Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hastings to Bobcaygeon

We've washed up in another marina with WiFi and so have another chance to add to the blog.

From Hastings we traveled to Peterborough through Rice Lake. The lake was a nice wide body of water, but unfortunately sections of it were covered in weeds. We passed a boat that had anchored out in the lake, they were painstakingly picking weeds out of their anchor chain as they were raising their anchor. We sympathized with their plight, little realizing that a couple of miles later we'd be fighting to get weeds off of our own propellers. One of the lock tenders told us the combination of warm weather and less snow run-off than normal led to a bumper crop of weeds in the water this year.

Peterborough has a population of 75,000 so all of the services we needed were available. The town runs a marina that is conveniently located to groceries, liquor, restaurants, the farmer's market and the bus system for getting to outlying areas if needed. I even found a hairdresser to cover the grey and give my shaggy locks a trim. The staff at the marina were some of the friendliest and most helpful marina staff we have encountered in a very long time.

We've been leapfrogging a group of boaters we met in Brewerton, NY along the Trent Severn and most of us ended up in Peterborough at approximately the same time.  Carolyn and Susan on Sojourner were just leaving as we arrived, Cate and Gorden on Viking Star and Scott and KC on Jet Stream were on the lock wall, and Eddie and Sandi on Tarquin arrived just as we were leaving. It is nice to have a little community of friends you can exchange tips and info with as you move on.

Viking Star
Headed west from Peterborough you hit the first of two "pan" locks on the Trent Severn. In most locks you tie up the the wall, water rushes in (or out) and your boat rises (or falls) to the necessary level. In Peterborough you drive you boat into a pan of water big enough to hold the boat and the pan itself rises. I was prepared to take a bunch of pictures of this process while we waited our turn to lock through, but the lock was ready for us when we arrived (the one time I wouldn't have minded waiting) so the pics are not as good as I might have hoped. This first one was taken from our pan after we entered and were waiting to rise. The way this works is that the lock tender lets an foot of water into the top pan, making it heavier than the bottom pan, it sinks (slowly) and the bottom pan rises.

Upper pan readying to lower

View of the lock from the bottom

Pans about to pass each other midway

View from the top
It was a grey day unfortunately, so you really can't get a sense of how high we were when we exited the lock, but the lift on this lock is 65 feet. You can watch the lock in action on this Lock 21 YouTube video.

We passed through another four locks and ended in Lakefield for the evening, where our friends Walter and Margaret Boswell from Cleveland joined us for the night.  Unfortunately, it was raining and we didn't really have a chance to explore the town with them. They were on their way to Toronto to see War Horse (the play) and only spent the one night with us, but it was good to see them. We also ran into our old friend the Kawartha Voyageur cruise ship in Lakefield. That is one of the places it spends the night on its Trent Severn cruise.

We are in "cottage country", the area of the waterway close enough to Toronto for folks to keep weekend and vacation homes. The homes range from true cottages, small little waterfront places to monster homes that wouldn't be out of place on the waterway in Fort Lauderdale. These two typify the range of housing.

Cottage with plane

Glass cube house

We are also in houseboat country. Bobcaygeon (pronounced "Bob cajun") is the rental center for the three houseboat vendors on the Trent Severn Waterway. We've seen dozens of them in the last three days. Apparently those renters who decide to go south typically travel from Bobcaygeon to Peterborough on their holiday. I'm not sure where those who go north end up, but I'm sure we'll find out when we leave Bobcaygeon. As you might imagine, the lock tenders have a wealth of houseboater stories because most of these folks have no experience boating and/or locking.  Even Jim now has a houseboater story because he rescued a flip-flop lost by a houseboater in a lock one afternoon.

Typical houseboat complete with slide
We're cleaning the boat, taking on water and groceries, and anticipating the arrival of our friends Rob and Carol Harris from Miami.  They will be traveling with us for a week. We're looking forward to the company.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hello from Hastings

We've been in Canada for just over a week now and we're nearly one third of the way through the Trent-Severn Canal. Today we are in Hastings, Ontario a small village that has been declared the best fishing location in Canada by the World Fishing Network.  For those of you who don't watch a lot of fish TV the World Fishing Network is a 24/7 cable channel devoted entirely to shows about fishing. Everyone here is very excited by the award and the $25,000 prize money that comes with it. Apparently it has not yet been decided how the money will be spent, but we did overhear one person involved in the process tell the WFN representatives that they would be shopping over the border "to get U.S. prices." Yes, things really are more expensive here in Canada.

We've had a great combination of staying in towns and staying at locks on our way here. One night we stayed at a lock all by ourselves. Most nights we have one or two other boats with us. Our previous town stop was Campbellford, Ontario, a town whose claim to fame is that the designer of the Twonnie lives there. What is a Twonnie you may be asking? Canada uses coins, not bills, for denominations less that five dollars. The one dollar coin is called a Loonie because the art work on the back is of a loon. (The front, of course, is Queen Elizabeth.) So when they developed a two dollar coin in 1996 it came to be called a Twonnie.

Twonnie front

Twonnie back
Campbellford celebrates its place in Canadian monetary history with a big statue of a Twonnie in the town park along the Canal.

Most of the locks we have encountered so far have been standard, single lift locks which means you enter one end, they lift (or lower) you some distance and then you proceed on. But two of the locks we have been through have been lock flights, which means there are two locks built together. When you leave the first lock, you enter directly into the next lock. The two locks have a total lift of 54 feet. You really feel like you are in a cave when you enter the first lock at the bottom.

At the bottom of the first lock looking at the second

When the door opens there is another lock
These flights are hydraulically operated, but most of the single locks are still hand operated. That means the lock tenders open and close the lock doors by pushing the handles that you see below. The lock tenders are happy to let tourists open and close the doors if they ask.

Another thing that is very expensive here in Canada is Internet access. We're only going to be posting to the blog when we can find a WiFi network. So no news is not necessarily bad news, it just means we're between WiFi networks.

Now I hear the bagpipes playing. It must be nearly time for the award presentation, so we're off to the town celebration. Bye for now.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Off to Canada

Our electrical and mechanical problems had one good result -- we had a spectacular crossing of Lake Ontario, south winds at less than 5 knots, seas of less than one foot and sunny, blue skies.  It doesn't get any better than that.

We entered Canada in the town of Picton.  Canadian Customs and Immigration is a very casual affair.  You dock your boat at one of the approved marinas and call an 800 phone number.  They have all of our information in their computer from last year, so you answer a couple of questions (do you have any cigarettes on board? how much liquor are you carrying? how long are you staying?) and then it's "Welcome to Canada." It was harder to come home last year through U.S. Customs than it is to go into Canada.

After one night in Picton we set off for Trenton, the self-advertised "Gateway to the Trent Severn." In addition to being the city at the entrance to the Trent-Severn Canal, Trenton is home to the largest military base in Canada. With the good weather, the Canadian Air Force spent all day doing touch and go practice with massively large cargo planes right over the waterway.

Down Time in Trenton marina
Everybody going up the canal spends at least one night in Trenton. This is because there are six locks you have to go through in the first 5 1/2 miles of the canal and, depending on how long you have to wait at each lock, it can take 4 - 7 hours. The night before we planned to leave, a tour boat pulled into the marina to spend its night before going up the canal. This boat, the Karwartha Voyageur, plies the canals of Canada. It does tours up the Trent-Severn and the Rideau Canals for folks who want to see them but don't have their own boats. It holds 45 guests with 12 crew.  Each of its three different trips lasts 5 days. She runs from the middle of May to the middle of October.

Karwartha Voyageur
The locks open at 9:00 AM and by the time you get through lock 6, you are ready to stop.  The next lock is six miles away and the locks close at 4:00 PM this time of year, so most folks call it a day at Lock 6. Parks Canada offers a mooring permit that allows you to spend the night at any of the locks. Most have a concrete wall with cleats to tie to, picnic tables and restrooms. But no water or power hook-ups. We have a propane gas stove and solar panels that keep our house batteries fully charged and run everything but the air conditioning and water heater, so power at the dock is not a big issue for us. But lots of power boats have all-electric kitchens which means you can't cook without a power connection or running your generator.

Typical lock docking area
The town of Frankford at Lock 6 figured out that boaters would stay and spend money if they had access to power, so they installed power hook-ups at the lock. Overnight traffic at the lock and in the town has increased three-fold since the power was added according to the lock master. We were happy to be among the Lock 6 stayers.

One of the interesting things we've observed in our first month on the water this year is the Canada goose families. We've been able to watch the growth of the babies from barely out of the egg all the way to teenagers. Geese are great parents and several families tend to group together to watch over the kids. We noticed last year that flocks of Canada geese on the ground post sentinel geese at the edges of the group. These geese keep their eyes focused outward, looking for dangers. Periodically, the sentinel duties are passed to other geese, so everyone gets a chance to eat. The sentinel geese are also responsible for keeping the kids together, a job that gets harder and harder as the goslings get older. The other day we finally saw a group of teenage geese out without parents. They were old enough that they were starting to get their colored feathers (up until then they are a soft brown all over). I guess that's the point when they start to form their own flocks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hello gen set, goodbye transmission

As predicted the new gen set arrived on the Thursday after Memorial Day. Contrary to expectations, it took two days to install it, but by Friday night we had the ability to generate power again. Unfortunately the weather forecast for crossing Lake Ontario was not good, but it looked to be OK to cross by Thursday. so we settled in to wait a bit more.

The plan was to leave Brewerton on Wednesday to go the Oswego, NY, then cross the lake on Thursday. On Tuesday morning, Jim checked the engines as he always does before we travel. Guess what? Transmission fluid all over the engine room, not good. Once again the Ess Kay mechanic visited for consultation. This time the diagnosis was simple, we need a new transmission for the port engine.

There are two options, have the existing transmission rebuilt or buy a new transmission. Rebuilding will take at least a week and, love the irony, the transmission will have to be sent to Cleveland for the rebuild. The next boat yard down the Canal, Brewerton Boat Yard, could rebuild it but they can't schedule it for at least two weeks. The summer is slipping by rapidly. The other option, buy a new one, involves ordering, shipping by ground (too heavy for expedited shipping) and more waiting. What to do? The transmission can be purchased from Mack Boring Marine in Union, New Jersey, about 30 miles outside of New York City. The simple solution is to rent a car and drive down to New Jersey to get the transmission. The car rental is cheaper than shipping costs and the gratification is immediate, no waiting time.

So Wednesday Craig the mechanic removes the old transmission (Mack Boring gave us a $400 trade-in for it). We drive to New Jersey on Thursday, exchange the old, broken transmission for a shiny new one, and drive it back to central New York. Friday morning Craig comes aboard to install it and by 3:00 PM we are on a shakedown cruise in Oneida Lake. The weather gods favor us with a good forecast for crossing the lake on Sunday. We pull out Saturday headed for Oswego. Who cares that it is pouring rain? We are finally leaving Brewerton! Hooray!
New transmission