Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Wonderful People of Penatanguishine

First of all, many thanks to those of you who have reached out to us during this sad part of our trip--the e-mails, the calls, the hugs and tears have all been so much appreciated. We even received flowers (imagine!)--thanks again Robin and Mike. Bay Moorings Marina is a very special, caring group of dedicated people--I know it would be fun to work here! As I said in a note to someone, our hearts will be forever linked to this place--and it's because of the wonderful people we've met and been with who all helped us with this difficult time.

Today is Wednesday, July 30th--we had planned to leave early this morning but because of a big thunder storm that lasted until 10 am, we decided to stay here and get some cleaning done on the boat--good decision! I've rearranged storage spaces, having made extra space yesterday by cleaning out Buddy's extra stuff. We wound up giving all his extra food to the animal shelter--his toys, leashes and other things have been given away too. I told Louis that Buddy was my last dog a long time ago--and this time I mean it. We lead too much the lives of gypsies to have another pet. PLEASE remind me of this if I ever again get tempted! Or tipsy!

We've had a relative quite time here (Saturday and Sunday being real "downers")--not doing much except grocery, LCBO, cleaning, and visiting with friends. However, I did spend almost 3 hours yesterday having my hair cut, a manicure and pedicure--color Diane happy! It's been 3 months since I've done anything like that, and I didn't feel guilty at all!! We've had two pot luck dinners with other Loopers, had an almost full day Monday of seminars on the Georgian Bay and North Channel--hosted by Kathi and Harold Rogers and aided by this marina, Bay Moorings. We've gained valuable information about this beautiful area, and hope to spend almost three weeks here exploring. This is where we'll really use our dinghy and anchor out a lot at night--and hopefully empty that freezer that Louis put on the flybridge right before we left Morehead City!

Four Looper boats left out of here Sunday, five today, and four of us will leave tomorrow morning early. We're all going in the same direction, so we'll cross paths a lot with all these boats as we all make our way to the upper tip of Michigan, where we clear customs. We'll start traveling tomorrow with "Phantom of the Aqua", "Wanderin L & M", and "C-Life"--and hope that "Prime Time" can catch up with us this week-end. Poor things, they're still having prop problems. We're headed for Henry's Fish Camp--about 30 miles away. We will be in really sparsely populated areas, so I doubt I'll be able to blog--but I'll keep good daily notes, and catch up ASAP. So far, we're still able to get our cell phone to work, but doubt that it even will make the whole next 300+ miles.

This area is absolutely beautiful--cool days, not cold nights, clear and clean water. Neither Louis nor I have been in the water yet, but we expect to on this next leg. Up some of these rivers are supposed to be unbelievable waterfalls and "pools". I can't believe that Friday is August and we haven't had on bathing suits yet--crazy!! But the boat generally stays clean in this fresh water! It's also hard to believe we've been on the boat now 3 months. I hesitate to put this here because I know I'm going forget several (I'm sorry!), but Happy August Birthdays to Jay, Bean, Carol, Cap, and Tommy E.!

The Canadians are to be admired for their clean and "green" towns (practically no litter). Everyone here recycles, and they bring their own bags to the grocery stores--in fact, some groceries don't even have plastic bags to take your purchases home! Others charge 5 cents per plastic bag! Beer can only be purchased at The Beer Store and that store pays upon returning: 10 cents for beer bottles and 20 cents for wine and liquor bottles--what an incentive to recycle!! It's most impressive, and it's everywhere up here where we've been so far. I do so wish we would do that in the USA. Think of all we could keep out of our limited landfills.

We're having four couples over to the boat this evening for cocktails and eats--and an early evening--we're all excited about tomorrow as our Georgian Bay and North Channel adventure begins! Say a prayer for Louis that he'll keep "Bella Luna" off the rocks! We'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Buddy Wade

Today is Monday, July 28th. We are in Penetanguishene at the wonderful Bay Moorings Marina, having arrived here Saturday mid-day. Since this is the latest posting (having not had Internet service for a week), you may not have read the one I posted last night. Please stop now and read that one--it will catch up with this one.

My last words on that posting were that all was not well. We have been very worried for over a week now, but have been totally inaccessible to veterinary care. I have never written an obituary before now, and I will try to do justice here to our faithful friend, Buddy Wade. Yesterday, Sunday, I couldn't have done this--but I've had time to think this through.

About a week ago, Buddy became very lethargic--he seemed to have no energy at all. He was still eating, still drinking, and still had his regular "routine" on the grass and bushes. But he would tire so quickly and just drop to the ground on some walkings off boat. We'd had so much rain for the last several weeks, I thought that maybe his arthritis might be acting up. I gave him 2 pills a day instead of one. Then I thought that maybe he had an infection somewhere, so I gave him some amoxicillian of mine. Nothing seemed to help, yet he never complained, never seemed to be in any pain. Just lethargic. We were so far removed from any kind of medical care.

I knew that once we got here we could seek a good vet. So at the last lock I got the most wonderful "lock mistress", Jenny Leduc, to call and find us a place to take Buddy. It being Saturday, I knew most places would be closed, but figured there would be a 24 hour care place. After 5 calls, Jenny found us one--45 minutes away by car. It also was 45 minutes away from the marina we were going to--so we decided to push on. After all, Buddy was woofing at dogs in the last lock, and seemed to be OK then--riding in his spot across the bow--enjoying the cool, sunny day.

We called ahead to this special marina and told them we had a sick dog and needed to get him to a vet ASAP. As we pulled into here, Amanda Reynolds, Harbour Master, and her staff had a golf cart waiting at the dock for us to take him to a waiting car--which would take us to a vet here locally. Sheila Driver, DVM, had waited to see us, hoping to make an initial diagnosis, and not have us drive another 45 minutes to the 24 hour hospital. Our fellow Loopers here got our boat situated, and off the three of us went to see what was wrong with our faithful friend. Mike McKeown, an employee of this marina, drove us and was with us all day.

The initial diagnosis was correct. Buddy had a tumor, probably on his spleen, and his belly was full of blood. We were sent on to the hospital 45 minutes away, and by this time Buddy was in really bad shape. Two x-rays were done, which showed a huge mass, and he was "white as a ghost"--funny isn't it, he being so black. He was immediately put on oxygen, and surgery was not possible at this time--he had lost just too much blood. Evidently, he had been ill a long time--we just didn't know it. He had only a 5% chance of surviving surgery at a later date, with only a tops of 4 months further life expectancy. Our decision, although tremendously difficult to say, was nonetheless very easy. Louis and I both were all to pieces. Our new friend, Mike and the most compassionate female doctor, Louis, and I all four agreed. He needed to be put down. So, with his head in my lap, I talked him into the Big Chute in the sky. I think he was grateful--his tail was wagging. It was very peaceful, and we said our good-byes with lots of hugs and kisses. He is now with his first-ever best friend, Chaney.

Buddy met so many wonderful people and animals in his 10 year life. Through him, I have done also. He afforded me the chance to get off boat at every occasion, enjoy the beautiful parks and greenways, locks and cities. I saw things Louis never got to see--thank you, dear friend, for that chance. Plus, all the boats we have been traveling with adopted him--he truly was a Super Dooper Looper Dog! There's no telling how many photos he's in all over Canada--at every lock, children especially would want to pet him--and adults were amazed we were traveling with a dog, "That Big!"

He was a lucky dog too--he traveled so much, would jump in the car and boat so quickly, and never wanted to be left behind. He never complained and would do anything we said. He loved especially the lake, the beach, Hyde County, duck hunting, crab pots, swimming, his blanket, and our grandchildren. But I really think he loved me the most--I was the one who fussed over him for 10 sweet years. He was my very special friend. Of the four dogs we've had in our married life, Luke, Ritz, French Fry, and Buddy, he was definitely the best, most loving, and obedient dog. When I would talk to him, he would turn his head and knew exactly what I was saying--all the time.

Buddy will be cremated with his bed and blanket, and left in Canada--he had told us over and over how much he enjoyed being here--it was his coolest summer ever! Although there is this huge void in our lives right now and will be for a long time, we think it's perfect that he remain here too. Goodbye sweet precious friend, we will miss you so. You were the best!

Buddy Wade is survived by his loving family and a huge family of friends--old and new. He is also survived by his own very special friends: Abby, Chester, and Annie. And we need to add to his special friends list: Lexi, Gracie, and Rocky Alford, who will miss him too.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Peterborough to The Georgian Bay (finally!)

Monday, July 21st, we left Peterborough at 8am with 2 ice cream cones delivered to the bow of our boat (courtesy of "Sunshine")--thanks guys! I must admit that having ice cream before morning coffee isn't all that bad--these Canadians & Louis really do love it, anytime of the day! We left hoping to get an early spot on the blue line in preparation for locking through that day--we did--leaving with "Phantom of the Aqua", "Prime Time", "Mojo", and "Victory". There were 8 boats all trying to get to the first locking--the locks couldn't take but 3 of us at one time, so we got all spread out. It was a rainy morning, but by the time we got to lock #27, the sun was shining--happiness and relief. We had a full day of traveling, but by mid afternoon we settled in for the rest of the day and night on the wall at Young's Point. Louis got out our grill, we all got together for a pot luck dinner at the picnic table right beside the boats, and we enjoyed the wonderful little store/shop right beside us on the wall. All of us girls bought something we just couldn't live without!

Tuesday, July 22nd, was a beautiful morning. We wanted to travel @ 35 miles that day, and hoped to get to Bobcaygen for the evening. During the day, we crossed Clear Lake, seeing some of the more exquisite homes to date--huge, sprawling lake front homes--all sitting on enormous rocks. At one point, we passed through a narrow cut of water, "Hell's Gate", and really had to be careful of the rocks--we've had enough of that already to last us through this trip. But it really was a calm ride and a pretty sight. We arrived in Bobcaygen in time to check out their famous shoe store--finding none that we couldn't live without. We tried to get another pair of Crocks for Louis--he's worn the soles almost totally off his everyday pair--they're mighty slippery for him now--but the shop didn't have his size--so we'll keep looking. Speaking of Crocks, I don't know what any of us would do without them--that's all we wear now--and both Louis and I now have cute "Crock tans"! Our boats were tied up on the wall in Bobcaygen with this full Osprey nest up high right off the bow of our boat--it was fun watching the adult birds with their chicks--they make a lot of noise until dark. We wound up having dinner with Bonnie and Bruce at Waterside Restaurant Tuesday night.

Wednesday, July 23rd, we left Bobcaygen locking through to Fennolin Falls. We all tied up after locking through, to go in and explore that cute town. The Captains decided the Admirals needed a mid-day break from all the locking we had been doing of late, so we walked through the cute town and all of us had a delicious hot hamburger/lunch at The Lake House--what a treat for us all after the usual cold sandwich/leftovers we usually have at lunchtime. We left there and headed for the second and last "pan lift" which was at Kirkfield. Louis drove the boat into this huge "infinity esque" pool--stopping only inches from the end--very scary. We looked out over the bow of the boat and looked down about 65 feet to the bottom of the canal we would be going to--what a sight!! It was like being at the top of a roller coaster--you couldn't see what was under you--and our descent took only 2 minutes--what a ride! We would now be going down in all our locks to get to The Georgian Bay. We spent the night at a small marina--Sunset Cove (not very good) and had dinner on the boat.

Thursday, July 24th, was a beautiful morning--clear, cool and crisp. We crossed Lake Simcoe with no problems--we had heard it could be very rough--we were lucky. This was our first big body of water in quite a while--and Louis ran "Bella Luna" hard for about 20 minutes with no problems. Our spare props are working great! Not many boats carry spares--boy are we glad we did! We locked down all day arriving in Orillia in early afternoon just in time to get to the A & P right across the street and stock up. We had drinks on "Paradigm"--thanks Emily and Jeff! We all had dinner on our boats. We were sad to hear about Barbara Hall being in the hospital--we wish for her a speedy recovery.

Friday, July 25th, we had another beautiful morning to travel. We're still with "Sandpiper" and "Phantom"--all trying to get through these last set of locks and get out into The Georgian Bay. We got to Severn Falls Marina by 1:30pm, and decided to quit for the day--our next lock tomorrow would be a biggie. This small little marina had a restaurant, LCBO (their ABC), a grocery, and an ice cream parlor--and lots and lots of small boat traffic. Our three boats took up the entire side of the only long dock of the marina--and boats were being launched and put back on trailers well after dark. Seems there are a lot of "cottagers" in this part of the Trent, and the only way they have to get to their homes is by water. Anyway, it was a not-so-good stop for us being as busy a spot as it turned out to be--and our boat was right at the launch ramp--ugh. But we did have a good dinner in their restaurant--me having pickerel (fish) for the first time--delicious!

Saturday, July 26th, was a cloudy, misting, and very cool morning--there had been a storm overnight. But for the first time we actually smelled two separate wood fires burning--a perfect morning for this--but hard for us to imagine--it's late July! We were on the blue line waiting to lock through "The Big Chute" when it opened at 8:30am. This has to be the most interesting one we'll ever go through. Louis--very slowly--drove "Bella Luna" up onto a submerged railway platform, where then a sling was put around the back part of the boat--the bow was resting on the platform and the propellers were hanging off the back. He turned off the engines, the platform rose out of the water, the railway car rolled us up on tracks, lifted us up over the road, and took us down a very steep hill, to a different body of water on the other side. The platform then sunk back down into the water, our boat was floating again, the straps were lowered, Louis turned the engines back on, and we exited the lock. The whole event took about 15 minutes to complete and what fun it was--Buddy riding high in his spot on the bow of the boat. Our friends took pictures of us (and we took theirs) and we can't wait to see them. The Big Chute is really something special. We had one more lock--the smallest and narrowest of any on the Trent--and we would be through with locking and in the Georgian Bay by mid morning. After having gone through the canals of the Chambly, the Rideau, and now the Trent-Severn, we are ready to put our locking gear away for a while--we've done now well over a hundred of them! We're old hats at this. Locking is not hard, it just takes our full concentration--so as not to mess up--either our boat or someone else's. Finally, we have reached the beautiful, wide, clear waters of the Georgian Bay. The sun is shining and it's a beautiful day. It's just past noon, but all is not well.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kingston to Peterborough

Before we left Kingston, on Monday afternoon, "Sandpiper" had to be pulled out of the water and have their props removed and replaced with spares--what an ordeal! Their boat had hit something hidden under the water, and repairs were necessary. We felt so sorry for them--such a time consuming and unpleasant thing to happen--so we had them over for drinks and dinner. We so enjoy Robert and Ann and it was great having them all to ourselves!

We left Tuesday morning headed for Trenton. With "Bella Luna" in the lead, "Prime Time", "Sandpiper", and "Phantom of the Opera" following closely behind, we had an easy, but long, and uneventful transit in the Bay of Quinte of Lake Ontario. It took 7 & 1/2 hours to go 56 miles. But we arrived safely in the little town of Trenton--"The Gateway of the Trent Severn" in time to fuel up, pump out, and go into town to explore. Louis quickly found a great marine store and bought another book about the Trent Severn--a necessary one we thought we had, but didn't. We also found a Kentucky Fried Chicken store, and bought a box for the next few days' travels. We returned for a cocktail party aboard "Sandpiper", and went to dinner at the newest restaurant in town--which just happened to be right across the street from the marina--how convenient!! After an interesting event aboard the small sailboat docked just three feet across the finger pier from us--a "spat" between two relatives involving one being literally thrown off the sailboat along with all his "stuff"--we all thankfully settled down for the evening. The "event" reminded me and all of us of a gopher trying to create a new hole!

Wednesday morning, we went under the archway designating the Trent Severn Waterway and all four boats headed for Campbellford--beginning the canal route (240 miles) and a series of 42 locks. We expect this part to take seven days to complete because for most of our route the speed limit will only allow us to go 6 MPH--it's shallow, winding, and rocky.

After a series of locks (I'm not counting anymore!), we arrived safely in the cute little town of Campbellford--tying up against the town wall in early afternoon. There was an outdoor concert in the small white gazebo just across the canal from us that evening, and with six "Looper" boats all tied up in a row, I'm sure it was a pretty picture from the other side of the canal! "Mojo" and "Victory" had joined our merry group! Buddy has been very happy and fortunate these past few days in that grass and bushes have been so close by!

Thursday morning, Pat and Gary joined us for breakfast at this wonderful little place we had heard about the day before (can't remember the name!) and we all had Canadian bacon like we've never had before--simply delicious! Can't match for breakfast what Brenda at White Swan makes--but it'll do up here! After a hearty meal, we headed next door to Dooher's--a fantastic bakery to say the least! We also checked out the World Famous Chocolate Outlet--and color Louis happy--he was in heaven! It was now 9:30 am and time to leave for our next night's destination--Hastings.

"Mojo" had left early in the morning--so they were already gone when calamity struck "Bella Luna". We were the first to untie and leave the dock, and had just gone under the town's bridge when Louis missed a green marker on our port side and promptly put our boat securely up on a rock. The townsfolk call it "Florida Rock" because so many boaters hit it and the one man in town who helps fix their boats makes enough $$$$ to go to Florida yearly! We were sick to say the least, but fortunately we were going so slowly that we hoped major damage wasn't done. We were, however, out of the channel, so our other boats couldn't come and pull us off the rock. But a series of events soon unfolded--we immediately emptied our water tank, "Pete", his son and granddaughter from just across the canal swam over, three dinghies were launched to tie off our stern, the lock masters at both ends where we were raised the level in the river by one foot, and we were able to pull/push "Bella Luna" off the rock. We were towed just a short distance back to the wall where we had spent the night before, and there the real fun began. Boy, does it ever reinforce our belief that it's better to travel with others than travel alone. What would we ever have done without the help and support of our other Looper friends! And as luck would have it, we had two certified divers with air tanks in our group who went below to tell us that the only damage to the boat was bent props. TYJ! We had two spare propellers aboard, and with a huge group effort, we were able to change out our two badly gnarled props without hauling the boat! It took about two hours to complete, and we will be eternally grateful to Bruce and Billy for their yeoman's efforts on our behalf. Also, our thanks go out to the four other boats who turned around and stayed behind to offer moral support. Ann of "Sandpiper" said to us, "You either HAVE run aground, you are WAITING to run aground, or you've NEVER left the dock!" How true--but we'd rather have hit a soft sandbar than hard rocks! Hopefully, our rock hunting now will be forever behind us.

Our mishap cost us about four hours total, yet we were all able to reach Hastings by 6:30pm. After such an emotionally and physically exhausting day, we were delighted to be welcomed into the small town of Hastings by a "eight-some" band of bag-pipers--complete with kilts and headgear! They played a good hour and a half as we all tied up, got settled in, took showers, and fixed good drinks! Louis took us ALL out to dinner--where we were finally able to laugh and joke about the day's events--the guys still wanting Louis to lead, but he decided he wants to be an Indian now, not a Chief! Needless to say, we both slept hard and soundly Thursday night--Buddy totally unaware of anything unusual that had happened earlier in the day! Lucky dog.

Friday, we head out for Peterborough--where we planned to rest out the weekend. Since we have started the Trent Severn, so far, we have been going up in locks. We will rise up a total of 840 feet above sea level before we begin our descent to 576 feet above sea level at Balsam Lake to take us to Port Severn--the end of this canal. At Peterborough is the huge "pan" lift--a 96 year old engineering marvel. We look forward to this on Monday.

OK, so now it's Sunday, and we've been in Peterborough since Friday--and have had a great, relaxing week-end. Our marina is right at the town's beautiful park and amphitheater where festivities started building Friday, for Saturday--all day long. All kinds of vendors brought their wares--food, jewelry, Red Cross, marine supplies, ASPCA, etc.--white and blue tents lined the perimeter of this huge park and people started streaming in--in the early afternoon to set up their chairs for the concert (a local and fantastic band) and fireworks that would be held in the evening. We all guessed there were close to 5,000 people who turned out on this beautiful day--what a treat for us to be right here among them--but guarded by a gate at the end of our dock! The marina had wisely put most of us Loopers on the same dock and so we commandeered the end of it, had "pot luck" dinner for about 20, had a surprise birthday celebration complete with cake and candles for Pat--Happy Birthday Pat!, listened to the great music all around us, saw Elvis sing (Pat got a birthday kiss and lei--turns out he's alive after all!), and just had a great afternoon and evening--complete with fireworks and our third, now, full bella luna!

Thanks to Robert Levine, Louis was able to find a capable, friendly "prop man" here in Peterborough to assess our two badly damaged ones. He came to the boat late Friday afternoon, picked up the opened sardine can looking ones we had, and will have them fixed by Monday. (Amazing--we both thought they were unfixable.) And after finding out from our friend, Ed Bailey, what new ones would cost us, needless to say, we were THRILLED to learn that they both were reparable. Also, since we've been here we've conveniently gone to two movies--color Diane happy--and have seen "Mama Mia" which I thought was simply wonderful (can't wait for it to come out on video for me to buy), and we saw the new "Batman" movie which Louis thought was, "Great"! We're now caught up on our popcorn. And we've been to a great sushi restaurant--so, time well spent in Peterborough!!

And two more happy thoughts--when we checked into this marina, we were surprised and delighted to find out that our dear friends aboard "Sunshine" had left for us two prepaid ice cream cones!! Thanks Muriel, Shelly, and Bud--you know us well! And secondly, we were happy to hear from Sam at Morehead City that the tropical storm which blew through this weekend didn't do any damage. Thanks for the call Sam--sorry we missed talking with you!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kingston, Ontario

As I write this, Monday July 14th, I still can't believe we have the "Bella Luna" all the way up here--what an amazing feat to think we started out in North Carolina and got all the way to this point! We have to pinch ourselves daily to believe it's true! It makes both Louis and I wish that North Carolina could/would combine all our rivers and lakes via locks (we have the dams) and connect our beautiful coast with our beautiful mountains--what a great trip that would be--sign us up!

We arrived in Kingston Friday mid-day. We had spent Thursday night at the bottom of Jones Falls near a historic hotel-- we combined our leftovers and had dinner on "Prime Time". Thanks guys! We went to bed on a beautiful evening listening to the roar of the nearby huge waterfall. We had decided that it was such a pretty evening (cool, no humidity, and the sky full of stars and a half bella luna) that we would sleep with the windows and hatches open. MISTAKE!! We woke early in the morning to find it was raining, and our comforter was soaked--what a mess! It continued to sprinkle throughout the morning, but by the time we got to Kingston, it had cleared and was a beautiful day again. TYJ.

We have OFFICIALLY "Done the Rideau"--and in a way we are kind of sad to be knowing that this part of our trip is over--and we'll never get this way again. Both of us feel the closer we got to Kingston, the prettier it got--wide open spaces, and the water appeared cleaner and clearer too. So we finished all those Rideau locks and settled into Kingston for a long weekend. Whew!

We stayed Friday and Saturday nights at the Kingston Marina, along with "Prime Time" and "Phantom of the Aqua". After getting tied up Friday, we rented a car and hit the high spots of Costco, West Marine, and Wal-Mart--what fun!! We got back to the boat just in time to have a small gathering on our boat--we're so glad to finally catch up with our friends on "Sandpiper". Three couple wound up going to this wonderful Irish pub for dinner--Toucan's & Kirkpatrick's--although by the time we got there, most of their daily specials were gone--poor Louis and Bob!

Saturday morning we grabbed a quick breakfast at Pan Chancho's (where they bake all night and open at 7am to crowds of people every day!) and walked a little further down to catch a trolley bus tour of the town of Kingston. This once capital city is known for their military (The Royal Military College--similar to our West Point), universities (2), and their penitentiaries (10). They also have more restaurants per capita than any other city in Canada! There are 173 parks and about 120,000 people. Our particular weekend was the annual festival of the Buskers--a street festival of sorts--featuring amateur jugglers, dancers, pogo jumpers, fiddlers, accordion players, drummers, face painters, hot dog stands, etc. We walked the streets (Louis got a haircut!!!!) and we enjoyed the youthful energy that these fun people brought to town (although both Louis and I hoped all those Buskers had good "day jobs"!). Saturday was also Bonnie's birthday--"Phantom of the Aqua". In the afternoon and after all of us wished and sang "birthday" for her--complete with flowers from husband, Bruce,--the three couples went to Chez Piggy for dinner--a very famous restaurant started by one of the original "Loving Spoonfull" members. It was pretty, delicious, and a great evening--Happy Birthday, Bonnie! Love that sangria!

Sunday, we had to move out of our marina--it being primarily for slip owners--and the three slips we had, the owners were coming back! It was a very convenient marina for downtown and close to all the action and such, but we had done all we needed to do, and so were not upset to leave. So we moved over to Collins Bay Marina where "Sandpiper" has been for the last few days, and we were glad to join them. After getting tied up here, we went to "Lucy's" famous Sunday Brunch--famous since 1947--complete with white table cloths and a fabulous piano player--he never took a break! The buffet was simply delicious--probably the best french toast we've ever had (sorry Catherine!) and we all stuffed ourselves. Boat people are always hungry--doesn't "the water" make it so? At our table, we all tried "Name That Tune"--won't say here who was the winner!

Monday, today, Louis has been diligently cleaning the boat outside and I've been inside cleaning and grocery shopping (fresh produce mainly) in preparation for our leaving here tomorrow. We plan to leave early Tuesday morning and go all the way to Trenton (@ 60 miles)--the beginning of the Trent Severn Waterway--and yes, more locks. It will probably take a week for us to navigate through these locks and we'll be staying mainly on "walls" at night, enjoying the small villages that we'll be going through. This will be the series of locks where on one occasion they will take "Bella Luna" completely out of the water, put her in straps, put her on a railway car, and lift her over a huge hill to water on the other side! It's called The Big Chute--and we can't wait for that! What pictures that'll be--wonder if they sell tee-shirts! What will Buddy think?!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ottawa to Portland--the Rideau Canal

We left Ottawa fairly early Sunday morning in preparation for a another full day of locking. We also needed to get to Dow's Marina to get fuel and water--diesel fuel being so scarce where we are. After almost an hour of fueling because of the small hoses they use, we put 186 gallons into "Bella Luna" at $6.05 a gallon--including taxes. Not as bad as we had expected here in Canada, but still stiff enough for the bank to call and make sure it really was us charging that much! Louis has been happy with how little fuel our generator burns--as we have had to use it now on many occasions when we do not have a power source at night. Thanks Ed and Steve at Coral Bay Marina for your insight on this!

The Rideau Canal is long, winding, mostly shallow, beautiful, and in some parts very narrow. It also has 45 locks from Ottawa to Kingston. The "season" for locking is May through October. In the winter time when the water freezes, a part of the Rideau--almost 6 miles between two locks--becomes the longest ice skating rink in the world! Fire trucks daily spread a new layer of water on top, zambonies groom along the ice 5 across, hot dogs, fried dough, and hot chocolate stands line each side of the walls and literally thousands of people ice skate the Rideau daily! The water level has been lowered early on to a depth of only 4 feet, and about 3 feet usually freezes--so if you happen to break through (which doesn't happen)--all you'll be is wet--and cold! The season for ice skating lasts from 4 to 10 weeks--depending on the amount of snow they get. Last year they had to close the canal after only 4 weeks because they had too much snow in the canal and had no way to remove it! Sadness!!! But wouldn't it be fun to see it this way too--a frozen, white, hard, glistening Rideau--I just can't imagine it any other way other than what we see right now--green and full of life. And in addition, Dow's Marina does a huge business in the cold months--renting ice skates and supplies and keeping their three restaurants hopping with "winter business". Good for them, they're nice people.

We go through 8 more locks finding ourselves at the bottom of lock #17, tired, dirty, ready to quit locking, and anxious for a few cocktails and bed. There are 6 boats tied up here where we are, all expecting to lock up sometime tomorrow--we have a great time meeting these mostly "locals". After a short time of socializing, we shower, have a small dinner on the boat, and call it a day--going to bed before 9pm--it's still light outside!! But it's quiet on our dock. What a day it has been for us all.

Monday, "Bella Luna" and "Prime Time" are the only ones waiting on the blue line when the first locking begins at 8:30am. We're ready for the day--and a long day it will be as we plan to go through/up 12 more locks and get to Smiths Falls for the afternoon and night. At every lock, all the Canadian Parks people are so friendly, helpful, and curious about our trip. And they love Buddy! At one lock today, as we were waiting for another 3 boats to come down, Buddy got off the boat for about a half hour--off leash--and did nothing but swim--color him a super happy Looper dog!!

We get to Smiths Falls, tie up at a beautiful park wall, and head into town for a wonderful dinner at an Irish pub--overlooking the 4 huge, raging waterfalls. What a beautiful setting--and what a welcome relief for us all to just kick back --we've now gone through 28 locks in 3 days! I'm now going to "officially" quit counting the locks daily--it makes me even more tired to remember them all--trusting just to say here that by the time we've completed this journey of ours, we will have gone through somewhere around 165 locks. We'll be old pros and full of muscle for sure by the time we get home!! Wow--what an experience.

I have noticed something that I think is really worth mentioning here now though--and I don't want to forget it. Every little town we've been to and through most recently up this way has lots of Irish pubs in them--several in each small town. And I've noticed so many, many women, men, and children with fair skin and bright red hair--all along the canal locks and in the towns. I hadn't connected the two thoughts until just yesterday---this area of Canada has lots of Irish people--it's so very delightful and unexpected!!

We're now in Portland, and it's Wednesday, July 9th. We've been here since yesterday--deciding this morning to rest here for one more day and night. This marina, Len's Cove, is one of the "best finds" we've been to yet. In addition to being so quaint, it has a semi-circle of 15 small dark brown cottages--which have been here for about 75 years, and which are rented weekly by the same families who have been coming here for years. They have now their third generation of families coming here to enjoy the serenity and beauty of this place--reminds me of our connection to camps Seagull and Seafarer on the coast of North Carolina--we're the third generation of campers there now too! Len's Cove has a full service marina too--that's always comforting for boaters. Also, at the small local grocery store just two blocks up here in Portland, the white canvas sign over the front door says, "Fireworks, Worms, & Ice"--I thought that was a scream and guess it says it all! We went into the store, bought ginger snaps and fresh corn, and were happy with what they had to offer--still no diet tonic though. But back at the marina here, they have the best "swap library" I've seen to date--two sides of this un-airconditioned long "lounge/library" room I'm sitting in now are lined with three shelves of books on each side--just wonderful--packed with hundreds of books, and so much variety--I'm thrilled! I've "swapped out" for several really good ones to take with me for the next few weeks. They also have two fabulous restaurants just a two minute walk away--we celebrated Gary's birthday last night at one (with two other tables!)--Happy Birthday Gary!!!--and Louis and I had a great lunch at "Fast Freddie's" today. Dinner will be simple and on the boat tonight. We hope to get on Skype and talk/eyeball with our children tonight--we haven't seen each other in weeks!! Can't wait to see Clay's black eye!

I've been blogging for over 4 hours now, and it's time to stop. I've done the last two postings today, and one last night--catching up on the last 9 days. But my time on the Internet is unpredictable--and I have to do it whenever it's possible/available. We really hate to leave this area--this is such a beautiful part of the Rideau--wide and full of small islands with houses on most of them--and lots of loons. But we need to keep moving so we can enjoy every place along the way as much as possible--especially the Georgian Bay and the North Channel. Everyone who has done this Loop before us says those are the prettiest parts of the whole trip--we'll see and keep you posted. For us, after the 4th of July the days always seem to fly, and with the days of summer going so quickly for us now and with what we want to see and accomplish, it'll be hard for us to stay on a schedule of reaching Chicago by Labor Day! How truly fast "time flies"--even our children tell us so. How much I wish I could just throw out an anchor and hold tight to our days right now.

We'll be in Kingston for a long weekend--locking through the rest of the Rideau tomorrow and Friday--I think we have something like 17 more locks to go. Did I just say/blog that I wasn't counting locks anymore?? Yep---CRS! More later...........

P.S. We woke up yesterday to find that Louis's cell phone "sound" doesn't work on his phone. He immediately called our precious friend, Kate (we love you!), at Verizon in Briarcreek, only to find out that it is a "sometimes common" problem on his type of cell phone--wish we had known that earlier! Anyway, my cell: 919-280-7064 is now the one we can receive calls on & is up and running after having been in the dresser drawer--turned off--here on the boat since entering Canada (not on the "Canada" Verizon plan--but now is--thank you Kate!). We hope that once we get to Kingston, we can get Louis's phone fixed--we'll see! He can still get his messages on his cell via my phone, but just can't talk on his. Stay tuned!

Montebello to Ottawa

We spent two nights in the marina at Montebello. We had a full day of touring the small little village on our bicycles, seeing the Papineau Mansion, and covering only a part of the vast acreage of the private resort area. It's hard to believe these days, but the entire parcel of land is somewhere around 65,000 acres! We would love to come back in the winter to see all that this place has to offer then--ice skating, curling, sleigh riding--and I would especially love to see that central, huge, six-sided with glass doors, stone fireplace just glowing with thick snow coming down outside. How romantic a setting!

We left Wednesday morning in the rain, but thankfully it didn't last too long, and we are protected from the elements up in the flybridge. We were in different waters--mostly unpopulated--and had left a lot of the narrow canals that we had been in for several days--we were now in calm, fairly wide bodies of water. Interestingly enough though, we did see that day 13 sea planes--just tied up at water's edge--in people's front yards. We have seen the float planes before up here, but not that many and not in one day.

Around four o'clock, we reached Hull's Marina--at the Parc de Jacques Cartier and near the base of the famous eight locks/steps on the Ottawa River. We cleaned up, put on our walking shoes, and took off across this long, beautiful, old, high bridge that would connect us with Ottawa--stopping along the way to take pictures of the beautiful old stone buildings with their ornate green-topped spirals that make this town so unique and picturesque. Below us was the raging Ottawa River, with its' sightseeing boats, sculling teams, waterfalls, and swirling currents. We've never walked over any bridge like that before--and we would do it twice!

We passed the American Embassy--a stark, modern, glassy, fenced-in and very heavily fortified building--so inappropriate in architecture for the area in my estimation--with all these breathtakingly beautiful old building just a block away. I would love to know why it has to be so fortified and foreboding--I thought we were not only "friends" but neighbors to Canada. Maybe one day someone will tell me why.

We headed towards Byward Market--a bustling, busy, and crowded place of outside vendors--selling everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers, any kind of food you want, clothes, and trinkets. What a fun place to be--what smells and sights--and just too many restaurants, bistros, and kiosks to choose from. We finally settled on this little bistro and had a great meal with "Prime Time". I got fish & chips, Louis got a pasta carbonara. Full as we were, we took a much slower and seemingly longer walk back across the long bridge to our boat. It was about 9:30pm and it was just getting dark--amazing! The lights reflecting off the old buildings at dark were another wow factor. I need to start a "wow" list---we've had far more than we expected this early on in our trip!

Friday morning, our friend Pat, from "Prime Time", and I took off for the grocery store--(our daughter, Catherine, said I needed to put this down here)--as we actually took the city bus to the grocery! What a sight, Pat and me, carrying our recyclable bags under our arms, and our rolling carts behind us--putting our $2.60 a ride in the change port. We had been told to get a "return" voucher as not to have to pay to get back home, so we did. We ask the bus driver politely to let us know when we get to the grocery store (we have no idea where we're going!), and in about 15 minutes--mute as he had been so far--he yells out, "Maxi's"!--points to us and waits for us to get off. About an hour later, we completed our shopping, filled our bags and carts up to the brim (you have to bag your own groceries in Canada!), and went back outside to wait for the bus--we waited where we had been left off. About 10 minutes later, #37 pulls up to the stop, and we begin to get on (making sure we were getting on the right bus)--only to be told we had to cross the street and catch the other #37 going back the way we came!! So across the street we hustle, seeing a bus coming--meantime I've lost my return voucher! Where can it be?? With a huge stroke of luck--the SAME bus driver opens the door, remembers both of us, and patiently waits for us to get all our stuff back in/up/over onto the bus. Whew! Needless to say, by the time Pat & I get back to the boats, we are worn completely out. What an experience--we've been laughing about it ever since. I fixed homemade spaghetti and had Gary & Pat over to "Bella Luna" for dinner.

Saturday morning early, we moved over to the "blue line" to wait for the 8:30am first locking. The "blue line" is actually right at the entrance to both sides of a lock (it is a wall with tie-ups) and the top of the wall is painted bright blue. The lockmaster can then see plainly which boats are desiring to lock through--and he/she can decide which way to go first--either boats like us going up, or boats on the other side of the lock going down. There were 5 of us going up that morning, and only 2 going down--so, thankfully we got to go up first--and it's on a first come, first served basis too--the boats tied up first go first. This was a huge and time consuming experience for us as we (5 boats) locked through/up eight consecutive locks--lasting 3 hours and 15 minutes. We felt so sorry for the poor boats that had been on the blue line "up top" since earlier that morning (like us on the "down" blue line) and had to wait almost 4 hours to lock down--that could have been us--only thing that saved us was that there were more boats wanting to go up than down! TYJ.

OK, now we are officially in downtown Ottawa--and it's Saturday mid-day, and we find a space against the famous spot/wall that everyone jockeys for--and we grab it. "Prime Time" finds a bigger spot too--life is good. We have 2 other Looper boats already there also, who graciously help us tie off and get settled in. We're exhausted and sore from all the locking--but Pat, Gary, and I head back to the Byward Market--which is conveniently now only 2 blocks away--for a few more provisioning for the boats. We're invited for cocktails at 5pm on "Double SS" joining "Mojo" (are you reading this Frank and Mimi?!) and "Prime Time". Louis brings along our now-famous "jar" and we all had a delightful and delicious (love those cheese curds!) several hours sharing stories, favorite places, and good information. Thanks "Double SS"!

Also, we are now "officially" in the Rideau Canal--having just gone up locks 1 through 8--a system of 45 locks that will take us from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario. Hopefully, we'll meet up with other Loopers who took the Erie Canal--a 330 mile shorter route than the one we took. Most all of us will then take the Trent-Severn canal to the Georgian Bay. We miss "Sunshine", "Southern Comfort", "Wanderin L & M", and others--slow down you guys and let us catch up with you! We also want "Maya Lisa" and "Salante" to catch up with us--maybe they will as we plan to spend several days in Kingston.

Ottawa is our favorite "big" town to date. It's just so pretty from the water--and so,so green. Unlike other large cities we've seen, Ottawa has miles and miles of greenways, parks, and paths--they're everywhere--and the varied trees and flower beds are spectacular too. You don't feel cramped by large buildings and lots of concrete--their city planners really did get it right here. We also saw for the first time lots and lots of black squirrels!! Completely black with long, bushy tails--at first I didn't believe what I was seeing--I thought it was a small cat. And as I'm sitting here now writing this (4 days later) we've seen no other variety of squirrel--just black. They're everywhere!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Montreal to Montebello

We left our wonderful spot in Montreal against a tough 7 knot current, went through two Saint Lawrence seaway locks on a beautiful day, and luckily found ourselves tied up in the quaint little town of Saint Anne De Bellevue, by late afternoon--against a very popular wall. There are actually two walls, divided by the canal, with the town being on one side--full of restaurants and shops. A cruiser's dream! We fixed a drink, sat on the back of the boat, and watched all the boats parading up and down the canal--reminiscent of "Ego Alley" in Annapolis. Lots of Fountain and Donzie boats (color Louis happy!)--everyone picnicking, sunning, and enjoying a glorious day on and around the water! With our boat tied up there, and so loaded down as it is, everyone is continuously so curious about how we got to Canada. We truly seem to answer the same questions almost daily: North Carolina, Bella Luna, this May 14th, 7000+ miles, 1 year, Yes--we miss them terribly!, May 2009, Buddy! It's getting rather comical and almost predictable.

We were so glad to hear the joyous news of the arrivals of Samuel Bolton Huckabee and Henry Dewitt Brewer. Congratulations to both sets of parents, siblings, and grandparents--and thanks so much for the precious pictures sent to us too! It's hard to believe, but they both will probably be walking by the time we get home. Welcome wee ones, we can't wait to meet you both!

Tuesday, July 1st, we left our "wall" early in the morning, going through another two locks-- the Carillon lock was a 65-yipes! foot lift--and had a long day's ride on the Ottawa River to Montebello. (July 1st is for Canada's what July 4th is for us.) Everyone who had a boat was out on the water--and a beautiful day it was. We were constantly passed by folks who were trying to get to Ottawa for the festivities and fireworks--a huge 400th year celebration for them. I had to laugh several times at the women riding in the boats with their hair tied up in scarves--a la' 50's style--what a hoot--haven't seen that in many, many years! We weren't in a hurry, we were just happy to be going to the world's largest "log cabin"that day--Montebello! Cabin is not the right word here at all--Le Chateau Montebello is more descriptive. It was built in 1930, just at the onset of The Great Depression. It took thousands of workers, laboring night and day to complete the unbelievable six-pointed, three story, log structure--in a record time of just 3 months. It was constructed of 10,000 red cedar logs, transported directly to Montebello by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was built for the Seigniory Club as a private hunting and fishing retreat (200 guest rooms!), with most of the members being connected with the railway. In 1970 it was taken over by the Canadian Pacific Hotels Corporations, and today is run by the Fairmont Hotel chain. It offers everything all year round--indoor & outdoor pools and tennis courts, horseback riding, golf, spa, all kinds of winter sports, even an Orvis car-driving school! The tartan-plaid carpeted lobby is immense too--the biggest one I've ever seen--and in the middle is this huge stone fireplace which rises up three floors right in the middle of it all--"tee pee" style. No wonder it has hosted dignitaries, presidents, and conferences from all over the world for more than 60 years. We had a fabulous outdoor dinner on the terrace of Montebello with "Prime Time"--what an extraordinary evening. An outdoor bar-b-que of quail, ribs, lamb, chicken, steak, scallops stir-fry, shrimp stir-fry, cheeses, salads, pastas, home made ice cream, desserts, etc. Yes, we were stuffed--very much like The Greenbrier in West Virginia. Wow--we're sure Montebello is the most beautiful "log castle" we'll ever see!