Monday, July 8, 2013

Hello, Canada!

Well, the last thing I said in the previous post was that WIFI and blog posts would be scarce, and here we are at our first stop in Canada and the WIFI is the strongest and fastest we have had thus far!  We'll see how that holds up.  In the meantime let's take advantage of it and get caught up on our trip from Ess-Kay Marina in Brewerton, NY to Trenton, Ontario Canada.

We planned to leave Ess-Kay around 8:30 AM.  Rhonda and I needed to top off our fuel tank while the price was relatively inexpensive, so we were at the fuel dock at 7:30.  After pumping only about 20 gallons, the filler cap starting hissing back at me and that is never a good sign. Shortly thereafter it looked like Mt. Vesuvius had erupted with diesel fuel and air bubbles going everywhere. That usually means the vent tube from the tank has blocked up and once the tank has taken all the pressure it can take, it has to go somewhere, in this case right back at you.  So, this requires climbing inside the starboard storage areas from inside the salon and performing contortionist-like moves to access the vent tube.  The blockage was actually not in the vent itself but way down the copper tube toward the tank.  It was firmly established in the line and took a little force to get it unblocked.  No idea what kind of critters made a home there, but their final resting place was in a 500-gallon tank of diesel fuel.  Got it back together and finished our business at the fuel dock, but then the boat had to be washed to remove the contents from Mt. Vesuvius.  In the meantime, Ken had found that he had a problem also - his freshwater pump would not shut off.  So, he had the Ess-Kay mechanic install a new one, pumped out his holding tank, and bought some supplies.  So much for our early departure, but we were on our way around 10:30, still plenty of time to make Oswego, NY.

The Erie Canal runs 363 miles from Albany, NY on the Hudson River all the way over to Buffalo, NY, but we need to hang a right on the Oswego Canal to get us over to Lake Ontario for our crossing into Canada.

There were several nice little towns on the Oswego Canal that would have been pleasant stops.  Phoenix looked particularly inviting with a very nice waterfront, but we were determined to get off of the NY canal system and into Canada sooner than later at this point after all of the delays we had experienced.

This is a very pretty area with lots of kayaks, canoes, and we even saw our first water skier.

As you approach Oswego, there is water everywhere and you are in and out of locks quickly.  There was lots of water flowing and gazillions of gallons flowing over multiple dams everywhere.

In one case, the lock was in the middle of the canal with dams on each side - that was a first for the trip and was pretty cool.  Later as you approach the end of the canal system, you are cruising in the channel slightly above the river flow directly off of your left.  It looked like serious rapids in the mountains somewhere and at one point there is nothing but a short rail separating you from about an eight-foot drop over the wall into the rapids.  Rhonda got the creeps just looking at it.  This is the best picture we got of it but it does not do justice to the real thing.  I'm not so sure that little rail would stop our 38,000-lb boat if we had some sort of problem and hit that railing with any amount of force at all.  It could not have been more than about a foot tall!

We eventually made it to Oswego but did not have much time for sightseeing.  However, we witnessed the fourth wedding since we've been on the boat.  Actually, "we" is a bit misleading in that last sentence - I took a nap and Rhonda got the picture.  After having to deal with Mt. Vesuvius and then a long, hot day with lots of locks, and almost falling over walls into rapids and such, I needed a rest!  Congrats to the new couple.

Interesting flowers in the area.

And a nice view below from Fort Ontario past the Oswego lighthouse and across Lake Ontario.  We have 2 route choices.  One will be a shorter overall distance to our destination - a diagonal crossing of about 75 miles.  Or, we can take a straight line across of only about 40 miles and then run through the inland countryside which will lengthen the overall trip by about 2 hours.  Weather will be the deciding factor.  Either way, we are looking forward to getting into Canada.

A very big band of thunderstorms and rain woke us up around 4 AM, but it looked like it would roll on through and allow us to depart around 6:30. The next round was forecast for shortly after noon so we decided to take the shorter route across to get us some protection inland from the wind which was forecast to be around 20 with gusts above that later in the day.  Not a good idea to be on a large body of water in those conditions.  So, off we went with Satisfaction leading us across.

You can't see the border line, but this is half-way across at the US/Canadian border.  Since Ken and Trudy are Canadians, we got our own special "Welcome To Canada" from them.  As you can see, the seas are pretty calm, about one foot, but some more thunderstorms were looking ominous on the horizon in the distance.  As it turned out, they moved on to the east before we got there and we had quite an uneventful crossing, a good thing.

We joined the inland waterway, also known as the Bay of Quinte.  It was time for Mellow to have a potty break, so Ken and Trudy headed for the shore while Help Me Rhonda and Mooring Dove continued on to our first stop in Canada - Trenton, Ontario.

The wind really picked up shortly thereafter.  Even though we had some inland protection at this point, some parts of the Bay of Quinte are pretty big, and there are some lengthy fetch areas that allow the waves to build.  We saw steady 2-foot+ seas the rest of the way in.  

The water is very clean and the shoreline is pretty.  Lots of farmland and very nice/neat homes and yards.  This was the closest thing to a "Bubba-home" that we saw all afternoon.  Only the top half of the home had been stained, two ladders were leaned up against the roof (I assume for when they decide to stain the bottom half), clothes hung out to dry on the deck rails and on a clothesline, an assortment of about 20 non-matching deckchairs, about 8 boats, and a pen of some sort at the water's edge, maybe for containing pets or small children?  This is still not too bad though, no match, of course,  for some of its competition back in Alabama.

The buoys here are kind of pitiful looking, really skinny.  And "buoys" is pronounced "boys" in Canada - yes, you know, male children.  It's been driving Galen and me crazy listening to Ken say 'boys" now for the past month, but we've not had any luck converting him over to "booeeys."

There are a few customs rules you have to follow arriving by boat into Canada.  One is that you have to fly a yellow "quarantine" flag in case you might be arriving with the plague.  The official flags can be expensive, so we opted to bring a bit of "bubba-ism" to Canada ourselves and substituted a yellow "Shamwow" (As seen on TV) held in place on one of our antennas with three clothespins.  We checked in with customs by phone and no one came out to check for the plague, so I guess we were OK.  (Yes, I know it's spelled "chamois").

Also, no one is allowed off of the boat except the captain until the captain has cleared himself and all others aboard by answering a few questions from customs by phone.  Apparently Rhonda did not quite understand this rule and immediately stepped off of the boat when we arrived at Frasers Marina in Trenton.  But she said "oops" and no one seemed to care.  We went to an awful lot of trouble and expense getting passports for this trip, and no one even bothered to check them either!  Apparently I answered all of their questions correctly and to their satisfaction - they gave us a customs number to display in the window and it was done. Rhonda is really upset that she has an unstamped passport.

After clearing customs, it is customary for a visiting boat to remove the quarantine flag and then fly a courtesy Canadian flag.  This is in addition to, not a replacement of, Old Glory, which we have on the stern of the boat.  We actually spent the money in this case to get a real Canadian flag, mounting it above the flybridge. 

Help Me Rhonda looked pretty nice and rested after the long haul from Oswego.  It turned out be a long trip across and through the back way - 11 hours and 99 miles, the longest yet of the trip except for the all-night crossing of the Gulf from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs, 23 hours and 180 miles.

The folks here at Frasers Marina have been wonderful, really glad to finally see some more Loopers coming through.  The marina is conveniently located right downtown and next to a very nice park.

We enjoyed today and rode our bikes a lot - been a while.  We rode about 5 miles round trip down to the first lock for tomorrow as we enter the Trent Severn Waterway here in Trenton (below) which will take us through the Canadian countryside to Georgian Bay - should take about 2 weeks.

We bought our pass for the waterway from Parks Canada at Lock #1 and I'll cover much more on the locks as we begin that travel tomorrow.  But here's a glimpse of what's ahead.

There are so many places to stop and so much to see, there's a good chance we will be splitting up soon from our traveling partners the past month as we all choose different schedules and places to stop.  So, we said tentative good-byes to Galen and Becky aboard "Mooring Dove" and Ken,Trudy, and Mellow aboard "Satisfaction."  We're confident that we will run into each other again in the weeks ahead, but just in case.....

We could not have asked for better folks than these to have experienced the trials and tribulations of the Erie Canal with and look forward to seeing them more in the future.

Before I close for this post (and I know it has been a long one), we also rode our bikes up to Mount Pelion (about 200 feet above the town) for a nice view of Trenton, Bay of Quinte, and The Trent-Severn River.  

It's good to be in Canada.  First observations.

1.  Wonderful and friendly people.
2.  They speak with an accent and they think we do too.
3.  They seem to be pretty fit.
4.  Their towns, homes, and yards are very clean and neat, no trash or junk, at least so far.
5.  They still have a lot of pay phones???
6.  Their money is "pretty."
7.  They fly their Canadian flag a lot.
8.  Apparently, watching "The Bachelorette" on Monday night is not a priority.  We scanned for TV stations and only got 2.  "The Bachelorette" was not on either of them.
9.  You buy milk at the grocery store in plastic bags.  Then you buy a container for the milk and pour the milk in the container when you get them both home.  What's up with that?
10.  They are very stingy with their ice!!  I asked the lady at the restaurant this evening for lots of ice and instead of 2 cubes I got 4.  This has got to change.

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