Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Gold Loopers at Last!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Before we actually set off on our Loop adventure from Sturgeon Bay, WI in August 2013 we took several short cruises to get used to our then new to us boat. We travelled across Green Bay to Menominee, MI; north to Escanaba and Fayetteville; and across Lake Michigan to Leland. So we could have crossed our wake in any of those places. Lake conditions were our deciding factor- Our preferred destination of Menominee was a go!

We spent an extra day in St. Ignace waiting for the best weather, then on July 10 cruised about 50 miles to the small isolated Beaver Island near the top of Lake M. We arrived in time for lunch at Delhinney's, a short walk from the marina. We topped off our fuel for tomorrow's trip, noting that diesel here is more expensive than in Canada.

Weather and wave forecasts were spot on. Wednesday's waves were less than .1 meters- it doesn't get much better than that! We untied our lines at 5:20 am to begin our 120 mile trip. We did not see another boat during the first 70 miles. Our tug performed like a champ today and every day on this journey. We actually crossed our wake near Jackson Harbor on Washington Island, but did not touch land there on either end of our Loop. We returned to Menominee, MI around 1:20 pm to officially complete our Loop. We love the marina here- it has the most well-appointed boaters' lounge we encountered, and the rest of the facilities are equally impressive. We immediately felt we were "home." Fellow snowbirds Pappy and June met us at the marina and took us out to dinner and a visit to their lovely northern home.

Our daughter-in-law and her father drove our truck and trailer to us the next day, and we loaded up the boat and headed for our land home.

What a journey! August 2013-July 2018

  • 9,826 miles including various side trips
  • 190 locks
  • 3 boats: Mara Beel I, our 42' Ocean Alexander; Short Vacation (with John and Pam Short) from Deltaville, to Georgetown, VA to take possession of Mara Beel II, and of course Mara Beel II, our 27'  Ranger Tug. The decision to downsize was a long-term plan that happened sooner than anticipated when Mara Beel I sold right off the bat. Its a long story!
  • We lost 3 of our parents during the trip, all in their 90's
  • 3 grandchildren were born during our trip.
  • We gained numerous life-long friends.
Gold Loopers at last!

Mara Beel is for sale!

During the nearly 2,000 miles we covered this summer from the Chesapeake to Michigan, our Ranger Tug (2014, 27' ) performed perfectly, having no issues whatsoever while we pushed her pretty hard for 9 solid weeks. We have not regretted our decision to downsize at all- this boat is a champ! However, we have decided our cruising days are over due to Mark's back problems. The herniated disk he sustained a year ago makes living on a boat less than ideal. We are going to concentrate on being around for our kids and grandkids and enjoying life on the banks of the Mississippi River, rides in our pontoon boat, and wintering in our Florida home where the water is "soft" all year.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Blind River and Mackinac Island

Blind River was our final stop in Ontario, and we felt right at home in this small but well-appointed marina.

We spent 2 nights here.
We cruised through the North Channel quickly- it seemed to us that the best scenery is out in the many anchorages rather than along the route we traveled. We did not want to anchor because taking our dinghy off and on of the boat could easily hurt Mark's back. And anchoring without a dinghy to explore is not nearly as much fun.

Modern day voyageurs

We left Blind River at 4:30 a.m. to take advantage of the calmest winds crossing over to the United States. We checked in using an app called ROAM, which was a piece of cake- no need to stop or make a phone call.

We didn't travel in the dark very long.
The cruise to St. Ignace, MI, took about 7.5 hours.  Here we met our friends Bob and Kathy who are on their sailboat heading to Canada. St. Ignace is just across the water from Mackinac Island, so of course we had to visit that famous tourist spot. I was a bit skeptical but the island is absolutely beautiful! Even though it was a perfect Sunday, the ferries carried very few people and the island was not crowded. About 500 people actually live here, and who knows how many tourists stop by. I learned that the name is pronounced with a silent C- "Mackinaw" even though it is spelled "Mackinac". That clears up years of confusion for me!

We took the classic (slow) ferry to the island with friends Bob and Kathy.

The famous Grand Hotel

If you are not a guest here, it will cost $10 to walk across the porch!

Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan all connect in this vicinity. The water is a beautiful blue and crystal clear.

The marina area with a wigwam in the foreground 

Of course there are no cars on the island, but there are lots of bicycles and horse drawn carriages.

The pooper scoopers valiantly try to keep up with the horse poop. There is still a definitive odor in the air.

Flowers are everywhere.

It feels fantastic to be back in the U.S.

Stone church
Fort Mackinac

I love history, so the fort was a must-see.

The fort as seen from the harbor

The fort changed hands between the British and the Americans after the War of 1812.

These actors, sang, danced, shot the cannon, etc.

Looking through a peep hole

We had lunch at this tea room, catered by the Grand Hotel.

The "Mesabi Miner" headed to Duluth.

One of innumerable fast ferries 
We need 2 good weather days to finish our Loop! At this point July 10-11 looks promising. We have flexibility in choosing our end point. We purchased our original boat in Sturgeon Bay and then crossed Green Bay to Menominee, MI, and later crossed over to Leland, MI, Escanaba, and Fayette. So we can legitimately cross our wake in any of those places. If the current wind/wave forecast holds, we will go to Beaver Island tomorrow and then have a long ride to Menominee the following day where our son can meet us with our truck and trailer. We will see- nothing is definite yet. But we are so excited about finishing!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Penetanguishene to Britt

We left Penetang after a terrific visit with Susan and Jeff on July 2 knowing that hordes of holiday boaters would be returning to their marinas in full force after the long Canada Day weekend. So we were not surprised to meet dozens of large cruisers stirring up big wakes and rocking us. Between the wakes and the wind, I was not able to take any photos! We spent the night in Killbear Marina, an isolated spot.

We took off early this morning- July 3 -  and enjoyed an almost smooth Lake Huron. We were in open water part of the the time and in protected passages most of the way. The scenery along this part of the Canadian Shield was nice- granite everywhere. Some passages were extremely narrow, twisting,  and lined with boulders.

We are spending the night in Wright's Marina in Britt on the Byng Inlet. Their boater lounge is fun- we've played many games of table shuffleboard after walking to St. Amant's Restaurant for fish and chips.

One of the 30,000 islands in the Georgian Bay

The original site of a barrel placed here  to mark safe passage through turbulent waters.


Thousands of cottages dot the rocks, but this one is unique.

A traditional Great Lakes style boat

Rocks are everywhere

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Orillia to Penetanguishene

  June 29-July 2

Pop the champagne corks- we have finished the Trent Severn Waterway and therefore all 102 Canadian locks on our trip!!  From here on it will be beautiful open water- and rocks of course. Rocks are fine as long as we don't hit any of them in this region of 30,000 islands!

We left Orillia around 7:15 am and made the 9:00 lockage at Couchiching, followed eventually by Swift Rapids, the Big Chute Marine Railway, and the Port Severn locks. 

Big Chute is unique- it allows us boaters to “portage” over land without ever stepping off our boats. 

Next to the Railway

We drove Mara Beel into the railway car and a sling was put underneath us. Our cruising buddies on Sourciae were placed right behind us. 

We had to wait for this boat to come up from the lower side.

We were moved along a railway track, lifted out of the water, carried over a road, and a waterfall, and then carefully placed back into the water 60 feet below.

The boat traveling over the road

And back into the water on the other side

Our turn- Sourciae is loaded in behind Mara Beel

This thing looks way too much like a roller coaster for boats.

Looking ahead from our bow

The “Oh s*** "moment

What an amazing experience! 

From here we moved on a bit to the Georgian Bay and Penetanguishene, home of our Looper friends Jeff and Susan. We spent the Canada Day long weekend here in Harbor West Marina. This is the biggest summer holiday here, and is just as busy as the 4thof July is in the States. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Peterborough to Orillia

Monday - Tuesday, June 25-26

We left Peterborough Monday morning in time for the first opening of Ashburnham lock (#20), just a mile or two from the marina. The lock after that was the Peterborough Lift Lock (21) a half mile away. This is a unique lock- it has two "tubs" of water that counterbalance. Boats and water are lifted up (in our case) as the other side comes down. The top tub is filled with 11 extra inches of water to make it heavier, and therefore it goes down while the bottom tub rises. We were raised 65 feet! When exiting the top tub, that 11 inch difference gave us a little bump as we pulled out. For a better explanation, Google "Peterborough Lift Lock."

Tub on the left is up while the right side tub is down

Meeting midway
That was a fast, fun ride!

We moved on through more "normal" locks- Nassau Mills, Otonabee, Douro, Sawer Creek, Lakefield, Young's Point, Burleigh Falls, Lovesick, and Buckhorn. We tied to the upper wall of Buckhorn for the night and met a friendly couple from Bridgenorth traveling the opposite direction. We shared docktails and stories.

Tuesday we had a few longer intervals between locks. We left at 0615 to make it to Bobcaygeon for the 9:00 opening. We got off the boat briefly in Fenelon Falls for an early lunch at "On the Locks". We traveled the rest of the day with "Contentment", a Michigan Looper, as we transited more locks- Fenelon Falls, Rosedale, Kirkfield, Bolsover, Portage, and Gamebridge. Our goal was to cross Lake Simcoe today because tomorrow's winds could make for a bumpy ride.

Wonderful scenery today- narrow in some spots

The Kirkfield Lift Lock is very similar to the one in Peterborough.

We crossed Lake Simcoe with no issues and arrived in Orillia at 7:15 p.m.- 13 hours, 80 miles and 9 locks. Needless to say, we were exhausted. Port of Orillia is a friendly marina with beautiful new facilities. We will be exploring Orillia until Friday, June 29.

Sunset in Orillia

We have been in Canada exactly 21 days, of which 14 were travel days. On those 14 days we transited through 98 locks! (4 more to go) We have our reasons for moving at this speed- family, friends, home, a baptism, Kids' Camp, and a very small boat.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Trenton to Peterborough

Trenton to Peterborough

I have been posting less since we have been away from Internet connectivity most of the week, so I’m catching up now. 

Tuesday, June 19 - We had an easy 72-mile ride from Kingston to Trenton NO LOCKS! We left early in the morning, made a quick stop in Belleville to buy Volvo oil, and arrived at Trenton shortly after noon. We had our oil changed shortly after we arrived and defrosted our tiny freezer. Trent Port Marina has the most luxurious shower rooms we have encountered anywhere! They are recently remodeled and very upscale- nicer than my shower at home! 
We walked to a nearby grocery store to pick up some fresh produce and had dinner at a sushi restaurant. We like grocery store sushi and the rolls we make ourselves, but this was a different animal. We tried to select a few things that resembled our favorites until the server pointed out that our choice was rolled in raw fish eggs. We opted out of that one and picked something less authentic. It was not as good as Publix sushi or homemade sushi. I guess our palates are not all that adventurous.

We pulled out of Trenton the next morning, Wednesday, June 20, and entered the Trent-Severn Waterway. We look forward (not) to another 45-lock obstacle course in the next 2 weeks or so.

We were still on spring hours, meaning the locks operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We met up with 2 Canadian boats at Trenton Lock (lock 1)- Lukx with Iwona and Markin, and Saoirse (Irish for "freedom") with Glenda and Doug. We stayed together for the next 2 days, lock by lock. In many places the speed limit is 6.2 mph, so it is slow going. We reached the lower side of Percy Reach, lock 8, by 4:30 p.m., too late to transit.  Doug and Glenda anchored out while we and Lukx  spent a pleasant evening and night tied to the lock wall. There’s a park-like area around the lock, and restrooms. The lock itself is in a very rural area.

Thursday, June 22- We were more than ready for the 10 a.m. lock opening. We cleared 10 locks in 4.5 hours and covered a whopping 25 miles today. The 3 of us spent the night on the lower wall of Lock 17 at Hastings. There’s a small village here, and we had a nice walk after grilling burgers for supper. Every village has at least one ice cream shop featuring the famous Kawartha ice cream. We haven’t tried the infamous butter tarts, but this ice cream is memorable!

Preparing the lock for us

Friday June 22- Hooray for the arrival of summer lock hours! 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on week days and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. We only had 2 locks today, separated by 40 miles. The 40 miles was another speed limited zone for the most part. 

Just past the second lock, kids were having fun on an abandoned bridge, seemingly unaware that large boats need to pass through.

We arrived in Peterborough around 2:30 to hugs from our friends Anne and Bruce on Sea Biscuit. We met these long-time boaters at the Looper Rendezvous in October 2010 as we were standing in line to pick up our registration packets. We get together whenever possible, since they often winter in Florida. We have been looking forward to this meeting ever since we met. Their land home is in Belleville, but they live on their boat here in Peterborough in the summer. We’ve been traveling since May 5, so familiar faces are a great comfort to us. We have a lot of catching up to do. 

We went to an outdoor blues concert this evening, right on the banks of the water. The audience included many boats rafted up together, people in the outdoor bar, and pedestrians. Great fun!

Saturday June 23- Time to celebrate- It’s our 45thanniversary! Where has the time gone??
Dinner at Tre with Anne and Bruce

It’s a perfect time to stay put for a couple days. Weekends here are jam-packed with events. Today there is a kayak paddle from lock to lock heading north. There is an excursion boat that takes people through the next lock and back several times a day. Tomorrow there will be another kayak thing, when they will pack the lock with as many kayaks as they can cram into the chamber. We want no part of negotiating those things, so we are thrilled that we can spend time with Bruce and Anne. Summer is short here, and it seems that weekends are packed with activities to maximize the warm days.

Canoe museum
This gentleman, Russ Parker, built this ultra light  canoe with a Dacron skin. We wanted to buy it, but it would not fit on the top of Mara Beel.