Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Portsmouth NH to Algonac Mi Update 9

Monday, 26 Sept 2011
Up before dawn to do pre-start checks, top up the water tanks and dispose of the garbage  before we get underway.
0700: Underway for Conneaut Harbor. Winds and seas calm.
Andre gives "Top Cop" a briefing on the nav systems before cutting him loose on watches.

1220: Andre (on watch) knocks on my stateroom door  and tells me we have a vessel approaching at high speed and closing on our position. I get on deck just time to greet a Department of Homeland Security fast response boat intercepting to see who we are. I motion them along side and have a brief conversation about where we started, where we are going and who was onboard. Note: If you carry foreign owners or guests, make sure they have a Local Boater's Option number and at the very least, a NEXUS card. Once the DHS agent in charge heard my Canadians onboard had NEXUS, they  declined my invitation to come aboard and wished us a pleasant voyage... and sped off on quad-400 h.p. outboards at 60 mph.
1400: Big squall line forming to the south. Alter course for Ashtubula, by-passing Conneaut Harbor.
1820: Enter breakwater at Ashtubula in worsening weather from the southwest. Nice to be close to the end of day. This boat rides best in a beam sea... which wasn't today.
Ashtubula Lighthouse
Ashtubula is a coal port with three branches of waterway. The west branch takes you to a couple of marinas/boatyards and a yacht club. However, you must negotiate a 7 foot bascule bridge which only opens on the hour and half hour. VHF is not monitored, so one long - one short on the ship's horn is used. If you have to wait 25 minutes, there is a city tie-up to starboard, just before the Coast Guard station's small boats. No overnight dockage allowed.
1910: Secured at Sutherland Marine. Phone US Customs to check in... again, NEXUS cards for the Canadians and an LBO number for me, makes this a breeze.

Tuesday, 27 Sept 2011
0520: With pre-start completed the night before, we get underway to catch the 0530 bridge. It takes a couple honks to awaken the bridgetender.  We exit Ashtubula and set our course for Sandusky with waves left over from last night making for a rude wake-up call.
1200: After passing Cleveland, 16 miles off our port beam,  we decide to put a little money in the
bank and change course for Put-in-Bay in the South Bass Island.
On a side note: With Andre having a busted right wing and being right handed, every morning he gets a new 'battle scar" when he shaves. It's even worse when he tries it underway!

1750: We get to Put-in-Bay and it's strange to see the entire town dark. When I was here two months ago, it was a flurry of boating activity. We grab a mooring ball and bed down for the night after big garlic burgers and fresh baked apple pie ala mode.

Wednesday, 28 Sept 2011
0500: We slip the mooring early with anticipation that this will be our last day underway.
1030: We pass under the Ambassador Bridge, between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Andre tells me that the bridge, the only link for commerical trucks between the US and Canada in this area, is in fact a privately owned toll bridge. The US government is planning to build another bridge but the owners are fighting it fiercely in the courts.

The Ambassador Bridge with Detroit in the background.

1635: Secured at Sassy Marine in Algonac, Mi.
"Two and a Half Men"
(L) "Top Cop" Kevin - (C) Andre (R) John

This was a challenging and at times frustrating journey for all onboard. However, there was much fun and fond memories that were made in the past month. Some of the things I will remember:

Being so bored, that I tied some of the knots taught to the crew in "Twizlers"

The beautiful Chambly canal locks

Squeezing under the 17' bridge above Lock 3 onthe Champlain Canal.

After threatening Luc for 2 weeks with future loss of dingy privileges if he doesn't make his bunk every day, he thinks he's got us snowed. In fact, he sleeps above the bed already made. D'oh!!

Mom's had it with the WiFi reception... or lack there of.


It is with melancholy heart that I bid the Family Dubois a fond adeiu and wish them fair winds (at least on the beam) and calm anchorages. Adventure is just over the horizon. Sail on - sail on!     Job well done, guys.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Portsmouth NH - Detroit Mi Update 8

Saturday, 24 Sept 2011
0515: Underway in low overcast and fog for the Welland Canal. The plan is to run straight thru arrivig at 0300 the following morning so we can get an early start on locking thru the Welland.

0900: Lisa on watch. We are doing a two hour on and four hour off rotation to cut down on any fatigue issues. And with Andre injured and in pain, I don't want him to have to stand too long a watch.

1200: The winds have increased and we now have a short four foot lake wave condition on the vessel's bow creating an uncomfortable "hobby horse' ride. I have two of the crew losing it over the side. From our current position, the next nearest safe anchorage is three and a half hours away.  The owner and crew agree, in unison, to abandon the direct course to Welland and to lay-up at Presqu'ile Bay for six hours when the winds and seas are scheduled to abate.

1300: Pass inside of Nicholson Island, a narrow east/west laying island which affords little to no protection in the stiff westlerlies we are encoutering. But we can see Presqu'ile about twelve miles ahead, so the crew are now in a little better frame of mind. But the fish continue to be fed.

1725: Anchored down behind Presqu'ile Point. I elected not to go further into the the rather large protected bay as the location where I set the hook affords me an easy exit in the dark. The crew are now all feeling much better and ready for dinner; after which  we all bed down for a few hours of sleep.

Sunday. 25 Sept 2011
0000: We weigh anchor and get underway once again for the Welland Canal. Of intersting note: the deviation only added and additional 12 miles to my intended course. The lake is like a billiard table. What difference a few hours make.

1020: We arrive at the entrance to the Welland Canal and notice that there are two yachts leaving the small boat check-in dock and headed to the open and waiting Lock 1. We hustle ourselves to the check-in dock to make the obligatory phone call to Welland Control and  we are informed that we will be locking with the other two vessels. Finally a stroke of luck!

 Luc Working the Lines
 Pierre Pitches In
 Luc Teaches His Dad a Thing or Two About Line-Handling
 Our Only Delay
 "If Not for the Courage of the Fearless Crew..."
YEAH!! One More Lock to Go!!

1630: Completed the eight locks in the series in six hours besting my previous record of six and a half hours just 2 months ago. Interesting note: Because of traffic delays with commercial vessels, my longest transit of Welland Canal was 20 hours.

You will notice a change in the header... I was scheduled to depart the vessel in Buffalo with the owner and his crew well trained. However, because the trip "went long"due to the Champlain Canal alternate route, Lisa and kids had to depart tonight from Port Colbourne at the Welland Canal. Welcome aboard Andre's brother- in-law, Kevin, a retired Ontario police officer. I have been conscripted to take the boat all the way to it's final destination on Lake St. Claire. So, it's to bed with an early departure tomorrow.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Portsmouth NH - Buffalo NY 7

Monday, 19 Sept 2011
With the St. Ours Lock not starting operations until 0830, we enjoy an extra hour's sleep. Kind of an extra hour's, Ours sleep. Nik Nik Nik!

0830: We lock thru and begin the final 45 miles of the Chambly enroute to the town of Sorel at the junction of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
1130: We arrive at  the Parque Nautique Federal. this marina has a "gin-pole' used by sailboats to demast their vessels prior to heading south on the Chambly/Champlain waterway. It is our intention to re-install our radar arch and hard top here. Look of a red/white horizontal stripped pole just west of the marina office. The pole, on the bulkhead, actually has a name; "Girafe."
The dock attendent says the the largest sailboat they have had along side is in the 35 foot range; because of the distance between the fuel dock and the boat ramp.  But, because I am a surgeon with a bow thruster, it was fun bending Sea Hunt in half to lay her along the bulkhead.
1200: Now we prep the hard top and arch for the left. We are in perfect position to lift the arch, however, because the Girafe has no adjustable boom, it will require a bit on ingenuity. The arch was the easy part; just rig up a couple of lines and lift.
Note: Vessel port side to bulkhead
"Okay, let's spin the boat."
We have no straps to lift the hard top, so it is time to put to action those knots I have been teaching the family for the last two weeks.
Note: Boat is stbd side to

Now, we sky the hard top, swing over to the the side and set it on the ground as we spin the boat around for a third time. Got to love the becket bend!
Apparently, Girafe hasn't been lubed in a while. It takes Andre and I to swing the hard top.
On the Deck
List the hard top into placend then mount the feet and set the lag screws for the top/arch joining.

1530: We complete the installation of the hard top and prepare to move over to the Parque Nautique Marina to the east as the marina with the Girafe doesn't have 50 amp service. Lisa decides to board the vessel from the fuel dock, so I manuever the vessel so she can step on the swim platform... you guessed it... slipped stepping off the dock and into the water behind the boat. Pierre, the 7 year old yelled "MAN... I mean WOMAN OVERBOARD," as he popped his head in the starboard side pilothouse door. Andre, Luc and Pierre hustle to the back of the boat and fish Lisa from turbid murky waters... arghhhh!
1600: We are secured at Parque Nautique Marina and after a shower, Lisa... and crew are ready to grab a taxi to town for dinner. My first experience with "poutine," a dinner staple in Quebec which is french fries with fresh cheese curds and covered in brown gravy. Luc got me to order this and it's pretty good actually. With bellies full aand clothes dry, we slip into our individual slumber for the night.

Tuesday, 20 Sept 2011
0700: Eng/Trans/Gen checks and all are okay. there is a run to the supermarket scheduled with the cab driver from the nght before.
1000: All are aboard... and dry as we get underway for St. Lambert Lock.
1425: We pass by Monteal as we turn towards the lock. Nice marina downtown, but...
1700: We arrive at St. Lambert Lock and tie up at the small craft dock behind the lock wall and check with lock control at the top of the ramp. We are informed that there will be a two hour wait for downbound traffic (we are upbound). So, we settle in and make the evening meal.
1900: WOW, like clock work, we enter the lock with the tug "Francis M" behind us. Fifteen minutes later and we are out the other side and headed to Cote Catherine Lock.
2020: Darkness has enveloped us as we enter Cote Catherine Lock. "Francis M" is still in our wake. This is a good night to give the owners some night navigation orientation.
2150: We pull over well outside of the shipping channel in eighteen feet of water and drop the anchor for the night.

Wednesday, 21 Sept 2011
0700: After pre-start checks, we weigh anchor and head to Beauhamois Lock; in fact,it is a two step lock close together called Upper Beauhamois and Lower Beauhamois.
1130: We arrive and are informed that here will be a three hour construction delay. "Just remain at the small boat dock and we'll hail you on the loudspeaker when we're ready for you."
1210: We get the word, and UP WE GO! We proceed to the upper lock and out the other side in fifty minutes.
1900: We negotiate Snell Lock, which is one of two locks on the American side of the border and which has floating bollards (the rest of the locks pass down lines).
1930: We approach Eisenhower Lock and see a ship locking downbound, so it will be a few minutes. I take this opportunity to have Andre practice backing down and pick up a mooring ball from the stern. He did a great job.
2005: We lock thru Eisenhower Lock after which we pull over into a nice little cove just upstream of the lock and dropped the hook. Another full day. Sleep will come easy.

Thursday, 22 Sept 2011
0645: After checks, we weigh anchor just before dawn. We have more lock to negotiate, Iroqouis, and then it is a scheduled stop in Alexandria Bay, NY for oil/filter changes and fuel stop. It just dawned on me that we haven't put a drop of fuel in Sea Hunt since we left Portsmouth NH.
0950: We arrive at Iroqouis Lock and informed that there are three ships scheduled before us and to just hang on the small boat dock until called.
1155: It's our turn and we grab lines from the lockmaster for the four inch lift.  A few miles after Iroquois, a meet one of my yacht acquaintances, Larry Castellani, headed the other way with his brand new customized Grand Banks Europa. Nice looking boat, Larry. can't wait to take alook at herin Florida.
In a couple of hours, we start seeing the 10,000 Islands. It reminds me of the San Juan Islands of Washington State, where I grew up. It's a boaters paradise!

1750: As day turns to dusk, we pull into Alexandria Bay, NY and secure for the night at Riveredge Resort.

Friday, 23 Sept 2011
0915: After breakfast, we reposition the yacht next door to Hutchinson Marina. HM is a working boat yard and Sea Ray dealer I had called yesterday to order up the oil filters for the Detroit Diesel 4-53N engines and Northern Lights generator. We needed a oil and five gallon pails for the old oil but it was discovered that the local taxi has closed up shop for the season. That's where my friend Mike Joyce, President of Hargrave Custom Yachts came to our assistance. Mike just happened to be in the area and offered to give Andre and I a ride to NAPA and Ace Hardware for oil/coolant etcetera to facilitate the engine and generator maintenance. I treated Andre and Mike with breakfast at a local dive called the Dancing Dog Saloon after which we thanked Mike for his generaosity and dived down into "the hole."
1100: Pretty straight forward... spin off the old oil filters... clean up the mess... lube the gasket and spin on the new one. Repeat this two more times (don't forget the generator) and then it's time to suck out all the old oil with the oil changing system plumbed into the engines and generator. After that is completed, top load the new oil (I like to let it run thru the journals to the sump), start the engine and look for leaks at the filter/flange, shut down the engine and final top up of oil to just below the full mark. Total time? Two and a half hours.
1345: Hutchinson Marina east doesn't sell diesel on this side, so we reposition the yacht to the other side of town to their west fuel dock. Aross the river is the magnificent Boldt Castle which I encourage you to Google.

"Wait for It..."

Now, this is a "full service" fuel dock where the attendant, Steve, actually does the filling. I wish sure wish they would take notice of this in Fort Lauderdale! We had another incident while we were filling. Andre was in a bit of a hurry to put some soap on a drop or two of fuel that made it into the water and apparently the hatch to the lazzarette was open and he went down... hard! Dislocated his shoulder. I asked Steve if he could get us a ride for Andre to the hospital (remember, taxi is out of season) and away goes Andre and Lisa and I think one of the kiddies. Anyway....

After Steve gets done washing the windows and check the tire pressures, we move off of his fuel dock to the "penalty box" and wait to outcome of Andre's injury. In the meantime, I'm working on the blog, Luc is putzing about in the tender and Pierre is watching Star Wars V.
1830: Our conquering hero arrives back from the hospital with a fractured something and his should back in place in a sling. We decide to get some needed sleep and leave at first light for a 23 hour run to the Welland Canal.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Portsmouth NH - Buffalo NY Update 6

Saturday, 17 Sept 2011
0700: Underway once again after a nice weather delay in Burlington, Vermont... or BrrrMont as the locals call their state. It's a beautiful morning; the lake is flat and the air is crisp with the first hint of fall coming. I'm liking this freshwater cruising!
1030: Seven year old Pierre is complaining that his throat is sore and can't swallow. So, it is determined to take Sea Hunt to the next marina. In this case, about seven miles behind us.
1130: Pulled into Moody Bay Marina.
The staff (Olivia and Brent) couldn't have been more helpful in getting us a dock close the the stage as well as calling a cab for us. Fortunately for Pierre, the hospital in Plattsburg NY is only 10 minutes away.
1630: Pierre and his parents return. Nothing major. Gave the kid some steroids and a lollypop and sent him on his way. Interesting note: The Canadian health care that Obama wants America to mimic... doesn't cover Canadians when they travel outside of the border. So, not only do you pay, through taxes, for the gubberment health care, you also have to carry your own private health care if you travel. The day has run long and it is decided to spend the night at Moody Bay Marina.

Sunday, 18 Sept 2011
0700:With renewed, renewed... did I say renewed enthusiasm, the hearty bunch once again set sail for the elusive Canadian border.
Radiation fog on the lake.
0845: We pass by the last US settlement before the border; a town called Rouses Point. Up ahead just before the border is Fort Montegomery, or Fort Blunder, as it is known to locals.
Many of the stories told of this first fort are true. It was built upon soil later determined to be in Canada (although this tale is much more complicated than it appears in many accounts), it was never armed, and it was abandoned after only two summers of construction. The locals did carry off much of its materials for use in their own homes, stores and places of worship. Fort “Blunder,”  lives on in the walls of some of the more ancient and prominent buildings in the Rouses Point area. It was not until 1842, with the ratification of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty and an adjustment in the border at Rouses Point, that Island Point reverted to United States control. By then, the fort had been somewhat dismantled by predation by enterprising local citizens.

0900: Off to port about a half mile further is a Canadian Customs outpost. No phoning the 800 number here... it's all meet and greet.
There is a stark difference between the customs experience in Canada and the United States. The United States, you are always a suspect and looked at with jaundiced eye. The experience here is just like a John Candy movie. The customs official greets you in Quebecois (after all we are in Quebec). Some high school French on my part and help from the owner's kids (they go to French school in Ontario) and it's, pass down your passport, "s'il vous plait" (for me) and Nexus cards (for them) and after a cursory look, it's "bon voyage." Didn't even ask about documentation (I had the big Red, White and Blue hanging out back). This is good to know when you're running with a "pink slip."

Later in the morning, we arrive at St. Jean and Lock 9. At only 110' long and 24' wide, at first it looks like a tight fit. Once in the lock, the first thing you notice are the flowers. Both sides of the lock a have a long row of flower boxes.

The next thing that got my attention was Danni. Oolala... the lockmasters on the Erie Canal never looked this good!
As if the trip up the Champlain wasn't pretty enough, the Chambly Canal is a ride through a whole different country. There is just something about Quebec that makes you want to stop... and wonder what it is that they put in the water? This is cruising thru the canals of France and never leaving the western hemisphere. The cost for a 48' yacht - $68 Canadian.

 Lockmaster Roger with Owner Andre
 Note in the background the roads. A century ago, these would have been the mule roads from which barges were pulled while transporting goods between Montreal and the Hudson River. Now these mule roads are paved over bike paths. We saw no less than 200 bicycles on our tranist.
An interesting note about the Chambly Canal; except for Lock 9, the rest of the locks in the system are hand operate for the big wooden doors, just as it was done when the system was completed in 1843. The lockmasters all are friendly and the grounds are so nice that locals come down to the locks to watch the show and picnic. In fact, a father and son "ride the gate" as it's opened. This is something you will never see on a US lock.
We started at Lock 9 at 1140 and by 1515, we had completed the flight at Locks 1-3 and launched out into the Chambly River. It was sad to see the end of this portion of the journey. And with the Erie Canal out of action, for what I think will be two years, I am certain to see this canal system again.

Once out of the canal and into the river, it's pretty straight forward. Speed limit is 10 kilometers per hour (whaaaa?). The scenery is not disappointing. Many catherdrals dot the shoreline and
seeing how it's Sunday,  the shepard calls his flock with a cacaphony of bells ringing over the water.
 Every so often there is a cable ferry across the river.
Why, we even got a fly-by by the Canadian Air Force welcoming us to Canada!
The cruising season up here is form May thru October. So, boat owners are now just starting to pull their boats out for winter storage. Here is what a Canadian Travel-Lift looks like.
1825: We end the day tied to the lock wall at Saint Ours Lock; which by the way operates from 0830 in the morning til 1530 in the afternoon. Next stop - Sorel, Quebec.