The Great Loop

We are beginning the journey to cruise the rest of the “Great Loop”, which we began 14 years ago on our sail boat “Beau Soliel”. That journey then took us from Milwaukee to the Straits of Mackinaw, North Channel in Lake Huron (part of Canada,) Detroit River, Lake Erie, Erie Canal, Hudson River, Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, Intra-Coastal Waterway, around the Keys and into Tampa Bay. That’s when, after keeping the boat there one year, we decided to put the sailboat on the market; wanting to spend more time in Colorado.

We began this leg of the Great Loop by heading into the Trent Severn Waterway, on Lake Ontario. This waterway allows us to bypass Lake Erie and the southern half of Lake Huron. We will next be in the Georgian Bay and then North Channel (both part of Lake Huron with literally thousands of small islands), through the Straits of Mackinaw, down Lake Michigan, and enter the Illinois River at Chicago, down the Mississippi River, short run up the Ohio River, then into Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers and finally reach the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile Bay. From there we turn east and follow the panhandle of Florida for a while, before heading across the Gulf to Tarpon Springs and Tampa Bay. At Tampa Bay we will have crossed our tracks and completed the Great Loop. We hope to be in Tampa Bay sometime around the beginning of December. We plan on wintering in either the Fort Myers or Bradenton areas, depending upon where we can get a 3 month slip rental.

Entering the Trent Severn Waterway

Entering the Trent Severn Waterway


While in the Milwaukee area we will spend a few days visiting friends and family, but due to weather concerns, we plan on being off Lake Michigan by the middle of September. Finishing this Great Loop has been a long time a dream of Mark’s. There is a flag (called a burgee) for those doing the “Loop” that is flown on the foredeck (it is waiting for us in Wisconsin). All Loopers know what it is and is always an attraction to start up a conversation with other boaters. We have met several boats along the way which we continually run into at new marinas or anchorages. One couple we have been traveling with the last few days is from Manitowoc, Wisconsin! We are going to have “docktails” on the dock tonight with them and two other “Looper” couples.

Personally though, I think I will be glad to be done with the locks on the Trent Severn in another 4 or 5 days (22 more to go) and enjoy the beautiful anchorages of the Georgian Bay and the North Channel. Glad to say we have done it, but I’m over that adventure. It took us three hours yesterday to go five miles because of waiting for the locks to be ready, then we go in, the lock fills, then we go out and then the same thing again and again. We do, however, see some lovely cottages right on the shores in many places. Everyone here proudly displays their Canadian flag. In one lock, the water was overflowing from an adjacent lock (the water is used to help fill the lock) and the boat ahead of us was getting wet. Andy was glad not to be in the first position this time! All of the locks have beautiful gardens.

Flowers at the locks

Flowers at the locks


Getting wet in the lock

Getting wet in the lock

Pema in her life jacket

Pema in her life jacket


Pema checking things out

Pema checking things out


The Canadian "Twoonie"

The Canadian “Twoonie”


We are currently in Peterborough Ontario (city of 350,000) at a lovely marina. There was a free outdoor concert right next door. The orchestra played all of the music from World War I and II and showed a fabulous slide show along with it. We were going to take off after spending two nights here, but decided to stay put one more day. It rained all last night and is windy and cold today. I even had to break out the fleece and long pants! Mark and Andy want to break down to put jeans on, but they are trying to tough it out in shorts. That weather is moving out later today and will be nice for the next five days. When we arrived we went to the little restaurant here. Mark had to finally check out a Canadian favorite – Poutine. AKA French Fries with cheese curds and gravy. It is a heart attack on a plate.
src=”https://nextdanceblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/img_1824.jpg?w=300″ alt=”Concert in the Park” width=”300″ height=”225″ class=”size-medium wp-image-150″ /> Concert in the Park[/caption]
Mark trying the Poutine

Mark trying the Poutine

We continue to eat well. I made the boys lobster rolls for lunch the other day. Mark said that it sure beats Andy’s hot dogs!! Mushroom risotto last night – yum! I am missing not getting fresh seafood. Won’t expect that for some time.

Mark grilling Italian sausage

Mark grilling Italian sausage

Andy is getting ready to leave us soon. He has agreed to stay with us through the remainder of the locks and then head back to Wisconsin. I think he is ready for his vacation to end. Ha! When I told him it would be an adventure, he didn’t have any idea what I was talking about! Putt putt . . . a slow moving boat to somewhere! He keeps telling people that he has been Shanghaied. I tell people he is on the prison work release program whenever he wears his orange T-shirt! At least he has finally been able to get his fishing rod out and to no good use – no Walleye in sight!! I am still waiting.
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Until next time, fair winds and calm seas.

…"Red sky at night, sailors delight"

…”Red sky at night, sailors delight”

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A Slight Change in Plans

Our original plan had been to head North and cruise the Rideau and Richeleau Canal systems in Canada and then back track the way we came up from Norfolk, VA; spending time in the Chesapeake Bay until mid-October and then heading to Florida for the Winter. However, we changed our minds and will be making a left turn and going into the Trent Severn Canal, then through the Georgian Bay and North Channel of Lake Huron; eventually arriving in Lake Michigan where we will spend a little time visiting family and friends. We haven’t told them yet, but I know that they will be excited to see us. Then Mark will have his dream of finishing up this portion of the “Great Loop” and getting his flag! We will still end up in Florida (have not made our reservation yet) via the Illinois River, Mississippi River, Ohio River, Tennessee River and the Tombigbee River to Mobile, AL. From there it is simply following the panhandle of Florida down to the Fort Meyers area where we will be able to visit some friends. Then next year we will head to the Abacos in the Bahamas for a few months and back North to the Chesapeake Bay, and the New England Coast. This is the beauty of not having too much of a plan – you can change your mind and go elsewhere if you want! As it turns out we made the right decision. We just found out today that parts of the Rideau Canal are closed because the water is too high. We would have been stuck!

We spent time on Lake Ontario; anchored one night in White Cove in Henderson Bay. A beautiful, peaceful anchorage (except for the obnoxious jet skiers for awhile). We had a perfect crossing on the lake from Oswego, NY – just the way the Admiral likes it! Once anchored, I made a lovely little lunch of shrimp and avocado salad. Then we lowered the kayak and I went for a little spin. It is great to be in this fresh water. The water is a little brisk at first, but proved to be lovely for a swim. Tomorrow we will enter Canada and after clearing customs, we will purchase a fishing license. Andy is looking forward to getting a hook in the water. Not sure what we can keep, but we will be sure to find out. Can’t wait to have some fresh fish for dinner! We have been eating quite well on board since I have been back. Not too many complaints from the Captain and crew – nor should there be any!!

At Anchor

At Anchor


Ahhh fresh water to swim in!

Ahhh fresh water to swim in!

Before entering Lake Ontario, we left the Erie Canal, turning North onto the Oswego Canal. We spent two nights in Brewerton, NY at a wonderful boatyard – Winter Haven, where Mark had another expensive piece of equipment installed in the engine room (aka – a boat unit). They had a courtesy car there for us to use and I was able to stock up on some wonderful supplies at a Wegman’s grocery store. If you have never experienced a Wegman’s, think “Nordstrom’s” of grocery stores. The food and customer service is excellent. Andy got lots of exercise walking into town and getting to know some of the locals. We have also met some wonderful people so far along the way. We invited one couple over for cocktails one night. They are from Kingston Ontario; Julia and Dennis Moore. He works for a company which moves hospital equipment to new facilities. It is the only such company around that specializes in doing this. She is a police officer in Kingston, specializing now in “CSI” type work. A very interesting couple. They just purchased their first boat – a 40 year old boat, modeled after an east coast lobster boat, that looks like a quaint cottage inside. Neither really has much boating experience and are learning as they are going along and I must say are doing very well. He is a very handy type person, which is a good thing on a boat like that.

We in Canada and we're turning left!

We in Canada and we’re turning left!

Along the way I decided to fit Pema with her life jacket. What a hoot! She just plopped over and layed there with a look on her face like “what the hell???”. We all laughed so hard. Ming loves just hanging out inside and does not venture outside too often unless we are out there. Pema, on the other hand, is a little devil when we are docked. She will take any moment that we are not looking to jump ship and begin to explore the dock. We must always be diligent in watching her. This morning I was doing dishes and saw her out the porthole wandering. The other evening, she jumped from the top deck onto the dock! They really do love being on the boat. There is always something new to see all around them.

One of Pema's favorite perches

One of Pema’s favorite perches


Ming just hanging out in the salon

Ming just hanging out in the salon

We have become pretty proficient at handling the locks. We have gone through 29 locks since entering the Erie Canal. Which is good since we have 41 more to go until we reach Lake Huron!!

Mark helping hold the lines in the lock

Mark helping hold the lines in the lock

We spend two nights in Kingston Ontario. What a great town. Within walking distance lots of restaurants and shopping. The wi-fi at the marina was pretty sketchy, so I haven’t had a chance to upload photos to the blog until today – in Belleview Ontario. Tomorrow we begin the Trent Severn – Lock 1.

Mark outside of the old train depot in Kingston

Mark outside of the old train depot in Kingston

Leaving Kingston, the wind was pretty strong and we encountered some pretty wavy water. We didn’t think to give Ming and Pema their motion sickness medication. So I was on clean-up duty with cat barf. Yuk! Poor kitties. But it settled down about an hour out and they sacked out until our arrival in Belleville.

It was quite a site to see us coming into this marina. The wind was blowing right on our beam at 30 mph. Coming in we just got pushed off all the time. We were finally able to get a line tossed to someone on the dock. It took 3 people to get us pulled in enough to get the other lines to them. Whew! Time for a cocktail! Just watched another boat come in – what a difference two engines and a stern thruster makes. Wonder how many boat units a stern thruster is????

Since just missing hit by Hurricane Arthur coming up the east coast (Mark and Andy experienced heavy rains and winds but were tied to a sturdy dock), we have been blessed with very nice weather, just an occasional shower. Hope it stays that way for awhile.

Until next time – fair winds and calm seas.

The Admiral is Back on Board!

I flew out of Norfolk, VA on 6/28 back to Colorado, spending a few days with Scott and then Heather, Ellie and Anna and I drove to Steamboat, CO for a week of fun and excitement at the Vista Verde Dude Ranch. Mark and I have had the pleasure of visiting this ranch twice before ourselves and it has always been my dream to actually go there with the entire family. However, having moved on board the boat, Mark decided he really wanted to stay on the boat, and Scott (allergic to horses), decided not to go. So it was a girls trip and what a great time we had. Vista Verde is just a little piece of heaven in Colorado on 600+ acres. I knew the girls would have the time of their lives there. They are already thinking of coming back for a between-college job for the summer (a few years down the road). The girls joined a group of teens for the week and truly bonded. They were the only girls in the group. I think those boys were in heaven! Ellie said when we left that her favorite part of the trip was meeting these boys and now having brothers in her family. How sweet. Oh . . . . and the cowboys! They are pretty special as you can see! Heather enjoyed a week of relaxation, good food, a little wine, meeting new people and lots of laughs. Me, I was in heaven riding a horse again. What an incredible week.
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After our departure from Vista Verde, I took the girls to the airport hotel and headed back up to Breckenridge. I spent more time with Scott and friends. Sadly, I attended a funeral mass and memorial of one of our very best friends, Dick Masica. He passed away unexpectedly, but did come to a peaceful end with his family surrounded by him. It was a very somber, yet peaceful event to attend. Although we will miss Dick so very much, everyone who was touched by him will hold him in their heart forever. His wife, Joanne, is one of my dearest friends and I was happy to be able to stay for the service. It was so good to see Joanne and her family. I am sure that Mark and I will be visiting her in Scottsdale at some time.

Now, the Admiral has returned to the boat (that’s me!) and is getting the Captain and Crew in line. I flew into Albany, NY and Mark picked me up there. We then drove to Half Moon Bay in Croton-on-the-Hudson, two hours south by car, where I was back on board. It was great to see Mark and Andy, and of course, my Ming and Pema! The cats are glad I am back (although they were well taken care of and watched over by the boys).
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We are now on the Erie Canal heading West.` We will be heading to the Oswego Canal and then North to Lake Ontario where we will begin our journey into Canada. I am looking forward to exploring Canada. The towns along the Erie Canal are interesting, as is the story behind the Erie Canal. Tonight we are in Waterford – Lock #2. Unfortunately it is a dying town. It appears that many of the little businesses are struggling. However, we did find an incredible restaurant – McGreedy’s. The chef is a culinary graduate from the Culinary Institute of America. He is the son of the family owned business. Outstanding, very good food and staff. Mrs. McGreedy makes most of the desserts – the carrot cake is one of the best I have ever tasted (sorry mom) and she makes a Guinness Cake with a whiskey ganache filling. Yumm!

Misadventures – only one to speak of so far. Coming into Waterford to tie up on the municipal wall – of course the engine decides to die. It turned on right away again, thankfully. Nonetheless, a little nerve racking. Mark does not know why this happened and all seems to be OK for now. We will see if we have any further problems. Hopefully not.