Sept 20-22, Days 270-273 Riverboat Gas Gamblin’

OK, so we went off scope again! Can’t really come up with a good excuse, but it’s tough to do these blogs and when you delay a few days everything becomes jumbled making it even harder so you decide to put it off and the jumble compounds! C’est la vie. Lots of pics on this post. We’re about 7,800 miles into our journey now and startin’ to smell the barn. There’s still about 300 miles to go including that long stretch without fuel to conquer, but we can count the number of locks remaining to transit on one hand. We left the tiny Tall Timbers marina and continued down the Illinois to its confluence with the mighty Mississippi at Grafton, Illinois.


9-23 tt 2
It was a little foggy when we got up at Tall Timbers, but we had a lot of miles to cover.



9-23 tt
Many marinas/anchorages on the river are little cuts off the main channel. These two posts mark the “hump” you go over to get in. We had about 2′ under the boat coming off the channel so the big boys can’t get in here in this low water. You go Bayliner!


As big as all these rivers are, they’re still subject to surprisingly large fluctuations in water levels. Indeed, on the Mississippi we were told to be careful to allow for a 2’ variation overnight when considering anchorages, but I get ahead of myself. As it is, low water on the Illinois has backed up river traffic with multiple days-worth of barges parked on the river banks waiting for more water. The problems were compounded by one barge having run aground and effectively closing the river to commercial traffic. Honestly, that was good news for us because we there was no waiting to enter the LaGrange Lock after which we zipped past the blocking barge on the downriver side.


9-23 rocks
All sorts of cool industry to observe along the way. Ok so maybe not everyone likes to see industry, but there’s only so many trees and birds you can look at. Besides, this place was weird. If you blow this picture up you’ll see a truck on the right dumping rocks into a barge while on the left an excavator is picking rocks out of a barge and putting them into another truck. WHAT??!! At the same location? Maybe there’s a communication problem and who ships rocks to a quarry? I think this place is owned by the same guys looking for funding to start shipping ice cubes to Alaska.


Many Loopers passed us during our fuel economy experiment yesterday. While it was great (and necessary!) to confirm our fuel burn at slower speeds, we were delighted to power up and get back to our regular 25mph cruise speed (life’s too short to worry about MPG unless you really have to). We had about 150 miles to travel and N spent the AM figuring out where we might catch up to everyone that passed us the previous day…… “if two boats are going in the same direction, but starting different places and travelling different speeds, where will they meet?”. Amazingly, he was accurate to about a mile after well over 5 hours of travel…. ok, ok, it wasn’t cold fusion.


9-23 nick
Here N points out “Nicholas Rock” while sporting what has now become his de rigeur piloting eyewear!


We made it all the way to the self-described “Key West of the Midwest” otherwise known as Grafton, Illinois at the mouth of the Mississippi. The marina was nice, but Key West?! Uhmm, an oyster bar, a winery and few biker spots doesn’t really equate to Key West. We did go for $1 taco night at a local bar despite being told the “best pizza” around was served at the local BP station.


9-23 grafton
When your town is on the river, you note the high-water mark. It’s what you do! Look at this mark from ’93 in Grafton.


You get the idea! Next day we made the short jump to Alton, Illinois to stage ourselves for the big run past St Louis, but also to stop and look at a boat that was there for sale.


9-23 alton
Here’s another line in another town! See the red line on the grain elevator?


We liked the boat, but didn’t break out the checkbook just yet as we still need to reconcile getting down to a sub 20mph cruise speed.  


9-23 cana
From Alton we were off to St Louis passing through the Chain of Rocks canal. The sign looks pretty obvious, but we were told some people go right instead of left. One guy on 38′ Tiara went right and hit “the rapids” on plane. Took them 3 months to figure out how to get the boat out.



9-23 work
So this IS sort of a ditch. There on the side you can see a crew re-doing the sidewalls (white rocks are new). We were lucky not to come across a barge coming the other way.



9-23 arch
There’s the “money shot”! How cool is that? Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Miami, DC, NYC, Burlington, Montreal, Chicago and now St Louis….ALL on our own boat!


Although a lot of people characterize river boating as variations on a common theme of travelling in a ditch, we enjoy the journey. Beautifully calm water, no compass headings, interesting scenery and not much traffic. Overall, it’s pretty relaxing.


9-23 barge
This guy is pushing a load 7(!) barges wide by 6 deep for a total of 42 barges! They can go as big as 49 or nearly three acres of space pushing up the river.


9-23 barge 2
OK, so we’re fascinated with these barges, but look at the size of this thing! BTW, they’re not actually called barges, but rather “tows”. Who knows why they’re tows because they never tow anything, but they won’t even respond to a radio call where you call them a barge…. ask how we know! Also, when passing you need to use the “one whistle / two whistle” vernacular as in “see you on the one” or “see you on the two”. Took a while to remember what meant what because it changes based on passing versus overtaking.


9-23 hop
This is the famous(!) Hoppies Marina. The last stop for gas or ANY kind of moorage for over 200 miles. It’s basically a few barges strung together sitting on the side of the river.


9-23 hop 2
So here you see the “marina” tied off to the riverbank…..


9-23 truck
….well sort of. You see that line goes up the bank and is tied off to the front bumper of this truck. Geez, that’s NEVER gonna’ hold… but wait that truck is then tied off to the truck behind it! Yeehah! That’s how it’s done in Missouri! Any questions?


9-23 mary
We arrived at Hoppies in time to walk in the brutal heat into the small town of Kimmswick where we went to the Blue Owl for lunch. The latter is run by this woman (Mary Hostetter) of Food Network, Oprah, blah, blah, blah fame and named a top restauranteur in the greater St Louis area. Gotta’ love the outfit.


9-23 pie
The Blue Owl is known for it’s “Levee High Apple Pie”. We’d knocked it over before taking the pic, but it was pretty tall… and yes, very tasty!


9-23 trips
Back at the marina, the guy on this boat was watching all the gas boats fill up. These are three electric motors powering a homemade  35′ boat. The boat has zero other systems and is going to go into the Guiness Book for the longest solar only powered trip. I suggested he go for a second category associated with patience since he can only go about 5mph and has to “tack” to make headway upstream.


9-23 sol
The entire roof of the electric boat was made up of solar panels.


9-23 calc
N built a little spreadsheet to better understand how we had to run the boat from Hoppies to Paducah. We tried to be conservative. We get the benefit of a 3 to 4 knot current downstream, but then face a similar upstream push against. Anyway we sliced it, we needed to carry extra gas cans to supplement our 113 gallons on board.


9-23 map
Not sure which is more remarkable…. crossing the 8,000 mile mark or N actually sticking to the speed strategy! Probably helped that he did the spreadsheet to convince himself.


9-23 gas
That’s how Bayliner captains do it! Lug extra gas and pour it in at the first anchorage. We had 21 extra gallons plus the dinghy tank if necessary. No, Z was not particularly helpful to the process.
2017-9-24 dinghy dock
So the Mississippi gets called the Big Muddy. Why might that be? Because it as muddy as freaking get out! B had to build this little landing strip to avoid losing her shoes when taking Z in to shore. We won’t talk about how filthy the dinghy got.
9-23 mud
Of course, Z had no problem with the mud and managed to dash around on shore while getting impossibly filthy. Dog and handler were not allowed beyond the swim step without a serious wash-down upon their return from shore leave!


9-23 food
Just because we were off the Mississippi in some filthy little anchor hole it didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well! B whipped up this colorful breakfast to fortify us for the push to Paducah


9-23 water
…and we’re off down the river following our float plan and conserving gas because it’s Paducah or bust… well not BUST, probably more drift downstream in the wrong direction!

















Sept 11-15, Days 260-265, My Kinda’ Town..

We left Hammond Harbor Marina on our final real push west before making the BIG LEFT and heading south and the completion of our loop.

9-16 ham
Hammond Marina seemed to be designed as an aquatic parking lot for the giant casino there in the background. The whole thing is “floating” no doubt to flout local gambling laws.
9-16 casino
Whaddaya think? We’re going to tie up at a casino and not go inside? B held her nose! Notice sign to craft beer.
9-16 casino 2
There we go… no gambling, just craft beer. Looks like things got a little blurry.

Still many hundreds of miles to go, but left into the river means we’re on the home stretch. In the meantime, we had to get our “city on” with a stop in Chicago.

9-16 chi 6
It was super cool to approach Chicago from the water. Our route takes us amongst all those buildings.

We stopped in DuSable Harbor right downtown next to Navy Pier and the Chicago River. Normal hotel cost down there? At least $300/night. Bayliner luxury? Oh, about $80! And we’re right in the loop! Wow, a double entendre… downtown Chicago’s “Loop” and our own larger “Loop” trail.  

9-16 chi 10
This was the scene from the back of our boat in the marina.

We’d visited Chicago not too long ago on another trip so this stop was all about “saying we did it” and meeting up with one of N’s original work chums from N’s very first ever job out of college. B is not a real “urban scene” fan so although the city has done a great job creating beautiful walking parks along the lakeshore, it just wasn’t the same as some of the quieter places we’ve been. Of course, N complained of exhaustion just watching all the joggers go dashing by each morning. 


9-16 chi 9
Could have been a great shot except for Z not paying attention


9-16 bean
The reflections off this Chicago “Bean” sculpture were awesome…. every city should have one. Can you see us?

In the meantime, we went out to dinner with Dennis and Nancy (B had to suffer through “remember that time…….?” conversations, but it wasn’t too bad(!) according to N), walked around town and went to a Cubs game.

9-16 game
With friends Denny and Nancy. I think the Mariners are one of the few teams to NEVER have been in the World Series…. and they’re not going this year!


9-16 game 3
Classic Wrigley shot. 


N also played golf on one of the first golf courses he ever played all those years ago. It was Chicago where he bought his first set of golf clubs way back when.

Our Chicago stay was nice, but we were itching to get into the Chicago River and have the experience of boating right through downtown, so after two nights we were off! You can tour the river on a river cruise boat, but very cool to pass through that steel and glass canyon on your own little vessel. Even B had to admit it was pretty cool, urban landscape and all. We took way too many pictures!

9-16 chi 1
Denny left his office to take this pic of us passing under the Dearborn Street Bridge. How cool is that?


9-16 chi 2
Gee, for someone who dislikes big cities B seems pretty happy, Maybe because we were outbound!



9-16 chi 3
OK, not too much nature, but still a pretty cool cruise. For you Washingtonians, that’s Boeing’s Chicago HQ there on the right. Not sure it beats a Seattle locale.


Once through downtown, it was back to river life. No more worries about big waves and winds.  


9-16 river
Been awhile since we’ve seen barges. Many more to come….


First stop out of Chicago was Joliet, Illinois where we spent the night on a wall along the river with many other Loopers (pic in header). As you might imagine, this passage off Lake Michigan and into the river is like a giant funnel. After months of passing time across the expanse of the Great Lakes and Canadian points north, ALL Loopers head back to the river heading for points south. As a result, we’re seeing a lot of Looping boats; catching up with (and passing!) boats we’ve seen somewhere over the last 12 months and meeting up with people just getting started (we feel like such old salts around the newbies). Despite our speed, we’re currently at the same marina with the very FIRST boat we ever saw on this journey 7,500 miles ago and way up the Ohio River! Obviously, we had some mechanical issues and went home a few times and they haven’t traveled the same extended route, but it’s still interesting a 25mph and a 6mph boat find themselves together after all that time with no planning.  


9-16 lock
This tow was nice enough to share a lock down with him (they don’t have to). More importantly, note the boat ahead of us. It’s a 38′ Donzi sport fish cruiser with cabin and three 300hp engines. 65mph and cruise at 40mph and you can sleep on it. 

After spending months passing through “cute” little Canadian locks whose raison d’etre is servicing recreational boaters, we’re back to the grim reality of traversing HUGE locks which are focused on commercial traffic. ANY pleasure craft (let alone a 29’ Bayliner) is basically treated like whale dung (No, there aren’t whales in rivers, but you get the point) and left to hang in the channel waiting for a break in the tow traffic…. and those tows aren’t fast!



9-16 wait
Loopers as far a you can see waiting on the lock!



9-16 barge
Lots of barge traffic going to Chicago.


We spent over 3 hours waiting for passage through one lock and we were lucky! A group we passed ended up waiting over 6 hours to get through another lock we snuck into earlier after waiting over an hour. In total, it took us 10 hours to travel about 40 miles…. And we were going 25mph whenever we could!   


9-16 barge 2
Eat some wake buddy making us wait! Honestly, these guys can’t feel our wake at 5 times this size.


OK, the waiting is a pain in the rear, but there are worse things we could be doing than floating on the river on a sunny weekday afternoon. Of course, some crew members use the VHF radio to monitor what’s going on in the locks and occasionally remind the lockmasters we’re still freaking here! UUuuhhhmmmmmm!  


9-16 lock 2
The lock guys finally relented and let us in before sundown! Marked our first day when we had to come into port with our nav lights on.


It’s an interesting transition back as we are now beginning to see scenery like that when we started and hear the same sorts of bug noises one comes to associate with cornfields and countryside in the Midwest. Let’s not get to poetic though as there is still plenty of hulking industry, locks, and the Mighty Mississippi ahead of us to navigate around and through. Not to mention our upcoming 225-mile passage without a fuel stop on our 150-mile cruise range boat (we’ve lost range with these smaller props). Should be interesting… On!  

Sep 5 – 8, Days 254 -257 Wavin’ Frankfort Goodbye!

After spending many weeks complaining about Canadian internet, I’m not sure what’s worse… getting stuck by weather in a marina with whip fast internet, or moving from one marina to another with inferior internet at each one! Honestly, I’ll take the former. At least we can stream video, watch games, and follow the news. Also, we were in a town with a reasonable main street including a brewery, a few bars, restaurants, and a grocery store. That was all good because we were stuck in the town for 6 (SIX!!) nights.

This Lake Michigan is a beast! N was going crazy (had to keep repeating the mantra…. it’s not a race, it’s not a race….), but there was just no way to get out of port and on our way. We’ve had a week of sustained winds above 15 knots and waves of at least 5’. B and Z went to the breakwater each morning to assess the situation. Waves breaking over the wall meant no go!


9-8 light
Yes, we had some occasional sunshine. Even so it was windy with waves coming over the breakwater!



9-8 boat 2
N didn’t care… he just wanted to get underway. In the alternative he used great internet to find pics of boats in rough water!



9-8 wave
Even so, he did get us into this “slop” (you can’t appreciate how bad it is from this pic). Amazingly, it was N who opted to return to the dock as B was totally fine prostrate on the cabin floor… her normal “big water” position.



9-8 below
We’re at Defcon 2 when B and Z are on the floor with life jackets on…..damn the torpedoes!


Obviously, there’s not a lot to write about when you’ve been sitting in the same spot since the last time you posted! We’ve been up and down the main street at least 30 times, spent time in the library, talked to guys cleaning fish (it’s amazing how many fish get caught including large king salmon although the latter look nowhere near as good as our PNW variety), jaw boned about the weather with guys on the dock and did a lot of thumb twiddling!


9-8 city
Walked this street many a time!


9-8 sign
Found this great brew pub….then what?! Closed due to rain. Fortunately beer was flowing elsewhere.



“We” (i.e. N and a reluctant crew did try to leave yesterday…. only to be turned around by 6 footers! At least we tried. The good news is that as of this writing we’re off the dock and heading down the coast.


9-8 sun
Yesterday evening things began looking up for continuing our journey


We’re going to go for a bit longer each day to get off this lake post haste, but also because while the little towns along the Michigan shore are nice,


9-8 cut
Yes, it’s a NEW harbor… after 6 days we went nearly 70 miles today to Pentwater. This is the channel entrance off the lake into the harbor. After brutal waves for days we had “water-ski” conditions for much of today. It’s a funny old lake! Forecast for the next few days is great so we’re going to burn down Lake Michigan and hopefully get to Chicago and the rivers before the winds kick back up.


there’s only so many t-shirt shops and cutsie art places you can look at before they all sort of run together! Not to mention it’s getting cold and we aren’t psychologically ready for that yet!


9-8 b
B was delighted to find a pair of VERY USEFUL wool hunting pants from the 50’s at some antique store (yes, there’s a lot of those in these little towns too)….Z was less enthused. 


More later… cruise on!

Sep 1 & 2, Days 250 & 251 Coastal Skippin’

Have you ever wondered why the Great Lakes are called the Great Lakes? Maybe you thought it was because they’re big, but that’s not it. It’s because they are HUGE! We are skipping down the west coast of Michigan and there is nothing to see on our starboard side. It’s no different that running down the west coast of the US. We need to be very careful to watch wind speed and direction because we are in a small boat for the types of seas that can kick up.


9-2 water
Yep, it’s a very big body of water!


With all that in mind we checked the weather in Mackinac and decided to head south before the Labor Day crowd. People at the marina lazily gazed at our little Bayliner from the bridges of their parked 40 and 50 footers with nary a thought of venturing out. Hmmm… what did these locals know? In this league, I guess it’s go big and stay at home (or at the marina in this case). Off we went into the Mackinac Straight and on to the little town of Petoskey. Go Bayliner, go Bayliner…. (to the tune of “Speed Racer”)


9-2 rocks
Apparently, Petoskey is home to the “famous” Petoskey Stone. Basically it’s like a wet t-shirt contest… fairly round, smooth and bland; but then you throw a little water on them and your interest is piqued! (Editors note: Just for the record…. that sentence is word for word from B…. the mind reels at her knowledge). The stones above have just been dunked. Prior to dunking they were generic grey rocks. B insists she’ll polish these, but in the meantime we’ve got more weight on board. 


The trip to Petoskey wasn’t too bad. Who knows what those big boys were worried about. We’ve finally just said “that’s enough” on this engine break in stuff and cranked back up to our regular cruise speed and held it there. Motor sounds good and it’s nice to get up on top of the waves. Bye bye 8 knot trawlers!


9-2 zig
B’s mornings generally involve trying to get cute Ziggy shots…..



9-2 dog
…meanwhile walking with N…. whaddya mean the afternoon cannon demo is canceled?!


We have a general plan for getting to Chicago, but only planning one day at a time and playing it by ear.


9-2 charl
We’d hoped to stop in Charlevoix, but docks were full so we pulled in for a peek then headed back out to the lake through this narrow channel (header pic is Charlevoix as well)


Big water notwithstanding, we’ve been astounded by how great the boating is in this part of the world. Seems like every 30 to 40 miles along the coast there is a little town with a great municipal marina, restaurants, breweries and lots else to go visit. The lake itself is crystal clear although it’s a lot colder than it was up North! That seems weird, but it’s probably because the lake is significantly bigger and there aren’t the same rock formations going into the water.

From Petoskey, we went to Leland Harbor. 


9-2 lee 3
Pic from the restaurant we ate at. Tables outside were nice, but we’re outside all day so we like to be inside.



9-2 car
I know it’s a boat trip, but check this out. Super nice GTO convertible parked outside a store in town. Blow up the picture. The keys are in the ignition! Where can you do that?! Leland Harbor, MI I guess.



9-2 lee 2
Here’s another one…. Honor system wood selling and money box not bolted down…. clearly they do not have a meth problem in Leland Harbor!


Now we’ve made it Frankfort. Along the way we’ve passed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and rocked through 6 to 8-foot seas.


9-2 dune
Really amazing MASSIVE sand dunes in Northern MI. Who knew?



9-2 wave
Normally I would try to level this out, but since you can’t see the waves, this gives you an idea of how hard it was to take a level pic of this mega dune.



9-2 beach
Check it out… this is a beach in MI! We sure were happy to see that lighthouse marking the entrance to Frankfort harbor.


Yeah, the latter was sort of a mistake! We’re going to be a bit more vigilant in future.  


9-2 wave
B took this screen shot while horizontal on the cabin floor below. Her comment… WTF, this NOAA chart says we’re in <2′ seas, what the heck is Trump’s problem with accuracy?!

OK, it’s Saturday night and need to sign off here to allow time to get into town and look for a place where N can better understand B’s whole perspective on Petoskey Stones!


Aug 23-26, Days 240-244 Rocks, Rocks and More Rocks

With much trepidation we pulled out of Killarney with our 30 hours old motor and second new (re-built) outdrive. It took thousands of miles to become confident with our original set-up and that was in an environment where if something went wrong we were a stone’s throw from help (not to mention having functioning internet!). This leg of our journey really has us in the outback heading north and west before taking the big left down to Michigan. Blowing the clutch on the first new outdrive did not inspire confidence. If something goes wrong here we are literally up a creek (in a lake actually) without a paddle. Well, we do have a paddle, but we can’t really use it! Anyway, you get the idea.

After five days in Killarney N was going crazy. Three days were due to waiting for our new parts, but the other two were down to weather. At one point N took the dinghy into the bay to judge “just how bad” the water really was.

8-26 waves
Not sure you get the idea from this pic, but just outside relatively protected Killarney it was blowing for days!
8-26 sign
You start to notice small things in a small town when you’re there for 5 days. Not sure what caused this sign, but there are a number of establishments in other towns that could use the same!

Although there are lots of islands up here, there is still tons of huge open water and 20 mph winds can really whip up some waves (the winds caused one 50’ cruiser at the marina to break loose with the finger dock it was tied to!). After much prevaricating, the RioMarLago crew negotiated a settlement to get the “heck outta Dodge” on Wednesday afternoon. We only went three miles, but our destination was a great anchorage called Covered Portage. A small step, but progress and movement was good for the sake of the order.

8-26 cliff
It was a little grey and chilly, but it was good to get underway. See our boat at anchor in Covered Portage.
8-26 liff 2_LI
If you blow up this pic you can see B and Z at the top of the same ridge in the previous picture.


8-26 head
Check out this rock! Can you see the indian face?

The stretch beyond Killarney takes us to the northernmost point of our journey on Lake Huron before we take the big turn south to Michigan. Cruising in this stretch is more and more remote with plenty of anchoring as we travel through the North Channel up to near where Lake Huron meets with Lake Superior. From Covered Portage we went to Baie Fine where we anchored then hiked up a trail to Topaz Lake (pic in header) before having lunch and a swim then heading to Little Current.


8-26 bf
At anchor in Baie Fine.


8-26 toilet
So we’re out traipsing around this lake when lo! A sign we are not the first!
8-26 hroom
…it’s OK Ziggy, those are really good eating!

The latter is the last stop to get any kind of serious kind of provisioning done before getting to the US so we loaded up for the big push to the border.

8-26 lc
It’s still August, but the season is winding down up here as evidenced by all the empty slips at Little Current.
8-26 broad
This guy gives a daily news broadcast then has boat from around Georgian Bay and the North Channel call in their position. He’s had as many as 190 call in. There were 70 the day we were there. OK, so maybe this might seem a little boring, but it was cool to attend (once) and listen. Especially hearing boats radio in that we’d seen all over the place.
8-26 store
This was the “big” store we came across in Kagawong after leaving Little Current! Not much here, but there was a chocolatier next door where B was able to find “provisions”.


8-26 church
Check this out! Full steam ahead to heaven….the pulpit is a converted ships bow and a ship’s anchor wheel more prominently displayed than the cross. 


Anchoring out has been great. It’s amazing to think people will be out ice fishing in these areas in a few months when right now the water temp is perfect for a daily morning swim…. ok “swim” might suggest a level of energy we’re not necessarily achieving, but still, it’s fun to jump in. No need for those marina showers.    


8-26 b2
B took a morning swim to the boat while Ziggy observed from shore. This was a fantastic anchorage in the Benjamin Islands. None of the big boats dared sneak into this little spot so we had it to ourselves.


8-26 rock2
No idea how these trees survive basically living on solid granite, but it makes for some cool walking paths. Very zen.


8-26 rock6
OK, so we smashed up our props/outdrive/motor on rocks a month ago, but you gotta get back up on the hoss! Navigated this channel after first inspecting it by dinghy.

After enjoying our great anchorage in the Benjamin’s we headed out for points west.


8-26 water
Speaking of zen, pretty spectacular scenery when the sun is out!

I think our last days in Canada will be here at Blind River waiting for weather….oh wait, there’s a golf course! Maybe we’ll stay an extra day.


8-26 golf
N found a truly spectacular golf course in the middle of nowhere. Maybe the local uranium mine funded it to keep employees happy….whatever, N’s score was certainly radioactive!

OK…that’s it for now. We are totally looking forward to first world internet in the coming days! RioMarLago, out.






Jul 15 – Aug 13 Days 230-238 (on the water) Where’s Waldo?

Holy smokes, how long has it been?! If you’re going to break something mechanical, there’s no point going for half measures. Turns out in addition to the propellers, we damaged the outdrive and blew the motor. So, we basically had to get brand new everything to continue the journey…. you go Bayliner! The good news is that N finally allowed himself to file an insurance claim for something (that’s why it’s called accident insurance) and the better news was that it was 100% covered! That’s right, one brand new drivetrain coming up.

We left the boat for repairs at a little marina off the Trent Severn Waterway in Orillia, Canada, and headed home. B was perfectly delighted to get her grandma time in early and for longer than planned (we’d always intended to go home in late July for two weeks so with this damage we got an extra week)


8-11 baby
B was happy with her daily grandma routine with young Malcolm!


while N got to get his annual moto trip around WA in and play a lot of golf.


8-11 moto
OK, it’s been a boating blog, but the title includes “by land” so here’s some land action. North Cascades Hwy!



8-11 moto2
WA weather was great for biking! Early morning one hand shot at 70mph!




8-11 marina
Here’s what a motorcycle “marina” looks like! NO, that trike is not N’s!



8-11 moto 3
OK, ok, it’s about boating, but c’mon, tough to beat WA state in the July sunshine. N rode right through here!


8-11 golf
…plenty of time left for golf!


The weather back home was absolutely amazing with sunshine and blue skies every day unlike Canada where the summer has been unseasonably rainy and cool. Oh well!

We were delighted monitoring the marina from afar as they hit every milestone, communicated regularly, and got the work done on-time and at budget. We returned to Canada August 6th to find our RioMarLago peacefully floating at the dock with a beautifully clean bilge filled with a brand new shiny motor. There was some concern about the motor’s performance with our custom 22” props as the boat felt slow to get onto plane and the marina guys simply could not believe she could be that underpowered. Uhmmm…. you go Bayliner price point strategy! Mechanics convinced N to swap to smaller prop to save engine…. more on that later.


Coming out of the water yet again!



8-11 prop
Long prop discussion! Yes, the swim step look grossly stained with tannins, but N has subsequently cleaned it up.


After a careful briefing in which N was told our new motor requires special care during its 20-hour break-in period including no time above 70% throttle and no more than 10 minutes at one constant rpm, we were off. It was good to be underway once more, but OMG…. this engine break-in stuff is tedious.


8-1 pic
Reduce the hairline and remove the beard and you have the Captain of RioMarLargo. 


At least we had the Big Chute and last of the locks to look forward to before finally entering Georgian Bay. We made it from Orillia to the Big Chute in one day, but decided to stay up river and watch how this “lock” operated before simply jumping in. We’re glad we did!


8-11 chute 3
End of the bay, end of the line…. nope, you take this railway contraption up and over!



8-11 chute 2
…it truly is unbelievable. Multiple boats on a “rail car”.



8-11 chute 5
Scene from the helm as we descend.



8-11 chute
Then you’re plopped in the water and you boat away! 


Now we’re in Georgian Bay which is at the top of Lake Huron. This is major “cottage” (Canadian for beach house) country with all sorts of homes scattered across what are seemingly thousands of little rocky islands and inlets.


8-11 island
Check it out! Channel marker smack in middle of island. Which way to go? Notice house on tiny island.


The boating is great, BUT you gotta watch the markers because there’s no sand to hit here, only rocks!


8-11 props
The local grocery store figures it pays out to stock props! Should tell you something. 


We ended up getting invited to a Canadian cruising rendezvous (Canadians are amazingly friendly!) so we took some time out to join their trip (see pic in header).


8-11 riv
Narrow little cut on way to Georgian Bay.



8-11 water
If you’ve gotta go at 25% throttle you ight as well have some nice scenery! Notice N’s standard optical fashion…. 2x’ers over sunglasses!


It was just as well since it afforded N an opportunity to get fully frustrated with the smaller pitch props and conclude we need to go big or go home (or break…again!). The smaller pitch props don’t get the boat going as fast as the 22’s at the same rpms so we burn more gas and go slower…. who does that? Anyway, we’re going to switch back to our 22’ props and fortunately we’re close to a place affiliated with the place we had the initial work done so we’ll swap out. We’ve lost count of how many haul outs we’ve had… you go Bayliner!


8-11 water 2
Whatever the speed there are some awesome little channels and bays to negotiate. 


8-11 water 3
So one guy did jump in and swim this waterfall… we didn’t!




8-11 lake
We’ve also found amazing anchorages. In this case it was a short walk from the boat to this island lake. Wait, it was a lake on an island in a lake! Whoa! 


Speaking of traveling in Canada, we’re learning all sorts of things. For example, when we see a sign that says NO WAKE ZONE, we assume it means slow down and leave no wake, but apparently here in Canada it’s different. Seems there was a universal typo where ALL the signs were meant to read NO, WAKE ZONE! See the comma? So, you’re supposed to leave a HUGE wake whenever you see the sign like as you pass marinas, cottages, etc.…. who would have known!? Also, if someone asked you if you needed “hydro”, whaddya think? Water maybe? Nope, it’s power! Of course, electricians are electricians, but they work on hydro!


8-11 boqt
She’s ALIVE! Here we are powering ahead across Georgian Bay! 


OK, time to get this post posted and pass the baton. RioMarLago out!


Jul 6 – 10, Days 221 – 225 Canadian Pole Dancin’

Well, we’ve had another technology driven blog hiatus despite which we’ve continued along the Trent-Severn Canal enjoying random adventures along the way.


7-8 carp
There are some GIANT carp in the river with plenty of people fishing for them. Our friend and gourmand recommends the following recipe for enjoying carp… scale the fish, season it, stuff it with herbs and roast on a cedar plank. When cooked, throw out the fish and eat the board!


We’re into the thick of the Canadian boating season and traffic is building. Not only are we seeing more “looper” boats, but many little towns along the canal plan weekend events to attract people.

7-8 canal
Lots more traffic going both directions!

That’s cool, but it makes it more challenging to find space each evening. So far, we’ve done OK.

7-9 ret
Tied up on far wall after the lock and walked into this little town.


7-9 lake
… and here’s another cute spot we found for another overnight. We were able to sit in the sun and enjoy the jazz fest going on at the nearby park.


Speaking of events, we stayed in Peterborough on Friday and had a chance to enjoy the annual “Rib Fest” together with seeing two tribute bands; “We Ain’t Petty” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and “Hot Rocks” (The Rolling Stones).

7-8 bbq
Each rib place displayed their trophies out front. We couldn’t handle more than one order.
7-8 b
Lots of fun in Peterborough

They were awesome! The good thing about tribute bands versus the real thing is the former ONLY play huge hits rather than forcing you to sit through their latest creative effort. OK, so we’re not big music aficionados…. we just want the hits!

7-8 roll
These guys even dressed up to look like the Stones. If you’re a Rolling Stones tribute band, what’s the first song you play? We both guessed “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and were right!

OK, after a night of rock ‘n roll we were off up the canal.


7-8 truck
We preferred the floating pink Cadillac limo in Florida!


With all the June rains the currents are strong in the canal making for always interesting marina entrances and exits. Leaving Peterborough, we came close to a big 48’ Sab recraft. NO WAY were we going to hit it, but the guy was out watching, paranoid that we would. No problemo! In fairness, another guy did bash another boat exiting.

7-8 curr
Not sure you can appreciate it from the pic, but the current is ripping after all the rain.

Two locks up we came across the largest hydraulic lock in the world. Amazing. It’s like one giant railway bridge suspended on a hydraulic pole. One comes down while the other goes up at near elevator speed.

7-8 lock
Check out the elevated chamber on left on top of pole. We’re entering the counterpart ahead.


7-8 lift
Once we’re in, a gate comes up to “seal” the box.
7-8 lift 3
… and then we go up! Look over N’s shoulder to see 65′ elevation gain. Very weird feeling.

We’re getting into a bit nicer scenery now as we go further north and west. This is lake cottage country with tons of little cottage all over including on individual sized islands. Amazing boating even if there are still a lot of 10kpmh speed restrictions!

7-8 island
Tons of little islands all over with houses.
7-8 rice
Great to get some open water where we could spool up the throttle a little bit.


7-9 trip
Still gotta slow for narrow channels. Believe it our not that’s a speed limit sign in the channel!



7-9 chur
This is a church on an island. If you look closely to the right you’ll see a string of aluminum boats belonging to parishoners.  


7-8 sling
One marina had a great solution for misbehaving crew! Z seems to be saying “Really?” while B looks more concerned. Note the clouds….it’s not ALL sunshine here!



Faithful readers will remember we’re using our spare props while we wait for repairs on the other. We’ve been spoiled by the other props and “WE” are getting frustrated by the seemingly poorer performance of the others. At least we have nice scenery and places to stop overnight (even if they don’t have internet)!


7-9 canal 3
Even N acknowledges you can’t blast down this at 25! Believe it our not there’s two traffic on this!



7-8 sleep
You’ve heard of sleepwalking…. here’s an example of sleep-snapping!


Turns out the old props can’t be repaired so N bit the bullet and decided to cough up the 30% plus premium to buy replacements versus waiting until we get to the US. That price included a MAJOR discount since the prop guy had been unable to sell the set for the last three years!


7-9 fix
Pulling in for yet another haul out for a prop swap!


The prop story is actually pretty complicated involving multiple prop shops, friends picking up and dropping off props, etc… but I’m working on the blog from a Tim Horton’s restaurant so trying to save time.

Even with our new props we’re not confident we’re back to normal performance, but there is a lot of current were constantly battling. Besides, now we have a new issue….. something’s weird with the steering. We’ve called ahead and hope to get someone to look at it. Hopefully it’s something really easy like bleeding a hydraulic line, but you never know; that’s boating! OK, maybe that’s Bayliner boating, but even so. In the meantime, we continue to shuffle along the canal. We’re down to our last 10 locks or so and then we have a few months of open water. We’re looking forward to that!


7-8 map
Green marks our trail since Ottawa. We’re probably a one hour drive from the open waters of Georgian Bay, but still a few days by boat!


Jun 27 – Jul 2, Days 211 -216 Bang Ding Ow

Grab a coffee, crack a beer because we’ve been “off-air” for a while so this will be a longish post. Let’s not begin with an internet access rant (notice a Canadian theme here?), but c’mon. OK, so this Rideau Canal does get into some remote areas, but between poor wi-fi and Verizon’s “unlimited” data plan providing about 5 milliseconds of 4G speed north of the border before stepping down to carrier pigeon speed we really are hamstrung on the tech side. Anyway……  


7-1 canal 6
OK, a bit of a re-run. Here’s a picture of an aerial picture of the first 8 locks on the Rideau passing right into downtown Ottawa. Just wanted to provide more perspective.


We’ve leapt into this Rideau Canal journey without really providing any historical context, but the latter is pretty cool. At 200km, the Rideau Canal is the longest canal in North America and includes 47(!) locks from top to bottom…or bottom to top depending on direction! Built from 1829 to 1836, the Rideau was originally conceived as a military defense against the risk of the “imperialist Americans” blocking the St Lawrence river thereby cutting off British trade routes to the interior of Canada and the Great Lakes. It was never used for military purposes and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site operated by Canadian National Parks for use by recreational boaters.


7-1 canal 8
Typical scene of approach to one of the multiple locks. Each spot generally allows overnight docking at the top or bottom of the lock. Lots of walks and always a peaceful night.


It’s an unbelievably cool waterway passing through small towns, parks, and moorages. Of course, the price is having to travel at 10kmph most of the time (N still jumps on the throttle whenever the opportunity presents itself), but at least our fuel burn is up to 4 miles/gallon which bodes well for our 200 miles+ trip without services a few months ahead.


7-1 canal
Even N is unwilling to power up here….not to mention that white marker clearly says 10kpmh!


We’ve also not really talked about this whole 150th Canadian birthday thing. OK, so I don’t think we’re alone as Americans not really understanding a whole lot about Canadian history, but there’s lot of interesting things. The Canadian flag we all recognize was only adopted in 1964! Wow, we were alive by then! Also, although Canadians celebrate Canada Day on July 1st, they’ve NEVER actually declared their independence from England…what!? Not sure they can claim an “official” birth year, it just sort of happened and the Queen still has a perfunctory role (she delegates the job to the Canadian-based British High Commissioner) in approving any law passed by Canadian Parliament. She’s never vetoed a bill, but even so. I could go on, but this is a boating blog!   

Anyway, this 150th “birthday” is a pretty big deal and we’re passing masses of boats and paddlers headed in the opposite direction headed to Ottawa to celebrate.


7-1 canoe 2
This group was paddling from Kinston to Ottawa! Another group of retired school teachers paddling the same direction serenaded B with the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” from their lock-side overnight camp. No idea of the backstory, as N was talking to the lockmaster when the singing started.


As for us, we’re shuffling up the Rideau on our way to Kingston at about 30 miles/day (the locks take time) because N is only willing to spend so much time steering our inboard/outboard at 10kmph!


7-1 lock2
There’s a chance to stretch your legs at each lock. Most are totally manually operated. At this spot not only did the lock staff need to crank the gates, but then had to manually swing the road bridge open.


So where have we been these last few days?


7-1 sling
Never a good sign… boat in a sling on a brutally rainy day.


They say there are two kinds of sailors, those who have run aground and those who have yet to do so! Super poor internet access has kept us off line for a bit, but a bigger factor has been N’s poor attitude following his “grenading” a prop a few days ago.


7-1 prop
Aaaahh! Our beautiful stainless prop! If you’re going to “grenade” a prop, you might as well do it properly. No, the blades are not supposed to be pointing forwards! Oh, and there’s not really supposed to be chunks out of the skeg either, but that’s more a pride thing.


This is N’s 3rd time doing that over the course of his nearly 50 years of boating so he is the kind of “sailor” who just doesn’t seem to learn! His self-flagellating has taken up his blogging time. The issue of wrecking the prop has been compounded by not being able to replicate our boat’s pre-prop strike performance. N has checked the prop shaft, put in fuel cleaner, and swapped out everything from fuel filters to spark plugs.


7-1 fix
#$@%^&……N does not really have an ideal mercruiser mechanic’s physique, but he got himself pretzeled in to do some wrenching.


Now we speculate our replacement props were somehow pitched incorrectly when we sent them out in Florida. Of course, all of this is taking place over the biggest holiday weekend in Canada so N gets to stew while Canadians celebrate (and don’t answer the phone or work on boats). Seems appropriate we came down the river Styx (seriously, that’s the name of the river) into Kingston. We’ll order new props ASAP and slam then on sometime this week hopefully.


7-1 trio
…and it wasn’t just the boat getting dinged! B cut her hand washing dishes (not good when you’re in charge of handling the lines over 30 upcoming locks), then N half fell into the canal while scraping his elbow on a lock wall (he was exiting the boat with a drink in one hand and crackers in the other!!!!) and finally B slipped on the bilge floor and slammed her thigh and shin into the engine. 



7-1 lock
B gets her lock on…you can’t see the gloved hand, but it’s there!


Despite our travails, it wasn’t all bad.


7-1 canal 4
We spent some peaceful evenings at quiet spots.



7-1 canal 7
Found fun pubs in small towns serving great beers!



7-1 barb
Had to take the pic…. N complains he always has to go out for fish and chips….what’s up with that!?



7-1 canal 2
From the pics you might think we’ve had a lot of sun, but it’s actually rained 26 of the 30 days of June! This scene is more typical of a cruising day (notice rain splashes in water)! Still, there is some fantastic scenery.



7-1 canal 3
Yep, this is navigable in our boat. Check out the channel markers all the way down.


In the meantime, we’re out of the Rideau Canal with 70+ miles of clear sailing to Trenton at the start of the Trent Severn Canal and another massive number of locks. Phew….that post is done! Hope to return to more regularity. Keep fingers crossed for those props!


6-6 map_LI (3)
This post is coming to you from the Kingston Starbucks! Trent Severn here we come.



Jun 22/23, Days 206/7 Lockin’, Dockin’ & Rockin’


6-23 mont
Sunset on the St Lawrence. The current is ripping through here at 6 knots morning, noon and night!

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.

6-23 lock6
We all waited at the “staging” dock for the lockmaster to give us the green light.

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.

6-23 lock7
Green light on and we headed in. N likes the Sabre there in front of us.
6-23 lock4
Here we are rafted with our friends Margot and Jerry from Tennessee!

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.

6-23 lock1
There’s B lost but not forgotten amongst the fiberglass!

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.

6-23 lock 10
Very peaceful evening “on the wall” at St Anne.

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!).


6-6 map_LI (2)
Here’s where we were the last two nights on our way to Ottawa.


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.


6-23 wave
OK, so the crew was not as excited about playing catch-up, but they hung in there over some rough patches in “Lac du Deux Montagnes”.



6-23 lock9
Last off the dock…. first to the lock! You go Bayliner.


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!


6-23 lock8
The lock is WAY deeper than anything thing we’ve seen recently, but notice all we had to do was tie-up to a floating dock and then float up with it.


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.


6-23 rock
Dude! We were stoked! Unbelievable people watching as we walked around town sticking out like sore thumbs with our light colored boating attire.


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.


6-23 hotel
Fortunately we stayed at the marina associated with this hotel. B observed it was thataway to the lounge and a peaceful after dinner glass of port.



6-23 hotel 2
A nice redoubt after a day on the water and afternoon rockin’.



6-23 beaver
Evidence of Canada’s initial raison d’etre…. there’s beaver amongst them thar’ trees!


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.


Jun 17/18, Days 201/202 You Lockin’ Me Crazy

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.


6-18 border
So this is the border with Canada. It’s a very small wall….basically a floating stick! You’ve go to be pretty incompetent to not get around it. Canadian customs only concern was whether we were carrying guns, mace, pepper spray, knives or other forms of offensive or defensive weaponry (our Swiss Army knife was allowed).  


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).


6-17 lock 2
B getting our permits from the lockmasters at the first of nine locks we transited on the day.



6-18 canal 3
Are you kidding me!!? N on phone to Bank of America fraud squad explaining the bank’s inability to process a Visa charge is holding up Canadian shipping (we were in the lock at the time pending the payment getting processed). We now have a “hot line” to the bank on these issues so no more phone trees of obnoxious questions.


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.


6-18 canal 7
Coming out of one lock directly into another and there was another after this one!


The canal was built in the early 19th century to increase trade by linking Montreal and New York.


6-17 canal
Believe me, there was no overnight delivery from NY to Montreal using this route! Cool though. Cars to port, runners and cyclists to starboard!


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.   


6-17 lock
In the lock with our friends. They let us pass after this lock so we didn’t have to eat diesel fumes for the next 4 hours.



6-18 canal 6
How about this for a summer job? Crankin’ lock handles in 90 degrees all summer long!




6-18 canal 2
The lockmasters and bridge guys call ahead so each spot is ready for you when you arrive. This bridge was going up for us as we cane around the bend. In this case, the same guy then jumped in his car and drove ahead to open the next bridge (we saw him go by us on the road!).


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!


6-17 map
Whoa, we have seriously run aground! Nope, we’re on the Chambly Canal route rocking along at 7.8kmph!



6-18 canal 4
These were the first series of locks where N had to get involved with the lines (except cutting them that one time) rather than barking orders from the bridge. The latter role was left to Z.


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! 


6-18 meat_LI
By the time we reached Chambly we were so hungry we could “eat a horse”…. no wait… I thought it was a figure of speech! Bienvenue au Canada!!!

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!!!