Friday, July 6, 2012

Why are you THERE?

Several people have inquired why we’re in the middle of Ontario on our boat, and why we aren’t on Lake Erie, or the St. Lawrence Seaway, or aren’t going to Montreal.


The Great Loop journey has a number of choices to be made along the route, and each boat crew makes decisions about what suits their interests and where to spend their time. Some folks spend just a week or two in the Chesapeake Bay, for example, while others may spend a month or more.


Once at the north end of the Hudson River in New York, numerous options present themselves. The two most popular choices involve going north on the Champlain Canal or west on the Erie Canal, then north from there on the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario.

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More than 90% of Loopers take one of those two routes. A tiny percent continue west all the way to the end of the Erie Canal. Most of those are folks who don’t have passports and can’t enter Canada, or know people who live on Lake Erie they plan to visit, or are interested in seeing cities like Cleveland and Detroit by water.


For the majority who skip Lake Erie, it’s mostly a matter of time allocation.  You can take the longer route and see  spectacular places like the Champlain and Rideau Canals, Montreal and Ottawa. For boats arriving in New York much after the first of June, or later, the Erie and Oswego Canals,  traveling directly to the Trent-Severn Waterway and on to the Georgian Bay and North Channel may be the best route.

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Georgian Bay and the North Channel  along the north shore of Lake Huron are considered by a good percentage of folks who complete the Loop to be the most gorgeous stretch of the whole trip. You can take your time and dawdle through this area (as we will), if you arrive early enough.


Many people take the route we’re taking this year, then return to the area another year to do something called the Downeast Loop. That Loop covers 2,400 nautical miles and includes Montreal, Quebec City, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Halifax, Nova Scotia and the northeast Atlantic coast from Maine back down to New York.  We think this Loop sounds fascinating and beautiful, but the season for it is very short as it’s so far north that marinas and fueling stations are only open June through sometime in September.  This works best for people who can take more than one year to do the Loop.


A large percentage of Loopers make their trip on a boat that travels in the 6 – 9 knots per hour range, even those who are in boats (like ours) that can go faster. The reasons for this choice usually revolve around the comfort of the boat and the cost of fuel.  Some travel faster in segments they find less interesting, or in the open water stretches, so they can spend more time in other places or go to on more side trips. The choices are endless.


Most sailboats, and some larger motor vessels, have too deep a draft to do the Trent-Severn Waterway on which we’ve been traveling the past two weeks. Those boats are required to sign a liability wavier if their draft exceeds 5 feet. The shallow water is also an issue on the Georgian Bay and North Channel. So deep draft boats have to go out on the open water of  the Great Lakes instead of the Trent-Severn, Georgian Bay and North Channel, which happen to also be more scenic than being in the middle of a Great Lake with no shoreline in sight, and more protected from bad weather.


So now you know why some of our SPOT satellite messages make it look like we’re 50 miles from shore, unless you take the time to zoom in and see we’re actually on a convoluted waterway just north of Lake Ontario, soon to be along the north eastern shore of Lake Huron.

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