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Trawlers are great fun.  Aboard Abreojos, we go lots of places.  There are limitations, however.  The Roughwater 41 is an excellent coastal cruiser.  In my opinion, it’s one of the best.  She has adequate range and is very seaworthy.  Yet, she was never meant to cross oceans.

This August, Brenda and I will be doing just that – crossing an ocean.  Unfortunately, our Abreojos will be awaiting our return at the dock.

Our friends, Phil and Sara, have a Swann 44 over in Hawaii that they want brought home. Her name is Second Chance, for many good reasons.

In 2011, Second Chance raced from Long Beach, California to Hawaii in the Transpac.  Here she is at the start of the race:

Second Chance

She completed the race.  However, not long before crossing the finish line, she earned herself a bit of acclaim by rescuing a rather forlorn paddler who managed to get himself into something of a pinch quite a distance from the beach.  Here is a link to an article that explains essentially what happened:

For the last 4 years since the race, Second Chance has called the island of Oahu home.  Most recently, she has been berthed at the beautiful Ko’ Olina Marina which lies on the south-west side of the island of Oahu near the town of Kapolei.

This year, Second Chance is coming home to Channel Islands Harbor in sunny Oxnard, California, and Brenda, my friends Robert and Lou, and I will be bringing her home.

We will be leaving for Hawaii on July 29 and plan to leave the marina on August 1.  Although this is really not a “cruise” so to speak, the same adage as we apply to cruising applies; cruising plans are often written in the sand on a rising tide.  As I write this, the National Whatever Service is keeping an eye on a tropical depression they are calling “Tropical Depression 18e”.  Here is what they say:

The National Hurricane Center in Miami Florida is issuing advisories on tropical depression Eight-E, located 1715 miles east-southeast of Hilo Hawaii, under AWIPS header tcpep3 and WMO header wtpz33 KNHC. Eight-e is expected to cross 140°W into the Central Pacific Hurricane Center area of responsibility Thursday morning.

Central Pacific Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook and Infrared Satellite image for 02 UTC

This will probably turn out to be a fizzle and cause no more than a period of excessive heat and humidity.  Moreover, we are heading north and it appears, based on the projected cone of influence, that the unstable weather will pass well to the south of the Hawaiian Islands.  Nevertheless, it adds one more thing to the matrix of matters that form the myriad of considerations taken in planning this trip.

The trip is approximately 2600 nautical miles.  It will take us somewhat north (probably to around the latitude of Oregon) before we start heading easterly and then south-easterly towards Channel Islands Harbor.  This is primarily because of the belt in which the trades blow and the location of the center of the North Pacific High.  The way things look now, we will almost always be sailing well off the wind on a variety of headings that make great points of sail for Second Chance.  In that regard, we hope the trip will not take us more than 14-18 days.  I have asked my crew to bring their passports with them, however.  Granted, one would think navigating from Hawaii to California is easy – just head east.  Well, it’s not THAT simple.  I mean, what if we get in close and tune the fm radio and hear Spanish music?  Well, then we turn left.  If we approach shore and are met by folks paddling skin covered canoes and offering us seal blubber to eat, well, then we turn right.  Seriously, August is the best time of year to do this trip because the weather conditions are most apt to remind us of just why the Pacific is so called.

So, we head out tomorrow morning to catch an early flight to Honolulu.  From there, we’ll catch a shuttle to a friend’s house where we will pick up his truck which he generously offered us for our use prior to shoving off.  Then, we’ll head down to Second Chance and begin the process of packing and unpacking and provisioning.  It promises to be a big job.  Although there will only be 4 of us aboard, and thus plenty of space, there will also be provisions for 4, all of which must be stowed appropriately.    I’m glad we have a couple days to get it right before we head to the fuel dock.  Yes, I said it, “fuel dock.”  While Second Chance is a first rate sailing vessel, she does have an auxiliary engine and a generator that need to be fed.  We’ll carry as much fuel as we can possibly stuff aboard so, if we have to, we will easily make it across the North Pacific High, although the goal will be to sail as much and as fast as possible recognizing, of course that we are only 4 and we are not in a race.  Second Chance had a much larger crew when she sailed TO Hawaii.

So, for now, I’m going to close this out and hope that you will follow our progress.  How is that possible, you ask?  Easy!  We will have a DeLorme In Reach device on the boat.  This is a two way satellite communication device that relies on the Iridium system.  It does many amazing things.  Perhaps the most amazing is it will function as a tracker linked to a website so our friends and family can not only follow our progress, but send us text-like messages.  The following link is the link to our page.  Check it out.  We will turn the tracker on and start “pinging” the website when we leave the harbor on August 1…..we hope.  I’ll also ping the link to my own timeline on Facebook.

I’ll try to write more before we leave and let you know how the provisioning goes.  So, for now, this is the crew of M/V Abreojos, on temporary assignment aboard S/V Second Chance, signing off.



Some of you know that Abreojos is now on the west coast.  She is not home quite yet, however.  Presently, we are working to rebuild the cruising kitty, but we are also doing a bit of cruising out of Abreojos’ new home port, Everett, Washington.  The following video documents our recent visit to the San Juan Islands.


It has been a little while since I have written to this blog.  After getting out of Parry Sound, we ran extremely long days through the rest of Georgian Bay and the North Channel, usually leaving at sunrise and typically ducking into a safe harbor or anchorage at or near sundown.  I was pretty tired and did not feel much like writing.  Moreover, I wanted to complete the crossing of Lake Superior and have some time to reflect on it before putting it down for prosperity.

Our crossing of Lake Superior basically began after we left Drummond Island in upper lower Michigan.  I know that sounds strange, but since Michigan is comprised of upper and lower peninsulas, it actually makes some sense.  Drummond Island is bordered on the north by the North Channel, on the south by Lake Huron, on the east by False Detour Pass, and on the west by the St. Mary’s River and Detour Pass.  It’s only a day’s run from Mackinaw Island and the straights that separate Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  There, we checked back into the USA as Drummond Island is an official Port of Entry.  There is a US Customs and Border Patrol office there at the Drummond Island Yacht Haven.

Calling it a yacht haven is somewhat a misnomer.  It is pretty rustic.  It sits at the bottom of a rather deep bay riddled with small islands.  The approach was rather spectacular, although there were lots of small boats running all over the place.  We had reservations and called the harbor on the radio as we approached.  I called several times and got no response.  Finally, I dialed them up on the phone and asked whether or not they were monitoring the radio.  They told me it was down, but that it was miraculously working again.  So I called to get instructions to the slip.  The markers on the chart did not in any way, shape or form, correspond with what we saw out the window.  So, out of simple concern over the rapidly shallowing water, we wanted some direction.  We got it……sort of.  Fortunately, another boat was coming in and we watched what he did, schooled off him, and went into the marina and tied up, unscathed and with the new bottom paint intact.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the seemingly ubiquitous young, blond female who was working at the marina while on summer break from school.  She was not so swift.  She tied the bow way too tight and for a moment there, we were at serious risk of colliding with a larger DeFever docked in the same slip.  I got a little testy with her as I told her she had to ease the bow line so we could get the stern of the boat to the dock.  Then, after we were tied up, and while she was standing around probably awaiting a tip that was never forthcoming, I asked her where the customs office was located.  She said, “Oh you need Customs?”  With an air of apparent exasperation, I leaned out the starboard side pilothouse window and pointed upwards thereby directing her seemingly depleted attention to the yellow “Q” flag we were properly and prominently flying from the starboard outrigger.  She said, “Oh.  Just stay on your boat and they will come to you.”  Fine.  So we waited about 10 minutes until the customs officer arrived, conducted his interview, gave us our entry papers and left.  No problem at all.  The customs officer was quite polite and friendly.  I think he was new because he told us of what turned out to be nothing more than some grandiose rumor about having to contact the Canadian Boarder Service when we crossed back into Canadian waters to go into the Sault even though we were not going to be going ashore in Canada again.  He gave me a number to call to verify and I did.  The Canadian Boarder Service told us this was not the case and that, so long as we were not going ashore, we did not have to check back into Canada, or even call.

After clearing customs, we went to the marina office, paid for the slip and got the courtesy car to head out to the grocery store for some provisions.  It was a simple matter of making a left, then a right, yet another right, and then a final right, and we arrived at the local IGA.  We loaded up the car and went back to the boat.


After we arrived back at the boat, unloaded the groceries and were kicking back on the back deck, this guy comes up to us asking us what we were doing there?  I told him this was the slip we were assigned.  He seemed rather distressed insofar as, apparently, his buddy had already been assigned the same slip and was coming back from Mackinaw along with a third boat in their posse.  “Sorry”, we said, but we are not moving.  This is the slip we were assigned to and I had already had a couple drinks, and I was not about to move my boat.  This guy turned out to be pretty cool about it, but his buddy was not.  He had left his electrical cord on the pedestal.  I went and unwound it for him and he took it from me with nary a comment.  His wife was giving him shit and he had been drinking.  Then again, so had we.  It was best that we all let the matter drop and left it to them to complain to the marina manager about the situation.  They found a spot two slips over and were right next to their friends only on the other side of their friend’s boat.  All’s well that ends well, I always say.  As it turns out, it was the same ubiquitous blond teen that tried to help us tie up that assigned us the slip that had apparently already been assigned to someone else.  I don’t know what they are teaching kids in college these days, but it would appear that organizational skills is lacking from the curriculum.

First thing in the morning, we wound our way out of Drummond Island Yacht Haven, across Detour Pass, and onto the St. Mary’s River heading roughly north.  We were compelled to play “dodge and weave” with several very large cargo ships heading up river, too.  Even on the narrow river, they move very fast.  I figured it was a good idea to plug in the AIS.  It was helpful in a number of ways.  We could determine the name of the ships and their speeds.  Ultimately, we moved well over and let them pass before falling in line behind them.

The St. Mary’s River was very beautiful.  On one side is Canada, and on the other, the USA.  It was funny seeing the flags on either bank.  It seems that folks are trying to outdo one another in terms of size and number.  The USA side won handily having displayed the largest number of very large flags.

This river also took some remarkable bends and turns and we commented on how interesting it must be for the shore-dwellers on either side to watch these behemoths freighters negotiate hairpin turns literally yards from their own boat docks.  We saw no ships coming down until later in the afternoon as we approached Sault St. Marie (pronounced “soo”).  Then, we were passed by two very large ships, both of which appeared to be fully loaded with whatever, and drawing nearly 30 feet.  We made sure to stay well clear while some other folks in very small fishing boats would sit there in the way of the oncoming ship and fire up its little outboard motor with yards to spare and scoot out of the way narrowly avoiding getting turned into “chum”.

We knew we were approaching the Sault (pronounced “the soo”) as development was becoming more apparent.  We could also see the massive radio antennae sticking up over the rolling hills, and the tops of the mega-bridge that crosses the passage.  Then, as we came around the final bend, it all came into sight.  The Sault is a rather busy area with lots of ships coming and going through the Sault locks into and out of Lake Superior.  This is the only entrance/exit to/from Lake Superior and we calculated that ships of all variety carrying all sorts of goods and material transit these locks 3500 plus times per year.

We stopped for fuel at Sault St. Marie Municipal Marina on the American side.  While there, we met some nice guys on an Olson 40 that were taking the boat down to Chicago for the Chicago-Mackinaw Race.  Later, I learned that one of the guys on that boat was the owner of the Olson 30 Polar Bear and had won the single handed class in the Pacific Cup.  If I am not mistaken, I think Polar Bear may have come to Channel Islands Harbor back in 2008 when our yacht club hosted the Olson 30 Nationals.  I could be wrong on that so I will have to go back to the records.  In any event, it was good to see.  The kid who worked at the fuel dock was a really nice fellow.  He told us of his plan to move to California to pursue a career in film making.  He said he had a buddy who lived there with a girlfriend and that he and his girlfriend were going to hop on a plane and move in.  God bless him and we wish him all the luck in the world.  He’s going to need it.

These are the American locks at Sault St. Marie

At the Sault, all recreational boats are directed to transit the Sault via the Canadian lock as opposed to the huge American locks.  It’s not that we were actually prohibited from using the locks on the American side, it’s just that you are functionally prohibited from doing so.  These locks are primarily for the freighters.  One can wait a long time to transit if commercial traffic is coming insofar as they clearly have priority.  It’s just faster and easier with little or no waiting.  So, off we went.  We pulled up to the old blue line and noticed that the lock began draining.  I was surprised that it was such a little thing compared to the American locks.  This became readily apparent when the doors opened.  The locks on the Erie Canal were larger than this lock.  So it was a pretty quick effort.  Pretty red doors, though.

The Canadian side of the Sault is characterized by large, modern glass and steel buildings and Indian casinos.  The American side is much older with interesting historic structures such as the hydro – power plant and the tall spires emanating from a variety of religious structures.  I suspect it is completely normal this time of year, but the weather was calm but overcast.  It seems like we rarely ever saw the sun.

Once we got out of the lock, the shores on both sides were dominated by huge industrial plants of a wide variety, but mostly relating to the production of metals such as steel and aluminum.  There were huge piles (literally mountains) of ore waiting to be processed into ore pellets to be loaded on the huge iron boats bound for steel mills in places like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  But we were now on Lake Superior and it was a tremendous thrill, one neither Robert nor I had experienced before.

So we wound our way down the St. Mary’s canal on Lake Superior until we cleared the outer buoys and entered the infamous Whitefish Bay.  Our plan was to cross Whitefish Bay and make landfall at Whitefish Point, a little harbor of refuge managed and maintained by the State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources.  As an aside, you may recall when Brenda and I were on the Great Lakes previously that, we learned how the State of Michigan maintains a harbor every 20 miles on Lakes Huron and Michigan.  So, when the weather gets stinky (I say when and not if) one is never more than 10 miles from safe harbor.  This same logistic held true on Lake Superior as well, at least so long as we were in Michigan.  It’s a good thing, too, as I will explain, the conditions on Lake Superior are quite different from the other Great Lakes.

Once we cleared onto Whitefish Bay, the lake was flat like a mirror and there was absolutely no wind.  The air was slightly chilly, and patchy fog did a number on our visibility from time to time.  But there we were, on Lake Superior with over 360 miles to go.  It was really something.  We were passed by a huge Iron Boat on the way out onto the bay and were very pleased when they waved at us as we passed port to port.  After this, we hardly saw another boat on the lake throughout our entire journey westward.

On Lake Superior, there are very few longer range cruising boats.  Rather, there are a large number of smaller boats that leave from a myriad of launch ramps all around the lake.  Abreojos was, in most cases, definitely the big dog on the block.  Compared to the rest of the beaten path known as the Loop, few of those boats ever venture up here.  Some say it’s the lack of services.  Others say it’s the distances between safe harbors.  Some even say there is no place to go.  Well, I think Lake Superior was spectacular and was a highlight of my cruising career.

After leaving the St. Mary’s River we crossed Whitefish Bay to Whitefish Point Harbor.  If you are looking for a fancy marina with all the services available, this is definitely not the place.  If, on the other hand, you are enthusiastic about colors and textures of wide sorts, then this is definitely a great place to see.  Although it is technically managed by the State of Michigan DNR, there is nothing there but a boarded up old fish processing plant surrounded by trees and high grass.  There were a variety of birds on the roofs all “wind-veining.”   It is apparent that it has been there a very long time and that nothing has been going on there for quite a while.  The processing plant was boarded up and posted with “No Trespassing” signs.  There is a launch ramp there catering to small fishing boats operated by rather serious fishermen who spared no expense on gear for trolling for anything from Lake Trout to Whitefish, Muskee and Bluegill.  These boats were not pretty, but they were all equipped with “kicker motors” so that when the main engine quits, they have a way to get back to the ramp.  There is NO Towboat US up here.  You are on your own and you definitely have to be able to fend for yourself.

This is a lighthouse at the St. Mary’s Rivermouth where it meets Whitefish Bay.
Notwithstanding the potentials, the water is crystal clear and very cold.  We never saw water much above 50 degrees F.  It is also quite deep in places exceeding 400 feet from time to time.  The volume of Lake Superior is such that it can contain all the water from all of the other Great Lakes combined within its shores.  This is a big lake.  I really hate it when folks compare the Great Lakes with the ocean.  “It’s just like the ocean”, is the cry of the uninitiated.  It is not like the ocean.  It is like the Great Lakes.  First, in many cases, it is very shallow (i.e., Lake Erie averages around 40 feet, Lake Huron is a little deeper on average, and Lakes Michigan and Ontario are yet even deeper.)  It is also fresh water.  The buoyancy of your boat is affected thereby.  The water is seemingly lifeless.  On the ocean, one becomes accustomed to seeing lots of wildlife, such as birds, dolphin, whales, jumping fish, etc.  On the Great Lakes, one sees little or nothing.  Except for the flies!  I have no idea where they come from, but we were 15 miles off shore passing the Huron Islands, barren rocks, and were jumped by thousands of black flies, apparently, the Michigan State Bird.  For a while we put Shteutle the Fly-Swatter to the test and killed hundreds.  Hanging fly strips inside the cabin looked hairy being covered with stuck flies.  Finally, we put up the screens on the pilothouse windows and just left them there.  It helped.  However, the little bastards still found their way in.  By the time we landed in Superior, Wisconsin, Shteutle was held together with duct tape.  So, the Great Lakes are not like the ocean.

The weather on Lake Superior is rather fickle to say the least.  One minute it might be sunny and ten minutes later, you might find yourself shrouded in very thick fog.  The wind and the waves do not necessarily line up either.  There are a number of prominences sticking out from the shoreline that bend the wind and the waves in a frustrating way.  After 300 milles, I was absolutely convinced that the indian name for Lake Superior, “Gitcheegumee”, means “on the beam.”  It didn’t matter what direction we were travelling or what direction the wind was blowing, or forecast to blow, the waves were seemingly always on the beam, making for an occasionally uncomfortable ride.  We were pretty careful with the weather forecasts, however, and never had a bad day.  There were several hours that might be considered unduly uncomfortable, but never really dangerous.

We spent a few hours wandering around the grounds at Whitefish Harbor and met a friendly couple from Iowa who were part of a tour group staying in a retired barracks out on the end of Whitefish Point.  They wandered up and talked with us and we ended up giving them a tour of the boat.  They were impressed with the fact that we had seemingly travelled quite a long way to get where we were.  In fact, we told them we were in the process of bringing the boat back to the West Coast, and her comment to Robert was, “Doesn’t he have a map?”  Oh well, we all got a good chuckle out of that one.

The following morning, we awoke to some rather obnoxious wind which delayed our departure a couple hours.  It wasn’t blowing that hard, but it was blowing hard enough to make the water inside the point all cappy and nasty.  We waited for a couple hours until it stabilized before leaving and making a run for Whitefish Point.  Once we got around the point, however, the wind eased to a following breeze and off we went…….of course with the waves on the beam.

We ran all day, passing a series of rock piles out in the middle of nowhere, sporting some rather unique and beautiful lighthouses and millions of flies, and made landfall in the town of Munising.  Munising is a mill town with a large paper mill and other aspects of lumber harvesting.  There, we met Mike the dockmaster.  He was perhaps not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he was friendly enough and rather enthusiastic about having a boat from a California homeport in his marina; definitely not something he sees every day.  He came over to the boat after work and had a couple beers and told us a little about life in Northern Michigan, and on the banks of Lake Superior.  He pointed out that the marinas all close up tight by the end of October as the ice begins to form.  We were rather shocked to learn that the water in the harbor will freeze to as much as 4 feet thick and that this thick ice would go out for several miles off shore.  The offshore islands in the vicinity of Munising go from cruising grounds to snowmobile grounds in the course of a few months.  Ice fishing is big as well, with avid fishermen moving small buildings out onto the lake ice, all suited with propane heaters and lots of whiskey.  There might be as many as 100 houses out on the ice within a couple miles of shore. From where I sit, although I admire their tenacity, I still think they’re nuts.

We also barely found the local IGA to pick up some provisions.  It was crazy.  Even with directions we ended up walking all over town.  Everyone we asked told us it was just up the street to the right.  Well, we did that like 3 times.  We were convinced nobody actually wanted us to find the place. 

In the morning we left Munising in the rain and in the fog.  The fog was pretty thick but we left a good track of crumbs on the plotter that helped us clear the big islands in front of this town.  In fact, the fog cleared nicely once we got out of the bay.  We ran all day, putting yet another 100 miles under the keel and made it to the Keweenaw Peninsula and the southern entrance to the Portage Canal, a manmade river that shortens the transit across the lake by over 100 miles.  We were headed for the twin cities of Houghton and Hancock, about 12 miles up the 22 mile long Portage River.  Of course, having dodged the fog, several rather thick thunderstorms, and forthcoming breezy conditions, we thought we were golden, so to speak.  Well, less than 100 yards from the dock at the Houghton County Marina at the foot of a spectacular lift bridge, I lost propulsion.  It was weird.  We were motoring along slowly looking for our slip on the river bank when I felt a pulse in the stick and, even though the engine continued to hum perfectly, we were going nowhere.  I got on the radio and called the Marina to let them know of our predicament.  Unfortunately, the guy on the radio was one of those kids working part time while on summer break from school and he was not helpful at all.  I then called Towboat US on the phone.  Within 5 minutes, the lady from Towboat US called back and said there were no towing operations in the area and that she had called Coast Guard Station Portage.  As it turned out, before she even called them, they were already responding and were within sight.  I guess they overheard me telling the marina that we were stuck in the middle of the river and that we were dropping our anchor in 50 feet of water directly in front of the lift bridge.  I guess when you have to do it, do it big, right?

Well, the CG came on over, side tied, turned us around, and functionally sling-shot us at the dock where we were caught by some good Samaritans who happened to be lazing around on the dock in the pouring rain.  Suffice it to say I was a little less than pleased.  Robert kept reminding me, however, that this is cruising and breaking down is part of it.  While this is absolutely true, it doesn’t sound like much fun when all you want to do is get to Superior and start heading home.

The kid in the marina office, however, had the brains to call his boss and get some information for us regarding a mechanic.   As an aside, it turns out his boss is Scott Perkins whom, if you have travelled in the Florida Keys, you have probably heard performing with his guitar in any number of small bars and restaurants, especially in Key West.  I certainly remembered hearing him play at Schooner’s.  Scott genuinely has the system wired.  He works at a beautiful place all summer and then gets laid off for the winter.  He collects unemployment and heads south to live on his sailboat with his wife in the Keys all winter.  He sold his business and retired a few years ago and has no mortgage.  With money in the bank, Scott wanders north and south without a care in the world.  Sounds pretty good.

On the advice of his boss, Scott, the kid at the marina gave us a card for a guy named Craig Bekalla.  I called Craig and he seemed less than positive that he could do anything for us.  Yes, he is a diesel mechanic, but no, he did not have a lot of experience with boats.  He gave us the name of the guy who owns and operates Merkels Marine a couple miles down the river.  So I called him and he agreed to come down in the morning and take a look.  I have had this happen before and was pretty convinced it was a broken damper plate inside the transmission.  So while all of this was going on, I was calling Lee Spry Marine in Iuka, Mississippi to try to get a part number since he was the last guy to repair a blown damper plate.

In hindsight, it would appear that locking is very hard on a boat’s transmission.  Moreover, leaving the engine running for an hour while sitting in a lock is also hard on the tranny.  Furthermore, all the idle and slow speed running while waiting for locks is no good either.  This can be the only explanation.  My crewman, Robert, an engineer by training and trade, puts it in terms of cycles.  He explained that engineers for all products test products until they fail and have a reasonably good idea how many times something can be used before it fails.  When put in these terms, it would appear that a transmission is slammed in and out of gear many times more often when locking than in normal operation.  Normally, a boat is turned on, put in reverse and put into forward, put into neutral and then put into reverse and docked.  This would be approximately four to six cycles per week or per month, or even per year for some boaters.  Under these conditions, a transmission will last forever.  However, consider the number of cycles a transmission goes through after 70 locking episodes in a matter of weeks.  It is hundreds if not thousands.  This will certainly shorten the life of a damper plate.  When I considered the number of locks transited before the last damper plate episode and the number of locks that preceded this episode, it basically adds up.  I don’t know.  I may never know for sure, but I can tell you this:  Abreojos is done with locks…..for good!

So, Craig called me in the morning before Ron from Merkels showed up and asked if I wanted him to come take a look.  I told him to hold off since Ron was coming.  Well, Ron was no help at all.  In fact, all he could do was tell us that he was two weeks behind on the work he had in his yard already (Oh Geeeez, I don’t knoooooow) and express his concern over the lynching he might suffer if the locals saw him at the marina working on some transient boat. While he was standing in my engine room whining about his problems,  I was fixing to shove a screwdriver into his neck, I was so pissed off.  What in hell did he expect us to do?!!!  Well, I have to take all the bad words and feelings back because, ultimately, almost as soon as he got off the boat, Ron started making phone calls and truly organized a great effort to get us back in motion in less than 3 days.  Unbeknownst to me, Ron called Bekalla.  Bekalla was already on his way down to the boat.  Ron also called his local parts guy to find out about damper plates.  In fact, I got the part number from Iuka and the name of the distributor where they got it from, called them, and spoke to a guy named Al who told me he had already spoken to Ron and was waiting for the part number, that he would most likely have it in stock and would ship it overnight to Ron.  Well, I was impressed.  So very quickly, we went from dead in the water to enjoying a fast moving momentum towards mechanical salvation.  Bekalla started the next morning, and in less than 10 hours pulled the bell housing, replaced the damper plate, and put it all back together again.

This guy Craig Bekalla restored my faith in youth.  Here is a guy in his early 30’s, running his own business, with a wife and 3 kids, willing to work around the clock if necessary to get the job done, and yet he had never even tasted beer!  We called him “The Boy Wonder.” He was like Spiderman in the engine room and came out all covered with grease; literally, from head to toe.  He even had smudges on his face.  This kid worked very hard.   Even though he had not worked on a Borg-Warner Velvet Drive before, he spent hours on line researching the matter, came up with the service manual for the same, and came prepared with all the tools, knowhow and skill to do a terrific job and very quickly.  Although he probably thinks he got the better of us by charging what he called “emergency rates”, he was still less expensive than any other mechanic of similar skill, and actually got the job done for $300 less than the veterans in Iuka and in Port San Luis.  So, we were very pleased to be under way by Friday morning.  We only lost a day since we had planned to stop at Houghton/Hancock to wait for weather for two days. 



We left Houghton/Hancock under a sketchy weather forecast.  Our original plan was to leave the Portage River and make a B-line for the Apostle Islands.  However, we decided to divert to the very small harbor known as Ontonagon, the last of the Michigan harbors of refuge.  It’s a good thing too, because within half an hour of our docking in Ontonagon, the wind dropped down like the hammers of hell.  This harbor was festooned with whitecaps across a water area hardly larger than an Olympic size swimming pool.  All the boats in the harbor were heeled over due to the force of the wind.  Well, that left us with only one thing to do – go in search of more beer.  So off we went.  The harbor master in Ontonagon was a strange bird to begin with and so his directions were something short of useful.  Let me regress.

This dude ran across the railing where we were sitting having lunch.

 When we arrived in Ontonagon, we called in and the harbor master said he was not going to be there when we arrived, and that he would be back around 7:00 that evening, so if we missed him, he would catch up with us.  Well, after we tied up, we made no rush to get to the office.  Within about 10 minutes of docking, he shows up.  So, we took our beers with us and walked with him to the office to sign in.  Most places we have gone at least have a pre-printed form to complete.  Not this guy.  What he did was take a legal pad and write out all the information he wanted me to provide.  Like, hasn’t this guy heard of a copy machine????? 

Oh well, so he gave us directions to a convenience store he said was closer than town.  Just go out of the marina and follow the road.  Well, we followed the road out of the marina and came to a “Y”.  Our friend the harbormaster neglected to tell us which way to go then.  We made a guess and headed to the right.  Now, there is nothing……NOTHING……out there but grass and some trees.  But, we did find the convenience store/auto parts shop/mechanic/bait shop and gas station, and they had what we were looking for.  Moreover, there was this really nasty woman working there as the clerk.  She was quite the smart-ass.  We laughed at her funky hair and decided the word “Ontonagon” was actually a Chippewa Indian word describing the nasty things that should happen to her; things I will not repeat here.  We got a good laugh of it though, as you would expect two guys travelling together on a boat for the last two and a half weeks to do.

Interestingly, the water changed as we approached Ontonagon.  We could see what looked like a long sandbar extending out from the river mouth.  As we got a little closer, however, we could see that it was just very muddy water.  The water went from crystal clear and blue to absolutely brown.  It was like this all the way up the river to the town dock.  We asked the harbor master about this and he informed us that it was from rain runoff and also due to the fact that they are trying to lower the water behind the dam by some 60 feet to repair a broken valve, or something like that.  This was quite a bit different from the water quality we experienced the next day when we ran another 80 miles from Ontonagon to the Apostle Islands.

The Apostle Islands are a group of around 15 islands that form an archipelago extending from the northern tip of the Bayfield Peninsula in Wisconsin.  They are largely uninhabited, except for the occasional NPS Ranger station, and are also largely inaccessible except by small boat.  There are a few docks scattered throughout the archipelago  which are almost free to spend the night.  There is no electricity and no water.  There may be a primitive bathroom, but that’s about it.  The rest of the islands are thick forest on top of granite carved millions of years ago by receding glaciers.  They are covered with small wild life of a vast variety.  We saw snakes, lots of birds, frogs, insects of all kinds, and other amphibians.  There was a sign that suggested that bears not be fed, although I think that was for the tourists as these islands are generally too small to support the foraging needs of your average black bear.  The water was crystal clear and teaming with small fish darting in and out of the pier pilings.  It was beautiful, but the water was very cold.  I can honestly say that our Channel Islands on the west coast have nothing on these islands in Lake Superior.  While they are very different, they are at least equally superb.   


Robert just had to go swimming; so he could cross it off his bucket list; that’s right, take a quick dip in Lake Superior.  I stood by at the ready to gaff him if he lost his breath, not to mention his ability to swim, due to the cold water.  In spite of it all, however, Robert made good on his word and cheated death like a real cowboy, screaming expletives starting with “F” all the way in.  I guess he can now say he went swimming in Lake Superior.  Me?  Hell, I don’t give a shit.  I hate cold water whether it’s fresh or salt, Lake Superior or Larry’s Lilly Pond.  I wasn’t going to dip my ass in 50 degree water just for the hell of it.




We had a great dinner specially prepared by Robert as taught to him by his mother, had plenty of drinks to celebrate our last night of the cruise, and laughed like monkeys until the wee hours before hitting the sack, for the morrow would be our last day on Lake Superior…….forever.

We did not bother to set an alarm as it was only 63 miles down to Superior, Wisconsin.   The forecast was stable and we had no need to get in early.  So we woke up, luxuriated over a couple pots of coffee before casting off from Rocky Island in the Apostles for the cruise to Superior.  This would be a very long day for me as I was only concerned with one thing – finishing this passage and starting to work my way home.  Every sound caught my attention.  Every bump or knock caused my bowels to tighten.  Ultimately, it was all nothing, but I was prepared, and after a long day (another long day) we pulled into the service dock at Barkers Island Marina and marked the end of this cruise.

For me it was, once again, bitter-sweet.  I love being out cruising and exploring a lot more than I enjoy terrestrial life.  We called this trip a delivery and thus forwent a lot of the tourist opportunities along the way.  We did, however, enjoy the essence of the passage; the beautiful scenery all around us, and the sense of knowing that we travelled over 1600 nautical miles from Camden, NC to Superior, WI having navigated on the Dismal Swamp Canal, Chesapeake Bay, the C&D Canal, the Delaware River, Delaware Bay, Cape May, the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey, the Hudson River, the eastern half of the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, Lake Ontario, the Trent Severn Waterway, Georgian Bay, the North Channel, the St. Mary’s River, Sault St. Marie, and Lake Superior.

Finally, Abreojos was prepared for departure, loaded onto the back of a great truck, and is now making her way in the fine care of Absolute Yacht Transportation to her new temporary home in Everett, Washington.  Abreojos will ride again soon, and I’m certain we’ll have more to say about her travels as we draw to a close our version of America’s Greatest Loop.

Cheers for now.

Georgian Bay and North Channel

Sometimes things happen for a reason.  I mentioned previously that the water pump giving up the ghost resulted in us being stranded in Parry Sound, Ontario, but that this same town is the home town of Bobby Orr, a childhood hero of mine.  Wel…

Stuck in Bobby Orr town

After completing the Trent-Severn Canal, we cruised into the heart of Georgian Bay to a town called Midland, and stayed for a few days at the Bay Port Yachting Centre.  BPYC was a beautiful marina with all the facilities you could ask for and it was only a short walk to the town of Midland for groceries and other provisions.  The only exception was their wifi.  It did not work but sporadically from the boat.  Brenda and I resolved this issue by packing the laptop and the Ipad into town where we found two lovely coffee shops which had free wifi.  This is how I was able to post the last blog.

Anyways, Brenda went home on July 1.  July 1 is Canada Day.  When you ask a Canadian what this means, they tell you it is like our July 4.  When I heard this I almost laughed out loud.  Yes, July 1 represents the day Canada purportedly became “independent”, however, gaining this so called independence involved sitting down and signing a document after mediated discussion.  There is absolutely no basis in fact or imagination to compare their Canada Day to our Independence Day.  And yet, they celebrate with fireworks.  How tawdry!  It’s not as if the signing of some confederacy document involved glorious battle against tyranny and the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives to gain true freedom and a crack at democracy.  I guess you can tell I was a little put off by the comparison.  Here they still cheer, “God Save the Queen.”  We cheer “God Bless America!”  So, on our July 4 holiday, I am ever more proud to be an American.  Especially since I am stuck in Canada.

My friend Robert drove in from Virginia to cruise with me for the last leg of this trip, from Midland to Superior, Wisconsin.  Tuesday morning, Robert and I cast off the lines and headed out into Georgian Bay.  Somewhere along the line, we must have sucked up something that clogged the raw water pump on the main engine causing it to overheat.  We caught it very quickly and shut down the engine.  We were adrift several miles from land in more than 100 feet of water, so there was no use dropping an anchor.  So there we were, adrift in Georgian Bay, while we waited for the engine to cool enough to put the fluids back in and to check for water flow.  Unfortunately, when we started up the engine, the temperature rose quickly signifying that there was no water flow.  This could only mean one thing: the impeller was shot and had to be replaced.  Fortunately, I carry spares.  Between Robert in the engine room and me running around handing him tools and parts, and gooping up the ends of fittings, we got the impeller out and replaced in under an hour.  When we started up the engine, she ran nice and cool, so we started out again.

About an hour later, we did an engine room check and discovered a rather significant leak from what looked like the water pump.  A tad more disconcerting was the fact that there was a large amount of water that had accumulated in the engine bilge.  We are talking like 20 gallons of water.  So, we stopped again, and pumped all the water out of the engine bilge into the keel bilge where the bilge pumps would simply pump it overboard.  So we tightened a couple things and made sure all clamps were secure, and made off again.

A half hour later, we were still taking on a lot of water.  By this time, we were about half way between Midland and the next possible place where services were to be had; the town of Parry Sound, Ontario.  So, we pulled the pump hose from the keel bilge and put it in the engine bilge and kept going while running the bilge pump for several minutes every half hour to keep up with the water being pumped into the boat due to the now faulty raw water pump.  While we were tempted to continue this way for the next two days and make it to Drummond Island, discretion, being at all times the better part of valor, dictated that safety of vessel and crew was paramount, so we put in at Parry Sound at a place called Sound Boat Works, the only place around that has mechanics that work on diesel engines.

Sound Boat Works is rustic to say the least, but we are on a fairly new section of dock.  It is a long walk to town, but as I will explain, the town is very nice.  We got in at almost 5:00 pm so there was no mechanic around, but at 8:30 this morning, the owner of the marina showed up and pulled the water pump.  By 9:00 this morning, another “bench” mechanic had the pump disassembled and had identified that it was the seal behind the impeller and the back plate that had given up the ghost and were the cause of the big leak.  It is now the end of the day, and they have yet to find replacement parts.  We are hoping they will locate them tomorrow and get them in asap so we can be on our way again.



 I am a soft believer in coincidence and try to give faith a chance whenever possible, so it is was very interesting to learn what Parry Sound’s claim to fame is.  This is the home of Bobby Orr, perhaps the greatest hockey player to ever lace up skates.  He was also my hero growing up and playing hockey in LA.  I wore #4 just like Bobby Orr and was a defenseman just like him.  I idolized the man.  And to think we just happened to end up here.  I consider this a stroke of good luck in a swim meet of bad strokes.  So, once the pump was pulled, we geared up and walked to town to visit the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame Museum.  Now, let’s keep in mind, Bobby Orr is still alive and doing quite well.  His family is still a presence in this community and every year, Bobby Orr still hosts a big golf tournament in connection with ceremonies to induct new members into his hall of fame.  So, in spite of it all, it was extraordinary to visit the home town of a childhood hero of mine and to see his things proudly exhibited in the museum. 

This was Orr’s first jersey as a Boston Bruin.

This was his last.

Some of you may realize that the recent Stanley Cup Championship was played between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks.  Some of you may not realize that Bobby Orr started his illustrious career with the Bruins and finished it with the Blackhawks.  It must have been tough to watch that series here in Parry Sound. 

That’s it for now.  All we can do is sit and wait for the parts to be found and shipped so we can again be on our way. 

Thanks, Brenda.


The Adventures of M/V Abreojos…..America From the Port Side – The Adventure Continues. 2013-06-29 07:27:00

The Trent–Severn Waterway is a 240 mile canal route traversing Southern Ontario cottage country, and is a National Historic Site of Canada administered by Parks Canada under the statutory authority of the Historic Canals Regulations.  Of its 240 miles, around 20 of those miles are man-made channels.  There are 45 locks, including 36 conventional locks, two sets of flight locks, hydraulic lift locks at Peterborough and Kirkfield, and a marine railway at Big Chute which transports boats between the upper and lower sections of the Severn River. The system also includes 39 swing bridges and 160 dams and control structures that manage the water levels for flood control and navigation.  There are 18 hydroelectric generating facilities located along the route.  As a trivial aside, while on the Trent-Severn Waterway, one reaches the highest place where a boat can be navigated from sea level under its own power, 840 feet, 11 inches.

The history of the Trent-Severn Waterway is somewhat pathetic.  In the mid-19th century, the river systems of Central Ontario were used by lumber barons to transport newly felled trees to sawmills closer to their markets.  Many of the logging companies opposed the building of locks because they might interfere with this.  Nevertheless, because it seemed like a good idea in terms of moving people and goods other than lumber through the rugged central Ontario region, construction began in the Kawartha Lakes region in 1833 with the Lock at Bobcaygeon marking its beginning. 

The slow progress was noticed by the Canadian government. In 1878 Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald tried to speed up progress by making it government policy to ensure that the system would be completed. To realize some of the economic benefits of a complete canal, the Government of Ontario built some of the locks.  The lock system, they argued, would aid the development of central Ontario, allowing a quick and efficient flow of goods to and from the major trading centers along Lake Ontario.  Unfortunately, it took over 87 years to complete the canal system.  To make matters worse, when the canal was finally completed, it failed to have a major impact on the economy of the regions it was built to serve.  By the time the canal opened for business its design had been made obsolete by larger boats: it had been designed for boats too small to be commercially viable. Furthermore, in the years that it was under construction, railways had further developed their networks and improved service, which influenced settlement patterns.  The waterway became totally obsolete for commercial purposes when the present day Welland Canal (connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie) was completed in 1932. The Welland Canal could handle large, ocean going cargo ships.

 For sake of comparison, the Erie Canal in New York runs about 363 miles from Albany, New York, on the Hudson River to Buffalo, New York, at Lake Erie, completing a navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The canal contains 36 locks and encompasses a total elevation differential of approximately 565 ft.  First proposed in 1807, it was under construction from 1817 to 1825 (7 years) and officially opened on October 26, 1825.

Today, the Trent-Severn Waterway is maintained for recreational boating and tourism. The Waterway connects two of the Great Lakes—Ontario and Huron—with an eastern terminus at Trenton and a western terminus at Port Severn. Its major natural waterways include the Trent River, Otonabee River, the Kawartha Lakes, Lake Simcoe, Lake Couchiching and the Severn River. It is open for navigation from May until October, while its shores and bridges are open year-round.

On June 22, 2013, Brenda and I left Trenton for our first day on the Trent-Severn Waterway.  We started at 0830 and stopped at approximately 1745, a mere 26 miles from where we started.  We docked at the bottom of Lock 11. 

The Trent River is nice.   It is quite wide in places except where you go through some clearly man-made cuts, where it can get very narrow – like barely can two 40 footers pass each other.  The river is also very well marked.  You really do not need fancy electronics here.  Charts and binoculars will easily get you through.   It’s funny – if you read some of the cruising guides they make it sound like this is the most dangerous and hazardous waterway in the world.  Yes, there are shallow spots, but the water levels are maintained and if you stay in the marked channel, there should be no issues.  You are well advised not to screw up, however, as it can be a costly error, but that goes with every marked channel.  This is especially true where some of the channels are rock lined.  As I said, they seem to do a very good job marking the channel, so I’m not sure what the entire hubbub is about.

There are nice homes along the waterway.  After all, this is “Canadian Cottage Country.”  And, there are what appear to be campgrounds along the banks in places where folks bring extensive equipment to spend time in the great outdoors.  We have seen mobile trailers surrounded by what look like brand new redwood decks, above-ground pools, and even a hot tub.   There have been miles and miles of grass lands like we haven’t seen since the Gulf Coast of Texas.  It is very pretty and very serene.

The lock operation is another story.  “Here we go again” is all I can say.  The lock operators like to talk, and they all seem to want to talk about their problems.  They have a situation up here that seems similar to that on the New York Canal System: full timers are being laid off and replaced with part-timers; the river is being mismanaged by the new form of management.  The Union is fighting with management.  Blah, blah, blah.  I’m not really sure what to say at this point other than…..shut up and do your job and be thankful you still have one.  One other point must be made clear:  If you are passing through a lock and you wonder when they started hiring elementary school children to operate lock machinery, stop and look in the mirror – you’re not 18 anymore.  Yes, it seems that the canal regulatory authority has taken to letting go the full timers and replacing them with college students working summer jobs.  Rumor has it, this choice has led to a number of considerable flooding issues.


So far, all of the locks we have gone through have been manually operated.  That is to say that, the gates are opened by two people who run in a circle pushing a bar that turns gears.  There are other valves opened in a similar way which allow water into the lock to raise the boats.  The locks are in great shape and the grounds are well maintained.  Speaking of which, we got our Parks Canada Canal Pass this morning.

The canal pass is a great idea.  This way you don’t have to pay at each lock.  To purchase the pass, we pulled into Lock 1 and the doors closed.  Then, they raise you to the top.  Then, I got off the boat, ran into the office and purchased the pass.  It is all very efficient.  However, unlike the one pass you buy to transit within the entire New York Canal System, the Trent-Severn only pass costs three times as much (for a one way transit) and does not entitle you to stay the night on the lock walls.  Actually, we were never charged for staying on the lock walls in the Trent-Severn Waterway, however, it was made clear that we would be charged a “modest $.90 per foot” to do so.  This fee included only the right to tie the boat to a concrete quay with no power, water or other service.  On the Erie Canal, one can stay on the lock walls as part of the pass price. 

So as I said, we only made it 26 miles on our first day.  This is because there are so many locks close together in a very short period of distance. It is also because they don’t start running boats through until 0900 and finish at 1800 on Saturdays and Sundays, 1700 on every other day.  Moreover, the last lock through will be approximately a half hour before it otherwise closes.  This is ridiculously civilized.  I think the longest stretch we went without a lock was 7 miles.  The closest distance between locks today was around .4 miles.   This is true in the first 50 miles of the TSW.  Later, things will stretch out a bit and cruising will become a lot more enjoyable.  Also, it doesn’t help that we were stuck all day with two other boats, neither of which were not operated all that well, and both of which arguably cost extra time.  It also rained on and off all day. 

Throughout the trip on the Trent-Severn Waterway, we met some really nice folks.  On our first night tied to a lock wall, we met Bob and Sharron.   They introduced themselves as follows:  “Hello, I am Bob and this is Sharron.  We’re Canadians from Toronto, a civilized part of Canada…….”  So I said, “Hi I’m Larry and this is my wife Brenda, we’re Americans from ….oh don’t say it, yes, California!”  After we finished laughing, we had cocktails on the wall and shared a lot of interesting information.  When it was all said and done, we were both wondering why the hell there is a border between our two countries.   There’s nothing like cocktails to induce good international relations.  Shortly thereafter, those two grabbed up their gear and headed off to catch a taxi to a hotel in town.  Well, alrighty then. 

So, we had the wall all to ourselves.  It was very quiet and the surroundings were lovely.  The banks are covered with wild flowers and vines. The river is running by and is full of what appear to be little chunks of ice.  Actually, that is foam from detergent allegedly being fed into the water as part of a sewage plant up river a spell.  It is detergent, not ice.  Perhaps it foams like that because of the strength of the current.  I’m not swimming here.

On June 23, 2013, we celebrated Brenda’s birthday.  I let her sleep until almost 8:30 and presented her with a birthday card that played, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.  It was very foggy and overcast.  Ultimately, the sun would come out and it would turn out to be a beautiful day. 

At 0850, we started the engine and prepared to enter the next set of locks.  This first set of the day was a “double”, also known as a “flight”, by which I mean you go into one set of doors, get lifted and then, instead of exiting the lock into a canal, we went immediately through another set of doors and got lifted again.  The whole thing involved a 50 foot lift.  We were travelling with the same three boats as we were the previous day.  Waiting while 4-5 boats stuff themselves into each lock really puts a drag on things.  It takes some folks soooooooooo long! 

A new couple joined our little locking club.  I call them Welsh Bob and Irish Anne.  Are all men in Canada named “Bob”?  Anyways, they were great to talk to……after I fixed a very bad boating habit of Bob’s.  Once they joined the group, they were side-tying to us in the locks.  We’d go into the lock first and then they would simply come in and tie to the side of our boat, as if it were the lock wall.  This is not unusual.  However, the first time they tied to us, they floated into the lock and before they were even tied off to our side, Bob cut the engines thereby allowing his boat to drift into position.  So, Bob and I had a little talk and fixed that.  From then on he was really happy at how easy it was to control his boat while tying up inside the lock.  Irish Anne was happy too insofar as getting their boat to stop while she put the first line through the wire bollard was no longer a death defying experience.  So, today we got to give a little back.

Speaking of wire bollards, this is how these locks work.  Each lock has a blue line.  They do not use vhf radios on the Trent so there is no way to communicate with the lock personnel.  What you do is pull up to and tie to the wall with the painted blue line.  This signals the lock person that you are ready to go.  Then, you wait for instructions.  Sometimes there are none.  Rather, the lock doors simply begin to open and then, you start your engine and go on in.  Once you enter the lock, there are rubber covered cables bolted to the top and bottom of the lock, spaced roughly 12 feet apart.  The trick is to pull close to the wall and then stop the boat, have lines prepared and then, loop one end of the line around a cable and return it to the boat.  Then you simply hold the line as the water level in the lock moves you up or down.  Here, unlike in the Erie Canal, you are required to stop your engine when inside the lock.  When you get to the top, or the bottom as the case may be, you start your engine as the doors are opening, and then motor out and you are on your way again.

Welsh Bob and Irish Anne are on a boat called “Farfour”.  It is named after a British liner that was taken into service during WWII to carry men and munitions into war and was ultimately sunk after being hit by five torpedoes fired by German U-Boats.  Welsh Bob said his uncle died aboard that boat and naming his as such was a tribute.  He also said he was named after his Uncle.  It’s an interesting story, reminiscent, in a way, of the sinking of the Lusitania. 

For the most part, things were very slow going.  We ended up stopped at one lock for nearly an hour.  Nobody was there.  The folks responsible for operating this particular lock just didn’t show up.  I guess they just didn’t care.  Well, that’s easy since, in Canada, you cannot fire a person from their job, even for gross incompetency without giving them notice in advance and paying them a pile of money.  Yes, sometimes this country seems like one giant liberal labor union.  Well, anyways, someone did show up and off we went.

By 3:30 in the afternoon, we had only travelled 18 miles!  We had gone through 7 locks.  They were all very slow.  The countryside is very pretty, however.  The waterways are lined with “cottages” and campgrounds, rice paddies, and trees.  Things seem very clean.  And the lawns!  I have never seen a place where everybody’s lawn looks like a golf course; beautifully manicured and very green.  I have seen folks out on their riding mowers, so it’s not fake grass. 

In any event, we stopped at the town of Hastings and tied to the lock wall or town wall.  We were in the lock and the wind was really picking up.  We were both tired and thought seriously about stopping for the night.  Nevertheless, when I looked at the numbers I became sort of disgusted.  This is a delivery for me and so I was a little disappointed at having worked that hard all day in the muggy heat to have only made 18 miles!  We discussed it, decided we were not really interested in this town, and agreed to take off again.  We decided, at a minimum, we would make it across Rice Lake and start up the Otonabee River.  The wind had really started picking up so we asked the lockmaster at Hastings what he thought the conditions on the lake would be like.  He said, “rough.”  I asked him what he meant by “rough” and he said he didn’t know.  Just a dog sound I guess.  So, off we went.

I am not sure what he meant when he said the lake would be “rough”, but for us, at least, it was not.  Sure, it was windy.  And, as a general rule, shallow lakes can get quite sporty when the wind whips from one end to the other for 20 miles as in the case of Rice Lake, and despite the fact that it was whipped and capped, the waves were less than a foot and, for Abreojos, this meant a ride she liked.  In fact, when the conditions are like this, it’s as though she floats across the tops of the waves like a hydrofoil instead of plowing through them.  Yes, all at 7.3 knots.  The other thing about crossing this lake, and for most of the TSW, my computer chart plotter has not been behaving well.  At first I thought it was the Canadian Hydrographic charts being incompatible with our software.  Later I determined that the ‘hockey puck” gps we plub into the laptop died.  We do have charts and we used them.  We purchased each and every chart for the Trent-Severn Waterway.  (They are no on sale if anyone is interested.  I’m not going to need them again.) So, for the rest of the Trent Severn Waterway, navigation has been “old school” and a simple matter of identifying and following the very well laid out path of marks.  I do want to give a sincere shout-out to our friend Rob at Cruising Services who is sending me a new GPS unit to replace the dead one.  He has been great.   So, like I said, we do it by hand the way we learned long ago.  Things will get back to normal when we return to the Great Lakes.  I would meet the new GPS somewhere in Georgian Bay.

Crossing the lake was fun.  We had wide open water, sunny skies, and a nice breeze to cool things down a bit.  There were lots of little boats out there, but nothing of a bother.  Once we found the mouth of the Otonabee River, we headed up.  By the time we entered the river, it was nearing 7:00 pm, so it was time to start giving some thought to where we would stop for the night. 

On the charts, we identified what appeared to be a public dock in the small shire known as Campbelltown with enough room for our boat only.  One cruising guide said there was nothing on the dock to tie to, but they were wrong.  There were plenty of cleats.  Another guide said there was only four feet of water at the dock.  Well, there is 9 feet.  What the cruising guide did not tell us about were the chunks of steel sticking out where old bolts and other metal parts had broken off.  A neighbor who lived adjacent this dock told us as we approached that there was plenty of water, but watch out for the steel that is sticking out.  With the binoculars, I could see that it was not that bad, so we put all our fenders on the starboard side and approached very slowly and made a pretty, gingerly landing, tied off to the numerous cleats, and shut down the engine.  Throughout the evening, we had some small boat wakes, but nothing of any concern.

This place is genuinely out in the middle of nowhere, it seems, although it is only about 5 miles by road from the larger town of Peterborough.  However, we were immediately adjacent to a launch ramp and enjoyed launch ramp antics over cocktails as the day wound down.  We met a couple of police officers who were very friendly.  They were launching their boat for a cruise out to the lake and some of the islands where folks are known to go party on weekends.  They busted or netted quite a few.  We saw how drunk folks were when they came back to the ramp.  It’s pathetic.  I guess it’s just a “small boat” thing.  We’ve met many a drunk along the way on big boats.  But they are always tied to a dock someplace, not careening around river bends at high speed with a passenger barely hanging onto the front of the boat. 

In Canada, boat operators must have a license.   Not only must they have a license, they must have it in their possession while on the water.  While such a license is not hard to obtain (one can go online, complete the course, and pass the 50 question final exam, and it only costs a couple bucks), it sure gives the police here the right to stop everyone and anyone they see to ask for it.  But I’ll tell you something, in quite a few cases, once that barn door has been opened, it’s possible the whole herd is going to run, so to speak, especially when alcohol and boating are involved. So in Canada, boat operator licensure = a reason for police to stop you, if only to inspect the license.  Then, it’s “open season” on whatever they find.  While I like the idea of minimum training requirements, as a lawyer, I’m not sure I like the implications associated with using boat operator certification as a means for the police to get into your business in the absence of some other articulable reason to be concerned.  Anyway, this is Canada and they make their own rules.

There are many cultural differences between our two countries.  Travelling is always about experiencing these and either attempting to understand them, or simply being entertained by them.  I choose to do a little of both.  For example, when locking through side-tied to another vessel, there is opportunity for conversation.  So I said to Welsh Bob, “I was wondering about something.  You folks have the Queen of England on your money, but everything is in French.”  His response was hysterical.  He simply said that, “We just haven’t gotten around to fixing that yet.”  I almost fell off the boat laughing. 

In another example, the folks in this Province (Ontario) seemingly don’t think much of their brethren in Quebec, the next province over to the east.  I mean, really.  This is Toronto Maple Leaf territory.  Even mentioning the Montreal Canadians could get you in a fight. 

Then Irish Anne hears Welsh Bob and me laughing in the back and asked if we were telling “tall stories”.  So, I couldn’t help it.  I told Welsh Bob the one about the Canadian and the American guys up pissing off a bridge.  The Canadian guy says, “Wow, that water is cold!”  And the American guy says…….well, you can probably guess the ending of that one.  We laughed and laughed.  It was a great day. 

So, here we are the only two Americans “toodling” along, passing through this beautiful country, in the company of intrepid Canadian travelers, seemingly without a care in the world.  There are lots of other Americans wanting to get up here.  Unfortunately, the Erie Canal has been closed for weeks now due to rain and flooding (and poor management).  They’ll get here soon, I hope.  The folks here are mostly very friendly and you feel safe all the time.  All boats passing wave at us and we wave back.  Everyone waves at each other and greets each other on the streets.  I really enjoy being in a place where folks passing you on the sidewalk make eye contact and say, “Good morning” or “Good Afternoon”.  It is a sign of a decent, mannered society. 

Unfortunately, there are many boaters here who are extraordinarily rude with their wakes.  I thought Florida was bad.  So let me pay some credence to what my “brother” Barry from Tampa once said in response to my commentary regarding Florida boaters.  He said, “Hey man, they all come here from somewhere up north.”  Yeah, like Canada.  So, if you are going to travel on this waterway, you better button things up anytime you are on an open stretch.  We had three goons fly past us at four times our speed, in a channel barely wide enough for one boat, not to mention two.  Nobody uses vhf radios around here and getting to “the place” is the goal, not the voyage there.  I suppose it’s because folks up here have a rather short boating season, so they want to do as much as they can in that short time span.  Nevertheless, it’s f’ing amateur hour out here!

For the next few days, we travelled in the company of a really great guy named Robert B. whom we met actually a couple days ago.  (Yes, another Robert)  On the TSW, when several boats show up at a lock at the same time, you all travel together that day unless and until someone stops or otherwise separates from the group.  Travelling with this Robert has been great.  He lives in Ontario and is an avid boater who knows this canal system very well.  He knows how long it should take to get from place to place at a certain speed and knows the great places to stop.  In fact, he spent one season on the TSW documenting all the ice cream shops along the route.  Robert has been more than generous with his advice and guidance.  When you have to run through “skinny water” over boulders, it’s good to be able to “school” off of someone who knows what they are doing.  This is especially true when you have no electronic chart plotter to show you the preferred line.  Robert is cruising in an aluminum boat he has all but built himself called “Magi B”.  Once you get to know him, you’ll appreciate the name.

We went through a very unique lock in Peterborough.  It’s a hydraulic lift lock that is one of only 2 of its kind in the world (the other is located about 12 miles from where here).  Basically, it is over a hundred years old and still works like a champ.  You sail into a pan.  The back gate closes.  Then there is a pan on the other side that they fill with water; about one foot more than the pan in which you are floating.  The weight of the water in the other pan is just a little heavier and, like a scale, the heavy side goes down and the side you are in goes up.  When you get to the top, they dump about a foot of water out of your pan and you sail out.  It was one of the things I was looking forward to experiencing.  Unfortunately, the whole thing is over in barely a minute.  I suppose one could stop and sit around and wait to watch other boats go. 

Last night we spent a great evening at a lock wall at a place called Lovesick Lake.  This place was immensely beautiful and way off the beaten path.  It was like being in a lake somewhere in the high Sierras.  The rock formations covered with trees were beautiful and the silence was certainly something to behold.  We went swimming in clear, cool water which was quite a relief.  I’m not a big fan of fresh water for boating.  I prefer salt water.  And, as a general rule, it has been my experience that swimming in lakes leaves a slimy coating on your skin.  Not here, however.  This water was fresh enough and clear enough to drink.  It was a very different experience.  Moreover, when boating around here, you need only look over the side to see the boulders you are passing over with mere inches to spare.

One night, we stopped at a place called Roseville so we could pump out the holding tank and use the wifi for some business.  This is not a place I can in good faith recommend.  The marina charges $25 for a pump out!  Yes, that’s right, $25.  They only charged us $20 in Miami.  Their excuse is that, because they are in a rural area, and on a septic tank, it costs them extra to have their septic system maintained.  I say it’s simply a rip-off.  They also advertise diesel fuel.  But, from the looks of the paper sign taped to the pump, however, it would appear it has been a long time since they have even had diesel.  Furthermore, if you want to use the wifi, you have to drag a chair and sit outside the repair and service office to get it.  I did clean a rather large ball of weeds and grass out of my raw water strainer, though.

Frankly, I am beginning to think the Trent-Severn Waterway is overrated.  The first time around the Great Loop, we travelled through Lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan to get to the Western River System without ever entering Canada.  I would do that again and skip the Trent altogether. The cruising guides describe majestic beauty everywhere you look and quaint little towns.  I disagree with both.  Yes, it is very pretty up here but there are basically no parts that could logically be described as “majestic.” 

First, the locks so close together, that it is impossible to really slow down and enjoy the vistas.  I suppose that if you wanted to spend an entire season “gunkholing” around the TSW, you would have some really great times.  I don’t know.  For me, it is just not that interesting.  Every inch of shoreline, every granite outcropping, every rock is covered with a house/cottage.  Anchoring out here would be like anchoring in someone’s back yard.  There simply is no secluded place. 

The other thing I think makes it unattractive to cruisers is the price of booze.  First of all, you cannot buy beer, wine or liquor at anything but a government run establishment.  They are called LCBO’s.  Someone should write a guidebook just to find these places.  They are generally not that close to the docks or lock walls.  And, once you do find one, be prepared to prevent your credit card from melting!  Alcoholic beverages are on average 100% more expensive than in the US.  For instance, a 1.75 liter bottle of Captain Morgan that would cost around $35 in the US costs over $75 in Canada.  Oh, and forget about beer.  I was stunned when I purchased an 8 pack of something domestic and it cost nearly $23.00.  What they do is charge for each can individually.  We were respectful of the laws in Canada as far as what you are allowed and not allowed to bring into the country.  The limits are very, very low.  On the one hand, it is noble to respect and follow the laws of the place you are visiting.  On the other hand, check in is usually over the phone and as such, there is not likely to be anyone coming to inspect for and find the 10 cases of beer, the 24 bottles of wine, and the 5 gallons of rum you have stored in your boat and to which you refer as “ship’s stores.”  So, if I had to do it over again, I think this is one body of laws I might have to fracture.

Up to this point, we have not been bothered by the rental houseboats that roam all over the upper lakes and rivers during the summer.  We timed it well.  Imagine turning over control of a 40 something foot houseboat to a group of folks who has never operated a boat before.  They get a 15 minute instruction video and that’s it.  We have been warned that locking through with some of these folks can be more than interesting.  We made it all the way through without having had a chance to witness this.

On our last actual day on the canal, we got to experience the Big Chute.  This is not really a lock, although it transfers you from the Upper Severn River to the Lower Severn River.  It is a railway that carries your boat up over a knoll and then down a hill before returning you to the water. 

So, you come around a bend and there it is.  It looks rather strange, kind of like a trestle bridge halfway submerged.  We stopped and looked because we were not completely sure what to do.  Then, we saw the guy waving at us to come on in.  So, I maneuvered the boat to line it up with this thing, and moved forward very slowly into slings like those on a giant travel lift – the thing used to move large boats out of the water and into the boatyard.  There is a thick wooden platform that the boat will actually sit on, and the slings simply keep the boat from rolling over.  The equipment operators on the Big Chute are total professionals and really know their jobs.  They do this for thousands of boats each year and have probably transferred just about anything that can travel on the Trent Severn Waterway.  I had no worries.

So, the boat got all slinged up, and then up and over we went.  The machinery makes a “clickety-clackety” sound as the whole platform is pulled by thick cables on rails over the top of this hill and then eased down over 50 vertical feet down the other side of the hill.  It is really cool!

Then, the platform goes into the water and the boat floats.  The back end of the platform is lowered and the slings are released, and you are told to start your engine and have a nice day.  Then you motor out of the slings and you are on your way once again.  It all takes about 7 minutes.

From the Big Shute to the final lock at Port Severn, it is only 8 miles.  We made that in no time at all, tied to the wall, and called it a day.  Actually, we called it “a canal.”

The next morning, we left through the Port Severn lock which is the smallest of the locks and headed over to the town of Midland on Georgian Bay.  The exit from the lock was legendary.  As soon as the doors open, you are confronted with the roaring water from the adjacent dam that obviously creates lots of current.  You have to get in this current.  Then you have to get under a bridge.  Yes, it is well marked, but the marks are a mere 10’ apart.  Abreojos has a 12’6” beam.  One of the green buoys was dancing in the current.  So, when we went through this row of reds and greens, the buoys were literally bouncing off both sides of the boat.  And that “dancing” green sounded like a snare drum on the side of the boat.  I did not even bother to look at the depth sounder.  Brenda tells me there was barely 5 feet of water under the boat.  After getting through that, however, and after my testicles dropped out of the back of my throat (Brenda had to slap me between the shoulders a couple times), the water got deep again, and it was an easy run down to Midland. 


Our journey through the Trent-Severn Waterway was worth it, but it is not one I would consider doing again.  In fact, if given the choice to reach northern Lake Huron and the St. Mary’s River via Lake Erie or via the Trent Severn Waterway, I would take Lake Erie.  Given the height restrictions of the western part of the Erie Canal, one might be required to take the south shore of Lake Ontario to the Welland Canal and then up to Buffalo, I suspect this would be a very enjoyable trip.  Even though the people we met were great, for the most part, it is hot, humid and more “buggy” than the ICW in South Carolina and Georgia combined.  It is very expensive, very crowded, and the scenery is way over rated.  It was supposed to be a short-cut to get to Lake Superior.  Given the speed at which you can travel on the Trent and the limited hours of operation during the high boating season, however, it would have been faster and less trying to simply go the Lake Erie route.  I’m glad I had a chance to do it, but, as I said, given the choice, I would not do it again.  Some may disagree, and that’s fine. 



I am pleased to report that the New York Canal System is behind us.  After escaping from the land cut above lock 16, we moved further west and stopped for the night at a dock in Utica.  One cruising guide said it was a free dock.  Anothe…


I am pleased to report that the New York Canal System is behind us.  After escaping from the land cut above lock 16, we moved further west and stopped for the night at a dock in Utica.  One cruising guide said it was a free dock.  Anothe…

Frustration fed by lack of communication –

Approximately 2 weeks ago, it started raining in New
York.  Approximately 10 days ago, and for
the last several days, we have been trapped in the Erie Canal due to
flooding.  This scenario apparently continues
to replay itself over and over…

Frustration fed by lack of communication –

Approximately 2 weeks ago, it started raining in New
York.  Approximately 10 days ago, and for
the last several days, we have been trapped in the Erie Canal due to
flooding.  This scenario apparently continues
to replay itself over and over…