We’re starting this blog to facilitate sharing our latest adventure –the Attack of the Great Loop–with family, friends, and apparently strangers lurking on the internet (welcome, btw!). Out of the chute, it’s felt almost as nerve-wracking and strange as the locals must have felt as the Brits pressed in to their towns. But we’ll see how it goes and perhaps add other adventures on land too–hence the name of the blog! ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SEA. (Well, technically anything involved with water will be under the “By Sea” category.) So tip of the hat to Longfellow for coining the phrase that we’ve picked for more trivial and fun communications than rebelling against taxation without representation.
For the current adventure, here’s the general map; however, we aren’t starting close to the main Loop route. The prologue to The Loop for us is to approach it via the Ohio River (beginning at The Point in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Well, actually we started a few miles up river. (See Red Dot for starting point) Hope you check in often and enjoy the posts! xo
MAP UPDATED:: JUNE 6. 2017 !!!!!!
THE GREAT LOOP: Over 5000 miles long (depending on side-trips…did you say Cuba?….well, we DID say it ( as well as the Bahamas!)….but that will have to be another trip!)
UPDATE (10-19-16) The Second Leg: We left Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, Ky which is just east and south of Paducah on the map below (and marked w/ a big green oval dot on the map above). As of 10-19-16 we are at the top (north end) of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway (in dark purple on the map) where it branches off of the Tennessee River (which flows downstream to Paducah/the Mississipii –hence we were going UPriver from Green Turtle Bay to the head of the Tenn-Tom Waterway…which will then be “DOWN-river”
UPDATE (9-19-16): THE OHIO RIVER: Which we have now completed as of Sept 15, 2016! 922.5 miles (We started just north of Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River and we did NOT go that tiny little end knob section to the Mississippi River but rather turned left (aka east) (towards Nashville up the Cumberland River)
UPDATE: (5-15-2017) Chesapeake Bay Area. By the way, Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the USA….followed by Puget Sound, Washington.
UPDATE: JUNE 8, 2017:
At my request, Nick revised Longfellow’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere with a little artistic freedom to fit us:
LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear Of the great boat trip that started this year, On the fourth of September, in 2016; Nick and Barb got on the Loop Knowing not what to fear.
Nick said to Barb, “When running the river Let’s look out for barges and whatever might be Keeping red buoys to right while not missing greens, Failure to do so will leave props obscene And we’ll finish the trip by land not by sea.
Passing through locks with nary a shiver Slowly but surely we’re learning the river. Bollards are watched and lines always kept free Passing through locks with nary a shiver Slowly but surely we’re learning the river.
For the original see: http://poetry.eserver.org/paul-revere.html or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4hUMQG3MI8 for a live reading and cool old prints
We left Montreal early to fill up the “gaz” as they say here and still make a 10AM lock opening with a gaggle of other boats transiting at the same time. Hitting that timing was important as the locks on the St Lawrence are commercially focused and the lockmasters have no problem with pleasure boaters waiting 5 to 6 hours to pass when there’s commercial traffic.
Our relatively large group and light commercial demand meant we “sped” (the term is used loosely here as there is a SIX knot speed limit over the 9 miles between locks) through the two big locks.
Between waiting, locking and transiting the whole ordeal took about 4 hours. What the heck, it was sunny and we were boatin’! There are worse things in life!
After the second lock we took a right out of the commercial zone and back into the recreational boating arena as we headed out of the St Lawrence and into the Ottawa River via yet ANOTHER lock.
We decided to stop on the free wall for the night just before the St Anne lock. Very cool little town with a great boardwalk and tons of little restaurants along the lock channel.
Today, we roared off at 11AM in hot pursuit of a group that had left at 9AM. We had our first experience rafting with French Canadians in the lock. Communication was fine as B used her Sprench and N spoke slowly and loudly! The Canadians were amazed we’d coaxed our boat 6,000 miles around the loop so far (that’s right we have officially cleared the 6,000-mile mark!).
Nothing like 25mph+ when trying to catch trawlers! We caught ‘em and passed ‘em and shared the next lift at the Carillon Lock and Dam.
At 65′, the Carillon Lock has the biggest lift in Canada (it does in one chamber the work of 8 earlier locks…yay!) and is the only lock in North America where the lock doors go up and down versus swinging open and shut. The thing is a cavern!
From the lock we headed up to Le Chateau Montebello, which happens to be in the town of Montebello; the site of Canada’s biggest annual rock festival (which we learned was underway as we came up the river). Not the kind you throw, but the kind you attend in a black t-shirt, piercings, and boots. This little town of 1,200 has 80,000 to 100,000 people in it! There were tents all over the place and lots of LOUD music.
Seems like everyone’s got a black t-shirt on and they’re listening to bands like Wu Tang Clan sing songs the extent of which are lyrics like “M…’fer, uh huh, uh huh” while prancing around on stage! Those are the ONLY lyrics! Sorry, what IS that? Oh wait, our age is showing.
OK, won’t bore you here with the travails of internet and Verizon’s definition of “unlimited” data in Canada, but suffice it to say we gotta’ post when we have Wi-Fi, or it isn’t getting done.
We left St Ours’ Lock and Dock fairly early in the morning after spending the night there and enjoying the little park.
We pushed through some rain dumps and thunderstorm threats, hit the St Lawrence Seaway and made the 42 miles to Montreal!
Wow….we really are in another country! It’s a weird feeling when you boat only 30 or 40 miles and things change so much–usually it takes hours on a plane to get to such a “foreign land”….well, not counting South Tacoma Way!
Great location at the Montreal Yacht Club…right at the foot of Old Montreal
Spent time getting the broad lay of the land with the “on- off” bus (which we love!), walking tons of kilometers, shopping for Cuban cigars, eating tons of good food (and not so good-for-you food— smoked deli meat sandwiches and poutine– French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds!), drinking micro brews, hanging w/ other boaters, laundry, provisioning and vidagedes eaux usées ….oh which reminds me! Time for:
French Fun 401: So this french here is way more difficult than French from France…but then I am older now, so who knows who is more difficult (or why)! It is still fun though to explore the language so I have to share a couple of things! Hope you enjoy!
Pas de Vague = No Wake Zone I just like the way that sounds and actually had no idea that the english word vague meant wave in French….so being vague must mean having wavy thoughts, right ?!
La bord= port while la tribord=starboard Ok, I already thought starboard in english was weird (I mean, what does a star have to do with it ?) so now what does a tri / three have to do with it in French? Etymology experts, pls chime in…my internet is too slow to do the research!
And back to what got me sidetracked to that language section:
Vidange des eaux usées = emptying of used waters (aka pump out!) Ok ok, back to our sophomoric interest in bodily functions….but gee whiz, it sounds so pretty in French ! (clearly not the same sophomoric impact as Reader Henry’s comment a post or two ago tho) Not to mention how cool to have all those vowels working to agree in gender and plurality!
Ok back to our tourism:
Not quite as colorful and as cheery…but still a bunch of neat grey buildings. Third largest basilica in the world there at bottom left.
Since there are Aton of native English speakers here as well as substantial bilinguals, the big dilemma here is whether to speak/ greet in English or attempt some French or just simply some muffled greeting that could pass as a French “halo” or English “hello.” This fun boat name seems to describe the situation perfectly with its bilingual play on sounds:
Bonjour mes amis! Comment allez vous? Yes, greetings from French-speaking Canada. After more than 5,800 mile We have now entered the reputational “money shot” part of our Loop – the part everyone says is the BEST! After two nights at Gaines Marina enduring occasional rain squalls and up to 40 mph winds (a 40’ sailboat was blown ashore overnight), we steamed out under fair skies and headed three miles north to the Canadian Border en route to the Chambly Canal.
Once through the border we headed up the Chambly Canal, the entirety of which is a national historic site. The canal covers only 19km (OK we’re switching to euro measures…… aaagghh can’t do it, I meant approximately 12 miles!) with an 80’ drop, but includes nine locks, multiple swing and drawbridges and requires about four hours to transit (in part because the max speed limit is 10kph).
At one point we went through three locks structured like stairs for a total drop of 30’. We literally exited one lock directly into the next and then into the next. Tons of people watching, so we worked hard to look like we knew what we were doing! You might think the whole process would be maddening, but it was fun. What a completely different boating experience. This waterway handles up to 150,000 boats per season, but fortunately we’re here pretty early so we “zipped” right through.
The canal was built in the early 19th century to increase trade by linking Montreal and New York.
The locks themselves opened in 1843 and remain basically as they were originally built. The lock chambers are small (could only handle our 30’ boat and our friends 44’ at the same time), have small lifts and drops and are manually operated by literally cranking on a hand crank to open and shut the doors.
Of course, the most interesting part of the experience is dealing with the language (“ecluse” is French for lock) when approaching the lock…. I mean ecluse. N simply speaks English slowly whereas B likes to chatter along with the lock operators in her Franco-Spanish. Unfortunately for N, he’s the only one willing to go on the radio!
The good news for us is Canada is celebrating 150 years of lock and canal operation this summer so all our lockage is free and a permit allowing us unlimited mooring at state parks was only $200. By comparison, that cost could have easily been $40/night!
So we are really on the international leg of our journey now. The St Laurence Seaway and Montreal will be next up. A toute a l’heure!!!
Experienced lifers know there are always two sides to every story and often an epilogue too. Based on the number of comments in the last post, apparently Z-Bedspread (NOT to be read with a French accent…yet!) story piqued some level of interest. So, Dear Readers, here is that other side: while B was in HER bathroom shouting for N and Z to stop overly rough-housing on the bed (aka: remember when your older brother would relentlessly tickle you?? Did he ever blow in your fuzzy ear nonstop!?!) perhaps a half -thimble full escaped from Z (I mean she weighs all of 11 pounds, her bladder is probably smaller than a thimble, in fact!) But N would have NO thoughts of B washing it out and saving the blanket. AND the epilogue and always sunny side of things??!?!!:: Until now we have really generally been surprised at how deeply and well we sleep on board, but now we are getting even better nights’ sleep because the new blanket is all cotton/natural and the perfect weight. SO…Z opened our eyes to an even greater life!
As we exited North Hero Marina, we passed some more railroad remnants described in the last post.
A short ride to Deep Bay at Point Au Roche State Park, NY. We only scratched the surface of all the trails here. N has been randomly throwing out all sorts of french sentences getting our minds prepped for Quebec and even more so during our long walks: “Vous avez des yeux verts”, for example, which only laughingly infuriates B….doesn’t he know by now that we are, after 47 years, on the informal TU basis!!!??!?
After a morning loop hike (and temporarily getting lost), we set off for a quick trip up to Alburgh anchorage/beach for a picnic and exploration.
Captains always have to be prepared to take on new jobs; in this case: pizza delivery!
We knew (well, we actually didn’t believe the forecast given the unbelievable day we had just experienced) weather was moving in and decided to play the departure and final push into Canada by ear. Around midnight, the wind hit 40+ mph (accompanied by buckets of rain) and didn’t drop to 20 mph (in the harbor) til late morning. Still after lunch as I write this there are gusts hitting 30mph. A high of 62. Quite the dramatic change from the last few days.
Killing time on our 200th DAY of this journey (wow !!) (which looks to be another night by the time I am posting this) at our last US pit stop — Gaines Marina, Rouses Point, NY– eating, doing laundry, streaming TV shows, walks during rain breaks and even some time at the library across the street from the marina. Dominoes with Margot and Jerry is on our busy docket while waiting out the weather.
We were starting a leisurely breakfast on board when N spotted some friends of ours across the lake steaming northward…. OK, they were going about 10mph, but that’s steaming in a trawler! We’d gotten ahead of them a few days before and planned to meet up in Burlington, VT about 30 miles up the lake, but since we go closer to 30mph there was no rush; drink coffee, do some laundry, chit chat on the dock and then power up about 11:30 and still nearly beat them there!
Lake Champlain is a mammoth lake separating NY and VT. The north end of the lake has NY’s Adirondack mountains on one side and Vermont’s Green mountains (home of the Green Mountain Boys of revolutionary war fame). As a North westerner you gotta call these things HILLS rather than mountains, but it’s nice to see some elevation and they are very pretty on both sides of the lake. Of course, we’re totally in all fresh water now, but while its super clear, it’s also super cold so no swimming for us.
It turned out last weekend was the Burlington Jazz Festival so there was a lot of live music around and the docks were packed; so crowded we had to take a mooring ball on Saturday night rather than tie to the dock.
Interestingly, much of the crowd on the water was Canadian and French-speaking Canadians at that. Sacrebleau! We’ll need to brush up on our high school French to get through these locks coming up…. We have to translate boat names now too.
Again, we found ourselves in a largish town, reasonable marina, and NO internet. What is up with that!? We’ve consumed all our 4G data on our phones and jet pack hence the blog delay. It is painful to do this stuff at slow data speeds! C’est la vie…. Whoa, the conversion is on!
We left Burlington on Monday to explore some islands on the lake and get ourselves staged for a border run this weekend (we need to consume some of our alcohol to meet the limits into Canada).
First stop was for an overnight at a state park on Burton Island. The park had slips for 100 boats! The ranger told us they fill up on summer holiday weekends including many French Canadians enjoying “le weekend” as one says a bit further north. As it turns out there were only four other boats when we were there.
Next day we were off to explore multiple little islands and possible anchorage spots. Of course, ANY stop must be a “Z-certified access” pee stop (although B has had some recent success with Z peeing on the mat on the swim step) so not every spot is good after closer inspection.
We had every intention of anchoring tonight and found several nice spots along the way, but rolled the dice one too many times as the last place we checked out just was not going to work for Z so to the nearby marina we went.
UPDATED ROUTE MAP ON HOME PAGE as well as an enlarged section of the Champlain and Canada areas
Although still in New York State, the hustle and bustle of the City and the East coast in general seems to be melting away….it certainly should with all the rain we’ve had. Luckily we’ve had a bit of a break with two days in a row of nice sun—haven’t had that for several months!
We’ve continued north up the Champlain Canal enjoying the water, the green, the small little towns/hamlets and relative solitude. Most Loopers have turned left to head up the Erie Canal (only to be stuck for days with flooding and closed/damaged locks); but there are apparently about 5 of us on this route sprinkled among even fewer Canadian sailboats returning north for the summer and handfuls of fisherpeople playing hooky in their little skiffs. So overall very quiet boating!
Arrived in the afternoon at Fort Edward for a free night “on the wall.” All of these little towns are struggling to find a reason to exist (for now, anyway, we don’t need to worry about being invaded by Canadians….) Even their fort is so old it’s existence is merely marked with a big boulder.
We made it to Whitehall and again “stayed on the wall” for free! Yummy bakery across the street too. ….but more exciting was the random discovery of the Elks Club just 2 blocks away!
Looming over the wall where we were tied up for the night is the picturesque, mega-big, 1872 Skene mansion (nicely restored on the exterior…interior might be another story!)– now historical tea room/museum type thing with minimal hours:
Nice leg stretch up. Cool thing about these pano pix is that B can get 2 N’s for the price of one! Bonus points if you can spot our boat below!
Whitehall, NY makes claim to being the home of the US Navy (as do at least 5 other towns). It is clear that the first American naval battle did occur here. Sticklers (ie those from the other 5 contenders) claim that the US government had not “commissioned” the boats before the battle. Just a small detail as far as I am concerned!
In fact, Benedict Arnold had many other great successes (and severe injuries) while fighting for the Americans; but other men, including Ethan Allen, took much of his credit. As a result, Arnold was overlooked when it came to a promotion—perhaps compounded by a charge of minor corruption (unproven) for which he was found not guilty (maybe a story planted by other jealous competitors?). As a result of that treatment, the embittered Arnold turned to the Brits and offered his services…..and the rest is history.
We stopped for lunch at a little boat launch (but failed to get around to eating!) and left on a long trek to visit Fort Ticonderoga– a reconstructed, privately run fort (read: expensive to get in—even with our Triple A discount!). It was neat and good way to get a lot of the history from the French-Indian vs American- Brits War, the Revolutionary War, fur trading, settlement life, etc. This trip seems to be one long middle school field trip!
Lake Champlain straddles Canada and US. We’ve got a few more days in the USA while we dust up on our high school French for the locks, docks and eats!
So, some Albanian (isn’t that what you call someone from Albany?) comes up to me on the dock and says “gee, doesn’t it rain a lot in Seattle?” I said, “Whaddaya talkin’ about!? The rain here has been relentless!” The only bright spot is B discovered a heretofore unrealized electrical engineering skill; her careful placement of sponges in combination with our newly re-waterproofed bimini top has kept all our power on throughout the deluge. We used to trip out the breakers on one side of the boat after about 30 minutes of rain while at the dock, but no more (touch wood). That’s the good news. We still have mysterious leaks we have yet to figure out, but at least they don’t impact general operations, other than the occasional drop on N’s side of the bed! Still can’t figure out how that can possibly happen!
After a day of errands (and watching streaming video on blisteringly fast internet… yes there was some redemption) in rainy Albany we were up early and headed north on the Hudson under once more leaden skies.
The Weather Channel app’s radar seems to be remarkably accurate around here so we knew it was going to rain before we got to our next destination, but gee, you gotta’ keep moving.
There are a few big course decisions you make when doing this Loop. Stuff like taking the Mississippi versus the Tom Bigbee Waterway (we did the latter), or crossing Florida at Lake Okeechobee versus rounding Key West (we did the latter) and now we have another; taking the Erie Canal to Lake Erie and points west, or heading north through Lake Champlain to Montreal (we’re doing the latter). The Big Y was ahead of us today (it’s the header photo for this post). Most bigger boats take the Erie because of the 17’ air draft limit on the Champlain route, but we laugh at 17’ and only begin to slow when we see 14’ clearance.
All this rain impacted the canal system as well and parts of the Erie are closed for a few days so several large boats were tied to the wall at the entrance to the first lock on the Erie. As for us, we were onto the unaffected Champlain route and back to rockin’ and lockin’ up the canal…. and there are a lot of locks; we had to clear four over about 5 miles to get to our next stop in Schuylerville, NY.
The good news is the lockmasters radio ahead so each lock is prepared for your arrival and there’s not a lot of waiting around. Also, this year the NY and Canadian canal systems are celebrating 200 years of canal operation so all our locking is going to be FREE on these upcoming legs. BTW, while these canals were originally for commercial traffic (the kind that traveled by barge pulled by a horse on the shore), these locks are nothing like the locks on the bigger rivers today. Traffic is primarily pleasure boats and/or much smaller barges.