Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Art of Going With the Flow

Days on cruise:  99

Distance traveled today: 8.6 miles

Travel time:  1 hr, 37 mins (or 6 hrs, 34 mins including “other issues” and 5 locks)

Two days ago we got an email from a friend who shall remain un-named inquiring “How is the boat running?” Cathryn responded something like “Well, I should knock on wood before answering that question, but it’s been a while since we had any problems. Everything is going great!”  She knew at the time that putting those words in writing might invite trouble.


Today we left Peterborough Lift Lock #21 at 8:30 and found ourselves traveling with Ron from Montreal on “Nord South”, a solo guy and non-Looping sailboat. We went through 4 locks with him, and he was a pleasant lock companion, chatting amiably with us as we locked through. Like many men, he commented repeatedly how impressed he was that Cathryn was able to drive the boat well, and took a photo of her which he said he’d post on his Facebook page.  Bob VERY much enjoys, whenever asked, telling people that Cathryn drives the boat perhaps better than he does, just to tweak their assumptions (that women can’t drive boats).

Trenton University’s campus spans both sides of the river.


Back in January when we were trained by Captain Chris Yacht Services, Chris and Alyse Caldwell, they taught us never to ignore “What’s that noise?  What’s that smell?” questions that arise while boating. Today that lesson served us well.

After the fourth lock, Cathryn noticed a strong smell of fuel in the salon, so asked Bob to go below and see if he also smelled it. Five minutes later, Bob emerged and said “Pull over to the wall. We have a problem".

When he opened the hatch to the engine room, he saw pink fluid (diesel fuel) splashing into the bilge from the generator, and the generator’s fuel filter and cap that holds the filter in place from the bottom were lying on the floor. HUH?  How can that be?  He tried to re-install the filter and cap, but to no avail. He noted the rubber gasket looked worn and didn’t seem to fit properly, and we had a spare, but it didn’t fit either. At that point he was thinking the problem was beyond his pay grade.


We were at Lock 25 so asked Lockmaster Dan if he knew any mechanics who could help.  He made a few calls and didn’t find anyone on a Saturday, so suggested we proceed to the next marina, stay there for the weekend (with shore power so our refrigerator/freezer contents wouldn’t spoil without the generator running), and get help on Tuesday, as Monday is the Canada Day holiday. Bummer.


The second lockmaster, Jordan (photo above), spoke up and offered to call her father Wayne, who lives nearby “and is very good with boats”.  We admit to some skepticism that her father would feel inclined to help us, but thanked Jordan and waited.  Fifteen minutes later Wayne arrived with toolboxes and his son Cole. He dropped into the engine room, and emerged 5 minutes later to announce that whoever did our oil and filter changes less than two weeks ago in Brewerton, NY (that person, from Ess Kay Yards, shall remain un-named as well) put the wrong size gasket in, one that is too big and thick, making it impossible to screw the cap on the filter properly, so it had vibrated loose and fallen off over time.  There was about a half gallon of fuel in the bilge which Bob cleaned up while Wayne drove back to town and made a set of properly sized gaskets. He returned, installed the gasket and filter, screwed the cap back on, started up the generator to test it, and determined all was well with no more fuel leak.  He did all this on Saturday (his day off work) and in less than 2 hours, for people he’s never met before and likely will never see again. What a great guy!  He refused any payment, so Cathryn stuffed some bills in his pocket and told him to take his family out for dinner.

It turns out Wayne actually works for the Trent-Severn Canal system as a mechanic, but today was his day off. We’ll definitely send an email commending his outstanding service!

Note in the photo below that at Lock 26 all three employees are female:  a first!


So we traveled through one more lock, decided we’d had enough for the day and tied up for the night, despite the short distance for the day.  Later, we still smelled fuel, so Bob performed further inspection in the engine room and discovered more water and fuel in other portions of the bilge. It was hot outside (33 degrees C, or 92 degrees F), much hotter in the engine room, and it took more than an hour of sopping up fuel and water with absorbent pads, then a turkey baster into plastic buckets, and finally paper towels to clean it all. Tomorrow’s project will be to find a suitable place to dispose of this biohazard material that can’t be merely dumped.

Because this is a holiday weekend, Canada Day, (sort of like our Fourth of July), the locks and lock walls are unusually busy, as the full lock below shows.


Yesterday we traveled only 1 mile, today only 8 miles, and because tomorrow is a national holiday and lock walls everywhere are full, we’ll probably travel not at all.  Hmmm . . .  guess we’ll have to work harder the rest of the week to meet our 100-miles-per-week quota!

Despite the somewhat stressful day, we remain happy and well.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Internet Junkies and Engineers Celebrate

Peterborough, Lock 20 to Peterborough, Lock 21

Days on cruise:  98

Distance traveled today:  1 mile

Travel time: 1 hour

Locks today:  2

Total trip odometer:  2,227 statute miles

Our overnight spot on the lock wall at the bottom of Lock 20, below.


After a quiet night adjacent to a pretty park, as all Trent-Severn Waterway locks seem to be, we unloaded the bicycles for the first time in a while.  We were on a mission today and had too many kilometers to cover to do it on foot. The pretty, young, female lockmaster at lock 20 (not to sound sexist or anything, but this is in stark contrast to 98% of the lock masters in New York who were all, save one, male, and older than Cathryn) gave us the overview of Peterborough, including how to find the nearest Rogers Wireless store.


Test question: How do you identify a Looper? They always have a West Marine crate on back of their bike!

A week ago we thought we’d made headway in acquiring Canadian internet equipment and service, but a week later, alas, no further word telling us our credit check and service activation were complete. So we rode our bikes to the Mall  eight kilometers away and were told by the Rogers Wireless store manager there that our set-up had been handled incorrectly, and of course we could get our Mi-fi hotspot device activated in the next few minutes! We were skeptical.

Keslynn called the credit check/activation office, handed the phone to us, we provided Bob’s passport number, Keslynn confirmed the passport photo really did look like Bob, and voila . . . . our hotspot mi-fi device was turned on! We sat in the mall for 15 minutes to ensure it really worked with our iPads we’d brought along, then rode back to town, happy to again be connected to 21st century technology, which we’ve sorely missed for the past week.  Now we plan to use Skype for outgoing phone calls, text messages on our U.S. cell phones, and email as usual. It appears we won’t have service coverage everywhere while in Canada, but about 80-85% of the water we’ll travel shows on their map as having coverage, so we’ll hope that turns out to be true.

Next stop: a bicycle shop to get a repair of Cathryn’s rear brake and a clunky sound when shifting gears. It turns out salt water isn’t good for bicycles.  Duh!  We stored our bikes on the bow of the boat the first two weeks of our Loop in Florida, discovered waves regularly break over the bow, and thus onto the bicycles, so moved them into the guest room where they live except when we have guests. Thirty dollars and 20 minutes later, we left with the bike operating like new again!


Lunch was at a local pub with both a brewery and great food on site, with open air tables right on the busy town street lined with shops, restaurants, galleries and hanging flower baskets.  Nice!


Tomorrow’s plan was to travel through Lock 21, a hydraulic lift lock unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. So we rode our bikes up to this lock to take a look and see how it works. While there, we were told by the lockmaster it would be ok for us to spend the night on the wall at the top of the lock, something we’d previously been told was not allowed. We immediately began discussing the idea of making the move today rather than wait until tomorrow, as it was only 3:00.


We overheard a Canadian family express disappointment that no boats were going through the lock so they could see how it works. On a whim, we told them we were considering making the move now, and if they wanted to walk back to Lock 20 with us, board our boat, and travel the kilometer to Lock 21, they could ride up the hydraulic lift lock with us. They were thrilled and jumped at the chance.  So Dave, Karen, Tyler (age 8) and Justin (age 6) joined us on the boat. We fitted both of the boys with life vests and took off.


The Peterborough Hydraulic Lift Lock is one of only 8 ever  built in the world, and one of only 4 still operational.  Built  between 1896 and 1904 from unreinforced concrete and steel, almost all its’ components are original. We understand it is subject to rigorous, regular inspections.





The hydraulic lift lock raises and lowers boats inside two water-filled steel “pans”, each 8 feet deep, 140 feet long and holding 228,000 gallons of water weighing 1,700 tons. Each one rises 65 feet when operated.  The two “pans” are counter-balanced, with one at the top, one at the bottom, and the shifting of the two initiated by adding 1 foot of water to the chamber at the top, which forces it to travel downward and the other chamber to move upward.


With our family of guests on board, Cathryn drove the boat, and Bob and Dave handled the lines, as it was so windy the boat was getting blown around, so their strength was helpful in keeping the boat under control. Tyler and Justin were interested in every detail, and Karen took lots of photos (many of which are posted here) to document the experience. It was a little weird or creepy to be sitting in a pan of water 50 feet and higher up in the air, looking down over the edge to the water below! We were all laughing, craning our necks to see each detail, and exclaiming about what an extraordinary experience this was.



Quickly we reached the top, the gate holding the water in place dropped down, and out we drove to tie up to the lock wall just beyond the hydraulic pans. What a thrilling ride!  We enjoyed sharing the experience with a family of interested enthusiasts, and it was fun having kids on board for the first time on our Loop, if briefly.



We ended the day by walking back to the visitors center which tells the story of the lock’s construction, complete with photos and explanations of how it came to be. Amazing!


Here we are, parked on the lock wall at the end of another wonderful day on the Loop.


Campbellford to Peterborough, Trent-Severn Waterway, Ontario

Days on cruise:  97

Miles traveled today:  58.1

Travel time:  7 hrs, 22 mins (9 hrs, 45 mins including locks)

Locks today:  7

Total trip odometer:  2,226 statute miles

Last night, Wednesday, was a lively night for us boaters in Campbellford.  Three other boats we’d met previously, ‘Bama Bell, Jesse III, and Happy Hour were also on the canal wall in town, so the eight of us got together for appetizers/drinks and potluck dinner at the adjacent park where there was also live country music for the night.

Charlie (‘Bama Belle) began his Loop in December 2010. Because he’s a single guy, he relies on family, friends, and occasionally crew found via the internet to accompany him on his journey. He began in Mobile, Al and currently has Laurie, a friend from high school, on board for a month.  Laurie taught Cathryn how to make Baked Brie served with Sliced Apples as an appetizer.  Yum!

Canadians from Ontario, Paul and Lynn on Jesse III plan to begin their Loop next year, and Canadians from Belleville, Bruce and Anne on Happy Hour are still deciding whether to do the complete Loop, though they’ve already done sections.  It was a delightful evening with too much delicious food and yummy tarts for dessert from the Butter Tart bakery in town.  The country music was good background as we weren’t too close to the crowd. A good time was had by all.


Below are Charlie and Laurie on ‘Bama Belle, a 39-foot Mainship.


Thursday morning, continuing with Bob at the helm and Cathryn on deck, we followed Jesse III into the next “flight lock”, or two locks that open directly into one another and raise you 52 feet combined.


After traveling through 6 locks in quick succession, Jesse III stopped at Hastings, while we continued on up the Trent River.  The scenery alternated between remote, rural land with woods and marsh, and more inhabited shoreline with modest cottages cheek-by-jowl or somewhat fancier homes on larger lots, still rural.


Another lock had a 5-foot clearance swing bridge that had to be opened before we could pass.


There were barns and sometimes agricultural fields along the pretty shoreline. Travel was slow, often only 6  mph, either because of small fishing boats in the river who we didn’t want to wake, or “no wake” zones because of the crowded cottages with their runabouts at a dock.


C0-Captain Bob, ever serene at the helm.




A railroad bridge that is almost always open, except when a train is approaching.


Very late in the afternoon, and tired, we arrived at Lock #20 and tied up on the wall below for the night. This lock is at the outskirts of the town of Peterborough, population 70,000 and the largest town on the Trent-Severn Waterway . We’re still only an hour or two from Toronto by bus, but the serpentine path we traveled today took us many more miles than does the roadway.  This will continue for the entire 240 miles of the Waterway, where we’ll end in Port Severn, still not far from Toronto.

Last night Bob reviewed our maps and cruising guides and determined we need to cover 860 miles between last night’s stop and Chicago, where we hope to arrive August 28 in time to meet our youngest daughter Adrienne and her fiancee Justin who will join us on the boat for 4 nights.  That means we need to travel approximately 100 miles per week, a pretty mellow pace much slower than the 150 miles we averaged each week on the Atlantic coast.  This should allow for plenty of time to anchor out and play in the glorious waters of Georgian Bay and the North Channel that lie ahead. Many former Loopers say this is the prettiest stretch of the whole Loop.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Play Day in Campbellford

Days on cruise:  96


After a quiet Tuesday night on the Waterway wall, we woke to cool, calm, blue skies and plans to play for the day.  Mr. Turner, owner of the ESSO station where we bought fuel and spent the night on his wall, agreed to let us stay another night, as long as we’d pay $5.00 in order to use hydro (electricity) for a second night. What a deal!  Mr. Turner’s grandfather established this station in 1925, and the current Mr. Turner is a few years older than Bob, we’d guess, a very nice man.


We packed a picnic lunch and took off for a 5-kilometer loop hike around the Rotary-Centennial Trail, whichtravel from downtown Campbellford to the Suspension Bridge which crosses the Trent River near flight locks #11 and #12 through which we traveled yesterday, and is adjacent to the hydroelectric plant.


It’s a pretty hike through land which was privately owned for several generations, now jointly maintained and managed by a “Friends of . . .” group and the parks system. There are well-maintained gravel paths, lots of trees, many with interpretive labels, benches and occasional picnic tables.


On our way back to the boat we made stops at the local Farmer’s Market, and two local “must see” businesses: The Butter Tart Factory and The World’s Finest Chocolate Factory.  Naturally, we had to support the local economy by making small purchases at each stop.


There have been several stories of young mischief-makers along the Trent-Severn Waterway who occasionally get their jollies by untying boats in the middle of the night, setting them adrift while their occupants sleep. We guess this stems from small-town boredom, but in any case, we don’t wish to be victims of such pranks, so Bob used  thin steel cables and locks in two locations to secure our boat to the waterway railing.


We know this won’t stop folks truly intent on making trouble, but at least those without wire cutters  handy will be deterred from making us their target.  Any of you Looper Wannabes who are reading this, be sure and put a heavy duty bicycle chain lock or similar on your Pack List! We had no trouble last night.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Campbellford, Ontario

Days on cruise:  95

Distance traveled today:  24.1 miles

Travel time:  3 hrs, 34 mins (6 hrs with locks and fuel stop included)

# Locks today:  6

Total trip odometer: 2, 168 statute miles


Yesterday, Monday, was a layover day.  It was rainy, cloudy and very windy, and we were settled on the free Lock #6 wall where we had electrical hook-ups, along with half a dozen other boats full of friendly people, so we stayed put, did some boat chores and read our books. Nice!


At 5:00 eight of us convened on Bruce and Anne’s boat for appetizers and cocktails. The group included 2 Looper boats and 2 Canadian non-Looper boats. The other Looper boat (besides us) was Charlie and Laurie on “Bama Belle”, he from Mobile, and she from Birmingham. Cathryn was born in Montgomery, Alabama so we did some ‘Bama talkin’.  Of the four couples, only Cathryn and Bob were married, an interesting piece of modern life.


Today we left Lock #6 and traveled north on the Trent-Severn Waterway in cool and windy conditions.  Much of the distance was in rural land where the shoreline was lined with modest summer cottages, or marshland with lots of blue heron, a few loons,  and wild swans, which are pretty common in these parts.


At one lock the lockmaster brought our attention to a cute red fox that scampered into the underbrush too fast for us to grab a photo. 


We saw lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs, and a couple of snakes in the water. A nice wildlife day.


We traveled through 6 locks today, including our first “flight lock”, which is what Canadians call locks that are built in tandem.  You enter the first lock, are raised to the higher level, then when the gates open, you immediately find yourself inside the second lock chamber.


You secure the boat again, are raised a second time, and when you reach the top you can see down the back side to the water 50 + feet below. The gate structure is impressively tall, and you can’t help but wonder what happens if one of the gates fails and the water rushes out while you’re tied to a wall at the top. Never mind!


Canadian ATONs (aids to navigation) are called stanchions, which translates as Skinny!  They’re hard to see from a distance.


At 2:00 we fueled up at the Esso gas station in Campbellford and learned we could stay on the canal wall there for free because we’d purchased fuel. The location is close to everything, including the Chamber of Commerce where we found wi-fi that allowed us to catch up on email and posting yesterday’s blog post.  And we paid only $4.48/gallon for diesel fuel, which is dirt cheap by Canadian standards!


We took a short tour of town to help us plan tomorrow’s activities, including stopping at the park where the “Toonie” sculpture resides. Canadians have $1 and $2 coins, not paper, and they’re referred to as “Loonies” and “Toonies”. This huge sculpture of a Toonie coin resides in Campbellford because the guy who designed the Toonie is from here. As an aside, the Canadians also did away with pennies recently as the cost to produce them was more than they were worth; a lesson the U.S. could probably benefit from taking as well.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Slowing Down

Fraser Park Marina in Trenton to Canal Wall Above Lock 6, Frankford, Ontario

Days on Cruise:  93

Distance Traveled Today:  7.5 miles

Travel Time: 1 hr, 19 mins (or 3 hrs including locking)

Locks today:  6

Total Trip Odometer:  2,144 statute miles


We were tempted to spend another day in Trenton “just because”, but cast off our lines at 8:30 and headed north instead. Entering the Trent-Severn Waterway, things felt different. We have only 240 miles to cover before entering Georgian Bay and can take 2 or more weeks if we want to, so expect a number of layover days and short travel days. The summer equinox has passed, so at these northern latitudes it’s daylight before 5am and not dark until almost 10pm if there’s not much cloud cover.


The first 6 (of 45) locks on the Trent Severn Waterway come at you rapidly, in only 5 miles. Each one is just like the previous one, with cables (our favorite and easiest type) of securement.  We switched things up and put Cathryn on the decks and Bob at the helm for this segment, as Bob’s longer arms and legs and greater strength are not so important with cable ties.


By lock #3 we’d each figured out the details of our “new” roles to make it easy, and got it down to a smooth operation. It’s amazing what a difference little details can make.  The locks on the Trent Severn are much smaller than those on the Erie and Oswego, and manually operated. Each lock has two operators, and each operator walks in circles, pushing a hand lever, which opens one of the gates.


By 11:30 a.m. having been lifted 119 feet through 6 locks, we were ready to call it a day. Just above lock #6 is a canal wall adjacent to a pretty park that has free hydro (what the Canadians call their electric supply, as the power source is hydroelectric plants). The free tie-ups are common, but the added feature of free hydro is not. “Free” needs a little clarification.  To transit the Trent-Severn Waterway, we paid $195 for our Canadian Parks Locking Permit, and $411 for a Seasonal Mooring Permit, which allows us to moor on canal and lock walls at no additional charge for the duration of the season.  The cross-over point for savings with the season permit over paying by the night is 11 nights.   Given that marinas in the vicinity are typically $60 – $80 per night for our boat in this area, and anchorages are few to none, the break-even point seemed worthwhile in this case, and more convenient as well. 


After getting settled on the wall, we walked into town to find a hardware store, and hoped to find wi-fi at a library or somewhere else, to no avail.  While out on our walk, it began to sprinkle, then increased to rain, growing heavier as the day went on.  We felt right at home, as it’s still rainy in Seattle this time of year, however the outside temperature here was near 70 degrees, so not quite the same as home where it’s cooler.


It appears there are more Canadian Geese in this country than there are Canadian citizens (people). They are EVERYWHERE!

About 5:00 Bruce and Anne, from a boat on the  opposite side of the canal, showed up to introduce themselves, and we invited them to join us on board. They live in Belleville where we were 2 nights ago, and are trying to decide whether to do The Great Loop. They own a house here, another in Fort Myers, Florida, and a 35-foot Chris Craft motor boat on which they spend much of the summer.  They provided us with lots of local knowledge about the Trent-Severn Waterway, and we talked with them quite a bit about the Loop, so it was a nice visit, and we hope to see them further up the Waterway.  They’ve been here 3 nights already and plan to stay 2 or 3 more, while we expect to move on tomorrow or the next day.


There are no big cities on the Trent-Severn. Frankford, where we are now, has fewer than 1,000 residents, and Campbellford, the largest town, has a few more than 2,000.