museum is the ship’s bell from the Edmond Fitzgerald.  The bell was retrieved by the Canadian Navy and presented to the shipwreck museum.  At the request of the families of the Edmund Fitzgerald crew, a new bell was cast with the names of the 28 crew members inscribed and attached to the wreck as a memorial.  There was a movie regarding the loss of the ship and the memorial serviced dedicating the bell.  It was extremely emotional, especially to those of us who spend a lot of time on the water.

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I was thoroughly amazed by Anita, who stated “This was one of the better parts of the trip”.  Accordingly, we are planning on returning to Lake Superior next year.  Maybe we’ll even go to Copper Harbor, or even Isle Royale.

We returned to Pub Trawler and got underway around noon.  By then the waves and wind had laid down and we had a very enjoyable voyage back to Sault Ste Marie.  Sunday, I took a cab to the airport in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  It is the closest place to the American Soo to rent a car.  We packed up and headed to Bay City.  Anita had a 8:55 flight from Detroit.  We ran into traffic and construction, causing her to be on the hairy edge of being on time.  This was mostly caused by me relying on my memory for the route to the airport instead of using the GPS.  This is why I plan routes on the boat and use the chartplotter (GPS) in order to execute the route.

Looking forward to returning to the boat,
Rob

 

The Crewsome Thoughts

A little background first.  I never knew anyone from Michigan until I met Rob.  Since then I have met many people from Michigan and, by and large, they are all IN LOVE with this state.  You may have seen commercials on our local TV from the Michigan Dept of Tourism.  They have branded the state as “Pure Michigan”.  It’s also on their license plates. They are visually beautiful commercials with shots of all the incredible topography that this state offers, perhaps romanticized a bit, with the appropriate music.  Rob literally tears up when he sees these commercials.   New Jersey doesn’t quite evoke that level of emotion from me, I’ll tell you.  I keep hearing this phrase, “There’s just something about Michigan.”  So, what is it?  Well there is the secret hand “thing”.  It’s not exactly a handshake but when you meet someone from Michigan and you ask them where they are from, they will immediately raise their right hand as if taking an oath, and proudly point to a place on the palm of their hand that represents their town/city.  Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor, Bay City, Traverse City, Mackinac City, Petoskey, Cheboygan…. all can be found on your hand.  Amazing, right? They do this because if you take your right hand with the palm towards you, you will quickly realize that Michigan resembles a mitt.  Needless to say, Michiganders are students of geography.  There is also an Upper Peninsula lovingly referred to as the UP, with the residents called Yoopers.  That involves using your left hand.  It gets a little complicated at this point, so I won’t bore you with all the details.

I have come to the conclusion that Michigan resembles New York State in many ways, except for the “hand thing”.  There is a densely populated downstate with major cities and suburbs and as you move north, the state becomes more rural with many farms.  Moving farther north you have a lot of hunting and fishing.  Everyone, it seems, has a pickup truck, a gigantic pickup truck and deer season is a big deal here.  Personally, I’m happy not to be here during deer season.  All of this is much like New York State.  Going into a Walmart in northern Michigan is a bit like an episode of Duck Dynasty.  People dressed in camo trading fishing/hunting stories.  I saw this family with two little girls, probably 4 and 6 and the mom had a tee shirt that said “MY guns are not YOUR problem!”  Hmmmm, let me think about that.  This along with camping (and you know how I feel about camping), are major recreational activities and major industries.  It takes about 5 or 6 hours to drive from Detroit to Mackinac, pretty much the same amount of time from NYC to Niagara Falls.  The speed limit is 75 mph on I 75 in Michigan, however.  There are booming wine and beer industries in both states.  They both have large state university systems fueling the medical, health care, and technology sectors of their respective economies.  Of course, the economy of Michigan is inexorably connected to the auto industry and always has been, but Michigan is incredibly diverse.  Like New York, Michigan is beautiful with clear (unsalted) lakes, beaches, sand dunes, dense forests…” Pure Michigan”, I guess.  And just as New York City is not representative of New York State, Detroit is not representative of Michigan.  Michigan has challenges like every state, but when you speak with people they will say, “There’s just something about Michigan”.

We happened to be anchoring at an especially pretty little spot, Harbor Island.  It was sunset, and I said to Rob how lucky we were to be able to experience the incredible beauty around us.  The Captain smiled, “I think you are getting it!” he said, but promptly added, “But you will never really understand it unless you were born here”.  Yes, there is something about Michigan.  Pure Michigan.  Amen to that.

North Channel to Mackinaw

August 8, 2019

Writers Note:  We have not blogged for a while as we have been off the boat.  Mom fell and had injuries and we spent time with her.  On the brighter side, we travelled to Connecticut for the birth of our third grandchild.  Welcome to our wacky family, Caroline.

Upbeat Rob states”

After spending the time navigating the narrow and twisting channels of the Georgian Bay it was a delight to head for Little Current in the North Channel.  Killarney, the beginning of the North Channel lies on a short narrow channel that is has a fair amount of current and a lot of boats.  After clearing the channel, we entered the more or less open bays on our way to Little Current.  Little Current is a town that has two supermarkets.  Anita was almost giddy when she discovered this.  As we approached Little Current the skipper realized that there is a bridge that had to open before we could get there.  I should have noticed the bridge when I plotted our course, but I was not paying close attention.  The day was beautiful, with an azure sky and good weather clouds. And then the bridge.  I looked at a cruising application to obtain instructions for opening.  We discovered that the bridge opens on the hour for fifteen minutes.  It was 1220.  With 40 minutes to wait, we drifted around the lake just short of the bridge waiting for the bridge.  I could have cruised slower and arrived just in time.  Blah blah blah…

An interesting point about the bridge.  The North Channel primarily bounded by the Canadian Mainland to the North and the Manitoulin Island to the South. When we were in Orillia, we saw a play set on the Manitoulin Island.  There is a reference in the play trying to escape a relationship and the bridge was open.  The bridge is interesting.  It is an old railroad bridge that has been converted to a one lane highway bridge.  It is the only bridge to the island.

We spent two nights on the bulkhead wall at the marina in Little Current.  Little Current gets its name from the current in the channel.  The current flows in either direction and is primarily driven by the wind.  It was almost like being on the ocean again.

Tilly and I were able to resume our morning walks.  We also saw several CS 36 boats, sisterships to our prior boat.

The Haw Eater Festival started on the morning that we left.  Named after the Hawthorne berries that the island is noted for.  We walked through the booths and I even resisted hand cut fries and other delights.  Then we were off the “The Benjamins”.

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“Sow and Pigs” guarding the entrance to the Benjamins.

The Benjamin Islands are a group of islands formed by the collapse of a volcano.  If you look at them on a nautical chart you can see a broken circle.  We entered The Benjamins keeping the Sow and Pigs (some additional rocks that God had left over after creating the earth) off our port side.  The Benjamin Islands being volcanic are quite picturesque.  They are formed from pink granite and there are many islands in the group.  We anchored of from South Benjamin Island in a cove and about 20 feet of water with about a 500-foot-high slope.  The cruising guide mentioned it being quite crowded with 20 some boats anchored.  It had nothing on Block Island on a weekend.  Also, in our vicinity were smaller islands that were worn smooth with a little bit of brush.  Tilly was delighted, she could run free on the islands.  She even made some new friends. We spent two nights in the quiet of the Benjamins.

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The north slop of the Benjamins.

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Tilly’s playground. Wait… where’s Tilly.

From the Benjamins we headed for Vidal Bay, near the western end of Manitoulin Island.  On the way we made an emergency stop in Gore Bay as Anita’s cream for her morning coffee had gone bad and there is a grocery store in Gore Bay.  The day got darker and darker and we thought that we were in for a storm.  Fortunately, it did not storm, but the wind picked up over night and we had a lumpy sleep.  On the way to Vidal Bay we only saw three or four other boats.  Perhaps it was timing, but we were getting into rather primitive areas.  We picked Vidal Bay as it was mostly protected and it had a beach where Tilly and I could land the dinghy for her relief.  As things turned out there was a beach, however, with the high water the beach was only about ten feet wide by 100 feet long.  Tilly wanted to explore the woods beyond the beach.  She was upset that I told her that would be a bad idea, as the woods were loaded with poison ivy.  As we walked along the beach a little water snake paralleled us in the water.  I know that they are harmless, but I did my best to move it away from us (and it worked).  We grilled chicken and corn for dinner and had a great evening.

Remember when I mentioned that the bay was mostly protected?  We that night the wind picked up from the direction where the bay was not protected.  The wind seemed to be howling, but when I went out it was not that bad.  But,and this is a big but, our hull is very noisy when even small waves hit it.  The waves were not small and I had a restless night with little sleep.

We had planned on spending another night in Canada.  As we were having a lumpy ride and I was tired, we decided to head for Michigan and stay at Harbor Island.  We cleared customs using the Customs and Border Patrol app.  I had an interesting discussion with the CDP officer.  The GPS on my phone has been malfunctioning and occasionally placing us hundreds of miles from our actual location.  The officer asked me our location and I told him about five miles from Drummond Island, Michigan, he laughed and told me that the app placed us inland on Ontario.  After clearing up and administrative issue we were cleared and welcomed into the States.  Harbor Island was one of the locations that we enjoyed the most.  It is a horseshoe shaped island and is State Recreation Area.  Tilly and I walked some trails and in the morning she met a new friend on another trawler and was invited back for a play date.

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Flooded boathouses in the Les Cheneaux Islands. Most of the boathouses have at least one wooden boat in them.

We left Harbor Island and headed for St. Ignace, Michigan.  St. Ignace is on the northern end of the Mackinaw Bridge.  When I lived in Cheboygan, Michigan in the mid -eighties, I spend a lot of time in St. Ignace.  For me, it was a walk down memory lane, many more walks coming.  The State Marina at St. Ignace is new and very clean and well kept.  We spent a couple of nights in St. Ignace chilling.  There is not a whole lot to do and we did exactly that.  Tilly and I had a couple of long walks, Anita did wash, and we relaxed.

We had planned on driving to Connecticut on Friday for the scheduled birth of our third grandchild.  I took a shuttle to the nearby airport to pick up a car.  Just before arriving I received a call from the assisted living facility where my mother lives notifying us of her fall.  We headed for Bay City to see mom and rest for the night.  At the time of this writing, Mom is recovering and doing well.

Love to all,
Rob

Crew notes:

Ditto to all that the Captain reported.  Of course, there are a couple of things I would like to comment on, mostly of a non-nautical nature, but I think I will wait for the next post.  We welcomed Caroline Jo to the family on August 10th.  So precious.  After driving from Mackinac to Bay City to East Hartford Ct and back, a distance of about 2000 miles in a week, I’ve had some time formulating my thoughts on Michigan.  More on that next time.

The Georgian Bay

August 1, 2019

A tired skipper writes:

Leaving the Trent Severn Waterway (TSW) to the north as we did, places you in the Georgian Bay.  The Georgian Bay and North Channel are bodies of water the make up the northeast corner of Lake Huron.  The Georgian Bay is called the 30,000 Islands as there are more than 30,000 islands in the Bay.

First off, many of you may know that the water levels in the Great Lakes are very high this year.  Last week Lake Huron, was 54” above normal.  This means that any island less than 4.5 feet in height, of which there are many, are not visible.  This added to stress levels when navigating but, fortunately, did not cause and issue for us.

When we left the TSW, the channel immediately snaked through what looked like a large open bay.  It turns out that there was much danger lurking below.  We proceeded through the snaky channel and then across the bay for a pump out and diesel fuel.  We discovered that at least in Ontario, if not all of Canada, it is illegal to dispense fuel on your boat.  I was pleased to have the dockhand spend doing this task as usually I am on my knees for about 40 minutes filling the tanks.

We came back across the bay and returned to the Georgian Bay Small Boat Channel.  It is a delightful although, at times, nerve racking navigational experience.  The first day was not bad it was sunny and the hidden islands where typically identifiable by the color of the water.

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Just the beginning of rocks in the Georgian Bay.

We proceeded to Beausoleil Island.  We were able to anchor out here with access to island via a National Park.  Many of the islands in the Georgian Bay are uninhabited or part of the Parks Canada system.  It felt good to be able walk trails in the woods.  Anita, Tilly and I took a walk shortly after arriving.  There are several things to be aware of, there are poisonous snakes, poison ivy, and bears.  We did not encounter any snakes or bears on our walk however; we did encounter mosquitos that Anita referred to as bigger than Buicks.  We walked through a sparsely occupied campground where Anita assured me that WE would not be camping again.  It was quite beautiful.

Tilly and I had an uneventful walk in the evening, although we did not go far as it was getting dark and I was more nervous about creatures than Tilly.  The next morning after we got on the dock at the park we were greeted by a small water snake. It was quite curious about us but I noticed that the snake had colored rings around its diameter.  I thought that all snakes that had such coloring are venomous.  I have since learned that the water snakes in Ontario are not venomous.  It still startles me a bit.  We headed up some hiking trails that proceed to the highest point on the island.  The view was beautiful.  I was, however, somewhat nervous as Tilly kept trying to leap into the brush.  I am sure that she smelled or saw some critter.  I saw some tracks that looked like small bear tracks.  On closer examination I decided that they were some kind of weird sneaker track.  Nonetheless, I cut the walk short out of caution and fear.

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After spending about 15 minutes clearing weeds from the anchor chain and anchor, we proceeded towards Echo Bay.  Again, it was a channel that meandered all over the place.  The cruising guide mentioned that the anchorage was popular, however we did not expect to see quite so many other boats in a small space.  Many boats in the Georgian Bay med moor, that is they set an anchor and then back towards shore and tie to a tree or rings that are set in the stone along the shore.  It was an very peaceful and beautiful place to anchor.  The bay is small and is surrounded by walls of granite rising 50 – 100 feet.  There was plenty of room in the center of the bay and we anchored near a sailboat in the center of the bay and did not med moor.  We noticed several boats that we had seen before.  One is a small Nordic Tug (I think 25 feet) with a couple that we had met on the Oswego canal when the town was without electricity.  There was also the sister ship of Pub Trawler that we had seen in Orillia.  We had the couple from the tug, who started their loop in Texas, over for cocktails.  It is really enjoyable to spend time with others and hearing about their experience both on the loop and other life experiences.  Although Echo Bay was beautiful, and it did allow Tilly to get ashore, there were no trails for her walks, so we headed to Parry Sound.

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A “wide open” channel in the Georgian Bay. These rocks are about 20 feet to our starboard.

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A sister ship to Pub Trawler in Echo Bay. Hardtop, teak decks… not to shabby.

As you go North and West on the Georgian Bay the towns get smaller and have fewer options for reprovisioning.  Parry Sound is touted as the last “big town”.  As I recall the population is about 16,000.  We stayed in a marina for two nights to allow for provisioning and walking.  It was still quite warm and the grocery store was several miles away.  Anita and I started walking to the store and came across a farm market that operates between May and October.  We found the freshest produce we have seen for quite some time, most of which was grown in Ontario.  They also had good looking limes and specialty foods, not necessarily from Ontario.  We walked for ice cream on Friday night and discovered that the places that sell ice cream, at least near the marina, close at 9:00 PM (2100 hours).  We were there around 9:15. I was disappointed, but we have a stash of Klondike Bars on the freezer to sate me.  I should mention that lately while in Canada I have been on the One A Day Diet.  After we stop for the day, I have one Canadian craft beer, and most nights, I have one ice cream.

On Saturday it rained.  It was the first time we have had any rain in Canada during the day, ruining their Camelot reputation.  The sailboat that we had anchored near in Echo Bay had invited us for cocktails when they arrived at Parry Sound on Saturday.  Rick, from Adagio, stopped by to suggest that they bring the cocktails to Pub Trawler as there was a chance of dripping in their cockpit.  We had a lovely visit.  Rick and his wife Gail, are trying to decide whether to get a larger, more blue water sailboat, or a trawler.  We had a great talk.  They gave as a short list of their favorite places to visit in the Georgian Bay and North Channel, and we discussed being trawler trash.

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Sunset from the marina in Parry Sound.

 

Sunday, much to my chagrin, and contrary to the forecast, the wind had picked up.  It wasn’t “no go” weather, but it approached it.  We had several interesting passages to transit.  They included names like, Hangdog Channel, Dead Island, Wreck Island, etc.  Much of the passages went out into the unprotected bay.  While on the outside, the channels zig zagged, and had several hairpin turns with underwater islands and rocks creating many extremely narrow channels.  It is as if after God created the earth, he had about a billion boulders left over.  So, he tossed them into the Georgian Bay.  We were planning on anchoring off a private club that offered access to the shore.  About five miles out I read the description of the club and discovered that dogs were not allowed.  So, we modified our plans and anchored in Hopewell Bay.  Again, the scenic beauty was incredible.  There were not paths or roads but Tilly and I were able to get ashore.  Most of the shoreline is shear or steep angled rock.  I am able to land the dinghy without lifting the motor.  In some cases, I can pull the dinghy half way up onto land with the outboard still down.

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A typical page from our Richardson chart book depicting several miles of the Georgian Bay.

We had a long day ahead on Monday so we started early.  It was again windy and somewhat gloomy and the wind built throughout the day.  The Georgian Bay is bounded by mainland Ontario to the east and south, the Bruce Peninsula to the West and Manitoulin Island to the north.  There is a stretch north of the Bruce Peninsula that is open all the way to Michigan (over 100 nautical miles).  Two of the main factors in the formation of waves are wind velocity and fetch.  Fetch being the distance over which the wind blows the waves.  For the next couple of days when we are not hidden by islands, the fetch from the west (Michigan) is about 150 – 200 miles.  Needless to say, with even a moderate wind the seas were building.  That coupled with the seas being on our beam (hitting us on the side) makes for uncomfortable cruising.  We spent several hours rolling when outside the protection of the islands.  We experienced some of the worst rolling we have experienced on Pub Trawler along this stretch.  And, as the water is shoal, we could not vary our course very much to minimize the rolling.  We where happy to reach our destination of Strawberry Island in the Bustard Group for the night.

There were many other boats in the narrow channel between Strawberry and Tie Island.  It appeared as though they were all med-moored, so we picked a spot between the last two boats and we med-moored as well.  After we settled in, the wind picked up, the sky turned dark, and it poured like crazy.  The boats on either side of us started to swing on there anchors.  It was then that I realized that those two boats were not med-moored.  We devised a plan should either boat swing in towards us.  We would drop the stern line and retrieve it later and go forward on our anchor chain.  We had a lot a chain out, thus allowing us to easily go forward.  It stormed off and on for about two hours.

Tilly was delighted as there was a small island near us and she could wander around the island free of her leash.

The wind settled down overnight.  The sky even cleared before bed.  I had fallen asleep in the saloon.  Prior to crawling off to be I took a look at the stars.  With no light pollution for many miles the sky was filled with stars.  It caused me to think about all the people who for millennia have gazed at the stars.  The stars have provided a means of navigation, an inspiration for dreamers, lovers and poets, as well as a great deal of scientific thought.

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Smooth granite greeting us, entering Beaverstone Bay.

After Tilly spent some quality time on her private island, we took off for Killarney.  The wind had picked up, but angle from the waves were better.  We did not get quite as beat up.  To help ensure that we have a gentler ride, we opted to take the inside passage through Beaverstone Bay and Collins inlet.  This added about five nautical miles to our day but we had a smooth ride and incredible scenery.  There was about ten miles of tall granite cliffs that occasionally dipped done to the water.  The channel was narrow but not as crazy as some of the other channels that we experienced in Georgian Bay.  We ended the day in Killarney.  Killarney marks the end of the Georgian Bay and is technically on the North Channel.

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The Killarney lighthouse.

More installments coming…
Capt. Rob

 

Some crewsome thoughts

I want to start my entry with how beautiful this part of the trip is i.e. clear water, blue skies, island after island.  I think I read that some of these rock formations are 3 billion years old.  Apparently, there are 30,000 islands in Georgian Bay and I thought The Thousand Islands were a lot.  That also leads to a fair amount of confusion as the number of possibilities is overwhelming.  Rob gathered a lot of information from other “Loopers” and from locals.  Still, selecting a route is really daunting and Rob has done an amazing job

Okay, so now for this Jersey girl’s view.  After seeing 9,999 trees, what is the value added for the 10,000th tree?  How much beauty can you take?  It’s a little like going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Even in the presence of the Masters, one tires after x number of hours. There’s only so much brilliance you can take in. So, it is with Georgian Bay for me.  One of my ongoing issues with sailing or boating has always been the lack of physical activity. So, when Rob suggested that I take a walk with him and Tilly on Beausoleil Island, I evaluated the situation.  I’m going to expand a little on Rob’s description.  It was a pretty anchorage and there was a half dozen other boats. That’s good.  It was a Parks Canada island so I could see a small visitor center, and several shack type buildings and some people.  That’s good, too.  There was even a dock…wow, this might be fun. Okay, I’m game but I use the term loosely.

So, we start walking on a very well-defined path.  The mosquitoes, which were as big as Buicks, descend on me.  If you followed our blog last year, you may remember that I have a rather tenuous relationship with nature.  Bergen County, New Jersey, where I grew up, is not a hotbed of camping unless you count camping out for a sale at the numerous malls on Route 17 and 4.  As we walked by one campsite, there were two tents, a makeshift clothes line with towels and such hanging, coolers, large water containers, various and sundry inflatable water toys, a campfire pit.  A woman emerged, and I almost stopped and asked her, “What part of this is fun for you?”  Did we climb to the top of the food chain only to haul water, forage for berries, collect sticks, cook on an open fire, and ward off critters both large and small? And let’s not even bring up personal hygiene issues!  After passing by, I stopped and said to Rob, “Let me be clear, the is nothing about camping that appeals to me!”  “So, Pub Trawler is looking pretty good, eh?” (Rob has clearly picked up some Canadian linguistics).  He’s right, though.  It was a short walk but it was time for me to apply Ivarest to my bites and make a peach cobbler.  Hallelujah!

Every time we leave a town, I get a sinking feeling that we are heading into a more and more remote area.  Parry Sound was that kind of town.  It is the hometown of Bobby Orr, so the Orr family name is on many establishments and buildings, including a cultural/concert venue, butcher shop, clothing store etc.  For a tiny outpost, it had everything from a Home Depot to a Walmart, to a Sobey’s (grocery store chain).  It’s not that we need to shop, it’s just comforting to know that they are there.

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The Bobby Orr Hall of Fame.

We have been out for 10 weeks and have eaten out 4 times.  One of them was in Killarney (Ontario, not Ireland).  One of the major eating attractions is a place called Herbert’s Fish and Chips.  Similar to Abbott’s in Noank, its reputation is perhaps inflated along with the prices.  Similar to Abbott’s, you place an order at a window, they call your number when it’s ready and you eat out on a picnic table.  For this you are grateful.  Granted, it’s not lobster and that’s fine, because we were really looking for fresh water fish.  We both decided that we wanted something other than fish and chips on a paper plate that was outrageously priced.  Our options were limited as the only other place to eat was the restaurant at the Killarney Mountain Inn which stands at the entrance to the harbor.  “Meet Me in Killarney” is probably not a great idea as there isn’t much there, one street really. However, we had a wonderful meal.  I had Lake Trout and Rob had pickerel…just what we wanted.  We are two for four as far as restaurants are concerned.  We had a wonderful meal in Kingston at an outstanding Greek restaurant and now Killarney.  We were disappointed by a steak place in Peterborough and burger grille in Orillia.

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The Killarney Mountain Lodge.

One thing I am noticing is that Rob is getting more and more excited as we get closer to Michigan.  He lights up when he speaks about all these places we can stop at.  And, oh, by the way, we haven’t seen any moose or bear.  However, in Killarney someone had seen a baby bear that morning and we were told to keep our garbage at the end of the dock.  I figure the mommy must be close, probably hanging out with the moose.  Ah, yes, the wildlife.

On to the North Channel….

Love to all,
Anita

The Big Chute and the end of the TSW

July 24, 2019

Rambling Rob writes:

We left Orillia mid-morning on the 22nd.  The heat has finally subsided.  As we transited Lake Couchiching we noticed a bunch of Looper boats anchored out in an open area.  We were trying to figure out why they would anchor in the open as they were exposed to waves and wake.  After passing them one of the boats hailed us and let us know that the railroad bridge up the channel was stuck closed and a maintenance crew was on the way.  We continued on to the marina before the bridge as we needed a pump out.  While at the marina we were informed that bridge was now in operation.  We stayed at the marina for a while as there was a large parade of boats heading into the channel.  We figured that the large number of boats heading up the river would cause a backup at the lock on the other side of the bridge.  It turns out that we (me and the mouse in my pocket) did not do our homework.  The next lock was a long way off.  When we got to the bridge it was closed.  The bridge tender informed us that he was waiting for two trains then he would open.  We held station in the channel for about an hour and half waiting for the trains.  While we were waiting Anita made lunch for me.  While I ate, she got an opportunity to hold station downriver.  The current was not strong but it is a challenge to try to stay in a small area while the wind and current push us towards the bridge.  The issue is one of backing.  When we back our boat naturally goes slightly to port.  So to counteract that we need to move the rudder to port and use short bursts of forward to point the boat in the direction that we want to travel.

This portion of the Trent Severn Waterway (TSW) is giving us a preview of the Georgian Bay.  There are many islands with some narrow passageways.  We determined that the next lock was a long way off and we wanted to anchor out.  It was a beautiful afternoon and we determined that we would anchor out in Deep Bay off Sparrow Lake.  It was a beautiful little bay with lots of room to anchor.  The only issue being that the property is all private.  If it were the two of us it would not be an issue for overnight.  However Tilly refuses to use the “pee pad” we got for her.  So, Tilly and I dinghied to a large rock outcropping in the bay near where we had anchored.  Tilly enjoyed exploring the rock, but as Anita informed me, she is not a mountain goat.  She refused to go on the rock as well.  Under the cover of darkness Tilly and I went ashore and she was able to relieve herself.

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Tilly not peeing on the rock.

In the morning we left Big Bay and headed towards the next lock.  Lock 43 is the tallest lock in the TSW.  With a lift of 47 feet it is similar to lock 17 on the Erie Canal.  Prior to going into the lock Tilly and I had a brief walk in the park at the lock.  We notice the signs warning of venomous snakes.  We have entered parts of Ontario were the local fauna can hurt you.  It turns out that the only venomous snakes in Ontario are the Massasauga Rattler.  They are shy and will only attack a human who picks them up or steps on them.  No worries about me picking one up, but I have started wearing shoes and pay attention to where I step.  I have also learned that they hunt at night.  Great!

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Leaving Lock 43. The biggest lock in the TSW.

After locking through lock 43 we continued on to lock 44.  Lock 44 is not a lock but rather a marine railway at the Big Chute.  There are several docks there that allow you time, up to one night, to explore and examine the railway.  The railway is really interesting.  It is a platform on rails that has a superstructure like a Travellift, in that it has sets of slings that support your boat during the crossing.  We had originally planned on spending the night, however, after an ice cream cone lunch we decided to continue our travels.

Let me take a step back.  The railway at the Big Chute was originally planned as temporary until the lock was built on the site.  Apparently, when the depression struck Canada, the funds for building the lock where not available.   The railway goes over a large granite formation that would have taken much blasting in order to build the lock.  Later the original railway, which is no longer in use but remains as a historical artifact, was replaced by the current railway.  The current railway has two sets of tracks one end of the platform runs on the inner set of tracks and the other end runs on the outer set.  The tracks at each end of the railway enter the water a platform length from the other set.  In this manner the platform stays almost level at both ends.

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Another looper boat on the Big Chute.

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Heading down the back side of the Big Chute.

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Looking back at the Big Chute after unloading.

Landing the boat in the railway is a little tricky as there is about a .5 knot current flowing from right to left as you enter.  It is sort of like landing a boat on a trailer in a river.  I watched several boats load onto the railway to get a sense of what was needed to position the boat properly and without damage.  So we headed to the blue line to wait to be called onto the railway.  There were two smaller boats that were to load on the front, followed by several jet skis and then us.  As we were about to cast off another boat came by and asked if we were trying to make the lock.  I responded that we were going on this crossing.  They proceeded to the railway.  As they approached the lockmaster asked why they were there and sent them back to the blue line.  We left the dock.  As we approached the railway one of the operators had me point the boat at the corner of the platform.  As I was expecting to do this, it made life easy.  I had a short jog to port and then starboard to enter.  As I was entering the forward sling caught us.  The asked if we had single or twin screws, and if we had a full keel.  After responding single and yes, the aft sling caught us.  And then we were off.  As soon as the railway starts you hear the crossing bells sound, and the crossing gates come down.  It is so unusual to cross a road on a boat.  The ride only takes a couple of minutes and we were back in the water and ready to continue.

We planned on anchoring out.  We found an anchorage that reportedly had access to shore via “the Parks Canada park to the east”.  We could not find the park or a nearby boat ramp so we continued on the next and final lock.  Throughout the day the wind built until it was blowing about 15 knots.  When we got to the lock all the wall space was filled.  One of the loopers invited us to raft off them until the blue line was clear.  Then he asked us to hold off while he checked on the blue line.  It turns out the lock staff was allowing boats to stay on the blued line in the cove (as apposed to the blue line at the channel).  There was one boat centered on the blue line.  That boat moved forward and left us 25 -30 feet of wall to moor to.  We approached the wall to port with the wind blowing us towards the wall.  I cannot see the port side of the boat when we are approaching.  I tried to keep the boat parallel to the wall / pier.  As we approached the wind caught our stern and I had misjudged the placement of the fenders.  We contacted the corner of the concrete pier with our rub rail.  It sounded awful.  Fortunately, it put a little ding in the stainless rub rail, but we had no damage to the fiberglass.

There is a swing bridge at the last lock that is under construction.  Because of this the whole area was fenced off and there is no traffic on the road.  This allowed us to let Tilly off the leash and she played with the other looper dogs.

We were invited to dessert and games after dinner.  However, by the time we joined the group the game was ending and the dessert was mostly gone.  We sat and talked for a while and then looper midnight (2100 hours) was nigh.  Everyone else disappeared.  Anita and I sat up and played cards.  It is interesting that by 9 PM only one other boat had lights on and those lights were in the forward berth area. Shortly thereafter we were the only illuminated boat.

Tilly and I took a walk in the morning.  And then, after breakfast, we made our way to the last lock.  The Port Severn lock is the smallest of all the other locks on the TSW.  It is short and narrow.  The lockmasters decide who is going where when entering the chamber.  We transited uneventfully and headed out into the Georgian Bay.

Stay tuned…

Galley news from the crew,

Well, I don’t have anything to add except that I had you at Galley news, didn’t I??  Ha!  When I read Rob’s entry, I was amazed at all the details he remembers.  Most of the time I am oblivious to much of what surrounds me.  I will add that we are now lock professionals as I think we’ve gone through about 175 locks (two years).  Rob tells me that we are done with the locks.  Too bad, I was feeling pretty good about that. Of course, being at the stern (back), also gives you the opportunity to inhale a lot of fumes.  Maybe that’s why I’m oblivious (Rob says delirious) not sure.  I also have to say that we have had wonderful weather which makes a huge difference in my book.  On to Georgian Bay, moose and bears and now snakes.  I can hardly wait.

Onward and outward,

Anita