As requested, the feline crew have given their impressions of Montreal:
July 29 The humans refer to me as Buddy-Buddy Bosun. Such an unfortunate name for a man of my sophistication and adroitness. But they are human and I must forgive them for their lack of artistry. I have been shanghaied. Like my forefathers before me, I have been impressed into service onboard a sea going vessel. It is my fate. I have accepted my role as my naval ancestors who came before me. I dutifully perform my detail of Master Chief of Rodent Removal. The humans, in turn, provide me with adequate quarters and rations of food and nip. I have not yet been required to kill for them, except one dragonfly which the humans would not allow me to consume . They don’t understand the requirements of my position. I hone my skills on the training mice that the humans have provided. I awe my humans with my hunting and pouncing skills and yet, they have provided me with an unfortunate crew-a lazy, vainglorious, know it all and a mere featherbrained child with an inclination to cheekiness. My attempts to drill my unit result in insubordination and surliness. They are pampered and selfish, but the humans accept this of them. I have no alternative but to persist in my attempts to break in these vexing creatures.
The humans brought the vessel to the port of Old Montreal in a marina called Port d’escale. Upon our arrival I could see the bright lights of the city and hear the sounds of humans engaged in night life activities. An alluring sight, indeed.
My humans dressed in the garb that signals a day in port. They explored the town and came back to report of food in abundance and buildings of old that hold antiquities of their human ventures. They have brought me reading material to peruse while they sleep. I must sleep now myself as the humans discuss the timing of entering the next port of Quebec City. There are tides. Tides as high as 17 feet, they say, and currents. So, I must sleep.
OH MY GAWD! The humans took me to Montreal! YES!!! It was AMAZING!! I could just die! There was hip music, each beat was just calling my name, “Here kitty, kitty, Pretty Mia Kitty…Come check us out!” The humans wouldn’t let me take a closer look, though. They really are a drag sometimes. They went to museums and took tours of old churches and stuff like that. They can be so lame. When I lived in Chicago life could be sooo exciting. The humans usually take us to places that are boring with trees and rocks. They finally take us to an exciting place and they won’t let me out. They’re cute humans, but they can be a pain.
The new guy that they brought with us on our floating home is a drag too. He’s way too serious. Just this morning when I was practicing my tail in the air kitty skip on the outside of our floating house he actually glared at me. Glared-can you believe it? He has his nerve especially since I let him use my favorite pink glitter ball from the basket of cool things the humans gave us. (They can be awesome sometimes). Anyway, so now I have to take my nap because the humans are changing the schedule today and leaving before our afternoon feeding instead of after our morning feeding. Annabelle isn't happy about that. That girl sure likes to eat. I hope that there aren’t big boats. Pricks on powerboats make my house rock too much and I can fall out of my beanbag chair. I HATE that. There’s nothing worse. Nap time! Ta ta for now!
My day has started with little fanfare. Everyday is Annabelle Day and there should be more fanfare. However, the humans have dutifully provided me with my gourmet breakfast. Mia, in her honor of me, left me a few bites from her bowl. She is such a sweetly trained under study. I am a connoisseur of fine foods and the humans appease my elegant sense of taste. They have learned. They are my servants and they do their best to keep me pleased. However, they do have their failures. They have started the engine again and spoke of easterly winds. They say, and as I already knew, easterly winds are uncommon on the St. Lawrence river. They didn’t speak of it, but this means that the engine, once more, wil be running all day and they will not raise the white sheets that pull the vessel through the water without the noise and vibration of the blasted engine. I so detest the sound of that engine. I also know that this engine requires diesel fuel and diesel fuel costs my humans whereas the movement affected by the white sheets costs them nothing. I certainly hope that these humans have prepared for this as I see that the Fancy Feast locker only contains 72 more containers of my gourmet dinners. I must bring this to their attention.
They brought the vessel into a port called Montreal. I was not impressed. The marina was busy with many, many small powerboats-two of which housed dirty canines. I preferred to smooth my silken coat and insist that the humans provide me with the camembert that they hold hostage in their icebox. I must let them know that the cheese supply is getting low. They must provision on more cheese and not that cheap cheddar that can’t possibly satisfy my palate. People spoke a lovely language on the pier, but my humans (in their ignorance) kept repeating, “Parlez-vous anglais s'il vous plait?” They are so embarrassing, so I stayed in my cabin to avoid any association with these humans. Marinas interfere with my bird observation studies anyway.I am a serious ornithologist and these marinas seem to only contain ordinary ducks. Therefore, I sleep. My beauty sleep is so important to my daily rituals and it insures that the large, self-important male they call Buddy realizes that I am ignoring his presence.
July 24th, We're getting up this morning to much cooler temperatures and a lot more wind than we've experienced in the past couple of weeks. The boat needs to be prepared to go through the next two locks (Lower and Upper Beauharnois). We need to put out our huge fenders on the port side of the boat to protect the hull from the cement walls of the locks and our normal sized fenders on the starboard side because we will most likey have other boats rafted off us to go through the locks. We've been lucky in that every lock we have gone through, including the entire Welland Canal, we have been the sole vessel and didn't have to worry about ramming another boat.
We left Kingston, Ontario and got out of a very busy marina to anchor on the south side of Howe Island. It was a peaceful experience after the hoopla in Confederation Basin Marina where we nearly lost our bow (twice) to other boats trying to dock in high winds. One houseboat captain caught our anchor on our bow and put a gash in their boat. Luckily, Jim and I were onboard when the incident happened and were able to kick him off before he did any damage to Somewhere. Watching the activity and different boats in a busy marina can be entertaining, but also hazardous.
We got up in the morning and made our way through the Thousand Islands snapping pictures of the gorgeous homes and lighthouses. We didn't tour Singer or Boldt Castles, but know their history and the robber barron past of the Thousand Islands. It was the playground of the extremely wealthy and they outdid each other in the early 1900s with their summer homes. George C Boldt, was the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. He built his castle for his wife, but when she died he didn't finish it and never lived in it. His heart was broken and now it's a tourist attraction.
We ended up in Prescott Marina after the Thousand Islands. We really wanted to anchor, but every designated anchorage was either too shallow or too weedy. Prescott is a pretty little town, though and we had a nice evening trying to understand our French speaking boat nighbors and all their guests as they partied on the pier until after midnight. Marinas are full of activity.
The Iroquis, Eisenhower and Snell locks were next on our agenda as we work our way through the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Iroquois is nothing but a few inches of a drop. It controls the currents, so it's not a huge issue. The Eisenhower and Snell locks, though, are much larger drops and require the fenders and a bit of preparation mentally. These locks are US controlled and work a little differently than the Canadian controlled locks. We slip our own line over a ballard (post) that rides down with the boat as the water level is lowered. In the Canadian Locks, they throw us lines aft and forward
and we hold on to them as we are lowered. Keeping a boat hook handy to push off of the wall is a good idea, but we didn't have turbulent rides. We've been told that is all on account of the operator. He (it's been all men so far on our trip) can control the speed of the flow of water and either give us a rollercoaster ride or a smooth landing. It's best to be really, really nice to them.
We are now in Valleyfield Marina-they call it something else in French. It was a long, shallow trek to get into this marina after we left the shipping lane. There is no where for a boat with a 6 1/2 foot draft to anchor, so we ended up in the marina. It was frustrating that they wouldn't answer the VHF radio when we called for a slip, but they did answer the phone and we were able to make arrangements. I'm finding that this French vs English language thing a bit hostile like we're innocent bystanders getting mixed up in a fight that we're not party to. Look, I'll admit it, I don't speak French and I'm not going to try to learn anymore than the simplest terms to get us by. Spanish is what we need to know at home and on our further travels. I'll recognize that there is a unique culture and history here. That's cool, but I'm not privy to the antagonisms of the people of Quebec, so don't take it out on me when I try to communicate in my terrible French. Can't we all just get along?
July 18th We're in Kingston, Ontario and ready to hit the St. Lawrence River, but that will be on tomorrow's agenda. We found ourselves desperate for fresh produce. The frig was looking absolutely empty of anything of nutriciou value with just half a cucumber, one onion, a handful of spinach, some grapes and a few carrots. We sought out the grocery store once we arrived in Kingston and stumbled upon a fantastic farmer's market. The canned goods on the boat can wait for some other desperate time. We're in fresh produce heaven for now.
We spent the night on anchor at Amherst Island in Lake Ontario and listened to the cattle on the farm on shore. It was a lovely anchorage, but obviously well known. We had the company of at least 6 other boats. An afternoon thunderstorm came through, but didn't really cool off the temperatures. It's been quite hot and very humid the past week. The cats are enjoying the constant running of the air conditioning now that we are in a marina. When we anchor we only run the a/c when we start the generator in the morning and right before we go to bed. If we close all the hatches and pull all the blinds, the cabin areas stay cool. So all is well and we're looking forward to seeing what the St. Lawrence has to offer.
July 15th: Lake Ontario
We have spent the past two days at Colbourg, Ontario. Yesterday seemed like the first day of summer. It was hot like July is supposed to be hot and we saw more boats than we have all month. Colbourg's Victoria Beach was full of tents, umbrellas and people when we arrived. We could scarcely see that there was sand. There were so many boats in line to get fuel that we went around the corner and set our anchor instead of shoving ourselves into the mix and creating more of a mess. We anchored near the lauch ramp. It was fun watching the people on the pier, the beach, in the marina and on shore. The warm temperatures in conjunction with a it being a Sunday brought out everyone to enjoy the lakefront. We had two different families teaching their little ones how to sail circle us several times and there were jet skies, fisherman, and paddleboards all passing by us. It was a lovely afternoon of relaxation after we left the last marina we were at and sailed across Lake Ontario.
We didn't have much wind, so there was a lot of motoring involved in our crossing. There was fog in the middle of the Lake, but our radar helped us pinpoint where other boaters were so we had no issues with traffic. We decided to get a slip in the marina and check out Colbourg this morning. Colbourg was settled by loyalists that left the United States after the Revolutionary War. Many had their property confiscated after the Revolution or left to show support for King George III. They built a beautiful little town here on Lake Ontario. We shopped today and went out to lunch and then hit the beach that was so popular yesterday but void of crowds on this Monday. The marina is very nice and we've gotten some great advice about our next venture as we get closer to the St. Lawrence River.
We plan on leaving Colbourg early tomorrow morning and spending some time on anchor near Kingston, Ontario. This beautiful weather that we're having is supposed to turn sour near the end of the week, so we will be prepared for it by being in a marina or a protectected harbor. We plan on anchoring if the weather holds for the next few days. Our time in Ontario so far has not been disappointing and we're certain that the Thousand Islands will be as spectacular as Niagara Falls. I'll let you know what we find!
July 11, 2013 The Welland Canal
We’re sitting in Port Dalhousie (pronounced DOUGH-LOOSIE) Marina on Lake Ontario. The sun is still warming the cock pit even though it’s already 5:30 pm and we’ve brought down the bimini to cool down the most used area of our boat. Someone is playing a guitar, Spanish style, from one of the boats nearby. What an amazing end to a beautiful day. Today started at 4:00 am when the alarm on Jim’s cell phone sounded. We planned to awaken early so that we could wait for the expected call from George. He’s the guy we hired to crew for our trip through the Welland Canal system.
We had moved Somewhere to the dock right outside of the entry to the canal last night. We were positioning ourselves for an early start once George gave us the go ahead to start on our way through the first bridge, then the first lock. George joined us in Lock Number 7 (the second lock for us) . I had started as the line handler on the bow, but I was having issues with chaffing on the lifelines and asked for those two crazy Italians (my skipper and George) to stop chatting –picture two Italian men and the hand gestures that had to be interrupted to see that the chick on the bow needed assistance. It all went well, though. I was then assigned to the stern line which I could have handled while eating a sandwich and talking on a cell phone.
The canal system is an amazing feat of engineering. If you haven’t seen Niagara Falls in person, you have certainly seen pictures. Imagine that we are taking a boat down that same amount of steep incline. But the locks gently brought us down 326 feet into Lake Ontario without any agitation. We honestly felt a great amount of trepidation concerning this leg of our voyage. We did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people to get their knowledge. We wore our old work gloves (actually gloves we bought on sale for a buck back in Michigan at a hardware store) and blew up the biggest damn fenders we had stowed in the garage for 20 years (a gift from a fellow boater that I tried to get rid of a long time ago), and tried hard not to let each other know how scared we were about this venture. Our best decision was to hire crew, though. Even though Jim and I could have made it through the eight locks and under at least 4 bridges by our selves, it was such a relief to have an experienced crew member on board to calm our nerves. It went well. Very well.
Jim is taking me to Niagara Falls tomorrow to celebrate my birthday, which is actually today. I can’t imagine anything more romantic, though, than successfully conquering one of our fears without a scratch on the hull or one raised voice or hurt ego. We could see the skyline of Toronto across the Lake once we exited the canal into Lake Ontario. We can now say that we have sailed all five of the Great Lakes. Check that off the bucket list! Hello 49!
Oh, and for those of you that are concerned about the feline crew: All is well. They are enjoying the air conditioning in the main salon after checking out our new surroundings and discovering that it’s hot today. Jim wanted to know if I had briefed them on where we are going and the temperatures in which that they will need to acclimate themselves.
JULY 8th: Looking Back on Lake Erie aka Lake Evil: On this trip across Lake Erie, I have learned several facts about myself. 1) It is certain that I would be the first person to die in any horror film made 2) I should always listen when experienced sailors (and a mulititude at that) claim that a place is awful 3) I use too many cliches and way too much hyperbole when I write in my journal.
Let's address fact number one. This morning was a usual peaceful morning on anchor. The cats took turns gently pawing at my head and jumping across the bed to get me to recognize that the sun may come up within an hour and that surely means feeding time. It had been quite humid and hot and because we were on anchor there was no air conditioning. So I wore minimal clothing to bed. Look, I wore NOTHING. It was hot. I got up and started the coffee maker and then quieted the cats by giving them their expected morning Fancy Feast. Their wails of hunger were replaced by the battery alarm that was telling me that we watched TV way too long last night and that my morning coffee fix was placing too much of a load on the system. Since coffee is an essential part of the day and because my sweet captain was still sleeping I figured I would forego turning on the generator that would surely wake him and turn off anything else that was draining the battery. AHA...the Anchor Light, I thought. Kill it and that asinine alarm would stop beeping. Now, I'm no exhibitionist, but if anyone had seen where we were anchored it was clear that there would be NOBODY around to see my naked body promenading through the cockpit to the stern to click off the light that is located at the top of the mast to signal other boaters that we are planted here. This is where horror movie scenario comes to play. In every scary movie the first to die is usually a chick and she's most likely naked or scaddily dressed. Check. She also is curious. She doesn't know better enough than to stick her stupid head somewhere it doesn't belong. Yeah, that's me. I hear this buzzing noise. At first, I think that it's another boat. We haven't seen another boat in two days. Then I think, hell: The battery alarm is going off. Did we leave the fan on over the oven last night? So I stick my head out over the stern only to discover that the noise is the sound of millions upon millions of bugs. Grotesque bugs...enough of them to carry me away and devour me. My hair; my crazy, sailor girl, humidity infused hair is what they are interested in. I scream. I shake my mop of dishelved bed head and run back to the hatch only to find my sweet captain looking at me like I have lost all my senses. I was surely a sight, but I insited that he must experience this phenomenon himself. He didn't last 3 seconds when he poked his head out the hatch. Yes, readers, I am that dumb, naked girl that just has to see what all the commotion could be about. Luckily, these bugs only poop green crap and make a mess of everything. They aren't killers and they don't even suck your blood like vampire mosquitoes , but had it been a horror film (and quite frankly this is better than anything Bram Stoker could come up within the realm of horror), I would have faced an inexplicably, horrible death. There you have it, Horror Film Scenario: First one dead, naked chick devoured by bugs.
Number 2: I never listen to sage advce and it's high time I do. They told us Lake Erie was evil. They told us to get through Lake Erie as fast as you can. Nobody had pleasant stories about Lake Erie. The chop. the waves, the awful weather, broken masts, severe sea sickness-every crap story that we've heard from fellow Great Lakes sailors has included Lake Erie. Even Commodore Perry lucked out when two British ships collided and he wasn't forced to give up the ship. This Lake brings down empires. Nasty weather, confused seas, muggy, buggy...I just wanted the hell off this Lake. And here I thought it was just all talk. I was going to enjoy and discover Lake Erie. Poor, disparaged Lake Erie. I really need to start listening to people.
We checked in with Canadian Customs at Pelee Island after leaving the Detroit River and making out way through shallow waters and shipping lanes and getting up close and personal with many a frieghter. A lively group of Canadians invited us to an after race party that they were having, but I wasn't in the mood and our boat neighbors were pleasant and had local knowledge of ports along Lake Erie where we can take refuge from the poop storm this Lake tends to throw around. We were also told that we arrived on the island in a timely manner. Apparently, the Canadian Coast guard was on a witch hunt the day before. They were forcing all US boats into the marina (where they had to pay a day rate for slippage) and check in with customs. They proceeded to search boats, question peple and even brought on K-9 units to sniff out for contraband. Of course, they found none, but in the meantime they have killed a large percentage of tourism.
Pelee Island has a winery claiming excellent wine since they're at the same latitude as Napa Valley and Burgandy, France. We didn't check that out. We also didn't check out the lovely bakery or the rustic restaurant we were told about. We threw off our lines after giving the cats their sea sickness meds and headed out for an 18 hour voyage across Lake Erie. It was a lot of motoring and biting flies and confused seas, but we figured we would gut it out and get out of this place. There was no where to stop anyway. We made it to Long Point in the darkest we have ever seen dark. We could see the glow of Erie, Pennsylvania in the distance and even further the lights of Buffalo, New York, but we were in Canadian waters and going south wasn't an option. Trying to find American customs to check back into the States would just have been one more hassle we didn't want to convene upon ourselves. We entered Long Point to the designated anchorage only with the use of our intruments. Luckily, as a former air traffic controller and airline pilot, we trust those instruments and safely dropped our anchor after a LONG, LONG day on an unforgivable lake. If anyone ever tells you the woes of Lake Erie, believe them. Don't try to be some optimisitic fool. This Lake is mean.
Now, number 3: My exaggerations and hyperbole. I looked back on my journal that I have kept while in this black hole of a Lake. I had planned to type, word for word, what I had written. Honestly, I can't read half of it since we were being tossed about like a piece of lettuce in a salad shooter and what I can make out is so full of cliche and exasperation that it isn't worth the time to type out. So there you have it. Once we prepare our huge fenders and get the nerve up, we will be entering the Welland Canal and going through the 8 locks that will take us to Lake Ontario. Since my birthday is in a few days, I hope to be turning 49 in the the State of New York, near Niagra Falls and out of Lake EVIL.
Happy July 4th! We have spent a fantastic couple of days with my sister, Kathleen and brother-in-law, Dan. We had an excellent time with a lot of laughs, good food, and just enjoying the great company.
Jim now has all the packages for fixing our water maker (google Cruise RO if you're interested in the mechanics of reverse osmossis). We will be spending our 4th of July working on the installation fix of the new pump, cleaning up the mess that the fix has created, laughing at the cats as they jump in these boxes (all cardboard boxes are cat traps), and watching the party scene we have found ourselves in the midst of.
Kathleen and Dan took us to a fantastic restaurant in Wyandotte for lunch. It was located on the Detroit River so we got a glimpse of where we'll be headed tomorrow. We also witnessed the once beautiful buildings of Detroit that are now in decay, the shuttered businesses covered in graffiti, and the poverty that has been well reperesented in the national news the past few years. It was such a stark contrast to return to the thriving and active marina. The Juy 4th merry making had begun last night. We watched one lavish boat after another make their way to the resaturant just across from our slip. It was hard for us to wrap our heads around the extreme inconsistencies in wealth from the mansions in Grosse Point to cross a street and see burned out buildings of Detroit. Detroit has been held up as the poster child for the recession, corruption and impoverishment, but there is hope. We saw areas where gentrification of neighborhoods is underway and there appears to be a return of a middle class and investment from companies like Quicken Loans. This situation didn't happen overnight, though. From the circumstances that brought on the race riots of 1967 to the collapse of the economy and the appointment of an emergency manager, Detroit has had problems for a long time and it's going to be a long haul to fix it.
First week of July! We're now sitting at Jefferson Marine in Lake St. Clair. Lake St. Clair isn't officially considered one of the Great Lakes, but it should have that status. The lake is approximately 430 sq. miles. Generally heart-shaped with an East-West dimension of 23.4 miles. Average depth is 10 ft; deepest depth is 19 ft. except for shipping channel which is 27-29ft. It's shallow outside the shipping lane and because it's shallow it can be very choppy. That's what we experienced yesterday when we exited the St. Clair River and the wind kicked up to 20 knots. The cat crew wasn't pleased with the uncomfortable ride, but they were appeased with Fancy Feast, a long nap and time to watch the geese, ducks and other birds in the marina. We plan to be here a couple of days before we head back to the shipping lane that will lead to the Detroit River and then to Lake Erie and we will have successfully made our way around the mitten we call Michigan.