Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Home At Last!!

After successfully turning the Wyvern III back in to a sailboat, we headed out on to Lake Ontario!  The lake welcomed us home with a very gentle caress!!  The water was glassy calm, not a breath of wind, with a 'misty' look to the horizon!  It was very quiet and peaceful.  Not even another boat!

After a few hours, we were excited to see the islands of Main Duck and Yorkshire pass to our left...our first familiar land sighting for over a year!!  As we continued east, good old Wolfe Island and it's wind generators hove in to view!  We had decided to go through customs in Gananoque, as we weren't sure how long the process would take and we didn't want my Mom to wait on shore while we waited on the customs officials, so we left Wolfe Island to our port, cruising past Cape Vincent, NY.
Yorkshire and Main Duck Islands off our port quarter

Wolfe Island

Cape Vincent lighthouse

Horne Ferry from Wolfe Island to Cape Vincent

We continued along the south coast of Wolfe Island, finally rounding Quebec Head and crossing the international border in to Canada at 8:30pm!  We carried on and anchored in Brakey Bay for the night...a spot with great memories where we have anchored with our good friends Elizabeth and John in the past!  By 9:00pm the anchor was down and we were settled in for the night.  Still no rain, but we had watched it follow us as we made our way down the lake, just ahead of it!  As evening fell, the only sound to break the silence was the occasional cry of a loon!!  It felt good to be back in Canada!!
Quebec Head Lighthouse

Sunset from Brakey Bay

The next morning we treated ourselves to coffee in bed, as we had a short day ahead of ourselves, before starting off for Gananoque.  Thunderstorms were still being predicted and we were only experiencing light rains, but didn't want to push our luck, so headed off in time to be at the Gananoque Marina by noon, where George cleared Canadian Customs via phone call and we were officially back in Canadian territories!!  To mark the auspicious occasion, we walked in to town and had an ice cream cone at our favourite ice cream store!

Beginning of the Thousand Islands!
Canadian flag!...Yeah!!

We got back to the boat and were just about to serve dinner, when the long expected thunderstorms and rain finally arrived at the same time as our good friends Fred and Deborah, unexpectedly arrived to welcome us home!!!  We had a great visit while the rain poured down, giving us the chance to start the process of 'catching up' on each other's last year!!
summer storm approaching at the Gananoque Marina

After a night full of rain, we woke on the morning of June 25 to a foggy, drizzly morning, which eventually eased off to simply a 'grey' day.  Again, no wind, so we pushed off the dock and headed out to the waters of the St. Lawrence River, making our way towards our home port of Kingston Ontario, on the beautiful shores of Lake Ontario!!  That morning we enjoyed finding and pointing out familiar sights.  As we neared Kingston, we were rewarded with a quintessential Kingston sight....Cedar Island with it's distinctive Murney Tower, the tall ship St. Lawrence II sailing alongside the island, and the buildings of downtown Kingston rising on the horizon in the background!!  About 1:30pm we rounded Cartwright Point, headed in to Deadman Bay and made fast on the courtesy dock of our home club, Canadian Forces Base Kingston Yacht Club, where my mother was there to greet us and drive us the last few kilometers to our home!!  After twelve months and twenty-five days, and approximately 4800 nautical miles, our journey was over!!
St. Lawrence II with Murney Tower on Cedar Island

Murney Tower and Fort Henry with Kingston in the background

Canadian Forces Base Kingston Yacht Club

We have been home now for about a week and a half, we have reunited with family, had some visits with friends, and are settling back down to life on land!  We are immensely happy to report that our beloved Rottweiller, Murdoch, who this year is 14 years old, is doing as well as can be expected for such an old fella!!!  We left him behind with much trepidation, as we felt sure, at his age, he would not survive the year we were gone, but he has proven us wrong, and for that we are very happy!!  My sister Elspeth and her partner Fraser deserve all kinds of kudos for doing such a great job at opening their home and their hearts to him!!  For that we shall always be grateful!
Murdoch enjoying the summer shade

Finally, I would like to thank all of you who have been following our journey, both on this blog and through phone calls and emails!  It has been a true joy to have been able to share our journey with you!  This will be my last entry, and I wanted to say good-bye and good luck, to anyone who has been inspired to make their own journey and follow their own dreams!!

"Anything can be found at sea, according to the spirit of your quest."
Joseph Conrad      


Erie Canal

After posting my blog and getting the boat and ourselves ready to make our way to the Erie Canal system, we discovered the locks had been closed and would remain that way throughout the weekend due to heavy rains and flooding!  So we spent the weekend wandering through the town of Catskill and enjoying the local amenities, such as the locally made chocolates shop (!!), a great used book shop, and a couple of shops selling local artist's wares.  Between them, we were able to find some treats for us and also unique gifts for family!  We also enjoyed exploring some of the back streets and finding the source of the musical bells we had been hearing since our arrival.  There is a Franciscan Monastery at the top of the hill!  The weather cleared up nicely over the weekend, so by Tuesday, the locks were back open and ready for business!

Some of the famous cats of Catskill!!

village church with the Catskill mountains in the distance

street scene....I was enjoying the hills!!

Catskill Creek

We caught the flood at the crack of dawn and enjoyed a beautiful morning on the Hudson!  The water was like glass and no other traffic, so we had the place to ourselves!  Passed Albany around 11:00am.  Not too impressive from the water, as it is very industrial, however, the river quickly returned to its former 'rural' atmosphere once past the city.
Hudson Athens Lighthouse

lovely calm morning!

Albany with 'The Egg' Performing Arts Centre

old train station, now part of the NY state university administration

Arrived at Troy where we were going to enter the Erie Canal System at Lock #2, around 1:30pm.  There was still no wind to speak of and the temperature was rising, so getting pretty hot, but we took the shady side in the locks and our movement kept things relatively comfortable!  We bought a 10 day pass to get ourselves through the  Canal System at a cost of $40, which we will be able to show at each lock as we pass through.  The first five locks are very close together, each one lifting us about 30 feet, so by the time we were finished we had risen about 160'....the steepest lock system in the world apparently!  We carried on to Lock #7 and tied up at the upper side, hot and tired, at 5:30pm!  It felt very 'pre-thunderstorm', and sure enough, about midnight a big thunderstorm passed through, bringing high winds and lots of rain, thunder and lightning!!
tied up at the wall at Troy Visitor Centre, preparing to begin the locks!

exiting one lock with the next in view!

River Views

The next day brought strong west winds and clouds all day, but no rain, so we stayed dry!!  The canal system is turning out to be a lot prettier than I had anticipated, so I have been pleasantly surprised by the pleasing hills and valleys that have been rolling by as we make our way up the Mohawk River!  I have also been pleasantly surprised by the fact that a good portion of the 'canal' is actually the river, with small sections of canal running parallel to the river, so it is definitely not the straight, narrow 'ditch' that I had imagined!  A number of the locks themselves are undergoing upgrading and construction, as the state of New York has finally managed to come up with the money to fix the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene four years ago!  All this construction, however, did not really impact us on our journey, and all locks were working well.  Most of the locks have their own lines, which meant it was only a matter of catching the lines and then fending off the wall of the lock as the boat rises or falls with the water level, however, I would recommend anyone going through that they have their own lines ready, as the occasional lock will require you to 'loop' your own line through a cable attached to the wall, and there is no warning about this until the lock opens and you can peek in as you approach!  Most of the locks also provide free spots along a wall outside the lock, usually on the 'high' side, where you can tie up for the night during your transit.  There are also some marinas scattered along the river, usually associated with towns, but as a sail boat, we were limited to where we could go due to our draft, and actually preferred the locks, as they tend to be quiet, and possibly associated with a park.

More river views!!...the land is getting higher again

friends from CFBKYC heading south!!

rock climbers outside of Little Falls

Day four of the transit, we reached Lake Oneida; the only large body of water we will cross until reaching Lake Ontario.  We arrived about one week before the big July 4 opening, so the town was still pretty quiet, as it is clearly a 'summer' town!  That being said, there were a number of brave souls on the very windy Sylvan Beach the day we arrived who were clearly anxious for summer to begin!!  Lake Oneida is a fairly large body of water, but shallow, so once again, we needed to concern ourselves with the wind, as it can pick up the water quickly, and with our mast down, we are far more vulnerable to the effects of high waves!!  Fortunately, the next day dawned fairly calm, with only the bass fishermen disturbing the water, so we left nice and early and made the 20 mile journey across the lake before the afternoon winds picked up!  After crossing the lake, we entered the Oneida River and followed that until we came to the junction of the Oswego and Seneca Rivers, where we hung a right  following the Oswego River until we reached the town of Oswego, on the shores of Lake Ontario! We decided to tie up to the town wall, just short of the last lock, as this would leave us protected from any weather heading in from Lake Ontario.  It also left us right on the doorstep of a fundraiser being held in the park where we donated to the cause by purchasing some locally crafted beer to wash down the delicious fries and pulled pork sandwiches that we munched on while listening to a concert being given by some local talent!  A nice way to spend the afternoon!
Hardy souls on a windy Sylvan Beach!!

beach houses for rent!!

view of Lake Oneida from the change house
first day of bass fishing!!

Fun on the Oneida River

Oswego, just around the corner!

Fund Raising Fun!
canal in foreground, river right beside it

The next day we passed through our last lock and tied up at the Oswego Marina, where we were scheduled to have our mast raised the next morning, as that kind of work is not done on the weekend.  We finished off some work that we had been doing on the boat; George cleaning the stainless steel and trying to head off the damage caused by the salt water corrosion, and me cleaning the inside of the boat, also trying to erase the last effects of the salt water environment from our woodwork, portholes, and lockers!  I'm afraid the brass is going to need a lot of elbow grease and time, and will have to wait until we are home and I have more of both!!!

Monday morning the mast crew arrived bright and early to raise our mast, which they did quickly and efficiently, leaving us to re-set the standing rigging, put both booms back on and re-hang the main and jib sails.  By this time it was noon, and with the imminent threat of possible thunderstorms approaching, starting in the evening and lasting for the next couple of days, we decided to make tracks and head towards the Thousand Island region where we could 'hide' from the storms if necessary, but meanwhile put some miles behind us and get out of the open water of Lake Ontario before the storms arrived.