The Route South

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh!! Canada!!

Tuesday July 10, 2012
No big rush to get started today.  These islands are all so close together that it hardly takes any time at all before we have arrived at our destination.  But first, there is all that weed to remove from the anchor!  We started the engine at 1020 but it took a full ten minutes to hack and scrape all the weeds off the anchor.  The conventional wisdom is that you need to anchor in a minimum of 15’ to 18’ of water.  The weeds only grow in shallower water.  The deeper water doesn’t support photosynthesis.  You do remember your high school biology, don’t you?  

Look at all the weeds!  This is going to take a while.

Finally the mess was cleared up and we were under way at 1040, passing by Rockport thirty minutes later.  Once again we passed beneath the Thousand Islands Bridge, this time on the Canadian side of the border.  As we neared our destination we saw a Defever 44 named “Rickshaw”, one of the few trawlers we have seen this summer.  I knew the boat from the Defever owners’ site on the Internet and we had a nice chat on the VHF radio. They are doing the “Great Loop”, which is basically a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the US.  By 1215 Morning Star is tied to the small Parks Canada dock at Mulcaster Island.
9.4 NM

Wednesday July 11, 2012
Parks Canada, the Canadian National Parks service, owns, administers and maintains many of the islands in the Thousand Islands.  The islands are quite small, probably on average 50 acres, and you can usually walk around one in a half-hour.  There are generally hiking trails around and through the islands.  Some have a few moorings, others a small dock or two.  Most have a few sites for tent campers and perhaps a couple of picnic tables and a charcoal grill and a fire ring.  All seem to have a composting toilet back in the woods (a very hi-tech outhouse).  They are really very nice and help to assure that there is no water pollution from the campers and boaters.  I don’t know what they do about the birds, fish and animals!  Several of the islands don’t even allow generators, portable or permanently installed ones like on Morning Star.  Nor do they allow boats to run their engines to charge their batteries.  This helps maintain the peace and tranquility of the island as well as forcing people to move along after the maximum 2-night stay.  Many of the local boats have installed solar panels to generate electricity and keep their batteries charged.  There is an honor pay station at each island and a Parks Canada employee comes by every day or two to empty the box and spot check to see that everybody is paying their fair share.  We have opted to buy a Parks Canada seasonal pass since it will not only allow us to use the moorings and island docks, but also the lock walls when we get to the Rideau, Richelieu and Chambly canals.  The darn pass is over $300 for our boat but it’s cheaper than paying as we go.  We left pretty little Mulcaster Island about 1040 and only took 50 minutes to get to Camelot Island.
3.5 NM

Small Parks Canada docks will hold no more than about four boats.

Mulcaster Island.

If there's no room you can always anchor out.

A private, quiet, cozy anchorage.

Thursday July 12, 2012
Sadly, we start the engine at 0930 and prepare to leave Camelot.  It would be nice to linger or visit more islands but we have miles and miles to go this summer.  Enroute to Kingston, Ontario we pass by three or four more Parks Canada islands.  Thwartway looks beautiful.  Milton and Cedar Islands are within sight of Kingston and before 1300 we are tied up in our slip at Confederation Basin.  We have business to conduct as well as a bit of tourist to play.
First priority is to get connected to the Internet.  Before we left the States, I called Verizon to switch Cindy’s iPhone over to the US & Canada plan.  Not bad…$10 extra.  However, the data for the phone plus our MiFi would have been about $300-$400 per month, based on the rate at which we normally use the Web.  As soon as I hung up the phone, I switched the Internet off on all our devices.  But we had a scheme.  After lunch we walked to the Rogers Cellular store nearby with our iPad.  Our Krogen friend Carol told us that we could get a Rogers SIM card installed in the iPad and get a bunch of data for $50/ month.  The sales lady offered us a free SIM card but told us that it probably wouldn’t work because we had a US credit card.  This makes no sense.  I can go across the street and pay for a meal or buy a shirt with my US credit card.  But sure enough, when we tried to log on, we were rejected.  When the boss-lady walked into the back of the store the teenager who was working behind the counter told us how to work the system.  Following his instruction, we went next door to Shoppers’ Drug Mart, a local drug store chain, and purchased a pre-paid $50 VISA (paid for with our US credit card).  We then logged on again using the prepaid card and the marina ‘s address and it went through fine!  Wow!  Why does it have to be so hard?  Geeks and nerds are beginning to rule the world!
We spent the afternoon taking a trolley tour of Kingston, visiting the Royal Military College (kind of like West Point and Annapolis all rolled into one) and Queens University, as well as many of the other local sites of interest (such as the prison!).  We had an excellent guide and the tour was great.  We recommend it highly!  This was the beginning day for the Annual Buskers’ Rendezvous, the street performers’ fair, so after dinner at a local pub we wandered the streets, watching a few of the acts before calling it a night.  It was like Mallory Square in Key West, only bigger.  Several city blocks of streets were closed off to traffic in the downtown.
19.4 NM

Street performers conscript volunteers from the audience.

Friday July 13, 2012
Yesterday was play-day.  But that was then and this is now. While Cindy tackled three loads of laundry at the marina Laundromat, I took the shopping list and a backpack and walked to the grocery market.  By 1030 we were both back aboard and everything was stowed.  We quickly filled the water tanks so we could leave before the 1100 checkout time.  
We were out of the slip by 1040.  By 1050, we hit the bridge!  Well, more exactly, our anchor light on the top of the mast hit the bridge.  I couldn’t believe it!  The east side of the LaSalle Bridge is shown on the chart as 18’ clearance.  Our cruising guidebooks show 18’ clearance.  The river is 12” low because of the drought plus the lack of snow last winter.  Our mast is 17’.  I know it is because I measured it with a laser transit.  We should have had 19’ clearance - two feet clear above the mast.  We knew we were close as we approached the bridge and in fact, we were clear for the first half of the bridge when suddenly BANG!! WHAT A RACKET!!  The anchor light is shattered and gone!  The wind indicator is gone too!  There was a loud, groaning sound as we scrapped the underside of the concrete bridge the rest of the way out.  It was over so quickly, leaving Cindy and I wondering how this could have happened.  How could so much information be so wrong?
Our nerves had calmed down by the time we reached Kingston Mills Locks at 1125, the first lock of the Rideau Canal.  They are busy locking several boats down so we took this opportunity to purchase our Locking Pass, which will be good for the locks on the Rideau, Richelieu and Chambly canals.  Like the Parks Canada pass, even though it’s another $300, it is cheaper than paying as we go.  Finally at 1325 it’s our turn and we lock up into Colonel By Lake and onward to the River Styx.  Really, I’m not making this up!  At 1545 we call it a day and tie up to the float at Upper Brewer Locks.
15 NM

This is cottage country.

There are small ones.

Medium ones.

And big ones.

Saturday July 14, 2012
The locks don’t start working until 0830 in Canada so we can have a leisurely start in the mornings.  Since we went through the locks at Brewer yesterday afternoon we were able to leave before 0830.  We passed through the hand-cranked swing bridge at Brass Point at 0850 and arrived at Jones Falls an hour later.  But like yesterday, there were boats already locking down so we tied up to the wall outside the lock and walked up to watch.  It was an hour before we could enter the first of four locks at Jones Falls and 1200 before we locked through.  Through the afternoon we negotiated Davis and Chaffee locks.  When we arrived at Newboro Lock there was no room at the top of the lock so we tied up on the wall at the bottom at 1450.  It is a hot afternoon and I actually went for a swim.  It was “refreshing”.

Its hot in Canada!  Who knew?

A word about the locks in Canada.  All of the locks on the three canals we are doing this summer are hand operated.  They are all over 100 years old and the doors and valves are hand-cranked open and closed.  Each lock has a few full-time employees and several college kids helping out seasonally.  These jobs are so in demand that they are awarded by lottery.  And these kids bust their butts!  But to a person, they were delightful, friendly and helpful.  We enjoyed chatting with them about their jobs and colleges and they seem more interested in us since we were from Florida.
21 NM

The first series of locks at Kingston Mills.  Notice the hand cranks.

College kids covet the lock tender jobs.

Locking through.

Sunday July 15, 2012
We fired up the engine promptly at 0830 and entered the Newboro Lock at 0835.  Ten minutes later we had locked up and into Upper Rideau Lake.  By 0925 we were locking up at Narrows Lock, into Big Rideau Lake.  The Rideau River is a series of lakes connected by the river and canals,  The waterway is beautiful!  Just after lunch we lock up at Poonamalie Lock (pronounced poon ama LEE)  and by 1310 we are tied up for the night at Smith Falls.  The bicycles came down off the top deck so we could ride to the grocery store, Canadian Tire (kind of a tire/sporting goods/hardware store) and most importantly, the LCBO store.  LCBO stands for Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the state controlled liquor store.  We are dangerously short of wine…a dire situation which we intend to remedy this afternoon!  After returning to the boat and putting every thing away, we sampled our LCBO purchase before riding into town for dinner.  On the way back, we detoured to the small park across the water from Morning Star where a concert was taking place.  We only stayed for a few minutes because it was obvious that we could hear the concert just fine from the comfort of Morning Star.  It was a pleasant evening and we chatted with our French-Canadian neighbors.
24 NM

Smith Falls Town docks.

Monday July 16, 2012
Today will be a short day so we didn’t start the engine until 0845, locking through the Smith Falls lock at 0900, followed shortly by the two locks at Old Sly’s.  We rounded out the morning locking through Edmonds and Kilmarnock locks before arriving at Merrickville at 1145.  Merrickville is a pretty little town so we went out for lunch and then walked around for a bit, stopping in a few of the unique stores.  Cindy picked up a few things at the small grocery.
12 NM

Beautiful little Merrickville.
Tuesday July 17, 2012
Lockmasters don’t talk to the boats on the VHF radio.  The way they know you want to lock through is to pull up to the “blue line”.  The blue line is a sacred stretch of wall on the approach to the lock.  You tie off to the wall at the blue line if you want to lock through.  You will incur the wrath of the lockmaster if you tie up there without intending to lock through.  So at 0835 we pulled up to the blue line.  Fifty minutes later we had gone through Merrickville’s three locks.  Twenty short minutes later we were tied up at the blue line at Clowes, where we had to wait for an up-bound locking before we got our turn.  It seemed that we had no sooner gotten through Clowes and we were at Upper Nicholson, followed by Lower Nicholson then Burritts Rapids.  We had completed 7 locks by 1100!  Fortunately we had a break in the action, not arriving at Long Island lock until 1425, just ahead of a small thunderstorm.  We tied off the lock’s floating dock, being careful to avoid the blue line until the storm blew by.  Fifteen minutes later the storm was past and we entered the first of three locks, finally locking through the last at 1525.  We tied along the wall at the bottom of the last lock at 1530, where we stayed the night in a beautiful rural setting.
28 NM

Waiting at the Blue Line.

Wednesday July 18, 2012
Since we locked through yesterday before we stopped, we can leave early today so we are away at 0745.  We locked through the lock at Black’s Rapids, two locks at Hog’s Back and two more at Hartwell before arriving at Ottawa.  It is a beautiful city and Morning Star is tied alongside the wall in the heart of downtown.  We are across the canal from the Performing Arts Center and can see the Parliament buildings on Parliament Hill by looking out our window.  The tie-up is free with our Parks Canada pass.  We only have to pay $10 per night for our electricity, which will gladly do so we can run our air conditioning.  We walked a few blocks to the fabulous Byward Market, where we stopped for lunch before visiting the local shops and vendor stalls.  We picked up a few things at the butcher shop as well as the cheese shop and the bakery.  Ummm!
12 NM

Being passed by kayakers!

Rural Ottawa.

Parliament and Ottawa ahead.