The Big Chute

We left Orillia Monday morning.  The water was still pretty crowded as this is a big vacation week for many before school starts after Labor Day.  We had a pretty short day planned.  We just planned to cross the rest of Lake Couchiching, go through Lock 42, cross Sparrow Lake and go through Lock 43.  After that we’d arrive at the Big Chute.  The three other boats we were traveling with wanted to stop there for the day.  We wanted to at least tie up for awhile and watch and talk to the people working the lock about the size and placement of our boat on the chute.

The locks were very busy and we were still towing the dinghy so it was a pain pulling in, and having to get the dinghy pulled astern of the boat and tied up so it wouldn’t drift into others’ way.  Thankfully it was just two locks.  At this point I was ready to be done with locks.  We pulled out of Lock 43 and made our way to the Big Chute.  The Trent-Severn has been beautiful and interesting but has also been very stressful for Ben.  But he’s been excited about the Big Chute since we started the Loop!  He shouted “there it is!” when it came into view.  We got tied up with the other three boats on the floating docks and went to watch the show.  There were at least a dozen boats on the blue wall waiting for their turn, and the operators were loading 4-6 smaller boats at a time through the Chute.  They were loading them two per row and fitting 2-3 rows of boats at a time.  We decided we’d stay put for the night as well.  We were pretty sure we’d have to go through alone and it just seemed simpler to do that first thing in the morning.   We watched from our side of the lock as they loaded boats in.  Then we stood underneath the large train like car as it traveled up and over the road we were standing on, and then down the hill, 58 feet to the bottom where the car and all of the boats were put back into the water and floated off.  It’s an incredible feat of engineering.  There are steps all the way to the bottom so we could walk all the way down and watch the entire process.

Once the lock operators did the last run through of the Chute for Monday, Ben was able to talk to them about our boat.  He verified where the sling marks are to hold the boat in in the chute and where our props and shafts are and how far they hang down.  At that point I suggested we move over to the blue wall.  This is the waiting wall where they call you into the Chute.  So, Ben hoisted the dinghy back up to the flybridge, we untied lines and moved over to the blue wall for the night so we’d be first in line in the morning.  Two of the other three boats we were with followed suit and lined up behind us.  We arranged with Tom and Ellie from Raffamugin that they would take pictures of us while we were in the Chute and then we’d pull over and tie up on the lower side and take pictures of them.  They are the boat we’ve been traveling with for a week or so now that led us through the very shallow narrow parts of The Ditch.

At 9 AM they called us into the lock.  They told us to go to the middle of the chamber in the back.  That meant we were indeed going to be alone since they didn’t call anyone in before us.  We were all pretty excited.  Even me, who was a little nervous about the whole thing.  The girls threw on their life vests and went out to the bow to sit out front for the ride.  Ben pulled in slowly.

We’ve had mostly good lock operators on the Trent-Severn, however we’ve also had a few that were a disaster that loaded the lock wrong and caused a few close calls.  The people working the Big Chute are top of their game.  They call out foot by foot how much further to slowly pull forward.  They know exactly when to have us stop so that our running gear is off the back and the slings line up properly on the boat.  The whole ride goes really quickly.  We were all surprised at how much of the boat was hanging off the back end.  Ben thinks about 15 feet were hanging off the back!  But the slings were on and with the running gear hanging off the back, the bottom of the boat could rest on the bottom of the car.

We quickly were lifted out of the water and crossed the road and then it was time to go down!

The girls asked if we were tipping forward.  I said no, we’re just going down 58 feet on a railroad track on our boat.  EEKS!  Towards the bottom they asked if they could run to the back and watch from there.  I never made it to the back to watch so I’m glad they did.

All of the build up and excitement was over in a short seven minutes and off we floated into the water.  We quickly noticed that the dock on that side didn’t have space for us.  We felt terrible but had to keep going and not stop to take pictures for Tom and Ellie.  Back to the stressful boating.  Right out of Lock 44 (Big Chute), we knew there was a blind, sharp turn with a very strong current and only room for a boat going one direction. We’d read all of the instructions and knew we had the right of way, Ben made our security call before entering the channel, we read the Danger sign at the entrance and in the strong current swept us.  At this point in the trip the scenery has changed to narrow passages cut through granite.  The walls are steep and beautiful but boy was that current strong.  Thankfully that passage was short and we made our way to Port Severn and Lock 45.  The LAST LOCK on the Trent-Severn and the LAST LOCK of our Loop!  Wow!

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Before going through Lock 45 we tied up to the temporary dock here for a couple of hours.  Friends we met in Great Guana Cay in the Bahamas live here, right by the lock!  Brian came to pick us up and took us to their house to visit for a few hours.  It was great to see Brian and Maureen again and catch up.  Their house is right on the water, across from the lock practically and just beautiful.  We had lunch and visited and when we noticed the winds picking up considerably we headed back to the boat.  They have a lot of local boating knowledge of the area as well so Brian gave Ben lots of tips.

Lock 45 is the smallest lock on the Trent-Severn and therefore controls the size of traffic on the route.  We untied in the wind and went to wait on the blue wall for our turn.  There was a sailboat waiting as well.  It was hard to hold position in the wind and Ben told them to enter first.  I knew we wouldn’t fit with them but he wanted to wait and see.  As soon as they were in it was obvious we couldn’t both fit (yes it’s that small!) so we tied up and waited for them to be lowered and the chamber raised up again.  Once we got into the lock chamber and tied up we could breathe a minute.  It was calm inside and an easy drop.  However Ben knew it was a slalom course upon our exit.  First, the sheer volume and current of water pouring over the dam really affected the exit from the lock.  We could see it from above the lock and Ben was prepared.  The water really shoves you around and it’s a good thing we were the only boat in the chamber.  Directly following the rushing rapids starts the slalom course of buoys.  We had been warned by fellow loopers that their boat was bouncing off the buoys because the green and red are so close together they were only separated by a distance the width of their boat.  Ben made it through without bumping any of them and breathed another sigh of relief.  We were done with the Trent-Severn.  We were done with locks!

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We made our way the short distance to Midland, ON, pulled into Bay Port Marina and tied up.  We planned to stop for a day or more, meet with the manager who does a route briefing and planning session for the Georgian Bay with loopers, and just relax a bit.  The marina had a pool and multiple playgrounds.  There was a lovely bike path into town and we enjoyed walking into town a few times.  We ended up staying three nights because of weather.  The kids got to swim on the hot day and then a cold front moved in.  We had a couple of nice dinners in town, spent more time with Tom, Ellie and their dog Maddie, and had a very helpful route planning session with Mike from Bay Port.  He set us up with a good plan, charts for our route and a lot of local knowledge.  We had the scheduling trick of having about a week to spend in the area before returning to Bay Port next Thursday. At that point we will drive home for the weekend and leave the boat in Midland.  So, we had an excellent route set for the week to anchor and visit Hope, Christian and Beckwith Islands with their turquoise clear waters and white sand beaches, along with plans to also anchor in Beausoleil Bay, visit Honey Harbor, and anchor in Frying Pan Bay.  Midland was a great stop for local knowledge, grocery shopping and just relaxing for a few days!

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Orillia, ON

We loved Orillia!  From the minute we stepped off the boat after the long horrendous day, we knew Orillia would be great.  We walked around town and had a great dinner for our anniversary and then collapsed from exhaustion.  The next morning we were ready for a few days of rest and relaxation!  I walked a couple of miles when I woke up and knew I wanted us to spend the entire day off the boat and outside.  The girls had carte blanche on technology and TV the day before because Ben needed it silent with no interruptions during the stressful boating.  Maddy took full advantage of that.  So, today it was going to be outside all day.

Orillia has a long bike path that goes for a few miles each way.  Molly had been begging to get her bike down but both of their bikes have been on the bow of the boat for a year and got VERY rusty in the salt water air.  Molly is pretty sure they hadn’t ridden their bikes since we were in the Bahamas.  They had flat tires and rusted out chains.  Ben was still tired from the day before but he was a good sport.

Ben changed one tire on each bike and put air in the two that were still ok.  He also got down our folding bikes.  Once he got the tires changed on the girls’ bikes he realized they couldn’t pedal because the chains were so rusted.  Molly’s actually snapped in half.  So, we walked them off the dock and while Ben was looking for a bike shop the girls took turns playing the community piano in the park adjacent to the marina.  The nice guy at the very close bike shop took the bikes and told us to come back in 25 minutes.  There is a great boardwalk along the waterfront and an awesome playground.  We walked over there to kill time until the bikes were hopefully fixed.  The girls had fun at the park.  And this young man worked magic on the bikes!  There is still a lot of rust but they both now had functioning chains and could actually be ridden.  At this point it was lunchtime so we took a quick ride back to the marina, dropped the bikes and had a great lunch in town.  There are countless restaurants in Orillia to choose from.

After refueling we took off on the bike path towards one end of the trail.  It was so wonderful to be able to ride on a protected trail with the kids.  AND….Madelyn turning 7 apparently changed bike riding for her.  No complaints of legs hurting.  No riding at a glacially slow pace making it impossible to stay behind her.  She took off.  Zoomed up ahead with Ben and raced to keep up with him.  It was magical!  That has definitely changed bike riding for our family.  We rode 3 miles and passed another park and beach and then rode past the park setting up for Rib Fest.  We rode to the end of the trail.  The trail ended at The Narrows bridge which we had boated through the previous day.  We were able to walk out and look at the boats going through.  We turned around and rode back a ways and let the girls play at the park for a bit.  We had a successful much needed day outdoors!  Madelyn rode over 6 miles!

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After our bike ride we walked into town and around some of the shops.  We checked out the well known Mariposa Market.  It is a huge market of fresh baked goods.  All smelled and looked amazing.  We went downstairs to the candy section and bought about a pound of fudge.  We haven’t had fudge in awhile.  Orillia is going to affect my waistline.

Saturday morning brought another jam packed outdoor day.  First, I went to a yoga class!  First time all trip I’ve made the effort to go and it felt wonderful.  After yoga, we walked to the Orillia Farmer’s Market.  What a treat.  We haven’t had a good farmer’s market in awhile.  First stop was the Wilkie’s bakery tent.  Wilkie’s bakery is said to have the best butter tarts on the Trent-Severn.  We had to try them.  We also loaded up on peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  Next we moved onto produce and meat.  We bought some amazing summer sausage, more peaches and some fresh ground beef.  Then we hit the honey stand!  The honey was delicious so we bought some of that too.  In the next tent we got to try a chunk of honeycomb.  What a treat.  Before leaving we also bought pickles and then went back to the Wilkie’s tent and bought cinnamon rolls.  We may have issues!

After the farmer’s market we grabbed our bikes and rode back to Rib Fest.  Maddy was so excited because Friday we saw them setting up all of the inflatables.  We gave in and bought the unlimited ride wrist bands for the girls.  They played for hours, literally.  They must have gone down the incredibly tall slide 30 times.  Plus a bounce house and two inflatable obstacle courses.  We got them to take a break and walk around the grounds.  We checked out the rib options and Ben got a bloomin’ onion.  Remember the fudge and the baked goods.  We ate well in Orillia!  The girls just wanted to go back and play more so back to the inflatables.  Ben got a slab of ribs.  They were fine but Chicago ribs are much better.  But it was a gorgeous day, the kids were beyond happy, there were decent bands playing and we were content to be relaxing.

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We thought we may leave Orillia Sunday but we really didn’t want to deal with the next section of locks and narrow canals with weekend boat traffic.  We loved Orillia so we decided to stay another day.  Molly and I went to an early church service and then we all took the bikes out for the third day in a row.  By day three our legs and other areas were getting sore but we wanted to take the bike path to the other end of the trail.  So, we set out and did that.  I still can’t believe that Madelyn rode 5-6 miles each day with no complaints.  She got tired on Sunday and decided she was done.  The girls and I rode bikes back to the park while Ben did some projects on the boat.  After they were finished playing we rode around a bit more and then headed back to the boat.  We had a lazy afternoon.  We walked back into town and around a little more.  There was a pet store in town with 8 week old kittens and we couldn’t stay away.  We stopped by the grocery store and picked up some essentials and then just relaxed on the boat.  Our buddy boat stopped by around 7 saying they were walking up for ice cream and asked if we wanted to join.  We did indeed.  It was a great end to our stay in Orillia.

Monday morning I made a quick run to Wilkie’s to stock up before we left Orillia.  Embarrassed to admit that I bought half of a Chelsea bun (giant cinnamon bun), two more packages of butter tarts and another carton of cookies.  Orillia was a real treat!

The Ditch – Rosedale to Orillia, ON

Ben had been dreading this day for quite awhile.  In fact three days prior he was ready to turn around and go back the other way and down to the Welland Canal.  I usually go along with whatever he feels strongly about since he drives the boat but I was very against turning around.  Countless boats have made it through this route and we’ve been in touch with a couple with a draft similar or larger to ours who also have unprotected props.  We spent two days waiting out wind and Thursday was the day to go.  We had the dinghy down and being towed, we were light on water and half full of fuel and Ben moved what he could to the front bedroom and away from the back of the boats and the props.  We found a buddy boat to travel with and passed a few others going that direction as well.  We set out to complete the 45 miles to Orillia.

We quickly crossed the small lake past Rosedale and waited to enter the Trent Canal.  Ben and the other boat we were traveling with called ahead to announce our entrance and just as we were about to enter the Kawartha Voyager cruise ship pulled out of the canal.  This was a huge relief as we did not want to meet this ship in any of the canals.  One other boat called and said they were entering from the other side of the Trent Canal but thought we could both fit.  Ben said we would wait.  The other boat had a 12 ft. beam and we have 16 ft.  Many places in “the ditch” are only about 30 ft. wide and we didn’t want to chance it.  The ditch is mostly muddy bottom and strong thick weeds but if you get out of the center of the canal at all you are going to hit bottom.  Waterway Guide even says you will bump a few times along the way.  Not confidence instilling to read that.

Finally the other boat appeared coming out of the channel and we pulled in.  A couple of boats had zipped ahead of us and agreed to call back any shallow spots (it was all shallow) and warn us of any other boats in the channel.  We approached at idle speed and made our way through the narrow canal.   Ben spent the day on one engine mostly.  He would put one in gear and then the other.  It reduced the risk of wrecking both props if we hit and kept us going as slowly as we could.  You could see shelves of rock just under the water outside of the boat.  It was crazy.

This section of the Trent Canal let out just before the Kirkland Lift Lock.  Ben had put our antennas all the way up before we left so we had the best radio reception we could.  I commented we had lots of bridges to go under.  He said he had to be able to hear.  But then we approached a bridge and it flitted through my head that we needed to lower them.  I probably looked at the depth finder or something and the thought of the antennas just as quickly left my head and Ben forgot.  We managed to take out parts of two of our antennas on that bridge.  It was quite a noise.  And a chunk of one almost hit a small boat boat behind us.  Better antennas than props!

 

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They shouldn’t dangle like that….

 

This was our second lift lock.  At this point in the Trent-Severn Waterway we started going down.  So far all the locks on the Trent-Severn have been going up.  From now until the Georgian Bay we will be lowered each time.  The lift lock was a 48 foot drop.  I don’t like heights!  But it’s a smooth ride and very quick.  We made our way out of the lock and back into the stressful boating.  The bottom of our boat is 3 feet down in the water.  Our depth finder is there.  Our props are 2 feet below that.  So when we take a reading on the depth finder we subtract 2 feet to know where the props are sitting.  So, when you read 1.7 feet on the depth finder it’s really not cool.  The weeds were everywhere and we were thankful to be reading that from weeds and not the bottom.

Once we got into open water to cross one of the many lakes on our route, we had some deeper water and Ben was able to put the boat in reverse and knock some of the weeds off the props.  He did this whenever he could.  When not stressed out, the countryside was pretty.  Cows grazing on the bank.  Hole in the Wall bridge.  The sights were pretty.  Ben asked me at the end of the day if it was scenic.  I tried to snap a few pictures along the way to show that it indeed was.

Once we made it through Locks 37-41 we were smooth sailing for the rest of the day.  But those locks were a hassle.  With towing the dinghy I had Molly taking the mid line in the lock and me at the back.  I would have to get the line for the lock settled and then pull in and tie up the dinghy each time so they could pack boats in behind us.  In one lock our dinghy antenna was tangled in a folding bike on the bow of the boat they put behind us.  I was ready to be done with those.  Ben was ready to be done with the entire day.  The boat we had been traveling with stopped after lock 40 for the night.  I wanted to push through and get to Orillia so we could just be settled.  Ben was exhausted but agreed it would be ok.  Once through those locks we took the hairpin turn into Lake Simcoe.  Lake Simcoe was beautiful and a welcome respite after the long day.

We had about 20 miles to the marina in Orillia.  We crossed the lake, went through a section called The Narrows (and frankly we were done with narrow by that point), and then into Lake Couchiching.  We got settled at the marina, which was also shallow.  Very shallow.  Ben just turned the depth finder off at that point in the day.  It was all weeds and mud again.  Ben has never been so happy to shut down the engines and get off the boat.  In total, 9 hours to travel 45 miles and 6 locks.

Did I mention it was also our 15th anniversary???  It was.  What a day!  Memorable for sure.  We got off the boat and headed into town for dinner.  We’ve never taken the girls out for our anniversary before!  We found a wonderful Italian place and instantly liked Orillia.  I had the girls snap a picture of us.  We’re tired and not looking our finest, but 15 years is a big deal and it had been a big day and all of that needed to be celebrated!  We made it through The Ditch!

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Bobcaygeon & Fenelon Falls, ON

We left Buckhorn early Friday morning so that we could arrive in Bobcaygeon just after the locks started running.  Our hope was that a few people would have pulled off the wall leaving a spot for us for the weekend.  Our plan worked.  In fact as we were approaching the lock there was a wide open spot.  We had planned to lock up and look for a spot on the other side, but there was a spot our size just below the swing bridge and perfect.  We took it and were settled by 10 AM.

We spent a leisurely day in Bobcaygeon.  The lock runs right through town and there are a lot of people walking around everywhere.  This coupled with the weekend boat traffic made for good people watching and a lot of visiting along the lock wall.  I’ve mentioned that we stay on lock walls a lot but if you haven’t seen one that may not make too much sense.  Both before and after the lock there are long walls with cleats on them for boats to tie to.  A few of the locks have power hookups (Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls are 2 of these), only one or two of them also have water.  So, they are not like staying in a marina but they are run by Parks Canada, they are VERY affordable, and you get to meet a lot of people in a lot of nice places spending the night as well.  We’ve stayed on some walls that are beautiful and others that are just a wall to tie to.  Bobcaygeon’s lower wall was great.  We had a fun group of boaters tied behind us and spent the weekend visiting with all of them.

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We spent the afternoon walking around town.  We walked one direction and did some shopping and found the Kawartha Dairy store.  Kawartha Dairy was started in Bobcaygeon. They have since expanded to other towns but there is still a Kawartha Dairy store in Bobcaygeon.  We went to check it out.  It’s off the main drag a few blocks away but the ice cream prices are higher than the ice cream places in town.  So, we went to see it and look around but saved buying ice cream for later that day.

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We went out for lunch and explored the other side of town.  Bigley’s is a huge chain of stores in Bobcaygeon.  They have a kitchen store, a clothing store, a swim suit store, and about three store fronts of shoes.  The girls spent maybe 45 minutes trying on swimming suits.  Huge end of summer sales so we stocked up on new swim suits for them.  We made them wait long enough and finally got ice cream. Worth the wait!

We got up Saturday morning and had a lazy day.  Ben took on a project to modify our electrical wiring to be able to charge the batteries from an ordinary household circuit.  Bobcaygeon had power hookups but only 30 amp. Our boat has 50 amp.  We have splitters and converters but we’d need two 30 amp hookups to make it work.  So we just run the generator to charge batteries.  But the nights and mornings are cool so we don’t need much AC and it’s silly to be using all that fuel so Ben rigged up this system so he could plug into one of the 30 amp hookups and charge our house batteries.  This didn’t run the AC or the stove or anything else we’d normally use the generator for but unless we needed to cook something we didn’t need that anyway.  So, he worked on that, Molly and Maddy played outside, I worked on an impossible puzzle and tried to clean up a bit.

The girls kept begging to go get ice cream.  We kept stalling them.  We had a BIG surprise in store and managed to pull it off.  We’d arranged another visit with Kathy and the girls and our girls had NO IDEA!!!  Complicated by Kathy not having cell service in Canada we knew approximately when she should arrive and kept sort of nonchalantly walking to “look around”.  They asked again about ice cream and Ben said he wanted to go watch the locks for a bit instead.  I knew which direction she should be coming from so we crossed to the other side of the lock wall and stood and watched the boats.  You know, because we never see boats going through locks, but they didn’t question it too much.  There happened to be a large houseboat in the lock with someone in a giant dinosaur costume dancing.  Bizarre but held their attention for a bit.  Meanwhile I turned around and was scanning the street, and then the white Volvo appeared!!!  I waved.  Molly turned around.  I wasn’t quick enough with the camera but Kathy says the look on her face was priceless.  It’s so much fun to pull off a huge surprise.  And then just as Molly was running after the car, the lock tender opened the swing bridge and Kathy couldn’t cross.  Unbelievable timing.  It took FOREVER.  Ridiculous.  Squealing kids, crazy excited and we just kept waiting for that darn bridge to close.  As soon as it did the girls asked if they could run across (there’s a pedestrian lane).  They ran to the car and then ran back across with it until Kathy could turn and the girls could hop out.  Again I wasn’t fast enough and I didn’t get any good surprise pictures.

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We immediately went and got ice cream for all!  And explained that’s why we’d been putting it off all day long.  We took a walk around town, showed them the crazy huge swim suit shop, walked down the lock wall to a park at the other end and let them play.

 

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Happy friends!

 

In hindsight we should have stayed in Bobcaygeon for Sunday too.  Ben and I have agreed that along the Trent-Severn Waterway lock walls, Bobcaygeon was our favorite.  It just had a great feel to it and we liked the people there a lot.  But we’d heard great things about Fenelon Falls as well and decided to head there Sunday morning.  We left Kathy’s car and moved the short distance to Fenelon Falls.  We had to go through the lock at Bobcaygeon and then through the lock at Fenelon Falls.  So we got to teach Livia and Claudia how to do the locks too!  After the girls had so much fun doing the locks with Sophie and Zoe, they were excited to have Livia and Claudia help too.  It’s fun to be able to show others part of our trip and some of the things the girls have learned.

 

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Smiles!

 

We got to Fenelon Falls and got tied up on a wall with power and water.  This meant we didn’t have to monitor water level for dishes and showers and meant I could do laundry.  We got off the boat and went to explore.  There was a beachfront park at the end of the drive and we headed straight there.  The girls ran and played and picked flowers and burned some energy off.

We went back to the boat for some lunch and then threw on swim suits and grabbed some towels.  We headed back to the beach to play for awhile.  Then Ben, Kathy, Livia and Molly took off in the dinghy to go back to Bobcaygeon to pick up the car.  They made it to Bobcaygeon and Kathy and the girls hopped in the car and Ben came back in the dinghy.  He missed the last lock through so we had to keep the dinghy tied up on the lower wall.  Another boat we’ve been traveling with was down there and he tied the dinghy right in front of their boat.

While they were picking up the car I took Madelyn, Claudia and Sabina for a walk to see the “falls”.  The falls are basically from the dam next to the lock but the water here is used to create power.  It was pretty impressive to watch the amount of water flowing over the falls.  I made sure to keep the girls at a distance from the fence.

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Monday was a beautiful 80 degree day.  It was also eclipse day!  Ben and the girls went and picked the dinghy up from the other side of the lock first thing when the lock opened and got to ride the lock up in the dinghy.  They took it out on Cameron Lake to explore depths a bit.

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The little girls had a serious game going the whole time in Fenelon.  There were huge boulders along the sidewalks and they couldn’t help but climb on them all the time.  They took their dolls out and played.  They picked all sorts of leaves and flowers and made them into full meals, they carried diaper bags and doll clothes out there.  It was driving us a bit insane but kept them happy for hours.  I was going stir crazy and begged to head out for a walk.  So, we walked and got ice cream and then around some stores and stopped to watch some local pottery being made.  We walked past the museum and saw the little school house and a sign for Pioneer School at 9 AM Tuesday.

 

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More Kawartha Dairy!

 

Finally it was time for the eclipse.  We had maybe a 2/3 eclipse up in Canada.  We had a two hour window and had so much fun watching for almost the full two hours.  Kathy had two pairs of eclipse glasses from her local library.  And we ran back to the boat and made two pinhole eclipse viewers with cereal boxes on the boat.  The kids had fun making them and then we all had fun watching.  It was a gorgeous sunny day with not a cloud to be found.  The eclipse glasses were MUCH better but it was fun to see it through the cereal boxes as well.  We couldn’t look away.  We also tried the selfie shots and using the glasses to take a picture.  Both worked but showed up fairly fuzzy.  What a great learning experience for all of the girls.  Even the dolls got in on the action!

After the eclipse we took the dinghy out on Cameron Lake.  We had rain moving in Tuesday followed by colder weather so we wanted to soak up the sunshine.  It was only a 4 mile run across the lake on the big boat so we scouted out that path for a bit and then ducked into a little bay so the girls could swim.  The water in this area is VERY weedy.  They hesitated for a minute but ended up all jumping in.

The next morning was rainy and rain was forecasted all day so we took quick walks when we could.  I remembered Pioneer School at the last minute so we ran over there only to find out it was full.  Who knew we had to sign up in advance!  It was an adorable old school house with desks and little chalkboards for the kids.  They would have loved it.  We walked and got donuts and around town a bit in the sprinkling rain.  We were hoping to make it back to the pottery place but she wasn’t working in the rain.  Back to the boat for a bit.  When the rain finally cleared that afternoon we headed back out.  Maddy and Claudia became obsessed with snails!  They stopped by the pottery place and lined them all up on a fence to “save them”.  We explained that wasn’t saving them!  We asked them to put them all back in the grass.

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The lady was back making pottery and the girls just loved to watch.  We watched her making mugs the day before and it was fun to see how many more she finished after we left.  Molly and Livia ran right up and asked how many she made.  Kathy and I bought a few things and then tried to pull Maddy and Claudia away from their snail family.

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We got back to the boat and the girls grabbed a bucket, filled it with twigs, leaves and little crab apples and then snails.  Yes the whole bucket.  They set them up with their dolls on the rocks.  When we made them come in they brought the snail bucket onto the back of the boat and tried covering it with Frisbees because I wouldn’t give them foil – because you know snails live in the wild, not in a bucket!  At one point when they went out to check on them we were met with lots of shrieks, screams and giggles – the snails climbed out. They were all over the sides of the bucket and Frisbee.

Wednesday morning brought another goodbye.  But a quick one.  We will be driving home in two weeks for our niece Sophie’s Bat Mitzvah and will drive right through the Detroit area.  Given that we have a 9+ hour drive depending on where we drive from, it’ll make for a nice stop and break up the trip.  That made the goodbye so much easier and tear free!

We headed the short 4 miles to Rosedale lock.  The wind was still brutal and it was still raining on and off but we wanted to make a little progress and get through the next lock.  We had our longest and most stressful day on the Trent-Severn Waterway, and possibly the entire loop, up next.  Rosedale was secluded, quiet and beautiful.  We met a lovely couple with a boat with a keel that agreed to travel with us the next day and more importantly in front of us to help us through!

 

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One of our prettier lock walls

 

 

Peterborough & Buckhorn, ON

After spending the night on the Peterborough Lock 19 wall we pulled into the marina Monday morning.  We were so excited to finally meet the Pronk/Zomer family.  We’ve been emailing and texting them along the way since October or November and yet somehow have never been in the same place at the same time.  We were further south first but then we went to the Bahamas.  We came back from the Bahamas when they were just slightly north of us in Florida.  Then we hung around Florida for some family visits and they made it further north.  But they live in Peterborough so there was no escaping us now!  Not only do they live in Peterborough, they live across the street from the marina.  James and the boys, Marcos and Lucas, came over to see us as soon as we got settled in.  They hung out on the boat with us for a bit.  We gave them a tour and the kids played dominoes up on the fly bridge while we talked and got to know each other officially!  As they were leaving we met Nancy – she had been at an appointment with her dad and came over as soon as she got back.  We had plans to come to their house for dinner later that afternoon.

They treated us to a great evening.  The kids had fun playing at the house.  The pogo stick was especially popular.  They also discovered the games Twister and Dogopoly.  Their boys are the same ages as our girls so they were perfect playmates.  Nancy and James prepared a feast.  A couple they met boating on the Georgian Bay joined for dinner along with a fellow looper who was driving through Peterborough that night on his way to meet a friend and Nancy’s dad.  It was a full table and wonderful to visit with so many other boaters and to meet Nancy’s dad.

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Tuesday morning we headed to the zoo.  The kids spent an hour or so going down this huge slide and playing at the playground.  They ran the stairs for the slide more times than I can count.  Then we had a picnic lunch and walked around the zoo.  The meerkats and monkeys were my favorites.  We all took a ride on the zoo train as well.

After the zoo James took us to see their sailboat!  We had heard so much about their 27 foot sailboat and were excited to see it.  It was eye opening for the girls to put the space and size difference in perspective….and great to remind them of that when they complain about not having enough room for all of their doll things!  Nancy, James and the boys did an incredible job of finding a place for everything and using every nook and cranny.

Nancy and James had us over for dinner again.  What a treat and so generous of them.  After dinner we all walked over to the marina so Nancy could see the boat.  We visited until way too late but after all these months it was such a short time to spend together so we made the most of it.  It was great to finally meet!  But as this trip goes, we had to say goodbye and keep moving.

Wednesday morning we headed through Lock 20 and onto Lock 21 – the Peterborough Lift Lock.

 

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Ben and Molly hanging out above Lock 20 waiting our turn

 

This is the largest lift lock in the world at 65 feet.  We were traveling up the lock.  And I really don’t like heights.  It operates like an elevator.  In the picture you can see boats at the top on the left side.  On the right we pulled in at ground level.  Once everyone is loaded they close the doors and as the left side goes down, the right side goes up.  The whole lock is counter balanced and pretty amazing.  It moves fast.  But then we got to the top and were just held there for what felt like ages with me standing on the side of the boat looking down.  The chamber moves quickly for all but the last foot which took an eternity to fill.  It was a neat experience but I was happy to get out of there and not be hanging 65 feet in the air anymore.

We made our way to Lakefield (Lock 26) Wednesday night and stayed on the lock wall.  It was crowded and included boats like ours, pontoon boats with tents, and a lot of rental houseboats.  We’ve officially hit house boat territory and they are everywhere.

 

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Sign from Lock 22 showing where we’ve been and where we’re headed

 

The next morning we headed the rest of the way to Buckhorn.  We traveled through Hell’s Gate safely.  It was narrow and rocky and beautiful.  There was a little church on a little island about the same size as the church.  There were little cottages all over the place on little islands.  And rocks everywhere.  The channel markers were so close.  My pictures are not zoomed in….we were that close to the markers because the channel is that narrow.

Buckhorn was a quick trip and we found space on the lock wall before lunch.  We spent awhile watching the boats in the lock.  Some of the houseboats do ok.  But many of the people renting them have no idea how to drive a boat and end up sideways in the lock.  The lock tenders are pretty amazing.  They are friendly and patient and stand on the wall and talk the driver through which way to turn the wheel and what to do each step of the way if they are having trouble.  We just try to keep them from hitting our boat.  We’ve had a couple of close calls.  Molly and Maddy and I hold the lock lines and Ben will come down armed with a fender to jam on the side the boat to fend off the houseboat if necessary.

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Buckhorn was sleepy and fairly boring for us.  We had fabulous pizza for lunch and walked around a bit but never really found town.  We headed back to the boat when an afternoon of rain started.  We spent the rest of the day inside watching the rain, getting a bit stir crazy, working on our current puzzle and playing dominoes.

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Next up on our list are Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls – two stops that come highly recommended to us.

Campbellford & Hastings, ON

We set out towards Campbellford with Nikki on the boat and Fred driving.  Finally, after 11.5 months on the water, I got the girls interested in helping with the locks.  We’ve always done locks with just me holding a line.  Molly and Madelyn have helped with some of them, but they hadn’t shown a strong interest.  In the Trent-Severn they ask you to shut down your engines, making it much harder for us to manage the boat with just one line.  Fred and I had each been holding a line the previous day.  So I enlisted the girls to help.  Molly and Zoe were one team and Sophie and Madelyn the other.  And all of a sudden the girls did all the locks and I supervised a bit here and there!

They did a great job throughout the day.  Fred went from lock to lock to find us along the way and take pictures.  His pictures are significantly better than mine!

He arrived in Campbellford ahead of us and secured our reservation for the night on the town wall.  He also found Dooher’s bakery and purchased our first BUTTER TARTS!!!  We arrived in Campbellford and hopped off the boat.  Rain was threatening so we wanted to walk around a bit first.  Town was small but nice.  We took another quick stroll past the bakery and told the girls we’d come back in the morning for breakfast.  But we did pick up some good rolls for burgers that night for dinner.  Fred also found fresh Ontario sweet corn for dinner to go with our cookout.  The rain continued to threaten so we went back to the boat.  But then the rain still didn’t come so Nikki and I took the girls to a couple of shops on the main street in town.  And then Ben and I took the girls down the road a short bit to the park.  It had been sort of cool with the clouds so I didn’t mention there was another splash park here.  They seem to be everywhere in Canada.  Molly ended up so hot that she (and then Maddy) ran through in their clothes.  I promised we’d come back the next morning in swim suits before we headed out.  Eventually it rained a bit and we were treated to a perfect rainbow.

After dinner that night we did a quick early birthday celebration for Fred and Sophie.

The next morning we headed to the bakery first thing and were met with quite a line.  The girls all got smores donuts.  We also picked up another carton of butter tarts.  The butter tarts are every bit as amazing as everyone told us they would be.  They are hard to describe – butter, sugar, gooey center, delicious.  After the bakery we walked across the bridge to see the larger than life Canadian 2 dollar coin called a Toonie.  I have no idea why this statue is here, but we figured we should take a look.  Then I took the girls for the promised quick trip back to the splash park before we said goodbye to Campbellford.

We pulled out of Campbellford with Fred on board and Nikki driving the quick trip to Hastings.  We had another six locks and the girls were up for the job again.

The towns on the Trent so far have not been that interesting but the waterfront is gorgeous.  It has been somewhat stressful for Ben as the water is very shallow and the bottom is all rock.  We’ve talked to three different people who hit bottom and had damage from under the bridge at Campbellford.  I’m not sure how but we went under that bridge 3 times and managed to miss that spot thankfully!

The girls really wanted to stop and swim so we swung up to the lock wall at Hastings and picked Nikki up and headed back a mile or two and anchored.  The sun was shining but we were again waiting for a storm moving in.  We had some rain with sun and then the rain stopped.  Nikki and the girls were working on finishing up a 12/12 all the way down to 0/0 dominoes game.  They were determined to finish before having to head home.

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Once the rain cleared the girls all jumped in and played while we watched the storm sort of looming but never really hitting us.  They played on the lily pads and Ben dragged them all around by a boat hook.

I’m not sure why that was fun but they loved it!   There was also lots of synchronized jumping off the side of the boat.

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After swimming we locked through the Hastings lock and got tied up on the lock wall for the night.  We headed into town for fish and chips.

 

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We were facing the sun, hence all the closed eyes!

 

Sunday morning we headed out onto Rice Lake to anchor and swim before Fred, Nikki, Sophie and Zoe had to leave.  We found a great spot and the girls jumped right in.  They did all sorts of jumping contests and got the lily pads down again.  Then they got a rare treat – they jumped off the front of the boat.  They’ve never done that before but they were able to climb over the rail and stand and hold on until they could all jump together.  Fred caught some great shots of them!

After a great morning swimming and a quick lunch it was time for goodbye hugs.  Always hard.

Once we said our goodbyes and they pulled off in the car for the long drive home, we headed back out onto Rice Lake. We had planned to anchor for the night but the winds picked up as we crossed the lake and it was kind of gusty so we decided to continue on to Peterborough and stop at the lock 19 wall for the night.  It was a great few days having family with us.  We settled in for an early night in anticipation of FINALLY meeting the Pronk/Zomer family the next day.

 

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Just another beautiful day – Rice Lake

 

 

Trenton & Frankford, ON

We traveled a few hours from our anchorage in Picton to the marina in Trenton on Wednesday, arriving early afternoon.  The marina just opened 2 year ago and was wonderful.  There was an ice cream shop on site as well as beautiful bathrooms and free laundry in brand new machines.  I do all our laundry on the boat and am blessed to be able to do so.  But to have access to a clean laundry room with new machines that are also free with detergent provided?  I decided to wash every blanket and heavy, bulky towel I could get my hands on just because I could!

Around 6 PM Ben’s parents and our nieces, Sophie and Zoe, arrived from Chicago.  They had had a long day in the car.  My girls had had a long day waiting for them.  Molly and Madelyn were so excited to see them all.  They hadn’t seen Sophie and Zoe since May when we made a quick trip for a family reunion.  Sophie had planned to come all along but Zoe was undecided until last minute so it was a fun surprise for the girls.  We refused to tell them what she decided until they pulled in and got out of the car.

We had dinner on the boat and a fun night of catching up and visiting.  The girls had a pretty late night but eventually settled down and got some sleep.

Thursday morning we headed into town to see Trenton.  We’d heard it was a wonderful stop for boaters and were excited to see it.  We had such a great time in Kingston and Gananoque that we were assuming we’d find the same.  We walked into downtown Trenton and couldn’t find anything to do.  Not one single store that looked interesting to go into.  All of the recommended restaurants were open later in the day for dinner.  There just wasn’t anything there.  And we had a perfect weather day.  We had a few dicey storm days coming up in the forecast so we decided to check out of the marina Thursday and start the Trent-Severn canal!  But first we fit in a stop for ice cream at the marina and introduced Sophie and Zoe to Kawartha Dairy ice cream.

We’ve been waiting for months to see the Trent-Severn.  It’s a canal system of 44 locks that will take us 2-3 weeks to complete we think.  It will take us from Trenton to Port Severn and from there we’ll head into the Georgian Bay.  This first leg to Frankford was six locks and only about 8 miles.  We also had to stop at Lock 1 and get our Parks Canada Lock pass and sticker for the season.  This is Canada’s 150th birthday and the canal systems are all free!  We got lucky this year.  Between Canada’s 150th and Lake Erie’s 200th we’ve been able to do all of these routes for free.

The locks here are different than others we have seen.  The lock tenders open and close the gates manually in many of the locks.  There are a few hydraulic doors but many of them involve the lock tender cranking the doors closed on one end and then walking to the other end and opening the gates.  They usually have two people working so that they can open the gates on both sides of the lock at the same time.

Nikki drove the car the first day and stopped to see us at one of the locks.  The locks here in Canada are so welcoming.  You can just walk up and watch, walk across the lock wall bridges when closed, use the restrooms in the lock houses, or just sit and watch.  The Parks Canada employees are all polite and friendly.  As they walk from one end of the lock to the other every single one of them stops to say hello and ask how we are doing and frequently chat about our journey.  Many of the locks also have lock houses from years ago on site.  Some of them are beautiful old buildings that the lock tenders used to live in.  Long ago the locks were operated on an as needed basis and the lock tender would live in the house so he/she could operate the lock any time of day or night.

 

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Lock tender house

Nikki was able to watch us lock up into Frankford.  Once through the lock we tied up at the Lock wall on the other side for the night.  Frankford is one of the few locks that has power hookups at the lock wall.  The lock tender told me that the town paid to have them installed.  Parks Canada wouldn’t.  But the town knew that the lock tenders send boaters into town to eat in the restaurants and shop in the shops.

 

 

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Nikki on the lock wall

 

It was a hot day so our first stop was a playground and splash park for the girls to cool off.  Then we went into town for dinner.  The girls got their own table and asked if they could order poutine!  None of them had tried it before (nor had we!).  Zoe asked to order it – she tends to be pickier like Maddy so we were excited to have them give it a try.  They all liked it ok.  Madelyn did not give it a taste.  Maybe next time.

The next morning we let the kids run off some energy for a few minutes at the playground before heading another six locks towards Campbellford.

Kingston, ON

Sunday morning the weather cleared and it was a beautiful day to travel the short distance to Kingston, Ontario.  We had heard very good things about it and were anxious to arrive after a day or two weather delay.  The marina had room for us now so that was a positive as well!  We arrived around 11 and had most of the day to explore.   We stayed in the municipal marina right in town.  We got off the boat and walked into the finish line of a triathlon.  We had heard lots about how good the food is in Kingston and had a list of places to try.  We tried Dianne’s Fish Shack & Smokehouse first.  It was right by the marina and smelled great.  Unfortunately it also had a long wait for a late lunch.  So we moved across the street to Wooden Heads Gourmet Pizza.  We each ordered our own fabulous pizza and all were delicious.

Sufficiently full we headed out to walk around a bit.  We wandered up and down the old streets, found where the farmer’s market was held (it was an antique market on Sunday), and found a few stores to browse in.  While in a store we looked outside and it was pouring.  Not a light summer rain.   An absolute downpour.  And both girls had to go to the bathroom of course.  It had gone from hot and sunny to crazy rain.   The girl at the store told us that City Hall across the street had public bathrooms.  We waited for it to lesson slightly and then bolted in the rain, getting completely soaked, to the bathroom.  In typical fashion it had pretty much stopped raining by the time we got back to the boat.

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We let things dry out a bit and then headed out again for ice cream.  Everyone in Kingston had ice cream it seemed.  Everywhere we turned another cone or big dish walking past.  We popped into the gelato place right by the marina first but opted for marble slab instead.  The kids were amazed at picking all the toppings to mix into their ice cream.  Apparently it’s been awhile since we went in Chicago!  We wandered around and people watched a bit and then headed back to the boat.  We’d had ice cream at 5:30 PM such that dinner didn’t really happen.

Monday was supposed to be heavy rains on and off with sunshine mixed into the day.  But as usual we got up and the forecast had totally changed, now showing a pretty decent day.  We wanted to tour the penitentiary but tickets for Monday were sold out.  We thought about the fort but got lazy and ended up just wandering around.  First stop was the Pan Chancho bakery.  This was a must stop recommendation from many people and it did not disappoint.  The chocolate croissants were fabulous.  I wish we’d had more meals for which we needed food because all of their prepared foods looked amazing as well.  IMG_3011

After breakfast we walked over to the other marina, stopped in the grocery store and a few more shops.  We then headed the other direction and walked along the waterfront.  Kingston is called “Limestone City” and you can see why in looking at all of the old houses.  The streets were beautiful to wander up and down.  We wandered into a beautiful park and found a playground for the girls.  After playing for awhile they found a tree to climb as we were heading to lunch.

We made it back to Dianne’s Monday for lunch.  It’s a mostly fancy taco menu with good smoked meats and fishes.  I had three tacos – cauliflower, fish and smoked chicken.  Ben and Molly also tried the brisket tacos.  Another great stop if you are in Kingston.

The park right at the marina has a big train on display and the gift shop and visitor center are in an old train station, both across from City Hall.  There’s also a LARGE Kingston sign where it seems to be the thing to stand in as the “i” and get your picture taken.  So we did…  There are also pay phone booths all over Canada.  Our girls of course had no idea what a pay phone was so we had them climb in the booth and I explained that’s how I used to call my parents for a ride home from the mall when I was a kid.  Crazy talk huh?

Ben discovered there was a Costco in Kingston.  We usually rent a car and stock up on things when we need them.  We hadn’t been to a Costco since before Molly’s birthday in June.  So, we hopped in a cab trying to beat the rain and headed that way.  The rain continued to hold off and we got back to the boat nice and dry.  The girls and I headed back out to marble slab again for more ice cream!  We’ve eaten ice cream just about every single day in Canada.  It may get to be a problem.

Tuesday morning we headed to the farmer’s market behind City Hall.  We picked up a variety of local Canadian items including really great jam and some maple syrup and maple butter as well as some gifts for my niece’s and father in law’s birthdays.  We also loaded up on fresh peaches, green beans and tomatoes.  We left Kingston late morning and headed halfway to Trenton, stopping in Picton for the night.  We anchored in a beautiful spot with one other sailboat and had a quiet and peaceful evening.

Gananoque, Ontario – CANADA!!!

Before I write about our crossing into Canada, I want to share that Ben told me today we’ve been gone for 345 days!  Wow.  It has absolutely flown by.  Flown.  Impossible it’s been that long.  It truly feels like the blink of an eye and we are so grateful for the time and the adventures we still have ahead.  After all, we’ve made it to CANADA!!!

Friday morning we pulled up anchor and crossed into Canadian waters.  We anchored very close to the border so it was a pretty quick trip into Gananoque, Ontario.   After much discussion with many people we have determined Gananoque is pronounced G-an-a-knock-way.  The marina was full and we were on the waiting list but they had a Customs check in dock so we pulled up and waited for that to open up.  I jumped off and tied our lines and then got back on the boat.  Ben had to go call into Customs and all other passengers are required to remain on the boat until we are checked in.  Canadian customs are interesting.  You report in from a pay phone!  At this particular marina there was no actual office.  Just a payphone outside on the side of the marina office building.  Ben called in, gave them all our information and got our clearance number to display in the windows of our boat.  Quick and easy!  Some check in facilities use video phones instead of payphones.  And some have broken payphones and the dock master will let you use his/her cell phone.  We still haven’t gotten a clear answer on if we could have called in with our own phones.  We didn’t need to find out since Gananoque had two Customs check in facilities.

 

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One of our first Canadian markers!

 

The free day dock was also completely full so we pulled back out of the harbor.  Next door was the Boat Museum and another free town wall.  The water level was so high that it was at the top of the wall.  There were a couple of small boats and jet skis tied up there but that wasn’t an option either.  The marina office mentioned that the Boat Museum lets you tie up for the day for a pretty cheap rate.  They had a floating break wall as well as a dock that was up high enough that it wasn’t under water.  We wanted to go see town for a bit and then decide what to do.  They let us know that we could stay all night.  It was just a matter of paying more.  No power or water hookup but that’s ok.  There were severe storms moving in so having a safe place to be tied up vs. being anchored was a great choice.

We walked into town to find some lunch.  It was fun to finally be on Canadian soil!  The Canadian flags were everywhere.  Town Hall was adorable.  And our restaurant recommendation, The Socialist Pig, was a great choice.  We walked around a bit and found a used bookstore.  Always a favorite for the girls and me.  This one was run by a former school teacher and she had a HUGE kids’ section all broken out by grade level.  What a godsend for me!  She pointed Molly to her shelf and I sat down with Maddy and helped her make some selections.  Then I went over to Molly’s section and looked through all of those.  We came back to the boat with another big stack for the kids to read!

After dropping off the books we went to check out the boat museum.  It was a cute little museum made up of a handful of buildings.  One building contained a nice selection of old wooden boats downstairs and a sample cottage upstairs.  The whole second floor was set up to look like one of the cabins you can rent in the Thousand Islands Parks.  All of the furniture in the cabin was brought over from one of the nearby island cabins on a barge.  All but the wood burning stove which was too heavy for the barge.  A lot of what was in the display reminded me of my grandparents’ house up in Michigan when I was growing up.  The kids stopped for a few minutes and played with Lincoln Logs and a few other toys scattered around.

Next stop was the children’s activity house where the girls each got to build a boat!  They picked out which hull they wanted and went inside with their piece of wood to get started.  They both manned hammers.  Hmmm.  Madelyn did get a little bit of help.  First step was to hammer in the mast.  Second step was to hammer in nails and use twine to make the rail.  Then it was time to decorate.  Glitter glue and stickers and markers and ribbon and felt sails.  They had so much fun.  The upstairs of this building was set up like a pirate’s ship.  Another great display.  And for the past two days they have been creating fenders for their boats from corks and dinghies using popsicle sticks.  Ben has helped them with wood glue and getting it all together.  Tonight as they were playing “marina” it was fun to listen to them.  They use their Shopkins as the people on the boats and they call in on the radio for fuel and dockage for the night and give instructions on docking and such.  I love overhearing what all they’ve learned this year.

About a 2 minute walk away was a little stretch of beach along with a playground on the beach and a big splash park.  Molly and Madelyn begged to go.  We kept asking if they saw the sky.  Ben and I were watching the radar closely.  But they were hot and had been waiting all day so off we went.  They had until we saw lightning to play.  The thunder started rumbling.  The winds picked WAY up.  And they just kept dumping buckets of water on their heads in the splash park.  They were thrilled and didn’t care about the impending rain.  But once the big drops started to fall we ran at full speed back to the boat.  We got safely inside and watched the storm blow through.  The winds were fierce and we were very happy to be tied up to a dock.

Saturday morning I got up and took a long 3.25 mile walk.  I enjoyed seeing a lot of the big old houses that are now being used as Bed and Breakfasts as well as walking around the neighborhoods.  I also walked past the dam in town that was bursting at its seams!

We had no plans for the day.  The rain had stopped but it was windy and chilly and not inviting out on the water.  We decided to spend another night at the Boat Museum dock.  We had a lazy day.  Sometime after lunch we took a walk back into town.  There was a barber shop right next to a cute ice cream shop.  Ben went to the barber shop and the girls and I got our first taste of Kawartha Dairy ice cream.  We have been hearing about this ice cream for months.  Molly and I both had salted caramel which apparently is a fan favorite for our Looper friends.

Later that afternoon the girls and I went to church and then met Ben for dinner at a local pub.  We had a quiet night and were hoping for sunshine and calm waters the next morning for our trip to Kingston.

Heart Island, NY

Thursday morning we headed to Heart Island to finally see Boldt Castle!  Approaching from the water I snapped tons of pictures of the old stone structures.  I was excited to get off the boat and see what we were looking at.

Boldt Castle has a large dock space for personal watercraft next to their ferry dock.  We pulled in after asking multiple times about depth and being told it was fine because the water levels are so high.  We pulled in and of course immediately saw 3 feet under our boat which means 1 foot under our props.  No good.  We hung out for a few minutes, talked to one of the ferry drivers, and gave it another try.  Ben swung out a little wider and then came back into the dock.  The water there was so weedy and it’s possible that we were getting readings from the weeds, not the bottom.  We never touched bottom, so whatever the depth was, it was ok!

We bought our tickets and headed onto the castle grounds.  They are impressive.  We were excited to get inside and start exploring.  As I mentioned in my last blog, George Boldt was building Boldt Castle for his wife Louise.  He wanted it to be a summer dream house to look like a European castle.  He planned for 6 floors in the house and numerous exterior buildings on the grounds.  Louise died unexpectedly during construction and George halted construction on the house.  The house sat vacant and in disrepair for over 70 years.  Years later the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority bought the property and began restoring it to what George originally planned.  Many of the outbuildings and much of the main house had been vandalized and fallen victim to the harsh winters.  The TIBA has been slowly restoring the house one building or floor at a time.

We started in the main house.  We were able to walk through the entire first floor.  The dining room was impressive.  The kitchen made my mouth water.  It was beautiful.  There were also dining rooms both for the maids and the servants as well as a servants kitchen for quick serving and clearing to the dining room and rinsing of dishes.  The servants dining room was probably my favorite room on the first floor and yet I didn’t get a picture of it.  It was large and warm and inviting with lots of windows overlooking the Italian garden and plenty of natural light.

Also on the first floor was a large ballroom for dancing complete with an organ.  The main entryway opens up to views of an incredible stained glass ceiling over the grand staircase.

The second floor housed all of the bedrooms.  The bedroom suites were just recently completed.  George and Louise had separate bedroom suites as well as a very large suite for their daughter Clover.  The Boldts also had a son, but either he didn’t have a bedroom suite, or it wasn’t completed yet.

We kept climbing and climbing.  The third floor had exhibits of old photographs of the family as well as many of the blueprints and plans for the other floors of the building.  We were able to climb up to the fifth floor which was just the top of the building.  It would be fun to come back in a few years and see what more has been completed.  As we walked through the house we made sure to keep an eye out for the Boldt family crest – the heart with the B inside with a stag on top.  We found it in the stained glass ceiling and the floor at the bottom of the main staircase to name a couple.

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We walked around the grounds as well and learned what the stone buildings we boated past were.  My favorite building on the property was the power house.  Unfortunately the water levels have been so high that it was closed to the public.  It had this adorable stone footbridge to get to the door.  It just looked like a mini castle to me.  The girls liked the underground tunnel to the swimming pool.  And the Italian garden was beautiful.

The stone building that seemed to be crumbling the most was called the Children’s Playhouse.  The playhouse is the current project for the TIBA.  We were able to walk through and there were certain areas roped off as active construction sites.  We could see the beautiful ceiling that had just been built out.  The playhouse is right out on the waterfront.  It has two bowling lanes in the basement and space for many other rooms.  The bowling lanes have been under water this summer.  It’s sad to see how much the high water has affected everything in this area.  After spending so much time in the south where there was such an extreme drought causing every bit as many problems, it’s crazy to see the other end of the spectrum with the high water level.

We really hoped to be able to go across the bay to the Yacht House.  It’s another impressive structure that has been closed this summer due to water levels.  We saw some clips of it in a film about the property and were sad not to be able to go in.  It was supposed to open this weekend so hopefully others can see it now.

We all enjoyed our time on the castle grounds.  What a special place with a tragic story.  It’s pretty incredible to me that the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority is taking on this project and doing an amazing job.

After we left Heart Island we planned to head back south and cross into Canadian waters!  As we headed south we turned to head over to Canada and got sidetracked by the beautiful coves and bays we were passing.  We got to Picton Bay, very close to Canada and Gananoque (where we were heading).  There were a lot of boats anchored and we couldn’t resist.  We pulled in and joined them.  Everyone else was just there for the day.  The girls begged to get the lily pads down and it was such a beautiful afternoon we agreed.  They played in the water for hours.  Ben joined them.  It was a bit chilly for me but I enjoyed sitting on the swim platform reading with my legs dangling in the water.  Ben and the girls took a long swim towards shore and then back to the boat.  We grilled for dinner and had a quiet night.  One other sailboat pulled in and joined us just before dark.