Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Long Week-end in Montreal

We spent Friday morning tending to the boat--it's amazing how quickly things get cluttered and misplaced. I told Louis I thought the inside of our boat looked like a dorm room--so we spent an hour trying to make it look neater! Maps, charts, guidebooks and fliers needed to be organized and left either out for use for what's ahead of us these next few weeks, or stowed under the bed for much later. I think before we left we had over 120 pounds of that paper stuff--and Louis has added to it often since. We need a bigger boat!

Friday afternoon we took a 3 hour tour by bus of Montreal. We got a wonderful overview of what this city has to offer--plus a look "up top"--from the mountain of the city --to below. WOW--that's definitely a different perspective than being on the water! There's so much to do here, we could spend two weeks here alone and not see it all . The people here are so friendly and have been so patient with us English--as most here are bilingual. The currency here is different, but most everyone has just taken our American dollars and given us back Canadian currency. The exchange rate last Friday was $200 American = $198 Canadian. Food and drink here in Montreal are expensive too. A beer is @ $6.00, and a simple lunch meal of hamburger and fries was $16.00. Interesting, n'est pas?

Saturday morning, I went to China Town with my friend Pat, from "Prime Time". We walked up and down the streets, going into shops and markets, bakeries and butcheries. With hundreds of other people in about a 3 block square area, we experienced such beautiful and interesting colors and smells! We wound up eating lunch there--color Diane very happy--my Chinese fix for a while--and so, so fresh, crunchy, and delicious. I don't know how they can cook all that food and it still remain so colorful!

Saturday afternoon around 2:30, it started raining again. Nap time! We awoke just as the rain ended, and got ready for "Saturday Night"! We walked just a block over to Old Town and had dinner at The Spaghetti House--a bustling fun place, and again, another sumptuous meal. How do all these French women up here stay so thin?! Not fair. We returned to the boat just in time to catch the 30 minute fireworks and music show--given right here beside the marina every Saturday night until August 3rd. We're told it's a competition of nations, with judging going on every week and the grand prize winner announced after the last show in August. Last night's show was Italy, and since it's the only one we'll see, we vote for Italy! Spectacular.

Louis told me Friday to pick a day and plan it--he would do anything I wanted to do! So, I picked Sunday--we would go to Mass at 11am at the Basilique de Notre Dame, afterwards have a lunch of crepes. Then we would take in a museum and go to the IMAX theater--both nearby. Bless Louis's heart, he didn't say a word! And I got 2 out of the 4. Not bad.

Mass at 11am was breathtaking, to say the least. With a full chorus, an outstanding "high-up" organ with over 7000 pipes, 6 priests, maybe 8 priests-to-be, and a congregation of well over a thousand--I sat down at my first Catholic Mass--in French, no less. The basicillia was maybe half full--and closed to tourists during the ceremony. We had visited it on our tour Friday, and I wanted to come back. Candles were lit everywhere--hanging from the enormous guilded dome, on the altar, behind the altar, and at the numerous "stations (14?)" all around the inside. The whole service took about an hour and 15 minutes, including Communion, and it will forever stand out in my mind as one of the more beautiful experiences I've had in my life. I didn't know what was going on, but when everyone stood, I stood. When everyone sat, I sat. I think at one time they said the Lord's Prayer. But the sheer beauty of sitting quietly in that amazingly stunning place was pure joy for me. I'm glad we were in Montreal on a Sunday.

After Mass, outside with the two, old, huge, steeples happily chiming their bells almost to the deafening point, we walked down 2 blocks to Suzettes'--a creperie! I had crepes, Louis had quiche. Both delicious. After lunch we walked over to the IMAX, only to find out that the only two "English" movie times were at 11am & 7pm. We would have to forgo both. Then we walked over to the museum, only to find out that it really was not worth $36.00 for us to tour that particular museum--it just didn't interest either one of us that much. Oh well, c'est la vie! We walked back by La Place de Cartier--where the street is permanently closed to vehicular traffic and lined on both sides by restaurants. All kinds of "street festival" events were taking place--it's their holiday now! And by then we both were tired, and so we just walked back to the boat. Louis is studying the charts for tomorrow as we head to Ottawa, and I'm doing the laundry--free machines here at this great marina. Thanks Debbie! And Buddy's been on two walks already today, so every one's happy. We love Montreal!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Chambly, Sorel, and Montreal

Today is Friday, June 27th. We have successfully made our entry into Canada, and are now in Montreal. Hooray--we have wi-fi! And what an interesting last few days we've had.

We left Rouses Point, NY early Tuesday morning, going about 3 miles north into Canada and to a small building on the water to clear customs. We tied up alongside the customs wall, Louis went in with our passports, boat documentation, and Buddy's papers--they asked if we had any firearms on board, the purpose of our visit, and how long we intended to stay in Canada. Louis said, "No firearms---doing 'the Loop'---and 6 weeks". The customs official smiled and said, "Have a nice stay in Canada." That was it--simple! Whew! For some reason, we both had worried this might be difficult.

OK, so it's 8:45am and we've cleared customs, and we're so excited to be in Canada, Quebec Province--too early to break out the champagne--but we seriously thought about it! There were 3 boats traveling together that morning--"Prime Time, "Segue", and us. I don't think any of us realized it was June 24th---Saint Jean de Baptiste Day--a Quebec Province only holiday. No wonder EVERYONE was outside--bicycling, rollerblading, walking, fishing, etc. As we were going through the Chambly Canal and its' locks, all along the sides of the canal and at every lock, people would stop to watch the boats lock through. Mile after mile of this. We felt as if we were in a parade--waving and talking with people on both sides of the boat--it was so much fun!

Lake Champlain feeds into the Chambly Canal, which feeds into the Richelieu, which feeds into the Saint Lawrence River, at Sorel. The Chambly Canal is a series of locks, all going down to the Richelieu. The Chambly is very narrow in most parts, with a road on the port side, and a great bicycle/walking path on the starboard. This goes on for a good 12 miles, we estimated. The speed for the boat has to be very slow (max speed 5.4 knots), so slow that in fact an elderly man on a four wheel scooter passed us twice! (locking taking up the "lap" time for us) That was hysterical! We saw thousands of people of all ages out enjoying their holiday--it was a beautiful day.

We arrived at the town of Chambly by mid afternoon. We tied up along the wall there, and were soon to find out that this place was a Looper's paradise. A grocery store not a block away, lots of ice cream shops, several nice restaurants right there too, and eureka!--a nice, green, grassy, park right alongside the wall--not 4 feet from the boat. Perfect for Buddy--he finally got off leash and got to be himself again. Color him a super happy Looper dog!

We had drinks on "Chaos", joining "Distant Shores", "Segue", and "Prime Time". It's always fun meeting new Looper friends and sharing stories and information--especially with the Loopers who are on their 2nd or 3rd Loop. We had a great evening!

Wednesday morning we left the wall about 9am and went through our last 3 locks on the Chambly Canal. These 3 were especially interesting because we went directly from #3 into #2 into #1--a "step" down lock if there ever was one. We had the same young people helping us with our lines at all three locks--that was nice for us.

We traveled the Richelieu seeing pretty houses and several cable ferry boats---the houses, trees, and water color being very similar to Lake Hyco. Most houses had clothes swinging on clotheslines in the stiff breeze and others seemed to have white glider swings down by the water--although we saw not a soul in a single swing! What a shame and what a difference from the day before when everyone was outside. We had no one to wave to that day!

We arrived in Sorel, gave the boat a good bath, and went to dinner with "Prime Time" at a nearby, lovely french restaurant--having probably the best creme brule we've ever had. Reading menus in french is awkward at best for us, but we had a great translator--thanks Gary! If our calculations are correct, Sorel will be the furthermost north we will go on this trip--unless we find a spot in the Georgian Bay that's more north. We didn't spend any time sightseeing in Sorel, hoping to get an early start for Montreal on Thursday. We knew we would have to fight the current all the way up the Saint Lawrence--a long, slow day of traveling.

Thursday, after 6 hours of traveling, we get to Montreal---coming through currents that were terrible. At one point right before we got to the marina here, we were going against a 6 knot current! Louis remarked that some sailboats would not be able to make any headway--they's be sitting still. Amazing. And in fact, there are two marinas here and I haven't seen a single sailboat--they just can't get here.

Montreal is the second largest french speaking city in the world--over one million people live here too. It is also a huge port city, employing over 23,000 people at the 16 mile long port. Our path to the marina yesterday took us past all 16 miles of it too--boring--not a particularly pretty route, but the only one to take. We had several huge container ships and barges pass us on our way here--they don't even notice the current--the wakes were fun for Louis and Buddy.

Our marina, The Yacht Club Montreal, is a 3 year old one--right in front of "Old Town"--a perfect spot! Debbie Lapalme, the Agent de port here, has been wonderful in guiding us to interesting places nearby--she speaks wonderful english, TYJ! The city is gearing up for Canada Day--July 1st, (like our 4th)--and no where is it more visable than along the water right here in front of us. Lots of white tents have been put up today, there's a small circus down just one wharf, and we expect a lot more activity all around us--building up to Tuesday night's fireworks. It's exciting! Canadians will take off from today through Tuesday--and we expect a lot of them will be on the water too. Ugh.

We took a 3 hour tour today of the city---on a Coach Canada bus! Who's reading this at Southern Coach?! We had a super driver/tour guide who's been "in the business" for 46 years. He and Louis had a good time talking about all the old buses that have come and gone and just business in general--making Louis happy. Our tour was really wonderful--making five stops at important places, but now I'm tired, so I'll have to blog about it later. Yawn. I want to get this one posted right now and go to bed! G'night!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Few Thoughts Before We Reach Canada

Today is Monday, June 23rd. A huge thunderstorm has just passed through (yes, more rain!)--thankfully, we have reached a marina that is so remote and has abandoned cell phone service for me, but has wireless--go figure! We have been on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain for the last four days, and now have come to this marina for the night. The Vermont side of Lake Champlain and the New York side of the same converge here for border crossing into Canada. We have just tied up at Rouses Point, NY--about 3 miles from the Canadian border. We should be in the Quebec Province of Canada by 9am tomorrow--Tuesday. How far we've come in 6 weeks--amazing!

I turned off my cell phone this afternoon when I tried to make a call and heard a "French" voice!. And all we heard coming into here on the VHS radio was French! How strange it is to be so disconnected--I haven't seen our children/grandchildren in 6 weeks--haven't driven a car in the same. And now that I've turned my cell phone off--well, I feel just so "away". I can't ever remember feeling this way as an adult before, until now. Yet, we are with other new "Loopers" who are also feeling a little "squirrely" about this, but we're all excited about what's to come. It's just--we're a long way from home and REALLY feeling it today. For all of us, there's no turning back now.

We thoroughly enjoyed our short time in Burlington, Vt. It has to be one of our favorite "big" towns to date. We rented a car with "Segue", went to our first fabulous farmer's market on town square, did lots of errands, and have had a great "look-see". It's a wonderful, vibrant, "GREEN", hip, friendly, progressive, delicious, so-so clean, beautiful, hilly, college town. ( The students were mostly gone while we we were there.) And, it's also the home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream--color Louis happy! Everyone there along the water where we were seemed to exercise, be in shape, speak at least one other language, have a dog, and just enjoy being outside--from early morning until way after we went to bed! Since Louis and I were up around 6am every morning, I/we got out early to walk "Buddy", and so many people were already ahead of us--amazing! I especially want to remember Burlington for the beautiful arrays of cheeses, flowers, and maple syrups at the farmer's market--and the layers of misty mountains off our bow. We both hate to leave this special place.

Tomorrow we enter Canada, and what fully awaits us we still do not know. Customs, hopefully, won't be a problem. Our books, charts, maps, "chips", seasoned friends, "Skipper Bob" guides, still can't paint the full picture for us. The grand adventure/journey is something we've come this far for--and we'll take whatever/whenever/wherever. But the primary question/concern for me is whether we can still stay in contact with family and friends--I certainly hope so!

We plan to be in Canada and the Georgian Bay until early August. I have no idea whether I'll be able to blog at any time--we're going to try to be near wi-fi--but I'll keep good notes and keep trying to get on! If you don't see anything posted here, then you'll know I'm out of reach of wi-fi. I surely hope that doesn't happen.

We're reminded of how different our world is now--post 9/11. Signs of heightened border security are right here beside us. There's an armed customs official on our dock and we've seen two border patrol boats just in the short run into this marina. There's very little traffic on the water except us "Loopers". Lots and lots of boats in marinas, but little activity--signs of fuel prices? We wonder. We're now flying the Canadian "courtesy" flag on our boat and we'll need to get Canadian money tomorrow. For Louis's sake, I hope we won't be in french speaking country for too long!

To those of you who have been in contact with us, we thank you dearly--hearing from you has kept us happy! We hope to keep in touch with you as much as possible too. But to get a feel for how far we're going, look up The Georgian Bay--it's a long way from home!

The boat's doing fine, we're both still healthy, Buddy's meeting new friends daily, and Louis and I are still speaking to each other! We're traveling with like minded/fun/experienced people--that's comforting for all of us. We should be back in upper Michigan by mid August--and down to Chicago by Labor Day--back into civilization. We feel mighty fortunate to be able to take this trip, and count our blessings daily. We miss family, friends, and home--and wish we could bring it all along with us. Keep us in your prayers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Catskill, Waterford, Fort Edwards, Whitehall, Vergennes, and Vermont!

Wow! What a week of great traveling. We've reached a spot, Burlington, VT, where I can finally get online and get this blog up-to-date, so here goes this hopefully not-so-long recount!

Last Sunday, early in the morning when we were just about to leave Catskill, our friends from Morehead City--Alicia and Carl Ragsdale--called Louis. They were just a few miles up stream from us, bringing their boat south! They wound up coming to our boat for a "too-quick" visit and a cup of coffee and they helped us with our plans, as we move north. They shared maps, gloves, and great tips for our next few weeks. Thanks Alicia & Carl!

We left Catskill and headed to Waterford, NY. Both Louis and I have been so surprised at how many abandoned industrial factories we have seen along the waters from New Jersey through New York. We must have passed over a hundred, a sad reminder of healthier days along the Hudson River. But on a happier note, we have seen many, many huge, pretty white tents on the lawns overlooking the Hudson--weddings? parties? receptions? Where is Hillary? Who knows, but it has been fun to see and speculate.

We passed Albany, NY, seeing a yet-to-happen, outdoor, at water's edge, volunteer symphony concert as they were warming up. We really wanted to stop, but not knowing when the event was to happen, we kept going. One of the later Looper boats that day did stop for a good hour and said it was wonderful! I suppose that with the limited time these folks have up here weatherwise to be outside, everything they can do outdoors, they do! Hard for us to believe, but their "summer" up here really doesn't start until July 1st.

We arrive in Waterford, NY on Monday--spending an uneventful Sunday night along the way in Troy. We jockey for position along "the wall" in Waterford--it being a very popular/free place to overnight. Waterford is a good place to stop, re provision the boat, regroup, and decide which route to take in every one's journey to Canada and the Georgian Bay. About half of us are going west through the Erie Canal, and then the rest of us are headed north through Lake Champlain. The route north will add about 300 miles, but it is the route we decided long ago to do--going through Montreal and Ottawa. We tie up along the wall with "Sonsie", "Prime Time", "Wanderin L & M", "Knot Bad", "Phantom of the Aqua", "Tuesday's Child", "C Life", and "ETC.". ***A side note--Waterford is the kind of town that time forgot--we order for breakfast: 2 eggs, toast, and coffee=$1.75! Are you reading this, Sam & Brenda?! This spot, Ron & Paul's, was very popular with everyone for all three meals also--the attached pool hall entertainment included!

After an overnight thunderstorm, we leave half our friends in the morning and head north--going through 6 locks, rising 114 feet to the town of Fort Edwards, NY. We're getting to be "old hands" at the locks, having gone through a total of 9 now. Just think, only 150+ more to go! We're seeing little traffic on the water, making our cruising so gentle and pleasant--and now, we REALLY like being in upper state New York. We are in eagle country, and it's fun to watch for their nests and chicks. Today, we're headed to Fort Edward.

The "wall" at Fort Edward has for an overnight only 6 Looper boats--"Prime Time', "Sonsie", "Going There", "Salante", "Maya Lisa", (we're glad the last two caught up with us!), and "Bella Luna". Again, we walk into the small town (only a block away) to a wonderful restaurant--and JOY!!, it's Tuesday's 2 for 1 night at Jim's Broadway Cafe! Good variety and simply delicious. With every one of us groaning over high fuel costs, color us all happy! The temperature dips to 45 degrees tonight.

Wednesday, half of us leave early and head to Whitehall, our last stop in New York. Again, we tie up on a wall, right behind a wonderful museum. We tour the museum, finding out that Whitehall is steeped in 200+ year old history. The English, the French, the American Indians, the "New" Americans--Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, all put their stamp on this part of Upper State NY. ***Interesting note--our US Navy was begun there, by the soon-to be traitor, Benedict Arnold--before the Revolutionary War. In the rain, we have dinner on "Salante" and Louis makes another batch of ice cream--he's quite in demand now!

We leave early Thursday morning, going through our last NY lock, and are finally in Lake Champlain. Oh My! What a sight! The Adirondack Mountains are ahead of us, the marshes and cliffs are along side us, the water is clear, eagles are flying, and "THIS IS WHY WE CAME!" After feeling like we've been in New York for weeks, we are finally now in Vermont! We travel about 30 miles, snaking through the deep hills, rounding corners of such beauty, and then out into Lake Champlain. However, rain, again. Ugh.

We veer off course, a "side trip" up a creek, 7 miles to the village of Vergennes--a special little spot with 3 beautiful and roaring waterfalls right in the middle of town. An old friend from Durham, Jan Mc Callum, her sister Kim, and friend Katie track us down at the town dock, come aboard for a drink, and we have a great "too-short" visit. Who would think we could find someone from home, so far from home! And twice in one week? Thank you Jan for taking the time and effort to come see us--it made our day! (You still don't see pictures, do you?!) We spend Thursday night in Vergennes, going up the steep hill for sightseeing and dinner.

Friday morning we leave the dock very early, as there is a WHOLE town weekend fishing tournament for children beginning at 5am Friday--right where our three boats are tied up. Both Louis and I are awakened at 5:05am by a voice screaming, "Fish on!". And as much as I love to be around that sort of fun, it was definitely time for us to go--5:45am--I had already taken 2 fish hooks off our bow for the young'uns. Top prize-- a canoe.

Friday afternoon, in the rain, we tie up in Burlington, Vermont. We've been now in the rain for periods every day for over a week--we wonder, are we instead in Seattle? Periods of rain, then fog, then sunshine. The only difference between here and home and the weather is the humidity--when it stops raining, it's very low. Also, it's @ 65-70 degrees tops here. Nice!

Burlington is a great town. The neatest thing we've noticed here is that the people make use of all the old buildings--there's lots of interesting architecture everywhere. Also, we're in a college town--University of Vermont--and it's very HIP and GREEN. ***Side note: I was checking out of a store yesterday, and the salesclerk didn't give me a bag--I hesitated, and then realized where I was. Vermont, the green state. So different from New York and New Jersey!

We're at a marina with our bow facing the Adirondack Mountains, so every morning we wake up to mountains--lots of them. How truly unique for us saltwater folks to be on the water, with mountains all around us. Tonight, we had a huge thunderstorm, that we could see coming for a good 20 minutes, and when it hit us, the sun was still shining! Amazing!

We leave tomorrow, Monday, for Rouses's Point, which will be the last stop before we reach Canada. Yipes! We have reservations to be in Montreal from Thursday through Sunday. July 1st, which is Tuesday, is the Canadian Flag Day, and this year will be a four day weekend for Canadian citizens. I have no idea what it will be like in Canada trying to keep this blog going. But I will keep daily notes, and log on when I can. If anyone needs to reach us, they can call our home phone, which will call forward to Louis's cell. My cell will be turned off while we're in Canada. But we'll still have e-mail, hopefully. If I can't get to this for a while, happy 4th of July everyone!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Haverstraw, Kingston, and Catskill

Tuesday, June 10th, we left New York City and in about an hour finally reached calm waters. What a relief! We had been in the midst of a terrible heat wave (88 degrees at 9am--simply awful at 4pm!) and we were happy to be leaving all the water turbulence, water traffic congestion, heat and haze. Besides, "Buddy" said there just wasn't enough grass and bushes for him to be happy either! So, being "highly motivated", we came out of our marina early in the morning, took a left, and headed north.

The current was stiff--and we would fight it most of the day--losing about 3 knots in speed--but waiting a week for the tides to change was truly just out of the question. Very quickly, we passed Central Park and Grant's Tomb--it was something I didn't realize we would do. Having been in Central Park several times, I naively didn't realize the Hudson ran right along beside them both! Cruising on up, we passed, on our port side, The Palisades--huge, tree-lined, dramatic cliffs that run for many miles. There was hardly any traffic on the water, and all 3 of us were very happy to be moving and in some breeze. We had finally out-run all the crab pots, and sadly, the ospreys. We were still very hot, but thrilled to be in the calm Hudson River. We passed Sing Sing Prison on our starboard side and waved to all our former best friends!

Mid afternoon, we arrived in the town of Haverstraw for the night, tied up in the marina there, turned on the AC's inside and cooled off. There was this wonderful restaurant nearby (Noel's) that came and picked us up for dinner (thanks for the recommendation Liz & Bob!) and we had a great/delicious evening--returning to the boat only seconds before a huge storm came--which would finally cool everyone off. TYJ.

Wednesday, June 11th, was a beautiful, sunny day with low humidity. 73 degrees at 10:30am. The thunderstorm the night before had really been a blessing for the whole northeast, we're told. We were on the move again, and as we continued north, we came upon our first waterfall--what a pretty sight. We also crossed under Bear Mountain Bridge, which is the crossing for the Appalachian Trail. Now, how many of us can say we have crossed UNDER the Appalachian Trail? Pretty neat! Most of the day, we were in a very narrow section of the Hudson, between steep hills, a beautiful, meandering river--with train tracks on both sides for many, many miles right down at water's edge. Often there would be trains on each side of us at the same time--the ones on starboard being commuter/passenger trains and the ones on port being freight. What a unique stretch of water--I have always loved the sound of trains and their whistles, and I will surely miss that as we get further north.

At "World's End", the deepest part of the Hudson River (at one point, Louis saw 156 feet on the depth finder), we came to West Point Academy. An impressive, grey-stone fortress, high up on the hill, it was opened in 1802. Having just toured Annapolis a couple of weeks ago, I asked Louis which academy he would have liked to have gone to when he was of that age. Without hesitation, he responded West Point. Interesting. You'll have to ask him why.

Also along the way, we saw Hyde Park--the huge, four-story, rectangular, brick mansion of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Tour and school buses were everywhere--lots of activity. And somewhere up in the hills was another massive Vanderbilt estate--although we missed seeing it--I must have been fixing lunch below and Louis must have been asleep at the wheel! We did, however, see one spot high up on the hill that looked just like the resort hotel in "Dirty Dancing". Had I not known the movie was filmed in the mountains of North Carolina, I would have sworn it was filmed there. Yard and all--fun to see.

We arrived at the town of Kingston, NY for a two night tie up--along with "Sonsie", "Prime Time", "Wanderin' L & M", and "Going There". We found another restaurant that would come and pick us up from the marina, and all of us went into town for dinner--a nice treat for all of us. In addition to "Old Town" (where we had dinner) being so quaint and full of special little shops(which don't open for business until 11:30 am!), the town of Kingston has a particularly interesting heritage--which I'd like to remember here. Before the Revolutionary War, the town of Kingston put 2 large, heavy chains across the Hudson to keep the British from using the river to their advantage. The chains were strategically placed at opposite ends of the "Narrows" part. The British--without any problem--quickly dismantled both chains, sending each to Gibraltar to protect their own port there. In retribution for putting up the chains, the British promptly burned the town of Kingston to the ground. Nasty!

Thursday, our second day in Kingston, was a marathon of grocery shopping--what a story that was and too long to mention here, and that evening we all grilled out together-- Louis made his second batch of ice cream (the first being in Portsmouth, Va.-- which I failed to mention earlier--thanks sooo much Mike & Barbara! ). "Loopers" are great cooks and resourceful too--simply delicious. What fun!

Friday, mid-morning, we made a short run (20 miles) up the river to the small town of Catskill, NY--we would be there for two nights. Our marina was just two short blocks to the three block town! I will always remember that special little town for its' many artfully adorned cats--sitting on their own special poles all along both sides of main street. Each cat had numbers and titles below them to identify the various artists. All the "Cats" will be auctioned off later in the summer--and I would love to see it too. Having only three molds to choose from, each cat was decorated differently, by very talented artists, some more "special" than others, but each one truly unique enough to be a prized piece. I'm told even the "lessor" ones will easily go for over a thousand dollars. Wow! I particularly liked #29?--A Starry Night in the Catskills. Did I have my camera? No!

Friday night we all grilled out again, this time there were 6 Looper boats--us, "Prime Time", "Sonsie", "Maya Lisa", "Going There", and "Endless Summer". The marina offered many picnic tables, lots of chairs, and a great grill. After the huge and delicious spread of dinner, a campfire was built in the wonderful, old, stone fireplace--their stackable plastic chairs were brought out--and everyone had smores. No one had any graham crackers, so we made them with ginger snaps--interesting! (With only our one-quart mixer, there were just too many people to make ice cream!) After dark, when we finally gave up and went to bed, there were still many folks sitting around the wonderful campfire with a bella luna high in the sky.

Saturday, two cars were rented and eight of us drove off into the Catskill mountains to explore. We traveled about an hour away from our town, climbing and weaving the whole way up--what a pretty area to be in and a nice change from being "flat' since mid May. We stopped at a really neat, locally famous store and had lunch, and all of us bought freshly made pies, local maple syrup, and breakfast breads to bring back to our boats. Yum. After lunch, we found an old, original, open-car train--a "side-trip"--that we took for a 2 hour ride. "All Aboard!!" We saw a busy fly fisherman, who looked exactly like he had stepped out of the Orvis/L L Bean catalogue and lot and lots of "tubers"--people lazily floating down the mountain stream. Both Louis and I wondered if they were cold--we bet they were! After an "almost home" stop for gas, Wal-Mart, Auto Zone, and Lowes, we emptied the car and went to a Thai restaurant for dinner. Our first experience at one, and very delicious. Thanks Hank and Ceci!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rocking and Rolling

Time to catch up on my blog! Today is Monday, June 9th. We were at anchor last Thursday-- in Brielle, NJ this past Friday and Saturday (with no wireless for me)--and came here to Newport Marina (across from Manhattan) yesterday, Sunday. We have been rocking and rolling ever since my last posting--very uncomfortable! Tides, swift currents, wakes from thousands of other boats, have all contributed to this mess. We'll be glad to head north tomorrow--up the Hudson River-- and get out of all this.

We left Cape May early in the morning and in the rain--but it didn't last long. There were 3 boats headed out-- us, "Sunshine", and "Our Way", who all had decided the night before to go "inside" to Atlantic City--the wind in the ocean being the reason for this decision. It had been blowing for 5 days. We had heard that going inside might present problems with shallow or "skinny" water, however we had no problems at all. Yes, it was skinny in a couple of spots, but we were following a boat with a 4-1/2 foot draft, and we felt secure (ours is 4 feet!).

We went literally through the backyards of New Jersey. We meandered along a crooked ICW and saw some amazing sights. First, we went through marsh after marsh of nesting turrins. It was quite a sight--seeing literally thousands of these birds sitting on their nests--and reminiscent of Cape Lookout, except far more birds here than Lookout. Secondly, we passed through one long spot just north of Ocean City and south of Atlantic City where all the waterfront houses were built out over the water on stilts, and the boats were parked under the houses in the water! I'm told we won't see anything like that anywhere else on this trip. And just past Atlantic City was this energy making field of 5 windmills. Having seen and heard the ones in the western part of NC, these were very different--so quiet--not a sound--as these huge machines just kept turning and turning. I was very impressed--I'm so glad we decided to go inside!

Having been to Atlantic City twice before, we passed behind it, deciding not to go see The Donald and blow $5 a foot for an overnight. We chose a place just north of Sin City East and supposedly a good place to anchor--it was very picturesque. Buddy had a WONDERFUL time swimming for a good while, and we grilled out. There was a new moon in the sky, and we were close enough to see the tacky lights and fireworks from Atlantic City.

We decided, after a night of rocking and rolling, that we would seek a marina in Brielle, NJ to wait out the weekend--in preparation for the next leg--New York. We've heard from other "Loopers" that you stay put on the week ends, traveling only during the week days. Good advice. Just too much traffic. So we chose Brielle Yacht Club Marina, they had spaces available for us and "Sunshine". Weekend spaces are hard to find--lucky us!

The marina was just at the railroad bridge leading into the inlet to the Atlantic Ocean. When Louis made the turn to go into the marina, the current was so strong that he literally had to race into the marina, with a side-to current, in order to make the turn. Had I been on the fly bridge, instead of below with the lines, I would have been screaming, I'm sure! What a rush for Louis, and he did an outstanding job getting us in.

Our marina was having a weekend "family" fishing tournament--bluefish, rock fish, and fluke (our flounder). There were about 60 boats registered, with both children and adults fishing. There would be three top prizes in each category of fish caught. We were tied up right beside the weigh-in station, and we saw lots of action Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. The children weighing in their fish were precious to observe--so enthusiastic. I set up my chair right there on the dock and watched the action. Such fun!

This older man, fishing alone, came in to weigh his rock fish. It weighed just under the already #3 fish, and was still barely alive. When he found out his fish wouldn't even "show", he tried and tried to revive it--with no luck. He said he already had a freezer full and didn't want it--boy, was I in the right spot! I quickly spoke up, asked him if I could have it, and asked him if I could pay him for it. Thinking I was from Texas, ???, he said I could just have it with his compliments!
Color me happy!

We took the now-dead fish and Louis filleted it--all 24.7 pounds of it--giving half to "Sunshine". A beautiful fish--I don't think I've ever seen one that big--and we were thankful for it too. As we left early Sunday morning, we didn't get to see who won the tournament, but they expected a 40+lb bass to win. We had seen a 35lb rockfish already brought in, who was the leader when we left. A 5lb fluke (flounder) was tops when we left--caught by a 9 year old. The sponsor gives out $1000.00 gift certificates in the Brielle community as prizes.

We left Sunday morning and headed out into the ocean for our calm ride up to New York. There were fishing boats out the whole way up--a glorious day to be out on the ocean. We arrived in New York about 4 hours later, passing Coney Island, coming into New York Harbor and passing the Statue of Liberty. What a thrill it was for me to see it so close, and by water. I thought of those books I'd read of immigrants coming to America and their first thoughts and tears upon seeing "Lady Liberty". Ellis Island too--it was a thrill for us--we got lots of pictures.

We are anchored here in Newport Marina--right across from Manhattan. We are just across the harbor from The Empire State Building--and the lights of the city as seen across the water at night are truly spectacular--something I'd never seen on my other trips to New York. You just can't appreciate the skyline when you're in the city! What a view--makes all the traffic of huge private boats, cruise ships, ferries, barges, tankers, police & security, and us lowly 40ft pleasure boaters worth a lot of rocking and rolling!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Ramp, A Mechanic, and Fish Tales

We awoke Tuesday still in Cape May, NJ. It was a pretty day, and we were waiting for the mechanic from RANSOM CAT to come back at 1pm to finish fixing the starboard motor. We still had the rental car, so Louis went to Lowes and spent the rest of the morning building a ramp for "Buddy" to get on/off the boat. He did a really great job of making it, and now all three of us are using the new, white ramp. I'm sure it will come in handy on many occasions as we make our way through varied marinas.

We had met earlier in the morning an old friend of Louis' from his hunting days in Maryland--Jim Wallace. By wonderful coincidence, Jim's Bait and Tackle Shop is right across the street from this marina! So after breakfast, we walked over to Jim's shop, he was there, and the two guys had a good time catching up with each other after so many years. Jim asked Louis if he wanted to go fishing later on in the afternoon, but Louis declined citing the mechanic's finishing up his work as being paramount to us both. Louis needed to "supervise"--imagine that! So we were on the back of our boat @ 2:30pm as we watched Jim"s boat pull away from the dock.

The mechanic, who was supposed to come at 1pm, actually came a little after 3pm. A very nice guy, he had called to say he'd be later than expected--such is the life of boating. Louis and I were both so glad to see his truck drive into the marina, reminding us of our 3-day experience with this boat last October in McClellandsville, SC. UGH. We have been living now for 2 days with the big floor panels in the saloon taken up so they can get in the engine room to work, and I'm getting anxious to see this job over and done with. Our cabin is a wreck--our stuff is everywhere. The mechanic finally finished a little after 8pm, and now Louis feels good/confident about the motor. TYJ!

Just before dark--around 7:30pm, we see Jim's boat coming back to the marina--I yell to ask him if they've caught anything, and he motions--yes. I can't get off our boat fast enough! We hurry to his boat and watch as they unload 5 of the biggest, ugliest, bottom fish I've ever seen--Black Drum. He said they had caught about 15 or so, but only kept 5. I asked how far they went out to catch them and was told 6-8 miles. Considering they were only gone from the marina for at-most 5 hours, not a bad day's work! More boats kept coming in, and they all had these monster fish on board as well.

The fish cleaning station was out on this short dock, but on the inlet part of this marina. Hungry Sea Gulls were everywhere, and I'm thinking sharks must be nearby too--just too many carcases being thrown into the water. With loud thumps, we watched as they hauled these heavy fish (weighing between 45-75+ pounds each) up onto the table to begin cleaning them. Amazing! The scales are huge--the locals call them guitar picks--and the skin is like a coat of armor. With the scales still on, you have to carefully peel away the skin from the meat, it's just too hard to cut through. I've never touched an armadillo, but I suspect it must feel almost the same--just not as slimy.

Black Drum are spawning now and this will continue for about a month. (Are you reading this Bob?) The fishermen use light tackle and clams as bait, and if I were to catch one, the sheer upper body exertion it would take to land one would wipe me out for two days! I met this really great local guy as he was cleaning his fish--and as I clean most all of the fish we catch, I admired his handiwork--and told him so. After a lot of conversation about the local fishing (color me happy!), he wound up giving me a piece of his beautiful fillets which we will cook for dinner tonight--I promised him some bar-b-que if he ever came to North Carolina! What a treat for me to see all of this. I suspect that we will stay over another night here in this marina, and I'll get Louis to go with me tonight to the docks so he can see it--maybe we'll get some more fish to eat!

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Calm Weather Day on the Delaware Bay

Sunday, June 1st, we untied our lines from the charming little town of Chesapeake City, and left for a long, possibly rough transit of the Delaware Bay. We were going to be cruising with the tide and could pick up a few knots in speed in the canal and the weather was clear. We had heard horror stories that the Delaware Bay could be a bad body of water--so I had put all our galley "things" down on the floor, turned our small dining table over as well. The wind was out of the west, and we were prepared.

We get out of the C & D Canal, into the mouth of the Delaware Bay, and see no wind at all!! What??! We called the boat about 2 miles behind us to tell them the great news--life was good, we were happy. Little did we know what would await us once we got out in the middle of the Bay--flies, flies, love bugs, lady bugs, and more flies. We were eaten up with them, and never in all the boating/hunting adventures we have done, have we ever experienced anything like that. Good, strong "Deet" didn't faze them a bit! We even had to start the generator, turn on the AC in the cabin, and put Buddy inside. Later, we were told that there used to be many horse farms on one side of the Bay, but they had to move them to the other side of the Bay, because of all the flies--no joke! We would have gladly taken some wind not to have experienced those awful 3 hours.

Anyway, we arrive here safely mid-afternoon in Cape May, NJ. Three states in one day--don't think we'll get the opportunity to do that again on this trip. We, and the boat, arrive nasty--covered in dead, flyswatted, flies--Louis even commented, "Get out the rake, let's clean this carnage up!" And I must add that when we did clean the fly bridge off, it was the first time in my life that I've ever washed flyswatters! Yuck.

Once we did get the boat and us cleaned up, we met other Loopers and went to dinner at The Lobster House--a huge, famous place that is open every day of the year--even Christmas. Louis and I each had all the lobster we could eat, and we even brought some leftovers back to the boat for a nice appetizer sometime later. As we may be here for a few days because Louis needs to have the starboard engine repaired (minor, we hope!), I suspect we'll go back to that wonderful restaurant again--it's right next door to our marina!

We like this marina--Utsch's Marina. A nice surprise too, we even received upon check-in our first "goodie" bag--filled with a bottle of red wine, several biscotties, a bar of speciality soap, lots of local information, and a floating key ring. Nice touch! It's huge--and all around us are large fishing boats, campers, and friendly people--surprising for New Jersey! We had heard that the "worst" part (if there ever could be) of this amazing journey we're on would be New Jersey--not so, so far, from our standpoint.

It looks like now we will be here through at least Wednesday, as Louis has just heard that's when a recommended mechanic can come to assess what needs to be done. So, I'll have time to do our wash, catch up on my e-mails, and get supplies, and read. Along with the Lovettes, we're going to rent a car today to do some errands--West Marine, Wal-Mart, Lowes, groceries, and liquor store! More from Cape May later!